Because of small samples, putting too much faith into on/off splits can be dangerous. That doesn’t mean we should avoid them entirely, however, but we need to be careful. One way to improve our on/off splits is to look at production and usage, which for me is expected fantasy points. Today we’ll look at the key on/off splits from the 2021 season as we continue drafting for the upcoming year.
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Without Chase Edmonds: 23.4 half PPR on 18.4 exp. half PPR (5 games)
With Chase Edmonds: 11.2 half PPR on 9.2 exp. half PPR (8 games)
Edmonds without Conner: 12.9 half PPR on 15.6 exp. half PPR (3 games)
During that five-game stretch with Edmonds injured from Week 9-14, Conner averaged 22.2 touches with all inside the five-yard line RB touches and 89% of the passing situation targets to RBs. He was an elite upside RB1 with a bellcow role. That’s the ceiling for 2022, too. He needs to hold off June vet minimum signee Darrel Williams, who was 59th out of 61 RBs in yards after contact per carry and 58th in PFF’s elusiveness rating. Williams will play a lite version of the Edmonds’ role with Eno Benjamin (40 touches in two seasons) and Keaontay Ingram (6th round rookie) competing for No. 3 duties, but Conner was one of the better passing down backs in the NFL last year. PFF handed him the best pass-blocking grade and third-best receiving grade to pair with his 13th overall yards per route run number. There are injury concerns with Conner, and he is a negative regression candidate in the TD column, but there’s no denying what his ceiling is. He’s a buy at RB15 (33rd overall), especially with the Cardinals playing the damn Falcons in Week 17.
Without DeAndre Hopkins: 4.8 half PPR on 7.1 exp. half PPR (5 games)
With DeAndre Hopkins: 6.7 half PPR on 6.5 exp. half PPR (9 games)
Moore’s usage and production didn’t increase much without Hopkins last year. He ran a route on 70%, 87%, 33%, 48%, and 29% of dropbacks in regular season games that Hopkins missed. 50.7% in total over this stretch, and that includes the 87% game where A.J. Green was also inactive. Then with the season on the line in the playoffs, Moore ran a route on 46% of dropbacks. Simply put, the Cardinals viewed Moore as a gadget-only player, not even a slot receiver, last year. There’s reasonable odds he plays more prototypical slot in his second NFL season, but we are waiting for reports on where Marquise Brown will play following the trade. Hollywood can play outside, but his petite frame is best suited for a vertical slot role (read: 2021 Christian Kirk). For Moore to hold any half PPR value, the late-season lineup must be: Hopkins (X), Brown (Z), Moore (slot). But it’s possible that it’s a frustrating amount of: Hopkins (X), Green (Z), Brown (slot), Moore (gadget). … Oh, yeah. They could use more 2-WR sets with the addition of 2nd round TE Trey McBride. In half PPR best ball, I’m mostly out on Moore’s WR55 (118th overall) price tag.
With Philadelphia: 6.7 half PPR on 7.9 exp. half PPR (6 games)
With Arizona: 9.2 half PPR on 10.6 exp. half PPR (10 games)
With DeAndre Hopkins: 8.2 half PPR on 8.9 exp. half PPR (3 games)
Including playoffs, Ertz averaged 7.0 targets with the Cardinals, and that number jumped to 8.3 targets in the seven games with Kyler Murray and without DeAndre Hopkins. It would be a relative upset if Ertz didn’t have top-8 TE fantasy usage in the first six games of the 2022 season. After securing a 3-year, $32M contract with immovable guarantees through the 2023 season, Ertz is locked into the slot TE role that this offense uses despite the Trey McBride second-round selection. My favorite Murray stack is with Hopkins and Ertz.
There’s not really on/off splits to factor in here, but I wanted to quickly mention that Marquise Brown was the WR13 in expected fantasy usage based on his targets last year. While largely unproven, Bateman’s upside is greater as a bigger-body player than Hollywood. I’ll buy at WR25.
