Jimmy Garoppolo ranks fifth-highest in screen pass rate, sixth-highest in play-action rate, and seventh-lowest in the percentage of his passes that travel 10-plus yards in the air.
Translation: The 49ers are doing everything in the book to hide their quarterback. He is the only quarterback to not attempt a single “big-time throw,” per Pro Football Focus.
I said it heading into Week 3 and it’s worth repeating. They are not going to beat good teams with Garoppolo playing such cookie-cutter football.
It didn’t work against Green Bay and of course, when he tried to play outside of himself, Garoppolo made mistakes. That’s just who he is.
Maybe Trey Lance straight-up isn’t ready. That’s for Kyle Shanahan to decide. However, the watch should be officially on. The 49ers rank 28th in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed. Injuries in the secondary continue to mount. It’s looking doubtful that late-arrival Josh Norman will even suit up for Week 4. That’s troubling considering the Seattle Seahawks are on the docket.
This matchup sports a 51.5-point over/under, per BetMGM. The expectation is for this game to turn into a shootout. Seattle’s offense can hang in those situations when Russell Wilson is firing on all cylinders. San Francisco has the receivers to do it but they need their quarterback to open up his game. The Seahawks defense certainly has enough holes for Garoppolo to exploit with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk (plus George Kittle, if he’s healthy).
Whether Garoppolo can hold up his end of the bargain is the question of the moment. If he puts up another dud in Week 4, the cries for Trey Lance will become deafening.
Skeptics will point to the historically awful start of this year’s rookie class as a reason for keeping Lance in the incubator. It’s a fair point, especially given Lance’s lack of college reps. However, Lance is easily and without a second’s worth of doubt in the best situation among those Round 1 quarterbacks.
You think Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson wouldn’t love an offensive line like the 49ers'? Mac Jones wouldn’t instantly connect with a Samuel or Aiyuk? What would Justin Fields sacrifice to work alongside Shanahan as a play-caller rather than live through the hell Matt Nagy threw him in last week?
No one knows if Lance will instantly upgrade this offense the moment he hits the field. It’s unknown if he’d unlock the upside of guys like Aiyuk and Kittle, who have suffered through three weeks under Garoppolo. However, if the 49ers lose to the Seahawks and suddenly face a slippery slope of falling behind in an ultra-stacked NFC West, the allure of the unknown will only be that much more tempting.
The Patriots offensive line ranks 27th in adjusted line yards
As I mentioned in my single-game DFS preview, the Patriots are in the middle of an identity crisis. The team seems to want to exist somewhere between being a bully-ball squad and the RPO-heavy, tempo-driven offense that Mac Jones fits in best.
The biggest problem in being a power-run team is that the offensive line isn’t playing up to par. Trent Brown has been out at right tackle and a handful of others are struggling. They rank 18th in rushing DVOA.
Of course, they aren’t going to be able to establish the run against Tampa Bay either way. So let’s hope we see some more quick-strike, pass-heavy concepts that lend themselves more to Jones’ strength.
The Bucs lead the NFL in neutral situation passing rate
Outside of a mythical “Bill Belichick game-planning” advantage, it’s tough to see how the Patriots have any shot at slowing down the Bucs passing attack. Not only do they throw aggressively, they’re efficient. Tampa Bay ranks sixth in passing DVOA.
The fact that they can throw so many waves of pass-catchers at you just can’t be overstated. With Antonio Brown back this week, the battle station will be fully operational.
Even when Tampa plays in positive game scripts, they lead the NFL with a 67 percent passing rate. They aren’t even pretending to want to run the ball. Translation: Even if/when Tom Brady and co. mount a lead on his former team, expect the passes to continue flying. And not just for the revenge narrative, but because that’s when the Bucs are at their best.
Matthew Stafford leads all quarterbacks with a 150.5 passer rating on play action
During his Lions’ days, Stafford was never a play-action-heavy quarterback. Shockingly, that looks like a bad call by Detroit.
Sean McVay’s offense long boosted Jared Goff because of the intense use of play-action and motion. Now those benefits are going to an obviously more talented quarterback. It’s turning the Rams into one of, if not the best, offensive ecosystems in the entire league. That’s leaked into Cooper Kupp’s absurd production but expect that to continue to trickle down to ancillary threats like Tyler Higbee and Van Jefferson.
And yes, we can expect Robert Woods to reap the benefits of this quite soon.
