Fantasy Football Usage Rates & Stats to Know for Week 2

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We made it! Week 1 of the 2022 fantasy football season is in the books. Hopefully, you were able to withstand victories but, if not, there’s always next week.

This year, my weekly column is going to look a bit different. As the title implies, I’ll be focusing on seven statistics that I think are important for start/sit, trade, and waiver decisions. There will certainly be some overlap with last year’s column – The Math Behind The Matchups – but this will allow for some more flexibility.

Without further ado, let’s get into it. All data, unless otherwise specified, is from nflfastR.

One Hit Wonders

Last year I wrote an article that presents a sobering picture of Week 1 wonders. Consider players drafted in the 8th round or later that had a surprisingly nice start to the season (12+ points in Week 1). They only outperform their low ADP over the rest of the season – not including Week 1 – 58% of the time, not much higher than a pure 50/50 split.

That means you probably should not be expecting the fireworks to continue for Dontrell Hilliard, Devin Duvernay, and O.J. Howard (more on these three later). Most likely, we will get to the end of the season without hearing much more from these players. It happens every year: in 2021, Christian Kirk scored twice against the Titans in Week 1, only to find the end zone three more times total. Interestingly, he had a nice Week 1 performance again, and again I have trouble believing in the season-long sustainability.

Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. There are certainly players that surprised us for the better that we should be paying attention to. James Robinson, Michael Thomas, and Gerald Everett all ‘shocked the world’, but there are indications that their performance could more or less continue. These players have demonstrated high-level talent in the past, and have well-defined paths to solid volume going forward. It’s more about avoiding the players who came out of absolutely nowhere, or trading them away if you can.

Usage Red Flags

Jason mentioned on a recent podcast that low usage in Week 1 can be a bad sign for players moving forward. For a deeper dive, you can read more about this type of red flag in my recent article. Put simply, the red flags were everywhere to start the 2022 season. Probably the most notable example is Cam Akers with 3 carries in the opener on Thursday; it’s difficult to see him with a path back to fantasy relevance.

One important ‘usage zone’ is the 5-12 carry range in Week 1. Last year, Zeke was the only player in this range to post 1000 (rushing) yards or 10 (rushing) TDs in the full season. This year, Zeke made the list again, as well as Alvin Kamara, although it’s tougher to bet against these elite RB talents (Kamara and Dalvin Cook have both had great seasons after lackluster Week 1 performances). More notable are players like Rashaad Penny, Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, A.J. Dillon, and Aaron Jones. The signs don’t look good for any of these players to get bell-cow workloads and truly prolific rushing stats.

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Usage Green Lights

Fortunately, the opposite does hold true: players with 20+ carries in Week 1 average 944 yards and almost seven TDs for the season. This year, those players are Jonathan Taylor, Joe Mixon, Nick Chubb, Cordarrelle Patterson, Derrick Henry, Leonard Fournette, and Dalvin Cook. Henry and Cook didn’t have huge fantasy performances and are great trade targets if managers are panicking. Joe Mixon is my absolute favorite trade target, something we’ll get to later on.

Underachievers

To clarify, this section highlights players that scored fewer points than expected, conditional on some usage variables. Specifically, I build a model for fantasy points using targets, air yards, and defensive prowess, and then look at the players who scored much less than what the model predicted. Here are the Top 10 underachievers from Week 1:

CeeDee Lamb saw a whopping 11 targets, but only converted it into two catches for 29 yards. Unfortunately, with Dak Prescott out for 6-8 weeks, it’s hard to target CeeDee in any trades in the hopes of positive regression. We all remember how tough a time the Cowboys had moving the ball the last time Dak was out.

No, the interesting names to me on this list are Kyle Pitts and Tyler Higbee. I was low on Pitts at his ADP during draft season, but if a manager is panicking after two catches for 19 yards, he could be a very interesting trade target. Seven targets in Week 1 – about 0.5 targets more than his per game average last year, in a mostly negative game script – emphasizes more volume to come. Tyler Higbee is another notable case: Matt Stafford threw the ball his way eleven times. It’s possible that Allen Robinson becomes more involved, and the Los Angeles Rams aren’t playing from behind so much, but Higbee is flying under the radar thanks to the unremarkable final stat line (5 catches, 39 yards).

Overachievers

The other side of the coin are players who scored much more than we would expect given their usage:

Justin Jefferson turned 11 targets into an insane 184 yards and two TDs. That doesn’t mean that you should trade him in the anticipation this efficiency will fall, it just means he’s awesome. If you drafted him, congrats.

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I do expect regression for Dontrell Hilliard (4 targets, 61 yards, and two scores), O.J. Howard (2 targets, two scores) and Devin Duvernay (4 targets, 4 catches, two touchdowns), as mentioned above. Unfortunately, the same goes for Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who turned three targets into 32 yards and two scores. I’m doing my best to trade him away, especially after Isiah Pacheco got some touchdown momentum in garbage time.

Hidden Data

So much crucial fantasy football data consists of what didn’t happen, or even what almost happened. A metric I liked to look at last year was ‘Almost Scored’ for RBs and WRs, or the number of different drives where a player was tackled inside the 5 yard line and didn’t go on to score on that drive. In Week 1, Joe Mixon had this happen to him three times. Combine this with his monster usage (27 carries, 9 targets) and he is an amazing trade target. You’ll have to give up a lot – Mixon still had a solid game, after all, and was most often a first-round pick – but signs point to him being an elite fantasy producer yet again.

Another fun stat is the number of fantasy points wiped out by a DPI (defensive pass interference) call. I use the model described above to estimate how many points each of these plays would have resulted in. Not too much to note here, other than the fact that Courtland Sutton‘s mildly disappointing start would have been nearly 5 points better if not for this quirk of fantasy scoring.

The Injury Bug?

One of the really surprising results I found recently is that injuries tend to cluster. That is, if a player gets injured, his teammates are more likely to get injured that season. It’s a really strange result, and I have no idea why it’s true, but it’s something to monitor for teams that have already had some unfortunate injury results. The Dallas Cowboys are the first example that comes to mind, followed by the San Francisco 49ers.

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Comments

SlothWalker says:

great news

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