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!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dave Canelis is the new OC in Tampa Bay, replacing Byron Leftwich. The old Tom Brady style of offense is dead in Tampa Bay. We can look at free agent and draft cap to see what they want to do, and it’s to play a more traditional West Coast-style offense predicated on the run. One of the biggest under-the-radar signings this year is Patrick Laird, who will immediately step in and play fullback. I love Cody Mauch as a signing to play right guard, and if Ryan Jensen returns to form, this line can be decent.
No matter how the system looks, one thing we know is they will not be asking Baker Mayfield to win them games (or “Bake” as the kids call it). Despite playing in two different offensive schemes last year, Baker never had a single game where his yards per attempt was over 8.7. He’s done it before, as recently as 2021, so not all hope is lost for Mike Evans, but I believe his low ADOT lends itself to more of a ball control, run, and slot WR combination. Baker was formerly a deep ball thrower but hasn’t thrown over 14% of his passes beyond 20 or more yards down the field since 2020. As his career has gone on, his splits have shown a clear developing desire for Mayfield to put his passes between 0-9 yards, as that has gone up every year at the cost of the other two levels of the field.
PFF has this offensive line ranked right in the middle going into next year, with three new starters, but there will be some early regression as Tom Brady’s NFL-leading shortest time from snap to release will cause at least a little difficulty. FTN fantasy has Tampa Bay’s OL listed as the 3rd worst going into next year, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens and who is closer to the truth. Sharp also has them at 29, so maybe PFF is seeing something everyone else isn’t.
The last time Baker Mayfield finished as a QB1 in a week was week 5 of 2021. He threw multiple TDs in a game twice last season, rushed for under 100 yards on the season, and will not be a starting asset in 2023 imo. The team knows it and loaded up at O-Line, RB, and TE. This should telegraph exactly what this team’s offensive scheme will look like next year, and for me, Baker is not someone I want as more than a backup QB in Superflex, just in case.
I listed Rachaad White as a dynasty buy a few weeks ago, and I stand by that. Lenny played all but one game last year, and in that one game, we saw White’s ceiling, with 14 carries and 9 targets, all of which were caught. Even in a timeshare last year, we saw White eke out 7 carries a game, but let’s be serious: White looked bad as a runner last year (their offensive line was worst in the NFL), and looked great as a pass catcher (which will go down as the offense will attempt less passes). He had a strong 3rd quarter of the season, finishing as either an RB1 or RB2 4 out of 5 weeks straight, so we’ve seen him be successful, even with a minuscule 39.3% snap share on the season. When that number goes up to 50-60%, I’m betting that his production continues to climb. I don’t think Rachaad White will end up a top 12 or even a top 15 RB this season, but the production is there and the workload might increase, and when that happens I don’t think it would be insane to expect him to end up closer to RB19 by the time all is said and done. If the offense can get to the Red Zone enough, White can be a sneaky sneaky player. I fully expect Chase Edmonds to steal some of the receiving work, but the hope is the bulk of the carries go to Rachaad and he is productive with them. I think he’s going to get priced accurately, so I’m not going to predict a huge return on value, but I do believe he is a weekly RB2 start who is a TD or two away from winning you a couple of weeks this season. All aboard the White train… kinda?
The big question is going to be what happens with the 75+ targets and 525 receiving yards that went to Fournette. I think that number just goes down with the system change, some of it will go to Godwin or Edmonds, but I think a good amount goes to White, boosting his fantasy viability.
I love Sean Tucker and I don’t love Chase Edmonds. I think Tucker has utility as a backup for White, given he makes the team, and I think Edmonds gets decent work as a spell and 3rd down back early on in the season. As this team starts to get stinkier during the middle to end of the season, I won’t be surprised to see Tucker picking up more of those reps as they try to find out if he’s a rotational guy at the next level.
The WR room is the biggest downgrade with the shift from Brady to Baker, but you already knew that. The question is, how much of a downgrade do these receivers get for fantasy? Let’s start with Mike Evans, who has finished outside of the top20 in FPPG just once in his 9 seasons, regardless of QB or system. Here’s the problem with those projections- these are spots that I think we can all agree Evans goes down in, and his ranking in them last year:
- Targets: 128 (17th)
- Air Yards: 1717 (7th)
- Deep Targets: 31 (3rd)
- Routes Run: 578 (6th)
Despite finishing WR13 in FPPG last year, Evans only finished as a WR1 3 times, which is as many times as he finished in WR50 territory, and as many times as he finished in the WR30 bracket. Evans is the ultimate boom/bust guy, and with a lowered fantasy ceiling brought on by Baker Mayfield, I think he can still give you three weeks as a WR1, but many many more of those WR30-50 weeks. Baker still has a decent deep ball, something that’s always been a part of his game, but it’s something he’s done less and less as the years go on. Evans performed well in the short game last year, catching 41 of 52 targets between 0-9 yards from the LOS, but only picking up 314 yards on those targets without a score scares the shit out of me. Evans is a WR3 with boom week potential, but those days of the boom games being for 48 PPR points are over. I’m not drafting him with the expectation of him being more than a flex play.
