Hidden Stat Line: NFL Week 1 Recap
Hidden Stat Line: NFL Week 1 Recap

This article is part of our Hidden Stat Line series.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when we could gain an edge over our competition by looking at basic volume stats — namely targets and carries — rather than strictly relying on the stuff that counts for fantasy points, i.e., yards, touchdowns and catches. For better or worse, those days are gone in many leagues, replaced by a more competitive, data-driven atmosphere where a deeper level of analysis is sometimes needed to find an edge.

That's not to say every opponent in all my leagues is tracking snap counts, personnel groupings, routes run or air yards — far from it. But I do know that's what I'm up against much of the time in DFS, and it's also useful information for making difficult add/drop or start/sit decisions in redraft and dynasty leagues.

Keep in mind that everything discussed below is based on the tiny sample of a single NFL game. We're trying to add context to get a better read on the sustainability of box-score stats, but we can't forget that everything happening with an individual player is just one part of a dynamic environment, one that's subject to change at any moment for a variety of reasons — injuries, lineup changes, strategic adjustments, coach firings, dumb luck, etc.

The low-hanging fruit this week is Marquise Brown, who started his NFL career with 147 yards on 14 snaps. On the one hand, we can easily point out that no wide receiver is capable of sustaining useful fantasy production on 14 snaps per game. On the other hand, it's a safe bet Brown gets more playing time, with youth and January foot surgery offering a clear explanation for his limited, but still explosive, role. And, of course, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman is sure to take notice of the game-breaking performance when he crafts his game plan for Week 2.

Personally, I'll stay away from Brown until I see him take more snaps and run more routes. I don't doubt it will happen in the coming weeks, but I'm not ready to assume the increased usage will be both immediate and drastic. I absolutely love Brown as a waiver pickup; less so as a Week 2 fantasy start, while a fade in DFS will be one of my easiest decisions all week.

Now let's take a look at some other surprises, or at least interesting developments, from the 16 games that took place Week 1:

Packers 10 - Bears 3

Rams 30 - Panthers 27

Titans 43 - Browns 13

  • Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham played every snap on offense, with David Njoku (90 percent) and Nick Chubb (70 percent) not too far behind.
  • Njoku tied C.J. Uzomah for the TE "lead" with 11 pass-blocking snaps (per PFF), but he still finished T-9th at the position in routes (31) in a high-volume game for Cleveland's offense.
  • PFF credits Chubb with 24 routes, ranking 15th among RBs.
  • Rashard Higgins caught two of three targets for 46 yards on the opening drive, but he ultimately got less playing time (44 percent) than Damion Ratley (48 percent). We now have an explanation, with Higgins reportedly battling a sprained ankle.
  • Marcus Mariota's 6.3 aDOT ranked 26th, but his average time to throw (3.03) was highest in the league. Takeaway: he still holds the ball too long.
  • Corey Davis (74 percent) was Tennessee's only skill-position player with a snap share above 61 percent
  • Davis led the team with 21 routes, but Delanie Walker (20) and A.J. Brown (18) weren't far behind.
  • Adam Humphries ran just 13 routes on a 36 percent snap share, rotating with Brown and Tajae Sharpe (30 snaps) behind Davis.

Chiefs 40 - Jaguars 26

  • Patrick Mahomes ranked 28th in aDOT (5.8), relying on a YAC feast (263 yards) for the KC offense.
  • Despite drawing just one target, Mecole Hardman logged more snaps (53) and routes (27) than Demarcus Robinson (43, 23)
  • The carry split was pretty even, but Damien Williams out-snapped LeSean McCoy by a 45-20 margin.
  • PFF credits Williams with eight avoided tackles, compared to just one for McCoy.
  • Gardner Minshew ranked 30th in aDOT (5.5), and PFF charted two of his three incompletions as drops.
  • Leonard Fournette ranked 15th among RBs with 25 routes, but he was the only running back charged with multiple drops (two). He played 86 percent of the snaps — three-down workhorse usage, deserved or not.
  • D.J. Chark, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook all had similar usage in terms of snaps, while Westbrook's aDOT (0.8) lagged far behind Chark (26.5) and Conley (11.9).

Redskins 27 - Eagles 30

Ravens 59 - Dolphins 10

Bills 17 - Jets 16

  • Josh Allen was middle of the pack in average time to throw (2.72 seconds, 18th-fastest) and aDOT (8.2, 14th).
  • John Brown led the Buffalo skill-position players with an 86 percent snap share, followed by Cole Beasley (70 percent), Devin Singletary (70 percent) and Dawson Knox (55 percent).
  • Zay Jones (42 percent), Frank Gore (28 percent) and Robert Foster (22 percent) didn't get nearly as much run.
  • Singletary ranked fifth among RBs with 35 routes (per PFF).
  • PFF credits the Bills with just 10 pass-blocking snaps from players that aren't offensive linemen. They had five players running routes on the vast majority of their pass plays.
  • Le'Veon Bell played every single snap (72), closely followed by Robby Anderson (69), Ryan Griffin (68), Quincy Enunwa (66) and Jamison Crowder (65). It's the same thing we saw from Adam Gase during the preseason, only with Griffin replacing Chris Herndon (suspension).
  • In fact, the Jets had all five of those players on the field together for 81 percent of their snaps. No other team used the exact same lineup on more than 57 percent of snaps, and only five teams had a single lineup reach 40 percent.
  • Bell had just one snap as a pass blocker, leading all NFL RBs with 46 routes.
  • Darnold's 5.6 aDOT ranked 29th, ahead of only Minshew (5.5) and Jimmy Garoppolo (5.2).