Without Sanders or Beasley: 11.7 half PPR on 11.9 exp. half PPR (5 games)
With Sanders and Beasley: 4.5 half PPR on 4.2 exp. half PPR (11 games)
Davis was the Bills No. 4 receiver for most of the 2021 season until Beasley and Sanders started getting banged up. The vertical youngster showed his worth late in the regular season, and then finally cracked primary 3-WR sets in the playoffs despite Beasley and Sanders being active. He ran a route on 65% and 83% of dropbacks in the playoffs. Spiked-week WR2/3 numbers on WR3 usage are expected in this elite passing offense with a bunch of slot-only receivers on the depth chart behind him (Jamison Crowder, Isaiah McKenzie, and Khalil Shakir). Those 11.9 expected half PPR points would’ve made him the WR17 in fantasy usage last season.
The starting slot WR for the Bills averaged 8.9 half PPR points on 9.8 expected half PPR points last season. Most of that came from Cole Beasley with a few spiked weeks out of Isaiah McKenzie sprinkled in. The Athletic reports that it’s a toss up between Jamison Crowder and McKenzie for the starting nod in 2022. This is a key training camp battle in the best ball streets. Get some free McKenzie while you can.
Before Week 13: 7.2 half PPR on 8.2 exp. half PPR (12 games)
After Week 13: 15.8 half PPR on 16.8 exp. half PPR (4 games)
After Week 13’s loss to the Patriots, the Bills basically gave up on Zack Moss and Matt Breida, ultimately putting Singletary into a modern bellcow role. That was a fun stretch and continued into the playoffs, but the addition of second-round pass-game complement James Cook likely pushes Singletary back towards his early-season role where he was a nearly worthless asset. Until Josh Allen chills in the red zone as a Newton-esque rusher, Singletary has few outs to upside with Cook now in the mix.
CMC scored 23.2, 22.2, 21.1, and 21.4 half PPR points on 24.3, 25.8, 20.6, and 12.4 expected half PPR points in his four healthy games last year. Those 20.8 expected half PPR points would’ve led all RBs and WRs last year and were 2.9 more than Jonathan Taylor.
Without Justin Fields: 11.8 half PPR on 13.2 exp. half PPR (6 games)
With Justin Fields: 9.0 half PPR on 8.9 exp. half PPR (10 games)
Without Allen Robinson: 11.7 half PPR on 12.9 exp. half PPR (5 games)
With Allen Robinson: 9.3 half PPR on 9.4 exp. half PPR (11 games)
Mooney saw far more volume when he had Andy Dalton throwing him passes and when A-Rob was sidelined. Robinson was more or less not replaced in this offense, so Mooney’s 11.7 half PPR points on 12.9 expected half PPR points in the five games without Robinson are definitely catching my eye. In fact, those per-game averages would’ve been the WR27 and WR11 respectively last year. Fields should be better in year two, so I’m less concerned about the Dalton/Fields splits in general. It’s worth noting how Mooney’s aDOT with Dalton was at 9.0 yards while Mooney’s aDOT with Fields climbed all the way to 13.5 yards downfield. Expect a “better in best ball” type of season from Mooney with Fields' inconsistent and aggressive style of play. At WR29 in ADP, a slight profit is expected.
Without Gallup or Cooper: 14.1 half PPR on 12.2 exp. half PPR (9 games)
With Gallup and Cooper: 11.9 half PPR on 9.9 exp. half PPR (5 games)
Those 14.1 half PPR points would’ve made Lamb the WR12 last year, and his usage in games with one of his receivers missing equated to WR16. Lamb will have the classic year three breakout on his side this season, and more importantly, he could be the only legit wide receiver to start the year with Gallup expected to start on reserve/PUP which would mean four missed games at least. Any setback or lack of explosiveness from Gallup leaves Lamb with a top-five ceiling. That’s why he’s the WR6 in ADP right now.
