So much can happen during the NFL season that trying to predict
the future may seem pointless. With that said, it is our job as
analysts and fantasy managers to attempt the impossible.
For better or worse, this industry seems more fixated on the
macro than the micro. As such, I decided I wanted to give the
fantasy football world a look at what each player's year-end statistics
would look like if they simply maintained their current per-game
production. While we know roughly 99 percent of these averages
will change between now and the fantasy playoffs, my hope is this
information will shed some light on who is due for a positive
or negative market correction.
My hope for this week is to highlight some of the notable outliers
at quarterback and running back. Maybe in doing so, I will be
able to point out the potential buying and selling opportunities
Below you will find the statistical totals for every quarterback
and running back of note if they maintain their current pace over
17 games. I have adjusted the totals for the players who have
either missed time or are expected to because of injury. (For
example, Austin Ekeler has missed three games, so his total is
for 14 games.) I did the best I could in terms of projecting a
realistic timeline for cases such as Kyren Williams, whose projected
return to action is unknown at this time.
I understand this is not a one-size-fits-all exercise. For example,
when Aaron Jones
gets healthy, he will finish with significantly more than the
91 carries he is on pace to get. The point of this exercise is
to see if certain hot/cold starts are likely to continue and if
others appear will be difficult to maintain.
Year-End Totals for QBs At Their
Current Per-Game Pace
Hurts - Hurts is nearly halfway
through his third full season as an NFL starting quarterback.
Across his first 34 starts (2020-22), he threw 19 interceptions.
This season, he is on pace for 20. His interception rate is a
career-high 3.3, which is nearly triple what it was last season
(1.3). While his interception rate (and pace) is largely a product
of the three picks he threw in Week 6 against the Jets, it is
worth noting it is only the second time he has thrown that many
in a game. It is also worth considering if he can handle another
170 carries. (Do not forget that he missed Weeks 15-16 last season
with a shoulder problem.) There is a legitimate case to be made
that Hurts is a player we should buy and sell.
Goff - While his home/road splits
are not nearly as concerning as they were last year, Goff has
boosted (or saved) his fantasy value in a couple of games this
season with rushing touchdowns after not scoring one in his first
31 games with the Lions. Goff would seem to be a good candidate
to maintain his other pace numbers, including all of his passing
Purdy - People need to start coming
around to the idea that Purdy is more than just a Kyle Shanahan
puppet. Yes, having Shanahan calling plays helps. There is also
little doubt having one of the best supporting casts in the league
helps as well. While a 28:3 TD-to-INT ratio appears far-fetched,
I am not sure it is all that unreasonable for Purdy. Perhaps the
only outlier with him is the fact he is on pace for six rushing
TDs. Purdy is a player I would be trying to buy in redraft or
dynasty if I need relatively cheap help at quarterback. Unlike
Goff, I think his overall statistical pace is not only sustainable
regardless of home versus road, but also for the foreseeable future.
Stroud - Justin Herbert had one
of the most productive seasons of all-time for a rookie quarterback
in 2020 with 4,336 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Stroud is on pace to beat at least two of those three marks. I
don't think he is on the same level as Herbert from a talent perspective.
The last three games also suggest defenses are starting to adjust
to him and the Texans' offense. Perhaps I would have more confidence
in him if he had Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler and
Hunter Henry to throw to, although his current supporting cast
is much better than most anticipated. In the end, however, new
OC Bobby Slowik is a Shanahan disciple. One would have to imagine
as good as he feels about Stroud's future, he would prefer a more
balanced offense - something that might be possible once Houston's
offensive line is healthier and has had time to gel.
Lawrence - One player who has not
taken the expected next step into superstardom this year is Lawrence,
although there may be some underlying reasons why that is the
case. Zay Jones has been in-and-(mostly)out of the lineup. Perhaps
a bigger issue is his dwindling intended air yards per attempt,
which has dipped from 7.9 in his rookie year of 2021 to 7.4 last
year and 7.1 this season. So what is the most likely cause of
this decline despite having more talent at receiver than ever?
Perhaps we need to look at the health of the offensive line,
which missed starting LT Cam Robinson for the first four games
due to suspension. He's back now, but LG Walker Little, who started
the season filling in for Robinson before injuring his knee 11
snaps into Week 5, is out. Little moved inside to replace Ben
Bartch, who is likely still recovering from a serious knee injury
last year that likely contributed to him being largely ineffective
through the first four weeks. He has not played since. First-round
draft choice RT Anton Harrison has probably performed better than
expected, but he has not been dominant by any means.
