Written by Timothy Lewis (@TrendsAndTakes) — October 3rd, 2019
The fourth week of the 2019 NFL season has come and gone. In other words, we have a four-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.
81st in the NFL in average yards of separation per target
5% red zone target share
ADOT of just 8.4 yards
Finally! The Robert Woods breakout! Now get him the hell out of here. While his targets average out to 9.5/game, that figure is misleading when we consider Jared Goff’s exorbitant 68 attempts last week. Before that point, he averaged a cool 7.6/game. One reality we must consider is that this Rams offense is not as efficient as it has been in recent years. Gurley, the soul of the operation, has a well-documented plight. Cooper Kupp, meanwhile, has made an astounding recovery from last November’s ACL injury to the tune of a 26.7% target share to go along with 20% of the red zone targets. Cooks is dominating the field-stretching gig, ranking 9th in total target distance. The skinny on Woods is that his role ain’t what it was last season and his role this season isn’t as valuable. Based on the current trajectory, he’s a secondary option for underneath targets without his QB’s favor during scoring opportunities.
Verdict: Woods is the least valuable of the Rams’ WR trio. His week four performance to the tune of 164 receiving yards accounted for more than his production the previous three games. SELL.
Averaging a lowly 4.5 yards per touch (7.1 yards per reception)
1 goal-line carry through 4 games
1.5 yards before contact per attempt (2.3 in 2018)
1.00 yards created per carry (39th in NFL) — Yards generated by runner after the first evaded tackle
Chris Carson is showing his true colors. He’s showing why he was relegated to a backup role in college, why he tumbled down to the 7th round of the NFL draft. For all of his awesome qualities: The spin moves, the explosiveness, how he embraces and thrives on contact, Chris Carson is inescapably slow. He’s 39th in the NFL in yards created through four weeks. That’s AFTER playing the hapless Cardinals defense. In the three weeks prior that number drops to .65 yards.
Put plainly: the Oklahoma State product lacks the acceleration to take advantage of the tackles he sheds. It’s not all his fault. Seattle’s run blocking has not lived up to its 2018 performance, spotlighting Carson’s lackluster acceleration. With Rashaad Penny’s hamstring ailment keeping him sidelined the past two weeks, Carson could have established a vice grip on this backfield. Could have. Even more troublesome is his goal-line usage, where he has just a single carry. That ties him with C.J. Prosise for the team lead. Didn’t even mention the fumbles.
Verdict: Use Carson’s big yardage game to SELL. Due to his lack of efficacy through four weeks, 1st round pick Rashaad Penny will once again be given every chance to win the job. Therefore, I alternatively encourage you to buy Rashaad Penny. In a way, this parallels the Peyton Barber/Ronald Jones situation.
9 targets per game
35.7% of team’s red-zone targets
#1 in the NFL in total target distance
It’s time to move on to a new year. Whatever notions we have about the Detroit Lions’ offense from last season are irrelevant. Under Darrel Bevell, Matt Stafford has thrown 31 deep balls through four games. He threw 50 all of 2018. In fact, Stafford ranks first in that category in the NFL, and the main man Kenny Golladay has served as the benefactor. While haters might reference unsustainable touchdown production and only one game above 70 yards through four weeks — as I had intended to do in this segment before a deeper dive — the numbers paint a different picture; one that suggests the yardage totals are due for positive regression. The type of usage Stafford and the coaching staff are entrusting is that of a bonafide alpha. Marvin Jones, who many pundits had as the 1-B to Golladay, is averaging 3 fewer targets per game and seeing less than half the red zone usage.
Verdict: People are only now waking up to Detroit being a good football team. Darrell Bevell has made Golladay a full-time high-volume outside receiver with the responsibility of winning in the most fantasy-viable situations. There are owners out there who think they are selling high. Prove them wrong. BUY.
Leads team with 44.7% of the RB opportunity share
Leads Eagles’ backs in targets and carries
Faces 6 or fewer defenders in the box 66.7% of the time
Eagles are 8th in the league in rush attempts per game
The touchdowns are coming
Last week was the Jordan Howard breakout week, right? Miles Sanders is now relegated to low-carb between-the-20s work in an offense with too many mouths to feed, right?. That kind of thinking is exactly what makes this a buy-low window. Sanders’ stats are depressed by his first two “feet-wetting” games, where he hesitated to hit the gaps blocked for him. In the two games since, he’s averaged 4.08 and 6.55 YPC. His 44.7% usage rate far exceeds the usage of any Eagles’ back last year. While fumbles are a concern, the size/speed/versatility combination of Sanders is far superior to any of his backfield stablemates. Jordan Howard will have his games, but there’s a good chance his presence is overblown. He has 3 goal-line touches to Sanders’ 2 and will struggle to see the field when the game script demands a back that can double as a receiver. Additionally, the eventual return of DeSean Jackson will spread defenses and give space for the rookie to capitalize on check downs.
Verdict: Sanders is a startable option in 12 team leagues and has untapped upside. Jordan Howard’s limitations will always restrict his role in this offense barring injury. BUY Sanders under the rationale that this tandem can become a latter-day version of the Ingram and Kamara duo.