No matter what the film grinders will tell you as they brush the Cheetoh dust off their sweatpants following another lengthy “study session” of watching TV, fantasy football is a numbers game. Watching football is fun, no question, but it’s a game of points and the points are based entirely off of the statistics. No league gives points for “good technique” or “passing the eye-test”. And you aren’t going to sit on the couch with a notebook and beat years and years of compartmentalized data. I guess what I’m trying to tell you here is that watching highlights is cool and all but math wins leagues. So stay in school kids.
Especially college, work is as lame as advertised
In this article we’re going to illustrate that by giving you some key numbers for each team and why it’s so important for your fantasy season. After that, feel free to go back and watch some Youtube high school highlight reels or whatever to relax your brain, not try to figure out who will be the next breakout tight end.
And, away. We. Go.
Arizona Cardinals – Key Number: 31
No, we aren’t talking about the departure of number 31, David Johnson . 31 represents the percentage of plays where the 2019 Cardinals lined up in 4-wide, single back sets which is easily the highest we’ve ever seen. To put that in perspective, in 2018 the Seahawks led the league with 7%, the Lions were next with 5%, and no one else was above 3%. That’s drastic.
This set up is a key feature of Kliff Kingsbury and Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense which Kingsbury has seemingly adapted for the NFL game. And with the addition of another fantastic receiving option in DeAndre Hopkins , those numbers could potentially even go up. That’s good news for the likes of Hopkins, Christian Kirk , and Larry Fitzgerald but likely not great for anyone banking on tight end Dan Arnold - unless he can carve out the role as the 4th man in that 4-wide group.
Atlanta Falcons – Key Number: 684
This number represents how many passes the Falcons attempted in 2019. Which happens to be a whopping 51 more than the next highest team which was the Panthers at 633. Are the Falcons going to be one of the leading passers again in 2020? With Dirk Koetter there, I’d say that’s likely. Are they going to throw over 650 passes and lead the league in attempts again? Well, the league average for the last five years has been around ~560 attempts and, over that same span, league leaders have averaged around ~660. So they attempted 20 more passes than the TOP team typically does on average. I personally don’t bank on any individual team to definitively lead the league in a specific category and I definitely don’t project that number to be an anomaly that is even higher than usual. Based on that, it’s hard to believe we’ll see all three of Julio Jones , Calvin Ridley , and Hayden Hurst show the same levels of fantasy success as Julio, Ridley, and Austin Hooper last season. So project accordingly.
Baltimore Ravens – Key Number: 62
Some teams use pretty much the same personnel all game. For the Panthers last season, Christian McCaffrey (93.35%), Curtis Samuel (85.80%), and DJ Moore (81.76%) all played most of the snaps they were healthy for. For the Ravens, the highest percentage of snaps a wide receiver or running back played was 62%. And that was Willie Snead . 62% is about where Jarius Wright was for the Panthers and he was an afterthought in that offense.
In fact, if we want to include tight end, only Nick Boyle (69%), Willie Snead (62%), and Marquise Brown (51%) played more than 50% of the offensive snaps and that includes Mark Andrews and Mark Ingram . The numerous different personnel groupings and mass substitutions by the Ravens not an accident – that is by design. So, we may see the snaps for Andrews increase with the departure of Hayden Hurst , but the addition of guys like J.K. Dobbins and Devan Duvernay (as well of the expansion of game day rosters from 46 to 48) may dilute those snap shares even further for a lot of the running backs and pass catchers on that team.
Buffalo Bills – Key Number: 58.8
A lot of people are touting the improvement in year two of Josh Allen . And improve he did, going from a 52.8% completion percentage to our magic number of 58.8%. The only problem with that is that 58.8% was good for 32nd among QBs that started at least 8 games or dead last in the league. You start including guys who played less than 8 games like Marcus Mariota and Drew Lock and that just moves him farther and farther down that list. His accuracy essentially improved from “absolutely terrible” to merely “unacceptable”. Stefon Diggs may help that but he’s also typically a deeper target guy than incumbents like Cole Beasley or Dawson Knox and deeper plays are completed on an even less frequent basis. Allen’s rushing prowess may make him a favorite in 4 point passing TD leagues but you might want to pump the breaks in leagues with 6 point passing TDs as ~3,000 yards, 20 TDs, and 9 interceptions isn’t blowing anyone away.
