Teddy Bridgewater has thrown 18.6 percent of his passes 20-plus yards down the field (trailing only Russell Wilson among starters) and ranks second in completion percentage above expectation.
We thought that Drew Lock’s deep-ball rate was a function of his own reckless abandon. Considering the typically conservative Bridgewater is now close to topping the charts in 2021, perhaps this is just the aggressive style of football offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is demanding from his quarterbacks?
Either way, Bridgewater playing a non-gun-shy style is good for the long-term sustainability of this offense’s fantasy outlook.
Courtland Sutton balled out in Week 2 and currently sports an air-yards-per-target mark of 20.6. We’d never have expected that from a No. 1 receiver for Teddy Bridgewater. Sutton made most of his plays on contested passes but nevertheless, the 55-yard catch he hauled in on a deep post route against the Jaguars was vintage Sutton. He looks like a high-end WR2 lock while Jerry Jeudy is out.
Having him back is huge but the fact we’re getting great play out of ancillary players makes the offense even more fantasy viable.
Tim Patrick is a viable FLEX play every week. He ran the same amount of routes as Sutton in Week 2 but is operating more in the shorter areas (7.8 air yards per target) and in the red zone (three targets inside the 20). He’s just a pro that always wins when called upon.
Noah Fant has also seemingly turned a corner this season. He’s run a route on 93 percent of the passing snaps he’s taken through two weeks. We’ve also seen him draw three red-zone targets and average four yards after the catch per reception.
Albert Okwuegbunam is playing a big role as the TE2 on this team. He’s seen several red-zone looks as well as one in the end zone.
From a real football perspective, this team has suffered some injuries (Bradley Chubb and Ronald Darby) on defense but should still be expected to finish in the Top-10 by year's end. It still sports quality depth and a mix of star power. With Bridgewater playing this brand of efficient quarterback, there’s a chance Denver can make a push as a playoff team.
The AFC West looks like a gauntlet right now with the Raiders playing great football and the Chargers a formidable opponent. As such, if you believe this Bridgewater performance is sustainable, you can get the Chiefs and Broncos to finish 1st and 2nd in the AFC West at +240 odds on BetMGM. It’s an interesting one. Denver has another cupcake game against the Jets this week in what should be their best September run of the Vic Fangio era. Obviously, we’re going to need Teddy and co. to prove it against great teams but we’re off to a good start.
Looking at this from a fantasy lens, Jerry Jeudy is someone we should actively start looking to buy as soon as he can come back to the team. He’s the team’s best separator and was off to a white-hot start with Bridgewater in Week 1. If anyone is going to help keep this passing game rocking, it’s Jeudy.
Justin Fields threw 20 percent of his passes 20+ yards down the field
The much-discussed area where Fields will change the Bears offense is the rushing game. It’s hard to overstate. Fields has scrambled on 16 percent of his preseason/regular season dropbacks, which is truly rare air among passers. Fields’ ability to get out of the pocket is going to keep drives alive.
The deep-passing game might be just as big of a deal considering Andy Dalton threw exactly zero passes 20-plus yards down the field.
Fields completed just one of his three shots deep down the field. However, if Allen Robinson had come down with a near-miss on a go-route to the end zone we’d be having a different conversation about Fields’ debut.
My theory is that Robinson just wasn’t used to tracking an accurate deep pass. He hasn't seen a good deep pass since, like, 2015.
We don’t need to mince words: Even if Fields’ inexperience results in some hiccups, there is no doubt he will change the Bears' offense for the better from a stylistic perspective.
Kyler Murray depth of throw percentage
15+ air yards: 25% (2019-2020 average: 19%)
20+ air yards: 18% (2019-2020 average: 12.6%)
If you want to know why Kyler Murray has made the leap to start 2021, look no further than the data above. Murray ranks as the QB1 overall heading into Week 3 and it’s mostly on the back of his passing. He’s rushed “just” 10 times for 51 yards through two games. His profile through his first two seasons was much more weighted towards his scrambling ability.
Kliff Kingsbury has finally let Murray cook as a vertical passer. Anyone who watched him as a rookie knew he could whip that ball when he was flinging those money deep passes to Damiere Byrd. Now that the Cardinals have a legitimate 1-4 at the wide receiver position and one of the best centers in the league in Rodney Hudson, it’s allowing Murray to attack all areas of the field.
Murray’s overall yards per attempt has jumped to 10.1. It was sub-7.2 in both prior years. The horizontal raid is, hopefully, officially dead.
20 percent of Jimmy G’s passes are screens, most among quarterbacks
You can beat the Lions and Eagles, two teams most people expect to pick in the top-five of next year’s draft, with this cookie-cutter approach to offensive football. But how long can that last?
