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Fantasy Football Utilization Report: Latest player trends for NFC, AFC championship DFS and player props bets

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney (19) returns a punt during the first half against the Denver Broncos at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's note: This year, PFF collaborated with Matthew Berry's Fantasy Life to bring readers the NFL Fantasy Football Utilization Report.

Volume is king in fantasy football, and this report will help you understand which players are due more or less according to their roles. It is a great way to know who is overperforming (sell high) and underperforming (buy low) based on historical data tied to metrics we know drive volume.

  • Overall offense: Which teams are enabling winning volume and efficiency across game scripts
  • Quarterbacks: How involved is each quarterback in the running game and who is unlocking upside for their weapons
  • Running backs: Which backs are handling early downs, short-yardage and passing downs
  • Tight ends: Who is running enough routes and meeting critical targets per route thresholds
  • Receivers: Which receivers are in the most routes and operating broadly within the offense

Get access to the full Utilization Report, all the data tables, and team-by-team analysis by subscribing to PFF+

Divisional Round Takeaways

Upgrades

WR DEVONTA SMITH, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Smith pulled even with A.J. Brown in target share (28%) after garnering 43% of the targets last weekend. He secured six of 10 targets for 61 yards and a TD in a game in which the Eagles didn’t need to throw much.

Week Routes TPRR Targets ADOT Air Yards EZ Tgts 3rd/4th Down Targets PA Targets PPR
16 98% 29% 36% 13.3 42% 67% 40% 17% 31.3
17 97% 35% 41% 8.0 36% 0% 45% 8% 20.5
18 100% 19% 27% 3.6 12% 50% 29% 13% 13.7
DIV 100% 38% 43% 8.0 52% 50% 71% 10% 18.1
YTD 97% 23% 28% 9.8 31% 33% 35% 17% 15.3

The former first-rounder averages 20.9 points per game over the last four outings. Smith hasn’t let playing opposite a high-end WR1 keep him from demanding elite-level targets, which bodes extremely well for his long-term outlook.

  • Smith is a low-end WR1 with high-end WR1 upside.
WR KADARIUS TONEY, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Travis Kelce posted a massive 35.8 fantasy points on the back of an astounding 17 targets (50%). Despite still being limited in route participation (30%), Toney had the second-most targets at six.

The second-year WR demonstrated an elite ability to demand targets as a rookie on limited routes, and that trend has continued in Year 2 with an elite 26% TPRR. Target rates on limited route participation can be tricky, especially when players see a large portion of their targets come on screens and trick or gadget plays around the line of scrimmage.

While Toney benefits from those looks, he has a 22% TPRR over the last two seasons on non-screen/trick play routes. Additionally, he has a 23% TPRR against man coverage, where 92 of 99 routes have been non-gadget plays. Our sample size is small, but the data suggests Toney is more than a gadget player.

Deebo Samuel has made a living off low-ADOT targets as a yards-after-catch threat. Like Samuel, Toney can contribute to the run game. While he doesn’t have the same lower body build as Samuel, the shifty playmaker has eight carries for 96 yards and a TD.

The biggest red flag for the former first-rounder is that he couldn’t carve out a larger role despite the Chiefs’ lack of target-earners behind Kelce. Typically, coaches want their best playmakers on the field and for Justin Watson to take reps ahead of Toney is troubling. However, if that is the case, Toney still has time to correct those issues, and his ceiling is a WR1 if everything clicks into place.

One thing is for certain: Toney is a polarizing player where opinions typically fall to one side or the other.

  • For now, Toney is a boom-bust WR3 with WR2 upside.
TE HAYDEN HURST, CINCINNATI BENGALS

Hurst has seen 17 targets over the last three contests. Ja’Marr Chase has led the team in each of those games, but the rest of the targets have been distributed fairly evenly across Hurst, Tee Higgins (17), and Tyler Boyd (12).

Week Routes TPRR Targets ADOT Air Yards EZ Tgts 3rd/4th Down Targets PA Targets PPR
18 74% 15% 13% 0.0 0% 0% 20% 20% 5.4
28 79% 18% 19% 5.0 15% 0% 22% 0% 8.5
29 67% 23% 19% 7.8 18% 50% 40% 0% 16.9
YTD 58% 17% 12% 5.5 9% 9% 16% 14% 8.7

With Higgins struggling to take a step forward over the second half of the season, the tertiary Bengals options have added appeal.

