Disclaimer: we are not researchers, just compilers and writers. A majority of these numbers can be found in a myriad of places. For simplicity’s sake, and to prevent you from having to read extensive in-text citations, the list of places we got our data (and what we used) is here:
- JJ Zachariason’s Late Round Rookie Guide (rookie + sophomore projections)
- Warren Sharp’s 2023 Football Preview (EPA, trends, red zone data, a lot of stuff tbh)
- Pro Football Focus’ advanced statistics for snap share, quarterback metrics & offensive line rankings
- Player Profiler pages and data sheets for rankings and stats
- The 33rd Team’s The Edge for stats and rankings
- –4for4’s redraft average draft position
- FTN Fantasy’s Offensive Line Rankings
- Over The Cap’s Free Agency Hub
- DLF’s Player Splits Tool
- Pro Football Reference for historical data and box scores
If you got anything out of our team previews, please consider following the THfantaC podcast, and please consider donating to the GoFundMe for the Minneapolis DIY house Nudieland, who was targeted in a hate-crime-motivated shooting.
You can find all of the THFantaC Division Previews here!
New England Patriots
As I mentioned in episode 83, I want to see Mac Jones hit the griddy more times this year and I wanted to take a dive into why there was a QB controversy, why that team was so bad, and what the hope looks like for the Patriots this year.
Right off the rip, I want to point the finger and that finger lies at the feet of Bill Belichick. Regardless of how you spin it, he is the captain of “The Patriot Way” and The Patriot Way failed Mac Jones last year and the entire offense outside of Rhamondre Stevenson.
Belicheck installed a general piece of shit and moron Matt Patricia, a “defensive” mind to be the offensive coordinator, and Giants failure Joe Judge to lead the anemic offense every week. Per PFF, the Patriots ranked 17th in overall points scored and were graded as the 20th offense overall. We all saw it, we saw the frustration from Mac Jones at points in the season where he was visibly upset at how that offense was run. A DC stated that there was a simplicity to the offense that they could solve any problems quickly and didn’t have to take anything off the table, which just screams failure for the system and struggles for a QB. That offense had 2 weapons last year that were relevant at all, Jakobi Meyers (WR 28 in PPR according to Sleeper, which should be way higher when you’re the #1 option on the 20th-best offense) and Rhamondre Stevenson who I believe played at his ceiling finishing the year as RB7. In an anemic scheme, it’s a miracle that Rhamondre was able to finish that high with only 6 total TDs on the year.
Inconsistency stemming from injury, coming back from injury too soon and being blown up by good defenses was why Bailey Zappe was a thing momentarily, but that feels like a flash in the pan compared to the rise of Brock Purdy. Mac Jones really wasn’t as bad as he appeared to be compared to the offensive scheme, which let him down more than his play. Even though Jones missed 3 games, his efficiency remained about the same as last season at 67%. The air yards took a significant hit, losing 700 yards compared to 2021, which if you break it down might be better if Jones played all games as he did average 7 yards per attempt each year. As long as he threw for 250 a game he’d hit that mark which is more than possible for Jones. Due to the Patriots also playing from behind more than in 2021, Jones lined up in shotgun 15% more in 2022. with little weapons, this doesn’t really yield success for Jones’ strengths.
Now that we’re done with the doom and gloom, I want to look at the silver lining of what the Patriots can be.
To start, the Patriots brought back Bill O’Brien to their regime to be offensive coordinator. While O’Brien has some stank on him from his tenure in Houston before he was fired, overall he is an over .500 coach who has had the ability to mentor and bring out the best of his QBs in the past.
This is an immediate upgrade over Patricia no matter what happens, as Patricia is only hired based on nepotism. While O’Brien has caught flack from Alabama fans for deteriorating offensive efficiency, I feel he made the most out of that offense given the rapidly declining talent pool that surrounded #1 overall pick Bryce Young. While Young deserves his flowers for making chicken salad out of chicken shit, the scheme did shift in the latter portion of the season to accommodate for Bryce’s Injury and lack of offensive weapons.
This smells like a recipe for success to me for the Patriots, granted it’s not division-winning talent but I believe that O’Brien is walking into a similar situation of talent pool and QB quality. Now that might be a hot take but I feel the talent ceiling of Bryce and Mac Jones are similar to what we’ll see in fantasy output. IRL they’re probably different, but that’s not why we’re here. Both are QB2s in my opinion. Under BOB, Alabama beat the SEC in percentage of plays run in Bunch, Empty, and Stack formations.
I’ll go over these formations just for reference as I had to learn them all and now our readers will too.
Bunch is successful as an offensive setup as you’re bunching all your TEs and WRs to one side, which allows for a mix of run/pass options within that formation.
The empty formation is when the QB is the only person in the backfield, so it’s empty, pretty self-explanatory and this is obviously used for the passing game. This setup is used to help expedite the process of the QB determining if the defense is running zone or man coverage and will help adapt the playcalling to get the playmaker the ball.
Stack formation is when you stack offensive weapons on both sides of the ball and make the defense guess which type of play it is, could be a hitch, could be a go, or could be a mix of the two while still having the running back open as being an option for the play.
Alabama finished 4th overall in the SEC for pass rate at 55% and over 60% during meaningful minutes which is 3rd down/2 min drill. On 3rd down Alabama threw 89% of the time with 58% with less than 3 yards to go on 3rd down.
