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Fantasy Football Beyond The Box Scores Week 6: Elijah Mitchell > Jordan Mason

Ted goes beyond the box scores to identify key under-the-radar stats and fantasy football takeaways from Sunday’s NFL action.

Was it just me, or did Week 6 kind of suck, at least from a fantasy perspective? Not only did we get another seemingly inevitable wave of injuries, but scoring was down across the league, as the under hit in all but two of Sunday’s games.

On the other hand, all NFL Sundays are good NFL Sundays. And, as always, there is plenty to take away from Week 6’s action. 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). 

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Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans
  • There was buzz on Twitter when it was announced that Keaton Mitchell would be active for this matchup, but the rookie didn’t play a single offensive snap. This was instead a classic Gus Edwards/Justice Hill split, with Edwards leading in ground work and total snaps while Hill dominated passing downs and the two-minute drill. Both are still fringe flex plays, and Mitchell is only worth stashing in deep or Dynasty leagues.
  • Malik Willis played a quarter of this game with Ryan Tannehill sidelined and finished with 44 net passing yards (sack yardage subtracted from his passing total) … 48 of which came on a single screen pass to Tyjae Spears. As long as he is the Titans’ starter, their entire passing offense must be avoided, and I would also consider benching Derrick Henry in touch matchups given how game-flow-reliant his role now is.
  • Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman both entered this game without injury designations, and Nelson Agholor still played above both, although not by too much (three snaps and four routes ahead of Bateman). None of the three are more than desperation flex plays, but Agholor may be the best of the bunch at this point.
Washington Commanders @ Atlanta Falcons
  • Last week, I said it was worth watching the split between Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson, as Robinson, who until that point had seen his role expand each week, had plummeted back down to a 40% rush share. This week, the rookie rebounded slightly but still landed in a 50/50 split, as each back saw 13 carries. On the bright side, Bijan did set a new career high with eight targets and played 77% of snaps. Still, unless he starts to trend up again, he’s more of a low-end RB1 or even a high-end RB2.
  • Jahan Dotson has run 40 more routes and played 62 more snaps than Curtis Samuel; he has just three fewer targets and 50 more air yards. But the veteran has more than doubled Dotson’s totals in both receiving yards and fantasy points. You could argue this means Dotson is due for positive regression, but some of this isn’t just bad luck: Dotson’s higher ADOT and Sam Howell’s lack of deep accuracy have led to a huge gap in catchable target rate between the two (87% to 68%), and the sophomore’s 54.6 PFF receiving grade is the eighth-lowest among 96 qualified WRs. I don’t blame anyone cutting bait on Dotson in Redraft leagues, while Samuel is firmly in the flex conversation.
  • Kyle Pitts defies all fantasy logic. In Weeks 1-4, he averaged 89% route participation and 4.3 fantasy points. Over the last two weeks, he’s averaged a much worse 65% route participation and a much better 12.2 fantasy points. I have to predict more down weeks in his future with this reduced usage … which likely means he’s guaranteed to produce again in Week 7.

