Posted by Matt Olson

Week 2 of 2023 Questions Answered

September 22, 2023

With Kenneth Gainwell out, how does the Eagles backfield play out?

  • 32BW’s Take: The Eagles have no choice but to turn things over to D’Andre Swift with Kenny Gainwell nursing a rib injury. What is going to anger a lot of people is when Boston Scott is more involved than Rashaad Penny. One thing we love to do is check prop lines and odds for players we have questions about. In this case D’Andre Swift is the only player with a rushing line available; 33.5 yards. This may change closer to game time but that’s a good sign that he will at least get first crack at being the lead back for the game.
  • What Happened: Swift fully took over and had a career game going 28/175/1 on the ground and had 77.7% of all the running back carries. Scott had 5 rushes and Penny had 3. Check the next week’s question list for how we think Swift and Kenneth Gainwell will split the backfield.✅

How does the Baltimore backfield shake out?

  • 32BW’s Take: After JK Dobbins went out with his injury there was a near 50/50 split in carries; 8 rushes for Gus Edwards and 7 for Justice Hill. A few things give me some confidence in Hill being the back to target. He took the first reps in RB drills on Thursday, he got the goal line work last Sunday, he has shown he’s at least a semi-competent pass catcher, and he’s pretty solid in pass protection. Edwards has been a very efficient runner and will certainly see carries, there’s no doubt about that. The Ravens also added Melvin Gordon who has a solid history as a pass catcher but showed us almost nothing last year in Denver and could be washed; he did have 5 fumbles in 10 games. One name we will throw out there as an add, if you have an IR spot available, is Keaton Mitchell. He is currently injured but impressed in camp and made some great catches in the process.
  • What Happened: Hill ended up getting one more carry than Edwards; 11 to 10. On a side note, Lamar Jackson led the team in attempts with 12. Edwards ended up getting the lone rushing touchdown in the game from the 1 yard line. However, Hill got the first shot at it and was stuffed. Hill ran the ball on three out of the previous four plays so it could have been that Edwards subbed in due to rush count and/or fresh legs. Hill was the back to play from a receiving standpoint, he caught all 3 targets for 12 yards and Edwards had none; and Melvin Gordon didn’t play a single snap and was the only real receiving threat to Hill.✅

Does Puka Nacua see double digit targets again?

  • 32BW’s Take: I think this question has more to do with Van Jefferson being a perennial WR3 and Matthew Stafford being fully healthy. Tutu Atwell stepped up and had a big game on Sunday along with Puka Nacua. A lot of this had to do with Stafford being able to execute in the pocket and hit his throws. We monitored Stafford this summer and the reports that his elbow was back to 100%; this was downplayed last year pretty significantly but Week 1 is a clear indication he was truly hurt. With Cooper Kupp remaining out for three more weeks Puka Nacua should see strong weekly numbers and have value upon Kupp’s return. If Kupp comes back at 100% in the next three weeks, and we’d say that may be a stretch, the Rams could have a pretty decent wide receiver corp to roll out each week.Add in Tyler Higbee, who is going to surprise people with his weekly consistency, and this is a formidable offense.
  • What Happened: Well Puka Nacua went to set a rookie record for receptions (21) and targets (30) in a player’s first two games. Nacua looked great from all aspects; like he did in Week 1. Expect him and Atwell to continue their great season for as long as Stafford can stay healthy.✅

Who steps up in Pittsburgh with Diontae Johnson being out?  Where do his targets go?

  • 32BW’s Take: With Dionate Johnson expected to miss up to four weeks the Pittsburgh offense may not need to change much. While the offense as a whole was terrible in the first half of the 49ers game; Kenny Pickett only mustered 61 passing yards but Johnson did see 5 targets which was good for a 31.5% target share. The most obvious names that will benefit are Allen Robinson, who saw the biggest uptick in targets with 5 in the second half when Johnson went down, and George Pickens, who had 3 second half targets. The 49ers defense is insanely good, but Matt Canada needs to show us he’s more willing to push the ball down the field, the Steelers offensive line has to block better, and Kenny Pickett has to be better. If none of this happens then the offense should just be avoided completely. We expect George Pickens to be the main beneficiary with Johnson out. The name to watch is Calvin Austin. Austin was involved in the game plan early. He also had a great camp. He’s also much more explosive than Allen Robinson. If Canada keeps the offense more compact Austin should get to show off his yards-after-the-catch ability regularly. Austin managed to get six targets on Sunday and caught all of them. Matt Harmon featured him in his Reception Perception noting that Austin posted a 71.1% success rate vs. man and 84.6% success rate vs. zone. To make things more intriguing we’ve seen him get the occasional carry in preseason so there’s that added bonus. Noting an early camp tweet, 6 of his 11 catches had gone for 20+ yards, 4 for 40+ which equated to him having an explosive play or TD on 72.7% of those touches. While we don’t expect this percentage to keep up, it just shows that if he’s given the opportunity, he has the ability to potentially make a major impact. Something the Steelers will surely need after last week’s offensive performance.
  • What Happened: George Pickens was certainly the main beneficiary with Johnson out. However, Matt Canada may be the worst OC in the league. He has proved unable to find ways to get his playmakers the ball. Calvin Austin played 76% of snaps so he was on the field regularly, Pickett just couldn’t do much to get him the ball. Austin ranks 22nd in target separation so the hope will be he can continue to work on carving out a role.✅

