Lessons Learned – Week 7

by Al Scherer · Analytics & Advanced Metrics
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  1. 1) Thursday Breakdown –Anyone Can Run Behind that CLE Offensive Line!

It’s beyond debate – the Browns are among the elite of the elite offensive lines. Take away Nick Chubb? Doesn’t matter! Take away Kareem Hunt? No problem! Just plug in 25-year old UDFA D’Ernest Johnson, with his 4.86 (3rd-percentile among qualified running backs) 40-Yard Dash, 11.04 (14th-percentile) Burst Score, and 11.57 (30th-percentile) Agility Score. Host a top-10 rushing defense and remove your only threat to throw the ball effectively downfield and that’s a recipe for… 146 rushing yards, a score, and 22 receiving yards on 24 touches and a win? That’s right!

D’Ernest Johnson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Johnson, with his 27.9 (10th-percentile) BMI, is tied for fourth-lowest 40-Yard Dash in the entire PlayerProfiler database of 185 active running backs. Each of those three slower guys outweigh Johnson by at least 40-pounds. And they have combined for 10 carries in their careers. It just doesn’t matter who runs for Cleveland. The Browns are No. 1 in every rushing categories except attempts, where they rank second. They’d be No. 1 there too, but they don’t seem to need very many carries to score. Yes, they’ve had a cupcake schedule to date and face a tougher rest-of-season slate, but this team is averaging 5.3 Yards per Carry no matter who runs it.

Action:

Start Cleveland running backs whenever, where-ever, and against whomever. Nick Chubb will likely be back in Week 8, but if he misses next week or any other game, until Kareem Hunt is back, plug D’Ernest Johnson back in. If Johnson can’t go, go out and grab Demetric Felton. If that doesn’t work, go see what John Kelly or Andy Janovich are up to.

  1. 2) Damien, is this an Omen?

Sitting at No. 35 in RB Fantasy Points heading into Week 7, Damien Harris‘ shortcomings have been mostly about his lack of opportunity. His 6 (No. 3) Breakaway Runs and 7.4-percent (No. 9) Breakaway Run Rate metrics have been masked by a low 44.2-percent (No. 35) Snap Share. Having been Top-10 in Rushing Yards per Attempt in 2020 with a 5.0 average, after Week 7, Harris is now at 4.6 yards per carry in 2021, tied with Dalvin Cook and Javonte Williams, and just ahead of Aaron Jones. He’s tied for No. 3 with 5 in Rushing Scores.

The NFL’s own Next Gen Stats agrees that Harris has top rushing talent, ranking him No. 9 in Rushing Yards Over Expected and No. 12 in Rushing Yards Over Expected Per Attempt.

After New England’s Week 3 and 4 matchups against the brick walls otherwise known as the New Orleans and Tampa Bay run defenses (two weeks when the Patriots didn’t even try to run), their Week 5 through 7 schedule against Houston, Dallas, and the Jets was just what the doctor ordered. In Week 7’s thumping of the Jets, Harris put up 14 carries for 106 yards and two scores, despite being on the field for only 46-percent of their offensive snaps. That’s now back-to-back 100-yard rushing games at 6.5 yards per carry. In those same two games, his New England running mates have put up 3 yards per carry.

In this week’s 41-point win, it’s not clear exactly why the Patriots chose to put receiving backs Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor on the field more often than Harris, or why they threw three times as often as they handed the ball to their lead back, but that’s how they operate. If James White was healthy, I wonder if Harris would have seen the field at all.

Action:

Acquire Damien Harris in both dynasty and redraft. His lack of playing time and non-involvement in the passing game make him more affordable than his talent says he should be. He’s a good, steady back, one you can count as an RB2 or Flex most weeks. In redraft, be cautious though, because the Patriots have a tough upcoming schedule; facing the Bills twice plus the Chargers, Browns, and Titans in the weeks to come.

  1. 3) Lamar Jackson Might Not Hand Off Again in 2021!

In their 41-17 Week 7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens threw the ball 42 times. Lamar Jackson ran it himself 12 times and handed off to running backs 11 times. So far this season, Lamar has touched the ball, either throwing or running, over 300 times. No other Raven has more than 59 attempts. In catch-up mode, yes, teams have to throw. But Baltimore wasn’t in catchup mode in Week 7. They had the lead in the third quarter. They trailed by four with just over 20 minutes to go.