Carolina Panthers – Key Numbers: 1,080 and 30
The first key number, 1,080, is the number of plays former LSU offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s offense ran last season – the most of any FBS team. Now, at merely 30 years, he becomes the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers under new head coach Matt Rhule. We mentioned the Panthers snap distribution earlier though that’s likely to change with the addition of Robby Anderson into the mix (who played for Matt Rhule during his time at Temple). In order to feed all the mouths in that offense, they’ll need to be one of the more fast paced teams in the league. According to this tweet from Jon Alexander of The Charlotte Observer, it seems that’s at least the plan going in, but I’d be hesitant to reach for anyone past CMC or D.J. Moore .
McCaffrey: "One thing I love about this team is you can tell that everyone is hungry. It's not about what everyone has us ranked."— Jonathan M Alexander (@jonmalexander) August 6, 2020
Chicago Bears – Key Numbers: 16,000,000 and 9,000,000
Sixteen million is the number of dollars that they gave tight end Jimmy Graham to come play for them for the next two years. Nine million is the number of those dollars that are guaranteed. That makes him the seventh highest paid tight end in the league. And that contract also includes a no trade clause. They drafted Cole Kmet but he’ll likely start out in a primary blocking role similar to Dallas Goedert behind Zack Ertz. With that amount of money on the line, Jimmy Graham will get every opportunity to prove that Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace deserve to be there. Or that they deserve to be fired. If you consider where Mitchell Trubisky stands as well, there are a lot of jobs at stake this season in the Windy City. Given how Nagy’s offense worked in Kansas City with Travis Kelce and the fact they are paying Graham a fully guaranteed figure that is literally 10 times what Trey Burton signed with the Colts for, Graham may be worth a late round flyer in your leagues. Maybe.
Cincinnati Bengals – Key Number: 26
Last year the Bengals drafted Jonah Williams at 11th overall. The plan was for him to play left tackle and for incumbent left tackle, Cordy Glenn , to move to left guard. 26 is the number of games those two linemen combined to miss last year. Jonah Williams missed the entire 16 game season after having shoulder surgery. Cordy Glenn missed the first 10 games with a combination of a concussion and discontent with the team. When Glenn did finally play, there was a marked improvement for running back Joe Mixon including games of 136, 146, and 162 yards on the ground during that 6 game span. The Bengals moved on from the headache that was Cordy Glenn but Jonah Williams and a revamped O-line should certainly help not only Joe Mixon but new rookie QB Joe Burrow.
Cleveland Browns – Key Number: 44
Through the first 8 games, Browns running back Nick Chubb was on pace for 64 targets on the season. He finished with 49. Why? Because running back Kareem Hunt came back from suspension for the last 8 games where he received 44 targets. We can’t always just extrapolate small sample sizes, but that 44 targets translates to an 88 target season which is no small sum. Chubb over that same span only received 17 targets and, in the last 7 games, he never received more than 3 in any given game. New Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is a run game wizard which should give Chubb a decent floor but there is no question that the presence of Kareem Hunt hurts his fantasy ceiling.
Dallas Cowboys – Key Number: 2.5
Over the last five seasons, there have only been 4 teams out of 160 to have 3 of more guys get over 100 targets. 4 out of 160 gives us our magic number of 2.5% or the same odds of picking a single number correctly on a roulette table. Last year, only the Panthers had 3 guys all over 100 targets. The year before that it was the Giants. The year before that it was no one.
In fact, the last team to feature 3 wide receivers all getting over 100 targets was the 2016 Saints with Michael Thomas , Brandin Cooks , and Willie Snead . During that same span, every single top 12 wide receiver received over 100 targets and 90% of top 24 wide receivers (in full point PPR) received over 100 targets. Realistically what that tells us is that, with a couple capable pass catching backs and a decent tight end in Blake Jarwin , at least one of Amari Cooper , Michael Gallup , or CeeDee Lamb is going to disappoint fantasy owners based on their ADP.