Mike Evans taking a step back with Baker is obvious, but the real key here is wondering how this affects Chris Godwin, priced incredibly similar to Evans at the moment in redraft. Smart minds are already calling him a value at summer ADPs, so where are we at? Are they correct? Check this fun stat out (Chris Godwin fantasy finish in FPPG):
- 2022: 15
- 2021: 7
- 2020: 15
- 2019: 2
Is this a WR1 year for Chris Godwin? Well, what do the numbers say? His targets will most likely go down from 142, but his ADOT of 5.6 yards seems to be a huge benefit. Last year the reason I was in on Amon-Ra St. Brown was his ADOT synced up to that of Jared Goff, and I see a similar alignment this year (8.7 for Baker). I think the difference between the two is going to be simple: touchdowns and offensive ceiling. Amon-Ra’s year two blowup still coincides with a Lions offense that consistently put points on the board, while Tampa’s outlook is… not great. Godwin was 18th in the league in Red Zone targets, and you’d have to expect that to regress this year. However, you’d also have to expect Godwin to have positive TD regression, since 3 last year should not be sticky given that 3 TDs on 142 targets is ludicrous. Something that also gives me hope for Godwin is his 487 yards after the catch, which was 6th in the league. If Baker is playing ball control, his ability to make guys miss underneath after the catch should not be discounted. If the screen game continues, which it should, Godwin wins there constantly. He went 32/34 for 193/1 on screens, and Geno Smith (playing under Dave Canelis last year in Seattle) had 84 passes charted as behind the line. Gone will be the days of double-digit targets for Godwin (he had 8 of those in the regular season), but he can be extremely productive with 8/9 targets a game as a chain mover. If Evans gets the occasional deep ball and gives Godwin space to work underneath, a 90-100 catch season is reasonable for God Chriswin. If his ADOT goes up from 5.6 to around 7-8 to accommodate Baker’s strengths, and he continues to be a top 10 performer in ADOT (less likely), Chris Godwin has major potential at cost.
Cade Otton isn’t even in the blob at the moment, which is why his situation is worth monitoring. You can’t sleep on a guy who had 16 red zone targets last year and is the defacto TE1 on a small ball, ball control offense, who excels in the same short area that the QB and primary WR target are going to be operating in consistently. He can do a ton with 4 to 5 targets a game and did have 4 TE1 finishes last year. Can I just say that again real quick:
- Cade Otton had 4 TE1 finishes in 2022
- Mike Evans had 3 WR1 finishes in 2022
Cade Otton is not someone I’m drafting, but if I need a spot start, you can do worse. Baker threw less to David Njoku than other Browns QBs, but he threw to Tyler Higbee more than Matt Stafford did. It could be a preference for in-line TEs over slot TEs, and the hope is Otton runs more from the line than his sub-par 40% last year. I’m not pulling the trigger on Otton, but as I said, as a cheap DFS play or bye week fill-in, you could do worse.
The ATL brings up a sort of weird feeling from everyone you talk to in the fantasy sphere. They’re kind of gross even if they have 3 great offensive players we all want Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Jesus Christ Himself Bijan Robinson.
As usual, our guy (and podcast guest) Hunter (congrats on kid number two), said something that stuck with me: “The Falcons were way more competitive last year than they had any right to be. We’ve also never seen Arthur Smith with a good QB. I’d be interested to see if he’s genuinely committed to running all the time or if he’s just maximizing the potential of his personnel.” Like always, the Goose is right.
We all know the story of Arthur Smith, he’s a poor man’s Pete Carroll: a man who wants to do nothing but pound that MF rock! I’m not going to get cute like I did the last two weeks because I even burned myself out from the dork stat shit, so I’ll try and keep that to a minimum on theory and give it to you straight going forward.
Last year the Falcons had the 2nd lowest pass attempts per game right ahead of Da Bears with 24.4. They had the 2nd most rush attempts last year per game with 32.9 and 2nd most rushing yards per game with 159.9, so it’s pretty apparent that they are going to continue this trend even with the “new” QB in Desmond Ridder. According to PFF, the Falcons had the 5th best offensive line last year, with the 3rd longest time in the pocket to throw the ball and being the 3rd best team when it came to being pressured (18% of their plays) and having a middle-of-the-road sack rate. So it just proves that Marcus Mariota wasn’t just bad in 2022, he was impossibly terrible and Arthur Smith deserves his flowers for winning 7 games last year.
Last year ATL lined up in the play action of 40% when Mariota was at the helm and 37% while Desmond Ridder was under center. The amount of designed run percentage plays plummeted when Ridder took over, so it’s looking like we’re going to see what I talked about in episode 85.5 as a rushing QB (40-80 attempts) with Ridder next year.
While Ridder only played 4 games last year, the sample size is smaller, but his completion percentage was slightly better than Mariota’s (64% to 61%) with a lower yard per attempt by 0.8 yards and 6 fantasy points per game, but that’s not really something I’m worried about right now as they were playing for nothing and Ridder was just in there to do his best and as a non-mobile QB, I’m not too put off by those numbers in 4 games.
Now with the NFL draft, Arthur Smith played himself out of a top-end QB unless they traded up or went what we know now as the wild card choice of Will Levis, so as of right now Ridder is the starting QB for ATL.
