Lessons Learned – Week 13

by Al Scherer · Analytics & Advanced Metrics
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1) Thursday Breakdown – N.O. = no QB, no RBs, no WRs

Heading into Week 9, even without Michael Thomas all year, Jameis Winston looked fine as the Saints sat at 5-2. When Jameis tore his knee in that game, though, the bottom fell out.

Sean Payton and crew inexplicably turned to Trevor Siemian to finish that game and start the next four. Unsurprisingly, they lost them all. In fact, the only close losses in that stretch were to the Calvin Ridley-less Falcons and the Derrick Henry-less Titans. The soon-to-be 30-year old Siemian has never finished a season better than a QB3 and, in 2021, once again posted QB3 or worse efficiency metrics across the board. He doesn’t even run, either.

In Week 13, they finally tried anyone else, trotting out Taysom Hill to face Dallas in a game that wasn’t really as close as the score indicated. But, let’s face it. Hill’s a fun player to watch but he’s a Tight End/Running Back playing Quarterback. Now 31-years old, Hill has never finished better than the Fantasy QB35.

This week, the Saints, without an NFL-caliber quarterback, running back (Alvin Kamara was out, too) or wide receiver, did manage to put up a boatload of yards but that was deceiving. Of their 417 total yards, Hill rushed for 101 and threw for another 264. But that passing output came on 41 attempts at less than a 50-percent completion rate and 4 interceptions. After next week vs the Jets, the Saints finish the fantasy season facing a brutal pass defense gauntlet, ensuring New Orleans ends with 10 or more losses & a new quarterback in 2022.

Action:

Start Taysom Hill next week if desperate for his rushing yards next week but then you won’t play him again this year. And he won’t be a starting quarterback in 2022 so there’s no reason to hang on to him any longer.

2) All the Bears Have is Montgomery; The Cards Need Help

I had the pleasure (?) Sunday of sitting with roughly 25,000 of my closest friends on a gray, cold, windy, rainy afternoon in Soldier Field to watch the Bears try to compete with Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals.

Those two- to two-and-a-half hours highlighted a couple key lessons for me:

  1. BEARS: David Montgomery was their best player today and it wasn’t close. Though he hasn’t put up great metrics this year, he faces an uphill battle every time he steps on the field. In Week 13, Montgomery accounted for 41 percent of Chicago’s yardage. With Justin Fields out, the coaching staff turned to Andy Dalton, their hand-picked choice as Chicago 2021 starting field general. Dalton threw 41 times, averaging less than 6 yards per attempt, and tossed 4 interceptions. With Allen Robinson nowhere to be found most of 2021, Chicago’s leading receivers in Week 13 were the 5-6 Jakeem Grant and 5-9 Damiere Byrd. The folks behind me kept yelling at me to sit down but I had to stand to find those guys on the field.
  1. CARDS: They really need DeAndre Hopkins and Chase Edmonds. Presenting as feeble an offense as the Bears did in Week 13, Chicago actually out-gained Arizona, had almost twice as many first downs and held the ball for nearly 35 minutes. Hopkins started but only saw two targets – one a score on their 1st drive. Hopkins led the Cards receivers with 32 receiving yards. Christian Kirk led Redbird receivers with three targets. On the ground, James Conner is sitting at a career-low 3.8 Yards Per Carry. If not for touchdowns, there’d be little value there for Conner. He doesn’t break away runs, he doesn’t juke, he doesn’t create yards.

If not for Andy Dalton‘s turnovers (hey, why don’t quarterbacks wear gloves?), the result of this game could have been shockingly different. But, those turnovers did happen and Arizona escaped the lousy weather and the Bears.

Action:

Don’t start any Bears other than Montgomery. The new coaching staff and GM in 2022 will have to try to build around him and Justin Fields. You’re going to start the Cardinals but, three of their next four games will be tough, so hope Edmonds and Hopkins return asap.

3) Elijah Mitchell’s Great Rookie Year… Should We Sell?

Elijah Mitchell has been the 2021 waiver story of the year. He’s got a great athletic profile and already has 3 RB1 finishes. Those that went all-in after his Week 1 breakout have been handsomely rewarded.

So, should we sell already? His price may never be higher so this offseason might actually be the time. He’s sitting at RB 24 in Player Profiler’s dynasty rankings but might fetch much more than that this coming offseason.

