Strength in Numbers: Actionable Week 6 Stats

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I started Kenny Gainwell in a league this week (it didn't go well, but still, I started him!). Ricky Seals-Jones is widely regarded as a top-12 tight end option. A Kadarius Toney injury gutted fantasy managers across the nation.

We're not even halfway through the season, yet chaos has already become the expectation. As such, it's hard to navigate through what matters and what doesn't every week. Fortunately, Strength in Numbers is here to help sort out what's real and what's not. Every week, we'll break down the most actionable takeaways from the past week in a concise, numbers-filled format. Without further ado, let's get right into it.

1. Darrell Henderson played 81.8% of snaps for the Rams in Week 6 and ran a route on 85.3% of Matthew Stafford's dropbacks. That was actually the lowest snap share Henderson has had in a non-injury-shortened game this season (he briefly left in Week 5 with an arm issue). Sony Michel had nine carries, five of which came on a clock-killing drive for Los Angeles in the fourth quarter.

Rams coach Sean McVay said last week that Los Angeles' two running backs are “great complements of each other,” opening the idea that Henderson could cede more work to Michel. That’s what the Rams did after Henderson briefly left with an arm issue in Week 5.

But that’s not what they ended up doing in Week 6. Henderson dominated non-garbage-time snaps, out-touching Michel 22-2 before Los Angeles jumped out to a 38-3 lead.

While Henderson only has four total targets over the past two weeks, his route participation is among the league’s best. As long as he’s running a route on so many of Stafford’s dropbacks, the targets are going to come eventually. He’s one of the most valuable running backs in fantasy on account of his multi-faceted workload in one of the best offenses in football. Michel, on the other hand, is nothing more than an insurance policy. Henderson is arguably a top-five running back against a sorry Lions defense in Week 6, and he should be treated as a top-10 back rest-of-season.

2. Darrel Williams played 69.5% of snaps in his first game as Kansas City's RB1, while Jerick McKinnon got the remaining 25 plays. Williams ran a route on 30-of-53 Patrick Mahomes dropbacks (56.6%) and out-carried McKinnon 20-3.

While Williams is nothing special as a talent, he assumed the early-down role previously held by Clyde Edwards-Helaire and increased his passing-game role. Jerick McKinnon spells The Mentor on passing downs, but Williams is likely in a more valuable role than CEH was because he now owns all of the rushing work (McKinnon had just three carries on Sunday). Williams also handled goal-line work in Week 6, notching two carries inside the five-yard line. On an offense as potent as this one, that's a valuable role.

With that being said, this offense is still highly concentrated around Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Hill was limited with a quad injury and Kelce briefly left the game on Sunday with a minor injury. Assuming both are healthy, Williams does not have elite potential similar to how CEH did not. His route participation is solid but not mind-bending and the Chiefs have shown a propensity for ignoring their backs in the passing game.

3. Even without James White, Damien Harris has not seen an uptick in passing-game involvement. The Alabama product ran just four routes on 23 team dropbacks against the Cowboys, third-most among Patriots running backs. Rhamondre Stevenson ran nine routes and Brandon Bolden ran seven.

While there was some initial optimism that Harris could take on a larger pass-catching role without White, that appears to have gone by the wayside. Harris finished third among Patriots running backs in routes over the weekend, and he ran zero routes in Week 5. Stevenson and Bolden are dominating passing-down snaps, although there's always a chance the former gets banned to the shadow realm by Patriots coach Bill Belichick if he misses a block or fumbles. Stevenson actually did miss a block in Week 6, directly leading to a Mac Jones sack, but Belichick still gave him snaps after the incident. Regardless of whether it's Stevenson or J.J. Taylor active, the point remains that Harris is not trusted with receiving work right now. For that reason, his upside is capped as a pure between-the-tackles runner on a middling team. Against the Jets in Week 7, Harris is a fine option due to projected game script, but he lacks high-end upside considering his one-dimensional workload.