If Ekeler misses time, how will backfield touches be split?

  • 32BW’s Take: Oddly enough, Austin Ekeler had his own take on this and fully endorsed Joshua Kelley. With Isaiah Spiller being a healthy inactive and Brandon Staley endorsing Elijah Dotson in Week 1, it gets messy after Kelley. Dotson certainly brings some intriguing speed and agility. We will see all three backs active (if Ekeler is out) but we have to imagine it’s going to be a fairly heavy dose of Kelley against the TItans.
  • What Happened: Kelley got 62% of the carries (13) and did nothing with them. Second on the team was Dotson with 4. Spiller had only 1.✅

Does Kyren Williams continue his hot start?

  • 32BW’s Take: Have to imagine he does. Kyren Williams played ahead of Cam Akers throughout the game and Akers really didn’t pick up work until the 4th quarter with the game in hand. On top of that, even with ample opportunity, Akers only managed to gain 29 yards on 22 carries and saw 0 targets in the passing game. When someone asks what the average Joe could do with 20+ carries in an NFL game, just show them Akers box score from Week 1. Kidding… the average Joe would die with 20+ carries in the NFL. Williams at least saw two targets. While we don’t expect any Rams running back to have an impact in the passing game, some good news for Williams is that he at least was able to assist on these downs with his protection. Williams was able to hold up to his assignments, in one case picking up Bobby Wagner, which is no easy task. Williams also dominated the snap rate at 67% and played 74% of passing downs and that’s with him barely playing in the 4th.
  • What Happened: Williams absolutely dominated the backfield and had a great game finishing with a stat line of 14/52/1 on the ground and also had 10 targets with 6 receptions for 48 and another touchdown. Williams was the only running back to receive a carry on Sunday and had a 19.2% target share. Ronnie Rivers was the only other running back to play a snap, 4 total. As long as the Rams stand pat and don’t add someone like Kareem Hunt than Williams should be in for a solid season.✅

Will Logan Thomas still play over 80% of snaps and keep a high target share?

  • 32BW’s Take: The talent of Logan Thomas has never been in question. He just has the Washington Tight End Plague where no one can ever stay healthy. The last tight end to play a full season in Washington was Logan Paulsen in 2016 (don’t fact check us on that). Regardless, Thomas saw 8 targets, technically 7, I think he randomly got tagged with a throw away ball but nonetheless that’s pretty impressive on what could be a middle tier offense. Thomas would have led the team in targets at 8 or tied with Jahan Dotson at 7; Terry McLaurin had 4. We have to imagine that McLaurin’s target share will increase and Dotson will be around the 7 he got last week. That leaves about 15 or so targets available for everyone else. The running backs should see a handful so let’s give them 6 combined. That leaves Thomas around 5 or so each week depending on script. Our hearts want to believe in Thomas but our brain tells us that Cole Turner could chip away at his playing time and target share.
  • What Happened: Well this one is interesting. Thomas only played 40% of snaps and out of nowhere John Bates out snapped both him and Turner; 38 to 29 to 23 respectively. Bates only played 26 snaps last week and didn’t register a state. This past Sunday, Bates led the tight end group in targets and receptions going 5/3/46/0. Thomas did save his fantasy day with a touchdown to finish with a 3/2/22/1 stat line but that doesn’t make us correct on this question.❌

Did Bill O’Brien create fantasy relevant receivers in New England? Can we trust the passing game weekly?

