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2021 Fantasy Football Season Recap: How to leverage PFF routes run in NFL free agency and wild-card weekend DFS

Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown scores a touchdown during the first half of the Lions' 37-30 win over the Packers on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, at Ford Field.

Opportunity is king in fantasy football, and chasing target volume has always been a winning strategy — especially in PPR leagues. PFF premium stats offers proprietary data that goes well beyond the box score, including routes run for every player on the depth chart. 


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Targeting players who run a high percentage of routes is a good strategy for identifying breakout candidates, beatable player props, DFS targets and players to prioritize in the 2022 fantasy football rankings

This report will look at recent rates of routes run per dropback compared to larger samples to find sleeper running backs, wide receivers and tight ends who are garnering more or less opportunities in the passing game heading into the playoffs/next season. 

Injuries are piling up to players like Darrel Williams, Cyril Grayson, James Conner and Jonathan Ward heading into the NFL playoffs, opening the door for other players to step up. 

Players leaving in 2022 free agency, like Allen Robinson II, Mike Williams and Michael Gallup, will also create space for ancillary pieces to take on bigger roles in 2022. 

WIDE RECEIVERS

Rate of routes run per dropback | Week 18
Player Routes run % of routes run per dropback
Marvin Jones Jr. 39 100%
Diontae Johnson 45 98%
Cooper Kupp 37 97%
Brandon Aiyuk 36 97%
Nelson Agholor 34 97%
CeeDee Lamb 29 97%
Tyler Lockett 28 97%
D.K. Metcalf 28 97%
Darnell Mooney 56 97%
Donovan Peoples-Jones 26 96%
Gabriel Davis 51 96%
Chase Claypool 44 96%
Jalen Reagor 41 95%
Laquon Treadwell 37 95%
A.J. Green 50 94%
Stefon Diggs 50 94%
Christian Kirk 50 94%
Jaylen Waddle 28 93%
K.J. Osborn 26 93%
Justin Jefferson 26 93%
Michael Pittman Jr. 38 93%
Jarvis Landry 25 93%
Odell Beckham Jr. 35 92%
Deebo Samuel 34 92%
Keenan Allen 66 92%
A.J. Brown 32 91%
Zay Jones 42 91%
Marquise Brown 40 91%
Rashod Bateman 40 91%
Amon-Ra St. Brown 30 91%
Amari Cooper 27 90%
Mike Thomas 31 89%
Zach Pascal 36 88%
Tyler Johnson 35 88%
Russell Gage 34 87%
Mecole Hardman 47 87%
Cedrick Wilson 26 87%
Mike Evans 34 85%
Josh Reynolds 28 85%

Cedrick Wilson has been an absolute monster filling in for Michael Gallup, commanding at least five targets in each of his last six starts. He capped off his stellar 2021 season by going for 119 yards and two touchdowns in Week 18.

Wilson’s high-end play is sure to make him a factor in DFS playoffs and in real-life roster construction for the Dallas Cowboys. The San Francisco 49ers rank 29th in passer rating and 25th in catches allowed to slot WRs this season. 

Both he and Gallup are free agents next season, making it unlikely both return to Big D.

Without Emmanuel Sanders in Week 18, Gabriel Davis ran a route on 96% of Josh Allen‘s dropbacks, commanded 13 targets and ran more routes than Stefon Diggs for the second straight week. 

However, Davis finished with just three catches for 39 yards, as only eight of his 13 targets were deemed catchable. He was also credited with three drops. Woof. 

Mistakes aside, the second-year wide receiver is a surefire bet to a breakout in his third season with Sanders a 2022 impending free agent. It will be interesting to see if Buffalo opts to use Davis over Sanders in the playoffs against the New England Patriots even if the veteran is healthy.

Amon-Ra St. Brown will not be denied. The Day 3 rookie silenced the haters in Week 18 by continuing his scorching streak of fantasy production since Week 13.

St. Brown commanded a 31% target share en route to eight catches for 109 yards plus a touchdown. The first-year WR has a 33% target share in his past six games — 11 per game. 


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Fantasy Football Week 18 Recap: Immediate takeaways & analysis for every game via Nathan Jahnke


Doubters will point to ASB’s lack of competition as the rationale behind his production, and there is a semblance of truth to that. His target share wouldn’t be as high if T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift were playing at full speed. 

The fact he is delivering so consistently as a rookie makes him look like a future star. Let’s also not overlook the fact that St. Brown had a stretch of games earlier in the season when he led the team with a 22% target share (Weeks 4-6) with Hockenson and Swift healthy. 

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