Hey everyone! It’s Jake Robinson here — I write the Morning Huddle newsletter 3x per week (@morninghuddleup), covering the best insights from across fantasy football. In this column, you’ll get 13 insights each week to help you dominate your fantasy league.
1. Puka Nacua is on track to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, per each fantasy manager lucky enough to have the rookie sensation rostered. Nacua has replaced Cooper Kupp perfectly in Sean McVay’s scheme and has shown an instant connection with Matthew Stafford, a QB known for effecting legendary WR seasons (see Calvin Johnson and Cooper Kupp). Nacua destroyed Anquan Boldin’s 20-year-old NFL record for the most receptions for a rookie through his first two NFL games (Boldin’s former record: 18. Nacua: 26).
Most importantly, Nacua will have a role when Kupp returns. Nacua has lined up in the slot (Kupp’s primary position) on less than 30% of snaps and the Rams have a history of supporting two Top 15 WRs — in Kupp’s breakout 2021, he was WR1 while Robert Woods was the WR12 before suffering an injury in Week 10.
2. Zack Moss was the only Colts RB to play an offensive snap in Week 2, finishing with 107 total yards and a TD. Yes, game script was in his favor against the Texans (almost always is), but this type of volume is typically reserved for RB1s. Meaning, Moss looks like an RB1 until Taylor returns. But then again, now might be the perfect time to sell Moss after his strong performance against Houston. The Colts face strong defensive fronts over his next four games.
3. Jayden Reed led the Packers with a 32% target share in Week 2, finishing with 4 receptions on 8 targets for 37 yards and 2 TDs. No other Packers WR saw more than 4 targets. Reed played in all areas of the field in college but has been limited to a slot role for Green Bay during 3WR sets (67% route participation). His target rate — one of the highest per-route rates in the NFL — is especially noteworthy given his role. Per Jacob Gibbs, formation affects per-route data, so when mostly running in 3WR sets and still recording the third-highest TPRR in the NFL, it is extremely noteworthy. Sure, Christian Watson will return, but you want to make Reed a priority.
4. Dameon Pierce entered 2023 with high expectations. So far, he has disappointed to the tune of 26 carries for less than 70 yards and 0 TDs. The major appeal for Pierce was his bell-cow role, but after sub-50% snap shares in both games this season, it’s clear this backfield is our worst nightmare — a committee. To make things worse, the Texans offensive line is the most injured in football. With only one healthy starter left, Pierce is getting stuffed at the line on 40% of his carries.
Really hope no one looks at Dameon Pierce’s stat line and concludes that he sucks. Every Pierce carry looks like a Bruce Lee fight scene — bad guys swarming him from every direction.
— Pat Fitzmaurice (@Fitz_FF) September 17, 2023
With three of five starting lineman on the IR, don’t expect things to improve anytime soon.
5. Kyren Williams saw his usage skyrocket with Cam Akers a healthy scratch. With Akers now in Minnesota, that usage is here to stay. In a matchup against a tough 49ers defense, Williams was the RB2 overall (28 PPR points) while posting elite RB1 usage with a 96% snap share and an 87% route participation, per Alex Caruso. And when Sean McVay has a clear starter at RB, the results have been impressive:
- 2017-2019: Todd Gurley averaged 22.2 FPPG.
- 2020: Cam Akers was RB10 with 16.6 FPPG on 23.8 touches per game (RB2) in the final six games
- 2021: Darrell Henderson was RB12 with 15.7 FPPG on a 76% snap share (RB2) in the first 10 games, per @JakeTribbey.
- 2022: Cam Akers averaged 19.3 touches, 17.7 FPPG in Weeks 13-18.
- 2023: Kyren Williams is averaging 21.2 FPPG.