If we combine Mariota and Ridder’s pass attempts to an expected range of 415, and give Ridder a generous 40 fewer rush attempts than Mariotta, we can expect him to pass Around 450-475 times in 2023. This puts him in the realm of Davis Mills, Daniel Jones 12 game Matt Ryan, 100 designed run play Jalen Hurts and 14 game Mac Jones in expected pass attempts per game, which if we’re lucky will crack 3000 yards. Right off the bat REAL STINKY. That’s not even roster-able to me in regards to potential fantasy points right out of the gate.
4for4 has Ridder ranked as QB30 at around the 17th round LMAO. There’s no way you’re even entertaining the premise of drafting Desmond Ridder in fantasy, even in Superflex he’s your QB3 if you punted the position.
After looking at these stats, I am a little concerned about the passing component of this team with the amount of projected volume we have here. Granted Tannehill did have over 3500 yards in 2 seasons, one with Arthur Smith, but I’m going to chalk that up to AJ Brown being a YAC Gawd and boosting those numbers.
Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you I know what type of receiver Drake London is after one season in the NFL with Mariota throwing him the ball, but it looks to me from the data that he can beat man coverage and struggles against zone. I’m not really sure if that’s his play style as a contested-catch guy, which isn’t really exciting to me for a low-passing volume team, where he won’t rack up extra yardage on each play. London was ranked 35th in yards after the catch but was 11th in yards per route run with 2.4, which makes sense when you think about it. Low volume and bigger plays yield a higher average. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and spout off a bunch of sneaky positives we didn’t see through the data. As of right now, it’s the prospect of target share and a hypothetical improvement of the QB position because no one can be as bad as Mariota was last year. London had a 79% catchable target rate, an average depth of target of 10.7, 7.4 yards per target with a 31% success rate in contested catches. If we project using the 4 games with Ridder, London might see up to 150 targets, but when you factor in the yards per target, London may have 1,100 yards next season. Granted I hope his actual catchable targets go up because that’s not great from an efficiency standpoint. Now I think those will improve, but practically the jump will not be severe and we need to temper the expectations for Drake London in fantasy this year and for the foreseeable future until his situation changes unfortunately. His projected ceiling for me is a WR2 with potential boom weeks, but his ADP of middle to late 3rd round is something I will not participate in. I’ll gladly be proven wrong. Sure the targets looked good last year when Ridder entered the fray, but those were because he was literally the only target worthwhile on that team while Kyle Pitts was out with a torn MCL.
With such a low passing volume and potential quality, I’m not even going to entertain the idea to any one of you that the likes of Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, or Slade Bolden are worth even a consideration in any format outside of where you’re trying to score the least amount of points possible.
Tight Ends, and By That, I Mean Kyle Pitts
Before I get doom and gloom with you on stats again on how bad Marriota was for Kyle Pitts, I will say the bright side is his injury is on average of a 3-month recovery time, so Pitts should be locked and loaded to be healthy for the ‘23 season.
There’s a tale of 2 different worlds with 2021 and 2022 Kyle Pitts. 2021 saw Pitts with over 1000 yards and 110 targets with a yards per reception of 15.1. Even though Pitts only played 10 games, he had 28 receptions for 356 yards, with 12.7 yards per reception.
Pitts had a 59% catchable target rate, and almost half of his targets were uncatchable. The other downside was his usage of Arthur Smith. Pitts had 108 slot snaps and 172 routes ran in 10 games, that’s 76% of the time he was on the field he was running routes. That is unacceptable to me, he’s a receiver, he should never be blocking on any play ever. Hopefully, the Falcons shoring up lineman depth will help Arthur Smith pull his head out of his ass and realize he has no other options here.
Okay, bright side! Pitts had a 27% target share (#2), 34% target rate (highest at the position), #5 in air yards in 10 games, #1 in air yard share, #2 in ADOT, #1 in deep targets, #1 in unrealized air yards (541), 4.4 yards on average cushion from the defender; opponents were letting him cook knowing that Mariota couldn’t hit the broad sign of the barn if his life depended on it.
I’m more positive on Pitts than I was before this exercise and after looking at his ADP of mid 5th round, TE5, I think Pitts is being appropriately priced for where he could finish the year compared to where he’s being drafted. He’s the dude before the blob hits and the tiers start to get really ugly in drafts, right between Burks and Mike Evans.
Jonnu Smith is blocking, and that’s it. Otherwise, I’m going to visit Arthur Smith’s place of work.
Now onto the juice, the running portion of the falcons. I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again. Arthur Smith had his cream dream in the draft, getting our lord and savior Bijan Robinson. I do respect the Falcons for just drafting for fantasy the last 3 years with how bad their teams are with Pitts, London, and Bijan all in the top 10.
As I mentioned earlier, ATL pounds the rock. 32.9 per game pounds the rock with 159 rushing yards per game, with 55.29% of their plays being running so we know what we’re getting into here, but what we need to decipher is what we think the workload will be between Bijan, Tyler Allgeier and CPat.
Last year we saw a pretty even split between Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson after CPat’s ascension in 2021. Allgeier was 17th in carries and 15th in red zone touches, racking up over 1000 yards. We know how Allgeier plays, he runs angrily, and all of his efficiency marks such as yards per touch, juke rate, evaded tackle, and breakaway runs all averaged around 14th overall. Even though he had such great peripheral numbers he still finished as RB29, again due to the passing volume. Allgeier only had 16 receptions last year. Granted it’s not his forte, that’s CPat’s, and Mariota didn’t check the ball down but even CPat’s receiving volume was diminished to only 21 receptions in 22, more than half of what he experienced with Matt Ryan.
