Week 1 is all about trying to trying to find the proper level of reaction. You need to react to what you see, but we must collectively try not to overreact.
Some action in the wake of the “grand reveal” is required.
That’s essentially what Week 1 is: The curtain rises and we finally get to see in reality what we’ve been theorizing about all summer. Sometimes our projections will looks dead-on accurate and sometimes we will be thrown off. Then we have to decide was Week 1 was just a blip or a new reality we need to adjust our expectations to match.
My whole Week 1 advanced stats notebook will be centered on “grand reveals” that I can’t wait to see play out. I’ll start out with an entire team I can’t wait to track, the Las Vegas Raiders.
Over the last three years on average, Josh McDaniels’ offenses have been in the bottom half of the league in plays run and maintained a 46% run play percentage. Now, it’s worth keeping in mind that those three seasons contained the final year of Tom Brady’s Patriot run where he was tethered to a compromised receiver corps, the strange Cam Newton year and Mac Jones’ rookie campaign. You can argue that McDaniels’ was saddled with a situation that was simply impossible to run the offense he desires.
We’ve seen McDaniels’ offenses in New England play fast and throw high-percentage passes at a strong clip. Nothing about the Patriots the last three seasons, and especially the last two was facilitative to playing like that. He wants to do something different in an ideal world, he just couldn’t. With Derek Carr at the helm, he has a quarterback who could run an efficient and high-volume passing game.
You better believe that’s what he wants if you’re at all invested in the Raiders’ passing game players.
It’s nice that the Raiders’ target distribution should be pretty concentrated between their top-three guys. There isn’t really a legitimate WR3 who will command looks and while Ameer Abdullah looks like the clear passing down back, he’s more likely to be an outlet player than someone who gets schemed targets.
There’s also more versatility than credited between the Raiders’ big three of Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow.
Adams is the best outside receiver in the NFL but he still lined up in the slot on 466 snaps last season and maintained a hefty 37.3% targets per route run. When he was inside, they were getting him the ball. Renfrow is primarily a slot receiver but has enough ability to beat man coverage to play as an off-the-line flanker receiver outside. Waller is a former wideout who can line up outside as an X-receiver in certain packages. McDaniels has a lot to work with and will primarily be designing plays around these three guys.
Still, you’d rather these three players be splitting 65 to 70% of a big passing pie and that’s what bears watching in Week 1.
While the Raiders have an embarrassment of riches in the receiving department and we think that McDaniels wants to throw the ball at a high rate in an ideal world, we need to see it. This brain trust also brought in fullback Jakob Johnson from New England. They could shoot for big passing plays out of heavy personnel packages — the 2021 Raiders actually did a good bit of this — but that still speaks to a desire to run the ball well.
That’s the key. The Raiders should and could aim to be a good running team. Josh Jacobs is a good back and rookie Zamir White has some pop. Their offensive line also isn’t good enough to drop back a ton and not get Carr obliterated. However, they should not be a voluminous running offense like McDaniels’ teams have been of late.
There are upside cases in the range of outcomes where Carr has a career-best season, and pushes for 5,000 yards with 30-plus touchdowns through the air. McDaniels’ offenses of old are conducive to getting that kind of production, the Raiders have a trio of pass-catchers to make that happen and Carr is absolutely good enough to run an uptempo offense like that. In that scenario, everyone here eats. What we don’t want to see in Week 1 is any sort of Raiders team that looks like it wants to establish the run with Johnson on the field a ton, even if they’re facing a Chargers team that bled production to running backs last year.
We want to see a quarterback that’s getting the ball out quick and exploiting the variety of mismatches that’ll be available when you have one of the best separators, a dynamite slot, and a hulking receiving tight end at your disposal.
I think that’s what’s going to happen but I need the grand reveal to show that’s the case. That’s what Week 1 is all about.
Aaron Jones led all RBs with 300 snaps with a screen route percentage of 15.4%
Aaron Jones’ upside as a receiver was what led me to aggressively rank him as my RB6 throughout draft season. Yes, he’s likely to split early-down rushing work with AJ Dillon. The latter might even factor in as a receiver more than we think.
However, Jones is the lone both reliable and explosive player in the Packers’ receiving pecking order. His range of outcomes includes him leading the team in catches on the higher end and I’m not so sure it’s that outlandish of a case.
