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The Fantasy Football Utilization Report: Week 1 waiver wire, trade and drop candidates

Detroit, Michigan, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (25) runs for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football performance occurs at the intersection of efficiency and opportunity. We can better understand a player's role by analyzing the drivers behind snap counts based on different game situations and coaching tendencies. And we can harvest this information for actionable insights regarding waiver wire pickups, start/sit decisions and DFS roster construction.

To prepare for NFL Week 2, below is a summary for all 32 teams following Week 1, including upgrades, downgrades, and buy-low and sell-high commentary.

We specifically want to know if running backs are on the field for early downs, passing downs and short-yardage situations. Each of those opportunities provides a different level of value.

With wide receivers and tight ends, we want to know how often they run a route compared to the total number of team passing plays. Snaps don't matter as much; in fact, they can be misleading for tight ends, who may be blocking and have little opportunity to score fantasy points.

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.


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Data notes and acronyms:

1st/2nd = First and second downs
LDD = long down and distance (third and fourth down with over six yards to go)
SDD = short down and distance (second, third and fourth down with two or fewer yards to go)
i5 = inside the five-yard line
2MIN = two-minute offense (hurry-up offense)
Close = score within three points
Lead = leading by four points or more
Trail = trailing by four points or more
Plays = penalties included for utilization splits and rates
Pass Play = all dropbacks (i.e., attempts, sacks and scrambles)
ADOT = average depth of target
Air Yards = ADOT multiplied by targets
TTT = average time to throw
PA = play action
PA Targets = percentage of player's targets that came using play action
Fantasy finishes = through Sunday night game
YPRR = yards per route run
TPRR = targets per route run
EZ = end zone


ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WFT


Plays Plays per Minute Pass % Run % Trail Play % Trail Pass % Close Play % Close Pass % Lead Play % Lead Pass %
69 2.07 54% 46% 0 16% 73% 84% 50%
Player ADOT TTT YPA Play Action Designed Rush Att Scrambles Sacks i5 Att
Kyler Murray 9.3 2.89 8.8 24% 13% 3% 6% 100%

Murray handled 25% of the Cardinals' rushing attempts in 2020. This season, he kicked off with a combined 16% rate of designed attempts and scrambles, helping him finish ahead of Patrick Mahomes as the QB1 through Sunday night.

Running backs
Player Snaps Rush Att Routes Targets TPRR SDD Snaps i5 Att LDD Snaps 2MIN Snaps
Chase Edmonds 58% 34% 78% 13% 16% 0% 0% 100% 100%
James Conner 49% 50% 27% 0% 0% 100% 0% 0% 0%

This backfield is a three-way committee between Edmonds (RB16), Conner (RB42) and Murray. Edmonds is the primary back handling all of the passing-down work, but he gives way to Conner in the rushing department — including short-yardage situations.

Upgrade: Edmonds is a viable RB2 in PPR formats thanks to an enhanced role compared to 2020. There was a chance Conner could have taken over all of the snaps left behind by Kenyan Drake, which Edmonds avoided.

Receivers and tight ends
Player Pos Routes Targets TPRR ADOT Air Yards EZ Targets 3rd Down Targets PA Targets
DeAndre Hopkins WR 95% 24% 20% 12.1 32% 20% 22% 38%
Christian Kirk WR 66% 17% 22% 13.2 25% 40% 33% 0%
A.J. Green WR 87% 20% 19% 9.7 22% 20% 11% 0%
Rondale Moore WR 38% 20% 36% 4.0 8% 20% 22% 0%
Maxx Williams TE 59% 3% 5% 24.0 9% 0% 0% 100%

Upgrade: Kirk (WR10) will need more routes to perform consistently, but that should come with closer game scripts. The Cardinals used 10- and 11 personnel on 70% of plays in the first half — which dropped to 33% in the second half with the game in hand.

His TPRR data is encouraging, and he was Murray's most trusted option in the end zone and on third downs. But, most importantly, he led the team in slot routes with 22 (96% of routes). Last year, Kirk saw only 16% of his routes come from the slot.

Consider Kirk a top-48 receiver for now with boom-or-bust potential each week. However, there is a chance he is the player everyone hoped Laviska Shenault Jr. would be in a better offense. He flashed a 20% TPRR at 23, so we have some history here.

He is a must-add in most 12-team leagues and some 10-team formats.

Downgrade: Green (WR83) ran the second-most routes on the team, but his targets per route mark ranked last. This start is similar to Green's 2020 season when he was on the field but unable to produce for fantasy owners.

The 33-year-old receiver is a hold candidate at best in 10- and 12-team formats. Drop him for superior options.

Downgrade: Moore (WR46) didn't retain the primary slot duties we noted in the preseason. He is currently the odd man out, but his TPRR is encouraging — the coaching staff wants to get him the ball when on the field.

Moore is a stash play in 12-team leagues with 20-player rosters but is a drop-and-monitor option in smaller formats.

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