  • 32BW’s Take: It’s only one week but it was against a respectable Eagles defense that PFF had ranked 3rd overall entering the season. Mac Jones came alive after a rough start; at least until the 4th quarter when the zip on his ball rivaled Chad Pennington’s. Jones still threw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns on Sunday, a combo he’s never accomplished in the NFL. In fact he’s only thrown 3 touchdowns twice before and oddly enough he did it once in each of his first two seasons. Anyway, on to the receivers, they looked solid on Sunday, specifically Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry. Keep in mind that the Pats went down early and were forced to throw to come back but it worked. Perhaps they employ this strategy more often and earlier in games moving forward as they found success with it against Philadelphia. This is an offense that also will get DeVante Parker back, who the coaches think extremely highly of, and a more comfortable Juju Smith-Schuster. Juju had an underwhelming game but is more than capable of making a weekly impact. If we’re betting on one pass catcher on this offense it has to be Bourne. Bourne had a terrific Camp and it carried over to Week 1. Jones looked for him often with 11 targets and played the most snaps, 73. One thing to note is the Patriots receiver with the second most snaps, 55, was Kayshon Boutte. He was targeted with the game on the line and almost made a spectacular catch to give the Patriots a chance to win.
  • What Happened: We may have seen the peak of the Patriots offense in Week 1. This week did not translate into fantasy production. Bourne still led the team with 9 targets but only finished with a 4/29/0 stat line and Henry again produced a solid day with 6/52/1. Henry could carve out a weekly role in your lineup but everyone else seems to be bye week fillers.⌛

Can Zach Ertz keep up his target share?

  • 32BW’s Take: We have to believe so. Zach Ertz without DeAndre Hopkins on the team has always led to a large target share. In 2020 without Hopkins he averaged 8.5 targets, 5.2 receptions, 49.8 yards and 0.3 TDs per a game – you can’t do much better with that for a guy who is basically free.  In Week 1 we saw Ertz continue this trend. He had 10 targets and caught 6 passes. It was only for 21 yards; definitely an anomaly. If you extrapolate out what his average was previously he’d have 57 yards on his 6 receptions which would have been good for 8.7 pts (in half PPR) or TE4 on the week. He’s not pretty, no one wants him, but you can do way worse.
  • What Happened: Ertz saw 8 targets and finished with 6 receptions for 56 yards or 8.6 fantasy points, essentially exactly what we calculated his average week as. As long as Dobbs is the started this trend should continue.✅

Will Tank Bigsby be more involved outside when moving the ball down the field or is he strictly going to have a short yardage and goal line role?

  • 32BW’s Take: Tank Bigsby had the most memorable, forgettable NFL debut amongst the rookie running backs that saw significant playing time. Bigsby lost a fumble, only gained 13 yards on 7 carries and was the target on Trevor Lawrence’s interception but did get his first NFL touchdown. Bigsby saw the goal line work and actually looked pretty solid in doing so. He is certainly more than capable of catching passes and can hold up in pass protection so he should see the occasional opportunity when he gets to spell Travis Etienne. However, Etienne looked really good last Sunday. We expect this trend to continue and perhaps as the season goes on Bigsby can pick up some additional work. To note, this offense looks great and this makes Bigsby a must roster; he could have stand alone value but if anything were to happen to Etienne he has zero competition for touches.
  • What Happened: Bigsby didn’t disappear fully during Week 2 but he didn’t receive a single carry or target but played 13 snaps; he played 15 in Week 1. What’s most concerning is that D’Ernest Johnson got a carry and caught his lone target. In what was a game where Bigsby could have potentially made in impact in at least the passing game, he never got the chance.⌛

Will Jerome Ford continue to see significant snaps behind Nick Chubb?

  • 32BW’s Take: We have to imagine he will. Jerome Ford played more passing snaps than Nick Chubb but Chubb caught 4 passes compared to Ford’s 0. This game overall was not what we will see in a typical week. The Browns blew out a Bengals team in less than ideal weather. The good news is that Ford did rush the ball 15 times, the bad is he only turned that into 36 yards. The other good news is that despite this low efficiency no other running back beside him and Chubb received a carry. Chubb did get all the snaps within 10 yards of the end zone but Ford was on the field for 10 of 14 third and fourth down plays; he’s clearly trusted in this crucial role. With a more normal game script (and a closer game) Ford should be more utilized in the passing game and still see 6+ rush opportunities a week.
  • What Happened: Not much to analyze here after the unfortunate injury to Chubb. Jerome Ford looks to take over what could be the RB1 or at the very least the 1A spot. More to come on this in Week’s 3 questions.⌛

Will Hayden Hurst continue to lead the Panthers in target share?

  • 32BW’s Take: They say a tight end is a quarterback’s best friend, especially a rookie. Hayden Hurst is doing everything he can to prove this true but we just aren’t sure he’s going to get the snaps for this to continue. He only played 53% of offensive snaps. However, he led the Panthers in targets this past Sunday with 7; he was targeted on 17% of his snaps which is unsustainable. Miles Sanders and Terrance Marshall were right behind him with 6. What also stood out here is that Adam Thielen only saw 2 targets yet played 88% of snaps, he just couldn’t get open. We interviewed Sheena Quick on our podcast earlier this year and she said she believed Terrance Marshall would lead the team this year in receiving yards. Marshall made a good case for himself, playing the most wide receiver snaps, 69. He was only able to convert this into 2 catches for 23 yards but had 6 targets. With DJ Chark set to return soon, he will in all likelihood be the Panthers WR to own.
  • What Happened: Hayden Hurst’s snap count remained about the same, 55%. His unsustainable target share came back to Earth and he finished fifth on the team with 3 targets.✅

What will the Kansas City wide receivers look like with Travis Kelce back in the lineup? What can we expect in his return?

