Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!




Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      






Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer


Workload Projections: NFC
Preseason Matchup Analysis
Posted: 7/31/18
AFC | NFC

ARI | ATL | CAR | CHI | DAL | DET | GB | LAR | MIN | NO | NYG | PHI | SF | SEA | TB | WAS

Recently, I went through the process of breaking down offensive coordinator tendencies in the AFC and NFC, highlighting backfield and target shares. That work set the stage for last week and this week, as I attempt to use that information to lay the foundation for how much players might be utilized this year. The problem with a lot of fantasy football projections is the math doesn't add up when to a realistic team total in the end. Unless you are keeping a close eye on the overall play total for every team in a computer program, it's easy to have one team finishing with 800 offensive plays and another going over 1,200 when all the individual numbers are calculated. (As a point of reference, most teams run somewhere between 950 and 1,050 offensive plays per season. A few will exceed that range, while several tend to finish with around 900.)

Being able to predict opportunity - perhaps the most important variable in fantasy football - is more than half of the battle when it comes to being able to construct accurate rankings. (I don't think it's an accident I performed as well as I did in my first year of including this into my approach last season. As I get better at this part of the process, I would expect my year-end results will only improve as well. I have to be better at tight end though!) Thus, the goal over the next two weeks: provide analysis on some of the issues that played a factor in the way I divided the workload for each team. While I tried to accurately project how many passes each quarterback might throw, I ask that you pay more attention to the actual number of pass attempts and less to the individual quarterback breakdown. Also, just about every team finishes a season with several more pass attempts than targets, so if you are wondering why the targets and attempts aren't the same, that is why.

The bolded numbers near the top of the middle three columns are the totals for each column. The bolded numbers in the last two columns reflect each team's projected run-pass ratio.

Arizona

 Arizona Cardinals Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
578 432 573 42.8% 57.2%
QB Sam Bradford 197 14 0 3.2% 0.0%
QB Josh Rosen 381 23 0 5.3% 0.0%
RB David Johnson 0 278 96 64.4% 16.8%
RB Chase Edmonds 0 87 26 20.1% 4.5%
RB T.J. Logan 0 16 7 3.7% 1.2%
RB D.J. Foster 0 7 2 1.6% 0.3%
RB Derrick Coleman 0 2 4 0.5% 0.7%
WR Larry Fitzgerald 0 0 148 0.0% 25.8%
WR Chad Williams 0 0 47 0.0% 8.2%
WR Christian Kirk 0 2 64 0.5% 11.2%
WR Brice Butler 0 0 50 0.0% 8.7%
WR J.J. Nelson 0 3 42 0.7% 7.3%
TE Ricky Seals-Jones 0 0 78 0.0% 13.6%
TE Gabe Holmes 0 0 9 0.0% 1.6%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 1,010
2017 Total: 1,008

Given Bradford's history, it feels like only a matter of time before the Rosen era begins. The Cardinals don't need to rush the transition for fantasy owners, however, as Bradford's history of leaning on his slot receiver and tight end is a great fit for the team's two most dynamic non-running backs (Fitzgerald and Seals-Jones). Although Johnson only has 429 carries on his NFL resume, he'll turn 27 in mid-December. With that said, he still has the "fresh legs" narrative working for him this year after playing only game in 2017. New OC Mike McCoy also has no history to speak of when it comes to featuring one back unless he has been forced to do so, so a repeat of Johnson's breakout 2016 campaign (and those 373 touches) may not be in the cards. Still, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which he is healthy for most of the season and doesn't push for at least 350 touches.

Much like Frank Gore at running back, Fitzgerald keeps stiff-arming Father Time. The soon-to-be 35-year-old has finished with no fewer than 146 targets and 108 catches in any of the last three seasons. Another such banner year may be a bit much to ask for since the new regime led by HC Steve Wilks and McCoy have made it clear they believe in running the ball more than former HC Bruce Arians did. Even if Arizona lowers its pass attempts to around 500, is it possible for the offense to function at an adequate level if Fitzgerald isn't seeing 25 percent of those targets? I'd bet no. Butler is the most talented of the remaining receivers, but it should come as no surprise if the Cardinals choose to mix-and-match him with Kirk and Williams on the outside all season long. Seal-Jones has legitimate breakout potential after flashing at the end of last season. There's potential for him to push for 80 or 90 targets if Arizona doesn't like what it is seeing at receiver opposite Fitzgerald.

Atlanta

 Atlanta Falcons Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
545 463 538 45.9% 54.1%
QB Matt Ryan 543 31 0 6.7% 0.0%
QB Matt Schaub 0 6 0 1.3% 0.0%
RB Devonta Freeman 0 205 51 44.3% 9.5%
RB Tevin Coleman 0 170 49 36.7% 9.1%
RB Ito Smith 0 27 11 5.8% 2.0%
RB Terrence Magee 0 12 2 2.6% 0.4%
RB Luke McNitt 0 4 5 0.9% 0.9%
WR Julio Jones 0 0 146 0.0% 27.1%
WR Mohamed Sanu 2 2 71 0.4% 13.2%
WR Calvin Ridley 0 2 78 0.4% 14.5%
WR Justin Hardy 0 0 26 0.0% 4.8%
WR Russell Gage 0 4 10 0.9% 1.9%
TE Austin Hooper 0 0 63 0.0% 11.7%
TE Logan Paulsen 0 0 11 0.0% 2.0%
TE Eric Saubert 0 0 15 0.0% 2.8%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 1,008
2017 Total: 960

Even though I did not cover regression for quarterbacks this season, it doesn't mean they are immune. We've seen that at both extremes the last two years with Ryan. Most would agree he's not a 5,000-yard passer with the ability to repeat his 2016 campaign (69.9 completion percentage and/or 38:7 TD-to-INT ratio), but he's better than 4,095 yards, 20 TDs and 12 INTs he posted in 2017. (Football Outsiders does yeoman's work on a stat called "Adjusted Interceptions." Their analysis revealed five of Ryan's 12 interceptions were passes that should have been caught by his own receivers - tied for the most since 2010.) As with most things regarding regression - especially after consecutive extreme years - we should something approaching "normal" Ryan in 2018. Freeman is a near-lock to remain the lead back in this offense, but it's not a coincidence Coleman's workload has increased every season as a pro. Coleman stated earlier in the offseason that he expects to be more involved in the passing game in 2018, which makes sense if Atlanta is even the least bit concerned Freeman will wear down again after 200-plus carries.

