Welcome to Stealing Signals, your look at snaps, touches, game flow, efficiency and everything in between. Stealing Signals is a game-by-game breakdown of everything you saw in your Fantasy box score, identifying what is signal and what is noise to help you make decisions for future weeks.
Snap Notes: Leonard Fournette – 100% (+3%), Dede Westbrook – 80% (-7%), DJ Chark – 70% (-12%), Chris Conley – 70% (-15%), Marqise Lee – 28% (+28%), James O’Shaughnessy – 78% (+12%), Dion Lewis – 52% (+2%), Derrick Henry – 48% (-2%), Corey Davis – 74% (-9%), Adam Humphries – 68% (+11%), A.J. Brown – 50% (+5%), Tajae Sharpe – 49% (-4%)
Key Stat: Leonard Fournette – 9 high-value touches (Derrick Henry – 2)
We expected to be in for a snooze fest Thursday night, so it was mildly interesting when we got some early fireworks with 14 first-quarter points for Jacksonville. The hot start was aided by a muffed punt that gave Jacksonville a short field, and I saw the live over/under as high as 47.5 for a game that had closed under 40. The final scoreline was well under both numbers.
Leonard Fournette finished with a respectable 15-66 rushing line, with a long run of 69 yards late and minus-3 yards on his other 14 carries combined. After his first 16 touches, he was averaging fewer than a yard per touch, remarkably poor efficiency.
But he also became just the third running back to post a 100% snap share in a game this year, joining Christian McCaffrey and Le’Veon Bell, and continued his strong passing game usage. He finished second on the team with 8 targets, catching 6 for just 26 yards. He may not pass the eye test on a play-by-play basis right now, and the big run certainly saved him from a poor performance, but there are very few backs who can lay claim to the type of volume he’s seeing.
By comparison, Derrick Henry is seeing a similar number of touches and has easily outperformed Fournette in Fantasy thus far. But he’s not nearly as involved in the passing game, and played fewer snaps than Dion Lewis in Week 3. I noted last week he had a bad drop on a checkdown, and he added another bad drop in Week 3 on what could have been a big play on a designed screen. It’s notable they’ve run at least one screen play for Henry in each game, but seven targets through three weeks does not have him on pace for a meaningful bump in receiving production this year.
Henry out-touched Lewis 18-4 and reached paydirt in the fourth after a Marcus Mariota scramble and a tacked-on penalty set Tennessee up with a first-and-goal from the 1. Henry now has a 1-yard touchdown run in each of the first three games this season; since the merger, the record for 1-yard touchdown runs in a season is 11, and just seven players have had 10 or more in a season. The majority have played on elite offenses, which Henry does not.
It’s certainly a positive Henry gets those close looks, but he’s running hot with the Titans winding up in that field position every game. The best way to look at him remains his high-value and low-value touches, because the 55 touches through three weeks look great until you dig in a bit.
Just over 65% of Henry’s Fantasy points thus far have come on his eight high-value touches, while the other 47 (low-value) touches have combined for 20.1 Fantasy points. It’s not like he doesn’t have a floor — even just looking at his low-value touches is nearly seven points per game — and we know he can break big plays to create a weekly ceiling. But it’s important to keep in context that even with a huge weekly touch count and strong production to match it thus far, there’s been some over-performance on the high-value looks he’s seen, and his workload is mostly hollow overall. I’m not arguing he can’t score points, but I expect far more outputs like the 11.6 PPR points he put up in Week 3 than what he did in the first two weeks.
Henry’s still a sell if you get a strong return; among the two lead backs in this game, Fournette is the one getting the type of work that could theoretically make him a difference-maker, although it’s tough to buy into him right now either.
Our Week 1 review of the Jacksonville passing game covers what we saw in Week 3.
“Surprisingly, it was DJ Chark and Chris Conley with the majority of the production over Dede Westbrook. Chark was a solid prospect coming out of LSU who runs a 4.34 at 6-foot-3, so it’s unsurprising he racked up 106 air yards on four targets, all of which he caught. He’ll be boom-or-bust going forward, but his emergence and the lack of playing time for Marqise Lee likely indicates he’s going to stick in the lineup.
Westbrook did find the end zone late and hauled in five of six targets, but for just 30 yards. His aDOT was a miniscule 0.8, but he led the receivers in snaps and routes. He’ll be fine.
James O’Shaughnessy and Geoff Swaim split the tight end snaps but it was O’Shaughnessy who played more and ran more routes, if you’re in a deep tight end league.”
We crystallized the Chark/Conley split in Week 2.
“Chark is a more interesting play than Conley given he’s a young guy with a solid profile, while Conley is in his fifth year and hasn’t done much to date in his career.”
Chark has only further solidified a full-season role, and he remains the preferred option over Conley. Lee was back in the lineup and did play a bit, which knocked some snap share off each of the top three receiving options, but he’s unlikely to make much of an impact unless he can usurp Conley. Westbrook led the team in Week 3 targets and did finally see some air yards, though his efficiency was still lagging a bit.