Both Allgier and CPat combined for 18 targets with Ridder at the helm in 4 games which is much better than what Mariota was putting up on average. If we average that out, that’s an expected passing rate to the running back of around 75 targets, which I think is money if we’re factoring a pass-catching expert of Bijan Robinson entering the fray. Now I don’t want to say that CPat is dust, but he’s dust. Sorry king, you had your moments in the sun, but now is the time to let the young blood take over.
We all know about Bijan, so I’m not going to spend any time here touting his skill set.
Now I’m definitely not on the side that Allgeier is dust, but his value has taken a diminished hit as Bijan does everything he does but better, but he will still be a rotational piece with probably a snap share of ~30%. If you add up Allgeier, CPat, and Tyler Huntley, and an estimated removal of Mariota’s running, that leaves around 460 rushing attempts for the Falcons next year. If we project 70% of the target share for Bijan, that gives him the golden bell-cow number of 320 touches. Granted that’s just a rough shot estimate but if we’re throwing in a larger percentage of those pass attempts to Bijan as well, I think it’s wheels up with NOS. ATL had a 44.7% rushing touchdown percentage, so the red zone threat is there, and depending on how that division shakes out ATL could take it with Bijan leading the Falcons to the playoffs as a rookie.
RIght now 4for4 has Bijan as RB3, and I think that’s pretty fair at an ADP of 9th overall like I said a week or so after the draft, There’s going to be a world where Bijan is rightfully going top 5 in drafts come peak draft season.
Allgeier has crumbled down the ADP charts, which I feel is unwarranted, at least to where he’s fallen. He’s RB48 in the middle of the 12th and for the best handcuff in fantasy, I’d take him in the 10th over the likes of Penny, Damien Harris, or Skyy Moore. Sure his upside is capped, but like I said he’s not dead, it’s just going to be hard to predict him to be a guy who puts up 1000 yards and just doesn’t get sent to the shadow realm right away. If you have the bench space, let him sit and see what happens.
In summation, it’s Bijan all day where I think he has a very strong probability to finish as the RB1 this year and is a good return of investment as the 9th pick in the draft. Allgeier is a deep bench play and the best handcuff to have this year. London is a big ol fade from me, Pitts seems decently priced and I don’t hate taking him based on team structure and a big ol fat lol at drafting Ridder this year.
New Orleans Saints
The weird thing about the Saints, Pete Carmichael has been the offensive coordinator for New Orleans since 2009 but is installing a new offense. Luckily, they called in a major racist and noted failure, Jon Gruden to come in and help install the new system to benefit Derrick Carr. It’ll be a West Coast-type system with most likely a continued deep ball element to benefit the WRs who are the true talent in this offense.
Derek Carr played poorly enough to get benched at the end of last season, and based on all of his stats, it’s easy to see why. Even with Davante Adams playing great, Carr still ended up QB19 last season. Is Carr just toast? Here are his fantasy finishes in PPG, starting with last season: 19,16,20,23,29,20,13,17,27. How is it that a guy who attempted the 11th most passes end up that much further behind the rest of the QB2s? Well, throwing 29 interceptable passes and having 14 of them picked off is bad. He loves the deep ball, throwing it at the 5th highest rate in the league, but he’s incredibly inaccurate downfield, ranking 28th in deep ball completion percentage.
In order for Carr to be successful, he has to be kept clean: I know that asking QBs to be consistently good at throwing while under pressure is a lot, but when it happens, Carr is one of the worst graded-out QBs in the NFL. Poor line play makes the deep ball tougher to hit, which is bad news for the best players in this offense (see below). If the Saints line stays healthy, things can work well. Last year’s first-round offensive lineman Trevor Penning had an injury before the season and only played 124 snaps. Even with shit production, the Saints line allowed fewer hurries for Dalton than Vegas did for Carr. Multiple sources have them as a bottom-10 offensive line unit, but if they can all stay healthy, the QB will benefit.
Carr’s Air Yards Per Attempt was one of the highest in the league last year, and was absolutely the highest of any QB we called a consistent starter, at 9.4. His catchable pass rate was 32nd in the league, right around Geno Smith and Brock Purdy. What’s the difference between these three guys? Well, Smith and Purdy have outstanding skill position players and Carr had Adams and nobody else.
I think the play calling in New Orleans will be more beneficial as it’s geared towards what Carr does best, as seen by noted racist Jon Gruden. However, in the 4 years Gruden coached Carr, he was QB 29,23,20,16, and those 16 were from the year when Chucky got canned halfway through the season. I think there is something there, since Carr threw for more yards each season they had together, but his ceiling is really realistically a mid QB2. He had 4 top-10 finishes last year, but never higher than QB6. Every year he has one or two games that make you say: “Have we just never seen Derek Carr play his best?” and I’m here to tell you, friends, that we have. Week 13 of 2020 was his last QB1 finish in a week, and that was partially due to a game-winning Hail Mary on the last play of the game that helped the Jets secure Zach Wilson in the next year’s draft. Hallelujah.
