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Fantasy Football Beyond The Box Scores Week 7: Here Comes The McBride

Ted gives his take on the most important fantasy football storylines coming out of Week 7.

Week 7 is over, and it was a wild one … although I feel like I say that every week. The NFL is constantly changing, so we have to constantly stay up to date with all the latest trends and stats for fantasy football. Even nearly halfway into the season, there are always interesting situations to examine. Let’s get into it.

Note: All fantasy scores and rankings will be for Half-PPR formats. Data courtesy of PFR, Next Gen Stats, FantasyLife, and PFF (among other places). 

Detroit Lions @ Baltimore Ravens
  • Gus Edwards had a huge week thanks to a TD and an 80-yard reception, but his usage was more or less the same as it has been over the last few weeks, with the exception of an impressive season-high 78% RB rush share. I wouldn’t overreact to this week and move either Edwards or Justice Hill from their spots in the RB3/flex play ranks.
  • Jameson Williams finished with an under 50% snap share despite the Lions trailing all game. He saw six targets, but five of them came in garbage time and Jared Goff attempted so many passes that they were good for an uninspiring 12% target share. Even worse, he didn’t catch any of them, a fact he and Goff both deserve some blame for. I’m tempted to hold Williams given his insane upside, but don’t blame anyone giving up in shallow Redraft leagues.
  • I jumped the gun by putting faith in Nelson Agholor playing over both Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman. Even though both were without injury designations in Week 6, they must have been eased back in, because both moved back ahead of Agholor in Week 7, with Beckham landing as the WR2 behind Zay Flowers. OBJ actually led the Ravens in targets with seven, and he now gets the “best desperation flex option” tag I handed Agholor last week.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Chicago Bears
  • There’s a part of me that wants to play the “take away his one big week” game with Davante Adams, who is averaging just 9.7 fantasy points if you take away his Week 3 explosion against the Steelers and just 6.6 over the last three weeks. Instead, I want to point out that despite playing through injuries and with backup QBs, Adams ranks among the top 10 receivers in target share, total targets, air yards, red zone targets, and, most importantly, fantasy points. If you can get Adams at less than WR1 prices, do it.
  • I’m not sure what to recommend with regard to D’Onta Foreman’s huge game. On the one hand, the Bears have shown a clear preference for both Roschon Johnson and Khalil Herbert (who should be back very soon and soon-ish, respectively) over Foreman. On the other hand, this is simply what Foreman does. Over the last three years, he has played 40%+ of offensive snaps in just 12 games; he rushed for 100 yards in seven of them. He had the highest success rate of any RB in Week 7 … a category he also led in all of 2022. If you need an RB for the next few weeks, he should be productive, but I expect the returns of Johnson and especially Herbert to eventually kill his fantasy value.
  • Last week, I said Michael Mayer’s breakout was encouraging but he’d need another leap in usage to be a TE1 candidate. This week, his usage took a step backward, as he played 10% fewer snaps, ran 13% fewer routes, and saw a 12% lower target share. Most leagues probably have better tight end options for Week 8 on waivers, although he does still have some long-term upside.
Cleveland Browns @ Indianapolis Colts
  • Jonathan Taylor had a huge game, but he and Zack Moss still saw exactly identical numbers of snaps and rush attempts. JT did run five more routes, but running a handful of extra routes is not the elite RB1 usage managers were hoping JT would return to. If you roster Taylor, consider using this week’s production to sell someone on the idea of a true return to form … which is looking less likely with every week he fails to grab a workhorse role.
  • Browns quarterbacks combined to complete just 16 passes on 40 dropbacks. Especially given all the weirdness surrounding Deshaun Watson’s health, it’s hard to trust anyone in their passing game, although I can’t yet recommend giving up on Amari Cooper and his nearly eight targets a game … everyone else, though, is matchup-dependent flex options at best.
  • Let me double down on likely unpopular sell-high takes for Colts players with Josh Downs. Like Taylor, Downs had a huge week, and the rookie has been solid in each of the last three weeks. Fantasy managers are likely aware that Downs is a slot specialist, but we have seen plenty of WRs thrive for fantasy as target hogs out of the slot. However, Downs’ 81% route participation rate (both in Week 7 and season average) isn’t on the same level as consistent slot producers like Christian Kirk (88%, 91% since Week 2) or Adam Thielen (91%) and is nowhere near the numbers of elite slot weapons like Amon-Ra St. Brown (94%) or Keenan Allen (97%). Until the Colts give him a shot out wide over Alec Pierce (which they should), Downs’ ceiling is capped as a flex play like Tyler Boyd or Curtis Samuel — valuable fantasy pieces, but not game-changers.