Perhaps most importantly, Gardner Minshew has played well enough that this passing offense isn’t going to completely bottom out.
Tennessee’s, on the other hand, might. The slow pace at which Marcus Mariota played, and the lack of verticality of this passing game, particularly late when they were in comeback mode, was confounding. Mariota threw some nice balls throughout this game, but this just doesn’t look like an offense with any urgency or willingness to press the issue.
We know about Delanie Walker, and we know — given the slow pace — his presence (nine targets, seven catches, 64 yards) limits the other receiving options. Corey Davis made a phenomenal one-handed catch to remind of his ability, but he finished with just three catches on four targets for 44 yards. Adam Humphries led the receivers in this one with a 9-6-93 line after doing nothing for two weeks, while A.J. Brown caught just one of five targets in a tough matchup. It was Tajae Sharpe who led the team in air yards in a part-time role, catching two of his three targets for 70 yards. Any production he accounts for just further limits the upside of the other options.
Mariota wound up throwing 40 passes, more than all but one game last year. He threw for over 300 yards! It’s nice to see a little more volume, but the outputs on the receiving side reinforced that only Walker is startable for Fantasy. The wide receivers will all have their moments, but they’ll be boom-or-busts with more busts and a lack of major ceilings on the boom weeks.
Signal: Leonard Fournette — maintaining a massive snap share, solid touch mix; Delanie Walker — only trustworthy Tennessee pass-catcher
Noise: Derrick Henry — three 1-yard touchdowns so far this year; Adam Humphries — big volume, but that’s going to fluctuate week to week
Friday news and notes
- Damien Williams appears to be trending the wrong way in terms of his availability for Week 3, as he has yet to practice this week and was spotted “limping considerably.” LeSean McCoy is also dinged up, but it’s not clear whether it would be Darwin Thompson or Darrel Williams who would lead the backfield in snaps if both can’t go. It’s a tough situation to handicap, but there’s obvious value in the Chiefs backfield. This is certainly a situation to keep an eye on, and Williams and/or Thompson could become decent plays if we get an indication they could be in line for significant usage.
- Cam Newton has yet to be ruled out but certainly seems to be trending that way. We’ll likely be getting Kyle Allen leading the Panthers offense on Sunday. The Panthers offense has had the quickest pace in the league thus far, averaging the fewest seconds per snap, while Arizona has been second in that metric. Even if Carolina plays slower with Allen under center, this matchup should be an up-tempo game given the Cardinals‘ tendencies. You don’t have to avoid all Panthers just because Allen is under center because we should still see plenty of volume overall.
- Devin Singletary has not practiced through Thursday, and he looks likely to miss Week 3. That would leave the bulk of the running back duties to Frank Gore, but Gore has just two targets through two games (compared to 30 rush attempts), and it’s possible we’ll see T.J. Yeldon more involved on passing downs if Singletary misses.
- Marlon Mack has also not practiced this week, but The Athletic’s Stephen Holder thinks he’ll play. Holder noted, “guys missing practice isn’t a huge deal under Frank Reich. If you have a hangnail, you sit. Period.” If Mack does rest, it would mean more work for Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines in what would likely be a split backfield with Wilkins seeing more rush attempts and Hines seeing more targets. If Mack plays, I’d have a tough time trusting that he’ll play a full snap share, and they may opt to use Hines more on passing downs in that scenario than they have thus far.
- Courtland Sutton popped up on the injury report with a rib issue Thursday, after not being on the Wednesday report. That could just be precautionary, but it’s always a bad sign when guys are added to the report later in the week. His Friday practice status should be helpful in determining whether this was maintenance-related or he might miss Week 3. If he did miss, it would be more work for Emmanuel Sanders, DaeSean Hamilton and Noah Fant.
- The Eagles are probably the most injured team in the league, and they’ll be without DeSean Jackson and possibly also Alshon Jeffery, who is questionable and has yet to practice this week. Dallas Goedert has also not practiced and is also listed as questionable. If all three miss, we’re in for heavy doses of Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor, with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside as a deeper-league option.
- David Njoku is out after a Monday night concussion, and Demetrius Harris will get the start in his place. Harris is an exciting athlete who scored three touchdowns with the Chiefs last year. He’d be a deeper league tight end streamer, but is probably touchdown-or-bust.
- James Conner was upgraded to full Thursday and will play in Week 3.
- Josh Jacobs is dealing with a hip issue and also an illness, but he got in a limited practice Thursday and is reportedly trending toward being fine for Sunday.
- Josh Rosen will take over as the starter for the Dolphins, but it will be impossible to play him or any of his receivers until (and if) we see signs of life from this offense. Albert Wilson is doubtful for the Dolphins.
- Tyreek Hill is reportedly out of his sling and looks to be ahead of schedule on his rehab.
- Sterling Shepard has been practicing in full and will make his return from a one-week absence due to a Week 1 concussion in time to be the No. 1 wide receiver for Daniel Jones‘ first career start.