  • Hurst has a low-end TE1 profile

Downgrades

RB CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

McCaffrey continues to register sub-50% rush-share outings when Elijah Mitchell is active. CMC averages only 34% of attempts in six games with Mitchell versus 58% in contests without.

Week Snaps Rush Att Routes Targets TPRR SDD Snaps i5 Att LDD Snaps 2MIN Snaps PPR
10 65% 34% 73% 21% 23% 58% 50% 100% 0% 17.7
11 66% 25% 93% 25% 26% 50% 0% 100% 0% 17.6
12 63% 35% 69% 17% 23% 57% 0% 92% 22% 8.9
18 48% 29% 59% 16% 19% 29% 50% 55% 100% 16.9
WC 74% 48% 82% 7% 7% 71% 33% 100% 100% 21.6
DIV 67% 31% 79% 32% 30% 80% 100% 100% 100% 17.7

The stud RB has averaged 25.8 points in San Francisco during games without Mitchell, but that drops to 16.7 points in games where the second-year RB is active.

  • CMC is the top RB option heading into the Conference Championship Weekend, but he isn’t the every-down back we have grown used to over the years.
WR TEE HIGGINS, CINCINNATI BENGALS

Higgins’ 19% TPRR and 1.80 YPRR put him in WR3 territory based on data since 2011. He could bounce back with a huge game, but the 2022 season represents a red flag when considering his 2023 outlook.

Brandin Cooks, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Corey Davis are Higgins’ closest career arch comps since the 2011 NFL Draft. Each demonstrated a similar ability to demand targets over the first two seasons but leveled off in Year 3 below 20%.

Player Year 1 TPRR Year 2 TPRR Year 3 TPRR
Brandin Cooks 18% 20% 18%
Corey Davis 19% 22% 17%
JuJu Smith-Schuster 18% 24% 18%
Tee Higgins 21% 22% 19%

Cooks has enjoyed multiple seasons averaging 15-plus points per game as a high-end WR2, which would be a nice outcome for Higgins. At the other end of the spectrum, Davis hasn’t played on as many quality offenses or in situations without much target competition as Cooks. Those factors have kept him outside of the WR3 conversation in recent seasons. Higgins could land anywhere in this range depending on how things shake out in his final contract year in 2023.

  • Higgins drops to low-end WR2 territory and is toeing the WR3 line.
WR JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Smith-Schuster hasn’t eclipsed a 9% target share in the last three games. The veteran still has upside thanks to the offense, but with Patrick Mahomes battling a high-ankle sprain, the offense could look average.

The move to Kansas City ignited new intrigue around Smith-Schuster this offseason, sparking the age-old debate of target-earning ability versus playing in a high-quality offensive environment. However, in this case, Smith-Schuster’s target-earning profile didn’t suddenly mutate in 2022 due to Mahomes, a great lesson to remember as free-agent WRs find new landing spots. While the quality of a target can certainly go up in a better offense, we can’t project players to suddenly become better at beating coverage to earn more looks.

  • The sixth-year slot receiver profiles as a high-end WR3 thanks to the offense, but his talent profile is in the low-end WR3 range.

Monitoring

RB JERICK MCKINNON, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The Chiefs split the rushing workload evenly between McKinnon (39%) and Isiah Pacheco (43%) despite a season-high snap share for McKinnon (65%).

Week Snaps Rush Att Routes Targets TPRR SDD Snaps i5 Att LDD Snaps 2MIN Snaps PPR
16 47% 25% 61% 12% 16% 0% 0% 78% 0% 12.8
17 48% 13% 43% 15% 32% 60% 0% 100% 100% 22.6
18 36% 8% 44% 13% 23% 40% 0% 80% 100% 8.6
DIV 65% 39% 50% 0% 0% 71% 50% 100% 0% 2.5
YTD 47% 20% 49% 11% 19% 49% 26% 90% 85% 11.0

The veteran RB might be the Chiefs’ preferred option in crunch time, but he didn’t see a target after averaging 5.2 since the Week 8 bye.