Even though I am one of Ridley's bigger supporters in terms of his long-term upside, he's not ready to be a lead receiver yet. Jones is what makes this offense go now considering his presence makes every other player's job on the offense easier. Despite the continued defensive attention he draws, the five-time Pro Bowler should be a solid bet to hit my projection for him. Ridley should overtake Sanu as a starter at some point this season, but the Falcons are ideally suited to be a three-wide offensive team, so Sanu should remain somewhat relevant in fantasy. At least for this season, it seems unlikely Ridley will enjoy much of a snap or target advantage over his veteran counterpart, who already has established a rapport with Ryan. Ridley's arrival should squash whatever breakout potential Hooper had though. The 23-year-old managed only two 50-yard games last season in an offense that could have really used someone to keep defenses from focusing so much attention on Jones. Drafting an advanced route-runner with deep speed probably isn't going to help Hooper's cause to attract more targets.

Carolina

 Carolina Panthers Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
528 482 522 47.7% 52.3%
QB Cam Newton 510 126 0 26.1% 0.0%
QB Garrett Gilbert 18 2 0 0.4% 0.0%
RB Christian McCaffrey 0 174 92 36.1% 17.6%
RB C.J. Anderson 0 153 24 31.7% 4.6%
RB Cameron Artis-Payne 0 17 2 3.5% 0.4%
RB Alex Armah 0 3 2 0.6% 0.4%
WR Devin Funchess 0 0 87 0.0% 16.7%
WR D.J. Moore 0 2 74 0.4% 14.2%
WR Torrey Smith 0 0 45 0.0% 8.6%
WR Curtis Samuel 0 5 60 1.0% 11.5%
WR Jarius Wright 0 0 19 0.0% 3.6%
TE Greg Olsen 0 0 92 0.0% 17.6%
TE Ian Thomas 0 0 21 0.0% 4.0%
TE Chris Manhertz 0 0 4 0.0% 0.8%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 1,010
2017 Total: 991

There's not really a roadmap for how new OC Norv Turner is going to handle a player like Newton, but the fact he has emphasized increasing Newton's completion percentage and quarterback rating in interviews suggests he wants the pass-catchers to do more of the work after the catch (i.e. allow Newton to throw short more often). The former No. 1 overall pick is also getting to the point of his career (29 years old) where it may be prudent for the team to start relying less on his ability as a runner - he tallied a career-high 139 rushing attempts last season. HC Ron Rivera has publicly stated at least twice this offseason that he can see McCaffrey topping 200 carries. It's an ambitious goal for a coach and a team that didn't want to tax him too much as a rookie (117 attempts) and also wants to keep him heavily involved as a receiver. Anderson may not be given the same number of opportunities as the man he replaces (Jonathan Stewart), but it'd be a crime if he doesn't average at least 10 touches and see a lot of work at the goal line.

If Carolina opts for the quick-hitting approach that it seems like Turner is angling for, then Funchess has the most to lose. He should remain a primary target in the red zone, but Moore - and to a lesser degree Samuel - are more of the run-after-catch types who would fit the best in the "new" offense. It is worth noting Funchess' splits with and without Olsen last year were significant, especially after Olsen returned late in the season. Moore probably isn't going to have quite the same volume as Funchess, but he's not going to need it to keep pace with the veteran if he shows the same tackle-breaking ability he did in college. With the weapons Carolina possesses at the moment in the passing game, Olsen seems unlikely to reach 100 targets for the sixth time in as many healthy seasons. That doesn't make him a poor choice to be a TE1, just a less desirable one than he's been who also carries some injury risk.

Chicago

 Chicago Bears Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
553 427 548 43.6% 56.4%
QB Mitchell Trubisky 535 58 0 13.6% 0.0%
QB Chase Daniel 17 4 0 0.9% 0.0%
RB Jordan Howard 0 244 44 57.1% 8.0%
RB Tarik Cohen 1 86 85 20.1% 15.5%
RB Benny Cunningham 0 27 12 6.3% 2.2%
RB Taquan Mizzell 0 3 0 0.7% 0.0%
WR Allen Robinson 0 0 121 0.0% 22.1%
WR Taylor Gabriel 0 3 55 0.7% 10.0%
WR Anthony Miller 0 2 58 0.5% 10.6%
WR Kevin White 0 0 43 0.0% 7.8%
WR Josh Bellamy 0 0 10 0.0% 1.8%
TE Trey Burton 0 0 81 0.0% 14.8%
TE Dion Sims 0 0 17 0.0% 3.1%
TE Adam Shaheen 0 0 22 0.0% 4.0%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 980
2017 Total: 895

The Bears seem to be a lot of people's trendy pick to be this year's surprise team, but it's important to remember Trubisky has started all of 25 games in his college and pro career, so there will be bumps in the road regardless of how vastly improved his supporting cast is. A good model for him to follow would be trying to emulate the 2013-16 version of HC Matt Nagy's most recent pupil (Alex Smith), who consistently valued the ball, averaged around 500 pass attempts and liberally used his athleticism to pick up first downs with his legs. Concerns about Howard's role in the offense figure to be overblown. While it is very possible he sees a career low in rushing attempts, the Bears should be protecting more leads and find themselves in the red zone more often too. He's the only true "big back" on the roster, so he's going to see the majority of work at the goal line and get those extra carries at the end of games. There's been a lot made this season regarding how Nagy plans on using Cohen. While Tyreek Hill makes for a fun comp, a likely more accurate comparison figures to be a young Darren Sproles - the player many seemed to compare him to coming out of the draft two springs ago. Cohen should be a good bet for at least five to six carries and roughly the same number of receptions on a weekly basis.

