The goal of these articles is to give you an idea of what the usage looks like for each player within their offenses, allowing you to spot any positive or negative trends regarding how a player is being used, and most importantly — letting the numbers tell the story.
Note: This data will stick to players averaging over one target/touch per game. Players are listed in order of target/touch leaders for their respective teams.
Observations: Ex-Jaguars UDFA Tim Cook was inactive for Week 1, which allowed starter Jhurell Pressley to lead the way with a team-high 18 carries on 44 snaps (58.6%). Cook was active for Week 2 and obviously led Arizona’s backfield with 13 carries, but was quietly out-snapped by Pressley 32 to 21. Cook actually ran just half the routes Pressley did (12 to 6) but luck-boxed his way into paydirt from four-yards out on his only target of the day. Barring an unforeseen jostling of depth, Pressley still projects as Arizona’s lead runner to Cook’s backup role. Coach Rick Neuheisel confirmed as much following the game Saturday, noting Cook’s cloddish 6’1”, 233-lb “sledge hammer” frame is best served during “downhill match, four-minute type stuff.” AAF No. 6 overall pick Justin Stockton would only have (limited) value if Larry Rose III is inactive for the second straight week. While sorting out their backfield, though, Arizona’s passing game need not be forgotten against outside corners Will Davis and C.J. Smith, who have already been dog-walked for 18 catches and an average 111 passer rating against. The Hotshots are currently implied to score the second-most points (24.5) of any team in Week 3.
Observations: Tarean Folston led Atlanta’s backfield in Week 1 with 12 carries on 36 snaps (54.5%), but their depth chart swapped entirely overnight. Denard Robinson, who got five touches on 18 snaps in the team’s inaugural kick-off, was surprisingly healthy-scratched on Sunday, which allowed ex-Titans runner Akrum Wadley to hog 60% of offensive snaps (33) and lead the team in targets. Folston actually got the start but had his workload reduced to just nine snaps behind Lawrence Pittman, who recorded a touch on a Sony Michel-like 69.2% of the snaps he played (9-of-13). Assuming Robinson’s scratched again, Wadley is the clear-cut back to roster given the high floor that comes with his dominating passing game usage.
Targets: Quinton Patton (9, 7), Trent Richardson (3, 7), Ladarius Perkins (8, 2), Tobias Palmer (3, 3), Amba Etta-Tawo (5, 0), Connor Davis (1, 4), L’Damian Washington (0, 4), DeVozea Felton (1, 3), Weslye Saunders (0, 3), Ty Isaac (0, 3), Quan Bray (1, 1)
Observations: Much like how Melvin Gordon circa-2016 was knowingly inefficient but still slithered his way into cash game lineups most Sundays due to his incomparable workload, Trent Richardson has handled 12 more carries (42) than the league’s next closest back (and leads the league in rushing scores) but has averaged a dismal 2.4 YPC. Even so, his 74.6% snap rate and positional-high 27 routes run from Week 2 keep him in a tier of his own. The Iron are only averaging 4.1 yards per play but this offense still has value since their target tree is essentially Quinton Patton, who leads the team with a 30.7% target share, and Richardson, who was only recently heavily involved through the air. Tobias Palmer and L’Damian Washington have notably run the second- and third-most routes among Birmingham’s wideouts, but both have combined for as many targets as the team’s lead back.
Observations: Implied to score the fewest points (16) of any team in Week 3, the Christian Hackenberg-led Express check out as a full-on cash game fade. Zac Stacy out-snapped teammate Terrence Magee 30 to 25 in Week 2, which would potentially be prosperous for both in any other matchup. Unfortunately, Memphis hasn’t done anything to prove they can hang if trailing by two scores — a legitimate expectation against the Apollos, who are currently 13.5-point home favorites. Magee arguably has more value than Stacy in tournaments after stripping Rajion Neal of the latter’s third-down role in Week 2. Magee led Memphis’ backfield in routes run (17) in Week 2 despite seeing only one measly target.
Observations: Following a 10-target performance that bolstered his yardage total to a league-high 252 yards, Charles Johnson will likely garner the highest ownership of any receiver in Week 3. With Orlando currently implied (29.5) to outscore every team, building around Johnson isn’t necessarily a bad strategy. But it’s arguably Jalin Marshall who has a better matchup in the slot against Terrell Bonds, who’s allowed 5-of-6 targets thrown his way to be caught. This backfield, however, has become a befuddled mess. Akeem Hunt got the start in Week 2 but finished with only 14 snaps. Instead, it was De’Veon Smith who led all in snaps (26, 44%) while D’Ernest Johnson topped in total touches. All three have a chance to hit if the Apollos do indeed hold a two-score lead early.
