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McFarland: Fantasy football utilization report following NFL Week 1

Fantasy performance occurs at the intersection of efficiency and opportunity. While most fantasy players and fans can recite empty efficiency stats such as yards per carry and yards per reception by memory, most don't have a real grasp of a player's utilization.

Opportunity is the lifeblood of fantasy performance. Thanks to statistics such as average depth of target (aDOT), air yards, routes run and quarterback dropbacks, we have a greater understanding of player utilization.

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For 2020, using proprietary PFF data, readers will now have unique insights into several new utilization metrics only available in this report.

  • Two-minute offense
  • Four-minute offense
  • Third and fourth down and long (over 7 yards to go)
  • Play-action
  • Open and wide-open targets (two steps of separation or more)
  • First, next and check-down targets

With this data in hand, fantasy players can make timely and informed decisions based on the value of a player's role. For Week 1, we don't have enough data to formulate trends, but it creates a baseline for moving forward.

Kenyan Drake (RB17), Arizona Cardinals

There was some concern of a split backfield with Drake's time in a walking boot opening up the door for Chase Edmonds during camp. However, that didn't play out in Week 1. Drake played 69% of snaps and ran a route on 49% of dropbacks. He led the backfield with 59% of attempts and shouldered all of the work inside the 5. Edmonds did take the two-minute offense work, but Drake kept an edge in long-down-and-distance (LDD) snaps (third or fourth and 7-plus yards) at 63%.

Outlook: Drake is on the edge of being an every-down back and plays in an offense that ran the third-most plays in Week 1. Despite the game being within three points for 83% of snaps, Kliff Kingsbury kept the speedometer pegged with 43 (55%) no-huddle plays.

J.K. Dobbins (RB19) and Mark Ingram (RB67), Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are doing what the Ravens do — rotating players. Like Gus Edwards in 2019, Dobbins saw the most carries in a Week 1 blowout. The attempts weren't the most significant positive for Dobbins — those are likely fragile depending on the game script each week. His 50% route rate, 71% snap rate in two-minute situations, 86% of LDD snaps and 100% of attempts inside the 5 are eye-popping. The work inside the 5 may have also been script dependent, but the passing game role is something we heard about in training camp. It looks like that is coming to fruition.

There isn't much need to explain the conundrum Ingram finds himself in given the information above. With passing game work out of the picture, he is borderline unstartable in most formats until we get different data.

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