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Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
  • With Dawson Knox due to have surgery for a wrist issue, rookie TE Dalton Kincaid is a must-add, but I’m not sure what to make of him going forward. Some things are very positive: He is coming off a team-leading 75 yards on eight receptions, he has only been asked to pass block once all season, and he lines up out wide or in the slot on 78% of his routes (sixth-best among TEs). On the other hand, he is being used almost exclusively as a checkdown option, posting the fifth-lowest ADOT of any TE and averaging a below-average 3.9 yards after the catch per reception. Knox’s injury does give him a good shot to crack the TE1 ranks, but his usage will have to change to become a true difference-maker.
  • With JuJu Smith-Schuster out, Demario Douglas served as the Patriots’ WR2, operating mostly out of the slot. The sixth-rounder out of Liberty has struggled to stay healthy but has generated buzz as far back as training camp and is worth adding in deep leagues.
  • Gabe Davis is what he is. His underlying numbers in his last two terrible games aren’t any different than they were in Weeks 2-5, in which he scored a touchdown each week and was the WR12. With the third-highest ADOT of any WR (minimum 30 targets) and at least three targets each week, he ranks 27th among WRs in air yards on the season. In shallow leagues, I would wait for another boom week and try to sell him. In deeper leagues where his inconsistency is less of a dealbreaker, just plug your nose and flex him every week.
Washington Commanders @ New York Giants
  • Sixth-round rookie Chris Rodriguez led the Commanders in rushing with 31 yards on seven attempts. However, those seven attempts came on just nine snaps, and he has 14 carries on just 19 snaps on the season — a clear sign the Commanders’ decision-makers trust him to carry the rock, but do pretty much nothing else. He’s not likely to be fantasy-relevant … except in tanking Brian Robinson’s value if he continues to steal a handful of touches.
  • There’s been lots of talk about the potential of the Giants being better with Tyrod Taylor than Daniel Jones. However, Brian Daboll’s postgame quotes don’t exactly sound like those of someone considering a QB change. In fact, I’d recommend picking up Daniel Jones in super deep or 2-QB leagues where he has been dropped, as ugly as it sounds. With a fully healthy Saquon Barkley and receiving corps to go with much-improved O-line play over the past two weeks (53.6 PFF Pass-Blocking Grade vs. 39.1 over the first five weeks), Danny Dimes may be able to return solid high-end QB2 numbers.
  • I don’t often talk about DSTs here, but these offenses are so miserable I might as well. If you’re streaming defenses, especially if your league scoring emphasizes sacks, whoever is playing the Commanders should be your top priority each week. Sam “Sacks” Howell is on pace to shatter the NFL record with 5.7 sacks a game, giving defenses against Washington a very safe floor to go with plenty of upside.
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • I’ve been bemoaning Bijan Robinson’s usage over the last two weeks and calling him a sell candidate, but I think this week’s debacle may have opened up a buy window for the incredibly talented rookie. The dramatic and confusing nature (and the subsequent donut in many people’s lineups) of what was essentially just a missed game due to illness has led to more uproar than is warranted. Robinson’s own comments make it clear he wasn’t ready to play; ignoring the noise and making an offer to a likely very frustrated manager is worth a shot.
  • If Chris Godwin is on your fantasy team, you’re probably not feeling too happy. Despite at least five targets in every game, he’s just the WR42 in Half-PPR. But he has yet to score a touchdown despite four end zone targets (PFF has him with 3.0 expected TDs) and is 20th in the league in targets per game. Better days are coming, and he’s a decent buy-low candidate.
  • Desmond Ridder is taking a lot of well-deserved heat for nearly fumbling this game away, but he has been sneakily productive over the last three weeks. With nearly 300 passing yards a game plus an uptick in rushing usage, especially by the goal line, he’s definitely worth considering in Superflex and 2-QB leagues.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Los Angeles Rams
  • He was less efficient than Royce Freeman, but all indications are that Darrell Henderson is the RB to roster in the Rams’ backfield while Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers are out. He came into the game likely not in full game shape, and still led the team in snaps (57%) and opportunities (20), including the team’s only goal-line carry. If anything, expect his role to expand going forward as he works himself back into shape.
