Written by Timothy Lewis (@MrTeeLew) — September 26th, 2019
The third week of the 2019 NFL season has come and gone. In other words, we have a three-game sample size to spot trends and develop takeaways. Welcome to season three of this column! If you’re not familiar, I use this time to look at numbers and tell you what I make of them. This year I will be offering additional Buy/Sell/Drop criteria. Statistics are courtesy of advanced analytics goldmine, PlayerProfiler, and trusty dusty Pro-Football-Reference.
Averaging 9.3 targets per game in 2019 compared to 4.4 per game in 2018.
Playing 65.7% of his snaps from the slot, up from 34.7% in 2019.
Seahawks are averaging 8 more passes per game in 2019 compared to 2018.
This is a different Seahawks team from years past. In this young season, Seattle has surrendered 20+ points to the hapless Bengals, a Steelers team lead by an overwhelmed Mason Rudolph, and a Saints team we wrote an obituary for a week ago. The defense isn’t good, and while Pete Carroll and friends are unlikely to become a willingly pass-first team, their choices are limited. Chris Carson’s fumble issues and Rashaad Penny’s hamstring have further forced this team to rely on Russell Wilson. As has been common in years past, the target tree is narrow, and Wilson will continue to pepper his fifth-year receiver with targets to all parts of the field. This is Doug Baldwin all over again, but with more athleticism and more targets. In trades, I’m treating Lockett as a top-10 option for the remainder of the season.
Verdict: Chances are the Lockett owner isn’t selling, but he’s a surefire BUY.
25, 22, and 18 touches through three games.
71.3% of the RB opportunity share so far compared to 60.7% in 2018.
2.49 yards created per carry, 4th in the league.
As the preseason came to a close, the fantasy football community took notes pertaining to usage rates in the Colts’ backfield. One thing was abundantly clear: The team viewed Mack as an every-down workhorse. Then the Andrew Luck news broke and the promise of Mack and his touchdown upside faded. To the surprise of some, Jacoby Brissett has been competent, and perhaps even good under center. This offensive line is among the league’s best and the exchange of offensive dynamism for a ball-control scheme appears to have consolidated fantasy value. It might sound odd with all of the early-season pessimism, but the 3rd year back out of South Florida is a sneaky bet to lead the league in rushing. If there is a critique to be made, it’s Mack’s usage as a pass-catcher. While he’s competent in that realm and dominating snaps, Mack has totaled just six targets. The silver lining is the duo of backups, Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines, have accumulated just eleven targets between them.
Verdict: Mack owners may still have doubts about the sustainability of this offense. He is the offense. See if you can take advantage. BUY.
8.7 carries per game in 2019 compared to 7.4 in 2018.
Leading the league in red zone carries per game.
Supporting cast efficiency jumped from 30th last season to 7th so far in 2019.
Early-round QB is a draft strategy that is regularly dookied upon and I’m here to reshape the narrative. Patrick Mahomes has been worth every penny. It’s everyone else drafted before round 10 that has been a relative let down when we consider that Lamar Jackson, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, and Josh Allen all reside in the position’s top-10 fantasy producers.
Personally, I didn’t see it with Josh Allen coming out of Wyoming. Big arm, tall, can move a bit. But where I previously saw Christian Hackenburg, I now see shades of Cam Newton; a shamefully radical take transition. The additions of John Brown and Cole Beasley have provided the second-year gunslinger with receivers who excel at gaining separation and can play streetball when the play breaks down. With Frank Gore, Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon occupying the backfield, Allen’s floor as a rusher isn’t going away, providing him a game-winning ceiling any given week. The world is a better place with an undefeated Bills team. Feel comfortable about Allen as a weekly starter, especially after he puts up a fantasy-friendly stat line against a daunting Patriots defense (garbage time be damned!).
Verdict: QBs aren’t an asset you trade for outside of specific situations. That said, if Allen is on your waiver wire, pick him up. If you can dangle a QB with more “brand recognition” in a multi-player deal, go for it. BUY.
49ers rank 30th in the league with 29 pass plays per game.
Kittle has a 24.8% target share, 2nd in the NFL at the TE position.
His 3 red zone targets rank 3rd in the NFL at the TE position.
While a three-game sample size is enough to start identifying trends for the season, it still leaves a lot of room for interpretation. So far, San Francisco’s schedule has been the Bucs, the Bengals, and the Steelers. In the Bucs game, the defense scored multiple defensive touchdowns, and as a result, the offense ran the ball 5 times more than they passed it. The Bengals game was such an overwhelming blowout that the 49ers ran the ball 18 times more than they passed it, with no receiving option getting more than five targets. The Steelers game was a turnover-laden affair where the 49ers squeaked out a victory. Kittle led the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.
At this point, the dynamic tight end is a hold. His early bye week is frustrating but George Kittle is still doing George Kittle things. He’s sure-handed as ever, dominating the eyes of his quarterback and averaging a whopping 4.8 yards after the catch. With upcoming games against the Rams and Browns, both of which figure to be competitive affairs, this 49ers will throw more and Kittle owners will see the benefit. One thing I’m hoping to see coming out of the bye week is more downfield targets. Kittle has traditionally operated as a safety valve and an after-the-catch guy, but an average target distance of 5.4 yards is too low.
Verdict: Many Kittle owners are fretting a wasted pick. In addition, it’s his bye week and the waivers are barren. Manipulate this desperation. While he likely won’t reach last year’s production, big weeks lie ahead. BUY.
3 deep targets through three games, 43rd in the league.
9.8 yards per reception, 80th in the league.
4 touchdowns and 6 red zone receptions on just 25 targets this season.
Nearly everyone who drafted a Colts’ player let out a groan and a tear after Andrew Luck retired toward the end of one of the biggest draft days of the year. That is until the “Rare Leader” Jacoby Brisset dimed up T.Y. Hilton for four touchdowns through three games. Hilton is as good as ever, speedy, shifty, and technical. However, his playstyle has changed in this new-look Colts’ offense. Hilton is no longer receiving high-value, game-breaking targets downfield. Instead, he’s taking a quarter of his snaps from the slot and working as a security blanket for his new starting QB. This is represented by his stellar 28.1% target share and otherworldly 43.8% red zone target share. So the good news is that Hilton is the focal point with a signal-caller who looks his way in scoring territory. The bad news is that Hilton has not eclipsed 90 receiving yards so far this season, reducing his “boom week” ceiling to touchdown dependency. He’s got the makings of a WR2 who has a solid floor in PPR, but will fall flat on many of the weeks he fails to hit paydirt.
Verdict: Brissett has been a nice surprise in his utility. However, he’s not so good that he can sustain this kind of TD production for a diminutive receiver à la Big Ben to Antonio Brown (RIP to both). Especially considering Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle have just one touchdown between them. T.Y.’s early-season production is that of a WR1. If you find a struggling team who values him that highly, you may be able to package and SELL for a dominant asset.