Snaps, targets, and opportunities (rushing attempts + targets) tell us a story. It’s up to us to decipher the meaning of that story. Anyone can just read data, and everyone has the same access to it, so we must interpret this data, add some context, and determine the meaning of the story told to us. Every week that will be my goal with this article, and I’ll try to highlight the most critical takeaways from the week. All data below is pulled from either @JordanBackes33 Destination Devy Utilization stats, Dave Wright’s (@FFSpaceman) 2023 Weekly NFL Database, Fantasydata, Pro-Football-Reference, Sleeper, PFF, DLF, Playerprofiler, or ESPN. Week 3 brought some insane stat lines, so this will be an enjoyable week to dive into.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Keenan Allen is running so hot right now. He managed a 43% target share this week, which is impressive. Even more impressive is that that was on 47 attempts, which means he saw 20 targets. That’s back-to-back weeks a receiver has seen 20 targets, making Puka Nacua’s 15 targets in Week 1 downright light.
Allen had a 25% share in Week 2 and 27% in Week 1. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s unlikely that Allen will put up many more 20 target weeks the rest of the season, but as long as he remains healthy, there’s no reason he can’t hit 30%, especially with Mike Williams being lost for the rest of the season.
I am not a Quentin Johnston believer, but with Williams gone, that opens up a runway for Johnston to take off. In theory, Allen won’t see all the targets, so logic dictates that someone else will see targets too. Josh Palmer has played on 40% more snaps than Johnston thus far, but he’s only managed to turn that into an 11% target share. Even this week, Palmer’s seven targets were just 14.6% of passes attempted. Targets are an earned stat, and while Johnston’s 6.8% target share through three games is pitiful, it’s not as if Palmer has been a target hog.
Palmer did produce in Williams’ absence last year, and if Johnston is legitimately bad (which is a distinct possibility), Palmer could be a sneaky play. I’m looking at this as a window to move off of Johnston, and I can re-roll him for a 2025 rookie first. I’d jump at the chance. I’d also settle for a second-round pick and any top 50 wide receiver.
I don’t get overly excited about consistency in fantasy football, but elite consistency is something to be applauded for. Only three receivers have seen at least ten or more targets in the first three games.
- Chris Olave (10,11,11)
- Justin Jefferson (12,13,12)
- Michael Pittman (11,12,11)
Of those receivers, just one sits outside the top 20 in KTC’s WR dynasty rankings, Michael Pittman. Pittman is likely one of the cheapest top 15 receivers you can acquire. He’s averaged 18 PPG and is the WR13; his 30.4% target share ranks tenth, and he ranks sixth in total targets and fifth in receptions.
Pittman isn’t the only receiver to keep an eye on for the Colts. Among rookie wide receivers, Josh Downs ranks:
- Third in snap rate
- Third in targets
- Third in target share
- Fourth in route participation rate
- Fifth in routes run
All the goodness above has “only” led to 9.1 PPG, seventh among rookies. Still, with that underlying usage, there is reason for optimism. Downs could also see some regression in yards per route run, where his 2.0 yards per route run ranks 12th among rookies, and in touchdowns (zero), which should help increase his scoring production.
Before the 2023 season, if Jerry Jeudy was on the field, it typically meant that Courtland Sutton would be useless for fantasy. Without Jeudy playing, Sutton is a solid WR2, but with Jeudy stealing targets, Sutton is a WR5.
Jeudy was inactive due to injury in Week 1, but Sutton has remained the preferred target in two weeks since Jeudy’s return. Sutton has garnered a 30.4% target share compared to Jeudy’s 25.7% share. If you’re chalking this up to Jeudy still getting his feet under him, it should be noted that in Week 3, his snap share increased over 7% from 68.2% in his first week to 75.8% on Sunday.
Let’s hit some quick tight end points.
- If you’re looking for a reason to believe in Kyle Pitts. His route participation (90.7%) ranks first among tight ends, and his 20% target share ranks eighth. I have no other good news to report.
- Hunter Henry may be the TE4 (PPG), but I don’t expect that to last. Though his raw reception totals look great, he is sixth among tight ends with 13; he’s middling too bad in peripheral stats. Henry’s 14.6% target share ranks 17th, and he’s 20th in targets per route run, seeing a target on 17% of his routes run. New England averages over ten passing attempts per game this year (41.7) compared to 2022 and 2021, and 14 attempts more per game compared to the 2020 season. Water finds its level, and as the pass attempts normalize, the raw volume sustaining Henry will run out.
