Every couple of weeks, I’ll take a look at various stats to try to determine if any trends stand out. These trends could relate to specific players or situations. I’ll be looking at targets, snap shares, and air yards, among other metrics to help formulate opinions on players and how you as a dynasty player should be interpreting this data. Data is compiled via Pro Football Reference, Airyards.com, Football Outsiders, the Sleeper app, Fantasy Data and other any other place that stats may be housed. Even with four weeks of data the sample size is small and these takes are subject to change. You can find this first article in this series right here. I’ll update a few of the situations we looked at two weeks ago, and I’ve found a couple of new situations that have caught my attention.
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With Mason Rudolph taking over the starting QB role in place of an out for the year Ben Roethlisberger and the demotion of Donte Moncrief, the WR2 role in Pittsburgh is one that’s there for the taking. If you take a walk down narrative street, James Washington should be the odds on favorite in this battle since he and Rudolph were college teammates. Rudolph and Washington were at Oklahoma State from 2014 – 2017, and both were starters in their final three seasons. They played 39 games together, and Washington totaled nearly 200 receptions during those three seasons. Through the first two weeks of the Rudolph era, the narrative has not held though.
In Week 3, Washington had a 92% snap share compared to Johnson’s 79%. But Johnson won the target battle, six to five, and the reception battle three to two. Johnson also had the more productive fantasy line with a touchdown and 52 yards, compared to Washington’s scoreless 14 yards receiving. Johnson added one rushing attempt for six yards. Washington was able to draw a DPI, which looks good to the coaches if not the fantasy stat sheet.
This past week against the Bengals, Washington saw his snap share drop to 76% and was targeted just once. Washington did play more snaps than Johnson this week, who played on 63% of the snaps, but that’s where the good news ends if you’re a Washington fan. Johnson was targeted six times, converting all six for 77 yards and another touchdown. Washington was targeted once and finished the night with zero receptions.
Beyond the lack of production and the dearth of targets, there are additional reasons to be concerned with Washington’s usage. Based on his 19.8 Yards Per Reception during his time at Oklahoma State on 226 receptions and his aDOT of 16.6 yards on his 38 targets during his rookie season with Pittsburgh, it’s evident that Washington is best suited to play a deep threat role. During the first two weeks of the 2019 season, with Roethlisberger under center in six of eight quarters, Washington had an aDOT of 22.1 per airyards.com.
In the two full games that Rudolph has started Washington’s aDOT has fallen to 6.8. Washington is also not being targeted in the Red Zone, with zero such targets so far this season. Not only is Washington not seeing many targets, but he’s also not seeing the types of targets that have high value (i.e. deep throws and Red Zone targets).
Either the Steelers have made a concerted effort to have Rudolph take underneath attempts, or he is choosing on his own not to attempt anything intermediate or deep. He’s averaging just 2.3 Deep Ball Attempts per game compared to the 5 per game that Roethlisberger attempted, per PlayerProfiler.com. Rudolph, despite playing two and half more games than Roethlisberger, has accumulated 179 fewer Air Yards, and his Average Intended Air Yards (IYA) is just 6 yards per pass attempt per NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats. Two weeks is an incredibly small sample size but so far it appears Johnson is the wide receiver to buy as the new Steelers WR2.
D.J. Chark is what exactly?
Chark was productive in Week 3, even with minimal targets to work with. On just five targets he had four receptions, including a touchdown, for 76 yards. He had a long of 37 yards. Chark was the third most targeted Jaguar behind Dede Westbrook and Leonard Fournette. He tied Chris Conley with a 70% snap share, but Conley was forced to leave the Titans game early. Westbrook had the highest snap share among the receivers with an 80% share. Chark leapfrogged Westbrook in Week 4 playing on 73% of the snaps compared to Westbrook’s 62%, but still trailed Conley who led the Jaguar wide receivers with 78% snap share.
Facing Chris Harris Jr., one of the best cornerbacks in the league, Chark was targeted a team-high eight times in Week 4. He also had a touchdown that was negated due to a penalty. He finished his day with four receptions for 44 yards. While the raw fantasy stats aren’t the best, the targets continue to be there for Chark regardless of who is covering him.
On the season Chark has finished as the Jaguars’ most targeted player in two games and the second most targeted player in another week. Outside of Week 1 when his four targets were just fifth-highest, the Jaguars have featured Chark every week.
Chark is tied for the team lead in targets, leads the team in receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns, air yards, and yards per reception. His 64 Yards After the Catch is second for the Jaguars wide receivers.
Entering Week 5 Chark is the WR15 with 17.3 fantasy points per game. This is likely the ceiling for Chark, but I’m still buying him as a WR2 going forward.
Well so much for that…or maybe not?
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how things appeared to be moving to a one-back direction in Chicago. While Matt Nagy has given us reason to question his approach to the Bears backfield, a deeper dive reveals the truth. Week 3 saw David Montgomery lead the running backs with a 65% snap share. Tarik Cohen checked in with 51% while Mike Davis faded into oblivion with a single snap in Week 3. The snap share breakdown was encouraging, but Montgomery’s usage was highly puzzling.