Despite the overall optimism for the receiving corps in Chicago, the success of the passing game this season will come down to whether or not Robinson is able to return to his 2015 form. Everything will fall in line after that if he is ready to roll, as Trubisky will have the player he can trust implicitly on 50-50 balls and near the end zone. Gabriel might be ticketed for the Hill role, but expecting his 165-pound frame to serve as anything more than the team's primary deep threat is a big ask. Miller should be able to eventually overtake him, and it might be a good thing for him if he does since Miller could be fighting with Cohen for snaps in the slot if he is stuck there. White is a wild-card and could make this group special if this can finally be the year he stays on the field. Owners shouldn't hold their breath, but he is still a worthwhile lottery ticket in the last few rounds. I feel like I'm higher on Burton than most, but it's difficult to give him more targets than he already has above. This doesn't figure to be a high-volume passing attack, and Robinson and Cohen should be every bit as involved, so perhaps Burton gets more looks in the red zone.

Dallas

 Dallas Cowboys Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
498 503 492 50.2% 49.8%
QB Dak Prescott 474 62 0 12.3% 0.0%
QB Cooper Rush 24 3 0 0.6% 0.0%
RB Ezekiel Elliott 0 337 53 67.0% 10.8%
RB Rod Smith 0 41 19 8.2% 3.9%
RB Tavon Austin 0 53 51 10.5% 10.4%
RB Bo Scarbrough 0 3 2 0.6% 0.4%
RB Jamize Olawale 0 2 12 0.4% 2.4%
WR Allen Hurns 0 0 85 0.0% 17.3%
WR Terrance Williams 0 2 50 0.4% 10.2%
WR Cole Beasley 0 0 52 0.0% 10.6%
WR Michael Gallup 0 0 75 0.0% 15.2%
WR Deonte Thompson 0 0 21 0.0% 4.3%
TE Geoff Swaim 0 0 14 0.0% 2.8%
TE Blake Jarwin 0 0 52 0.0% 10.6%
TE Rico Gathers 0 0 6 0.0% 1.2%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 1,001
2017 Total: 973

While Oakland HC Jon Gruden wants to take football back 20 years, the Cowboys have already been experimenting with the time machine for a few seasons. If Dallas' offensive line has a bounce-back campaign, the Cowboys could reach 10 wins. While I projected Prescott for only a modest increase in carries (he had 57 in each of his first seasons), it is entirely possible he pulls a Cam Newton and pushes for 100 (although I don't think that's what OC Scott Linehan wants). Elliott is about the safest bet for 300-plus carries as there is in the league this year barring injury, and there isn't much of an argument for him pushing for 375 if Dallas enjoys enough positive game scripts. The only question is whether or not Zeke will be more involved as a receiver. That has been an underutilized part of his game as a pro and something this year's offense is probably going to need from him. (For what it is worth, sites such as MyFantasyLeague.com have Austin listed as a running back even though Linehan expects to him more as a receiver. I think I've projected his ceiling above.)

Hurns is getting to be a bit of a trendy sleeper pick, and for good reason. He's been productive before and happens to be on a team that doesn't have anyone else who can say the same thing. However, there are at least four problems: 1) Is he No. 1 material? 2) Can he stay healthy long enough? 3) Where is the volume coming from? 4) Gallup is more talented. The rookie should overtake Hurns for No. 1 duties at some point this season, but all that means is the latter should be able to get more snaps in the slot - the Cowboys love Williams too much as a deep threat and in particular as a run blocker to remove him as a starter. While I expect Gallup to be the leading man by December, it's very likely this will look like a spread-the-wealth passing game at the end of the season with five or six players owning a target share of at least 10 percent. Jarwin isn't going to replace Witten obviously, but he seems to be a favorite of Prescott already. He's not going to lack for opportunity should he secure a regular role on passing downs.

Detroit

 Detroit Lions Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
576 394 573 40.6% 59.4%
QB Matthew Stafford 568 24 0 6.1% 0.0%
QB Matt Cassel 8 2 0 0.5% 0.0%
RB Kerryon Johnson 0 153 47 38.8% 8.2%
RB LeGarrette Blount 0 92 11 23.4% 1.9%
RB Theo Riddick 0 70 76 17.8% 13.3%
RB Ameer Abdullah 0 42 24 10.7% 4.2%
RB Dwayne Washington 0 7 6 1.8% 1.0%
WR Golden Tate 0 0 118 0.0% 20.6%
WR Marvin Jones 0 4 96 1.0% 16.8%
WR Kenny Golladay 0 0 80 0.0% 14.0%
WR T.J. Jones 0 0 32 0.0% 5.6%
WR Teo Redding 0 0 11 0.0% 1.9%
TE Luke Willson 0 0 42 0.0% 7.3%
TE Michael Roberts 0 0 24 0.0% 4.2%
TE Sean McGrath 0 0 6 0.0% 1.0%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 970
2017 Total: 933

About the only thing that figures to change in Detroit in 2018 is the stubbornness with which the Lions run the ball, although this should finally be the year in which they do it reasonably well. There should be a significant bump in rushing attempts, but their bread will still be buttered with the right arm of Stafford. Still, the golden-armed 30-year-old hasn't topped 600 pass attempts in a season in three straight years. Outside of Abdullah, who will likely just be occupying space on the roster for 2018, Johnson is the only other hope Detroit has for feature-back duties. The rookie is almost guaranteed not to get those, however, since Blount might as well be a designated short-yardage/goal-line back and Riddick is a near-lock to handle much of the passing-down work.