Good god the Saints were bad running on the inside and the right side of their line, with the interior, left averaging 3.3 YPC, between the right guard and tackle averaging 3.7, and running between the Right Tackle and TE getting a mortifying 2.8 YPC. Interestingly, a lot of the lack of rushing production has potentially been caused by injuries to WRs over the last few years. Per Sharp, the Saints WR room has been a top 5 unit in games lost to injury over the past two seasons. As a result, the Saints have shifted to use more 21 personnel instead of 11, which loads the box for the RBs (Kamara has taken it the worst, he was 27th in the NFL last season in percentage of runs with 3WRs on the field).
However, this doesn’t dismiss the awful run blocking of the Saints: 26th in run blocking PFF grades, and 20th in ESPN’s run block win rate. With the unit not technically seeing any turnover at the starting spots, the hope might just be that the pass game takes a leap forward and the run game benefits as a result of lighter defensive boxes. The biggest change on this line is consistency: the Saints starting unit all missed significant time last year due to injury, and the hope is health is what fixes it all. Trevor Penning, who only started the last game of his rookie season last year due to injury, is expected to replace James Hurst at tackle, while pass blocking is not something he did well last year, it’s still early for him and he’s a hell of a run blocker. The three sources I use have them ranked at 23, 20, and 24.
Don’t draft, view, or talk about Jamaal Williams like he’s going to repeat what he did last year. We know his record-smashing season was a statistical outlier, but I’m not sure how much we really give credit to how much of an outlier it was. Just for context, Jamaal Williams had 46 carries inside the 10, 34 of which were inside the 5. Joe Mixon had the second most carries inside the 10, with 28. So, basically, Jamaal Williams had 6 more carries inside the 5 than anyone in the league had inside the 10. So, why am I still okay with rostering Jamaal Williams? Well, Alvin Kamara’s potential suspension wouldn’t seem to interfere with what Williams does best, which is run through the interior and pick up tough yards. Kamara’s workload last year showed an RB about to hit the dreaded production cliff, and I think if they want to keep him fresh, Williams and rookie Kendre Miller will do most of the inside work and let Kamara get more of a breather. However, if the Saints keep doing what they do and run into loaded boxes (more on that below with Kamara), Williams will struggle too: he’s not a guy who can consistently get positive EPA, explosive runs, or YPC in these situations, last year he was in the 30s in all those rankings.
Williams also managed a 1000-yard rushing season, to go with his 17 TDs. Last year was also his first time with more than 250 carries in a season. There’s no chance he comes in and has the 7th most carries in the league again, so his ceiling is going to be capped, but if you believe he can be the 1A in this backfield (I do), you can get him later on. As the fantasy community starts to embrace hero/zero RB strategies in drafts this year, I think Jamaal Williams is a perfect guy in that RB2 tier with a strong floor and the ability to have 300 touches this year.
Alvin Kamara’s light suspension has pushed him back up draft boards late this summer. As I said, you shouldn’t be shocked with any result, since his RB13 finish last year was his lowest since he got into the league, after 5 previous top-10 finishes, 4 of which were top-5 finishes. He had as many rushing yards, but 5 fewer touchdowns and actually played 2 more games than in 2021, when he ended RB4. He led the league with an 80% snap share last year, but there’s no way that keeps up. Kamara only had 4 TDs last year, and 3 of them came in week 8. He didn’t score again until 7 weeks later. Look, Alvin Kamara is cheap right now, but he carries significant risk. At his current price, he’s someone I’d take. If the WR room and play calling allow for him to run against softer defensive boxes, he could be a steal: in the last 2 seasons (per Sharp), Kamara has run against light boxes 14% of the time, one of the lowest percentages in the league. When he runs against heavy fronts, he is 41/42 in EPA per rush, 38th in success rate, 32nd in yards per carry, and 36th in explosive run rate. Please get Alvin Kamara in space.
Kendre Miller had a real clear path to fantasy and IRL relevancy earlier in the summer: if you’re buying the hype, you’re buying that Kamara is either over the cliff or will be ineffective when returning from suspension, or that Miller has sufficient pop and the coaches choose to give him work alongside Williams. Gruden’s Vegas offenses featured about a 2/3rd split between RB1 and RB2, and there will be about 110 targets available for backs out of the backfield if the system switches over. This hurts Kamara, who feasted not only as a checkdown RB, but a guy who had schemed pass touches in large amounts when he was wrecking the league. The point is, if Kamara misses time, we can pretty much lock both Williams and Miller into a good amount of looks. Williams is the more accomplished receiver since Kendre only had 29 receptions in 33 career college games.
Miller is going to be a featured back at some point at the NFL level, but after suffering a knee injury in the CFB playoffs, missed all of the rookie minicamps and is already hurt again. I worry about the first few weeks of a dude who missed his first couple of weeks. One of the things that really helped Miller in college was the fact that his rushing lanes were blown wide the fuck open, and for a dude going to a team with a subpar offensive line, those aren’t going to be there. Per Warren Sharp: Kendre Miller ran into a loaded defensive box in college 25% of the time, and the Saints asked their RBs to charge into one on over 81% of their offensive snaps last year. Uh oh. Shane and I both noted him as a guy who runs to contact, and that’s not going to help either. Idk I’m getting Trey Sermon vibes on him, anyone else? I was wrong about Dameon Pierce last year, so I’m not putting money down on Miller not returning on value, but he’s not a redraft piece I care about at all.