4. Through six games, DeAndre Hopkins has not had a game with above a 28% target share. In 2020, Hopkins' target share over the entire season was 29%.

The Cardinals just have so many weapons that it's become less of a necessity for Hopkins to vacuum up all of Kyler Murray's targets. With A.J. Green turning back the clock, Christian Kirk looking surprisingly effective, and Rondale Moore operating as one of the best gadgets in the league, Hopkins has taken on a smaller role. Zach Ertz will mix in too once he gets familiar with the Arizona offense, just as Maxx Williams was involved before he suffered a season-ending injury.

Six games with a target share below his season average from last year is not a coincidence. He's still going to have high-volume games and the talent of Hopkins and Murray will still lead to huge games, but the expectations need to be lowered from where they were a few weeks ago. Consider Hopkins a fringe top-12 wideout for the remainder of the year.

5. In his return from injury, T.Y. Hilton split time with both Parris Campbell (before he got hurt) and Ashton Dulin. However, he led the team in receptions and receiving yards, hauling in four passes for 80 yards despite finishing third among Colts receivers in routes run.

It makes sense to ease 31-year-old Hilton back after an extended absence. With Campbell out, the veteran speedster should have no trouble getting snaps and routes once he's up to speed. How quickly he'll be back at full strength is another question entirely, especially given that he's already questionable for Week 7 with a quad ailment.

However, the more fantasy-relevant predicament relates to Michael Pittman, who's quietly enjoying a second-year breakout. With Hilton healthy, he only had three targets in Week 6, his lowest mark of the season. At this point, I'm not overly worried about Hilton stealing his targets; if Pittman is talented enough to emerge as a bona fide WR1, it's unlikely an aging Hilton with a myriad of soft tissue injuries over the past two seasons will stop him. If anything, this is an opportunity to buy if the Pittman manager in your league is nervous.

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Quick Hits

This section will be used for stats I think are worth mentioning (and for which the takeaway is fairly intuitive) but aren't important enough to write up fully. Let's get to it:

  • Jonnu Smith ran 10 routes on 23 Mac Jones dropbacks. He ran just six routes in Week 5. Meanwhile, Hunter Henry ran 19 routes on Sunday, although he notched only two targets. Still, Henry is clearly the preferred pass-catching option, while Smith has lost all value.

  • Establish The Run's Adam Levitan pointed out that Noah Fant is getting elite usage with Albert O sidelined. Fant played 58-of-60 snaps yesterday, ran 38 routes on 43 Teddy Bridgewater dropbacks, and turned 11 targets into nine catches for 97 yards and a score. As long as Albert O remains out – he's on IR right now with a hamstring injury – Fant is in the second tier of tight ends (the first tier is comprised of Travis Kelce).

  • Sammy Watkins didn't play, but Rashod Bateman had encouraging usage in his professional debut. The Minnesota product played 69.2% of snaps and ran a route on 66.7% of Lamar Jackson's dropbacks. It's worth monitoring how snaps and routes are split between Watkins and Bateman once the former returns.

  • Talent has won out in Jacksonville; James Robinson is a workhorse. Carlos Hyde failed to record a touch for the first time this season, while Robinson handled 20 touches. Robinson out-snapped Hyde 56-8 in the Jaguars' Week 6 victory. Robinson ran a route on 31-of-44 Trevor Lawrence dropbacks. Three-down stud.

  • numberFire's JJ Zachariason pointed out that Tyler Boyd's target share numbers have been significantly lower with Tee Higgins healthy. Levitan noted that the veteran slot receiver has just a 16.7% share with all three Bengals wideouts healthy. His average depth of target is 5.7, among the lowest in the league. As long as Ja'Marr Chase and Higgins are active, Boyd is bench fodder.

  • Jared Smola (of Draft Sharks) highlighted that Donald Parham's route rate has increased in five consecutive weeks.