At some point, the 49ers are going to have to open up the offense. Even with Jimmy Garoppolo, we’ve seen them do more than this in years past. Perhaps that moment comes in Week 3 against the Packers. Brandon Aiyuk is trending in the right direction after his route and snap participation jumped from Week 1 to Week 2. They just need to get him and George Kittle more involved. Kittle is only running a route on 76 percent of the team’s dropbacks. That’s not enough.
I refuse to believe that a better version of the 49ers offense isn’t right around the corner. And that’s regardless of who is starting at quarterback.
Ryan Tannehill's play-action per dropback rate
Week 1: 11.6%
Week 2: 31.1%
Behold, one of the most welcome developments of Week 2.
We needed to see Ryan Tannehill’s play-action rate take a leap after that nightmarish Week 1 offering because, at the very least, it would show us that new offensive coordinator Todd Downing wasn’t a lost cause.
He did the logical, sensible thing in restoring the Titans passing attack to the style in which it dominated the previous two years.
It’s fair to still question this team and some areas of their outlook going forward but I believe we’re mostly back on track heading into Week 3. We know what Derrick Henry did but the passing game gave us strong yet less obvious indicators. Tannehill didn’t throw any touchdowns and lost a fumble but still threw for 347 yards, ran the ball four times, and posted an 8.7 adjusted yards per attempt. It was great to see him connect with Julio Jones for multiple big plays. A.J. Brown dropped too many passes but we don’t expect that to continue. He’s seen 17 targets through two games; that’s more important than the box score.
If the sheep in your league are panicking about Brown’s slow start, be the wolf and go make a trade offer ASAP.
Top 5 QBs in completion percentage over expectation
We already discussed Bridgewater and Murray above. No one should be shocked Dak Prescott is here.
Baker Mayfield is a fascinating one. He’s been playing extremely well and has been hyper-efficient ... outside of the scoring column. Mayfield has thrown a touchdown on just two percent of his passes (ranks 29th in the NFL). Expect that to trend up as the season goes along, perhaps when Odell Beckham returns.
Taylor Heinicke remains underrated. The guy just plays well whenever Washington needs him. He’s also been an efficient vertical passer this year. I see no reason to downgrade any Washington player from our preseason expectations.
Trevor Lawrence ranks dead last in CPOE
Here’s the flip side of the list above. It has ... not been great for Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars so far.
This doesn’t mean Lawrence is bad or won’t have a great career. Never forget that Peyton Manning threw picks in bunches while having to carry the Colts as a rookie. It just means that we might not be able to extract much fantasy value out of Jacksonville, sans No. 1 receiver Marvin Jones, until Lawrence steadies his play.
Perhaps the Jaguars should have let Lawrence take all the first-team reps this summer instead of running a faux quarterback competition between him and current Eagles backup, Gardner Minshew.
Top and bottom players in “yards before contact per rush”
Most yards *before* contact (10 att min)
T. Pollard 4.2
D. Singletary 4.0
M. Gordon 3.3
Ty. Williams 2.8
C. Edmonds 2.6
M. Gaskin 2.5
C. Hyde 2.5
M. Sanders 2.5
N. Harris 0.5
C. Carson 0.5
M. Ingram 0.4
T. Coleman -0.1
J. Jacobs -0.3
K. Drake -0.6
P. Barber -1.1
— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) September 20, 2021
For what it’s worth, I think this metric is overall a good one but can be an indicator for multiple different realities. Sometimes it’s a reflection of good/poor run blocking or it could be the result of deployment.
For example, the fact that all three of the lowest-ranked players are Raiders running backs ... that should tell you something about that offensive line. That’s not a situation I want to be tethered to.
Najee Harris is also dealing with a sub-par run-blocking unit. I think we’ve seen a perfect range of outcomes for Harris through the first two games. He’s going to get a ton of volume but efficiency is going to be a problem in this situation. And while his overall percentage of the Steelers running back touches looks great on paper, it’s not ideal that Pittsburgh is throwing to their backs at the fourth-lowest rate (11 percent) and has the fourth-lowest (31.5 percent) run play percentage.
They basically just took Harris and plopped him into the same middling offense they ran last year. Harris is a lock for a Top 13-14 finish at the position thanks to volume if he stays healthy but it’s starting to look unlikely he pushes for a top five-to-eight ceiling.
On the positive side, Tony Pollard is a perfect example of how deployment can impact this stat. Most of what the Cowboys are designing for Tony Pollard involves getting touches out in space. He’s just the more explosive open-field player than Ezekiel Elliott right now. This is also demonstrated in Tony Pollard being targeted on 35 percent of his routes run. He’s a “created touches” player that’s adding value to this offense. Elliott still has plenty left to offer as the “dirty work” back in this certified split right now.