Christian Kirk, Emmanuel Sanders, and Week 1 Usage Rates

by Joshua Kellem · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

If you’re not familiar with this weekly piece, click here.

While this is not a start/sit or sell high/buy low piece, we know the biggest question you is who to Flex. So, we provide you a handful of players to target specifically for the week at the position. This week, Christian Kirk headlines our fantasy football recommendations because stats don’t play favorites. If you’re looking for more players, watch our weekly Undercoverd Opps show.

It’s safe to say trends are taking shape, so let’s use PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats, metrics, and analytics to unearth actionable, evidence-based takes for fantasy football.

Before we get started, below are key statistics to know while following along:

Route Participation  – How frequently a pass-catcher runs a route on his team’s pass plays.

Target Rate – Targets Per Routes Run. How frequently a pass-catcher commands a target in context with his Route Participation mark.

Weighted Opportunities – Determines which backs receive the most meaningful touches.


Flex Plays:

Christian Kirk

Christian Kirk posted a 5-70 stat line last week. He totaled a 51.5-percent Snap Share, 18 routes run, and five targets. Because of two touchdowns, though, the WR finished as fantasy football’s WR9 on the week.

While Kirk’s not a full-time player, he’s manning the slot role (76.5-percent slot rate) in a high-powered offense. That means he’ll have a high floor. Also, the Cardinals-Vikings implied point total is one of 11 games to break the 50-point mark. While the Vikings’ DVOA is nothing to write home about – ranking No. 18, including No. 21 in pass DVOA. The Cardinals ranked sixth in situation-neutral pace last week as well. More plays = more fantasy points.

The downside is Kirk’s route participation mark. It sits at 56.3-percent. For context, DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green each ran 28 routes last week. Then there’s the chance of rookie Rondale Moore – 13 routes run, five targets, 4-68 stat line – gets increased usage. Earning targets is a skill. Luckily for Kirk, Green totaled a 2-25 stat line on six targets. Earning targets is a skill that Green may no longer be good at it.

Emmanuel Sanders

Gabriel Davis truthers may be victory lapping after last week. But fantasy football enthusiasts that focus on stats that matter know Sanders is primed for a nice season (Sorry, not all stats matter  – we aren’t fantasy liberals), and he’s worth Flex consideration in a get-right game.

In the Bills’ loss last week, Sanders totaled a 92.4-percent Snap Share, 41 routes run, eight targets, and a 4-92 stat line. Let your league-mates chase players on the waiver wire that caught fluky touchdowns. Sanders, however, is a full-time player on a Bills team that threw it 51 times last week. Last year? The Bills ranked No. 5 in pass attempts. Pass volume will be there. As will pace. The Bills ranked third in situation-neutral pace last week.

The downside is a matchup against the Dolphins and their two elite cornerbacks. Luckily for Sanders, he totaled a 24.7-percent slot rate last week. That usage will help Sanders’ floor a smidgen. And the ceiling is amazing, as the WR totaled the fifth-most Air Yards last week and the 11th-highest Average Target Distance. Follow the theme of this piece thus far. Attach yourself to one of the elite QB’s pass-catchers.

Tim Patrick

Tim Patrick presumably takes Jerry Jeudy‘s place in 2-WR sets. Patrick totaled a 51-742-6 stat line last season, including three 100-yard games. Now, Patrick faces off against the Jaguars. A defense ranking No. 15 in DVOA, including No. 19 in Pass DVOA.

The downside is that the more dynamic second-year WR K.J. Hamler flashes in his increased playing time with Jeudy out. That’d lead to decreased playing time for Patrick eventually. That’s a situation to monitor in the lens of the longterm For this week, though, Patrick’s the preferred play at Flex.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

A bet on Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a bet that Aaron Rodgers gets right this week. Certainly helps that the Lions defense ranks third to last in DVOA, and that the implied point total for the matchup is 49. While MVS totaled just a 57.7-percent Snap Share last week, he ran 23 routes, totaled eight targets – tied with Davante Adams – and the sixth-most Air Yards.

The downside is that the Packers jump out to a huge lead early and MVS is game scripted out of the game, with the Packers coming in as 12-point favorites. Another concern is that both the Packers and Lions rank in the bottom half of the league in Pace of Play. That means both teams most likely will total fewer drives than they as opposed to facing an up-tempo team such as the Arizona Cardinals.

TE Play:

Jared Cook

I promise you it’s not 2011, but Jared Cook is fantasy irrelevant – Donald Parham truthers be damned! Cook totaled a 56-percent Snap Share last week, which has more to do with his age, ran 28 routes, and commanded eight(!) targets. Cook totaled a 5-56 stat line and is a sturdy streaming option. The Chargers offense ranks No. 9 in situation-neutral pace of play as well, while the Chargers-Cowboys implied point total sits at 54. This is a shootout environment that you want your fantasy starters to be in. The Cowboys rank just behind the Chargers in pace of play as well, further demonstrating how juicy this game is for fantasy purposes.

The downside is that Cook’s Route Participation is a lowly 59.6-percent. That said, his Target Rate is an elite 28.6-percent, so the participation (and Snap Share) can just be the Chargers monitoring Cook’s snaps. Basically, when he is on the field, he is not running empty routes. The Chargers offense totaled 47 pass attempts last week as well. It’s time to smell what the Chargers offense is cooking.