Before Bye: 8.9 half PPR on 10.0 exp. half PPR (10 games)
Post Bye Rookie Bump: 13.8 half PPR on 12.8 exp. half PPR (7 games)
After Bye with Melvin: 11.6 half PPR on 11.1 exp. half PPR (6 games)
After Bye without Melvin: 26.8 half PPR on 23.0 exp. half PPR (1 game)
In their final six games together last year, Melvin Gordon barely edged Williams in expected half PPR points, 11.6 to 11.1. That clearly needs to change if Williams will get anywhere near his RB14 ADP (27th overall). The good news is that’s likely to happen with Williams earning more work in year two and more touchdowns to go around in general with Russell Wilson at QB. How that split shakes out is anyone’s guess, but there’s no arguing against Williams’ elite RB1 ceiling if Gordon misses time or takes a complete back seat. Ultimately, Williams is a medium loss or big hit selection early in Round 3. I’m in.
In the nine games when all three were “healthy” together last year, it was: Tim Patrick (6.9 half PPR per game), then Jerry Jeudy (6.2), and then Courtland Sutton (2.9). I find this interesting, but this will probably be less predictive than the other splits for a few obvious reasons. One, Russell Wilson. Two, new coaching staff. And three, injuries. Sutton was reportedly struggling coming off a torn ACL, Jeudy was playing through a high-ankle sprain, and K.J. Hamler was inactive due to a multi-ligament knee injury paired with a dislocated hip (seriously one of the gnarliest injuries and a reminder of what he’s trying to return from this year).
Besides health, the thing to look for in training camp and the preseason is alignment in formation. During this 2021 late-season stretch, the Broncos’ 2-WR sets featured Patrick (42 routes) and Sutton (41) per SIS, not Jeudy (14) probably because of size and run blocking. But in 3-WR sets, Jeudy earned more targets (41) than Sutton (27) and Patrick (25). This suggests that Jeudy probably has the highest ceiling here, but he needs to sneak into 2-WR sets and Hamler can’t be a slot-snap spoiler for that ceiling to be unlocked. Between the two, Sutton is a tad safer for now, but all Broncos receivers are being priced up: Sutton (37th overall), Jeudy (43rd), Patrick (120th), and Hamler (172nd).
Before Bye: 5.5 half PPR on 7.8 expected half PPR (7 games)
Post Bye Rookie Bump: 15.5 half PPR on 12.0 expected half PPR (9 games)
Before Week 10, the young Trojan had just six total routes in either 1- or 2-WR sets, but he earned a key role in 12-personnel down the stretch allowing him to break out of the slot-only label. The tricky part is separating his skill set and new role from the shockingly bad competition for targets he faced late last season (see below). If we take his usage (not his outlier production) from the entire Post Bye Rookie Bump sample (not just the last six baller games), then St. Brown would’ve been the WR17 last year. Factor in the additions of D.J. Chark and Jameson Williams with the returns of D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson, and I find St. Brown’s WR31 price tag just fine.
Jones has been a high-end RB2 with Davante Adams and a stud RB1 without him over the last few seasons. Without a clear target accumulator plugging in, we should expect Jones to see a heavy dosage of targets. That’s partially because of this offense’s reliance on the screen game. They were 3rd in screen targets in 2021, and most went to Adams. In the only game without Adams last year, Jones saw a career-high seven screen targets. A.J. Dillon out-touched Jones inside the five yard line last year (0.67 to 0.63 per game), but Jones is one of the rare fantasy RBs that can afford to split some high-value goal line work because his receiving numbers will likely be nuts.
Without Henry Ruggs: 13.5 half PPR on 11.6 exp. half PPR (11 games)
With Henry Ruggs: 10.1 half PPR on 9.9 exp. half PPR (9 games)
Without Darren Waller: 13.3 half PPR on 12.1 exp. half PPR (8 games)
With Darren Waller: 11.1 half PPR on 10.3 exp. half PPR (11 games)
To no surprise, Renfrow was much better when he wasn’t competing for targets with Ruggs or Waller down the stretch. That will remain the case in 2022 with Waller likely healthier and with Davante MFin Adams in town. If he dropped down to 10.0 half PPR points per game like he did with more target competition last year, Renfrow would’ve been the WR37. He’s currently going as the WR40, which makes him a not terrible selection at cost.