The Lions have been able to hold their own offensively for the most part without much of a running game under OC Jim Bob Cooter because they have used Tate to act as an extension of it and serve as the go-to guy in their small-ball offense. His importance to this offense doesn't figure to change anytime soon. Jones is an obvious touchdown regression candidate and now figures to vie for intermediate/deep targets with a superior talent in Golladay. Something to consider: three of Jones' four biggest fantasy efforts last season - and all of his double-digit target games - came with Golladay out of the lineup. It's probably going to take another year before Golladay truly overtakes Jones and fulfills Tate's prediction of being a No. 1 receiver in this league, but owners should be ready for the transition to start in November or December. At the very least in 2018, Golladay should assume the targets Eric Ebron leaves behind. Willson and Roberts are capable of being decent tight ends in the league, but I don't expect it to happen for either one in Detroit. Even if one emerges in camp, he'll be no better than fifth in line for targets in an offense that probably won't top 600 pass attempts.

Green Bay

 Green Bay Packers Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
587 409 582 41.1% 58.9%
QB Aaron Rodgers 572 34 0 8.3% 0.0%
QB DeShone Kizer 15 7 0 1.7% 0.0%
RB Ty Montgomery 0 79 63 19.3% 10.8%
RB Jamaal Williams 0 141 23 34.5% 4.0%
RB Aaron Jones 0 148 14 36.2% 2.4%
RB Aaron Ripkowski 0 0 11 0.0% 1.9%
WR Davante Adams 0 0 135 0.0% 23.2%
WR Randall Cobb 0 0 96 0.0% 16.5%
WR Geronimo Allison 0 0 67 0.0% 11.5%
WR J'Mon Moore 0 0 43 0.0% 7.4%
WR Trevor Davis 0 0 8 0.0% 1.4%
TE Jimmy Graham 0 0 82 0.0% 14.1%
TE Lance Kendricks 0 0 26 0.0% 4.5%
TE Marcedes Lewis 0 0 14 0.0% 2.4%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 996
2017 Total: 948

For all the success that he's had in his career, Rodgers has only thrown more than 600 passes once in a season; efficiency has always been a key ingredient in his success. Given the relative lack of explosiveness from what figures to be his "core four" (Adams, Cobb, Allison and Graham), he'll likely need to rely even more heavily on the back-shoulder fade than he usually does. Very little seems to be settled in the backfield, although Montgomery would appear to be the best bet for early drafters, as HC Mike McCarthy has made it clear he values what he brings in the passing game. Jones is the most obvious choice for early-down work, but there's no guarantee he won't have to mend some fences with the coaching staff once he returns from his two-game suspension. Williams' best quality may be his availability, although I remain steadfast in my belief Jones and Montgomery will bypass him on the depth chart - if they need to, that is - and make a bigger fantasy impact this season. For those who question my stance on Williams, consider he didn't break a run longer than 25 yards on 153 carries or how much two big touchdown catches (54 and 30 yards) changed the narrative of how efficient he really was as a rookie.

Adams should be locked into 120-plus targets if he stays healthy this season, although current and prospective owners need to remember he has suffered three concussions since the start of 2016. Cobb's 16-game pace stats last year with Rodgers as the starter were 88 catches for 880 yards and six scores on 128 targets, which was a bit of an eye-opener for me and not too far his 2015 totals - the last time he played a full season. Still, one has to wonder how long a player who hasn't exceeded 10.5 YPC in three straight years will continue to be targeted so often, especially when Adams and Graham are around. Cobb hasn't been a red zone maven since 2014 either, so owners are betting on volume with him. I nabbed Allison in the 20th round of the Scott Fish Bowl about two weeks ago. Given Adams' history with concussions and Cobb's recent history with injuries, Allison isn't that far away from being a key player in an offense led by the best quarterback in football. In terms of trying to watch him separate from defenders last year, Graham appeared to be nearing the end of his career. He'll likely need another season where he is targeted heavily near the goal line in order to be an elite fantasy option, but I'd be willing to bet on it happening in Green Bay. Someone is going to need to replace the red zone production Jordy Nelson enjoyed for years as a Packer.

Los Angeles Rams

 Los Angeles Rams Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
560 444 554 44.2% 55.8%
QB Jared Goff 517 25 0 5.6% 0.0%
QB Sean Mannion 43 3 0 0.7% 0.0%
RB Todd Gurley 0 292 88 65.8% 15.9%
RB John Kelly 0 86 17 19.4% 3.1%
RB Malcolm Brown 0 30 5 6.8% 0.9%
RB Zach Laskey 0 1 3 0.2% 0.5%
WR Brandin Cooks 0 3 98 0.7% 17.7%
WR Robert Woods 0 2 108 0.5% 19.5%
WR Cooper Kupp 0 1 101 0.2% 18.2%
WR Josh Reynolds 0 0 25 0.0% 4.5%
WR Pharoh Cooper 0 1 22 0.2% 4.0%
TE Gerald Everett 0 0 52 0.0% 9.4%
TE Tyler Higbee 0 0 32 0.0% 5.8%
TE Henry Krieger-Coble 0 0 3 0.0% 0.5%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 1,004
2017 Total: 972

Goff's 2017 season was a bit fluky in my opinion, not so much because he isn't a capable NFL starting quarterback or I believe he was a one-hit wonder, but more this feeling HC Sean McVay made the game so easy for him. It remains to be seen whether or not McVay is just that far ahead of defensive coordinators or if an offseason in the film room will help them catch up. Regardless of whether Goff takes a step forward or backward, the Rams will continue to go as Gurley goes. About the only legitimate reasons he won't enjoy a repeat of last year from an opportunity perspective is if he gets hurt or Kelly shows well enough in camp to convince McVay he should give the rookie one series every game in order to give Gurley a break.

Last season should be able to serve as a template for 2018, but I'm not sure if that is going to be the case. The Rams' willingness to hand Cooks a five-year contract averaging $16 million per season - admittedly only $20.5 million is guaranteed - is a steep price to pay for a receiver being asked to play the same role Sammy Watkins did a year ago. And this is where I don't think we can compare the two situations. Watkins had less than a month to learn the playbook last summer, while Cooks will have all offseason. It rarely seemed as though getting Watkins involved was a priority; I can't imagine the Rams will do the same thing with their highest-paid receiver who has produced three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Woods and Kupp's usage and roles should stay roughly the same, although I would expect a slight dip in targets for both given Cooks' ability to win at every level of the field. The one wild-card in the offense this year could be Everett. The tight end position group in McVay's last two offenses in Washington enjoyed at least a 20 percent target share, which is not a small deal considering his top three receivers then were Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Jamison Crowder. Everett is a good enough athlete to fill the Jordan Reed role in this offense. The main difference between the two situations is Washington didn't have someone like Gurley in the backfield to eat up 17.1 percent of the targets like he did last year.