Denver Broncos – Key Number: 141
In 2019, 144 running backs pass blocked on at least a snap. Every player was graded for their efforts by ProFootballFocus.com. Of those players, Phillip Lindsay ranked 141st. For those keeping track at home, there are only 32 teams. On his 31 pass blocking snaps, he let in pressure 10 times so nearly a 3rd of the time. That explains the mystery of why Royce Freeman was still getting snaps and it makes it abundantly clear why they were so anxious to bring in Melvin Gordon . At a minimum, Gordon will be getting the bulk of the pass plays (the more desirable role for fantasy owners) and there is a good chance he takes the majority of all the touches given the investment in him.
Detroit Lions – Key Number: 56
Matthew Stafford attempted 56 “deep passes” which are passes of over 20 yards or more in the air. That ranked 16th in the league. The crazy part is, he did that in only 8 games before getting hurt. The 112 deep pass pace he was on would have smashed the 99 that gunslingin’ Jameis Winston led the league with. To further put that in perspective, a guy like Jimmy Garoppolo played all 16 games yet only attempted 31 deep passes on the year while Stafford nearly doubled that in half a season. So, the triumphant return of the strong-armed quarterback should welcome news for deep threats Kenny Golladay (15.1 aDot), Marvin Jones (13.1 aDot), and possibly even Marvin Hall (27.6 aDot on only 7 catches which is entirely unsustainable).
Green Bay Packers – Key Number: ¼
The magic number here is one fourth. Jamaal Williams was banged up or out entirely for weeks 4 and 5. In those 2 games, Aaron Jones received over one fourth of his targets and scored over one fourth of his touchdowns. He added another 254 yards rushing and 9 targets in weeks 16 and 17 when Williams was once again banged up. When healthy, Williams played over 40% of the snaps in 11 games and actually outsnapped Jones in 2 of them. This year, not only will Williams be healthy to start the season but they added a potential goal line vulture in the 247 pound AJ Dillon out of Boston College. Aaron Jones had to be incredibly efficient to put together the year he did in 2019 and he will need to be just as efficient, if not more so, to pay dividends at his 2nd round ADP in 2020.
Houston Texans – Key Number: 643
Everyone hates what the Texans received in exchange for DeAndre Hopkins . In the grand scheme of things, they took Hopkins and traded him for a 2nd round pick and David Johnson because he wasn’t to play without a massive extension. They then took a 2nd round pick and traded that for Brandin Cooks . Fans decisively would rather have DeAndre Hopkins than DJ and Cooks.
Lost in the shuffle of all that is the fact that David Johnson had 643 yards from scrimmage in the 6 games before he got injured last year. That’s over 100 yards per game. Included in that were games of 102, 137, 139, and 156 yards from scrimmage. Clearly the Texans believe that DJ still has some of that action left in the tank. And, given what we know about Texans coach/GM/hostile overlord Bill O’Brien, he will likely give David Johnson every opportunity he can to prove he’s not as stupid as everyone says. If you believe the narrative that Johnson wasn’t 100% for the back half of that season, he’s at least intriguing at his ADP.
Indianapolis Colts – Key Number: 174
There’s a new bolo tie and rattlesnake boot wearing sheriff in Indianapolis and his name is Phillip Rivers. He comes over from the Los Angeles Chargers in what was probably the least ceremonious departure of any franchise quarterback since the Colts booed their own Andrew Luck off the field. Our key number of 174 is the number of times that Rivers targeted running backs last year for the Chargers. Granted, the Colts running backs don’t have the pass catching chops of Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon (especially Marlon Mack ) but even a portion of that volume likely means big things out of the backfield in the passing game for Nyheim Hines , rookie Jonathan Taylor, or possibly even speedy gadget player Parris Campbell .
Jacksonville Jaguars – Key Number: 2
This key number I can’t personally take credit for but it is interesting enough that I feel the need to share it with you. This one comes courtesy of the Fantasy Football Astronauts’ Jay Moyer.
Leomard Fournette was targeted 100 times in 2019. YPT was very low. Something's gotta give. With Gruden & Chris Thompson in town, I suspect Leonard will see a huge decrease in targets— J Moyer (@JMoyerFB) July 4, 2020
Just 2 targets per game is only 32 on the season. Last year, Leonard Fournette had 99 targets per PFF or over 6 targets a game. Given Fournette’s pass catching ability, a drop down to 2 per game seems like a bit of a stretch but the fact that one of the first things Jay Gruden did was bring on Chris Thompson is not a great sign either. It’s a fairly safe bet that Fournette takes a step back in the pass game and, on a team projected by Vegas to win 4 games, they aren’t likely to have a robust run game either.