We could see Kansas City design more looks for McKinnon next weekend to help out a hobbled Mahomes. However, Mahomes’ inability to move around could allow the defense to play underneath coverage more aggressively.

RB ELIJAH MITCHELL, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Mitchell handled 44% of the 49ers’ rushing attempts in the divisional-round matchup against the Cowboys, tying his season-high mark. He has accounted for 30% of the team’s rushing attempts in games with Christian McCaffrey, averaging 10.3 per game.

The second-year back is hardly in a high-end utilization role, but San Francisco ranks fifth in rushing attempts in non-overtime and runs the ball above the NFL average in trailing, close, and leading game scripts.

  • Trailing by four-plus points: 35% (+3)
  • Within three points: 44% (+3)
  • Leading by four-plus points: 55% (+4)

This commitment to the ground game and the 49ers’ ability to get into scoring position regularly boosts Mitchell’s outlook despite a limited role. San Francisco’s offense converts 44% of their drives into scores, the second-best rate in the NFL.

  • Mitchell is a boom-bust RB2.
RB PHILADELPHIA EAGLES RBs

The Eagles smashed the Giants’ run defense for 268 yards and three TDs. Kenneth Gainwell accounted for a season-high 28% of the rushing attempts, but much of it came in the fourth quarter, where he handled 69% of the RB rushing attempts.

Miles Sanders remains the lead option, but his 49% rushing attempt average means he rarely has 20-touch upside.

TE DALLAS GOEDERT, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Goedert delivered 16.8 fantasy points in his fourth game back from injury. He has target shares of 9%, 19%, 23%, and 22% since returning and has bested an 85% route participation in each game.

WR ZACH PASCAL, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Pascal surpassed Quez Watkins in route participation (41%), which wasn’t due to blowout conditions. Pascal registered 44% in the first half, while Watkins was at 22%.


JUMP TO A TEAM:

CIN | KC | PHI | SF


CINCINNATI BENGALS

Team Ranks
Scoring Drive % TD Drive % Plays (Non-OT) Dropback (Non-OT) Rush (Non-OT) Plays per Minute Neutral Play Clock Time of Possession Trail Pass Close Pass Lead Pass
7 5 9 6 21 19 21 3 11 1 6

Pass-volume environment: Good

Run-volume environment: Below average

The Bengals registered their second-lowest dropback rate of the season (57%) against the Bills in the divisional round. However, much of it was game-script induced, with Cincinnati leading by four or more points on an unexpected 92% of plays. They still opted to pass 67% of their plays when the game was within three points. The Bengals throw the ball in close game scripts more than any other.

Quarterbacks
Player Week Pass Att ADOT YPA Play Action Designed Rush Att Scrambles Sacks i5 Att PPR
Joe Burrow 17 0 0.0 0.0 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.0
18 42 9.2 5.1 11% 10% 2% 4% 0% 13.6
28 32 6.3 6.5 10% 13% 8% 10% 100% 19.3
29 36 8.6 6.7 15% 13% 5% 3% 25% 20.8
YTD 674 7.5 7.3 16% 13% 4% 6% 29% 25.2

Monitoring: The Bengals have leaned into a pass-first mentality down the stretch, but Joe Burrow & Co. only have two 300-plus-yard outings in their last nine outings. Cincinnati hasn’t been pushed often over the second half of the season — they have trailed by four-plus points only three times since Week 9. With Patrick Mahomes battling a high-ankle sprain heading into championship weekend, Burrow and Jalen Hurts look like the top fantasy options.

Rest of season:

  • Joe Burrow: high-end QB1
Running backs
Player Week Snaps Rush Att Routes Targets TPRR SDD Snaps i5 Att LDD Snaps 2MIN Snaps PPR
Joe Mixon 17 75% 0% 60% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.0
18 55% 55% 48% 13% 23% 71% 100% 0% 0% 17.8
28 45% 69% 24% 13% 40% 40% 0% 0% 0% 8.6
29 55% 63% 36% 6% 14% 71% 75% 22% 0% 20.3
YTD 56% 56% 42% 12% 23% 63% 61% 14% 33% 16.8
Samaje Perine 17 25% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.0
18 45% 30% 43% 3% 5% 43% 0% 100% 100% 3.2
28 53% 13% 52% 3% 5% 60% 0% 100% 0% 0.3
29 45% 22% 43% 16% 28% 29% 0% 78% 100% 11.4
YTD 41% 24% 37% 8% 19% 34% 0% 74% 66% 8.5