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Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears
  • It didn’t show up on the fantasy scoreboard, but after two straight weeks of trending down, Alexander Mattison’s usage shot back up to elite levels this week, thanks largely to Cam Akers seeing just one carry on nine snaps. He also set a new season-high of seven targets with Justin Jefferson sidelined. Perhaps the Vikings have realized what the Rams did: Akers is one of the league’s least efficient running backs (his -1.4 rush yards over expected per attempt is the second-lowest among qualified RBs). If so, Mattison should have better days ahead and is firmly back in the RB2 mix.
  • Justin Fields is reportedly already doubtful for Week 7, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he misses multiple weeks. This is certainly bad for D.J. Moore, but it’s not a death sentence. He has produced with very lackluster QB play before, and Fields’ replacement Tyson Bagent targeted him on a whopping 43% of his 14 attempts. If that number stays anywhere close to that high, Moore can produce on volume alone.
  • Proving the mantra that targets are earned, Justin Jefferson’s absence was not as big a boost as many expected for the Vikings’ remaining WRs. Both Jordan Addison and K.J. Osborn saw five targets, which was exactly Osborn’s previous average and actually slightly below Addison’s. Kirk Cousins’ volume was down, so those five targets did equate to a 17% target share, an increase for both over their previous averages, but still not a huge jump. While Addison and Osborn should still be flex plays, the biggest beneficiaries of the WR1’s absence were the aforementioned Mattison and T.J. Hockenson, who saw a season-high 27% target share and is a locked-in TE1.
Seattle Seahawks @ Cincinnati Bengals
  • Coming out of the Seahawks’ bye, first-round rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba set new high marks in both snap share (72%) and route participation rate (81%). He also saw more usage out wide, running 32.5% of routes from traditional WR positions — this may not sound like a lot, but it easily beats his previous high of 21.9%, leading to a new career-high ADOT of 7.4. This all comes with a decently large grain of salt given that D.K. Metcalf missed part of the game with a hip injury, but is still a step in the right direction for the 20th overall pick.
  • Tee Higgins was clearly being worked back from injury in this one, playing far fewer snaps than Tyler Boyd (29 to 48). Expect them to revert to their usual roles going forward, leading to the expected WR2 production from Higgins and fringe flex value from Boyd.
  • Last year’s fantasy QB5, Geno Smith, is currently the QB22 in points per game and has just one top-12 outing. His attempt, completion percentage, and yards per attempt numbers are all down across the board, but the biggest culprit for Smith’s decline is his touchdown rate. In 2022, 5.2% of Smith’s pass attempts went for a TD. So far in 2023, that number is just 3.0%. That 2.2% gap may not sound like much, but it would be 3.6 more touchdowns for Smith, aka 14.4 more fantasy points, which would land him at a much more respectable QB17. I don’t think he’ll reach last year’s heights, but Smith should be more of a high-end QB2 with better TD luck going forward.
San Francisco 49ers @ Cleveland Browns
  • The leading narrative that has come from this game is that Brock Purdy can’t be productive without his full supporting cast, but I think the partial absences of Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, and Trent Williams weren’t the main culprits in Purdy’s first dud of the season. Instead, this Browns defense, which is putting up truly absurd numbers, is the real story. Only three players (Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, and George Pickens), have managed more than 13 Half-PPR points against them, and I would recommend benching all but the most elite options against them going forward.
  • Despite the Browns already having their bye, Elijah Moore is one of just 30 players to have at least seven targets in four or more games this season. This is admittedly a cherry-picked stat, but it still shows how remarkably inefficient Moore has been to be just the WR70, especially when you consider he also has eight carries on the season. He’s nothing more than a DFS dart or desperation flex at this point, but don’t be surprised if we get some big outings at some point from the former Dynasty darling.
  • Christian McCaffrey exited early with an oblique injury, the severity of which is still unknown. This will make Jordan Mason, who took over in his absence and scored a touchdown, a hot pickup, but don’t forget about Elijah Mitchell. He was behind Mason in this one, but it was his first week back from a two-week absence due to a neck injury. Prior to his injury, Mitchell was clearly ahead of Mason in the pecking order, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes most of the work if CMC misses time. Update: Per Kyle Shanahan’s comments and the awesome Coachspeak Index, Mitchell is almost certainly going to be the main guy.
New Orleans Saints @ Houston Texans
  • A fully healthy (as far as we know) Dameon Pierce played just 33% of the Texans’ offensive snaps this week, by far his lowest mark of the season. Given that he has been very inefficient so far this year and was outperformed in both classic yards per carry (4.8 to 2.6) and yards over expected per carry (0.4 to -0.25) by Devin Singletary this week, his role has to be considered in danger.
  • Rashid Shaheed has fully established himself as one of the league’s best deep threats, with his 18.6 yards per reception the fourth-highest among qualified WRs. However, I still don’t think his volume is consistent enough to make Shaheed more than an absolute dart-throw flex play. Heading into this week, he had two straight games with under five fantasy points, and it would have been three (and included a goose egg) if it weren’t for his Week 3 punt return touchdown.
  • Nico Collins’ 3.01 yards per route run so far this season rank fourth in the NFL, behind just Tyreek Hill, Cooper Kupp, and Brandon Aiyuk. If you can take advantage of his back-to-back relatively down weeks to buy the ascending young WR, do it.
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Obviously, Jonathan Taylor is being worked back slowly in his return to the Colts. But is it possible we are all being overly confident that he will claim a workhorse share of this backfield sooner rather than later? By pretty much any metric (PFF rush grade, yards per carry, yards after contact per carry, missed tackles per attempt), Zack Moss has been the better back in 2023. I still think this is JT’s backfield eventually, but he might peak at more of a 60/40 split than his dominance in previous seasons.
  • Christian Kirk now leads Calvin Ridley in targets, receptions, yards, and, of course, fantasy points. Ridley is seeing more down-the-field work (13.3 ADOT vs 8.7) and red zone opportunities (six targets to three), but at this point, they’re a lot closer to even than most rankings would have you believe.
