When there is so much going on, what should fantasy gamers and sports fans focus on? This is the question I will answer for you in this series of articles entitled, “Lessons Learned.” Here are the lessons we learned in Week 6 of the NFL season.
1) 2022 Won’t Give us a Read on Justin Fields
Justin Fields displayed great promise to end his 2021 rookie season. He posted QB1 scores in four of his last five games on the strength of great rushing metrics, a 15.5 (No. 3) Production Premium, and solid Deep Ball and Red Zone Accuracy Ratings. His 2022 QB16 ADP showed we expected him to take the next step this year. That clearly hasn’t happened, though. This is highlighted by his 13.0 Fantasy Points Per Game. This ranks him No. 27 in that category.
Who or What’s to Blame?
Let’s start with management. For a team coming off a season where they ranked No. 3-worst in passing yards and scores, and whose last great quarterback was Sid Luckman 80 years ago, the new Bears’ brass decided it was not in the team’s best interest to surround their young signal caller with any offensive talent of note. Instead, they added fringe free agents and drafted a 25-year old kick returner plus some late-round offensive linemen.
How about that line? According to Pro Football Reference, Fields’ 16.7 sack rate is the highest in the league and more than 50-percent more than the next-worst. He’s the second-highest pressured QB despite facing the lowest blitz rate. While, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Fields has the second-highest time to throw, let’s face it, he’s spending those precious fractions of seconds running for his life.
And this Bears WR corps? It’s historically bad. Their top WR, Darnell Mooney, boasts a 71.4-percent (No. 82) True Catch Rate, 1.30 (No. 83) Fantasy Points per Target and 5.5 (No. 88) Fantasy Points per Game. And that’s their best! Who is second among the Bears’ WRs in catches on the season? Equanimeous St. Brown. He has six.
Is some of this on Fields? Of course. When he does get a chance to throw, his accuracy has been off. His 63.8-percent Clean Pocket Completion Percentage is No. 29. Fields’ accuracy against both man and zone coverages are outside the top-30. His Next Gen Stats’ -10.7 Completion Percentage above Expectation is second-worst in the league, just ahead of Baker Mayfield.
He is taking a beating and is struggling. But NFL teams have seen his great running skill. They’ve seen the dime he dropped on Dante Pettis in Week 6. If the Bears don’t want him, he’ll get chances someplace else.
Action: In superflex and 2-QB dynasty leagues, we want quarterbacks with upside and who can run. Fields meets that description, and his dynasty price is very low now. He is a great buy-low while the Bears struggle.
2) Be Extra Patient with Early Draft Pick WRs
No front offices or coaches want to admit an early draft mistake. So, when teams draft receivers early, those WRs will get every opportunity to succeed. As fantasy managers, we need to keep that in mind and use it to our advantage. This is especially when those picks don’t see the field right away. We have to wait longer with these guys than we’d like, and we need to be ever on the lookout when they are dropped by impatient league-mates.
In several of my leagues, I recently added Wan’Dale Robinson and Tyquan Thornton off waivers. Neither had played yet. Both were early-round draft picks. There is no way their NFL teams were going to give up on them so soon. We can’t either.
Robinson, with a 37.3-percent (77th-percentile) College Dominator, 39.3-percent (99th-percentile) Dominator Rating, and 18.7 (95th-percentile) Breakout Age, was a second-round pick of the Giants. He played just nine Week 1 snaps before leaving with a knee sprain. Multiple setbacks kept him on the sidelines until this Sunday. When he finally got on the field, his four targets, 37 yards, and one receiving score, while modest, led all New York wide receivers. This is impressive for a rookie in his first extended action. Additionally, Robinson and the Giants have a great passing schedule coming up. In the upcoming weeks, they will face the Seahawks, Lions, and the Commanders twice.
Thornton, boasting a 4.28 (100th-percentile) 40-Yard Dash and 131.0 (90th-percentile) Agility Score, was selected by New England just a few picks after Robinson. Missing the first four weeks of the season after breaking his collarbone in August, Thornton saw his first action in Week 5 where he ran just 10 routes against Detroit’s Jeff Okudah. Dropped by impatient fantasy managers, Thornton was available on many wires after that game. After catching four of five targets, and rushing three times for two total scores in Week 6, though, he won’t be much longer.
Yet another WR that fits this mold is Christian Watson. Watson was drafted before both Robinson and Thornton by Green Bay who used one of the picks they got in return for Davante Adams. This is no Jeff Janis. Watson will get plenty of chances.