Salt Lake Stallions
Targets: Anthony Denham (7, 6), De’Mornay Pierson-El (5, 6), Dres Anderson (4, 0), Adonis Jennings (4, 7), Nick Truesdell (3, 2), Jordan Leslie (3, 2), Branden Oliver (3, 2), Kenny Bell (3, 0), Sam Mobley (0, 3), Terrell Newby (0, 1)
Observations: Likely forced into an up-tempo game script against Arizona, the Stallions should have starter Josh Woodrum back for the team’s home opener. Prior to exiting in Week 1 with a hamstring injury, it’s worth noting Woodrum showed rapport with Anthony Denham by targeting his tight end on 6-of-22 attempts (27.2%). De’Mornay Pierson-El, Adonis Jennings, and Jordan Leslie saw three targets each before Woodrum limped off. Joel Bouagnon and Branden Oliver have stayed neck and neck as the team’s 1A/1B combo, nearly mirroring each other in snaps through two games with 51 and 50, respectively. Terrell Newby soaked up Matt Asiata’s backup role by simply being active in Week 2. With Newby featured as the team’s third-down scat-back, though, neither Bouagnon or Oliver have impressive floors.
San Antonio Commanders
Targets: Mekale McKay (12, 9), Greg Ward Jr. (7, 6), Alonzo Moore (5, 5), De’Marcus Ayers (0, 8), Aaron Green (1, 5), Josh Stewart (1, 4), Evan Rodriguez (1, 3), John Diarse (4, 0), Cole Hunt (4, 0), David Cobb (2, 0)
Observations: Mekale McKay predictably struggled against former Niners starting corner Keith Reaser and Orlando’s airtight secondary (as initially forecasted by PFF’s Jeff Ratcliffe), corralling only two of his team-high nine targets. The good news is that the Commanders’ leading wideout was still force-fed in shutdown coverage en route to his league-leading 21 targets through two weeks. McKay is in an all-too-obvious bounce-back spot against San Diego’s outside CBs Ron Brooks and Kendall James, who have allowed a combined 13-of-21 (61.9%) targets against them to be safely hauled in. Former Chargers preseason standout Kenneth Farrow II has started and led San Antonio’s backfield in snaps (39, 36) in both contests, but Aaron Green’s Week 2 emergence puts another Commander simultaneously in play. Green’s overall snap rate was increased from 24% in Week 1 to 33.3% in the team’s up-tempo matchup against Orlando’s air-it-out offense in Week 2, perhaps to try and match the Apollos’ explosive flair. Despite running the second-most routes among running backs last week, Green’s floor is still worrisome. Farrow’s is less concerning, but he’s still notably glued into a rotation with David Cobb, who’s played 22 snaps in both of San Antonio’s outings. Both Farrow and Cobb split carries inside the 10-yard line with two each on Sunday. Additionally keep an eye on De’Marcus Ayers, who took on San Antonio’s slot role in Week 2 and responded with eight targets, four of which came 20-plus yards downfield.
San Diego Fleet
Carries: Ja’Quan Gardner (8, 15), Terrell Watson (3, 14), Philip Nelson (3, 6)
RZ Targets: Brian Brown (0, 1)
RZ Carries: Terrell Watson (0, 4), Ja’Quan Gardner (0, 2)
Observations: Terrell Watson had his on-field usage bumped from nine snaps (14.5%) in Week 1 to the second-most of any back in Week 2 (45, 57.6%). Even more discouraging is that this uptick unpredictably came from nowhere. He inevitably split carries with Ja’Quan Gardner from inside the 11 (2), failing to score on either (while Gardner punched in both of his fruitful opportunities). Gardner is the more explosive of the two, but Watson is a legitimate athlete who flashed workhorse traits as a UDFA with the Steelers as early as last year. The duo’s sudden two-headed timeshare doesn’t bode well for either against San Antonio, who’s held opposing backs to a suffocating 3.17 YPC on 23 totes through two games. Francis Owusu and Nelson Spruce have both splashed with at least six targets in 1-of-2 games played so far this year, but both are easy fades given their work as the No. 4 and No. 5 receivers in San Diego’s offense.