Kansas City Chiefs – Key Number: 69
The number of players that opted out of the 2020 NFL season by the deadline on Thursday came to a total of 69. Of those guys, 3 of them are Chiefs. And all 3 have an effect on rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The big one is super bowl hero Damien Williams , who vacates 141 touches (in an injury shorted season) as the lead role in the backfield. This has catapulted CEH into the 1st round of many redraft leagues. The other 2 players were starting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif f and a potential replacement for him at guard in rookie Lucas Niang, which is not so good of news for CEH.
Los Angeles Chargers – Key Number: 87
The last time TyRod Taylor was a full time starting quarterback was for the Buffalo Bills. In 2016, TyRod Taylor had Sammy Watkins , Robert Woods , Marquise Goodwin , LeSean McCoy , Reggie Bush, Mike Gillislee , and, briefly, Percy Harvin at his disposal. Who led the team in targets? That would be tight end Charles Clay with 87. In 2017, McCoy led the team with 77 and Charles Clay was next with 74. Those were the last 2 years that TyRod Taylor started at quarterback. Those numbers might not directly translate to this season but it likely spells good news for tight end Hunter Henry who is quite a bit better in the passing game than Charles Clay .
Los Angeles Rams – Key Number: 16
For the past few years, the Rams have used a “next man up” approach at wide receiver. What that means is that Brandin Cooks played split end, Robert Woods played flanker, Cooper Kupp played slot, and Josh Reynolds was the “next man up”. Reynolds learned all three positions and was ready to step in at any spot in case of injury. On 16 occasions over the last two season, Reynolds was asked to come in and play at least 45% of the snaps. On 10 of those occasions, he played more than 80% of the snaps. This year we can likely expect that Reynolds will take over split end in the absence of Brandin Cooks and Van Jefferson will become that “next man up” meaning there is a good chance he will see some sort of playing time, especially with an injury. And how do we know Jefferson will likely be used the same was Reynolds was? From Sean McVay himself.
Sean McVay says Van Jefferson can play all 3 wideout spots, and his technique is superb. "He plays like a coach's kid, like he's been running routes in training camp since he was 10 years old."— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) April 25, 2020
Miami Dolphins – Key Number: 461
People on Twitter will try to tell you that Dolphins new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is bad for the tight end. Like this misinformed tweet/article here.
While guys like Jeff Cumberland were not great under Gailey, he has a history of utilizing the “big slot” position which is essentially just what it sounds like – a big pass catcher playing in the slot. With the Chiefs in 2008 it was Tony Gonzalez who was 2nd in the league in slot snaps and had 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns. With the Bills in 2012 it was the 6’5”, 225 pound David Nelson who led the league in slot snaps and had 97 targets. With the Jets in 2015 it was the 6’3” Eric Decker who played the 4th most slot snaps in the league and had 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns. These stints also saw brief periods of relevance for guys like Scott Chandler and the 6’2” 225 pound Quincy Enunwa who filled in at “big slot” for Gailey based on injuries.
Last year, Mike Gesicki played 461 snaps from the slot which led the Dolphins. The two players who played the next highest slot snaps, Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson , both opted out of the season. Gesicki ran 374 routes from the slot which was only one fewer than Cooper Kupp . As a matter of fact, Gesicki only played 159 in-line tight end snaps compared to 375 for Durham Smythe . So, unless things completely change, Smythe or the newly acquired Adam Shaheen is most likely to be the Jeff Cumberland of Gailey’s offense while Gesicki plays the Eric Decker role. So it is wheels up for Mike Gesicki in 2020.
Minnesota Vikings– Key Number: 8.1
Over the last 2 years, Adam Thielen has had 201 targets in 26 games. That’s 7.7 targets per game. Despite his title as the de-facto top receiver on the team, that would actually make him 2nd to Stefon Diggs who had 243 targets in 30 games or 8.1 targets per game. 8.1 targets per game translates to just under 130 targets per year. Diggs was traded to Buffalo.
