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The Regression Files: Week 2

Is Hall 1A with Jets after Week 1?
Breece Hall averaged 12.7 yards per rush on Monday night, but Patrick Daugherty and Denny Carter don't see a path for him to continue producing big numbers for fantasy managers.

Folks, we have data.

Not a lot of data, of course, but some. And some, per the analytics, is better than none. Week 1 is over, you’re either terribly overconfident or ridiculously underconfident in your fantasy squads, and we are in search for players who ran particularly hot or cold on opening day.

Spotting guys who overperformed their opportunity and those who were on the wrong side of what we’ll call variance — because “luck” is so crass — can help us with waiver wire additions, start-sits, and sneaky DFS plays, if you’re into that sort of thing.

We’ll start with players who ran cold in Week 1, and who might be due for something of a bounceback in Week 2.

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Regression Candidates (The Good Kind)

Quarterback

Derek Carr (NO)

Carr was fine for fantasy purposes last week against a weak Titans defense. It could have (should have) been better though. Carr’s seven red zone pass attempts ranked fourth among all quarterbacks in Week 1; he managed just one touchdown on those opportunities.

It was good to see the New Orleans offense a little less run heavy than they were in 2022. The Saints were 11th in neutral pass rate against Tennessee, and Carr’s 27.4 percent downfield passing rate was tops among all QBs. That deep ball aggressiveness could quickly pay statistical dividends. He had the week’s fifth best completion rate over expected too. Carr makes for a fine and dandy streaming play in Week 2 against Carolina (are the kids still saying “fine and dandy”?)

Running Back

Isiah Pacheco (KC)

Things should be OK for the guy who actively seeks contact in the open field (though maybe he should consider not doing that one time, just for fun). In Week 1 against Detroit, Pacheco had a perfectly fine 43 percent route participation rate -- leading Jerick McKinnon in routes, targets, and catches -- and logged the team’s lone green zone rush. Pass catching plus goal line work should work out just fine for KC’s lead back.

Travis Kelce returning to the Chiefs offense should lift all boats in the Kansas City offense, to use a tortured phrase. That includes Pacheco.

Kenneth Gainwell (PHI)

Gainwell, with Rashaad Penny (bafflingly) a healthy scratch in Week 1, established himself as the Eagles’ runaway lead back. He logged 61 percent of the team’s running back snaps on his way to 14 rushes for 54 yards and four catches for 20 yards. It was a perfectly cromulent outing for the late-round running back.

In the high-powered Philadelphia offense, with all its neutral and positive game script, Gainwell’s usage and workload could soon translate to high-end running back fantasy numbers (if Penny remains sidelined and D’Andre Swift fails to make headway). Gainwell, importantly, had both of the Eagles’ inside-the-ten carries last week against New England. It’s the kind of workload that should make Gainwell drafters giddy.

Keep tabs on Gainwell’s practice status this week. The Eagles play Thursday night and Gainwell is reportedly dealing with a rib injury.

Rachaad White (TB)

White’s 2023 got off to a forgettable start unless he was in your fantasy lineup. Then you definitely won’t forget his stat line against Minnesota: 17 carries for 39 yards to go with two receptions on two targets for 10 yards. It was ugly all around for White.

He did, however, have 17 of Tampa’s 24 running back rushes and ran a route on a decent 55.3 percent of the team’s drop backs. With a couple more duds, perhaps rookie Sean Tucker — who impressed coaches and teammates in August — will eat into White’s workload. I think he’ll keep his death grip on the starting gig in Week 2 though.

Against the Vikings, White faced at least eight defenders in the box on 47 percent of his rushing attempts, the sixth highest rate in the league last week. Perhaps Baker Mayfield being halfway decent will keep defenses from crowding the line in coming weeks. For White, it couldn’t hurt.

Miles Sanders (CAR)

Sanders in Week 1 shared the Carolina backfield with Chuba Hubbard a little more than Sanders drafters had hoped. He notched 18 carries to nine for Hubbard while drawing four targets on a 47.8 percent route rate. Hubbard ran a route on 30 percent of the Panthers’ drop backs and had two targets.

Logging a not-hateful 4 yards per carry, Sanders could sustain the sort of workload that could return low-to-mid-RB2 numbers this year with some touchdown luck. He had the team’s lone inside-the-ten rushing attempt against Atlanta last week. So he has that going for him, which is nice. In Week 2, he gets a New Orleans defense graded by Pro Football Focus as opening day’s sixth worst rush defense. Hopefully it doesn’t matter that Hubbard is way better than Sanders.

Josh Jacobs (LV)

Don’t fret about Jacobs, who for some reason changed his jersey number and is now unrecognizable. He had 19 of Vegas’ 20 running back carries in Week 1 against Denver, including five rushes inside the ten yard line and two inside the five -- none of which ended up in the end zone paint. Nevertheless.

Jacobs’ two targets are a bit concerning. He had only four games in 2022 with less than three targets. Last year’s fantasy MVP ran a route on 49 percent of the Raiders’ drop backs. He’ll be fine.