Chris Olave’s ADOT of 14 yards is higher than a lot of the deep threats in the league and is closer to that of Gabe Davis than that of Tyreek Hill (12.2) or A.J. Brown (12.1). He was tied for 4th in the NFL in deep targets. Derrick Carr was brought in to help Chris Olave continue to thrive as one of the best deep threats in the league: he was 8th in the league in air yards, 9th in ADOT, and 4th in deep targets. For a guy with 72 catches and over a thousand yards on the season, the only downside is his lack of TD production (4). Having the 5th most unrealized air yards in the NFL will also do that to you (845, holy shit). Still, ending up as WR25 in FPPG as a rookie with Andy Dalton slinging the rock is pretty impressive, and most people in fantasy are hoping the next season finds Olave strapping a fuckin rocket to his back and becoming a top 12 performer.
If Gruden and Carmichael put together an offense that looks anything similar to what we’ve seen before in Vegas and New Orleans, we can expect Olave to get a boost of another 20-30 targets this year. The primary target in those offenses has always hovered around 140-150 targets. If Olave gets those 20-30, there’s a good chance he can make that leap from WR25 to WR15. Carr was 8th in the league in catchable deep throws last year with 41, 17 more than Dalton’s 24. Olave set rookie records per 300 routes run in yards per route run, and the only WRs to have better rookie years in that metric were OBJ, AJB, Ja’Marr Chase, and Justin Jefferson (per Sharp). Olave’s dominator rating was 33rd in the league last year with 22.8%, whereas Davonte had the league’s second-highest dominator last season with 43% of his team’s pass game production. If Chris Olave gets 43% of his team’s pass-game production, he’s going nuclear. If he gets it up to 30% he’s a top 15 guy locked in. He was above average on every route on the tree, per Reception Perception. He beat man, zone, and press at rates that are simply elite for a rookie, and had a Stefon Diggs level of production in his rookie year.
Rashid Shaheed’s catch rate of 82.3% is best for WRs with 30 or more targets last year, with a 12.2 ADOT. This seems real good, is this good? QBs throwing to Shaheed had the second-highest QB rating in the league last year. Shaheed averaged 4 targets over his last seven games, with 23 catches, and he ended the year with a robust 17.4 yards per catch. I love Rashid Shaheed, and the acquisition of Carr should benefit him in the same way it benefits Olave, in the deeper parts of the field. Shaheed was one of the most efficient downfield WRs last year on limited looks, as he caught 10/11 targets thrown his way more than 10 yards down the field. New Orleans could have a lot of deep threats next year, but Shaheed is someone I’m cautiously optimistic about, depending on the health of Michael Thomas. Thomas and Shaheed are both outside guys like Olave, and if Thomas is out for whatever reason I’ll gladly stash Shaheed on a bench somewhere. If MT plays, Rashid isn’t near worth drafting, which sucks. I want Shaheed while he’s cheap in Dynasty, and I’ll be monitoring Thomas as we get closer to draft season.
Here are some things that have happened since Michael Thomas’ last full season and overall WR1 finish:
- COVID-19 happened
- Joe Brandon steals the Presidency
- Andrew Callaghan becomes popular, Andrew Callaghan canceled
- I got divorced
Good ol’ Cant Guard Mike, who has played 10 of the team’s last 50 games, might be back, but we say this every fucking year, dude. The sad truth is this: when Michael Thomas is in, he’s great. Shit, in his 3 games last year he had 16 catches for 171 yards and 3 TDs! On the plus side, his dislocated toe that cost him 14 games last year isn’t an ankle, which cost him 24 games over two years (7 in one season, and then all of 2021 since he waited until late to start his rehab). If Michael Thomas plays this year, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be involved. Hilariously, Chris Olave, who killed it last year, performed better in games with MT, getting 2 more targets and 25 more yards a game when both played.
I feel like Taysom Hill and I would not get along in real life, but I do have to quietly appreciate him as an agent of chaos for fantasy sports. Dude was TE13 in FPPG last season and had only 9 catches for 77 yards and 2 TDs. Obviously, his value came as a runner, (96/575/7), 13/19 passing for 240 and 2TDs, but his role in the new offense is uncertain. Did the Saints pay Carr to go off the field for Taysom Hill power rushes? Does the gadget player still get a chance? I think he does, and while I think he’s going to return back to a player you can’t start in fantasy, I’ve been wrong about this before. He’s not going to throw 100 passes again, he’s not going to catch 30 passes, but he’s always right there just waiting to fucking annoy you.
Juwan Johnson led this team with 7 receiving TDs on 61 targets, and I also think if Michael Thomas sits out he has plenty to gain as the main slot attraction on the roster. He was 7th in the league for TEs in slot snaps, and among the highest in air yards, ADOT, and dominator rating. I feel like his ceiling is going to be sapped a tiny bit because for some reason, the Saints just can’t quit Taysom Hill, but Johnson is a good, starting-caliber TE who will win you weeks. Even with Hill, Johnson had 5 weeks where he was a top 10TE last season. If I absolutely punt on TE, I don’t mind rostering Johnson, who I think will return on value since he’s essentially free.