  • 32BW’s Take: The Chiefs need Travis Kelce more than ever after a horrendous Week 1 from its wide receivers. While Kelce will open up some of the field, which will definitely help some, there’s not a pass catcher on this roster that can truly be trusted. There’s a realistic path to Kelce seeing double digit targets on a weekly basis. That said, we believe the Chiefs still believe in Kadarius Toney. While he had one of the worst games ever for a wide receiver, the silver lining is that he was getting wide open and being targeted, despite limited snaps. Skyy Moore also had a miserable game, but he can only go up from here right? Right?! Fast forward to the middle of the season and Rashee Rice might be the guy to own.
  • What Happened: Toney rebounded and caught all 5 of his targets for 35 yards; yet only played 19 snaps; played 16 last week. Moore rebounded as well with a 4/3/70/1 stat line and played 39 snaps. Oddly enough Marquez Valdes-Scantling led the team in snap count with 55. Kelce only played 43 snaps (64%) so it’s clear he was not 100% back and making assumptions on how this will all shake out may need to wait one more week.⌛

What can we expect from Garrett Wilson with Aaron Rodgers out and Zach Wilson back?

  • 32BW’s Take: Last year with less than stellar QB play Garrett Wilson averaged 10.3 fantasy points per a game, but only 6.6 (in half PPR) specifically with Zach Wilson. Until this past Sunday, Garrett had never caught a touchdown pass from Wilson; the pass was actually thrown right to the cornerback and Garrett had to essentially intercept it to score. Garrett was seen talking up Zach on the sideline during the game and Zach’s teammates have shown the utmost confidence in him. However, the past results do not bode well for Garrett’s success this year. We might see a lot of games where Wilson throws for 160 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.
  • What Happened: Well the stat line was pretty damn close with Zach finishing with 170/1/3. Garrett led the team with 8 targets but only had 2 catches; one of those catches went for 68 yards and a touchdown which had Garrett finishing with a 8/2/83/1 stat line. The yards and touchdown make it seems like all is well but the targets and receptions show the true story. Garrett is not going to be able to bail himself out weekly with extremely bad QB play from Zach. Wilson is a sell high in redraft.✅

Will Baker Mayfield be able to support his receivers to weekly fantasy relevancy?

  • 32BW’s Take: It appears that Baker Mayfield can support one but we don’t think that he is going to be back to 2020 form. And that one he can support is going to essentially be a dice roll each week. Mayfield only averaged 8.25 yards per a completion this past Sunday and will need to push the ball down the field to make multiple receivers relevant. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin should put up okay numbers as the targets will be there all year but it’ll be impossible to choose who to trust more. Evans had 10 targets and Godwin had 6. We could see that flip flopping this week. This is also an offense that won’t throw (or score) a bunch of touchdowns, further limiting the ceiling of the WRs.
  • What Happened: Mayfield was able to mimic his Week 1 and Evans had another solid week. Evans once again put up WR1 numbers finishing with 8/6/171/1 but as expected Godwin finished with 8/5/58. While not terrible it’s not the numbers that fantasy managers need from Godwin. Expect this trend to continue throughout the season with the receivers potentially flipping week’s as the leader.✅

Is Durham Smythe going to actually be a viable fantasy option?

  • 32BW’s Take: Durham Smythe was the only tight end with a 100% snap share in Week 1; that alone says a lot. He had the 2nd best route share at 85% and the 3rd most targets with 7. This gave him the 10th best target share at 15.6% in a top NFL offense. We all know that this could be a flash in the pan and he really didn’t do much with these opportunities but opportunities is the name of the game. If Smythe keeps up these numbers in Week 2, which we feel he will since he has legit zero competition for touches. The Patriots defense looked pretty solid, allowing 0 catches for Dallas Goedert, and has historically been solid against the tight end so this will be even more of a test for Smythe. But in this barren TE land, Smythe is worth a look.
  • What Happened: Smythe played 97% of all the offense on Sunday night and finished with a stat line of 3/3/23/0. The Dolphins offense as a whole was down this week. It doesn’t look like Smythe will be reliable week to week but he’s a high upside play purely based on the fact he’ll always be on the field. For what it’s worth Smythe finished tied for third on the team with his 3 targets.⌛
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