Without DeVante Parker: 14.5 half PPR on 12.1 exp. half PPR (7 games)
With DeVante Parker: 10.4 half PPR on 11.0 exp. half PPR (8 games)
Obviously Parker is gone, but the on/off splits are a warning sign to what Tyreek Hill’s presence could mean for Waddle. To pay off his WR16 (36th overall) price tag, Waddle will need Hill to miss time, Tua to take a big third-year leap, or will just have to out-target a receiver widely considered a top-five player at his position. We’ll see how much new coach Mike McDaniel uses Kyle Shanahan’s historically slow-paced, run-heavy offense in Miami.
Without Adam Thielen: 11.4 half PPR on 9.1 exp. half PPR (6 games)
With Adam Thielen: 5.9 half PPR on 5.2 exp. half PPR (11 games)
WR3s on good real life offenses are some of my favorite upside picks in the double digit rounds, and Osborn’s splits are the exact reason why that is. Osborn’s 11.4 half PPR points per game would’ve made him the WR28 last year if he had it the entire season, so Osborn has every-week WR3/4 value if either Justin Jefferson or Thielen goes down with an injury. This year’s splits with Jefferson and Thielen healthy could be better, too, because the offense will play with more pass and neutral pass rate under a new coaching staff. Plus, it’s possible that Thielen is just toast at this point.
Before Bye: 2.3 half PPR on 6.0 exp. half PPR (3 games)
Post Bye Rookie Bump: 15.2 half PPR on 11.7 exp. half PPR (7 games)
Without Corey Davis: 9.0 half PPR on 8.0 exp. half PPR (6 games)
With Corey Davis: 14.9 half PPR on 13.0 exp. half PPR (4 games)
Without Zach Wilson: 13.9 half PPR on 8.7 exp. half PPR (5 games)
With Zach Wilson: 5.1 half PPR on 8.2 exp. half PPR (7 games)
So there’s a lot going on here with Moore, who we think is a very good player not just as a slot player but also on the perimeter. Now, the environment around him is pretty terrifying. His usage splits with and without Davis are slightly problematic, especially with Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, and better TEs competing for looks in 2022. To overcome that competition, Moore needs to start in 2-WR sets (NY will use them a decent bit) and needs Wilson to take a massive second-year leap. Moore averaged 1.98 half PPR points per target from QBs not named Zach Wilson and 0.85 half PPR points on targets from Wilson. It’s also worth noting that Moore’s aDOT was at 12.8 with Wilson and 10.3 with the rest of the QBs. I’m expecting a boom-bust season from Moore, even though he’s a stud.
Without Zach Ertz: 9.6 half PPR on 7.6 exp. half PPR (11 games)
With Zach Ertz: 8.2 half PPR on 6.2 exp. half PPR (5 games)
There’s no question that Goedert is very good at the game, but like Devonta Smith, he’s running uphill with this target competition and offensive scheme, even without Ertz. Goedert will likely set a new career-high in routes run now that he’s a near every-down player. I think he’ll need A.J. Brown or Smith to miss some time to fully hit a ceiling. Either way, he has a low-end TE1 floor just based on his skill set. Those 8.2 half PPR points per game would’ve made him the TE11 last season.
Before Bye: 5.1 half PPR on 4.5 exp. half PPR (6 games)
Post Bye Rookie Bump: 8.7 half PPR on 8.7 exp. half PPR (11 games)
Freiermuth has a high long-term ceiling as an athletic tight end capable of playing in the slot and dominating in the red zone. His usage increased following the Post Bye Rookie Bump, and hopefully his production takes another slight leap without Big Ben bee-bee gunning him passes. To fully unlock his TE1 upside, Freiermuth needs to keep mammoth TE Zach Gentry off the field more. Patty ran fewer routes than Gentry in the Wild Card loss, and the rookie never played a game with 80% snaps last year. I’m guessing that changes, but some preseason or training camp confirmation would be nice.