Perhaps the turnover up front has led OC Press Taylor to go the
conservative route when calling deeper shots, which may explain
also some of Calvin Ridley's inconsistency to this point. Lawrence's
average pocket time is a career-low 2.0 seconds. He is feeling
pressure on a career-high 23.4 percent of his drop-backs. None
of this information figures to help fantasy managers now, but
it might help to explain what we have seen from Lawrence through
six weeks. The likelihood is that once Robinson and Little play
together a bit more and Harrison proves to be trustworthy on the
right side, the passing attack will open up more.
Stafford - There is virtually no
chance Stafford throws for nearly 5,000 yards and only 17 touchdowns.
It is also highly unlikely that he continues to pass for only
about 220 yards with Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua both healthy -
as has been the case the last two weeks - and Kyren Williams out.
There is a distinct possibility the Rams become the most pass-heavy
team in the league over the 2-3 weeks Williams is expected to
miss - if only because their alternative is handing the ball off
to their fourth-string running back or players that have been
hanging out on practice squads across the league all year.
As for his touchdown pace, consider this: Stafford's TD rate
last season was 3.3 percent - his worst mark in over a decade.
He is currently sitting at 2.6. Over his career, Stafford is averaging
one TD pass for every 158.5 passing yards. So far this season,
that number is at 279.5. Therefore, either the Rams will continue
to fall short in the red zone and expect Brett Maher to kick three
or field goals per game or Stafford (and HC Sean McVay) will find
a way to get two very good receivers into the end zone on a more
- Smith is another player who is due for positive regression
in a hurry. One of the biggest differences between 2022 and 2023
is that he is feeling pressure on a league-high 31.9 percent of
his drop-backs, which is tied with Zach Wilson and slightly higher
than Daniel Jones (31.3). Sam Howell is 26.5. Yet, Patrick Mahomes
(27.3) is the only player who is getting pressured on at least
23 percent of his drop-backs who has been sacked LESS than Smith
(11 sacks to Mahomes' six). Think about that for a second. Wilson
has been sacked 19 times, Jones 28 and Howell 34. Getting LT Charles
Cross back last week should help his Smith's pressure numbers
Despite all of the pressure Smith has been feeling in 2023, his
on-target percentage (76) is in line with last season's 78.8 percent.
His bad-throw percentage (17.5) is considerably higher than last
season (11.8), but the pressure numbers can easily explain that
as well. Seattle's offense is a sleeping giant as far as I am
concerned, and it only needs some health up front before we see
it more consistently. The Seahawks told us what they wanted to
be on draft day this spring when they drafted Jaxon Smith-Njigba
in the first round. They started using 11 personnel more often
in their first game following the Week 5 bye. Unfortunately, they
came up short on some of their chances to beef up Smith's fantasy
numbers against the Bengals in Week 6. As the pressure numbers
start dropping, expect Smith to start looking more like the quarterback
he was in 2022.
Year-End Totals for RBs At Their
Current Per-Game Pace
Mostert and Devon
Achane - Even with Achane's four-game IR stint factored
in, this duo is on pace to run for 2,711 yards and score 54 touchdowns.
There may not be a word for that, but unsustainable comes to mind.
Make no mistake about it: this offense is elite and fantasy managers
should do whatever they can to make sure they have a piece of
the pie. However, I am not sure we can put a lot of faith in the
31-year-old Mostert holding up with his injury history. I still
believe my preseason expectation of Jeff Wilson being the Miami
running back to have in fantasy will prove to be the right call,
although it may take a bit longer than I had hoped for it to happen.
Perhaps I am way off in that belief, but I think there is at least
a goal-line role for him in what is the most potent offense in
the league right now.
Etienne - Count me among those who
do not believe Etienne will maintain a 388-touch pace. Except
for David Montgomery (12), Etienne has broken nearly twice as
many tackles (16) as any other player in the league. In fact,
he is breaking a tackle once every 7.1 carries in 2023 after doing
so once every 15.7 carries in 2022. While he is a more physical
runner than most give him credit for due to his explosiveness,
Etienne is on a pace to break significantly more tackles than
Derrick Henry ever has in a season. That also seems unlikely to
Last season's 255 touches were 11 more than he ever had during
a season at Clemson. While 300-plus is certainly doable, 400 (or
anything close to it) is highly unlikely. What is worse is that
his yards per carry has dropped more than a full yard from last
season (5.1 to 4.0). Touchdowns have made his fantasy days look
better than they probably should have been this season and both
of his longest runs (31 and 35 yards) came in the same game against
a Buffalo defense that was not only likely adjusting to a trip
to London, but also had to play 88 plays. I do not question Etienne's
talent. I do question his ability to hold up to such a heavy workload
and Taylor's likely desire to rely more heavily on Trevor Lawrence
and the passing game when he is comfortable with the protection
his quarterback is receiving.