There’s a whole lot different in Carolina this year and I don’t really want to talk about last year at all since essentially the whole fantasy-relevant side of the team is brand new. The one thing I will say about the 2022 Panthers is that if you try hard enough, you too can fail all the way to the top like Matt Rhule. Anyways, we’ll start with the coaching staff. The new head coach is Frank Reich, the new OC is Thomas Brown who used to be the assistant head coach of the Rams, and the defensive coordinator is Ejiro Evero, who was the Broncos defensive coordinator. We all know Frank Reich, but last year he was the fall guy for the tank job done by vitamin freak and lover of Sarah Palin’s feet, Jim Irsay.
I took a dive into the tendencies of Reich during his tenure in SD, PHI and IND to find out what we can project for the type of scheme the Panthers are going to run. Within his tenure across 3 teams as an OC and Head Coach he’s only ever coached a team into a top 10 offensive attempt ranking in the following years:
- SD: 2015: 2nd in pass attempts
- PHI 2016: 10th in rushing attempts,6th in pass attempts
- PHI 2017: 6th in rushing attempts
- IND: 2018: 2nd in pass attempts
- IND 2019: 5th in rush attempts
- IND 2020: 10th in rush attempts
- IND 2021: 5th in rush attempts
- IND 2022: 9th in rush attempts
Outside of that, he’s averaged 22.5 rank in rushing attempts and 19.6 in passing attempts so not great. Historically Frank Reich Offenses have the following breakdowns in regards to target percentage:
Reich has primarily coached veteran QBs, the last time he worked with a rookie was Carson Wentz, who he helped evolve from a run-of-the-mill QB to MVP caliber in a season so there is historical evidence of him being able to scheme an offense to have a successful nonveteran QB. I will say I think Reich is a good coach but not a great one even if he’s a Super Bowl winner but I blame that more on inconsistency rather than actual talent. I’d rather fly to the sun to taste glory and then crash and burn rather than be mid my entire life.
I’m going to look at him primarily as the way the team is going to be run as last year’s Rams were uhhhh pretty bad outside of like 6 weeks of Cooper Kupp.
Last year the Panthers shed a lot of notable fantasy names including Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and the king, D’onta Foreman. As this is a Bears-adjacent content grist mill we all are aware of the trade and prior to draft day, where it was pretty much known from day 1 that Bryce Young was 1.01, the Panthers added veterans Adam Theilen, Hayden Hurst, Miles Sanders, and DJ Chark. They also brought in Andy Dalton as back up as well as a veteran to help young get up to speed in the NFL.
Now, they did have to give up a lot of capital to get Young so their draft was a little thin, but they Drafted Young at 1.01, Jonathan Mingo 39th overall, a linebacker, guard, and a safety with their total of 5 picks.
I did say that I wasn’t going to talk about the previous year but we’ll have a small blurb here on the offensive line as the Panthers did pad the position to give Bryce a little bit more protection as well, as Ickey Ekwonu did rank 3rd in pressure rate in the last 3 years of rookies so he’s an elite talent which bodes well.
Per Warren Sharp, the Panthers’ offensive line ranks 11th in the NFL, which is great considering how the main knock against Bryce is that he’s going to get turned into dust based on his size, but that might be an overexaggerated narrative even though the promo pics of him make him look tiny for an NFL player.
We’re going to start with the star himself. 1st overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, Bryce Young.
If you want our in-depth analysis please go read our rookie guide. The short of it is, Bryce is very good, he’s just small and lacks a cannon of an arm. Bryce also possesses the ability to run a la Russel Wilson, who is his obvious comp. Based on his college metrics he is a better prospect than both Kyler and Russ, both of whom came in with similar size “concerns” and have been successful in the league.
Over the last 2 years, we saw Bryce scramble for almost 600 yards. Now while he is comfortable doing that and can excel climbing the pocket and throwing on the move, I wouldn’t expect 300 yards right out the gate from him as I feel the Panthers organization is telling Frank Reich right out the gate DO NOT GET OUR FRANCHISE QB KILLED. So designed runs, RPO, and prolonged plays are probably out the window. I will estimate that it’s going to be short passes to catch the receivers in stride and use his 10.5 yards per attempt to facilitate a more YAC-centric offense to take pressure off of Bryce as he acclimates to the speed of the NFL.
This also probably leans more to a heavier run game when they are in neutral or positive game scripts to protect Bryce and utilize their newest acquisition of Miles Sanders.
Now while Bryce did miss 2 games last year, his regular season attempts(college is 13 games) his average was 390 attempts, which is around 30 attempts per game. Frank Reich offenses have averaged 33 attempts per game and I feel that is a pretty easy number for Bryce to hit. If we put Bryce at an average between those two values with his yards per attempt and a league average of 64% accuracy, that puts him around 3,655 yards next year give or take. Honestly, that is kind of nice for a rookie on a team that didn’t put him in a position to die like Houston did with Stroud. I think a conservative estimate of 3,500 yards and 200 rushing yards is the ceiling for Bryce in his rookie year. Now he will struggle out the gate because they have a pretty tough schedule to start until their bye week, so Bryce will probably start out slow but have a hot streak. Now I do think there will be potential boom weeks where he has a scramble and gets you some yardage, he’s a QB2 with his projections around Derek Carr for yards and a little bit more rushing upside. Carr finished as QB17 last year. Now these are ceiling projections of a rookie QB, so we’ll have to be a little bit apprehensive and understand he won’t set the world on fire right away.