Last year it was Irv Smith and OlaBisi Johnson battling for targets opposite Diggs when Adam Thielen got hurt with Smith leading the team in slot snaps and Olabisi following just behind. Their use of multiple tight ends on 53% of the snaps was second only to the Philadelphia Eagles. This year, the Vikings drafted Justin Jefferson in the 1st round who also profiles as a slot player while adding outside veteran Tajae Sharpe . Given the draft capital and pedigree, it is presumed Jefferson will get a shot to contribute right away. The important thing to monitor will be whether Jefferson plays a lot of slot or a lot of flanker. If he’s in the slot, that hurts Irv Smith and opens the door for the veteran Tajae Sharpe or possibly OlaBisi Johnson on the outside. If Jefferson is outside, Irv Smith Jr. could pay dividends at his ADP.
New England Patriots– Key Numbers: 1
There is only 1 number that matters for New England this year and that’s #1. Cam Newton . If he’s healthy and playing up to his full potential, he’s a dynamic playmaker that has proven that he can be an MVP and a threat both in the air and on the ground. Based on historic numbers, an offense firing on all cylinders with Cam would bolster the outside passing game with N’Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu as well as fuel targets for James White out of the backfield. That said, it could be an unmitigated disaster leaving a lot of those players useless for fantasy purposes. Certainly an interesting gamble for anyone willing to make it. I’m personally a Patriots fan so I’ll be pulling for Cam either way.
New Orleans Saints – Key Numbers: 81
There aren’t many things that truly stay consistent from year to year in the NFL or fantasy football You have certain trends for players and projected ranges of outcomes that tend to stay within certain parameters but the numbers themselves are very rarely exactly the same. Which makes it so peculiar that Alvin Kamara has now had exactly 81 receptions in all 3 season that he’s been in the league. The fact that it settled at that exact number each season despite different personnel as well as injuries to both him and to Drew Brees speaks to how coincidental some of these stats can be but one thing is clear – this guy is dynamic in the passing game and that ability provides him an absolutely tremendous floor in fantasy football. So draft him as a top 4-5 back with confidence.
New York Giants – Key Numbers: 12.04
Evan Engram ’s brief career has been marred by injuries. In 3 seasons, he’s yet to play all 16 games. Yet over that span, he has still averaged 12.04 PPR points per game. If you take all of the tight ends since he came into the league in 2017, that would place him 5th behind only Travis Kelce , Zach Ertz , Rob Gronkowski , and George Kittle . Now just think of how many games during that span he has had to leave after just one play or games that he spent the entire time being a decoy while he was nursing injury. He’s only 25 so he’s just hitting his prime and, if he can stay healthy, Evan Engram has just as high of an upside as any tight end in the league. Unfortunately, so far that’s been a pretty big if.
New York Jets – Key Numbers: 0.21
Another borrowed statistic but, like the other one I shared, this was profound enough that I felt it was worth your attention. This one comes via Michael Nania of JetsXFactor.com
Beachum to Becton is going to be such a huge upgrade in the run game, Beachum was decent in pass pro but a huge liability in the run game— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) April 24, 2020
Jets ran left end or left tackle 59 times, 2nd-fewest in the league. They averaged 0.21 yards before contact on those runs, worst in the NFL
I don’t think I need to explain why 0.21 yards per contact is insanely poor but it essentially tells us Le’Veon Bell was seeing contact at or near the line of scrimmage pretty much every time they ran to the left. The Jets attempted to rectify this by drafting Mekhi Becton at 20 overall as well as Cameron Clark in the 4th and signing free agents Connor McGovrn, George Fant , and Greg Van Roten . It’s essentially a brand new line. And based on that, PFF ranked them as the most improved offensive line from last season which should hopefully translate to more success for Le’Veon Bell. The touches were there so he just needs a little running room.
Las Vegas Raiders – Key Numbers: 61.7, 58 and 33
Here’s a tweet I sent out back in May.
Sneak preview of something I'm working on regarding how we value fantasy RBs.— Andrew Cooper (@CoopAFiasco) May 19, 2020
Spoiler alert: catching passes is important. Not just in PPR and not just catching "some" passes. Don't be fooled by a couple anomalies scoring ~20 touchdowns last year. pic.twitter.com/KJNP70Gp9Q
That chart shows the reception totals for the top 10 backs in half point PPR over the last 3 years. What it tells us, is that top 10 backs in recent years have average 61.7 receptions with a median of 58. You’ll notice that only extraordinary rushing/scoring seasons like Derrick Henry (18 TDs) and Aaron Jones (19 TDs) crack the list. Josh Jacobs last year managed only 20 catches which translates to just 25 or so over a full season. You could chock it up to him being a rookie but he actually received a full workload on the ground that would have translated to him being top five in the league in rushing attempts had he played 16 games. Not only did they re-sign Jalen Richard but they drafted Lynn Bowden who some had speculated might play wide receiver. For a jersey number, Bowden chose our final key number – 33 – which is definitively a running back number. Now rumors of Henry Ruggs playing a lot out of the slot make it even more likely that Bowden was picked to supplement the pass game out of the backfield which certainly hurts the ceiling for Jacobs.