Alabama finished with a 21% explosive run rate which means runs that go for over 12 yards. Under BOB, Alabama ran zone run schemes over 70% on their run plays, and in 2022 Patriots leaned more into a zone run scheme per Belichick following in the footsteps of McVay and Shanahan.
Now, you may be asking what all these formations and numbers mean to the Patriots in 2023, and we’re going to break that down going forward. We’ll start with the NFL Draft to give a rough idea of the depth chart and how this offense is going to be based around its rag-tag group of weapons.
The Patriots drafted 2 offensive weapons in 2023. 6th Round, Pick 187, fallen from grace Kayshon Boutte, and 6th round 210, Demario Douglas(who no one has heard of except for on draft day). The biggest winner of the draft for the Patriots was Rhamondre Stevenson.
No competition was brought. Behind Rhamondre, there are rumblings of Ty Montgomery being the change of pace back and 3rd down back, but we all know how the carousel of Patriots running backs go. After last year’s performance of Rhamondre, I’m not going to get cute and try to play the guessing game. Rhamondre is the guy in New England.
His numbers last year were strong: 210 attempts, 1040 yards, 5 YPC, 90 targets, 69 receptions, 6.1 Yards per reception, 714 Yards after contact, 19 missed tackles, and 16 broken tackles. He was 3rd in targets, 4th in catchable targets, 4th in catches, 4th in target share, and 7th in receiving yards. The Patriots were 29th in the league in yards before contact per rush. I can’t sit here and tell you that the offensive line personnel will help change enough to push Rhamondre’s rushing numbers up to where they could be. HOWEVER, the case for optimism is the scheme, right? If the offense improves and the red zone efficiency swings back toward league average, Rhamondre’s total TD output should beat last year’s 6. If he can get that closer to the 9-10 range and still rush for 1000 yards and catch a similar number of passes, we’re looking at a top 6 RB finish. Conversely, the line could take a step back and the backfield could revert to more of a committee, especially on passing downs. There’s risk there for Rhamondre, and I really hesitate to bet on Bill O’Brien, but the ceiling is massive.
If you’re buying in on Ezekiel Elliott, you’re braver than we are. His presence does change Rhamondre’s fortune when it comes to Red Zone work, but he wasn’t necessarily getting that to the degree we wanted before, either. He’s a DFS play or a low-end bench guy that you’re hoping to pop for a TD on the 6-8 carries that he’s going to get a game.
This is where things get a little murkier, with the group of mid-tier-at-best tight wide receivers
As of right early June, the wide receiving options for Mac Jones are Juju Smith-Schuester, Kendrick Bourne, Devante Parker, Tyquan Thorton, and Kayshon Boutte. On the surface level, none of those guys give me any inspiration to take them.
Mac Jones is no Mahomes so I feel even though Juju is coming into the offense as the #1, I feel he takes a step back from WR27 in 22. Juju ran 54% of his snaps in KC out of the slot which is a tremendous downturn from his time in Pitt, while having a jump in running out wide at almost 40%. Based on the way this offensive scheme is set up unless Boutte takes the slot role in camp, Juju is the slot guy on this team. As much as fantasy likes to shit on the fact that slot receivers aren’t where the money is made, that is false. Slot receivers have shown time and time again that high volume yields success. 100 targets a year on what should be a run the first time is something I do like to see.
JuJu finished 22 with 78 receptions for 933 yards, an aDOT of 7.2 and 730 air yards, and a 17.4% team pass game share while sharing the field with one of the greatest TEs of all time in Kelce.
Per 4for4 Juju is currently WR 50 around the likes of Tua, Charbs, Bateman, Elijah Moore, and Jamo in ADP. This is round 14 and I think this is where the gold is within fantasy. As we talked on episode 83, your league mates will draft him higher based on name recognition, but he might have the Patriot stink that will allow a significant value to be a solid flex play every week.
Every other receiver I am fading in redraft, the probability of them hitting in a lineup league is so low, I’d rather keep the bench space and FAAB unless one of them goes absolutely ballistic in at least 2 games.
I really don’t want to brush off the next position as I feel that’s not fair to the brain trust at FA, but I’ll be upfront with my intentions for the TE position for NE this year. Unless I’m in a 2 TE league or a 14 or 16-team league, I will not have any of these players on my teams unless my TE gets injured. If I have to pick one, it would be Mike Gesicki as he does not line up as an inline TE, that is not his strong suit. While in his slow degradation under Mike Mcdaniels, his target share was not good, but he did line up out of the slot 49% of the time and ran deep 35% of the time. While he’s going to be competing against JuJu for the slot role on the offense, with the number of 2 TE sets that NE runs, I’d be willing to take an extremely late flier on Gesicki given the right context of TEs as mentioned before.
Per 4for4, Gesicki is TE23, so unless you’re playing DFS, I don’t see a way he lands on your roster normally.
Short and sweet of Hunter Henry is, if you need a prayer TD every week, he’s your guy at TE33 around most of the mid-tier DEFs.
I mentioned Mac Jones’s stats earlier, and while I do believe he’ll see an increase in his performance this year under a better offensive coordinator and revitalized trust from the coaching staff, I don’t expect to have any shares of Mac Jones in 1QB leagues.
He is currently QB 27 around Brock Purdy, C.J. Stroud, Tyjae Spears, and Michael Mayer. Personally, I’d rather take any other of those guys for the “what if.” My best hope for Mac Jones this year is finishing above his ADP at QB20 and at least 3 griddies.
Josh Allen was QB2 last year in FPPG. That isn’t news, but the fact that he did it while playing with a partially torn UCL in his throwing arm speaks volumes to how tough he is and how good he was. Fears that the offense would step back or change with the departure of Brian Daboll were unfounded, as Allen still chucked the shit out of the ball and would’ve put up similar numbers in attempts and completions had Buffalo not had one game cut tragically short. Despite the smaller numbers in those two categories, Allen’s passing yards would’ve been higher, mostly due to his ADOT going up by almost a full yard in his first-year post-Daboll. He ranked second in the league among QBs with 47 catchable deep throws.
Here were his QB finishes by week before the injury: 2, 4, 3, 5, 1, 3, 11, 3. That 11 was against Green Bay when they were up 24-7 at halftime and stopped passing. In his next six games after the injury, he failed to throw for multiple TDs in a game four times and had 86 fewer pass yards per game on average. The fact that he still ended up posting four more games as a top 5 fantasy QB after that is a testament to his running ability and the fact that he is still the best fantasy QB in football. He isn’t the best running QB or the best passing QB, but he’s top 2-3 in each. He is a beast at all three levels, and led the NFL in air yards last year, even with an injury and a game that ended less than a quarter into it.
I’m not sure if there is a next step for Josh Allen to take, honestly. He’s still the team’s de facto RB1, with 126 rushes last year for 776 yards and 7 rushing touchdowns. He carried the ball 26 times in the red zone last year, and was second in the league in QB rushes inside the 5, with 11. Let me give you some context here.
Josh Allen: 126/776/7
AJ Dillon: 187/770/7
Just on rushing alone, Josh Allen was RB39, ahead of Kareem Hunt and 6 points behind Isiah Pacheco. So, how does he improve? Well, his offensive line, which allowed 180 pressures and 18 sacks last season really needed to get better. He had the 32nd-ranked protection rate, a metric that counts how often a QB is hurried and forced to throw within 3 seconds. Ugly. Allen was the #1 QB in accuracy while under pressure, but that’s not something you want to bank on year to year. To help, the Bills brought in Connor McGovern at guard to start, David Edwards to be a depth guy, and drafted O’Cyrus Torrence from Florida to give them some interior flexibility. If two of those guys hit, we’re looking at a Josh Allen with time to throw, which could be the scariest possible outcome for opposing defenses.
The other thing he could improve upon is limiting turnovers: he had 40 of what Player Profiler calls “Danger Plays,” plays where the QB took an unnecessary risk that brought the chance of a turnover. He was also 3rd in interceptable passes. His interception numbers have gone up pretty much every year, from 12 as a rookie to 9, 10, 15, 14. His 14 picks were second most in the league last year, but the scary part is he still kills it even with the turnovers. If the line improves, the interceptions go back down to single digits, and Gabe Davis/Dalton Kincaid provides utility as secondary options, Josh Allen could have one of the most dominant fantasy seasons of all time.
The Bills play the NFC East and AFC West this season, which means we get Mahomes/Allen in the regular season and a fantasy playoff schedule that looks like this: Cowboys, Chargers, and Patriots.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but drafting Bills RBs is hoping that somehow they’re just going to somehow have some sort of fantasy relevance. So, let’s take a look back:
Devin Singletary fantasy finishes:
RB28 (timeshare with Frank Gore)
RB39 (timeshare with Zack Moss)
RB24 (timeshare with Zack Moss)
RB30 (timeshare with James Cook)
The Bills actually were set up to run extremely well, since they ran into light boxes at the second-highest rate in the league, and their yards before contact jumped dramatically (31st in 2020, 19th in 2021, 1st in 2022). Yet, here we are. If they can’t run successfully for fantasy even with every metric pointing towards them doing it well, it’s most likely not gonna happen in 2023 either. Buffalo RBs had the lowest amount of carries in the league (291). Singletary and Cook were great, especially on first down, and Buffalo still passed at the 3rd highest rate. Don’t fucking care, go throw that ball, Josh.
So, now we’ve got James Cook. Here’s the thing: the metrics seem to like James Cook. His true yard per carry rate was second in the league, a number that factors out long runs to help to clearly define consistency. He had 28 first-down runs and averaged over 4 yards before contact per carry, and was 3rd in the league on yards before contact in general. He had games with strong usage, including 4 with double-digit carries. Here’s the problem: Cook has never been the alpha back in his backfield, instead operating as an at times elite change of pace back, and I think that’s why Damien Harris and Latavious Murray were brought in. Buffalo has one solid, consistent, value-at-cost runner and it’s Josh Allen. Allen had 26 red zone carries last year. James Cook had 13. Devin Singletary had 34. Harris is a goal-line bruiser and will get the lion’s share of those. Josh Allen is going to get 1/3rd of the backfield work in this backfield, and nothing we’ve ever seen would indicate that any of these backs will be featured. Cook is a fun profile and a good football player, but he’s absolutely a trap this year. Give me Harris in DFS over Cook in redraft.
Did you know Josh Allen had the second most passes dropped by his receivers last year? These fuckin bums dropped 35 passes last year. Let’s talk about one not-bum, shit on everyone else, and get to the TEs.
Stefon Diggs came in and whipped ass, as he has for the last 3 years. His target volume actually went down, which I found interesting with all the vacated targets they had going into last year. He still crushed and ended up WR6 in FPPG last year. He had one cold stretch and one not finished game that held him back from at least coming close to Jefferson’s WR1 campaign numbers. I think we expect similar production from him this year, right? He’s still gonna get between 150-170 targets on one of the best offenses in football, his drop rate is comically low (like under 2%), it’s been made clear that Gabe Davis isn’t a threat to WR looks, and the addition of a slot guy will help his quality of target go up. If he can keep his streak of double-digit TDs going into a third straight season, he’s once again a lock for the top 10, and should end up a top 5 WR again. Stefon Diggs is quickly turning into Davante Adams, putting up outrageous numbers with tremendous efficiency but getting slept on because he’s just so consistently brilliant that nobody seems to care like they did even at this time last season. He was above the 95th percentile in Reception Perception’s success rates against man, zone, and press coverages, taking home their efficiency crown in 2022. He also had catches where he was labeled as “in space” on 10.6% of his routes and broke the first tackle 43% of the time, which means I think he’s underrated as a space creator. Take Diggs at the end of round 1 and don’t worry about it.
Despite the disappointment at his inflated cost, Gabriel Davis still ended up as WR36 in FPPG, most likely as a result of his 11 touchdowns. The nice thing about Davis is that his role won’t ever change. For example, last year he had 93 targets. 27 of those were shorter than 9 yards from the line of scrimmage. He’s going to be anywhere from 10 and beyond, and that you can take to the bank. However, the addition of Dalton Kincaid means that there will be, by nature, fewer targets for the players already established in this offense, and when you look at what mouths they come out of, I think we can project Davis’ short passes to be halved. Gabriel Davis is not a bad receiver, in fact, he does one thing really well, but the expectations set in the playoff game against Kansas City were bound to be unfulfilled. Reception Perception brings up a good point, his success rates are so low because he really only does a couple of things well, and in order for him to be a great fantasy asset, he needs to develop new elements to his game that he simply didn’t last season. Being WR36 in points per game is a huge leap from his previous best finish of WR60, but his ceiling is capped as a low-end WR3 that you will keep on your bench until the bye weeks hit. Idk man I just like my WRs to get around 90 targets at that ADOT and there’s a chance he might be a small post-hype sleeper candidate.
So, are we all just straight-up projecting Dalton Kincaid to be the slot option in this offense? Isaiah McKenzie is gone, Cole Beasley is probably answering grand jury questions about where he was on January 6th, and you don’t take a tight end in the first round if you’re happy with Dawson Knox. Kincaid was pretty much universally the first or second tight end on people’s lists pre-draft, and the landing spot made people flip shit. So, how good of a fit is this? It’s a great one, to be honest. Kincaid isn’t an in-line threat, or much of a blocker, really. I think all of us watched this dude’s tape and were like “Yeah, this is a slot receiver.” Can’t wait for Buffalo to give him the Jimmy Graham treatment when it comes time to negotiate a second contract.
The issue with Kincaid is that he doesn’t provide enough blocking upside to be a red zone personnel guy. Knox made his money off the short TD passes, and if Kincaid can’t be a serious blocking threat, he isn’t going to be the tight end in those goal-line packages. You have to project a slot role for him in order for him to return on investment because he isn’t going to be getting the looks that made Dawson Knox a guy last year. McKenzie and Knox had a combined 127 targets last year. I say Kincaid can probably end up getting 50-60 of those, with Knox getting 30-40 and Khalil Shakir getting some run as well. I think Kincaid might just be one of the sexiest blob plays going into this season, but I’m not making him my TE1 in redraft this year.
The Dolphins were a fun team to watch last year, but they encapsulated the experience of the modern NFL fan: beautiful long TDs to incredibly fast and talented athletes, with the occasional horrific injury that reminds us all that this is a sport of pain and awfulness.
After Amazon and the Miami front office spent what seemed like a half hour with the camera drawn in close to Tua Tagovailoa’s body reflexing into a fencer’s position, this coming a week after his head was bounced off the grass and labeled a “back injury,” not to mention yet ANOTHER “undiagnosed until later” concussion that allowed him to play extended time in the Green Bay game and throw 3 interceptions, the Dolphins went out and, uh, kept the offensive line the same and are hoping for positive injury regression out of a group ranked as offensive line 17, 20, and 23 in the spots I looked. This isn’t too awful on paper, since Tua was pressured at the 5th lowest rate in the league last year, but after seeing him get 3 concussions in a single season, you’d think upgrading the line to make it the best it could possibly be would be of the utmost importance. The team was so much better in games where Tua wasn’t concussed last year since I don’t count the second half of the Green Bay game. I know there are reasons, and I know it’s a 53-man roster, but the fact that the Dolphins didn’t throw all their resources into protecting this kid really left me bummed out. Austin Jackson is returning to the lineup this year which helps, but my god, Liam Eichenberg fucking sucked as a guard.
Tua Tagovailoa last year showed an ability that he hadn’t before, becoming one of the better consistently deep throwers in the league. He also showed that this entire team needs him healthy, or the wheels fall off real quick.
His numbers skyrocketed in year three, his first with a decent coaching staff and more than one skill position player that didn’t suck. As the time grows nearer to a contract extension, it’s a bummer that Tua spent time throwing to jags like DaVante Parker, special teams specialists like Jakeem Grant, or dudes playing out of position, like Mike Gesicki. I’m not entirely sure Tua’s specific skills make his WRs better, but I’m not really sure he needs to, with the duo of Tyreek and Jaylen Waddle killing it. His season last year for fantasy purposes was great since he was QB9 in FPPG, playing in 13 games which matched his career high. He only had 12 more pass attempts than in 2021, but had almost 900 more passing yards than his previous season, probably because his yards per attempt jumped from 6.8 to 8.9. His ADOT went from 7.9 to 10.1, and he threw 9 more TDs.
Tua had 62 more passes charted as uncatchable than any other QB, with 230, while the next highest was Aaron Rodgers with 168. This isn’t the end of the world, since other names near the top include Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Kirk Cousins. He also had one of the highest yards per attempt in the league, so likely it’s the vertical nature of the offense that pads those numbers. He also had the biggest increase possible in WR separation, going from 32 in 2021 to 1 in 2022. Amazing what good WRs can do! As a result, he went from 1st in pass aggressiveness (passes thrown into a tight window), to 32nd.
His deep ball came to life last year: per Warren Sharp, in 2021 he threw 65 passes 15 or more yards down the field, and in 2022 he threw 103. On those 2022 throws, Tua was 1st in success rate, yards per attempt, and EPA. He also had the best TD rate in the league last year, with an incredible 6.3%.
He also benefited from great interception luck: of his 27 interceptable passes, only 8 were picked off. If we’re gonna look at those numbers for Geno Smith and expect some INT regression, we have to do the same for Tua, but who knows? 3 of those interceptions came against the Packers when his brain was concussed. It feels weird talking like that, right? Like we’re making excuses for saying something dumb when we were intoxicated.
Tua actually didn’t run for his yearly 3TDs last season, but even if he did it would be a lie to call him a dual-threat QB, dude is a statue, though decent at moving within the pocket or stepping up to get a ball out if pressure comes from around the edge. However, we are talking about fantasy utility right now, so the lack of a run game will hurt his upside. I think he’s probably still one of the better non-rushing QB options for fantasy, but I think the injury potential has to be what’s baked into his price right now. I wish he retired to protect his brain, but there’s no way you’re going to get a guy to just do that when there are so many years left in the other parts of his body that can make him a ton of money.
He’s not in the Burrow/Herbert tier, but I’d be more than happy to rank him a tiny bit below Kirk Cousins and ahead of guys like Goff and Dak.
Let’s take a look at the 2022 Miami Dolphins red zone splits
Mostert 21 rush, 7 targets, and 5 inside the 5
Wilson 13 rush, 3 inside the 5
I love Raheem Mostert in best ball right now, because Dalvin Cook went to the Jets and Mostert had the biggest workload of his career last year. Though his ceiling is going to be capped by both Jeff Wilson and Devon Achane, I still think Mostert is a big play demon and will probably be second in overall backfield touches at worst. He led the backfield in targets, and led them in rushes as well last season. The issue is that when Jeff Wilson came in, he became the alpha in terms of pure carries. Mostert lost on average 4 carries a game after Wilson was acquired, though his target numbers went up. He still had 5 weeks of RB1 or 2 productions last year, and if Wilson goes down and this backfield is all Mostert’s, that’s league winning opportunity at his cost. As it is right now, Miami ran the ball the fewest times last year, and that has to improve, if for no other reason than to keep pressure off Tua. The big play is what will give Mostert the best opportunity to help you win, since he can turn in RB25 games with 9 carries (vs Chicago), RB10 games with 8 carries (vs Cleveland), RB13 on 17 carries (vs. Buffalo), and RB4 on 9 carries (vs New England). All those games were after Jeff Wilson became a part of this team, and it’s partially why I’m not sweating it. Buy Raheem Mostert for cheap and thank me later.
Jeff Wilson Jr is, as of right now, still the thunder in this backfield. Wilson, like Mostert, has struggled to stay healthy in his NFL career but has turned in some decent FPPG performances (RB32 in 2022 and RB23 in 2020). Wilson’s goal-line work and carry totals will always make him relevant on a good offense; since he’s gone from San Francisco to Miami, he has always been on teams that score a lot and it helps his fantasy relevance as a result. In 2020 he scored 10 touchdowns on 139 total touches, and he scored 6 on 198 touches in 2022. His highest fantasy finish on the Dolphins last year without a TD was RB22, and he needed 25 touches and 7 targets to get it. If the Dolphins stand pat at RB, he’s got me interested.
Per JJ Zachariason’s late-round prospect guide, Devon Achane would be a huge breakthrough if he hits: since 2011, the NFL hasn’t seen a single back under 190lbs get 100 carries in a season. However, the only season by a guy of Achane’s size that was useful in fantasy was Tarik Cohen, who is the only back with even remotely close draft capital (119 for Cohen, 84 for Achane). I know the thought of him catching short passes from Tua is so enticing, but for a team that targeted WRs 67% of the time, 2nd most in the league behind Philly, how much volume is there to take from? Mostert was 5th on the team in targets with 42, but Mostert is still here. I think we can safely say the Dolphins are going to use Achane in space, with screens/jet sweeps, and draws. There’s no use in running him up the middle on an inside zone on 1st and 10 because he’s going to get killed.
Achane is an interesting piece in dynasty since we trust the offense will find ways to get him involved, and roles like those tend to grow as we go into year 2, year 3, etc. Two of us are Bears fans, we saw this happen with Tarik Cohen, and then we saw Tarik Cohen get hurt. I pulled some of Cohen’s numbers, and in his 3 full seasons, he ended RB37, 14, and 36 in FPPG, but his reception numbers are where he got good: 53, 71, 79. Does Miami pass enough to non-WRs to make him viable? I’m not betting on it, at least not this year.
Per Warren Sharp: Waddle and Hill were such an incredible duo last year, and they would have done even better if Tua stayed healthy. Per Sharp, between the 2, they caught 15 combined TDs on 214 combined targets. With backup QBs, they had 73 combined targets and 0 TDs. Also, “At the end of the season, Hill and Waddle combined for 51.1% of the team targets, 52.7% of the receptions, 64.3% of the receiving yards, and 50% of the receiving touchdowns.” This is with Tyreek getting 170 and Waddle getting 117. Third place was Gesicki with 52.
The Miami trade to get Tyreek Hill was something that left me incredibly confused last off-season from a playcalling perspective, and Mike McDaniel basically was like “lol nerd this is why I’m an NFL coach and you run a weed podcast.” The Dolphins ran Tyreek out of the slot over 42% of the time, giving him an incredible amount of looks. He had the most deep targets in the league last year (36), 4th in team air yards share, was the only non-Justin Jefferson WR to have more than 100 receiving yards per game, second in catches, one of two to average more than 7 catches per game, led the league with 95 uncatchable targets (Waddle was second with 66), and in terms of yards per route run, he had the third best WR season of the last decade (Julio in 2013 and Kupp in 2021). The Tua-to-Tyreek connection was incredible last year, but if something happens to Tua, Tyreek’s production is going to take another bump down (2 fewer targets, 1 less catch, 32 fewer yards, and losing any TD production). However, if Tua somehow manages to hit with a little bit more accuracy, we’re talking about another top 3 production this year. Picking apart Tyreek’s game is pointless, but the only thing that would make him better is upping his TDs from 7. It’s not hard to imagine if Tua stayed healthy all year last year that the TD number would’ve been in the double digits. Tyreek is a locked-in top 4 WR and should be considered right around JJ, Chase, and Kupp.
Jaylen Waddle’s jump from year 1 to year 2 is staggering: 7.09 air yards per target to 12.6. He moved from the slot to the boundary, and his 20 or more yard downfield target rate went from 8.6 to 17.7. So, his yards per catch went from 9.8 yards per catch to 18.1, the best in the league. As a result, his overall target numbers dropped, but who really cares when it’s all just downfield anyways? He was WR15 in FPPG his rookie season and bumped it to WR12 in FPPG last year, so it really doesn’t matter how he’s asked to produce, he’s just good enough to do it all.
He was 17th in the NFL in receiving yards, but what really impressed me is that he was still 10th in the league in yards after the catch. To have such a deep depth of target and still generate so many yards after the catch speaks to Waddle being an elite pass catcher. Per RP, Waddle went down on first contact on only 35% of his “in space” catches last season, and broke multiple tackles on 15% of those, which are almost Deebo Samuel numbers.
Here again, Tua’s inaccuracy hampered his ceiling, since his true catch percentage is 150%. Seriously. His actual catch percentage was 64.7%, but true catch percentage takes his catches and removes all uncatchable passes. That’s some cartoon shit. If Tua improves his deep ball accuracy, something that he has always been historically maligned for, Waddle might be the biggest beneficiary and could end up breaking the top 10. He also needs to tighten up on the drops. When your ADOT is sub-10 and you drop a pass, that’s one thing, but when you’re dropping the ball streaking downfield it’s a major missed opportunity (5 of his 8 drops were between 10-19 yards, a loss of almost 75 receiving yards based on his ADOT). Waddle was actually insanely efficient on passes going over 20 yards, catching 10/16, a completion percentage we don’t see very often, especially with a QB that struggles to throw accurate deep passes. His Reception Perception success route on all the deeper routes a WR runs were bonkers, and his ability to beat zone defense on dig routes over the middle contributes to his elite zone-beating rates.
Waddle might be that good, y’all. The struggle for me is that he’s getting drafted in a weird spot and you have to already either have an RB (which could make him your WR1), or you already have a WR (which means you’re waiting and hoping a guy like Najee falls to you in the 3rd). Still, as for WR2s in fantasy and real-life football, he’s right there with Tee Higgins and Devonta Smith.
Don’t bother with Miami’s tight ends.
New York Jets
The Jets’ offensive line was ranked 20, 24, and 23rd by my sources. The return of Makhi Becton is a big deal, and I’m curious to see if he actually pushes Duane Brown for the LT spot or if they just move him to RT. They have two solid options at Center, but based on contract size and draft cap invested, I’d assume the expectation is that 2nd round rookie Joe Tippman gets the start. The Jets also traded in their shitty QB room to offer and obtain Aaron Rodgers for a move back in the 2023 1st round, a 2023 2nd round pick, and a conditional 2024 2nd if Rodgers plays over 65% of the team’s snaps this season.
Aaron Rodgers is coming off his worst year in a long time, where he struggled with ADOT, accuracy from clean pockets, and had a tremendous amount of interceptions, avoiding which was historically his calling card. He had two straight seasons of top 8 FPPG finishes but plummeted all the way to QB21 last year. So, what happened, and can we expect a bounceback, or is he toast?
Last year was shitty, we can’t mince words. He claimed to have broken his thumb against these very same Jets in week 6, and after that the Packers and Rodgers had three bad games before he got back to form against the Cowboys. Rodgers actually produced better in terms of on-target throw percentage last year than during his MVP season in 2021, and he posted a similar adjusted completion percentage. His pass catchers had 40 drops last season, the most he’s ever had from his receiving room and a number tied for the most in the league. The pressure on Rodgers to turn raw prospects like Christian Watson and Romeo Doubts into legit NFL WRs was immense. There are a couple of QBs like that in the league: ones who can elevate mediocre talent (Mahomes, Burrow, Herbert). Rodgers used to be that guy (see James Jones, Randall Cobb, the list goes on and on), and he did, he did elevate those raw guys to the next level, but it was laborious and shitty, and aesthetically hideous to boot. Christian Watson was a TD-dependent big-play magnet, and Romeo Doubs managed to look like an NFL-level possession guy last season. The downgrade both are getting in fantasy this year speaks to how much of what they did was elevated by Rodgers.
Could he be back this season and return to form? The Jets transformed themselves into the 2021 Packers of the AFC, bringing in Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Haha Clinton-Dix, Tim Boyle, and former Packers OC (when Rodgers was a back-to-back MVP) Nathaniel Hackett to run the offense with Rodgers. Here’s the thing: he has the type of offense that he’s successful in: an ideologically LaFleur-adjacent room with multiple viable backs and a strong WR room filled with both rapport guys and a budding young future top 3 NFL WR. Last year in Green Bay his yards per attempt was 6.8, but his ADOT was 8.5. In 2021, his yards per attempt was 7.7, but his ADOT was 8.1. In 2020, his YPA was 8.2 and his ADOT was 8.4. Where he looks, where he passes and targets, all of those things stayed the same, but the offense was so much less efficient around him, and he suffered. Winning MVPs when your YPA is -0.4 or -0.2 off your ADOT makes sense, your passes are being consistently caught. When the difference is -1.7, well, you get a season like last year.
The interceptions came because Rodgers is a 2x NFL MVP and believes he can make any throw, but last year the windows were smaller than ever.
Check it out:
2022 interceptions: 12. Danger Plays: 24
2021 interceptions: 4. Danger Plays: 15
2020 interceptions: 5. Danger Plays: 20
That’s either bad interception luck in 2022 due to poor play around him, Rodgers just not having it anymore, or great interception luck that suddenly ran out. I think it’s one of the first two, right?
The offense is going to be centered around getting the ball out of Rodgers’ hands quickly since that’s a big part of the LaFleur/Hackett philosophy (and it worked for Zach Wilson- who was 9th in the league in EPA per attempt per Sharp when he got the ball out in under 2.5 seconds). Rodgers can do that well and he now has one of the best short-area separators in the league as his alpha.
Rodgers is no longer a top 10 QB in fantasy, in fact, he only hit QB10 one time last year and never did any better. The offensive weapons around him will give him more juice than he had last year, but I think for fantasy the best thing Aaron Rodgers can and will do is make his skill position players more viable than they were last year.
Two random stats I felt the need to include here: Aaron Rodgers was 2nd in the NFL last season in passes thrown to backs on early downs, and Zach Wilson not starting frees up 8 red zone rushes.
Through 7 games (well, 6 and a half), Breece Hall was all that he was cracked up to be: 4th in receiving yards per game as well as explosive as a runner. They eased him in the first few weeks, but starting in week 4 he got 19, 20, and 22 touches and turned in fantasy finishes of 15, 4, and 6. With a torn ACL, I’d assume it’s just good business practice to work him back in again this season. This is a team built with the goal of a deep playoff run in mind, and the playoffs don’t start in September. Even if Breece is possibly ready for week 1, I don’t think that necessarily means he comes back and immediately gets 20 touches.
Per Warren Sharp: Breece (and the Jets) ran out of 11 personnel so rarely on first and second down in neutral game scripts, that backs were running against 7 or more man boxes a ton (Breece went against a loaded box on 76% of his runs). When Breece was against a light box, he was best in yards per carry (8.1), 2nd in success rate, 1st with a 26% explosive run rate, and 3rd in EPA per rush. Against a 7+ defensive front, Breece was 26th in yards per carry (4.3), 33rd in success rate, and 14th in EPA per rush. CALL MORE WRs. The Packers WRs, GW, and Rodgers mean hopefully that if the Jets continue to use 11 personnel at a top 10 rate, they also do it in situations where it would be more beneficial, and as a result, Breece will be seeing more of those light boxes.
Something that worries me not about Breece the player but Breece as he’s going to be used in this scheme is that while he was scouted as a great receiving back and showed it as a player, he never eclipsed running 48% of his team’s routes in a game last year, which includes week 1 when he had 10 targets on 25 routes. He was 40th in route participation percentage among backs (Michael Carter was 23rd). If Breece is going to return on value for where he’s being drafted right now, it’s going to require him to A. Come back from an ACL tear with no restrictions or diminished workload), B. Improve upon his rate participation so he can continue to put up high-end RB numbers, and C. Play on an offense that scores enough that he can get into the end zone 6-9 times. Breece is always destined to be the 1A of a committee, but if he ends up with 300 combined touches I can’t really see any way he doesn’t end up a top-10 RB in FPPG this year.
