Fantasy Football: 3 Things We Learned In Week 7
Perhaps more than anything, fantasy football is a game of adjustments. Season-long fantasy doesn't end at the draft, and smart managers learn to take the trends and data that each week of games offers and apply it to their roster decisions moving forward.
This weekly piece will look at trends from the previous slate of games and determine which trends in snaps, usage, and matchups are actionable moving forward. Let's dive in and look at some interesting pieces of information from Week 7.
Kyle Pitts Is Atlanta's WR1
When Kyle Pitts finally broke out across the pond in the London game in Week 5 with 10 targets, 119 yards and a score, many were cautiously optimistic. Pitts had not grabbed more than 73 receiving yards and had nary a touchdown to that point. Was that game a product of Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage missing the game? Was it just an outlier?
Two weeks later, it's becoming clear -- Pitts is the new number one option in Atlanta.
The first way we know this is in the snap rate. From this perspective, attendance is part of the grade, and Pitts leads all Atlanta Falcons' skill players in snap rate (73%) on the season. But he also needs the usage when he is on the field, and his volume has been elite the last three games.
Among all wide receivers and tight ends who played in at least three games over the last four weeks, Pitts ranks 14th overall with 9.0 targets per game. That's second only to Travis Kelce among tight ends. Pitts' 33 routes on Sunday tied Ridley for the team lead, and while Ridley still has the lead over Pitts in overall target share, air yards tells a better story about how each is being used.
Here is each players air yards share in recent games, starting with Week 2:
|Player||Week 2||W3 AY Share||W4 AY Share||W5 AY Share||W7 AY Share|
Look at the trend for Pitts. It has been a very quick ascent since Week 2, culminating in almost 42% of the team's air yards on Sunday. That share was the eighth-highest among all pass-catchers in Week 7. Ridley was third on his own team at 19%.
We don't know what the personal problems were that held Ridley out of the Week 5 game in London, but his performance on Sunday left a lot to be desired. If Ridley has any issues that prevent him from overtaking the WR1 role on this team, we could be looking at Pitts as the overall TE1 the rest of the way.
D'Andre Swift Is Monopolizing Snaps
The collective gasp you heard in the fantasy football community at the end of Week 3 was from the realization that the Detroit Lions decided that they would play D'Andre Swift on 55% of the snaps and play Jamaal Williams on 49%. You could hear the masses screaming "This is not what I paid for in drafts!" And they would have been right. By Week 15 of 2020, Swift was playing on 65% of snaps. In Week 16, it was up to 68%. We expected Swift to be a workhorse.
But after Dan Campbell and crew experimented with the split-back approach, their personnel on the field since then has made it clear that they plan to utilize Swift as a bell-cow. Here is the Detroit running back snap share in recent weeks.
|Player||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5||Week 6||Week 7||Average
There was a sudden and profound shift beginning in Week 4, and it has led to some of these spike weeks we have seen in recent outings, including 144 total yards and a touchdown against a formidable Los Angeles Rams defense.
The other benefit to this shift has been Swift's dominant usage in the passing game. In Week 7, Swift saw 10 targets to Williams' zero. In the past four weeks, Swift has 29 targets while Williams has four. The Lions often find themselves in losing situations or in a hurry-up offense, so Swift's near-monopoly of targets is a big deal.
Swift's value in both redraft and dynasty formats has shot through the roof in recent weeks. He is now in elite company -- only six running backs have played at least six games and are on the field for at least 70% of snaps on the season. Barring injury, this is a top-six back the rest of the year, and he will be a first-rounder in 2022 drafts.
Cincinnati's Offense Just Might Be Able to Support C.J. Uzomah
With four big-time weapons on offense in Joe Mixon, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, it was a common belief that C.J. Uzomah would be the Cincinnati Bengals' fifth wheel; a fantasy afterthought in 2021. But after 217 yards and five touchdowns in his last four games, Uzomah has inserted himself into the fantasy conversation considering the wasteland that is the tight end position.
Can Joe Burrow and the Bengals really support the fantasy production of five offensive weapons?
The answer is yes and no.
If you look at the Bengals' overall percentage of pass plays on the season, it looks uninspiring. They have thrown 55.3% of the time, which ranks only 24th in the league. However, their last three games have been at 57%, and in their game against the Baltimore Ravens (which they won by 24 points), it shot up to almost 62%. Similarly, on the season, the Bengals attempt 30 passes per game, but it has been more than 35 attempts in their last three. The Bengals also situationally have increased their passing game in a significant way.
#Bengals situation-neutral pass rate (+/- 7 pts, 1st 3 qtrs)
Weeks 1-3: 55% (24th)
Weeks 4-7: 68% (1st)
— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) October 25, 2021
But as their overall passing game expands, the target tree is actually being trimmed.
The Bengals threw to a running back one time in Week 7, and only twice in seven games has Burrow targeted running backs more than five times. It is an element of their game that they have essentially removed as they funnel the targets down the field. This deviation away from the short passing game also has dropped Boyd's value in the trash. Boyd has just 15 targets in his last three games for a 14.7% target share. In that same timeframe, Higgins is at 27.5%, and Chase checks in at 25.5%.
Since the emergence of Chase and Uzomah, the Bengals have jumped up to second in the league in yards per completion (12.5), just fractions of a yard behind the Rams. This was on full display Sunday when Uzomah (who has an average depth of target this year of 5.6 yards) was at an astounding 16.67-yard average depth of target (second only to Kyle Pitts).
The Bengals are passing more, but the increased volume is being funneled down the field, which is leaving Mixon and Boyd out of the circle of trust. It does benefit Uzomah, who looks to now be an integral part of a suddenly elite passing game.