Philadelphia Eagles – Key Numbers: 28 and 56
Coming into the 2019 season, the Eagles starting wide receivers were Alshon Jeffrey, DeSean Jackson , and Nelson Agholor . Between the three of them, they combined to either miss or leave 28 games with injury. With the plethora of injuries, the Eagles made up for that by having at least2 tight ends on the field a league leading 56% of the time. This allowed Zach Ertz to finish as TE5 and Dallas Goedert to finish as TE10 in fantasy. This year will start with a healthy Alshon and DeSean as well as rookie first round pick Jalen Reagor. Given that he was only TE10 last season in an ideal scenario in term of usage for a backup tight end, it might be difficult to bank on Goedert as your starting tight end again in fantasy.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Key Number: 66.3
People are asking who will play wide receiver “opposite” JuJu Smith-Schuster . But the reality is that JuJu Smith-Schuster lined up in the slot on 66.3% of his snaps in 2019. That’s actually an increase from his 61.5% slot snaps in 2018 with Antonio Brown . It’s actually two battles in terms of which pass catcher will have their foot tethered to the line of scrimmage on most plays and who will play flanker?
The rules of the game dictate that you need to have 7 guys tethered to the line on every play with the 2 widest guys being eligible receivers. That limits the configuration to tight ends, split ends, and “tethered slot” players with the most common options being the ends. Last year they filled the requirements mostly with Vance McDonald at tight end and James Washington at split end. Assuming Vance McDonald resumes most of his role as the two-way in-line tight end, that means that pass-catching tight end Eric Ebron (6’4” 253), James Washington (5’11”, 214), and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. (6’4” 223) will compete for snaps as the other tethered player. Split ends and tight ends can’t go in motion and must line up right on the line of scrimmage, they often face the jam which gives an advantage to bigger players. That could put James Washington in competition with Diontae Johnson for flanker snaps. Based on all of this, my money is on Diontae Johnson being the best fantasy asset after Juju but don’t be surprised if any one of them loses the snap competition and quickly becoming a droppable asset. Or, even worse, they all dilute each other’s snaps making none of them particularly fantasy relevant.
San Francisco 49ers – Key Number: 5 to 6
Deebo Samuel was a popular breakout candidate (and still is for some) until he suffered a Lisfranc injury on June 16, 2020. According to Dr. Robert Anderson, co-chairman of the NFL’s Foot and Ankle Committee, “Lisfranc “ actually covers a rank of potential injuries with outcomes from stable ligaments requiring no surgery to broken bones or unstable ligaments requiring surgery. According to Anderson, the timeline for recovery from surgery is typically 5 to 6 months. He suggests staying completely off the foot for a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks, then 6 weeks in a boot before rehabbing for 2 to 4 weeks. According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the actual median time to return of 28 players who actually suffered this injury from 2000 to 2010 was 11.1 months. Only 3 players returned in less than 3 months which is what Deebo would need to do to be ready for the start of the season.
Based on the absolute lowest estimates from Dr. Anderson’s timeline and the date of Deebo’s surgery, that gets him out of rehab in 14 weeks or 3 and a half months at best. That timeline could have him on the field for week 3 or 4 of the NFL season. That said, Evan Engram had similar surgery in December of 2019 and didn’t even shed his walking boot for 18 weeks. More concerning, Deebo’s own teammate Trent Taylor tried to return too quickly from the same injury last year and missed the entire season with setbacks. I imagine the team will be cautious with their young star so I wouldn’t bank on having Deebo back for your fantasy team in the first half of the season.
