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2023 NFL Week 9 High-Value Touch Report: Rushing and Receiving Data

Nov 5, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (85) runs the ball as Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) tackles him during the first half at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the year of backup quarterbacks, or so it seems. We’ve had 46 quarterbacks throw at least 15 attempts in 2023. Joshua Dobbs ranks 10th in pass attempts and ranks 32nd in adjusted yards per attempt. 

Then, we have P.J. Walker, Tyson Bagent, Tyrod Taylor and Aidan O’Connell totaling more than 75 pass attempts in 2023. There are 13 (28.3 percent) of the quarterbacks in 2023 reaching throwing under 100 pass attempts. 

Last season, we had 45 quarterbacks throw at least 15 attempts in Weeks 1-9. However, 11 of them threw for fewer than 100 pass attempts (24.4 percent). While it seems the backup quarterbacks have tanked the pass catcher and offensive value, the numbers look similar over the past two seasons. 

In 2023, the league average offensive points scored per game is at 20.6 with 5.2 yards per play. That’s not far off from 2022, evidenced by 20.9 offensive points scored per game and 5.4 yards per play in Weeks 1-9. 

Below, we’ll examine red zone 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.

Red Zone Rushing

This week’s leaders in red zone rushing attempts include some unusual contributors and bounce-back candidates. Rachaad White led the pack with seven. Aaron Jones, Taysom Hill and Josh Jacobs tied with six red zone carries. White, Jones and Jacobs scored on their goal-to-go opportunities while Hill continued to steal high-value touches.

White had seven 14 zone carries before Week 9, pushing his season-long total to 21, which is tied for 12th. He hasn't been an explosive runner before or after contact. After White averaged 2.11 yards before contact per attempt (YBC/Att) in Week 8 against the Buffalo Bills, his Week 9 numbers went down to 1.5 YBC/Att.

However, like the next running back we'll discuss, White garners the lead running back volume we want. 

The visual above shows White's consistent rush and target share per week. Through nine weeks, White ranks ninth in rush share (55.7 percent), 10th in target share (12.8 percent) and second in routes per game (27.8). 

That's a high-end RB2 workload. However, it comes with brutal efficiency, evidenced by -0.7 fantasy points over expectation per game (FPOE/G), ranking him 90th before Week 9. 

The visual above shows the players with the worst touchdown rates since 2014 with 100 carries and 30 targets. Last season, White had the second-worst touchdown rate at 1.7 percent among players with 100 carries and 50 targets. 

In 2023, White has a 2.1 percent touchdown rate among players with 100 rushing attempts and 30 targets. Hold White because the volume outweighs the inefficiency, especially because of his production as a receiver.

Jacobs is a hold or a buy candidate, though there's more risk on the Las Vegas Raiders offense. Jacobs ranks first with a 74.3 percent rush share and second with a 15.3 percent target share. 

Before Week 9, Jacobs averaged 44.3 rushing attempts per touchdown (No. 24), which bumped to 31.8 (No. 15) when including the two scores against the New York Giants. The Raiders have a top-10 projected strength of schedule, so it might be worth acquiring Jacobs. 

Red Zone Receiving

Sticking with the trend of unusual contributors, 11 of the 24 receivers with two or more red zone targets scored a touchdown in Week 9. Some players on that list include Dalton Schultz, Irv Smith, Cade Otton (2), Hill, Juwan Johnson, Odell Beckham, David Njoku and Cole Kmet (2). 

Besides Schultz, the only semi-fantasy relevant options would be Hill, Njoku and Kmet. 

For context, the above graphic shows the season-long leaders in red zone targets. Though Kmet and Schultz have 10 red zone opportunities, the rest who scored in Week 9 look less reliable, yet the Saints love using Hill for scoring chances. 

It's also worth noting that Njoku and Kmet earned seven red zone targets since Week 5, possibly indicating an upward trend in their usage. Last week, we mentioned the challenging part for Njoku involved the quality of his targets with Walker at quarterback. 

Not including the five pass attempts Deshaun Watson threw in Week 7, the Cleveland Browns have used multiple backups in Weeks 4-8. 

