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 sites that stats can be found.
With six weeks of data to refer to, we can start to see clearer stories being told from the statistics. This week I’ll check in on a couple of players I reviewed earlier this year and one new backfield that’s caught my attention.
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D.J. Chark Keeps on Keeping on
At some point, you have to accept certain things. After six weeks, it might be time to accept that D.J. Chark is a WR1. Week 5 was notable for a couple of reasons. Chark balled out and scored 36.4 fantasy points. And for the first time in 2019, he led the Jaguars WRs in snaps played. Playing on 82% of the offensive snaps, Chark played a total of 62 plays. Despite his Week 5 production, Chark saw his snap share drop to 71% in Week 6, which was lower than both Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook. His seven targets were second on the team in Week 6, and his 43 receiving yards ranked second as well. Though the production was pedestrian you must take into account that Chark was locked up with Marshon Lattimore, who had already shut down Mike Evans and Amari Cooper earlier this season.
Chark led the league with 175 Air Yards in Week 5, and his 89 Air Yards led the Jaguars in Week 6. His aDOT of 12.7 led the Jaguars this past week, and the week prior, he was second on the team with a 15.9 aDOT. Chris Conley’s 16.7 aDOT is the highest on the Jaguars for the season. Chark is second on the team with an aDOT of 14.2. Though Conley did have the highest snap share of Jaguar receivers this week, his usage has declined. After averaging six targets through the first two weeks, Conley has averaged just 3.25 targets a game the past four weeks. On the season, Conley has a 12% target share, lagging behind both Chark’s and Westbrook’s 22% shares.
Not just a deep threat, Chark has flashed the ability to create yards with the ball in his hands. His 143 YAC on the season ranks second behind Westbrook for Jaguar receivers. Chark has 21 receptions for first downs, leading the Jaguars through six weeks, easily lapping Westbook’s 13. He also leads the Jaguars WRs in red-zone targets with six while Westbrook ranks second with four red-zone targets.
Chark may lack the college production profile that portends success, but he is succeeding regardless. Ranking first or second in every single statistic on the Jaguars, he is someone I’m still willing to buy high on. You might not even have to buy high, considering he only scored 7.3 fantasy points in Week 6. If Week 6 planted any seeds of doubt in his owner’s minds make sure you pounce on the oppurtunity to buy Chark.
One hill I was prepared to die on this offseason is that the Eagles would not have a running back by committee. After six weeks, I’m happy to report I might be right. Just not for the reasons I had hoped for. Miles Sanders has seen his rushing attempts decrease every week since his season-high 13 attempts in Week 3. Boston Scott, just called up from the practice squad this week, had more rushing attempts (4) than Sanders this past week. While all four of Scott’s attempts came in garbage time with the Eagles down 18 points, it’s a fact that Sanders’ usage in the running game has declined significantly. So much so, it’s hard to say he’s even part of the Eagles running back by committee.
Not surprisingly, as Sanders’s running game usage has declined, Jordan Howard‘s has increased.
More surprisingly, Sanders has turned into one of the Eagles’ best receivers.
Eagles longest pass plays last 4 games:
45 yards … Sanders from Wentz vs. Vikings
40 yards … Sanders from Carson vs. Lions
36 yards … Sanders from Wentz vs. Jets
33 yards … Sanders from Carson vs. Lions
32 yards … Sanders from Carson vs. Vikings
— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) October 14, 2019
As you can probably deduce from the above Tweet, Sanders is keeping his fantasy value afloat via passing game usage. Sanders isn’t just taking dump-offs and screens, either. His 135 receiving yards over the last two weeks leads the Eagles as does his YAC of 76 yards. Per airyards.com, Sanders leads all running backs with 148 Air Yards, and his aDOT of 8.2 yards leads the running back position as well through six games (when you exclude Bilal Powell and Jamize Olawale who each have one target). Sanders has seen three or more targets in four of six games this year, so the Eagles clearly want to involve his explosiveness on the offense.
If you play in non-PPR leagues, it’s impossible to start Sanders, but in PPR leagues (which I assume most of us play in), you can still use him as a flex. Sanders has shown himself to be an excellent receiver (as well as an excellent blocker) through the first six weeks of the season. He’s going to need to learn to attack the hole instead of dancing or bouncing it to the outside. There is reason to be concerned with how little Sanders is being used in the running game. That’s not something that can be ignored. But the ability he shows in the open field as a receiver still provides a reason to believe that his talent will eventually win out. Right now could be one of the last buy low opportunities on Sanders and I suggest you take advantage of it.
Why Not Both?