  • With eight targets on 55 attempts this week, Josh Downs now has a 20% target share on Gardner Minshew’s 138 attempts this season. He did lower his already tiny yards per catch to an even smaller 9.9 this week but also caught his first touchdown pass. As long as Minshew is under center, Downs is a flex candidate, especially in Full PPR formats.
Carolina Panthers @ Miami Dolphins
  • With Chuba Hubbard having a solid outing in Miles Sanders’ absence (and being the more efficient back on the season), he will still be heavily involved when Miles Sanders returns. But don’t expect him to necessarily be the lead back. Even though he saw more touches with Sanders active last week, six of his carries and both of his targets came in the fourth quarter, which was pure garbage time. This week could have changed things, but last we saw, Sanders was the preferred option.
  • With how hot this Miami offense is running, their RB2 can be considered as a flex option. Right now, that’s Salvon Ahmed, who played 41% of snaps with Tua Tagovailoa in this one with rookie De’Von Achane on IR (although it will reportedly be a short stint). Ahmed is worth adding, but so is veteran Jeff Wilson Jr., who has had his 21-day window to return from IR opened and was arguably the Dolphins’ top RB down the stretch of the 2022 season.
  • While Adam Thielen is undoubtedly the Panthers’ WR1, rookie Jonathan Mingo is clearly their WR2, even if D.J. Chark saw more targets this week. Mingo played 93% of snaps to Chark’s 67% and ran a team-high 40 routes on 42 Bryce Young dropbacks. If Young, who has played better of late, can continue to settle in and look down the field more often, Mingo will find himself fantasy-relevant down the stretch.
New England Patriots @ Las Vegas Raiders
  • For the first time this season with both healthy, Kendrick Bourne ran more routes than DeVante Parker. This is good for fantasy managers, as Bourne is the only Patriots WR who has provided any real fantasy production this season; this week, he caught 10 of 11 targets for 89 yards. Don’t expect too much, but Bourne is a potential flex play with bye weeks and injuries mounting.
  • Rookie tight end Michael Mayer, who had been a fantasy non-factor through the first five weeks of the season, saw his usage explode this week. He set new career highs in essentially every stat, from snaps to targets to yards. However, even his much-improved 67% route participation rate would still rank tied for 20th among tight ends on the season. He’s worth adding in deep leagues, but don’t expect TE1 numbers unless his usage takes another leap.
  • This week’s one-catch seven-yard performance now makes three out of six weeks (and three of the last four) that Hunter Henry has scored fewer than three fantasy points. However, don’t overreact to his season-low 62% snap share, as he missed a section of the game with an ankle issue. With the ninth-most air yards and 14th-most targets of any tight end, Henry is still an option to consider at a position where some inconsistency can be forgiven.
Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • With two straight mediocre outings and a bye over his last three weeks, see if you can’t buy low on Mike Evans. He still saw 10 targets this week (one of which could have been a huge TD if it wasn’t batted at the line), and his efficiency numbers are absolutely elite: His 2.82 yards per route run ranks eighth in the league, and his 29% targets per route run ranks fifth. If a manager isn’t quite paying attention and forgets that he hardly played in Week 4, you could get a potential WR1 for a discount.
  • Jameson Williams is lucky he caught a deep TD in this one, because otherwise the Bust Birds would be Tweeting with full force. On the one hand, he now has two 40-yard touchdowns on just five career receptions. On the other hand, he has just five career receptions, and he played only 23% of snaps this week. He’s firmly a hold for now in my opinion, with huge upside but too small a role to trust yet.
  • Ke’Shawn Vaughn had just one fewer carry than Rachaad White this week. However, White still played 80% of snaps and had a very solid 76% route participation rate. The issue with White is more his own inefficiency and the Buccaneers’ general struggles on the ground than Vaughn being a threat to his job.
Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams
  • Damien Williams, who the Cardinals added less than two weeks ago, saw nine touches this week … on just 13 snaps. It’s a chance this means nothing, but he’s worth adding in the deepest of leagues if this is a sign he will eventually take over for Keaontay Ingram as the top early-down option in Arizona.
  • Do not worry that this week was the beginning of the end for Puka Nakua, even though he scored just 4.6 fantasy points while Cooper Kupp went off. The breakout rookie still saw a healthy 18% target share, and he dropped what should have been a TD. He’ll have plenty more big games, even with Kupp demanding an obscene 41% target share through two weeks.
  • Second-year tight end Trey McBride had more snaps, targets, receptions, and yards than Zach Ertz this week. The veteran still ran two more routes, but his 52% route share was far and away his lowest of the season so far. With this usage split, neither should be rostered in all but super deep leagues or those that start multiple tight ends.
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Jets
  • D’Andre Swift posted a truly shocking -3.46 yards per carry under expected this week, finishing with just 18 yards on 10 carries. But he was more involved in passing situations (especially the two-minute drill) than he has been so far, and saw 10 targets, catching eight for 40 yards and a touchdown. And despite this week’s atrocity, he is still performing better (aka less badly) on the season in terms of yards vs. expected than Kenneth Gainwell. Swift has struggled with efficiency before, so this rough outing is something to monitor, but for now he has been a top-13 RB for five straight weeks and shows no real signs of stopping.
  • The Eagles let him score an eight-yard touchdown and Breece Hall still averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, but this game was another great sign for his rest-of-season outlook. His 66% snap share was a new season high, and he saw 80% of the Jets’ RB carries, plus five targets. Hall could be an RB1 down the stretch, especially if the Jets’ defense keeps dominating opposing offenses to keep games close.
  • This is a general warning for the Eagles’ offense, which is already nowhere near as efficient as it was in 2022. Starting in Week 9, they have an absolutely brutal stretch of games, going six weeks (including their bye) without facing a team outside the top 10 in defensive DVOA. If you are fighting for a playoff spot, consider making a sideways move off of your Eagles players … but be warned, this may come back to bite you, as they have juicy matchups with the Giants and Cardinals in Weeks 16 and 17.