This new season-long mini-series is brought to you by the RotoUnderworld Game Analyst Team. The Game Analyst Team consists of over 75 individuals that chart and re-watch every snap from every game in the NFL between game end, and Monday afternoon. The guys you have generally not heard from before stop in to drop some tidbits from their weekly game charting process in hopes to give us a sneak peek into the depth of the games each Sunday.
While Christian 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 for Jared Cook in a great matchup is that his Route Participation rate 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.
The first week of the 2021 NFL season did not disappoint in many ways. From the opening game to the wild events of the Monday Nighter in Vegas, fans were treated to the usual week one madness and then some. Unfortunately, another aspect carried on like clockwork; injuries. Luckily, The Infirmary is here to keep fantasy managers up to speed. Week 2, bring it on.
Tre’Quan Smith is set up for a big year due to Michael Thomas’ injury situation. Though Marquez Callaway is the clear No. 1 and the beneficiary of Thomas’ absence, Smith was poised to handle the field opposite him. Now, moved to IR with a bad hammy, he’ll have to wait at least three weeks before returning to the field. Meanwhile, the wide receivers behind him are Deonte Harris and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. No one should be excited about these players.
Out of the three new Ravens RBs, Latavius Murray would seem to have the most “gas left in the tank” and fits Gus Edwards’ role perfectly. Expect Murray and Ty’Son Williams to share the workload for at least Week 1, but let’s be real about this, folks. This all likely means that Lamar Jackson will just run it himself more than he ever has, and perhaps, lean more on that passing game like they intended. Either way, it’s hard not to see these running back injuries as a potential bump for the former MVP.
While some (including this particular writer) have never sworn by Sony Michel, one simply can’t ignore the former Patriot’s efficiency last year. He ranked No. 1 among qualified running backs in Yards Per Touch (6.5) and No. 2 in True YPC (5.2); impressive, considering the team faced an average of 7.3 (No. 6) Defenders In Box. In New England, Michel was one of too many cooks in the kitchen; in Los Angeles, however, he forms a nice duo with Henderson on what should be a high-octane offense.
There’s drama in the Bayou, and Michael Thomas is at the forefront. The star wideout’s decision to opt for ankle surgery in June didn’t sit well with the Saints and Coach Sean Payton. Thomas was paced on the PUP list, and won’t be eligible to return until after Week 6; at which point Marquez Callaway may have a firm grip on the No. 1 chair.
Josh Allen joins Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott as QBs making over $40 million per year. Once QBs sign their big post-rookie contracts, the clock starts to tick for their teams. How long will Buffalo’s window for competing remain open? Can they win a Super Bowl before Allen’s cap hit skyrockets? Is his extension a team-friendly contract? How does this affect Lamar Jackson’s extension talks?
The Bills were a top AFC team last season and have improved in three consecutive years. I don’t see that changing in the next three. If it does change, it won’t be because Allen’s contract crippled the team’s salary cap. On the contrary, his extension allows Buffalo to extend their Super Bowl window all the way out to 2024 and keep or add key pieces.
Aaron Rodgers is gone after this season. The parallels between the Packers and the Michael Jordan Netflix documentary are obvious and referenced by involved parties. Allow your Salary Cap-tain to navigate you through the waves of contract and salary cap complexities. The first notable detail about Aaron Rodgers’ new contract is the 2023 void year. The next detail to note is Rodgers’ 2022 cap hit. Where is Rodgers going to play in 2022? How does the Rodgers saga affect Adams? Where do Cobb and the rookie WR fit in the 2021 plans?
By weighting Catchable Target Rate by Average Target Distance, we see different WRs who are in similar per-target situations for scoring fantasy points. Cooper Kupp has a remarkably high 83.2-percent (No. 17 among qualified wide receivers) Catchable Target Rate. Those targets came with a 6.6 (No. 103) Average Target Distance. He is likely to convert his targets into receptions. From a fantasy perspective, each individual reception is not generating significant fantasy point-scoring opportunity.
Conversely, Mike Williams has a low 65.9-percent (No. 100) Catchable Target Rate on a 14.8 (No. 9) Average Target Distance. He’s not nearly as likely to catch every target he receives, but when he does, they are likely to generate more fantasy points due to being deeper down the field. Those deeper receptions rack up more yards and more touchdowns. He and Kupp play differently, but their per-target opportunity is the same through the lens of Target Quality Rating.
In fantasy terms, we should be targeting players that command a large share of their teams’ targets. But be warned, not all Target Shares are created equal. It is important that we look at a team’s total pass volume to provide greater context when it comes to appreciating how much work a pass-catcher will get.
Target Rate is another stat that can sound impressive in of itself. But when used in concert with other stats and metrics, it can be used to push up players that really don’t need to be in our thoughts when it comes to fantasy football. It’s a nice conversation starter if you want to talk to your mates about how much more work Braxton Berrios should have got in 2020. But those conversations are, I hope, rare.
There are quite a few forces pushing quarterbacks towards their lower-variance profiles. Primarily, quarterbacks have an incredibly stable workload from week-to-week. They’re almost never game-scripted out the way RBs can be in losing situations, or WRs can in difficult CB matchups. Instead, much of quarterback variance stems from touchdowns and rushing yardage, which are both more impactful than passing yards.
If I’m in the final few rounds of a best ball draft looking at wide receivers with projections of six-to-eight points per game over the course of the season, I’m taking speed guys on high-volume aerial attacks who just need the right cornerback matchup to get one deep lineup-making touchdown. High-variance players hit their ceiling once or twice a season. And playing a below average player for the chance at upside is almost never the correct move in traditional formats.