Minnesota

 Minnesota Vikings Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
537 462 533 46.2% 53.8%
QB Kirk Cousins 513 41 0 8.9% 0.0%
QB Trevor Siemian 24 5 0 1.1% 0.0%
RB Dalvin Cook 0 278 65 60.2% 12.2%
RB Latavius Murray 0 111 13 24.0% 2.4%
RB Mack Brown 0 16 5 3.5% 0.9%
RB C.J. Ham 0 5 6 1.1% 1.1%
WR Stefon Diggs 0 6 128 1.3% 24.0%
WR Adam Thielen 0 0 129 0.0% 24.2%
WR Kendall Wright 0 0 52 0.0% 9.8%
WR Laquon Treadwell 0 0 15 0.0% 2.8%
WR Tavarres King 0 0 3 0.0% 0.6%
TE Kyle Rudolph 0 0 100 0.0% 18.8%
TE David Morgan 0 0 10 0.0% 1.9%
TE Tyler Conklin 0 0 7 0.0% 1.3%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 999
2017 Total: 1,028

The Vikings felt as if they needed to manage Case Keenum last year. It's unlikely they feel the same way about $84 million man Cousins, who took a shell of the team he started out with last season in Washington and still threw for over 4,000 yards while posting a 27:13 TD-to-INT ratio. Minnesota will give him the best supporting cast he's had, so his first 30-TD season is probably on the horizon. The Vikings should have plenty of positive game script opportunities in 2018, which is part of the reason I believe Murray will see so many carries. With that said, Cook should get sufficiently fed and be one of about 10 running backs who should see over a 60 percent carry share.

Diggs is one completely healthy season away from becoming a potential superstar in the NFL. What better time than a contract year to do it? Diggs has yet to play more than 14 games in a season, but one has to think if he can do it in 2018 and stay off the injury report while doing so - his career production when he is on the injury report versus when he's not is significantly different - he can expect a payday in the range of what Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks managed this offseason. A lot of folks seem to be either pro-Diggs or pro-Thielen this summer ... why not both? There are clearly four players in this offense who deserve the ball in the passing game and not too many others. It's not asking the world for Diggs and Thielen to reach my projected target total and/or target share. They may be a bit high, but they're not unreasonable. Cousins has reportedly already fallen in love with Rudolph. He doesn't deserve the same kind of target share as his aforementioned receiver buddies, but it's not hard imagining him enjoying a career year from the same quarterback that made Jordan Reed a star. His 2016 target total of 132 will probably remain his career high going forward given the emergence of Thielen, but this finally feels like the season in which Rudolph puts together the Gronkowski-like year he's been capable of for a while now.

New Orleans

 New Orleans Saints Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
585 445 581 43.2% 56.8%
QB Drew Brees 585 24 0 5.4% 0.0%
RB Alvin Kamara 0 166 90 37.3% 15.5%
RB Mark Ingram 0 172 51 38.7% 8.8%
RB Jonathan Williams 0 58 3 13.0% 0.5%
RB Trey Edmunds 0 6 11 1.3% 1.9%
RB Zach Line 0 8 4 1.8% 0.7%
WR Michael Thomas 0 0 140 0.0% 24.1%
WR Cameron Meredith 0 0 87 0.0% 15.0%
WR Ted Ginn Jr. 0 8 48 1.8% 8.3%
WR Tre'Quan Smith 0 1 40 0.2% 6.9%
WR Tommylee Lewis 0 2 15 0.4% 2.6%
TE Ben Watson 0 0 63 0.0% 10.8%
TE Josh Hill 0 0 18 0.0% 3.1%
TE Michael Hoomanawanui 0 0 11 0.0% 1.9%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 1,030
2017 Total: 980

Prior to 2017, Brees attempted at least 627 passes in every season since 2009. It may no longer be necessary for him to throw 600-plus times if the Saints can maintain their defense and running game moving forward, but he's almost certain to top last year's 536 attempts. Owners seem to believe Kamara is primed to take on a bit of a featured-back role while Ingram is serving his suspension and will maintain a clear lead-back role when he returns. While that should be true to a degree, he's being drafted as if he will see 15 carries and five to six receptions every week AND maintain his historic efficiency from last year. HC Sean Payton has already stated he doesn't expect to give Kamara much more work and, historically speaking, has been a believer in the committee approach since he arrived in New Orleans back in 2006. If Williams wins the No. 3 job as I think he could in the preseason (making him No. 2 while Ingram is away) and is impressive in doing it, it is conceivable Kamara won't experience much of an increase in touches.

Even with the offense experiencing a 136-target drop-off from 2016 to 2017, Thomas still saw 28 more targets than he did as a rookie. With a little better luck on his side (and perhaps a bit of less historic season from the backfield), Thomas could be a 100-catch, 10-touchdown player in his third season. One of the reasons I believe Kamara is going to level off a bit in 2018 is because he'll have to compete with Meredith for the short and intermediate targets that were pretty much his province as a rookie. Payton has wanted someone to fil the "big slot" role Marques Colston made famous years ago. The only reason I have Meredith for only 87 targets is because I want to feel more confident in his knee (something that can only happen by observing him during the preseason). Ginn should return to his more familiar deep-threat role if Meredith proves his health and should see some competition for those opportunities from Smith. It's entirely possible Smith overtakes Ginn at some point during the season and becomes the next splashy receiver that gives defensive coordinators nightmares and draws the ire of fantasy owners - much like Devery Henderson/Robert Meachem/Kenny Stills did for the Saints in previous seasons. Watson isn't going to come anywhere close to his 110-target, 74-catch season with the Saints in 2015, but he should be the dependable option over the middle of the field Brees has lacked at the position over the last two seasons. If Brees has the kind of positive TD regression I expect, Watson could have one more low-end TE1 season left in him.