Falcons 12 - Vikings 28

Bengals 20 - Seahawks 21

Colts 24 - Chargers 30

  • Marlon Mack played 76 percent of snaps, compared to 27 percent for Nyheim Hines.
  • Hines had a 4-0 target advantage, but PFF shows that Mack actually was in the game for more pass snaps and only served as a blocker on one of those. It's a trend that dates back to December — the Colts using Mack in some passing situations but rarely throwing him the ball. Eventually, he should see a few targets if he's running more routes than Hines.
  • T.Y. Hilton played 89 percent of the snaps, accounting for 33 percent of the Colts' targets and 40 percent of their air yards.
  • Colts wide receivers Devin Funchess (shoulder), Deon Cain, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell all logged snap shares between 17 and 57 percent. Cain was last with 11 snaps, but he should see more work with Funchess placed on IR.
  • Jacoby Brissett threw just 27 passes on 63 snaps, with his aDOT (6.0) ranking 27th in Week 1.
  • Austin Ekeler played 75 percent of snaps, compared to 25 percent for Justin Jackson.
  • Hunter Henry played 91 percent of snaps, and PFF shows him blocking on just three of 37 pass plays. But he was invisible for most of the game.

Giants 17 - Cowboys 35

  • Saquon Barkley finished with an 80 percent snap share, but he rarely left the field before Wayne Gallman handled garbage time. Despite pass-blocking on seven plays, Barkley finished Week 1 tied for sixth among RBs with 33 routes.
  • Evan Engram played 77 percent of snaps and was used as a run/pass blocker on just eight of his plays (per PFF). His 42 routes placed third on the team behind Sterling Shepard (50, concussion) and Cody Latimer (44), slightly ahead of Bennie Fowler (40).
  • Eli Manning ranked 24th in aDOT (6.6), predictably dinking and dunking against a zone-heavy Dallas defense that encourages Manning's preferred approach.
  • Despite that approach, Latimer ranked third in the league with 164 air yards (20.4 aDOT) Week 1. He accounted for 53 percent of the Giants' air yards on 17 percent of their targets. The dump-offs to Engram (5.1 aDOT) were more effective.
  • Ezekiel Elliott played just 54 percent of the snaps and finished with a 50-50 ground split, but his carry lead over Tony Pollard was 13-3 after the third quarter. Zeke should be back to his three-down role Week 2.
  • Dak Prescott placed 10th in aDOT (8.8) and sixth in completion percentage above expectation (+9 points). You might be surprised he wasn't higher in the second stat; it shows how awful the Giants were in pass coverage.
  • Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup both saw a nice mix of short/intermediate/deep targets, with the former sitting at 11.8 aDOT and the latter at 11.7. They accounted for 50 percent of the team's targets and 62 percent of the air yards.

Lions 27 - Cardinals 27

  • Both teams scored the same number of points :)
  • Arizona used the same five skill-position players together on 57 percent of snaps: WR Larry Fitzgerald, WR Christian Kirk, WR KeeSean Johnson, WR Damiere Byrd and RB David Johnson.
  • That's right, Kliff Kingsbury broke out the four-wide packages in a big way, with the Cardinals averaging 3.58 wide receivers on the field per snap, compared to just 0.41 tight ends. To be fair, they did have three snaps (out of 89) with a sixth lineman used as a de facto TE.
  • Snap shares for the Arizona WRs? Fitzgerald - 96 percent; Kirk - 93 percent; Byrd - 88 percent; K. Johnson - 76 percent; Trent Sherfield - 6 percent.
  • David Johnson played 87 percent of snaps, and he was only used as a pass blocker eight times (per PFF). Granted, the Cardinals may need him to protect Kyler Murray more often Week 2 against the Ravens.
  • Murray's 10.5 aDOT was good for fifth among all QBs. Of course, his completion percentage (53.7) was worse than every passer besides Ryan Fitzpatrick (48.3).
  • Kerryon Johnson played 57 percent of snaps, while C.J. Anderson took 30 percent and Ty Johnson saw 9 percent. Three-down workhorse? Not so much.
  • PFF shows Kerryon blocking on eight of his 30 pass snaps, while tight end T.J. Hockenson pass-blocked on just four of 42.
  • Hockenson played 73 percent of snaps and finished third on the team with 37 routes. His huge day was backed by promising usage.
  • Kenny Golladay had a 98 percent snap share, ahead of Marvin Jones (81 percent) and Danny Amendola (53 percent). The Lions averaged just 2.35 WRs on the field per snap, making room for No. 2 tight end Jesse James (58 percent) as well as fullback Nick Bawden (25 percent).

