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NFL preseason Week 2 fantasy football utilization news and notes

Dec 20, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) catches a pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football 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. These drivers can help us identify sleepers, busts, upside targets and floor targets for our season-long fantasy drafts. We can also use this information for preemptive waiver wire pickups, start-sit decisions and DFS roster construction.

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.

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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Below, I have broken down notable utilization observations using PFF's proprietary database for the second week of the 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:

1st/2nd = First and second downs
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)
2MIN = two-minute offense (hurry-up offense)

Arizona Cardinals

Did not play: Deandre Hopkins

Notes: 

  • Rondale Moore played 100% of snaps with the starters for the second week in a row. He dominated snaps from the slot (78%), as Christian Kirk and A.J. Green played outside. Moore continued to play after Kirk and Green left with the starters, so he could still be behind Kirk, but the slot utilization is highly encouraging.
  • Chase Edmonds took the game's first series, and James Conner worked during the second and third drives. Conner played another series after Kyler Murray, Edmonds and the other starters left the game.

Edmonds and Conner utilization with the starters:

Snaps Rush Att. Routes Targets 1st & 2nd Down Snaps SDD Snaps LDD Snaps 3rd Down Snaps
Chase Edmonds 78% 50% 57% 0% 67% 50% 75%
James Conner 33% 50% 29% 0% 33% 50% 25%

Takeaways:

  • Moore makes for a great WR4 or WR5 target who is currently sporting a thrifty 174 average draft position (ADP) in PPR home-league-type drafts. Draft him in every league at that price.
  • Edmonds is getting first and second-down work – which is a great sign. Last season, Kenyan Drake took those opportunities. If Edmonds' upside is two-thirds of the work while his floor is a straight-up timeshare, he is a value pick in Round 6. However, the threat of Murray's legs sapping backfield targets and rushing touchdowns along with Conner is enough to temper expectations.
  • A couple of weeks ago, Conner's range of outcomes included fully assuming Drake's previous role. Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case anymore, but he can still provide value with an ADP of pick 105.

Atlanta Falcons

Did not play: Most starters

Takeaways:

  • Qadree Ollison continues to work well ahead of Javian Hawkins – who played into the fourth quarter. Ollison is the handcuff to own if Mike Davis falters and is worth a late-round flier in formats with 20-plus roster spots.

Baltimore Ravens

Did not play: Most starters

Notes:

  • J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards played for the first three drives. However, Dobbins' day ended slightly before Edwards' on the third series. Expect Dobbins to lead the backs in snaps despite the numbers below, with Edwards not trailing too far behind.
Snaps Rush Att. Routes Targets 1st & 2nd Down Snaps SDD Snaps LDD Snaps 3rd Down Snaps
J.K. Dobbins 78% 44% 33% 0% 50% 0% 25%
Gus Edwards 56% 50% 44% 0% 50% 100% 75%

Takeaways:

  • Dobbins continues to be overvalued in fantasy drafts – especially in PPR formats – with a 31 ADP. Despite his talents, he will struggle to pay off a third-round valuation with Edwards returning on a new two-year contract.

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