Right now the receiving room in Carolina is made up of Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, Terrace Marshall, Jonathan Mingo, and LaViska Shenault. For me, the only person you are drafting in any round before 15 is Adam Thielen so he will be the main guy we talk about in this receiving room.
We know who he is, and we know he’ll have a hamstring strain at some point but if we can get 12 weeks of production, I think Thielen is going to be a perfect post-round-eight pickup.
Now last year was kind of a smoke screen as his designated routes were just him doing cardio to free up Justin Jefferson, but Thielen does thrive in the intermediate and soft spots within the zone. He won’t run 600 routes like he did last year but we’ll see a better efficiency as Thielen will play the intermediate to short routes to help Bryce get small chunk plays and get him into temp.
With the dead arm of Matt Ryan, the Colts ranked 1st in intermediate passing while Reich was there. The Rams also ranked 3rd, 9th, and 11th while OC Thomas Brown was in LA. Outside of a shortened season in 2019, Thielen has never had fewer than 90 targets, and even as a 32-year-old WR, I think this is a perfect range for Theilen’s outcome this year. Now he did finish as WR 34 last year, which isn’t great but if you’re getting a WR3/Flex post-round 9, we are winning leagues that way with floor.
Jonathan Mingo is fun, even if we didn’t know about him until the draft, but helmet scouting and our tape scream AJ Brown even though that’s not the wise thing to do. He’s another big ass YAC monster and he’ll play the similar style as Thielen in the short to intermediate areas, but instead of going down after the catch, we can anticipate a scheme that will attempt to get 10-yard chunks on catching in stride or in designated screens. He’s free in drafts, I have him everywhere in dynasty and I’m excited to see if he can crack that mystical rookie threshold number. That WR room is his for the taking, especially being pick 39 overall. Mingo ran out wide 75% of the time at Ole Miss with a 13.3 ADOT and 6.1 YAC so I’m pumped.
See what you have post-round 12 for a late-year break out or a potential keeper
Hayden Hurst? I can’t think of anyone more forgettable at the TE position than Hayden Hurst. He does his job and he goes home, but outside of that, he’s never really done anything outstanding. His career high in targets was 85 in 2020, followed by 65 last year in Cincy. Now if we are going to simply project based on my Reich stats and estimated attempts, that would put 7 targets to Hurst per game, which is in a vacuum, but when you say that sentence out loud it sounds absolutely insane. Now I will say, he’s another guy who is going to be in the intermediate region to catch passes but he’s the 4th target at best behind Thielen, Mingo, and Sanders, probably in that order. Maybe 3-4 targets a game if we are lucky.
Miles Sanders, who has been a “sleeper” in the 5th round since he signed to the panthers is pretty hyped right now. I get it, no competition as Chuba Hubbard and Blackshear are no one to be concerned about. I get it. Projected touch volume based on previous Frank Reich offenses, and projected touch volume based on a rookie QB, but I think we need to temper expectations with Sanders of what his projected ceiling is. On the number 3 rushing team last year, Sanders put up the 5th most rushing yards and 9th most rushing TDs behind the number 1 rated offensive line and powerhouse of an offense, Sanders still finished as an RB2 as RB15 because of his 20 catches.
Those situations will change this year. Granted he won’t come tumbling down, but it will be a regression based on the situation. Going from 1st graded offensive line to 11th graded is a huge leap backward. He’s said he’s wanted to catch more passes, Reich has stated that they’re going to get him more active in the passing game, and they should as he’s pretty much the only guy who can do it even when Reich does break up into a committee. The biggest upside of being on the Panthers this year is that Sanders will no longer have his red zone opportunities nuked by Jalen Hurts. There will be projected volume based on his position on that team to be the weight barer in neutral and positive game script.
Last year was Sanders’ career year as well. Over his career, Sanders has averaged 13 rush attempts per game and with that value, we can at around 220 attempts for the year. If we want to bump it up to a middle ground of the expected “bell cow” of 14.5 attempts a game, that’s 247 attempts. This would once again put him in the top 10 of attempts in the league, which is great. Now I do think his efficiency will regress this year due to the lower-graded offensive line and having a top-fifteen rush def schedule, so while we won’t see 1200 yards again, I think we’ll see around 950 conservatively.
Now the real question is how does the passing work come into play, as this is the make or break of at-cost ROI or a league winner.
Before Jalen Hurts came into the fray as THE guy in Philly, Sanders did get targets: he actually averaged 4.4 targets per game his rookie year and it’s been on a slow decline ever since due to a mobile QB and the impact that has on the passing game.
Sanders’ career average, including last year, is 3 targets a game, roughly 54 targets on the year, but I think we can bump that number up to 4.5 targets a game which puts him at around 77 targets for the year which is the same target tier as Aaron Jones, McKinnon, Josh Jacobs and Saquon.
So Sanders is either going to break you even or break your league in the 5th round, even on a lower-scoring offense. I think projecting him to be an RB2 floor with RB1 week upside is something I would place my bet on this year if we can see the passing volume increase slightly above his career average.
- I’m excited for Bryce long term, but fade in 1QB leagues, perfect QB2 opportunity based on team construction.
- Theilen is a buy at cost.
- Mingo is free, so why not?
- Draft Miles Sanders at cost, he’s got league winning potential with an increase in the passing game.