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NFL preseason Week 1 fantasy football utilization news and notes

August 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Cardinals' Rondale Moore (85) breaks a tackle from Cowboys' Jourdan Lewis (26) after a reception during the first quarter at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Patrick Breen-The Republic Nfl Preseason Cardinals Vs Cowboys

Fantasy performance occurs at the intersection of efficiency and opportunity. While most fantasy players can recite empty efficiency stats such as yards per carry and yards per reception by memory, some don't have a real grasp on opportunity. That is where utilization comes into play. We can better understand a player's role in the offense by analyzing the drivers behind snap counts based on different game situations and coaching tendencies.

We specifically want to know if running backs are on the field for early downs, passing downs and short yardage. Each of those opportunities provides a different amount of value depending on the scoring format. With wide receivers and tight ends, we want to know how often they are in a route versus the number of team passing plays. Snaps don't matter as much; in fact, they can be misleading for tight ends, which may be blocking and have little opportunity to score fantasy points.

More of PFF's 2021 Fantasy Football tools here: 
Fantasy Football Draft Kit | Rankings & Tiers | Draft Guide | Cheat Sheets
Projections | Strength of Schedule | Expected Points Weekly Finishes

It is essential to understand which players come off of the field in different personnel groupings. For example, a third wide receiver on a team that uses 11 personnel (three wide receivers) on only 50% of neutral-script plays (within three points excluding plays in the last two minutes of each half) will be game-script dependent.

Below I have broken down notable utilization observations using PFF's proprietary database for the first week of the 2021 NFL preseason. Each week of the preseason will provide another data point for us to consider as we fine-tune fantasy rankings and tiers for upcoming drafts.

Data notes and acronyms:
 
LDD = long down and distance (third and fourth down with over seven yards to go)
SDD = short down and distance (second, third and fourth down with two or fewer yards to go)
aDOT = average depth of target

Arizona Cardinals

Did not play: Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and James Conner (COVID-19 close contact)

Notes:

  • Rookie wide receiver Rondale Moore played 20 of 22 snaps with the starters, including 13 from the slot position. Kliff Kingsbury manufactured touches for him in the screen game and on the ground. He finished the game with four targets, three receptions for 23 yards and two rushing attempts for 16 yards.

  • Christian Kirk played outside and left the field when the Cardinals went to 12 personnel groupings while Moore remained. Kirk's last snap of the game was just before the team's first usage of 12, so he could have just been finished, leaving with the offensive linemen.
  • Jonathan Ward mixed in early with Chase Edmonds and was the next man up rather than Eno Benjamin.

Takeaways:

  • Moore has an opportunity to be the second-most utilized passing option on the Cardinals if he handles perimeter work in addition to slot snaps. That would put him squarely in WR3 territory with upside. Target him in the pick 100 to 120 range in your draft as a priority sleeper.

Buffalo Bills

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