Among tight ends with 25 or more targets in Weeks 4-8, Njoku has the fourth-worst catch rate at 64.3 percent. The three others with a lower catch rate are Kyle Pitts (61.3 percent), Tyler Higbee (55.6 percent) and Schultz (64 percent). 

Njoku remains a back-end TE1 option with boom potential, evidenced by his 17.3 percent target share (No. 12) and 8.1 yards after the catch per reception (No. 10). 

Goal-to-Go Rushing

D'Andre Swift led the rushers with four goal-to-go rushing attempts but had zero rushing scores. Swift had a 54.5 percent rush share, the third-highest rate after a season-best share of 72.7 percent in Week 8.

Unfortunately, he struggled to create yards after contact (YAC/Att). He had the second-lowest YAC/Att at 1.5 in Week 9. Though the Philadelphia Eagles won, the Dallas Cowboys' offense looked slightly better at times. It averaged 5.8 yards per play, ranking fourth in Week 9. 

Jalen Hurts appeared to suffer an injury but remained in the game. That's notable because Hurts had one goal-to-go rush attempt in Week 9. On the season, Hurts ranks second (18), and Swift is behind at fifth with 15. If the Eagles don't want to use Hurts near the goal line, we could have a few more high-value touches for Swift. 

The Steelers and Falcons Backfield

Two other notable players with three goal-to-go carries in Week 9 are Najee Harris and Tyler Allgeier. In Week 9, the Pittsburgh Steelers ranked sixth in team rush share at 50 percent, tied with the Chicago Bears. They had the fifth-best rush success rate against the Tennessee Titans, who ranked 13th in defensive rush success before Week 9. 

Harris led the backfield with a 53.3 percent rush share (No. 16) in Week 9 compared to Jaylen Warren at 36.7 percent (No. 29). It's Harris's highest rush share since Week 4 (56 percent) after three straight weeks under 50 percent. 

Meanwhile, Warren boasted a season-high rush share with a season-long average of 28.9 percent. Warren flashed his explosiveness with a ridiculous 3.36 YBC/Att and 4.55 YAC/Att in Week 9. 

That's a positive note, especially with the slight uptick in rushing volume for Warren. It's also fair to wonder if Kenny Pickett's rib injury might have contributed to leaning on the run game, given the quarterback's brutal 5.3 air yards per attempt compared to 8.9 (No. 12) over the previous three games. 

It's potentially bad news for George Pickens and good news for the running backs and Diontae Johnson.

If we had a trivia question of which Atlanta Falcons player leads the team in goal-to-go rushing attempts, some might guess Bijan Robinson. However, the team leader is Allgeier with nine (No. 17), then Desmond Ridder at four and Robinson is tied with Cordarrelle Patterson with two each. Allgeier is pacing to beat his total from 2022 of 13 goal-to-go carries. 

Through nine weeks, Allgeier rocks a better rush share (43 percent vs. 38.1 percent) and touchdown rate (42.9 percent vs. 14.3 percent). However, Robinson edges him in YAC/Att (3.29 vs. 2.9).

Thankfully, Robinson garners a better target share (14.2 percent vs. 5.6 percent). We keep hoping for the Falcons to unleash Robinson for an RB1 usage, but temper expectations in the short term and keep stashing Allgeier. 

Goal-to-Go Receiving

Since the list of goal-to-go target leaders is similar to the red zone names, let's filter by the past five weeks (Weeks 5-9). Adam Thielen led the group with six goal-to-go targets. Jaylen Waddle and Ja'Marr Chase tied at five. All three of them scored two touchdowns on their goal-to-go opportunities. 

Among the receivers with three or more goal-to-go targets in Weeks 5-9, only Tyreek Hill, Njoku and DeAndre Hopkins haven't scored a touchdown. Fantasy managers with Hill can't complain, and those with Hopkins experienced the boom game in Week 8. 

When we look at the season-long leaders, Alexander Mattison might be the most surprising player among the goal-to-go target leaders. Mattison ranks second with eight, scoring three receiving touchdowns. Unfortunately, Cam Akers suffered a possible Achilles' injury, meaning Mattison's role might be safe. 

Dobbs sparked the Minnesota Vikings' offense in the second half against the Falcons. We expected an offensive downgrade, but Dobbs keeps showing us he deserves a paycheck as a starting quarterback on some teams. 

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