They simply wouldn’t give the ball to any running back.

They don’t like Ty’Son Williams despite his 5.5 Yards Per Carry and his 81-percent Catch Rate of the 11 targets he’s seen this year. Sure, it’s a nanoscopic sample size but you’d think his 9.7-percent (No. 3) Breakaway Run Rate and a 5.1 (No. 5) True Yards Per Carry would pique their interest. No, they give Snap Share and most of the few running back carries they dole out to two guys who will likely celebrate their 30th birthday parties together next spring. And they got the ball only because their regular 31-year old back, Latavius Murray, was out.

Action: 

Don’t even think about a Baltimore running back until J.K. Dobbins returns. Since this isn’t too much of a secret, if you have any of them, you probably won’t get much by trying to trade any of them. So, don’t hesitate to drop any or all of the current Ravens backs as the bye weeks continue.

  1. 4) Kansas City Doesn’t Scare Anyone Anymore

Nine AFC teams have scored more points than they’ve given up. Kansas City is not one of them. The 2021 Chiefs are done. They have no defense. They are last in the league in average yards per opponents’ drive and are giving up more than 400 yards per game.

Their offense is under such constant pressure to catch up that even Patrick Mahomes can’t save this ship. Mahomes leads the league in interceptions. He’s thrown more picks in 2021 than he did in all of 2020 or 2019, almost as many as both years put together. His QBR is the lowest of his career and his Passer Rating the lowest since his rookie year. His No. 12-ranked 7.6 Yards Per Attempt ties him with Jimmy Garoppolo, and his 3.2-percent Interception Rate ties him with Sam Darnold. This is cherry-picking some stats, of course, but we should never be able to put his name and the names of those guys in the same sentence. Mahomes is still putting up some but, with a defense that is one of the all-time worst, it’s a losing cause.

Action: 

Play anyone & everyone against the Chiefs. In redraft, move your Chiefs. On the other hand, with KC having a losing record, their dynasty prices may never be lower. 

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  1. 5) Atlanta is the Pitts!

Atlanta went 4-12 in 2020, though things maybe weren’t quite as bad as they seemed since they only gave up 18 more points than they scored on the season.

This past offseason, they fired their coach. They got rid of future Hall of Famer Julio Jones. Instead of grabbing a QB with the No. 4 pick in this year’s NFL Draft though, they decided to stick with 36-year old Matt Ryan. Instead of grabbing an elite offensive line prospect like Penei Sewell or the Biletnikoff-winning Ja’Marr Chase, they chose a tight end, Kyle Pitts.

This was earlier than any tight end has been taken in the 85-year history of the NFL Draft.

Atlanta must believe that Pitts is the chosen one to usher in a new era of NFL tight ends. The last two weeks have started to show us that it may be coming sooner than even the most rabid Florida Gator fans expected. In Week 6, Pitts caught 9 of 10 targets for 119 yards and a score. But that was with Calvin Ridley out. Once Calvin returned, things would be different, right? Well, this week, Kyle caught 7 of 8 for 163 yards while Ridley caught 4 of 10 for 26.

Looking at the greatest TEs in the game, Travis Kelce has bested those 163 yards once in 117 career starts. George Kittle has beaten that mark twice in 57 games. Darren Waller? Once in 60. Mark Andrews? Never.

Pitts really shouldn’t be compared to tight ends. He’s a WR dressed as a TE. No, he doesn’t have Ja’Marr Chase‘s speed. But, at 6-6, 246-pounds, he’s not supposed to. Defenses didn’t have a way to stop Pitts at Florida, and they don’t have an answer in the NFL yet either.

Just six games into his rookie season, Pitts’ 10.7 Yards Per Target is No. 2 among all players this season, not just tight ends, with at least 40 targets. His 15.2 Yards Per Reception is No. 4, again, among all players with at least 30 catches on the year. Happy Birthday, Kyle. He turned 21 this month.

Action: 

Not much to do now. If you already have Kyle Pitts on your dynasty roster, you are set for a long time. If you don’t, sorry, it’s too late.