New York Giants

 New York Giants Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
575 429 571 42.7% 57.3%
QB Eli Manning 565 12 0 2.8% 0.0%
QB Davis Webb 10 0 0 0.0% 0.0%
RB Saquon Barkley 0 282 89 65.7% 15.6%
RB Jonathan Stewart 0 53 10 12.4% 1.8%
RB Wayne Gallman 0 76 33 17.7% 5.8%
RB Shane Smith 0 3 5 0.7% 0.9%
WR Odell Beckham Jr. 0 0 165 0.0% 28.9%
WR Sterling Shepard 0 3 108 0.7% 18.9%
WR Cody Latimer 0 0 28 0.0% 4.9%
WR Roger Lewis 0 0 15 0.0% 2.6%
TE Evan Engram 0 0 88 0.0% 15.4%
TE Rhett Ellison 0 0 23 0.0% 4.0%
TE Jerell Adams 0 0 7 0.0% 1.2%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 1,004
2017 Total: 1,002

No more excuses. Manning has a semblance of a quality NFL offensive line (at least on the left side), one elite receiver, one very good receiver, one tight end that might as well be a receiver and perhaps the best running prospect to come out of the draft in recent memory. New HC Pat Shurmur probably wouldn't mind having a little bit more run-pass balance than I projected above, but I'm not sure the Giants have a running back behind Barkley he'd feel comfortable giving 100-plus carries to this year. Barkley should be an absolute dream to own in fantasy, as it seems likely Shurmur will utilize him in the same way the Steelers have typically used Le'Veon Bell (keep him under 300 carries and give him less physically demanding touches in the passing game). The big difference between the two: Barkley has more big-play ability.

Assuming Beckham doesn't allow his contract to become an issue - the Giants winning early in the season will help - he should be ready to give Antonio Brown a run for his money as the best fantasy wideout in the game. Ten targets per game should be the expectation. Manning seems to believe Shepard is "primed for a big season," and showed he could handle his own as the No. 1 option when Beckham was hurt last season. He probably overachieved in the touchdown department as a rookie (eight) and regressed more than he should have in 2017 (two), so some correction should be in store after experiencing both extremes. Another 100-target season should be a given considering what few good options the Giants have at receiver behind him and OBJ. Engram is a potential bust candidate (something I discussed earlier this summer), but not because I think he is a fluke. If we believe Manning is as close to the end as he has looked the last two years, he's not going to consistently make two receivers and a tight end every-week starters in fantasy. Since most of us can agree Beckham isn't going to lose many opportunities, we can probably assume Shepard and Engram will sabotage each other when it comes to weekly consistency.

Philadelphia

 Philadelphia Eagles Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
583 464 580 44.3% 55.7%
QB Carson Wentz 545 49 0 10.6% 0.0%
QB Nick Foles 38 6 0 1.3% 0.0%
RB Jay Ajayi 0 232 28 50.0% 4.8%
RB Corey Clement 0 93 40 20.0% 6.9%
RB Darren Sproles 0 54 51 11.6% 8.8%
RB Wendell Smallwood 0 22 4 4.7% 0.7%
RB Josh Adams 0 7 2 1.5% 0.3%
WR Alshon Jeffery 0 0 106 0.0% 18.3%
WR Nelson Agholor 0 1 86 0.2% 14.8%
WR Mike Wallace 0 0 64 0.0% 11.0%
WR Mack Hollins 0 0 37 0.0% 6.4%
WR Shelton Gibson 0 0 9 0.0% 1.6%
TE Zach Ertz 0 0 111 0.0% 19.1%
TE Dallas Goedert 0 0 34 0.0% 5.9%
TE Richard Rodgers 0 0 8 0.0% 1.4%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 1,047
2017 Total: 1,037

Wentz was the leading candidate for NFL MVP prior to his season-ending ACL injury in Week 14. While the playoffs proved the Eagles don't necessarily need him to field a good offense, they are a more complete and better offense when he is playing. HC Doug Pederson will strive for the same kind of run-pass balance his team enjoyed last year, although it's quite likely he'll continue to ask Wentz to carry at least as much of the offense on his shoulders as he did in 2017. It was only two years ago that Ajayi was a first-round fantasy pick given his bell-cow status in Miami. Owners seem to be having a hard time wrapping their minds around him doing it again. Clement was a pleasant surprise to be sure, but it seems as though a lot of folks are romanticizing the notion that he what he did in the Super Bowl was something he did all year. (It wasn't.) While Ajayi has no reason to be heavily involved in the passing game given the presence of Clement and Sproles on the roster, he should have virtually no competition on early downs and inside the 10. Behind one of the best offensive lines in the league and opposite one of the NFL's best defenses, Ajayi should have no problem reaching my projections if he plays all 16 games.

As an Andy Reid protégé, it should be no surprise Pederson tends to field offenses that strive more for target balance than rely on one clear top option. Each of his first two offenses in Philadelphia has operated in this manner, and there is very little to suggest it won't happen again in 2018. While the team doesn't seem to be overly concerned about Jeffery, he is coming off February surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and cannot be considered a lock to begin the season, so his target projection should be near his ceiling. Agholor seemed to be a favorite of Wentz in the red zone and would step in as the de facto No. 1 receiver if Jeffery cannot play early on. Wallace is an upgrade over Torrey Smith, but Philadelphia probably would like it if plays two series for every one of Hollins' as the youngster continues to develop. What's funny about Ertz's career is his production of the last three years and how remarkably similar each season has been. Pretty much the only differences in 2018 were he doubled his previous season-high touchdown output and remained consistent throughout. It's anyone's guess whether or not he has another level he can reach, but 70-something catches for 800-plus yards is a good place to start with his projection.

