Analysis

9/26/23

7 min read

2023 NFL Week 3 High-Value Touch Report: Rushing and Receiving Data

Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) runs after the catch against the Los Angeles Chargers in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After a game-breaking week by the Miami Dolphins, they rank first in red zone efficiency (red zone touchdowns divided by red zone drives) at 78.6 percent. That’s more than 22 percentage points higher than the league average (56.3 percent). 

The Green Bay Packers (77.8 percent), Kansas City Chiefs (75 percent), Cleveland Browns (75 percent) and Baltimore Ravens (72.7 percent) round out the top five. 

There is some noise because two of the bottom five teams include two of the better offenses in the league. The Dallas Cowboys rank 27th in red zone efficiency (40 percent), tied with the New Orleans Saints

And the Philadelphia Eagles sit in front of them at 45.5 percent, tying the Denver Broncos. However, the Eagles rank sixth in yards per game, and the Cowboys sit 11th.

Below, we’ll examine red zone and goal-to-go (GTG) touches and opportunities. The context for these touches is important, so we’ll consider the potential game script that led to the usage. This information helps identify which players might be on the verge of scoring more touchdowns and fantasy points — and which players aren’t. 

Given the small sample size, we sometimes find that players don’t regress quickly or that the data becomes more noisy than meaningful. The information will be broken down by red zone and GTG rushing and receiving data to find usage patterns and expected fantasy points. 

Week 2 High Value Touch

Red Zone Rushing

Tony Pollard garnered eight more red zone rushing attempts in Week 3, leading the position. Three of his eight attempts came in GTG situations. Pollard has a whopping 24 red zone carries in 2022, while Christian McCaffrey’s 14 is second. They’re two of the top backs in expected fantasy points due to their volume and high-value touches. 

Isiah Pacheco tied De’Von Achane with six red zone carries in Week 3. Achane put up historic numbers in the Dolphins’ 70-20 win, while Pacheco’s rushing touchdown boosted his value. However, Pacheco continues to share opportunities with Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Pacheco tied Edwards-Helaire in rush share at 40.5 percent. Though it’s worth noting that Pacheco bested him in the first half (58.8 percent vs. 23.5 percent) in a blowout game. Keep tabs on Edwards-Helaire, but don’t overreact to the production based on the usage.

Achane’s Historic Performance

In the past five seasons, only four running backs scored 50 fantasy points in points per reception (PPR) scoring formats. They include Achane, Joe Mixon, Jonathan Taylor and Alvin Kamara. When we lower the threshold to 45 PPR, Raheem Mostert joins the group. Achane and Mostert are the only backfield mates to do that in the same contest. 

That, paired with the high-powered passing offense, makes Miami a fantasy offense to invest in. The visual below shows the team’s rushing success rate, including yards before and after contact per attempt.

Though the game script went in the Dolphins’ favor, Achane had a 52.6 percent rush share compared with Mostert’s 36.8 percent in the first half. As expected, their rush share fell in the second half. Achane had a 33.3 percent rush share, and Mostert’s fell to 25 percent. 

Hopefully, fantasy managers stashed Achane as an elite college producer and athlete. However, I’ll take the loss in favoring Mostert and Jeff Wilson as the cheaper options

Red Zone Receiving

It turned into a lighter week in red zone receiving; eight receivers tied with tree targets. The list includes Davante Adams, Deebo Samuel and a pair of teammates on two squads.

On Sunday night, Adams caught his lone GTG target for a score against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though some were skeptic about Adams and the Las Vegas Raiders offense, he had an elite 45.5 percent target share in Week 3. Adams took the season-long lead at 39.8 percent in front of Puka Nacua‘s 34.7 percent share, which includes Monday’ game.

Alexander Mattison, Justin Jefferson, Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed garnered three red zone receiving targets in Week 3. Jordan Love favors Doubs and Reed in the red zone, though the Packers haven’t had their full complement of weapons healthy yet. 

Regardless, it’s still a positive sign for Doubs or Reed to have relevance. Reed averages 17.7 slot routes per game vs. 6.7 routes out wide. Reed can hold down a relevant role when Christian Watson returns. 