Without Russell Wilson: 17.3 half PPR on 8.1 exp. half PPR (4 games)
With Russell Wilson: 10.6 half PPR on 11.5 exp. half PPR (13 games)
Any production-based on/off split for Metcalf will be skewed by big-play variance, which is why I’m writing this column. The reality is that this sample is nearly worthless, but there’s one split that I do find a little interesting. Metcalf’s aDOT was at 13.5 yards downfield with Russ and dropped to 8.8 with Geno Smith, who historically has not been as aggressive as Russ. It’s possible that Metcalf’s targets go up and his aDoT goes down in 2022 because of game script and QB. Metcalf was the WR24 last year on WR32 fantasy usage, but there’s WR1 upside if Tyler Lockett ever misses time or if the Seahawks make a last-minute move for Baker Mayfield.
Without Russell Wilson: 8.8 half PPR on 10.2 exp. half PPR (4 games)
With Russell Wilson: 14.0 half PPR on 8.6 exp. half PPR (12 games)
We can basically copy/paste the Metcalf paragraph here. Lockett’s aDOT was 16.1 with Russ and 10.2 with Geno last year. Hopefully the Seahawks get Baker Mayfield, so we can at least have our spiked weeks in Seattle.
Before Bye: 10.0 half PPR on 9.1 exp. half PPR (3 games)
Post Bye Rookie Bump: 14.3 half PPR on 13.4 exp. half PPR (11 games)
Everyone is scared of Kyle Shanahan, and I get it. But I think Mitchell is far more secure in his role than previous Niners because he offers something that Shanahan wants and the other backs in the backfield lack – speed. Mitchell was described by The Athletic as being a “shoo-in” for the starting job, and I don’t see a reason to fade that after seeing his Post Bye Rookie Bump numbers. That production would’ve made him the RB15 last year. The usage, RB15. At an ADP of RB24, I’m buying Mitchell. He’ll be one of my highest-exposed players this year.
Before playing RB: 18.1 half PPR on 13.9 exp. half PPR (9 games)
After playing RB: 18.2 half PPR on 12.8 exp. half PPR (11 games)
In addition to staying healthier, Samuel is probably better off fantasy-wise in a primarily-WR heavy role. His usage was a full point higher early in the season when he wasn’t lining up in the backfield often, and it’s easier to remain an efficiency outlier when given downfield opportunities rather than getting balls in the backfield. Of course, these splits will be far less predictive when we get final confirmation that dual-threat Trey Lance is the starting QB, something I’m putting 90% odds on right now.
Without Chris Godwin or AB: 16.7 half PPR on 12.5 exp. half PPR (12 games)
With Chris Godwin and AB: 13.4 half PPR on 11.9 exp. half PPR (5 games)
Target competition isn’t nearly as big of a problem for the perennial 1,000-yard receiver this season. Chris Godwin could miss September and may not be himself for most of the year. Russell Gage isn’t as good as Antonio Brown. And Rob Gronkowski is retired. For these reasons, I’m expecting Evans’ yards per route run to decline to u-turn and rebound because target competition impacts YPRR. That 16.7 half PPR average would’ve made Evans the WR4 last year. The usage was WR12.
Without Rob Gronkowski: 3.2 half PPR on 6.6 exp. half PPR (5 games)
With Rob Gronkowski: 4.3 half PPR on 5.7 exp. half PPR (10 games)
The splits aren’t pretty, but there’s still some upside with Brate for contextual reasons. During these five games without Gronk last year, Brate was still competing with O.J. Howard (now a Bill) and this was the time frame when Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans were all healthy. Brate isn’t athletic enough to earn targets over those total studs, but he’s reliable enough to step up when there’s less target competition around him, like we’re expecting at least early in 2022 with Godwin rehabbing, Gronk in “retirement”, and Brown being replaced by Russell Gage. The thing to watch for in the preseason and in training camp is if Brate is playing in 11-personnel because he’s an undersized, average run-blocker. If yes, then Brate has some type of weekly floor. If no, Brate will be a TD-or-bust TE2. Between Gronk, Brate, and Howard last year, the Bucs TEs scored 11 touchdowns on 12.6 expected touchdowns. Gronk was the TE4 in routes run per game.