Wide Receiver

DeAndre Hopkins (TEN)

Nuke was Nuke in his first game with the Titans: He commanded a 38.3 percent target share, 47 percent of the team’s air yards, and saw a whopping 11 first-read targets, second among all NFL pass catchers in Week 1.

He managed just 65 yards on seven catches. I know, I know. You want more. You need more. You’ll get it soon enough.

D.J. Moore (CHI)

You’re crying out in your sleep, screaming about the process of starting Moore against Green Bay in Week 1. You made the right call, especially if you’re in a Point Per Route league.

Moore last week ran a route on 94 percent of Justin Fields’ drop backs. That he had two targets is another story entirely. I refuse to believe Moore, after finding intermittent success in Carolina with the league’s most horrific slate of quarterbacks, is going to bomb in Chicago. There’s every reason to believe the Bears will force feed their clear No. 1 wideout with targets near the line of scrimmage. An elite tackle breaker and YAC monster, Moore will be OK. Now please stop crying and coping. You’re embarrassing your coworkers.

Robert Woods (HOU)

Patrick Kerrane’s favorite athlete of all time saw a whopping ten targets (30 percent target share) while running a full complement of routes against Baltimore in Week 1. Woods had 57 yards on six catches. You won’t be writing home about such an ordinary stat line.

It’s clear Woods, Nico Collins, and Noah Brown -- and not Tank Dell, for now -- will play in Houston’s three-receiver sets. On a Texans team that will be chasing points for most of the season, Woods could see inflated target numbers and serve as a viable play in 14-team leagues. One thing’s for sure: Woods is going to see plenty of easy, PPR scammy looks from C.J. Stroud.

Tee Higgins (CIN)

Expected fantasy points don’t pay the bills. They don’t feed your kids either. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. So when I tell you Higgins had nearly 13 expected fantasy points last week against Cleveland, I don’t expect it to make you feel better about the big, ugly goose egg you got from the Bengals WR2.

Higgins had a 27 percent target share and more than 150 air yards (59.4 percent air yards share) against the Browns. He’ll bounce back when Joe Burrow knows ball again.

Tight End

Jake Ferguson (DAL)

It was a rough season opener for Jake “Don’t Call Me Turd” Ferguson, who dropped a touchdown against the Giants and generally appeared out of sorts.

His usage was good, which probably makes you grind your molars if you started him in Week 1. Ferguson ran a route on 63 percent of Dak Prescott’s drop backs and led the Cowboys (and the NFL) with three targets inside the ten. Ignore for a moment that nothing came of those golden opportunities. Keep starting Ferguson, targeted on a ridiculous 46 percent of his routes against New York, in Week 2 against the Jets.

Dalton Schultz (HOU)

You’re going to love this if you started Schultz with hopes of negative game script fueling targets for the Houston tight end: He led all NFL tight ends in pass routes in Week 1. The targets did not follow.

Schultz had two catches on four targets for a miserable four yards against Baltimore. His 91 percent route share tells us Schultz will be out there as a mainstay in the Texans offense. Maybe that won’t mean much. But I wouldn’t give up on him after a massive letdown against a Ravens defense that has traditionally been tough against enemy tight ends.

Regression Candidates (The Bad Kind)

Quarterback

Jordan Love (GB)

Love in Week 1 was good enough to keep Bears fans firmly chained to the hottest part of football fan hell; the flames remain their companion. Love threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns. That’s fine.

What might not be fine: Love’s peripheral numbers. His Week 1 completion rate over expected ranked 25th among 30 qualifying quarterbacks in a decidedly run-first Green Bay offense (only the Falcons and Chargers had a lower neutral pass rate than the Packers last week). His drop back success rate was the seventh-lowest on the week.

Two of Love’s three green zone attempts were touchdowns. It’s all a little flimsy for my taste. Love should be considered a matchup-based play unless and until the Packers let it rip on offense.

Deshaun Watson (CLE)

Watson was, to use a technical term, not good in Week 1 against the Bengals. His completion rate over expected ranked 27th out of 30 qualifying quarterbacks. He was 20th in success rate. His on-target pass rate was the tenth lowest of Week 1.

Watson, as you know, saved his day with a second half rushing score (he had 45 yards on five rushes). That’s fine. It worked for fantasy purposes. And maybe that will be part of Watson’s game in the revamped Cleveland offense. It’s clear he’ll need to be (far) better as a passer to maintain viability as a fantasy starter though.

Running Back

Justice Hill (BAL)

This one is easy. Hill had eight rushes on eight snaps in Week 1, converting both of his inside-the-five carries into touchdowns against Houston. Gus Edwards out-snapped and out-gained Hill on the ground. I’m not sure why John Harbaugh used Hill as the team’s goal line back after J.K. Dobbins was sidelined with an Achilles injury, but I don’t think Hill has a great chance to continue that role in the coming weeks.

They call him Gus Bus for a reason. This is analytics.

Neither Hill or Edwards ran a route or saw a target against the Texans. I’d rather have Edwards if forced to choose. This will likely be a hideous backfield split for the remainder of 2023.