Aaron Rodgers will certainly look for Jones as an option in the passing game because he trusts him and the running back has shown downfield receiving ability. We see clearly that they’ll design touches in the passing game, as well. If Jones is going to return on my extremely bullish expectations, I’d like to see that be the case in Week 1.
Antonio Gibson ranked second with a screen route percentage of 13.9%
This one is interesting because we know Antonio Gibson doesn’t have a massive passing-down role with JD McKissic in the fold. However, Washington clearly doesn’t mind devising some looks for him to get the ball in space. That makes sense given his receiving background, even if they don’t trust him as a pass-blocker or in the hurry-up offense.
With Brian Robinson unfortunately on the shelf for at least the next four weeks, Gibson’s weekly outlook is going to look a lot like it did last season. He just might be playing on a slightly better offense now, or at least one that will threaten teams vertically more often.
Remember that Gibson had eight games of 19-plus touches last season despite playing through injury. He could get off to a hot start in 2022 with the Jaguars and Lions the first two teams on Washington’s schedule.
James Conner averaged 4.5 yards per carry running into lightboxes
He ranked second with 120 runs into light boxes, good for 59% of his total carries.
Conner’s putrid overall yards per carry from last season is often cited as the primary reason to fade him. However, it’s worth remembering that his vast amount of short-yardage and goal line carries brought down his yards per carry. That is how averages work!
This stat shows that Conner was still efficient and can be explosive when running in favorable situations. The Cardinals spread the field more than just about any other team with multi-receiver sets. He’ll find himself in many of those advantageous looks.
Among all wide receivers, D.J. Moore ranked fourth in team air yards share, fourth in target share and seventh in targets per route run
We just don’t give enough credence to the fact that D.J. Moore saw alpha-level volume last year. With no one ready to step up beyond him and maybe Robbie Anderson, he can easily do it again.
I’m sure I’ve said it 100 times over the offseason but I want to be ahead on Moore having a big season. Now that he’ll get at least league-average quarterback play for the first time in his career, 2022 could be that season.
How Baker Mayfield plays and his connection with Moore is one of the Week 1 reveals I’m most looking forward to. I think their games overlap much more than Mayfield’s did with Odell Beckham but it’s time to see that come to fruition.
Mitch Trubisky averaged 9.5 air yards per attempt in the preseason and threw just 17.6% of his passes at or behind the line of scrimmage
For further context, Kenny Pickett was at 8.9 and 22.2%. Even both of those numbers were a far cry from what Ben Roethlisberger put out there last season.
The Steelers' offense is loaded with good young players we all want to love in fantasy football. There is no way that all these players can hit if the offense is structured like it was last year. We have reason to believe that Roethlisberger held the offense back, not necessarily just with his play, but also with his refusal to run modern concepts like motion, play action or even to go under center. He just didn’t want to get it and that kept the offense constricted to the short areas.
We have plenty of evidence from the way these quarterbacks played in the preseason and the amount of motion Matt Canada called for, that things will change this season. Pickett was not a flawless prospect and Trubisky’s NFL career obviously hasn’t been smooth. However, simply from a structural perspective, they can be upgrades for the Steelers’ offense and Pickett obviously has the upside to be more than just that.
Top-5 QB scramble percentage
1 - Trey Lance 14.3%
2 - Justin Fields 13.9%
3 - Jalen Hurts 11.5%
4 - Lamar Jackson 10.7%
5 - Jameis Winston 10.6%
I have been and still consider myself to be a Trey Lance guy. He is right at the top of my list for Week 1 reveals I can’t wait to see.
I’m also open to the idea that Justin Fields is the arbitrage version of Lance. There’s no question Lance is surrounded by superior pass-catchers and likely a better running game in San Francisco. However, if Fields continues to scramble at a similar clip, he’s going to outkick his ADP with ease. You could argue this new coaching staff will likely lean into his mobility more than Matt Nagy’s crew. We saw plenty of boot action and moving pockets from Chicago in the preseason.
Fields had an underrated streak of top-12 quarterback scoring weeks when he was healthy in the latter portions of his rookie year. Chicago’s offense will have messy moments but Fields can still be good in fantasy. If you have a non-elite QB1 that you’re feeling slightly unsure about — a Matthew Stafford or Derek Carr type and perhaps even Lance himself — I think you can stash Fields.