6. Josh Jacobs hasn’t scored 10 PPR points in a game yet this year. After scoring 10+ in 12 of 17 games last year, I expect this to positively regress in a big way. Jacobs has the volume of an elite RB, seeing a target share of over 18%, combined with over 84% of the Raiders’ RB rushing attempts this season. The other RBs with an 80% RB rush share and 15% target share so far this season? Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley, per @LateRoundQB. Both were considered Top 4 options at RB. Jacobs should re-enter that discussion soon.
7. Demario Douglas is a deep dive to keep an eye on. He was one of just two rookie WRs drafted in rounds 5-7 who checked all three categories of @fball_insights chart (below). One was Puka Nacua. The other? Douglas, the Patriots rookie who was targeted twice on his first 6 snaps in Week 2, but fumbled and was banished to Bill Belichick’s doghouse (Douglas didn’t see the field again — thanks, Bill).
College production from late round wide receivers (rounds 5-7) pic.twitter.com/XL0hOCHiUr
— Football Insights 📊 (@fball_insights) June 12, 2023
But “Doghouse” Douglas looked explosive and faces minimal competition in the New England WR corps beyond two washed vets and Kendrick Bourne. In Week 1, he tied for second on the team with a 13.46% target percentage (in limited snaps). His role should expand as the season continues.
8. Sam Howell ranks among the Top 10 QBs in passing yards this season (501) and is coming off the best game of his career (299 yards , 2 TDs, no turnovers). His ball placement has been incredible — Howell was 7/9 for 128 yards and 2 TDs on throws 10+ yards downfield in Week 2. Howell has also led the Commanders to a 2-0 record, more than I can say about (all) my fantasy teams.
9. Tank Dell is building on his strong preseason. His role is expanding each week:
- Week 1: 48% snaps, 46% route rate, 10% target share
- Week 2: 79% snaps, 82% route rate, 23% target share
Everyone loves to talk about Dell’s size, just like they did with DeVonta Smith’s weight (remember when that was a concern?). But he lets his game do the talking. Benefit from that. Add him.
10. Jonathan Mingo is seventh among WRs in first read differential (per Ryan Heath of Fantasy Points), meaning he has earned relatively more first-read targets when compared to his target share — because the team prioritizes him, and/or he’s open. Mingo’s 0.12 ranks ahead of Justin Jefferson (0.11) and just behind A.J. Brown (0.14). Mingo’s 44% air yard share ranks eighth among WRs, ahead of Brandon Aiyuk and DK Metcalf. It is realistic to assume Mingo replaces Adam Thielen before long as the top dog in the Panthers passing attack.
11. Marquise Brown quietly saw 10 targets in Week 2. His 35% target share in Week 2 tied with CeeDee Lamb and Davante Adams for fourth among WRs, while Brown’s 14.8 expected half-PPR points ranked seventh among all WRs. Dallas presents a tough battle in Week 3, but Brown should continue to impress with QB Joshua Dobbs playing better than expected.
12. Isiah Pacheco received 12 carries in Week 2 and ran for 70 yards, seeing 86% of the Chiefs’ running back rushes in Week 2 (he saw 57% in Week 1). With an expanding role and with the Chiefs being the biggest home favorite in Week 3 against a Bears defense that just lost their defensive coordinator and has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to RBs this season, expect a big week. Last week, the notoriously inefficient Rachaad White burned the Bears for 103 total yards and a touchdown (on 22 touches).
13. James Cook is the fantasy RB12 despite scoring zero TDs. In Week 2, Cook turned 16 runs into 113 yards (with 4 catches for 36 yards). Cook is tied with Bijan Robinson at third among RBs in rushes with 4+ yards after contact (10), per PFF/TruMedia. While he’s Buffalo’s lead back, it is more of a committee than you’d expect with Cook scoring 19+ points in Week 2 — he only played 58% of snaps and saw 52% of the rushing opportunities, but is still on pace for 1,436 rush yards, 68 receptions and 450 receiving yards.
As a sign-off, send your well wishes to those who were outbid for Kyren Williams or Jerome Ford on waivers this week. Or to anyone who had to start Matt Breida. Those people need positivity, now more than ever. Good luck this week!
(Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports)