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!
There’s this running joke in my apartment whenever the rare chance that we all watch football together happens, that a running back running up the middle is pointless as they are just running into a wall and it infuriates my roommate. Before I used to be like “No, you don’t get it there’s an art, there’s a finesse, a whole bunch happens in these seconds you’re missing. Check out this yeti of a human being do it!” Then I realized that she was right. This was also the experience of Titans fans last year as the offense can honestly be boiled down to “lol Henry go up the middle” which was a detriment to the team thanks to Todd Downing. Enjoy New York ya goof.
Now I do want to add to the context of this as the receiving room last year was Robert Woods, Nick Westbrook Ikine, a not-ready and/or hurt Treylon Burks, and Chig Okonkwo, so you kind of do have to lean on your best weapon and pray for the best with Derrick Henry. However, you do have to mix it up so the defense can sort of not shut you down all the damn time.
Last year defenses stacked the box against Henry, as they knew they had nothing to fear but the King himself. The Titans ran the ball 72% of the time on first down.
- In the first quarter, boxes had 7+ people 90% of the time.
- First down in the first quarter 7+, 93% of the time
- 1st down with 1 score lead, 7+ 83% of the time
- 1st down in non 11 personnel, 7+ 95% of the time
- The Titans ran at the 5th highest rate last year.
The Titans ranked 29th overall in average distance to go on 2nd down. This sort of disparity puts the team behind and forces offensive inconsistencies as they have to either force plays for more yardage or try to chunk and hope the efficiency breaks through 7+ defenders to get those 7.4 yards.
It snowballs: if the Titans ran the ball on first down, they converted 60% of the time, which is 31st in the league. When the Titans had a lead, they choked. Plain and simple. They gave up 54 points in the 4th quarter, which was dead last in the NFL. There is only one team that was worse: the 2006 Raiders. The Titans had the 6th best positive point margin in the first half, but in the second half, they went 3 and out 48% of the time, followed only by the Bears at 41%.
Okay now you may be asking, was there good? Are there caveats? Yes, there are both!
So, as we know, the Titans are just like the 49ers in the fact that they are cursed to all hell with injuries. As everything fell apart, the game that determined if they made the playoffs had Tennessee starting a 3rd string QB, a backup tackle, center, and guard and only lost because Josh Dobbs blew the game on a fumble.
Now I want to put a caveat on these passing stats as I think they are a little artificially inflated due to the fact that the Titans ran the ball so damn much that any time they actually threw the ball defenses were not prepared for it, but here’s some stats on why doing literally anything but running up the gut could have resulted in a different outcome for the Titans last year.
While using play-action, the Titans had 51% success on dropbacks (12th) and 12.2 YPA, #1 in the NFL. When they passed the ball in general they ranked #8th in expected points per attempt and 10th in YPA. If they threw a first down pass, the probability that they recorded another first down was 5th best in the league. Even with Malik Willis and Josh Dobbs, 1st down passes produced the 3rd best expected points per attempt and 2nd highest yards per attempt in the league
Listen, I get it, their WR room was abysmal, the team was hurt, and Tannehill is regressing but man what the fuck. So instead of punching a dead horse and then throwing a grenade on it, we’re going to look towards the future and try to extract what we can from this team to see what we have viable here.
The Titans shed a shit ton of talent in the offseason: they lost 23 players, one of which I’d say is “fantasy relevant”. They did beef up their offensive line through free agency and the draft by getting highly touted prospect Peter Skoronski to pad the left side. That side of the trench is basically taken care of with him and the acquisition of Andre Dillard, which bodes well for Derrick Henry as most of his rushing success came from the left side.
The Titans also traded up to draft general cornball Will Levis in one of the funniest draft night 1s if you’re a hater like me. They drafted Mr. No Cartilage in his Knee Tyjae Spears, Josh Whyle at TE, and a 7th-rounder WR Colton Dowell.
Now, it’s pretty obvious that the psyop of Will Levis is the heir apparent to the starting QB as Ryan Tannehill can be cut next year for like 4 million dollars. That will happen next year unless Tanny has a career year, and it might actually hit after their bye week depending on how the beginning of their season begins, because their schedule is a doozy.
Now as much as we clown on Arthur Smith for not getting us fantasy points, he does know how to utilize his offense to their ceiling and this is what TEN needs to do to get Tannehill back into form as well as set up Levis to be successful.
Now while Tannehill has regressed on his rushing attempts and designed runs, he still has the ability to be a rushing QB and be effective in a play-action style offense.
Last year’s Tannehill is sort of a wash for me due to the two different injuries he had that limited his playtime, but even in the 12 games he played, it wasn’t great. He was pretty mid across all metrics, nothing terrible but also nothing game-breaking. The one bright side was that his pressured statistics are very good for a guy who gets slept on. #4th in pressured completion percentage, #4th in pressure accuracy, and 9th in redzone accuracy. So if he’s not vulturing TDs from the king, he does provide the type of accuracy we want to see when we need to see it.
Now there is a varied sample size due to injury, but if we average out Tannehill’s tenure in TEN he throws 28 times per game, which puts him around 487 attempts for the year, and even with an average YPA of 8, his completion percentage average of 69.5% puts him at 2,709 yards which are… uhhhhh… real fuckin gross. I will say that we should probably anticipate an increase in passing volume this year as they acquired DeAndre Hopkins and have Treylon Burks in Year 2 so if we bump that number up to about 31 just to play career high ceiling, it puts him at 2900 yards which is still GROSS.
Tannehill also averages 3 rushes per game, and if you extrapolate his attempts and averages, for the year he has 233 rushing yards with the chance at 5 TDs.
In summary, not great! I don’t even think Tannehill is a QB2 to me even with optimism. Tannehill is QB28 between Howell and Ridder and I think that’s the perfect spot for him and I will not have anything to do with that.
Now the real potential sleeper here is Will Levis if we project him to be the starter after the bye, but even then I think we’ll see a lower attempts per game in passing with a higher volume of rushing for him in a more concrete play-action style offense to acclimate him to the speed of the NFL and work on his decision making/accuracy issues.
I said he’s a psyop, but I think he’s a bigger ceiling player than Tannehill, due to his legs, especially at ADP. He is so gross to every fantasy player, but the probability of him running 5 times per game even if it’s for 5 yards per attempt is juicier to me than Tannehill as their passing metrics are pretty much identical in attempts/YPA/% completion.
Something to consider, but I’m not advising it.
Alright, they signed DeAndre Hopkins, I get it. I get that he’s been WR 9, 5, 4, 3,2 in the last 5 of 6 years. I get it but I think pumping the breaks a little bit on this acquisition will help us actually win fantasy leagues instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Now DHop’s most-run route is also Tannehill’s most-targeted route. I’ve seen some suggest that DHop should play the slot, and idk what games they’re watching because he only plays out of the slot 26% of the time. He runs the curl and a slant at the highest % of his routes. Tannehill doesn’t chuck it so I think these are going to be the most targeted routes for DHop as a Titan. With the departure of Woods and Hooper, 151 targets are vacated. Now those numbers are not all going to DHop, but I think calling 110 for 80 as that was AJB’s ceiling in TEN is pretty realistic for Hopkins this year. If we take the last 2 years’ average, that puts Hopkins at around 900 yards, which isn’t exciting but when he’s getting 7 targets a game, 14 points a game isn’t out of the realm of possibility. It’s not game-breaking but it’s a solid WR2 and a good flex, which is what I believe Hopkins’ ceiling is, if everything goes right here.
Now onto our guy, our child. Treylon Burks. I’m not going to make excuses for Burks. I’m not going to talk about how he had asthma during camp and missed most of it. I’m not going to talk about the fact that he was essentially learning a whole new position, I’m not going to talk about how he was hurt. I’m not going to talk about how he was in concussion protocol.
Last year Burks did show flashes when it mattered to keep the hope alive, and honestly, I really hope Tim Kelly understands that Burks thrives in the slot and DHop plays the outside so both can feast. Otherwise, Burks is cooked this year, and I’m going to legitimately cry. He is still a raw prospect when it comes to separation and adding layers to his game but I’m going to treat this as his rookie year and go from there.
In Tannehill’s best year, his WR2 had 92 targets behind AJB’s 110. There is a realm of possibility in which the ceiling numbers I provided can send Burks up to 90 targets this year. I’d be ecstatic to see the development. Even with last year’s regression of passing volume, 90 targets is still feasible as you reduce the TE targets. Fantasy wise we’ll see how it pans out because even with those numbers Corey Davis ended that season as WR30. That’s not great, but it’s still above ADP for Burks as he is currently WR41.
Kyle Phillips is a dude I loved coming out of college, a dude the team loved as a rookie, but he got hurt. However, I think there’s a world where I take him at the end of my redraft team if I have no other Titans because he is a beast in the slot. I think there’s a world where he ends up 4th on the team in targets this year, and, shit, he showed he can do it at this level (week 1- 17 routes, 9 targets, 6 catches, 66 yards). He’s free and can easily become the possession WR on this team. He was a spicy late-round target for me in best ball tournaments until the DHop signing, but now I’m not so sure. I still think he’s a cheap buy-in dynasty.
With Austin Hooper being gone, 60 targets are now vacated and Chigoziem Okonkwo is now the de facto TE1 on this offense. Now I’m not going to say that Chig is going to get a total of 106 targets this year, but the fact that he is rated poorly as a pass blocker should lead to him being used more as a receiver than a blocker. Chig lined up pretty much evenly between the slot and line last year. So I looked into it to see if there was a fill of Burks targets from Chig while Burks was out, but there was no correlation and Chig had a majority of his snaps come from inside the slot during that time, where Burks only ran out of the slot at the highest rate of 28% last season(criminal). But there is a correlation between missing a target in the offense and someone else receiving targets as Chig did see an uptick in ~2 targets per game when Burks was gone in weeks 13-15(he left week 13 early).
Conservatively based on previous TEN TE targets of roughly 26% target share for the position, I think Chig can get around 90 targets if everything goes right. Now that is a ceiling play, but 70 targets is something I’d be comfortable projecting with DHop in town and a middle-of-the-pack passing attack. It sounds like a lot but its really 4.5 targets per game. I think Chig can get around 700 yards if we follow this type of math in a vacuum of everything going right.
Derrick Henry is a player I will ride until I see his name on Twitter saying he is retired. I will no longer doubt the king. Yes he’s 30, yes he has substantial wear and tear and yes his efficiency metrics aren’t what they were but the other side to that coin is that he’s only getting cheaper.
Yes, his yards per carry, and yards before and after contact have regressed, but when you have an injury-depleted piss poor offensive line going against 7+ defenders on 95% of your rushes, numbers aren’t going to look great. All this data has context to remember.
If Tim Kelly can understand the importance of showing opposing defenses a little bit of variety, I think we see the rushing lanes start to open up for Henry as opponents are going to either sell out for Henry or sell out for DHop. Henry still put up 1500 yards last year on a “down year.” For someone who doesn’t catch balls, he had a career year last year in targets and catches almost 400 receiving yards with 12.1 yards per reception. He also plays Wildcat QB now, so move over Roschon, we have a new dual-threat running back in town.
Honestly, I truly believe that with the addition of a new OC, padding the offensive line, year 2 Burks, and the addition of DHop, Derrick Henry has to benefit the most this year, even if he’s 30 and has 1,750 carries across his NFL career. I believe he’s a unicorn until I’m proven wrong and I’ll be very sad. I’ll still pencil in at least 330 attempts for Henry and 40 targets this year.
I’m not worried about Hassan Haskins [Editor’s Note: More like Assan Asskins, because he’s ass.] taking shares away from Henry or being relevant and Tannehill doesn’t check the ball down enough to validate me having interest in Tyjae Spears this year especially if mobile Will Levis joins the fray.
- Don’t draft Ryan Tannehill.
- Will Levis might have some form of late-year relevancy as a mobile QB?
- Dhop is a fine WR2.
- I’m scared shitless over Burks because this is the make-or-break year.
- Chig I’m whatever on but also very skeptical.
- Buy the dip on Derrick Henry.
I was sort of at an impasse of how I wanted to melt my brain this week in a lot of different directions but the great mind of JJ Zachariason on The Late Round Podcast inspired me to lean into mobile QBs, specifically rookie mobile QBs because I’m an incessant nerd who likes to do things the hard way.
I’m going to work backward a little bit by breaking down why I decided to lean into the mobile rookie QB archetype instead of breaking down the coaching staff/draft capital and current roster, but I promise it will make canonical sense(hopefully).
For posterity, in these examples of data sets, the phrasing of non-rushing, rushing, and mobile quarterbacks are as follows:
- Non-rushing: 39 or fewer attempts per year with a minimum of 10 games played
- Rushing: 40-87
- Mobile: greater than 88 rush attempts
Based on the data, WR is the position that is most heavily impacted by rushing QBs with the biggest disparity in comparison to non-rushing QBs. This is pretty obvious, as the more rushes that take place means that there is less passing volume in a total season as teams can only run so many plays overall. Mobile QB-based teams ranked, on average, 24th in pass attempts per season.
Even though the numbers aren’t great, with the increase of the types of Kyler, Allen, and Hurts, teams are able to maintain high passing volume, but these guys are the unicorns. Within the last 2 years within the sample, 40% of QBs that are considered to be rushing QBs had a WR finish in the top 10 and as you get out of that sample size the percentage gets worse as the mobile QBs are players like Marcus Mariota. It’s very boom-bust, it’s either top 10 or finishing ranked 27th.
Within the data sets, TE was least impacted by having a mobile QB within the data range spread, this is mainly due to the fact that mobile QBs don’t require the TE to block as often so they can be lined up as receiving weapons.
RB has the most significant disparity between positions, compared to earlier where WR disparity came between mobile and nonmobile QBs, even though you would think that a QB that utilizes their legs as a weapon would open up the rushing lanes and opportunities.
Within this sample of 10 years, 6/44 teams had a top 10 ranked running back in target share on the team. 3 of these seasons include Cam Newton with CMC twice and Daniel Dineros with Saquon last year. As we all know, mobile QBs don’t check the ball down as there isn’t a need for a security blanket, they can just take the ball and rack up yardage.
There is a 13% chance that a running back has a top-10 finish with a mobile QB. On average these RBs finish ranked 21st in fantasy points scored in comparison to other teams. In the last 10 years, there is a 2% chance that any other positional groups of mobile QBs finish top 10 in their position.
In summation for mobile QBs, unless they are true unicorns, you want the QB and no one else on that offense or be very good at projecting the single position that will thrive and fade the other two as the data is on the side of one king to rule them all.
Now to make the wrinkle even harder to project, rookie QBs.
Statistically, rookie QBs rank 19th in pass attempts and the average team WR finishes 22nd in fantasy points scored in PPR, but the target share is right on the average of 16th across the league. Tight end is 20th.
The TL;DR of this section is Rookie QBs are worse than mobile QBs. RBs on average finish at 19.2, with a higher target share of 16, possibly because teams with both pass-catching running backs and rookie QBs utilize the RB as a safety valve in the scheme for their rookies.
Here’s where the data gets pretty ugly: WRs for rookie QBs finish on average around 35, which is the WR3 tier of fantasy production, whereas WRs with non-rookies finish around WR 20. TEs also take a hit with an average rank of 23. There is an 8% chance that a WR will have a top 12 finish with a rookie QB and 24% for top 24. A 5% chance for a top-six finish at TE, and 16% for top 12.
There is a glimmer of hope within this data as the true unicorns can immediately produce top 12 finishes for WRs, 2 of these have been Shane Steichen coached Justin Herbert, and generational prospect Andrew Luck.
Running backs have on average a fantasy finish of 21st in points scored, while backs with non-rookie QBs finish around RB18. There’s a 35% chance for an RB to finish top 12 with a rookie Qb and a 62% chance for a top 24 finish. So if you’re a floor guy, fade every offensive weapon in the first 3 rounds with a rookie QB.
Now you may be asking yourself, “Are you done and how is this relevant”. To answer the first question, yes I am done and this is relevant because pick #4 overall in the 2023 Draft: Anthony Richardson is the key to this entire season for all Colts players.
In the last 3 years we have seen the curse of Andrew Luck permeate with washed QBs. Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan have all brought us to this team. I’m assuming we can all agree that QBs are the key to a team’s success. Granted they don’t have to be world breakers, but they do have to do enough to not choke the game away like Matt Ryan and Sam Elinger did last year.
There were so many things that went wrong last year for the Colts: the offensive line crumbling the first half of the season, Jonathan Taylor being bit by the injury bug, Matt Ryan being dust, Jeff Saturday being head coach. Now that the fire has finally been put out, there is a glimmer of a phoenix rising from the ashes or at least the egg of one.
I’ll admit, I was hesitant about whatever the Colts were going to do prior to hiring Shane Steichen, but then the dominoes started to fall and landed in a way where I find myself believing in the rebirth of this team.
Steichen was in Los Angeles during Herbert’s rookie year where Herbert won OROY. Herbert finished the season as QB9 in fantasy that season. Herbert threw for 4336 yards, with a 7.3 YPA and a 66.6% completion percentage. Herbert had 55 rush attempts with 4.3 YPC on 18 designed runs and 25 scrambles. Now I don’t think Herbert is the best person to show the capabilities of Steichen as Herbert has repeated, if not improved as time has gone on without Steichen, but I do think the argument can be made that the stability and coaching ability of Steichen in that year allowed to Herbert to rapidly reach a floor that no one really anticipated.
The real juice here is Jalen Hurts. I’m sure we all remember how mercilessly shit on Hurts was after his first and second years in the league. Prior to his tremendous breakout, Hurts was only seen as a flash-in-the-pan rushing QB, who to quote our resident homie, Waleed Ismail, “Can’t throw a football.” Hurts had a 52% completion rate in 2020 and 61.3% in 2021, both of which are pretty stinky, like really stinky. Now there is the argument of the chicken or the egg where the ascension of talent came from, was it the acquisition of AJ Brown, or the coaching of Steichen? I think it’s a double egg omelet personally, as you can’t really have one without the other. In 2022 Hurts improved his completion percentage to 66.5% with 600 more air yards and a 0.8 increase in yards per attempt, while being incredibly efficient in his TD:INT ratio. Hurts increased his PFF Grade from 56 to 88 in 2 years.
Now the comparison between Hurts, Herbert, and Richardson may not seem to be binary on the surface but after watching the tape and proclaiming AR as my 1.01 in SF rookie drafts, I will say that there is a good hybridization of Hurts and Herbert in Richardson. Tremendous weapon on the ground with a Howitzer of an arm. Obviously, development will come to turn that arm into a refined weapon, but there is hope with the prospect of breaking fantasy. As Tony has stated before, my anticipation of Anthony Richardson is going to be similar to that of year 1 Jalen Hurts and I think the offensive scheme is going to reflect that.
In 2022 under Steichen, the Eagles utilized the legs of Hurts as the primary weapon to build the foundation of the offense. Over 44% of the snaps for the Eagles were rushing snaps, with 123 designed runs for Hurts himself. The remaining 56% were passing attempts with 542 and 76.3% time spent in the pocket. The Run Pass Option(RPO) was abused in ‘22 to allow Hurts to read the defense and play the field accordingly as defenders would have to come down and account for Hurts, which in turn would open up the passing game. With this increase in RPO, the Eagles saw an uptick of defenses playing man against their scheme. This shift would cause the Eagles to lean into principles taken from the Air Raid system. The Air Raid is a combo of mesh and verticals with a high tempo. Steichen has shown against defenses that unless you stop him, he will run the same formation, motion, and guard pull every opportunity he can until there is a negative yard play. Philly used a combo of zone run schemes to force the defense into positions where numbers advantage would come into play to exploit linemen and linebackers to create explosive play opportunities.
For more in-depth analysis please go watch the Brett Kollman video on zone scheme, it’s great. I also encourage you to read the offensive breakdown by Casey Sully on Weekly Spiral as he touches more on each form of zone scheme the Eagles ran. With this abuse of the run game and forcing the defense to play man, Philly said “Beat Devonta Smith and AJ Brown 1 on 1, because you can’t.” While it is a tad lazy for me to expect the same extrapolation of what Indy will be in 2023, I feel this is something similar to what we will see in Indy this year based on team structure and offensive weapons, while allowing Richardson to slowly acclimate to the speed of the NFL and build his passing rapport, but will probably lean more on the run game an intermediate passing game as their talent ceiling is lower than Philly.
Out of 12 picks, the Colts drafted 4 offensive pieces. Anthony Richardson at 4, Josh Downs at pick 79, Will Mallory at 162, and Evan Hull at 167. They drafted 2 offensive linemen to bolster their depleted depth. Although the line did have a rocky start, they finished the season graded 10th overall in the NFL, which I feel is spectacular news as this team adds to their depth. Obviously, the outright winners are the weapons of the Colts outside of Jelani Woods in my opinion. Josh Downs doesn’t compete with the type of receivers Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce are. Hull is clearly a rotational piece as Deon Jackson isn’t. They did bring in Zach Moss and Jake Funk, but I wouldn’t be worried about them unless disaster strikes for Jonathan Taylor.
Although I have been optimistic about this team in the long term, I’m less optimistic about the Colts for fantasy in 2023 as there are a lot of “what ifs”. So this is the start of this and I’m sorry.
On a bright note, Jonathan Taylor, outside of injury (or rank stubbornness on the part of the Colts, who refuse to pay the man), will not have a year worse than 2022, should he play. However, based on my statistical analysis of mobile and rookie QBs, I am worried about the production of Jonathan Taylor in 2023. While I don’t think he’ll have a bad year, I do think he will perform below ADP on a per-game basis. I thought it was insane to see him at 1.09 in mocks in June, but the more I dove into the stats, that number makes more sense. Per PFF, Taylor is slotted at 1.10, as RB4 around Kelce, Tyreek, Diggs, and Pollard. I don’t foresee, even in an RPO system, that Taylor will pace out to his 332 attempts with 1811 yards and 40 receptions from 2021. However, Taylor’s saving grace is his incredible efficiency as a player with a beefed-up line. Across 3 years, Taylor has averaged 2.8 yards after contact, 7% missed tackles, and 7% broken tackles. This efficiency will be the key to Taylor returning value at his ADP.
The expectations of ~20 targets and 250 attempts are what I’m aiming for with Taylor this year. He’s no longer in the argument for 1.02 right behind CMC like he was last year; the game is different now. Richardson will vulture his touches, check-downs, and TDs, but at 1.10 I don’t hate taking Taylor depending on league settings. I don’t think he’ll finish as RB4 on the year, I think him finishing in the top 12 isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but there are better picks to me like AJB, Chubb, Amon-Ra, or Diggs at that point.
I’ll be honest here, the only worthwhile player to talk about here is Michael Pittman for me unless you’re in an incredibly deep league with a 3WR start. Pittman is the defacto alpha on this team, with 142 targets and 99 receptions in 2022 for 925/4, which was less efficient than in 2021 where he had 1082 yards and 6 touchdowns, which I blame on Matt Ryan getting murdered with his noodle arm every play, Pittman wasn’t able to exploit his biggest weapon: the intermediate contested catch. Pittman had over a quarter of the target share for the team and 30% of the air yard team share, however, his ADOT did decrease as he found himself running a role between hybrid slot and out wide. This won’t be the case this year as Downs will be the king of the slot, so we’ll mostly see Pittman out wide, with a projected higher ADOT because Richardson has shown that he can throw for farther than 7 yards, unlike Matt Ryan. Right now, Pittman is ranked as WR33 at pick 71 around pick 5.9. I feel this ADP is also warranted based on the data analysis of rookie mobile QBs. While WR33 seems incredibly low, based on the players he’s surrounded by, I’m strongly convinced that Pittman will finish below Jeudy, Hollywood, and Aiyuk in WR tiers. I think this is the year where Pittman’s price comes back down to reality in relation to his production.
Quick shot, Alec Pierce is ranked as WR60 at pick 13.3, and Jelani Woods is ranked as TE26 at pick 17.6. These will be waiver wire guys so treat them accordingly.
Now onto the key piece of this offense and my cynicism about the fantasy output of this team in 2023, Anthony Richardson.
As of right now, PFF doesn’t even have him in the top 25 ranking for QBs, which I think is completely egregious. Granted I will not recommend that you take him as your only QB unless you are in a deep league or you completely faded all QBs and any startable guy got gobbled up, but as a 2nd QB to a Kirk, Tua, or Geno is probably the best path to having Richardson on your team with success. While I think it’s going to get ugly, like real ugly, I think that bench spot will yield success when it matters most: post-week 11. Last year we saw Fields and Hurts putting on point clinics as the season went on. The final 4 games of the season for the Colts are Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Houston, all of which I think are supremely juicy matchups for AR. He has the chance to finish strong and push you over the hump in playoff pushes and playoff runs. While I don’t believe Richardson will finish top 15 by the end of the season, I will gladly draft him over the likes of Stafford, Pickett, Love, Purdy, Kyler, Jimmy G, and Tannehill. 2800 yards, 900 on the ground is within the realm of possibilities for me and even though he nuked my optimism for this team in 2023, I’m excited to watch Richardson play in 2023.
A tl;dr for this rambling: fade all Colts players at ADP outside of Richardson, or be prepared to be disappointed.
Right off the top, this is going to be a hater segment and I’m sorry. The last 3 years have been a carousel of staff as I truly believe The McNairs forget that they own an NFL franchise.
To summarize last season, the Texans had the 31st ranked offense as defenses realized that Davis Mills can not throw the ball so they stacked the box with 7+ men, at the 4th highest rate in the NFL so there was constant pressure on Mills to do what he did best “miss” and to prevent any form of effective rushing game to take place. They ranked #30th in yards before contact per rush and ranked #32 in explosive rushes.
Mills had the 3rd worst accuracy and 5th worst completion rate in the NFL with the lowest air yards per attempt in the league at 5.8. They ranked dead last in the last 6 years in the NFL in efficiency. Last year was the dead year, they had the 3rd most dead cap in the NFL and the 7th oldest roster while fielding the 6th cheapest overall roster so everyone knew what they were getting into.
I’ll give a shoutout to burn the whole thing to the ground king, Lovie Smith for absolutely torching the locked and loaded #1 overall pick for the Texans through a little good luck and a nice middle finger of starting all his studs in the final game to give the Bears the #1 overall pick in the final game last year. If you know you’re getting fired, but your boss is still making you show up to your shift, you should do the exact same thing: punish their negligence and apathy.
2023 is supposed to be the year of getting the derailed train upright.
They did shed a lot of talent and signed/traded for a decent amount of depth including Shaq Mason to pad the line. For fantasy purposes, they signed Robert Woods, Dalton Schultz, and Devin Singletary. They also drafted CJ Stroud, Tank Dell, and Xavier Hutchinson.
The Texans now have the #2 most expensive offensive line in the NFL after paying Tunsil and taking on Mason’s contract. This does have me concerned as Mason had his worst season last year in TB and now being on the other side of 30. They did draft 2 centers in the 2nd and 6th rounds so hopefully they hit but for a team with the worst rushing attack in 2022 and now the 9th hardest schedule against run defenses. I don’t know if the money will end up equating to an expected performance in setting up the run or for protecting CJ Stroud.
In the offseason management brought in a new coaching staff:
- Demeco Ryans HC (former SF DC)
- Bobby Slowik OC (former SF Passing Coordinator)
- Matt Burk DC (ARI DL)
Now on the surface, these are immediate upgrades as Ryans has proven that he can scheme a very good defense while utilizing the talent pool he had.
In 2022 SF had the #1 overall defense, allowing 277 total points, 16.3 points per game, 77.7 yards per game rushing, 222.9 passing yards per game, 25.7% scoring percentage per drive for opposing offenses, and a 15.3% turnover percentage. Granted the depth of the 49ers is a lot different than the Texans, but they did acquire 4 players in FA and drafted 4 defensive players including trading up to 3rd to draft Will Anderson in a sort of head-scratching organizational move. While we don’t agree with the trade, as they basically traded up the equivalent to grab another QB with AZ, it makes sense from an appeasement standpoint to give your new defensive-minded coach THE defensive guy of the draft and a brand new franchise QB. It was a hail mary and we’ll see if the gamble worked in the next 5 years. Initially, I don’t like it for the future of Stroud, but that’s next year’s problem.
I think these moves signal that Houston wants to play ball control, anticipating games in their shit-ass division will come down to 1 score contests.
Along with a San Francisco head coach alumni, the new OC was the passing coordinator for the 49ers last year as well so we’ll break down the passing game here as I think at the bare minimum Stroud can do what Jimmy G can do. Again this won’t be a 1:1 comparison as the talent pool between HOU and SF is deeper than the Marianas Trench, but we’ll still look at tendencies and see how it’s applicable to the receiving room this year.
Last year SF had the 30th worst percentage of 11 personnel (3WR, 1RB, 1TE), but ranked #2 and 3rd in 21 personnel (2 WR, 2RB, 1 TE) and 22 personnel (1WR, 2 RB, 2TE) and I think this can be chalked up to a few things: mainly Deebo being in and out of the season, acquiring CMC and attempting an easier system for a rookie QB. Surprisingly, by the end of the year, SF ranked 24th in RPO: it just wasn’t working due to the diminished air yards that went from 8.3 to 5.5. SF would pass below 55% on both 1st and 2nd down while throwing at a rate below the league average on 3rd down by 6%. I feel it is going to be the same story in HOU this year with a heavy reliance on the run game to acclimate Stroud to the speed of the NFL while avoiding an RPO-style offense as the box is more than likely going to be stacked again this year. I know this sounds contradictory but I believe the first 8 games of the season are going to be a much different story than the last 9.
In regards to the style of offense, SF is built for YAC and the average of 8.0 YPA will have to carry over for the style of offense being implemented here. SF’s style is game management, letting the QB not blow the game, and letting the skill position players be efficient. So we’re going to have to break down the WRs here and see if the Texans can do something similar with a heavy attack over the middle under 15 yards to let their pass-catching weapons chunk play down the field. So, let’s get to some of those weapons.
Right now the depth chart reads: Nico Collins, John Metchie, and Robert Woods as the leading 3 with rookies Hutchinson and Tank Dell following suit. The TEs are Dalton Schultz and Teegan Quitoriano.
Last year Nico Collins had 90% of his snaps come from being lined up out wide, which I feel is safe to say that is the type of role he fills in this offense this year as the boundary/deep threat guy ala Mike Williams/Tee Higgins but way way worse. I really don’t want to hold the last 2 years against Collins as everything we’ve talked about has not been good for this team, so I’m going to give him a pass and focus on the good here. While Collins only had 66 targets and 37 catches this past year, he did have a YPR of 13. He had #2 overall contested catch rate and #4th in true catch rate which is the total receptions divided by total catchable targets per PFF. Other than that the metrics are not great. Collins finished last year with 9ppg, which is not great, but with an increase in QB quality and better play calling I do think that number can increase to ~10.5. Now I’m not saying draft Collins or have high hopes, but the possibility of a flex play or fill-in at the free price of WR57 isn’t something I’m against with my FAAB in deep leagues or if one of my other flex guys go down. That said, you’ll fill up your roster before you have the chance to draft Collins in normal drafts.
Next up is John Metchie. I know Tony loved him in the 22 class but he was diagnosed with cancer and wasn’t able to play last year. I did end up falling in love watching my Bryce Young tape in our rookie draft guide. If you haven’t gotten it yet, hit us up.
In 2020 and 2021, Metchie saw a hybrid role of some 50/50 split between slot and lined up wide, but mostly he played lined up wide. I believe Metchie can play the intermediate role for this offense, as in 2021 he had 85% of his targets come below 19 yards, and honestly, I’m pretty hyped about this because I love me a PPR possession guy, Amon Ra St. Brown, anyone?
Metche had an 8.8 adot in 2021, while Stroud had an average depth of target of 10.35 in college, he was playing with 4 top 20 WRs, so I feel that Metchie and Stroud can combine here for a nice sweet little overlap correlation and be a very sneaky connection.
He’s in the same situation as Collins where he’s free, and honestly, even though he hasn’t played football in a year, this is his rookie year with a rookie QB who statistically is bad for WR, I’m excited for this connection going forward. If you’re a keeper, I’m talking my same Marvin Mims shit and take him late and see what you have next year.
I’m not going to talk about Robert Woods, he’s worth less than the other 2 in redraft. We’re too smart for that.
Now while I did have C.J. Stroud as my QB1 prior to the draft, I’m still a believer going forward but for redraft, it’s going to take an act of extreme bad luck if I’m rostering Stroud at QB26. If you’re in SF, go for it, but I’m good for right now. Sorry homie, I want to watch you succeed.
Here’s the juice of 2 dudes I may potentially have shares of at some point based on ADP/team structure:
Dalton Schultz, on the surface level, is probably the most appropriately priced guy on this team. Schultz finished the year as TE10 after failing to live up to the expectations of his 2021 season, as he did miss 2 games and played injured. Even in a “disappointing” season, Schultz saw the 6th most air yards, 7th most targets, and 7th most RZ targets which is the best you can get in my opinion within The Blob.
We see time and time again how SF abuses Kittle because he is that dawg. It’s pretty obvious that Houston is going to attempt to use Schultz in the Kittle role. While Kittle is more of an in-line TE than Schultz since he is a strong blocker, a homogenization of snap between in-line and slot is more than likely in the cards for Schultz while on the Texans. Both Kittle and Schultz had an ADOT of 8, so the initial comparison is right on the money. The main difference between Kittle and Schultz is their YAC ability. As we’ve mentioned before, that could potentially be a scheme thing from the Moore system, as Kittle doubled Schultz’s YAC in 2022. My guess is that they’re going to run him in similar routes to see if he’ll be able to bump his YAC from 3 to something around 4.5ish. Both were within 6 targets and 4 receptions of each other, but efficiency is where the difference is between TE10 and T3 (Kittle’s 11 TDs also helped a little bit), but those aren’t sticky stats. Schultz was targeted more in the red zone so we can see a nice hybridization of more RZ and WR-centric routes. Even with a more insulated impact of a rookie QB, the probability of a rookie QB producing a top 12 TE is only 16% so although most analytics point towards Schultz being a screaming buy at ADP, we do have to be a tad conservative based on previous data on rookie QBs.
Off the top, I can’t wait for Dameon Pierce to be on another team because he is much better than what his stats provide here and I’m going to point the finger at the offensive line and the type of box that he saw on a week-to-week basis. Pierce saw an average of 6.4 players on the box, and 10% of his runs had 8 or more players on the box. The man was being gobbled up at the line frequently as he had the 9th most stuffed runs last year. Even with this failure of the offensive line, Pierce created 718 yards according to PFF, which means that he generated 718 yards after the first evaded/broken tackle. So DAWG. While his YPA of 4.3 isn’t sexy, the 3.28 yards after contact per attempt is where the juice is. He did have 9 breakaway rushes, totaling 278 yards, so it’s not inflating his value too much but shows the potential of a nice little cushion of potential ceiling.
Pierce also had 36 targets last year as the offense couldn’t do shit, while I do think that number does stay pretty consistent, I wouldn’t rely on his pass-catching for fantasy. SF did have over 90 targets to the running back last year, so there may be something there, but that might be Devin Singletary’s role as he is the better pass catcher in this offense.
Now we can be generous and predict a progression of the offensive line this year, however, Houston faces the 9th hardest rushing defense schedule this year. I feel that will offset the expected progression. Pierce finished as RB27 last year and I feel that’s a similar finish this year with around 900 rushing yards and 25 receptions.
Devin Singletary was brought in this year and while his efficiency was better than Pierce last year, he did have a much better line and was still pretty mid, but did finish higher than Pierce because of the passing work he received while in Buffalo. I think he’s the rotational change of pace back, who will be getting the most receiving work in the RB room. Now, he’s basically free at RB49 so he’s a good best ball or handcuff on FAAB, but I’m not really leaving any drafts with Singletary right out the gate even though I do feel that he’s a better ROI of the running back room here as Singletary finished as RB23 last year.
In summation, God bless the souls of the Texans fans.
- I’m not touching any wide receiver but Metchie and that’s only in a keeper league in the 18th round
- I’m not drafting Stroud.
- Schultz is probably the best asset to have on this team at cost.
- Devin Singletary is the RB I’m taking from this team at cost.
Finally, a team that isn’t asking me to project a new system or a ton of new players! For Jacksonville, we can sink into what worked and what didn’t last year, and look at what this incredibly hype team looks like for fantasy and in real life. Cam Robinson, stud LT, will be suspended 4 games to start the season for PED use. The Jags also let RT Jawaan Taylor walk to go to KC in free agency. Jacksonville’s offensive line is much maligned, and they’ll be relying on a rookie, 1st round pick Anton Harrison, to man the RT spot. The line is a decent pass-blocking one, but their run-blocking was among the league’s worst. The line is ranked 26, 26, and 28 in the three places I tend to look.
Trevor Lawrence’s second year was a true breakout in almost every sense of the word. He went from QB29 to QB12 in FPPG, more than doubled his TD passes, and threw for almost 500 more yards than he did in his rookie season on 18 fewer attempts. Everything looks to be in place for TLaw to take his place among the Justins Herbert and Joes Burrow of the world. His accuracy was top 10, his passes per game were in the QB1 range, and he even did it with his legs when needed, as he rushed for 290 yards and 5TDs. He was a QB1 in 9 games, but the hope is that number goes up and he has more than one QB1 overall finish. He certainly has the weapons to succeed.
I’m in on that next step for a couple of reasons: Lawrence’s play got better as the year went on. After week 8’s game against Denver, Lawrence ended the week outside the top 12QBs 3 times. In that nine-week stretch, he threw 15TDs and had 2 INTs. He had 18 interceptable passes last year, which was the 24th most. He’s not making mistakes. His interception rate plummeted, and given his amount of attempts and ADOT, he went from being picked off constantly to like, Aaron Rodgers’s level of avoiding interceptions.
He also has room to grow: during that hot streak he threw for over 250 yards 4 times, but 5 times he was under that. If you want a 4200-yard season, 250 is about the average your QB needs to hit. Lawrence went off for 4113 last year, but more consistent production would elevate him even further. There’s no reason why with these weapons Lawrence can’t approach 4400-4500 yards this year, but that’s most likely his ceiling. If his ADOT grows even a tiny bit from the 7.8 (22 in the league), those numbers could end up closer to 4600. Per Warren Sharp: Lawrence was the only QB in the league last year with an ADOT over 7.5, 500 attempts, and less than 10 interceptions.
The key to Lawrence’s fantasy production in 2022 was 37 pass attempts in one game. When he was at or over 37 attempts, here are his fantasy finishes: 22, 3, 21, 7, 8, 5, 1, 5. That seems good, is that good?
There’s a lot to like about Trevor Lawrence this season, but I’m going to be real with you, a lot of it just seems like expected development that we already saw happen over the second half of last season. He already took the step, and by the end of this year, he could be mentioned in the same tier as Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert.
Travis Etienne put together a solid season (RB23 in FPPG) when you can acknowledge the fact that his run blocking was some of the worst in the league per PFF, and Etienne had what PlayerProfiler.com ranked as the 17th-best run block rate. Etienne ended up 8th in the league in rushing yards (1125), while being 13th in carries (220). Etienne is slowly being faded by the fantasy community because, let’s be serious, Etienne’s game is missing two important things: pass volume (45 targets-22nd in the league), and touchdowns (5). Wanna hear something nuts? Travis Etienne NEEDS the ball as a receiver more, since he was second in the league and one of only two running backs who averaged over 10 yards after the catch per reception. Touchdowns should increase as the Jacksonville offense seems poised to score at a higher rate than before. Last year, per Sharp, Jacksonville entered the red zone at the 9th highest rate and then had the 20th highest TD rate. An improvement here would boost Etienne’s stock dramatically. If he still holds onto that starting running back job, he should be really good. Travis Etienne’s fantasy finishes when he had at least a 70% snap share: 8, 7, 3, 25, 38, 48, 15. Guess what the difference was between those RB1 and RB4 weeks? A touchdown. 255 touches last year for Etienne was excellent, but this year he won’t spend the first three weeks getting out-touched by James Robinson (Etienne- 68 carries, Robinson- 81 carries). Instead, it makes sense for Etienne to be part of a larger stable, with Tank Bigsby and JaMycal Hasty. We saw it last year, and it was tough for fantasy, but here’s the thing: About 250-275 touches are probably on the high end of what you want for a dude like Etienne who relies on explosiveness to be successful. His comments about being happy that the Jags drafted Tank Bigsby should make that clear as day: he knows he’s a game-breaker, so maximize his effectiveness by using him at more opportune times than have him batter into the line on a bullshit inside zone on 1st and 10. If those 255 touches are the premium touches, I’d take that over a bunch of 1st downs and 10 power runs. Give me the upside touches. Travis Etienne is going to be a weird one this season, but I think he’s the type of guy who has some serious juice if his price gets any lower. He had 43 Red Zone rushes last year (13 inside the 5) to go with 6 targets, so if the blocking can do anything he’s due for positive TD regression.
If something happens to Travis Etienne, both Hasty and Tank Bigsby have tremendous upside, but Hasty is the more accomplished pass catcher. Tank has looked good early in the offseason process, but he’s poised to be a spell back for Etienne and looks to be good for about 5-7 rushes a game. He’s got the same role as Josh Kelley, Tyler Allgeier, and Ronald Jones. If you wanna spend a pick on him, have at it.
Okay, let’s try to do this. Calvin Ridley. Calvin Ridley was an MF DAWG his first 3 years in the league, from WR26 as a rookie to WR18, and then WR4 in 2020. He took a mental health break after week 7 and then got suspended for gambling. He’s been away from football since week 7 of 2021. Make no mistake about it, the expectation and opportunity for him to be the alpha in this room is on his plate. He needs to be the boundary guy that beats the other team’s top CB, and when we saw him two years ago, he could still do that. People buying at cost are the ones expecting no drop-off, which is a solid calculated risk to make, the question is going to be how early are you willing to make it? He’ll be on the field as the #1 WR or something is seriously wrong. Last we saw him, he was one of the most elite separators and route runners in the league. The promise this connection has should have you wanting to draft these guys just to be along for the ride, you know?
Christian Kirk was one of four elite slot WRs last year, along with ARSB, Chris Godwin, and CeeDee Lamb, and ended up WR18 in FPPG. He was tied for first in the league with 8 targets inside the 5, had 23 red zone targets, and had 11 total end zone targets as well. He was elite after the catch, turning an ADOT of 9.4 to yards per catch of 13.2. Yeah, that’s almost 4 more yards per catch. Christian Kirk’s contract last season broke people’s brains, but the Jaguars offense got their money’s worth. 15th in the NFL in targets is a great spot to be at for a slot-only WR who had only one year of elite production prior to cashing in with a huge payday. Based on his usage last year, his floor was 4 for 40, and his ceiling was 9 for 100. Christian Kirk is still a guy who’s going to get over 100 targets, even if Ridley cuts into some of his looks, which I don’t think will be a big problem. I fear TD regression, but going from 8 to 6 and losing 20 targets still makes him a very low-end WR2. If he keeps his grip on red zone targets it’s gonna be sweet.
Last year Kirk was 84/133 for 1108 and 8TDs. 244 fantasy points, WR14 in OVERALL FPTS
If we project a minor hit, down to 75/120 for 980 and 6TDs, that’s 209 points which last year would’ve been WR22. Not too shabby. Ridley could be the home run, but Kirk is all floor and I’m prioritizing running it back with him this season.
At the end of the day, we can do this the easy way or the hard way.
In 2022, Jacksonville’s target leaders were:
- Christian Kirk: 123 targets
- Zay Jones: 117 targets
- Evan Engram: 97 targets
- Marvin Jones (currently back with the Lions): 80 targets
We could guess and guess, but we could just remove Marvin Jones and put every receiver one slot down and Ridley at the top.
- Calvin Ridley: 123 targets
- Christian Kirk: 117 targets
- Evan Engram: 97 targets
- Zay Jones: 80 targets
Evan Engram returned to the promised land of being a top 7 TE in FPPG last year, after two years off. He turned 97 targets into 73/766/4. Engram, as the TE in the slot at the highest rate of anyone at the position last season, was the short, possession guy in the offense, something you’d usually assume from Kirk. However, look at their ADOT: Engram was 6.4 while Kirk was at 9.7. Engram had what I went into this assuming was a rollercoaster season of performances, but I was wrong: his explosion into top-tier fantasy relevance coincided directly with the ascension of Trevor Lawrence. The fantasy playoffs belonged to Engram, as he was TE 4, 1, 6, and 5 from weeks 13-16. Lawrence is accurate when he throws to Engram, he was 2nd in yards after the catch, and there’s no reason to assume that production falls off, unless due to injury (but he’s only missed 15 games in 6 seasons). Engram will once again be a top-8 TE, and will give you a win once or twice. If you miss out on Kelce, Andrews, Hockenson, or Kittle, I think Engram could be a return on value, which hey it’s not crazy upside, but I’d rather use a middle-round pick on Evan Engram and get top-9 tight end production than try to work the wire each week. Fuck that.