Josh Jacobs has had a poor start to the 2023 season. Jacobs sat out the pre-season and waited until before the season to sign his franchise tag, so a slow start should have been expected. I’m here to soothe your restless mind. Jacobs’ lowest snap share this season came in Week 2 when he played on 72.5% of offensive snaps; no other Raider back has played more than 16.7% of snaps. Jacobs’ has hit an 88% opportunity share (running back rushing attempts + targets) in Week 1 and Week 3 while controlling “just” 65.2% in Week 2; no other Raider back has more than a 17.2% opportunity share in any week thus far. The production hasn’t been there yet, with 11.1 fantasy points Sunday, a season-high, but if the usage remains, Jacobs will produce.
The return of Kenneth Gainwell to the Eagles’ active roster was sure to impact D’Andre Swift’s usage. Swift saw his snap share fall from 75.3% to 53.8% from Week 2 to Week 3, and his opportunity share fell from 77.5% to 52.9%, even after it looked like Swift would run away with the workload in the first few drives.
Swift did match Gainwell in targets with two and had two rushing attempts within the ten-yard line, compared to one for Gainwell. At least for now, it seems Swift remains the leader in high-leverage touches. In practical terms, Swift barely edged Gainwell in opportunities, 18 to 16, but was vastly more efficient with his touches. Swift had 8.1 yards per carry (YPC) Monday and is averaging 6.8 YPC on the season; Gainwelll averaged 3.1 YPC Monday night and averages 3.5 on the season. Another efficiency metric is Rushing EPA, and Swift dominates with an EPA of 16.5 on the season compared to Gainwell’s -0.7. No other Eagle running back saw a snap, let alone a touch last night. Boston Scott was inactive recovering from a concussion, but it’s still illuminating that the Eagles decided to go with a two-man rotation Monday night. If Swift were to go down, I’d expect Gainwell to see most of the workload and produce less efficiently than Swift. If Gainwell were to miss any more time, Swift would be a locked-in RB1.
The Jets backfield has turned into a nightmare scenario. Breece Hall has Dalvin Cook and Michael Carter eating into his snap and opportunity shares. It was a 50/50 split between Hall and the Hydra on Sunday, and the seasonal splits are no better if you roster Hall. I’m not a fan of selling low, but considering how bad the Jets’ offense is, if I can move Hall for a 2024 rookie first and any RB on a 53, I might do so.
The bell cow running back may be a thing of the past, but it’s having a moment to start the 2023 season. In 2022, seven running backs had a 70% or higher opportunity share, and just two crested 80%. In 2023, ten backs with a 70% or higher share, and five are sitting over the 80% mark. Injury and regression will surely lower these numbers, and most immediately, two of the top four running backs in opportunity share have pending causes for concern.
Zack Moss is first in the league with an 88.7% opportunity share. After a 100% share in Week 2, that “fell” to 82.5% on Sunday. Elevated from the practice squad before the game, Trey Sermon found seven opportunities and could be further worked into the offense. Of far greater concern is the pending return of Jon Taylor to the offense, who is eligible to return in Week 5.
Alexander Mattison is fourth with an 82.4% opportunity share, and while he had a nice game Sunday, he was brutal the two weeks prior. Mattison averaged 3.2 YPC and had a big run rate (runs ten yards or more) through the first two weeks, though he balled out Sunday to the tune of 4.1 YPC and exploded for one big run (15 yards)! Mattison is legitimately bad, and he will now have the added competition of Cam Akers, who is also bad but still an impediment to volume, to deal with now.
While Najee Harris is still the leader in snap shares for the Pittsburgh running backs, he’s failed to do anything with the starter role, and he’s averaging just seven more snaps (32) per game than Jaylen Warren (25). Harris has seen 41 opportunities compared to 33 for Warren, but Warren holds the lead in targets 16 to six over Harris, and we all know that targets are more valuable than rushing attempts in fantasy football. Without targets, zero goal-line attempts, and a rushing EPA of -6.4, it’s hard to see how things will turn around for Harris this year.
Thank you, as always, for reading! If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to let me know. You can follow me on Twitter/X @ShaneIsTheWorst.