Breece Hall (NYJ)

The Breece bros, a famously belligerent group of nerds, don’t want to hear this. In fact, my safety could be threatened by pointing out that Hall played 17 snaps Monday night against the Bills while Dalvin Cook played 27 and Michael Carter played 12.

Coming off his 2022 ACL injury, Hall was stunningly explosive against Buffalo, ripping off two long runs in the first half and finishing with 127 yards on a mere 10 carries. I’ve seen the numbers, I’ve done the math, and I can report Hall is unlikely to average 12.7 yards per carry going forward. Without a quarterback who can keep opposing defenses honest, Hall and the rest of New York’s backs are likely to see never-ending stacked boxes this season.

Hall is good — really good, some might say. He even added a 20-yard reception to his hefty yardage total Monday night. In 12-team leagues, you’re still starting Hall. In smaller formats, you might not feel compelled to chase Hall’s otherworldly efficiency from Week 1.

Roschon Johnson (CHI)

Just exercise a little caution before going all in on Johnson as a waiver pick up this week. He split pass routes with the other Chicago backs (Johnson ran a route on 35 percent of the team’s drop backs; Khalil Herbert was at 26.5 percent; D’Onta Foreman had 30.5 percent). Much of the rookie’s involvement came in garbage time, though, to be fair to the dead-on-arrival Bears, we could see lots and lots of garbage time for Chicago’s offense this season.

Even if Johnson is Chicago’s best running back option (I think he is), seeing six targets on just 17 routes is probably not sustainable. The Bears backfield will continue turning fantasy managers into the Joker.

Bijan Robinson (ATL)

I know Bijan drafters are in the fetal position, in crisis, no longer understanding their place in the universe even though their guy scored 20 PPR points last week against Carolina. Tyler Allgeier being Atlanta’s RB1 will do that to a person.

I won’t make this a lengthy and painful breakdown of Robinson’s Week 1 usage. I only want to tell you he was targeted on a mind-bending 37.5 percent of his pass routes against the Panthers (that seven of those routes were from the slot is definitely good for Robinson). Unless he starts sharing high-value green zone touches with Tyler Allgeier — who had four inside-the-ten carries to zero for Bijan — Robinson’s path to RB1 status could hinge on touchdown scoring through the air. We don’t want that.

Wide Receiver

Rashid Shaheed (NO)

The nature of Shaheed’s usage means he’ll be a volatile, all-or-nothing fantasy play in a balanced New Orleans offense. That is, unless Michael Thomas or Chris Olave get dinged up and Shaheed gets a playing time bump.

Against the Titans in Week 1, Shaheed logged around half of the Saints’ offensive snaps — with a 16.5 average depth of target — and caught a touchdown on six targets (he nearly came down with a second score). That’s hardly a reliable wideout fantasy profile. Don’t get wide eyed about the speedy receiver’s Week 1 stat line.

Rashee Rice (KC)

Rice’s route rate is going to have to rise if he’s going to be anything resembling a reliable WR3 play in 12-team leagues. The rookie’s Week 1 stat line (three catches, 29 yards, TD) might obscure that he ran a pass route on 24 percent of KC’s drop backs against the Lions. The good news: Rice was targeted on a team leading 45 percent of those routes.

Probably that’s unsustainable. But with horrific Week 1 outings from Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney, one has to suppose Rice can get more run going forward.

Romeo Doubs (GB)

This isn’t where I tell you not to start Doubs in the coming weeks. If Christian Watson (hamstring) remains out, Doubs is a must-play option in 12-team leagues.

I will say, as politely as possible, that Doubs got away with it in Week 1 against Chicago. Limited with a hamstring issue of his own, Doubs ran a pass route on 66 percent of the Packers’ drop backs. Half of his four receptions were touchdowns (both from inside the ten yard line). Hopefully Doubs can get back to a 90-95 percent route share in Week 2.

Tight End

Hayden Hurst (CAR)

Hurst certainly got away with it in Week 1. I’m not mad about it. Stop saying I’m mad.

Hurst caught five of seven targets for 41 yards and a score against Atlanta. His peripherals weren’t sterling though: Hurst’s route rate was a low-ish 64 percent. That will need to be higher in the coming weeks if Hurst is to continue as a viable streaming or deep league option.

Pat Freiermuth (PIT)

The Muth’s second half touchdown in the Steelers’ blowout Week 1 loss to the 49ers smoothed over an otherwise nightmare usage day for the tight end.

Freiermuth ran a route on just 46 percent of the Steelers’ drop backs; rookie Darnell Washington ate into the route running role with a 29 percent route rate against the Niners. Freiermuth’s 17 percent targets per route run isn’t inspiring either. Until he’s running more routes, Freiermuth should be considered a fringe option in 12-team formats.

Donald Parham (LAC)

The gigantic tight end secured all three of his Week 1 targets for 21 yards and a short touchdown, upsetting Gerald Everett drafters along the way. Parham shouldn’t be considered a streaming play though. He had a 40 percent route share last week against the Dolphins while Everett posted a slightly-less-bad 56 percent route participation.