Lastly, even make room for guys like Kadarius Toney who everyone seems to love to hate. Players do eventually get healthy. A first-round pick, he’ll get his chances and is the type I love to stash in the back of my dynasty roster.
Action: Always keep an eye out for early draft pick WRs that haven’t flashed yet. Have patience and stash them on your rosters. They’ll get their chances.
3) Green Bay: Getting Rid of Your Best Player = Bad Idea
When your offense is almost totally reliant on one guy, getting rid of that guy is not a good thing.
In 2021, Davante Adams‘s 31.6-percent Target Share was No. 2 among receivers. This meant he saw a higher percent of his team’s targets than anyone in the league not named Cooper Kupp. Adams was top-3 in targets inside the 10-yard line. His 27 (No. 3) Red Zone Targets doubled all other Green Bay receivers.
As Aaron Rodgers will attest, the Packers made little effort to back fill for Adams. Last year, Rodgers’ 21.1 Fantasy Points per Game sat No. 8. In 2o22, his 14.4 Points is No. 24. Last year, Rodgers had 11 QB1 weeks. He’s still looking for his first in 2022. Per Pro Football Reference, the Packers’ No. 22 ranking in Points Scored is their lowest in 32 years.
Defenses’ lack of respect for the Packers’ passing game is bleeding into the run game. After seeing a Light Front Carry Rate almost 60-percent of the time in 2021, A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones now only see a light front 41 percent of the time. Teams are stacking the front and daring Green Bay to beat them through the air. The Packers are not doing that.
Action: Move on from Green Bay offensive players except Watson (who could provide some flash weeks).
4) Why we Prioritize RBs in Rookie Drafts
With a 98th-percentile Speed Score, 94th-percentile Burst Score and a 95th-percentile College Dominator, Breece Hall came into the NFL with great fanfare as an early 2022 second-round NFL pick. Now just six games into his rookie season, he has lived up to the advance billing and then some. Despite not exceeding a 50-percent Snap Share or eight carries a game through the season’s first three weeks, Hall’s 16.4 Fantasy Points per Game heading into Week 6 was already No. 10. He’d earned that with a masterful blend of running – highlighted by a 12.5-percent (No. 2) Breakaway Run Rate – and receiving, leading the league with a 12.5 Yards per Reception on a 14.8-percent (No. 8) Target Share. Two years younger than any other back in the Player Profiler Dynasty Top-10, Hall is already a revelation.
Kenneth Walker‘s college metrics were in the same neighborhood as Hall’s. He posted a 114.7 (96th-percentile) Speed Score and 50.2-percent (99th-percentile) College Dominator. While he showed just a middling Burst Score, that’s okay. We can’t all be Breece Hall, you know. After Rashaad Penny‘s season-ending injury, Walker is clearly the Seattle bell cow. In Week 6, he took 21 of the Seahawks’ 23 running back carries for 97 yards and a score. Walker has already elevated himself to the No. 24 Player Profiler dynasty RB ranking and is three or more years younger than half the backs ahead of him.
Action: Stash this away for next year as yet another reminder why we prioritize backs early in our rookie drafts.
5) Don’t Overthink RB Opportunity
When the Falcons lost Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Allgeier was expected to be the lead back. While Allgeier has seen a good workload and performed fine, little-known Caleb Huntley has seen as many carries. He is performing well and is sharing short-yardage and goal-line work.
In Indianapolis, with both Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines hurt, Deon Jackson was next up. Question: Without looking it up, where did Jackson go to college and when was he drafted? Answer: He went to Duke, and he was a 2021 UDFA. But that doesn’t matter now. What matters is that his coaches thought enough of him to put him in there, and he ran hard and performed well. He’s even caught all 14 targets across two games.
Whether or not guys like Jackson or Huntley continue seeing playing time will, of course, depend on the health of their starters. But, should these guys be needed again, we know they’ll get playing time and will be fantasy-viable. I was able to add Jackson with a $0 waiver shortly before this Sunday’s game for my Scott Fish Bowl team and plugged him into for a bye-week Dameon Pierce. His 26.1 points helped lead me to victory this week.
Action: Don’t overthink RB opportunity. Even if the guy is a newcomer, if he’s given a chance and performs well, expect more chances. Claim him and don’t be shy to use him – especially at the ever-volatile RB position.