Jalen Hurts has the second-highest rate of screen passes in the NFL
Hurts has been thriving on these plays with a 117.7 passer rating on screen throws and a 90.6 rating on all others.
No one cares how Hurts gets it done for fantasy. His rushing ability and some designer passes are all you need to hit the QB1 threshold. On the other hand, we need to see more out of Hurts as a pure passer. Otherwise, it’s going to lead to weekly volatility from guys like DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. The former will still see enough air-yards volume to get there most weeks but the latter doesn’t have much margin for error now that he’s almost splitting time down the middle with Zach Ertz.
Lamar Jackson leads all QBs with 29% of his passes traveling 15-plus air yards
Lamar Jackson is balling out this year. He’s also sporting a near-three-percent completion rate above expectation. He’s not doing it with gimme passes either.
For this reason, I remain quite bullish on Rashod Bateman. Yes, he’s a rookie who was just activated off IR. Missing all that time isn’t ideal. But it does remind me a bit of when Odell Beckham Jr. returned in Week 5 of his rookie season after a long injury layoff. The absence didn’t matter; he made an instant impact.
Beckham did that because he was a pro-level technician and route-runner at LSU. That’s who Bateman was in college. Obviously, Bateman will not put up Beckham’s rookie-year stats in Baltimore’s offense. His ability to make a splash and be the alpha receiver that an ascending Lamar Jackson has desperately needed should not be discounted, however.
Cleveland is a Top-5 offense in DVOA
1st in rushing
10th in passing
Speaking of Odell Beckham: My thesis on the star receiver was that the Browns need him to just be the last layer of seasoning on an already delicious offensive dish. Cleveland has shown that they can be a strong offense without him. I remain unconvinced a dash of Beckham’s ability on top of that wouldn’t take them to another level.
Beckham looked like that guy in his Week 3 debut and the Browns used him as such. Beckham ranks third in “weighted opportunity” per game so far. For context, that usage puts him right between Davante Adams and Cooper Kupp. Not bad company. Even better than his deployment, I thought he looked like the same old explosive Beckham. He’s a fantasy WR2 at worst the rest of the way.
Just 16.2% of Matt Ryan’s passes have traveled 10+ air yards
Ryan and Andy Dalton are the lone starters south of 20 percent. You don’t want to be in Andy Dalton’s company as a vertical passer at this point.
Meanwhile, the Falcons' Week 4 opponent, Washington. is tied with Detroit for the most 15-plus air yards completions allowed.
Much like Washington’s Week 3 matchup with the Bills: Something has to give here. Will Washington’s defense get back to the form we expected prior to the season or will they finally give the Falcons the big game we’ve been craving?
There’s no question there are some rightful and serious concerns with the Falcons offense. They have this matchup and Week 5’s date with the Jets to show something. If they don’t, only then I will fully worry about Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts.
There are 15 WRs who have seen 28+ targets this season. The following are not among the current Top-25 in fantasy scoring:
Speaking of Ridley, he’s among this cohort of receivers who we can have some hope will progress in the scoring department based on their volume. For the most part …
Claypool is the only one I don’t have much optimism for. Once Diontae Johnson is back, the volume will come down. I don’t want to be banking on Ben Roethlisberger’s third option especially when that guy is a vertical threat.
Like, give me a break:
Guys like this could never play in today’s league pic.twitter.com/kuFu2PU520
— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) September 27, 2021
Diggs is an easy buy but Pittman is in that range too. He’s the clear alpha in Indy. Even if the whole Carson Wentz experiment already looks sunk, that counts for something if you’re looking for a WR3.
One Prediction: Jakobi Meyers gets his first career touchdown this week. He’s on too extreme of a touchdown drought for this to last much longer. He’s getting all the targets already and is the obvious short-area threat to soak up some of James White’s vacated volume. The Bucs are in such bad shape at cornerback, they just signed Richard Sherman.
Top-5 in Yards after contact per rush (pre-TNF)
Oddly enough, Barber playing so well for the Raiders has made me optimistic about Josh Jacobs when he’s healthy. I was out on Jacobs this year because I assumed that the Raiders signed Kenyan Drake to platoon with him. Barber’s usage in Weeks 2 and 3 confirm they actually gave Drake $11 million to be a gadget player. So Jacobs should assume lead back duties when he returns. If that’s this week, he’s going to get a Chargers run defense on Monday night that’s been perfectly exploitable (24th in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to running backs).