It’s good to see Mattison bounce back in a game with one of the higher projected totals in Week 3. Though the Minnesota Vikings continue to pass a ton, Mattison rocks a high-end workload via the percentage of the team’s rushes and targets, as seen above.

He showed that again in Week 3, evidenced by his 83.3 percent rush share (No. 3) and 14.6 percent target share (No. 9), similar to the season-long metrics. As long as there’s the volume in a high-powered offense, it’s hard to fade Mattison in most cases.

Goal-to-Go Rushing

Kenneth Walker scored two more touchdowns in GTG situations. In Week 3, Walker tied Mattison, Pacheco and Jahmyr Gibbs with four touches in this area. Walker might have touchdown regression going against his favor.

He has four touchdowns on nine GTG carries, which averages out to 2.25 rushes per touchdown, better than Josh Jacobs (2.43), Austin Ekeler (2.43) and Jamaal Williams (2.53) last season. However, Walker’s productivity in short-yardage bodes well moving forward. 

Since David Montgomery was injured, Gibbs has garnered a healthy workload, mainly as a rusher because of a positive game script against the Falcons. The visual above shows the rushing data by week for Gibbs. 

Gibbs rocked a 54.8 percent rush share in Week 3 after 20.6 percent in Week 1 and 25.9 percent in Week 2. He showed his yards after contact profile, racking up 3.18 yards after contact per attempt (YAC/Att). It’s positive to see Gibbs in a healthy rushing role because that remains a big question mark with a healthy Montgomery. 

QB Jared Goff (16.1 percent) and Craig Reynolds (12.9 percent) topped off the Lions’ top three rushers. While we wish Gibbs received more targets, the Lions consolidated 31 targets among four players in Amon-Ra St. Brown (12), Sam LaPorta (11), Kalif Raymond (6) and Gibbs (2). If Montgomery misses Week 4, Gibbs should feast against a Packers run defense that ranks 22nd in defense rush success rate (59.5 percent). 

The Eagles Backfield

D’Andre Swift dominated the backfield touches Monday against the Buccaneers. While the game log shows an even carry split, Swift garnered a 55.2 percent rush share in the first three quarters compared with Kenneth Gainwell at 17.2 percent. 

With the Eagles controlling the game, nine of Gainwell’s carries — or 81.8 percent of the team’s rush share — came in the fourth quarter. 

As seen in the visual above, Swift showed his ability to create yards before and after contact. That’s evident in Swift’s 4.64 yards before contact per attempt (No. 2) and 3.50 yards after contact per attempt (No. 9) in Week 3. 

Jalen Hurts hardly targeted the running backs because he fed A.J. Brown the ball. Brown had a 40 percent target share in Week 3 after 30.8 percent in Weeks 1 and 2. Swift possesses receiving skills, giving him an Ekeler-like upside if the Eagles target him as the third option in the passing game.

Goal-to-Go Receiving

Kirk Cousins targeted Mattison (3) and Jefferson (2) five times in GTG situations, though they came up empty in the touchdown department. It’s a small sample, but Mattison ranks second (five targets) in GTG instances among all qualified pass catchers. 

All three passing touchdowns for Patrick Mahomes went to Travis Kelce (1) and McKinnon (2) in GTG situations. The pass catchers besides Kelce haven’t solidified their opportunities, so McKinnon could continue earning high-value touches in the short term. 

Achane catching both of his GTG opportunities for touchdowns surprised us in Week 3. It could be the matchup, but Mostert and Achane received a healthy target share against the Broncos. 

Mostert peaked at a 4.5 percent target share in Week 1, ballooning to 25 percent in Week 3. That’s the highest running back target share in Week 3, ahead of Kyren Williams at 21.9 percent. 

Achane’s sample is smaller, but his 14.3 percent target share in Week 3 continues the trend. The receiving opportunities add to the floor and ceiling because we’re relying on the Dolphins’ friendly rushing offense. It has the fourth-best rush success rate at 45.1 percent.


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