  • Mike Williams played just 35.7% of snaps in Week 6. He was clearly limited by his knee injury. Fortunately, Los Angeles has a bye in Week 7.

  • John Daigle noted that D'Andre Swift set season-highs in snap share, running back carry share, backfield touch share, and route rate in Week 6. He is pulling away from Jamaal Williams as the lead back in Detroit, adding more rushing work to an already impressive pass-catching pedigree. Swift remains a no-doubt RB1 in PPR moving forward, and his role is only increasing.

  • Joe Mixon returned to workhorse status in Week 6 after being limited the week prior, although Chris Evans carved out a passing-game role with Samaje Perine sidelined. Mixon played 45-of-72 snaps in total, running a route on 19-of-37 Joe Burrow dropbacks – slightly below his route rate at the beginning of the season. Evans ran 10 routes.

  • Dalvin Cook got 29-of-33 running back carries and both RB targets for the Vikings in Week 6. With a bye on tap in Week 7, the ankle sprain looks like a thing of the past. Cook is once again a high-end RB1 and arguably the most valuable asset in fantasy with Christian McCaffrey on IR.

  • Kenyan Drake hit paydirt twice, but he only ran six routes on 29 Derek Carr dropbacks, while Josh Jacobs ran 14. The new coaching regime has not increased Drake's role, so treat this as a sell-high opportunity if someone in your league thinks he'll be used more without Jon Gruden.

  • James Conner got 16 carries and ran 11 routes, while Chase Edmonds got four carries and ran 12 routes. The shoulder injury may be impacting Edmonds more than we know. It's a situation to monitor.

  • After Rondale Moore out-routed Christian Kirk for the first time in Week 5, there was a return to normalcy over the weekend with Kirk running 26 routes and the rookie running 18. Zach Ertz is on the way, which may limit the number of 4-WR sets Arizona runs. Moore remains a bench hold.

  • With Antonio Gibson dealing with a shin issue, J.D. McKissic saw eight carries and Jaret Patterson had one. McKissic would be a near-auto-start if Gibson is forced to miss time, especially in PPR formats.

  • Washington's tight end usage appears to be more about the role than the player in it. Ricky Seals-Jones has picked up right where Logan Thomas (hamstring) left off. RSJ ran 37 routes on 39 team dropbacks in Week 6. As long as Thomas remains sidelined, RSJ is a top-12 tight end.

  • Robby Anderson had 11 targets for 11 yards. You don't need me to tell you that makes him an interesting buy-low, although don't pay too much with D.J. Moore operating as the alpha and Christian McCaffrey set to return in a few weeks.

  • Khalil Herbert had RB1-level usage with David Montgomery and Damien Williams out, recording 19-of-21 team running back carries and running a route on 29 of Justin Fields' 37 dropbacks. Williams could make this a timeshare in Week 7, but Herbert is a must-start if COVID protocols keep the veteran on the sideline. The Bears have put full trust in the sixth-round rookie with only Artavis Pierce and Ryan Nall behind him.

  • The Giants' receiving corps is ugly. Kadarius Toney left with an ankle injury after only six snaps on Sunday, forcing New York to turn to Dante Pettis as their WR2. Toney, Kenny Golladay, and Darius Slayton's status must be monitored in the coming weeks. Sterling Shepard has posted at least a 24.3% target share in each of his three healthy games this season. He's a fantasy starter even if his teammates are healthy and an absolute target hog if he's Daniel Jones' lone wide receiver option.

  • Devontae Booker only had 12 carries, but he played 72.0% of snaps and ran a route on 50.0% of Daniel Jones' dropbacks. Elijhaa Penny was his backup. Booker is a fine RB2 option as long as Saquon Barkley is nursing an injury.

  • Dan Arnold is a sneaky tight end option. He has 13 targets in two games as a Jaguar and ran a route on 30-of-44 team dropbacks in London. With an uninspiring group of weapons after Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault, Arnold should see a solid number of looks.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for the Week 7 edition of Strength in Numbers!

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