Despite a fun week of wild upsets and a few huge stat lines, there really wasn’t much in the way of compelling fantasy data from the abstract side of the game. I look for information that is either intriguing with an emphasis on actionable from a fantasy perspective. There was hardly any this week.
Now that we have three weeks of data, trends will start to show themselves. In the upcoming weeks, more focus will be placed on whether these trends are pretend and, if not, what can be gleaned from a fantasy perspective.
59.99 percent: Baltimore Ravens running backs Alex Collins and Buck Allen have faced boxes stacked with eight or more defenders on basically 60 percent of their combined rushing attempts in 2018, per the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Allen (62.5%) actually has seen a higher percentage of stacked fronts than Collins (58.82%), probably due to having a greater presence around the end zone. The duo has nine combined carries in the red zone and five offensive touchdowns to show for it. Remove those nine carries and we’re still looking at a shade under 50 percent of the attempts coming against heavily defended fronts. Only Royce Freeman (55.56%) and Malcolm Brown (50%) have faced a similar percentage among running backs with at least 15 carries. Baltimore has averaged the 13th-fewest yards per attempt in 2018 and 15th-fewest yards per completion.
70 games: The span without a 100-yard rusher by the Detroit Lions until rookie running back Kerryon Johnson broke the mark on Sunday Night Football. He looks so much more athletic and explosive than LeGarrette Blount and deserves a larger workload. At any rate, expect Johnson to see more consistent touches, which could create a real opportunity to become a weekly flex consideration.
21.05: The miles per hour recorded by Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jordy Nelson in Week 3. This is tied for the fifth-fastest figure by any ballcarrier in the third week of the season. It also is tied for the ninth-fastest over the course of the season and eighth among individual players (Tyreek Hill holds the fastest times). After two disappointing weeks, Nelson’s critics began suggesting maybe he is not what the offseason reports made him out to be — a youthful 33-year-old. The Raiders found a smarter way to utilize his skill set in Week 3, which should continue as long as defenders don’t outright double him with regularity. It also helps the running game and Amari Cooper if defenses have to focus more attention on Nelson.
20 targets: The number of looks New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara saw in Week 3. According to Pro Football Reference, that is the highest recorded target count for a running back since the league began tracking the statistic in 1992.
9: The number of individual players who have caught a touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes in the first three games of the 2018 season. His historic pace takes another unique twist.
10 targets: Cleveland Browns rookie wideout Antonio Callaway has been thrust into the starting lineup due to the trade of Josh Gordon. With Gordon inactive in Week 3, the Florida product was targeted 10 times — an even five apiece from Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield. Only seven receivers were targeted more in Week 3. Taylor threw three deep, all of which were incomplete, and two short (completing one) to Callaway for a grand total of one catch for two yards. Mayfield took only one downfield shot at him, but the offense can become so much more dynamic with No. 1 overall pick under center. Three of Mayfield’s five targets were receptions on Callaway’s part, which spurs some confidence, even if they didn’t total 20 yards. Give it time.
Dec. 17, 2017: The last time Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott threw 200 or more yards in a game, spanning five contests. In his last six games, he has seven turnovers and three touchdown passes. Prescott isn’t a fantasy asset in his own right, and while he doesn’t have a lot to work with, at some point the finger has to be pointed in his direction. In that span, he has averaged 5.9 yards per attempt, which is nothing short of pathetic. It harms Ezekiel Elliott and makes the offense extremely predictable. While Prescott has an abundantly long leash, this has to be a critical year for his future role in Dallas.
30 fantasy points: Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen isn’t going to rip off two touchdown runs every week, and his fantasy life won’t be sustained on passing with that lowly receiving corps. Don’t add him based on the 30-point total without recognizing how he ended up there. Minnesota simply had a bad day at the office.
The Indianapolis Colts have gone 14 straight games without scoring more than 24 points. From a fantasy perspective, this is most notable for those in standard-scoring leagues, where gamers don’t earn bonus points for receptions and have more emphasis placed on finding the end zone. This is even more exaggerated touchdown-only formats. It also doesn’t mean much since all but three games were without Andrew Luck and belonged to a different coaching staff.
1-1-1: The last team to share this record with the Browns (and the Pittsburgh Steelers if they win Monday night) was the 1987 Denver Broncos … they won the Super Bowl. Who ya got to win it all this year, Cleveland or Pittsburgh? 🙂
New York Giants vs. TEs: The G-Men rank sixth among the toughest defenders of the position after three games, but how real is the data? Meetings with Jacksonville, Dallas and Houston skew the figures in New York’s favor. The trio of opponents are hardly known for running through the tight end spot, and the only one of note from these rosters is Austin Seferian-Jenkins, when he made his Jaguars’ debut vs. this defense. With upcoming tilts against New Orleans and Carolina, look for the Giants to carry possibly the toughest on-paper defense of the position into a Week 6 meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles — a true test against tight ends.
Hammering on Stefon Diggs has become a part-time job for me this year, but here’s one more trip to the well: Look at his next month or so, as I discussed late last week on our Huddle Up! Podcast. If you didn’t get a chance to listen, the nutshell is simple: at the Rams on a short week, at Philadelphia, vs. the Arizona, at the New York Jets, vs. the Saints rounds out his next five games. The injuries at cornerback to the Los Angeles Rams’ secondary could change things, so wait to see how it plays out during the week. Otherwise, we’re talking matchups with several of the best cornerbacks in football in each of those matchups.
I still want nothing to do with Green Bay’s backfield. In any other setting, Jamaal Williams could be a workhorse and Aaron Jones a brilliant change-up option — if not more. The Packers have no defense, which eliminates consistent carries, and the offensive line has its own issues.
With respect to the flukes section, these matchups could be just that … I’d like to see more before making a declaration, but my suspicion is they are weaker than advertised. Tennessee vs. TEs (strongest), Baltimore vs. QBs (3rd strongest), Oakland vs. RBs (8th strongest). The main reasoning for the Titans and Ravens comes down to their opponents. Andy Dalton shredded the Baltimore secondary, but this defense has faced Buffalo and Denver otherwise. Oakland is so weak against receivers that teams haven’t opted to rely on running backs. When they did, Todd Gurley went for more than 24 fantasy points. Tennessee will show its true colors vs. Philly this week. Baltimore has to hold up against Big Ben, and the Raiders face a Cleveland team that could emphasize the run to alleviate some pressure on the shoulders of Mayfield.