  • Diontae Johnson played just 66% of snaps in his return from a hamstring injury, but still managed a 26% target share and the ninth-highest PFF receiving grade of the week. The man simply gets open. With the Steelers’ offense also improving of late, I see no reason he won’t be a weekly starter once he returns to a full role.
  • Tutu Atwell scored a touchdown, but he posted by far his lowest route participation rate of the season at just 66%. Combine that with Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua combining for an absurd 71% of Matthew Stafford’s targets since Kupp’s return, and Atwell is droppable in Redraft formats.
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks
  • After letting everyone down last week, Emari Demarcado posted an incredible 95% RB opportunity share on an 80% snap share. Meanwhile, last week’s leading rusher Keaontay Ingram didn’t play a single snap. Demarcado is absolutely worth adding anywhere he was dropped, but I wouldn’t start him in Week 9 unless you have to given the clear unpredictability of this backfield.
  • This was by far the most productive game of Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s career, but I feel less good about him now than I did before it. Even with D.K. Metcalf sidelined, JSN played just 63% of snaps (12% less than fellow rookie Jake Bobo), dropped two passes, and had 65% of his fantasy production come on a blown-coverage TD. I’m not out on JSN’s talent and long-term prospects, but if he can’t get a full-time role even with Metcalf out, I don’t see him making an impact in Redraft this season.
  • With Zach Ertz heading to IR, Trey McBride is a must-add in all leagues. Together, the veteran and the sophomore have averaged nearly nine targets a game. We can’t expect McBride alone to command that level of volume, but even two-thirds of it would put him firmly in the TE1 conversation. He also should be able to do more with each target than Ertz did: McBride is averaging 11.3 yards per reception to Ertz’s 6.9, thanks almost entirely to a 4.2-yard advantage in YAC per reception over the 32-year-old.
Green Bay Packers @ Denver Broncos
  • Aaron Jones played just 36% of snaps, but he averaged 4.4 yards a carry, saw five targets, and was PFF’s sixth-highest-graded RB in both overall offense and rush grade. Once he (finally) gets back to a full workload, he could be a borderline RB1 given the current state of the position.
  • One of the five RBs graded higher than Jones in Week 7 was Javonte Williams, who is looking fully healthy nearly 13 months removed from tearing his ACL. If the Broncos continue to expand his workload (he set season-highs this week with 53% of snaps and 15 carries), he could also be a high-end RB2. Unfortunately, both Jaleel McLaughlin and Samaje Perine look likely to maintain some role in this offense, severely limiting Williams’ upside.
  • Jordan Love’s 210.5 passing yards per game ranks 22nd in the league, just below Mac Jones. Combine that with him spreading the ball around such that no Packers WR has higher than a 20% targets per route run rate (Christian Watson), and there’s a chance this passing game can’t support a single weekly fantasy starter. If you have to pick one, Watson is the clear choice, but I’m not expecting him to live up to preseason expectations … especially given he seems to be injured again. If Watson misses time, I don’t feel confident starting anyone left in this passing game.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
  • Austin Ekeler was the overall RB1 in Half-PPR last year on a 62% snap share with 54% of the Chargers’ rush attempts (12.0 per game) and a 55% route participation rate. In his three healthy games this year, he has a 62% snap share, a 62% rush share (14.7 per game), and a 58% route participation rate. So why has he been so unproductive over the last two weeks? It comes down to two things, the same two elements that have always carried Ekeler’s unique fantasy profile: targets and touchdowns. Ekeler averaged an absurd 7.5 targets per game in 2022 to go along with 18 TDs in 17 games. So far this year, he has just one touchdown on 4.3 targets a game. His touchdown numbers should bounce back some, but it seems that the Chargers’ offense under Kellen Moore simply isn’t going to throw the ball to Ekeler as often, meaning he’s more likely to not be an RB1 at all than be the
  • At this point, the only thing left for Rashee Rice to be a weekly must-start is for the Chiefs to give him a full role. He set new career highs in snap share and route participation rate this week, but those numbers were still just 59% and 65%. Even still, he’s already a flex candidate, with room to grow as his usage does.
  • Fantasy analysts, and I am certainly guilty of this myself, have mostly talked about Joshua Palmer as a comparison to Quentin Johnston. But with at least seven targets and eight Half-PPR points in every game since Mike Williams got injured, Palmer deserves some respect of his own as a viable weekly flex play.