San Francisco

 San Francisco 49ers Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
578 450 574 43.8% 56.2%
QB Jimmy Garoppolo 555 29 0 6.4% 0.0%
QB C.J. Beathard 23 4 0 0.9% 0.0%
RB Jerick McKinnon 0 192 94 42.7% 16.4%
RB Matt Breida 0 145 30 32.2% 5.2%
RB Joe Williams 0 66 6 14.7% 1.0%
RB Kyle Juszczyk 0 6 35 1.3% 6.1%
WR Pierre Garcon 0 0 103 0.0% 17.9%
WR Marquise Goodwin 0 3 79 0.7% 13.8%
WR Trent Taylor 0 0 50 0.0% 8.7%
WR Dante Pettis 0 5 52 1.1% 9.1%
WR Kendrick Bourne 0 0 18 0.0% 3.1%
TE George Kittle 0 0 77 0.0% 13.4%
TE Garrett Celek 0 0 26 0.0% 4.5%
TE Cole Hikutini 0 0 4 0.0% 0.7%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 1,025
2017 Total: 1,015

It's not hard to understand the hype surrounding Garoppolo in dynasty leagues, but I'm not sure I get it quite yet in redraft formats. His 308.4 passing yards per game in his five starts was impressive considering his supporting cast at the end of the season, but is the return of Garcon really going to make enough of a difference to make him a top 5-10 fantasy quarterback? After all, his TD-to-INT ration in those five games was 6:5. If the running game does its job like many think it will and the defense continues to show the same improvement it did in December, the volume isn't going to be there for Jimmy G. McKinnon might as well be a politician this summer, because people either seem to be all-in or all-out on him. To hear some of the critics talk, I'd swear I stepped into my DeLorean and set the clock to three years ago. At that time, Devonta Freeman was too small (5-8, 206). He couldn't beat out an aging Steven Jackson as a rookie one year earlier. He averaged 3.8 YPC in 2014. Then 2015 happened under then first-year OC Kyle Shanahan. This year, McKinnon is too small (5-9. 205). He couldn’t hold off Matt Asiata or Latavius Murray when given a chance to be featured. (Not true.) He averaged 3.8 YPC in 2017. Folks, how often has Shanahan been wrong about a running back? Doesn't the notion of an explosive runner like McKinnon running outside zones sound like a good idea? Set expectations at Christian McCaffrey last year and add about 50 to 75 carries. Shanahan sees McKinnon as a passing-game weapon first and foremost. I think Shanahan sees anything more than 200 carries from the former Viking as a bonus because Breida and Williams should be more than capable of splitting the rest.

Garcon's healthy return is not a certainty, but I would expect him to be the clear target leader among the receivers he was last year prior to his neck injury. Goodwin surprised many by showing excellent chemistry with Garoppolo down the stretch. Owners seem to conveniently forget the main reason he didn't stick in Buffalo was a lack of durability. This is another reason not to jump on the Garoppolo bandwagon so quickly. His top two wideouts are far from guaranteed to stay healthy. This year's breakout star in this offense - if we don't include McKinnon - should be Kittle. Shanahan confirmed Kittle wasn't healthy at the end of the season when he was losing snaps to Garrett Celek. Yet, he still averaged almost 65 yards receiving over his final three contests. With so little size in their receiving corps, the 49ers can use a big and versatile weapon who can high-point the ball - Kittle can and should be the go-to guy when Garoppolo needs a first down or a play to be made in the red zone.

Seattle

 Seattle Seahawks Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
500 466 494 48.2% 51.8%
QB Russell Wilson 494 104 0 22.3% 0.0%
QB Austin Davis 6 3 0 0.6% 0.0%
RB Rashaad Penny 0 156 32 33.5% 6.5%
RB Chris Carson 0 161 24 34.5% 4.9%
RB C.J. Prosise 0 26 28 5.6% 5.7%
RB J.D. McKissic 0 8 40 1.7% 8.1%
WR Doug Baldwin 0 1 113 0.2% 22.9%
WR Tyler Lockett 0 7 78 1.5% 15.8%
WR Brandon Marshall 0 0 54 0.0% 10.9%
WR Jaron Brown 0 0 26 0.0% 5.3%
WR David Moore 0 0 17 0.0% 3.4%
TE Ed Dickson 0 0 45 0.0% 9.1%
TE Nick Vannett 0 0 32 0.0% 6.5%
TE Will Dissly 0 0 5 0.0% 1.0%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 966
2017 Total: 964

Perhaps one of the more amazing things about Wilson's consistency in fantasy is the fact he has never attempted more than 553 passes, which is just further confirmation how important rushing production can be to a quarterback's bottom line. The plan for this year's Seahawks is an emphasis on the rushing attack, although veteran owners already know that includes about a 20 percent carry share for Wilson. The question is whether or not Seattle's defense has any chance at keeping the offense in the game long enough for it to achieve the kind of run-pass balance it is striving for under new OC Brian Schottenheimer. The more Carson appears to be securing first-team reps in camp this summer, the more the selection of Penny begins to look like a pick the front office made without the blessing of the coaching staff. GM John Schneider has made a number of savvy picks over the years, but Carson's four-game sample in 2017 should have been enough to give him at least one more chance to be the full-time starter before spending first-round draft capital to address the position. Penny is no slouch, however, so expect a committee at some point during the season - perhaps as early as the season opener. One thing is clear: Carson is not going away.

One of the reasons why owners can build a case against Wilson going among the top three quarterbacks in fantasy drafts this summer is his supporting cast. Baldwin returns and is a veritable lock for 100-plus targets. After that, it gets tricky. Lockett is healthy now, but can he avoid yet another season in which he is dogged by some kind of injury? Marshall may or may not have anything left and is not a lock to make the roster, while Brown and Moore will have their shoes full just trying to replace what the Seahawks lost in Paul Richardson. And who replaces Jimmy Graham at tight end? Dickson? Vannett? There has to be legitimate concern about this passing game if/when Baldwin and/or Lockett aren't at 100 percent.