49ers 31 - Buccaneers 17

  • The SF backfield split was thrown off by Tevin Coleman's ankle injury, but we do know that Coleman had five touches before Matt Breida got his first. Coleman also got the start, despite what the 49ers posted on their depth chart.
  • Deebo Samuel led the SF wideouts in snap share at 88 percent, comfortably ahead of Marquise Goodwin (74 percent), Richie James (38 percent), Kendrick Bourne (25 percent) and, gasp, Dante Pettis (3 percent).
  • Garoppolo's 5.2 aDOT was dead last in Week 1. George Kittle's 52 air yards (5.2 aDOT) somehow accounted for 30 percent of the team total. It was a cautious approach from Kyle Shanahan, to say the least.
  • Kittle played 91 percent of snaps and drew 37 percent of the team's targets. There was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle last week about the 49ers potentially scaling back his work a bit to keep him healthy... so much for that idea.
  • O.J. Howard played 79 percent of snaps, but he was fourth on the team with just 23 routes, barely ahead of Cameron Brate (20) and Dare Ogunbowale (18). The Bucs ran 12 pass plays with Howard on the sideline, and they used him as a blocker on another six pass plays. Yikes.
  • Ogunbowale, Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones each landed between 22 and 27 snaps. Predictably, Ogunbowale was the choice on clear passing downs, while the other two got most of the carries.
  • PFF charted RoJo with four avoided tackles on 14 touches, compared to one on 10 for Barber.

Steelers 3 - Patriots 33

Texans 28 - Saints 30

  • Carlos Hyde had a 10-9 advantage in carries and looked quite good, but Duke Johnson had a 5-1 target edge and played 63 percent of snaps. It did appear closer to 50/50 before the Saints took a lead in the fourth quarter.
  • Will Fuller played 97 percent of snaps. No limitations there, even in a quiet game by his standards.
  • Top tight end Jordan Akins was at 70 percent, while Kenny Stills and DeAndre Carter logged 42 percent apiece. PFF puts Akins third on the team with 25 routes, ahead of Stills (20), Johnson (20) and Carter (13). Darren Fells, as expected, spent most of his time blocking on 34 snaps (51 percent).
  • Alvin Kamara played 78 percent of snaps, while Latavius Murray played 27 percent.
  • Ted Ginn (74 percent) and Tre'Quan Smith (64 percent) seem to be co-No. 2s at wide receiver, with Ginn's small advantage in snaps also reflected in routes (35 to 32). Ginn had a 7-2 target edge, while Smith caught one of Drew Brees' two touchdowns.
  • Jared Cook played 64 percent of snaps and finished fifth on the team with 29 routes. That actually isn't terrible, considering Michael Thomas was first with 41. Cook may not be consistent, but he'll have plenty of games with more than three targets.

Broncos 16 - Raiders 24

  • Devontae Booker took just one snap, leaving Phillip Lindsay (53 percent) and Royce Freeman (47 percent) in a nearly dead-even timeshare. There wasn't a clear pattern to the usage based on situation, i.e. a classic early-down/passing-down split. PFF credits Lindsay with 17 routes and Freeman with 16. This looks like a huge headache for fantasy owners.
  • No limitations for Emmanuel Sanders, who played 89 percent of snaps and rebounded from a slow start with a huge fourth quarter. Courtland Sutton also logged 89 percent, while DaeSean Hamilton was a bit lower at 77 percent.
  • Noah Fant played 82 percent of snaps and tied Hamilton for third on the team with 29 routes. It didn't work out in the box score, but there's no doubt now that Fant is the No. 1 tight end in Denver.
  • Josh Jacobs played 74 percent of snaps, taking 23 carries but running just 10 pass routes. It was obviously an encouraging performance, but the snap share might be a bit misleading because it hints at three-down usage. In reality, the Raiders just didn't having many obvious passing situations, needing five or fewer yards on 11 of their 14 third downs. I think we'll see more of Jalen Richard (nine snaps) in future contests.
  • Darren Waller played every single snap and finished second on the team with 25 routes. PFF charts him with 15 snaps lined up wide and another seven from the slot — exactly what fantasy owners want to see from a tight end.
  • Tyrell Williams played 95 percent of snaps and accounted for 58 percent of Oakland's air yards (Waller had 26 percent).
  • Ryan Grant (71 percent), Foster Moreau (55 percent) and Hunter Renfrow (28 percent) got some snaps, but they were afterthoughts in an offense dominated by Jacobs-Williams-Waller.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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