During the offseason, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio discussed the need to involve Royce Freeman more in the Broncos rushing attack. After a disappointing rookie season in 2018, anyone with Freeman rostered had to be excited when they heard that. Through the first seven games of the year, Fangio has been faithful to his word.
Freeman has played on 55% of the offensive snaps through the first seven weeks of the season after playing on just 29% of offensive snaps last year. With an increase in playing time, his rushing attempts have increased too. Freeman is averaging 10.85 rushing attempts per game and is on pace for 174 attempts for the year. That would easily surpass last year’s 130 rushing attempts (9.29 attempts per game). If you exclude Week 4 when the Broncos had just 16 rushing attempts, Freeman is averaging 11.66 rushing attempts per game. He has a 41% share of the Broncos rushing attempts this season after posting a 38% rushing share in the 14 games last season.
Freeman has seen an even more dramatic spike as a receiver. He’s averaging 4.43 targets per game. That’s almost three targets more per game than the 1.5 he averaged in 2018. Freeman finished his rookie year with 14 receptions on 20 targets in 14 games. He’s surpassed those totals in just seven games this year with 25 receptions on 31 targets.
Far from succeeding based on a volume spike alone, Freeman has increased his YPR a full two yards, from 5.1 per reception in 2018 to 7.1 per reception in 2019. He’s increased his catch percentage from 70% in 2018 to 80.6% in 2019. He’s also averaging 6.1 Yards After the Catch per reception compared to 2018’s 4.2 yards. A year after averaging 7.2 fantasy points per game last year Freeman is now averaging 11.5 points per game, making him a high-end RB3 (depending on RB scoring this weekend).
Raise your hand if you bought into the “Phillip Lindsay was an outlier in 2018 and can’t repeat his production” narrative this offseason. The only reason I’m not raising my hand at this moment is that I’m typing this article.
One could have expected Lindsay to see regression in rushing touchdowns, based on his 5’7″ 190 lb. frame. Lindsay averaged 0.60 rushing touchdowns per game in 2018 on his way to nine for the season. Through this year’s first seven games, he’s run for four touchdowns. Or put another way he’s averaging 0.57 rushing touchdowns per game. It is regression, yes, but negligible. The biggest regression Lindsay has experienced is in his rushing yards per attempt. Last year he averaged a stellar 5.4 yards per carry. In 2019 he averages 4.6 yards per carry, which is “just” very good. His decrease in YPC is somewhat offset by his increased yards per reception though. In 2018 he averaged 6.9 YPR compared to 7.2 this season.
Lindsay has seen a small decrease in fantasy scoring. After averaging 14.9 points per game last year he’s averaged 14.5 fantasy points per game this year. A decrease in fantasy scoring of 0.40 points per game doesn’t support the thought that Lindsay would struggle in his second year in the league. If Joe Flacco were a tad less horrendous against the Chiefs in this week’s loss it’s likely Lindsay would be on pace to better his scoring from his rookie year. Lindsay’s only target of the night came on the below medicine ball and perfectly encapsulates the type of performance Flacco delivered during the loss to the Chiefs.
Phillip Lindsay was PISSED Flacco got him lit up 😂😂😂😂😂pic.twitter.com/nGUtg08yWc
— #BusinessIsSuspended (@FTBeard11) October 18, 2019
Despite being outweighed by Freeman by at least 35 pounds, Lindsay is the goal-line back for the Broncos. Lindsay has seven attempts from within the 5-yard line (ranking third in the league). Freeman has just one attempt, which came this past Thursday. Freeman was able to convert his only attempt into a touchdown, while Lindsay has done so on four of his attempts. The goal-line attempts were distributed more evenly last year when Lindsay had seven attempts and Freeman had five. Lindsay did convert at a higher rate, 74% compared to Freeman’s 60%. His success last year could be the reason for Lindsay holds such a large advantage in attempts this year.
Lindsay’s targets per game have increased slightly from 2018. Last year he averaged 3.13 compared to 3.86 targets per game. He’s also seen an increase in rushing attempts, 12.8 in 2018 and 13.57 per game this year. Just in case the last two sentences don’t make it clear, Lindsay touches + targets have increased over his rookie season.
It’s not often I can suggest that buying both backfield committee members. I have no problem doing so in the case of the Broncos backfield. Both players hold value and can be acquired at a reasonable cost. If either player were to miss time the other running back would see a significant increase in oppurtunity share. Both running backs are able to play all three downs. Both have shown an ability to convert goal-ine carries into touchdowns. With Lindsay only scoring 4.2 fantasy points this week now is a good time to shoot out offers for him. If Freeman falters next week, then shoot out offers for him. I am fully on board with playing one or both of these running backs on a roster.
Thank you for reading. Hope you enjoyed this article.