While Mitchell has put up three RB1 weeks this year, he’s not really been a breakaway threat – his only runs of 20 yards or longer came in just two games – Week 1 against Detroit and Week 8 against Chicago. And his rushing efficiency metrics have been meh at best, including a 0.75 (No. 49 among qualified running backs) Fantasy Points Per Opportunity, a 21.7-percent (No. 40) Juke Rate, and -8.9 (No. 109) Expected Points Added. He’s not particularly active in the pass game, either.

He’s already 24 years old, which I know doesn’t matter to Kyle Shanahan, but, still, … he’s no spring chicken, either.

With a 28.8 (24th-percentile) BMI, you have to wonder if he’ll hold up as a workhorse. He’s missed time in 2021 to an adductor strain, two games to a shoulder strain, and another to a broken finger. He’s been on the injury report twice more. Considering his size, San Francisco’s RB injury history, and Shanahan’s willingness to switch backs on a dime, there’s some long-term risk here.

Lastly, according to Pro-Football-Reference, Mitchell sits at No. 22 among RBs in Red Zone Carry Percentage. Is that going up in 2022 if, as expected, they hand the reins to Trey Lance? Or will the 25 pounds-heavier Lance keep some of those carries himself? And will a running quarterback be more apt to throw to his running back or take off when pass rush pressure comes? And will Deebo Samuel maintain if not expand upon his rushing role?

Action:

Elijah Mitchell has been a great story in 2021. Congrats if you found him… (no, I made the mistake of drafting Trey Sermon!) During the upcoming offseason, though, quietly see what you might get in return. His price may never be higher.

4) Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a Poor Man’s Javonte

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been looked down upon in the fantasy community because he made the mistake of being drafted before Jonathan Taylor in both the 2020 NFL draft and in that year’s fantasy rookie drafts. (Can you just imagine if Kansas City GM Brett Veach had been a PlayerProfiler subscriber and drafted Jonathan Taylor?)

But, while some may consider CEH a disappointment, they shouldn’t hold Taylor’s success against him. Clyde’s actually been OK – and an only slightly-downgraded version of 2021 heralded rookie Javonte Williams. Clyde has a good, albeit not great, future ahead of him.

Both were very good athletes coming out of college, neither particularly fast but both possessing excellent burst. Both had limited touches in school, averaging about 13 carries a game in their two seasons as starters. Both were active in the passing game.

While Edward-Helaire is considered the lesser short-yardage back based on 2020’s 22-percent success rate (measured as resulting in a touchdown or first down) inside opponents’ 10-yard line (per Stathead.com), he has been successful on more than half his attempts this year. Inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, his 64.3-percent success rate this year bests Javonte’s 59.1-percent. His BMI is also actually higher.

Both have had their touches limited in 2021 – Javonte by Melvin Gordon; Clyde by game plan/design. Javonte’s situation will change in 2022, Clyde’s not as much.

Their Week 13 head-to-head matchup offered us a glimpse into 2022. Edwards-Helaire put up 82 yards on 17 touches against Denver’s No. 11-ranked rush defense… not bad. Javonte put up an even-more-impressive 178 yards on 29 touches against the Chief’s No. 19 squad.

Action:

Javonte Williams will be an RB1 in 2022. But don’t feel too bad if you missed Williams but have Clyde Edwards-Helaire instead. He won’t see the same volume but, barring injury, will see enough action to be a reliable RB2.

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5) The Gardner Did It?

When 2021’s QB No. 2, Jalen Hurts, was ruled out in Week 13, Gardner Minshew filled in and posted a near-perfect game, completing 20 of 25 for 242 yards and two scores.

Should Hurts owners care… either this year or next? No and No.

Gardner is always fun to watch but nothing pads stats more than going against the league’s worst defense. No one has given up more yards, more yards per pass attempt or more points than the Jets. The Jets have the fewest interceptions and give up the greatest QBR in the league. New York has given up scoring drives at the highest percent and are No. 31 in taking the ball away.

Not to take anything away from a nice game from Minshew but the Eagles would have won with Reid Sinnett at the helm.

Action:

Nothing. Don’t worry about Jalen Hurts. When his ankle heals, he’s their starter.

As this is our last Weekly Lessons Learned article of 2021, I’d like to thank Matt Kelley, Ray Marzarella and the entire PlayerProfiler staff for giving me a chance to create some content and to help me along when I needed it. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve really appreciated the opportunity. I now have an even greater appreciation of how the really skilled fantasy content creators at PlayerProfiler make all of this look so easy. And thanks to those of you that have read these this year. I’d like to close this year’s series by saying my greatest lesson learned is how much I have yet to learn and how much I look forward to it.