Seattle Seahawks – Key Number: 7
That’s the number of times that Chris Carson fumbled last season – 2 more than any other runnigback. He started the season by fumbling in all 3 of the first 3 games, turning the ball over on all of them. In week 4 he actually received more carries than he was getting prior to that. Then, in week 9, he fumbled twice. Again, he got more carries in week 10 and fumbled again. In week 11 he fumbled for the 3rd game in a row (his second stint of back to back to back fumbles) and he was finally out touched by Rashaad Penny 14 carries to 8. In that game, Penny had 129 yards rushing and Carson had 26. In week 11, Carson bounced back with 23 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown but Penny also received 15 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown – as well as tacking on 4 catches for 33 yards and another touchdown. Penny tore his ACL in week 12 so we never saw how that was going to play out.
Pete Carroll is a player’s coach through and through and Chris Carson is clearly one of “his guys” but we did see that Pete has a breaking point in terms of putting the ball on the ground. Rashaad Penny won’t be rushed back from injury but the Seahawks looked into signing Devonta Freeman before inevitably signing Carlos Hyde , a thousand yard rusher with the Texans. They also took running back DeeJay Dallas in the fourth round to pair with former Miami teammate Travis Homer. If you draft Carson in fantasy, be weary that a bunch of new options in town may mean an even shorter leash this year when it comes to putting the ball on the turf.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Key Number: 49
Last year Chris Godwin received 121 targets in only 14 games. Mike Evans received 118 in only 13 games. On a 16 game basis, that number projects to 283 combined targets which would have been more than the other top WR duos in Michael Thomas /Calvin Ridley (278) and Odell Beckham Jr/Jarvis Landry (271). The next highest targeted player on the team received 49. As we know, it’s rare for teams to have 3 players getting over 100 targets. Rob Gronkowski has made a living in the red zone with Tom Brady and could prove to be viable in fantasy if he finds pay dirt enough but the rest of the pass catchers in Tampa Bay should be avoided in all but the deepest of drafts.
Tennessee Titans – Key Number: 127.6
Every top 24 receiver in half point per reception fantasy football leagues received 90 or more targets last season except for 1. Titans rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown. In fact, every top 24 receiver was targeted over 100 times except Brown and Stefon Diggs (94). Part of Brown’s success was how incredibly efficient he was with his targets. According to ProFootballFocus, if you take every player that received at least 80 targets, Titans quarterbacks’ passer rating of 127.6 when targeting A.J. Brown was the highest in the league. The next were Tyler Locket (127.0), Austin Ekeler (124.1), and Michael Thomas (123.3) which is pretty elite company in terms of pass catching. On his 84 targets A.J. Brown was able to generate 54 catches for 1,051 yards and 8 touchdowns. There is a reason that people are excited about the second season with Ryan Tannehill for A.J. Brown.
The Washington Football Team – Key Number: 15.5
Derrius Guice was just recently arrested on domestic violence charges and, based on the severity and available evidence, was immediately released by the Washington Football Team. This leaves a vacuum at running back with Adrian Peterson , Bryce Love, and rookie Antonio Gibson.
In his senior year at Memphis, Antonio Gibson received 33 carries for 369 yards and 4 touchdowns while catching 38 passes for 735 yards and 8 touchdowns for a total of 1,104 yards from scrimmage on 71 touches. That an astonishing 15.5 yards per touch. The year prior year, he averaged 16.5 yards per touch. Perhaps that’s why new Washington head coach Ron Rivera compared him to his former starting running back Christian McCaffrey .
For anyone questioning the Antonio Gibson pick at No. 66: Rivera made multiple comparisons to Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey, who happens to be the NFL's highest-paid RB of all time.— Kyle Stackpole (@kylefstackpole) April 25, 2020
The veteran Adrian Peterson may get first crack but he’s never been a good ball handler both in the passing game and in terms of fumbles. If Bryce Love can overcome his dramatic injuries, perhaps he can secure a big chunk of the role. But for me, I look at Gibson’s pass catching prowess and electric play making ability and that’s the guy I want on my team. And I didn’t have to watch a bunch of Memphis college football games to figure that out. Because math.
Statistics for this article were provided by the author, Andrew Cooper, with help from ProFootballFocus.com, PlayerProfiler.com, ProFootballRefence.com, AirYards.com, NFLSavant.com, FantasyData.com, and SharpFootballStats.com. Follow Coop on Twitter @CoopAFiasco.