Pollard - The only thing to take
note of here is that Pollard is on pace to 343 touches. Do with
that information what you will, but I plan on holding Rico Dowdle
everywhere I have him and scooping him up off waivers wherever
I don't have him.
Jacobs - Is Jacobs a bell-cow back?
Yes. Is he going to hold up for another 374 touches this year
after 393 last season? Possibly. Will he continue to handle 90.7
percent of the backfield work in Las Vegas if he continues to
average 2.9 YPC? Doubtful.
Most fantasy managers understand Jacobs' biggest issue is his
offensive line. With that said, it is hard to look at the fact
he has broken one tackle on 107 rushing attempts in 2023 and put
all of the blame on the front five. After all, he broke a tackle
once every 11 attempts last season. That is a problem.
White and Dameon
Pierce - White and Pierce are on pace for two of
the least efficient 230-carry (or more) seasons in recent memory.
It should have been expected in White's case because the offensive
line that struggled most of last year may be better than the one
White runs behind now. (While Chase Edmonds, White, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
and Sean Tucker are not exactly generational talents, it is telling
that the longest run any of them have enjoyed this season is 14
yards.) What would have been nearly impossible to predict is the
degree to which White would be inefficient (3.3 YPC). In his defense,
the last three defenses he has faced (Eagles, Saints and Lions)
have shut down most of the backs they have faced. The problem
for White is that the schedule is not getting much easier anytime
Pierce's fantasy managers have a right to be upset because they
have yet to see what he can do behind the offensive line Houston
was trying to put in front of him in Week 1 (Laremy Tunsil-Kenyon
Green-Juice Scruggs-Shaq Mason-Tytus Howard). While Green is already
done for the season, Josh Jones probably was an upgrade before
he got hurt. Howard returned in Week 5 and has since replaced
Jones, leaving George Fant at right tackle. Scruggs has yet to
play. The point to be made here is that the Texans sunk more than
their fair share of resources into the offensive line and probably
will not get to see the fruits of their labor until next year.
To be fair, Pierce's advanced metrics - specifically his yards
before and after contact - aren't up to last year's standards,
although it is admittedly difficult for a running back to be an
elite tackle-breaker when he is typically absorbing contact 1.3
yards into his run (last year was 2.0). There is a 0.7-yard decline
in both his yards before contact and yards after contact averages
from last year. That is probably not a coincidence. Unlike Josh
Jacobs above, Pierce logged 220 carries and 250 total touches
last season. He was not overworked, so it is unlikely he lost
his ability to power through contact.
and Justice Hill
- At different points throughout their careers, Edwards
and Hill have been some of my favorite end-of-bench stashes. Throughout
most of Edwards' career, he was the underappreciated 5.0 YPC tag-team
partner to J.K. Dobbins. He has seen plenty of action due primarily
to Dobbins' inability to stay healthy in recent years and has
generally performed well when called upon to do the heavy lifting.
Hill flashed at moments last season but has never handled more
than 61 touches in a season - a mark he is coming up on quickly
this year (47).
The outlier I would like to focus on here is the 13 rushing touchdowns
the duo is on pace to score. While Baltimore is highly unlikely
to feature one back with Dobbins done for the year, this backfield
is screaming for a savior. Somehow, a backfield averaging 22 carries
and 26 touches overall - and run by a quarterback as athletic
as Lamar Jackson - does not have anything close to a back that
is a reliable fantasy option. In other words, it needs a player
who can do a lot with a little. Enter Keaton Mitchell.
There is almost zero chance Mitchell handles more than 12 touches
per game when everyone is healthy, but we have already seen similar
players in De'Von Achane and Jaleel McLaughlin thrive with that
kind of workload. Mitchell might be more McLaughlin than Achane
from a talent perspective, but he is more like Achane (4.32) when
it comes to speed (4.37). Considering Melvin Gordon owns the longest
rush by a Baltimore running back this season (22 yards), it is
about time the Ravens find a way to get the East Carolina product
involved now that he is fully recovered from a preseason shoulder
injury. He may not see many of the aforementioned 13 projected
rushing touchdowns, but he makes sense as the primary option to
punish defenses if/when they pay too much attention to Jackson
as a runner.
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.