Tampa Bay

 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
596 422 592 41.5% 58.5%
QB Jameis Winston 442 27 0 6.4% 0.0%
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 118 11 0 2.6% 0.0%
QB Ryan Griffin 36 3 0 0.7% 0.0%
RB Ronald Jones 0 191 34 45.3% 5.7%
RB Peyton Barber 0 129 27 30.6% 4.6%
RB Charles Sims 0 28 40 6.6% 6.8%
RB Jacquizz Rodgers 0 26 8 6.2% 1.4%
RB Alan Cross 0 1 6 0.2% 1.0%
WR Mike Evans 0 0 135 0.0% 22.8%
WR DeSean Jackson 0 4 100 0.9% 16.9%
WR Adam Humphries 0 1 55 0.2% 9.3%
WR Chris Godwin 0 1 64 0.2% 10.8%
WR Justin Watson 0 0 5 0.0% 0.8%
TE O.J. Howard 0 0 62 0.0% 10.5%
TE Cameron Brate 0 0 56 0.0% 9.5%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 1,018
2017 Total: 995

It can hardly be called a blessing for him or the team, but Winston's three-game suspension will come when the Bucs face the Saints, Eagles and Steelers. For a quarterback who desperately needs to hit the ground running this season, it's not the worst thing in the world for him to miss those three weeks. While there is no question Jones is the better long-term option, the biggest question on this offense is if/when Jones can overtake Barber in 2018. A committee approach at the beginning of the season is likely, but the need to hit long runs against Tampa Bay's brutal first-half schedule is going to be critical to the team's success. While we should probably expect Barber to handle the majority of the goal-line touches, it may be the need for big plays in September that "convinces" HC Dirk Koetter he needs to lean on Jones as early as October.

Evans' 136 targets last season were his fewest since his rookie year of 2014 (123). Early word from Bucs' camp is that he has taken his play to a new level, so I bumped him up a bit from where I initially had him. HC Dirk Koetter was adamant shortly after the season about getting Jackson more involved after he compiled 90 targets in his first year as a Buc, so the odds of Evans gaining targets at Jackson's expense seems unlikely. Godwin is on the rise and will probably replace Jackson as a starter one way or another in 2019, so Tampa Bay owes it to him to get him prepared for that probability. Humphries is a classic slot receiver whom Winston trusts, but he's not a fit for this offense otherwise. Brate is the tight end version of Humphries, and one should expect his targets to continue to decline moving forward given how much better Howard is in most facets of the game. The Bucs owe it to themselves to almost double Howard's 39 targets from a season ago. Perhaps he was underutilized the passing game because Tampa Bay needed his blocking to compensate for its poor offensive line, but that should be less of an issue in 2018. Anything short of 60-plus targets and 40 to 45 catches this year will be a criminal misuse of his talents.

Washington

 Washington Redskins Workload Projections
Pos Player Pass Att Carries Targets Carry Share Target Share
534 440 530 45.2% 54.8%
QB Alex Smith 518 50 0 11.4% 0.0%
QB Colt McCoy 16 4 0 0.9% 0.0%
RB Derrius Guice 0 227 40 51.6% 7.5%
RB Chris Thompson 0 76 75 17.3% 14.2%
RB Samaje Perine 0 51 8 11.6% 1.5%
RB Rob Kelley 0 21 4 4.8% 0.8%
RB Kapri Bibbs 0 3 5 0.7% 0.9%
WR Jamison Crowder 0 5 105 1.1% 19.8%
WR Josh Doctson 0 0 66 0.0% 12.5%
WR Paul Richardson 0 1 56 0.2% 10.6%
WR Trey Quinn 0 2 45 0.5% 8.5%
WR Robert Davis 0 0 3 0.0% 0.6%
TE Jordan Reed 0 0 78 0.0% 14.7%
TE Vernon Davis 0 0 42 0.0% 7.9%
TE Jeremy Sprinkle 0 0 3 0.0% 0.6%

2018 Projected Total Offensive Plays: 974
2017 Total: 941

There seems to be a general consensus the Redskins went cheaper and got better at quarterback this offseason. In the real football sense, a case can be made for that since Smith is very unlikely to throw double-digit interceptions. In terms of fantasy football and whether or not Smith fits the personnel in Washington and/or makes it better, I don't see it. (We'll get into fit in a bit.) Smith has never thrown more than 509 passes in a season and HC Jay Gruden isn't exactly pass-happy, so it would appear I'm projecting Smith's ceiling here. Washington suffered a rash of injuries along its offensive line last season, likely allowing people to forget how good its front five is, and should be improved defensively, creating a near-perfect storm for Guice if he is allowed to be the featured attraction on early downs. As a result, Thompson should not be needed nearly as much, which may be a blessing in disguise considering his lack of durability.

Getting back to "fit," Tyreek Hill created an average of 3.5 yards of separation last season per Next Gen Stats, giving the risk-averse Smith plenty of room to become a deep-ball thrower in 2017. Richardson was at 2.4 in Seattle and Doctson at 2.2 using the same metric in 2017. Since Smith isn't the kind of quarterback who throws 50-50 balls, it could make for a long season for anyone invested in Richardson and Doctson. Crowder, who incidentally created 3.2 yards of separation on average last season, should benefit as a result and exceed last year's career-high 103 targets. The key, as it always seems to be, is how long and how many games Reed can play. A disappearing act from Doctson and Richardson won't be too damaging if Crowder, Reed and Thompson are all carving up the defense in front of the safeties, but it will be a problem if Reed and Thompson aren't on the field. Davis has been and will continue to be a fine fill-in, but he can't replace the fear Reed strikes into defenses. My projection for Reed estimates he will play between 13 and 14 games. Each individual owner must decide for him/herself if snagging Reed in the middle-to-late rounds and keeping a spot on the bench open for Davis is worth it.

AFC | NFC


Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”. Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.







Draft Buddy - Fantasy Football excel draft spreadsheet