Of the Bears 23 rushing attempts on the evening (non-Mitchell Trubisky division), Cordarrelle Patterson had four, and Taylor Gabriel had one. That’s a 21.7% rushing attempt share for Bears wide receivers on the night. Tarik Cohen added four attempts, for negative 2 yards, and Mike Davis had a single rushing attempt. Montgomery ended his evening with 13 attempts and 67 rushing yards. Montgomery also reeled in one more reception than Cohen, though he did so on one less target.
Nine of Montgomery’s 13 rushing attempts came in the fourth quarter against Washington. Bears wide receivers had five rushing attempts entering the fourth quarter. This means that entering the fourth quarter the Bears wide receivers had one more rushing attempt than Montgomery did. I am not a professional head coach, and it’s likely I never will be, but this looks like bad coaching to my untrained eyes.
Of course, when you thought Nagy couldn’t surprise you again, he surprises you in Week 4. Montgomery played 69% of the offensive snaps compared to Cohen’s 39%. That 69% snap share set a career mark for Montgomery. Mike Davis played 0% of the snaps, but that will happen when you’re not a healthy scratch. Montgomery took 21 of the 28 designed rushing attempts corralling a 75% rushing attempt share. His 21 rushing attempts were a career-high, as were his five targets. He added three receptions, tying his career-high, set the week prior.
While Montgomery’s usage in Week 3 had to cause a bit of agitation, it should be noted that his snap share has increased every week of the season. Outside of Week 3, his rushing attempts + targets have increased every week as well. Based on the available evidence, I think we can discount Week 3 as an outlier, and it appears that Montgomery is no longer subject to the dreaded “RBBC.” If anyone in your league(s) is still concerned about Montgomery’s usage go ahead and try to capitalize on their frustration.
Mr. Rojo Rising
A week or so ago, prior to Week 4, I asked the community their feelings on Ronald Jones vs. Peyton Barber. The general consensus was the Tampa Bay backfield is one to avoid. Most that responded expressed the belief that the starting role would rotate on a weekly basis. I didn’t buy it. I noted that Jones had easily outproduced Barber to that point of the season.
In Week 1, Jones ran for 75 yards on 13 rushing attempts. He also added an 18-yard reception to his ledger. Jones was limited with a toe injury and only had nine rushing yards on four carries in Week 2. The following week Jones rushed for 80 yards on 14 rushing attempts and added a 41-yard reception. Barber had 13 rushing attempts turning them into just 48 yards, and he turned his two receptions into seven yards.
After outplaying Barber two of the first three weeks, I was pining for a big week from Jones. Week 4 was that big week. Jones out-snapped Barber for the first time this year, playing on 49% of offensive snaps compared to Barber’s 25%. Jones also out-touched Barber handily, 20 to 9. His final stat line wasn’t overly impressive. He rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries and added a 12-yard reception. The stat line belies how well he played. Jones also had two long runs called back due to penalties, negating roughly another 70 yards from his rushing total.
Ronald Jones was way better Sunday than his 19-70-1 rushing line indicates — dude had two awesome runs called back by penalty before finally getting a legit chunk play late in the 4th quarter pic.twitter.com/WO62DkDjzA
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 30, 2019
Now, I did tell you that Jones has outplayed Barber for the entire season right? Excluding Week 2, when Jones dealt with an injured toe, the Tampa Bay backfield has been a one-sided beatdown. I’ve shared some relevant stats from the first four weeks below. In case you don’t feel like reading through them, I’ll share some highlights.
Jones is averaging almost 1.28 yards per carry more than Barber. We can argue the merits of YPC as a metric later, but when we’re discussing two running backs on the same team, I think it’s relevant to the conversation. Jones has double the number of broken tackles, eight to four, on three fewer rushing attempts, as well as 52 more rushing yards than Barber. He also averages 0.4 yards more Yards After Contact per attempt. By any metric you choose to look at Jones has absolutely mashed Barber in this running back competition.
Perhaps Jones just looks good in contrast to Barber simply due to how mediocre of player Barber is. While it’s true that Barber is average at best, it doesn’t change the fact that Jones has been impressive the first four weeks of the season. Jones 234 rushing yards ranks 22nd in the league, and his 4.68 yards per carry is tied for 15th highest in the league. Per PFF’s Scott Barrett, Jones ranks sixth in the league in Missed Tackles Forced per Touch with 0.26.
Missed Tackles Forced per Touch (2019)
1. Alvin Kamara (0.39)
2. Damien Williams (0.39)
3. Duke Johnson (0.35)
4. Josh Jacobs (0.34)
5. Le'Veon Bell (0.32)
6. Ronald Jones (0.26)
7. Chris Carson (0.26)
8. Austin Ekeler (0.25)
Last / 44. Sony Michel (0.05)
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) October 1, 2019
This week I again asked the fantasy community how they felt about Jones vs. Barber. Below is a Tweet that provides an accurate representation of how the community feels:
— Kyle LaPointe (@DoglegBrewer) September 30, 2019
I understand that Jones was terrible in 2018. I’m not going to get into the reasons for that. It’s true, Jones was flat out bad. But it’s 2019 and Jones has been excellent in every game, excluding one game where he suffered an injury. Based on the fantasy community’s apathy, you can buy Jones now for a fair price. Do it now before the rest of the community wakes up to the fact that Mr. Rojo (is) rising.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out the DynastyTradesHQ podcast if you’re a fan of fantasy football trades (isn’t everyone?).