Monitoring: Joe Mixon delivered 105 yards and a TD on the ground in a game the Bengals led the Bills by four-plus points on an astounding 92% of plays. This is the kind of game script Mixon needs for big fantasy production, and there is a chance we get a similar scenario next weekend if Patrick Mahomes is severely limited by his high-ankle sprain. However, Samaje Perine remains an obstacle, handling almost all of the passing-down duties in a pass-first offense. Mixon’s route participation over the last two games is sub-40%.

Monitoring: Samaje Perine’s enhanced workload finally showed up in the box score thanks to 33 rushing yards on seven carries and 31 receiving yards on five receptions. Perine’s snap shares over the last three games (45%, 53% and 45%) indicate a near split with Mixon.

Rest of season:

  • Joe Mixon: high-end RB2
  • Samaje Perine: low-end RB4 with contingent upside
Receivers and tight ends
Player Pos Week Routes TPRR Targets ADOT Air Yards EZ Tgts 3rd/4th Down Targets PA Targets PPR
Ja'Marr Chase WR 17 100% 0% 0% 0.0 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.0
18 96% 28% 31% 12.2 41% 75% 30% 8% 22.6
28 98% 32% 38% 7.5 45% 0% 33% 25% 23.4
29 100% 21% 26% 10.8 32% 25% 40% 25% 17.4
YTD 79% 25% 23% 9.7 30% 35% 26% 15% 20.5
Tee Higgins WR 17 100% 0% 0% 0.0 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.0
18 96% 16% 18% 17.0 33% 25% 10% 14% 1.7
28 90% 17% 19% 10.5 31% 100% 22% 0% 7.7
29 93% 11% 13% 18.8 28% 25% 0% 25% 5.8
YTD 79% 19% 18% 11.8 28% 19% 13% 21% 12.9
Tyler Boyd WR 17 100% 0% 0% 0.0 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.0
18 85% 18% 18% 10.7 21% 0% 20% 14% 10.1
28 93% 8% 9% 6.3 9% 0% 11% 0% 5.6
29 93% 5% 6% 21.5 16% 0% 0% 50% 3.3
YTD 83% 13% 14% 10.0 18% 9% 18% 19% 9.7
Trenton Irwin WR 17 0% 0% 0% 0.0 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.0
18 22% 20% 5% 10.5 6% 0% 10% 0% 2.2
28 14% 0% 0% 0.0 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.0
29 24% 22% 6% 7.5 6% 0% 20% 0% 2.3
YTD 27% 12% 4% 12.2 6% 9% 6% 13% 6.0
Hayden Hurst TE 17 100% 0% 0% 0.0 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.0
18 74% 15% 13% 0.0 0% 0% 20% 20% 5.4
28 79% 18% 19% 5.0 15% 0% 22% 0% 8.5
29 67% 23% 19% 7.8 18% 50% 40% 0% 16.9
YTD 58% 17% 12% 5.5 9% 9% 16% 14% 8.7

Upgrade: Hayden Hurst has seen 17 targets over the last three contests. Ja’Marr Chase has led the team in each of those games, but the rest of the targets have been distributed fairly evenly across Hurst, Tee Higgins (17) and Tyler Boyd (12). With Higgins regressing over the second half of the season, the tertiary Bengals’ options have added appeal.

Downgrade: Tee Higgins’ 19% TPRR and 1.80 YPRR put him in WR3 territory based on data since 2011. He could certainly bounce back with a huge game at any time, but the 2022 season represents a red flag when considering his 2023 outlook. Brandin Cooks, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Corey Davis are Higgins’ closest career arch comp since the 2011 NFL Draft. Each demonstrated a similar ability to demand targets over the first two seasons but leveled off in Year 3 below 20%. Higgins drops to low-end WR2 territory and is toeing the WR3 line.

Rest of season:

  • Ja’Marr Chase: high-end WR1
  • Tee Higgins: low-end WR2 (trending toward WR3 territory)
  • Tyler Boyd: mid-range WR4
  • Hayden Hurst: low-end TE1

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