Adding Dalvin Cook to this backfield is a great IRL football move that really blows for fantasy. All of his advanced rushing metrics point towards a guy who is closer to the cliff than we want to admit, but he can still ball and they didn’t bring him in to not give him touches. Cook still has some juice in the tank, and the potential for fantasy viability still exists with him, but he’s a rotational guy once Breece gets back to full form, and I don’t plan on having any shares of Dalvin since the cost of entry will be too high. If you wanna roll with him and hope for an early season blowup that’s fine, but when Breece is at full health you know damn well Dalvin moves to the backseat and just becomes another rotation piece.
Michael Carter was 42/42 of all backs with more than 100 carries in EPA added per rush, success rate, and percentage of runs to gain more than 10 yards. He’s still the clubhouse favorite to take the reins to start the season, given that he has 261 NFL carries, and he’s also the favorite to continue to get passing work (he’s got 77 targets in 30 career games- had the 17th most targets last season). His yards per carry took a tremendous dip last year, from 4.3 his rookie year to 3.5 last season. He hit a sweet spot in weeks 7-9, when Hall was out and before Bam Knight got the lead back carries, and didn’t inspire. He had 24 red zone touches and only scored 3 times last year. I think he’s another one of the guys that are gonna end up getting 6-8 carries a week but will make his living by stealing passing work from Breece. I can see a role for him, but it’s still pretty murky (and Dalvin is still unsigned).
Zonovan “Bam” Knight showed up, looked awesome, and then sucked. He had 230 rushing yards in his first 3 games and had over 5 yards per carry. In the last four games, he averaged 1.8 yards per carry. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a camp cut, since it won’t cost the Jets anything.
Rookie Izzy Abanikanda was picked in the 5th round out of Pitt and was my RB4 in this class when all was said and done. I don’t know if he’s the answer to anything, but he is more explosive than Carter is. I’d imagine that the low draft capital, lack of familiarity with the new scheme, and Carter’s pedigree give him the edge over Abanikanda at least early on in the season. I still believe in Izzy for dynasty, but he’s a guy that I’m waiting to grab off waiver wires if and when Carter continues to struggle like he did last year and Cook moves on.
Last year, out of 33 QBs with a minimum of 200 attempts, Aaron Rodgers was the only one with over a 35% rate of throwing the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage. You have to assume this is a byproduct of a bad offense with unproven receivers, rather than some sort of general trend that speaks to Rodgers.
Last year’s OROY Garrett Wilson is a guy that the entire fantasy community is frothing themselves up into a lather to draft in all formats. I can see why because despite terrible QB play (Garrett Wilson had the 3rd most uncatchable passes last year, with 53), he’s playing this year with the QB who had the second most uncatchable passes last year, which is still an upgrade somehow. Wilson led the league in go routes last year and had 35 targets more than 15 yards down the field last year (only 16 were catchable targets). Wilson had the most targets of any rookie WR over the last 15 years but only caught 57% of those due to terrible QB play. However, Rodgers is the ideal QB for a player with this type of profile, since Wilson’s ADOT last year was 11, and Davante Adams’ ADOT was 9.5 and 9.4 in the Rodgers MVP years. A regress to the mean should give Wilson a chance to end up better than his WR30 finish in FPPG last season (he finished WR22 in total points, but played all 17 games). One thing is for sure: he had a stupendous amount of targets last year, at 147. There’s no way, with Rodgers bringing in his mid-friends and teammates Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb that this rate stays up. He won’t be 6th in targets again, but I don’t think that stops him from eclipsing his catch total of 83 from last season.
I also think we’re choosing to remember Wilson at his high points given his current price (WR 11 on 4for4). He only had 4/17 games last year with a WR1 finish, and of those finishes, he averaged out to WR7. That’s a lot of production that people are expecting from Wilson this year. WR11 last year was Amari Cooper, who put up 78/1160/9, and Wilson last year put up 83/1103/4. Does GW end up scoring 5 more TDs on 20 fewer targets? If so, go get him because he’s a ton of fun to watch.
Oddly, Mecole Hardman led the league in QB rating when targeted last year. He’s gonna get an occasional moonball from Rodgers, but he’s not worth rostering.
Randall Cobb is going to do just enough to be annoying. He’s gonna sit in the slot and get 3-4 targets a game as long as Rodgers is here.
Allen Lazard got fuckin paid, and if you don’t believe that being a hanger-on to some rich asshole that weirds you out pays off, let his contract be proof. He backed his way into 100 targets last year as the defacto 1 in Green Bay and returned WR34 in FPPG as a finish. He’s going to be Rodgers’ security blanket in New York, and will most likely be the other WR starting on the boundary next to Wilson. I think we can once again expect him to flirt with close to 100 targets again, but he’s a bench depth piece at best. Ironically, he had the 12th most deep targets last year so it’ll be interesting to see who between Lazard, Wilson, and Hardman are running the most targeted go routes in 2023.
Tyler Conklin had the most uncatchable passes in the league last year. He was also second on the team with 87 targets! Who knew? Rodgers threw 99 targets to TEs with Hackett in 2021, and 103 in 2020. The workload won’t be there for Conklin to be in the top 6 conversation, but he’s got some solid upper-middle blob potential! The problem is that the Jets didn’t use Conklin much in the red zone last year, targeting him more often downfield than in the red zone (6 to 4). Braxton Berrios out-targeted Conklin in the end zone last year. There’s some utility here as a guy that projects to have a relatively solid floor, but his ceiling kinda sucks and he’s not much more than waiver wire fodder in redraft that you pick up as a fill-in.