Fantasy Football: Week 8 Personnel Tendencies
In fantasy football, we look at a ton of factors when retrospectively dissecting one week and projecting the next. We analyze a player's opportunity in the form of attempts and targets, their matchup against the opposing defense, their game script by betting odds, and a whole lot more. One thing we don't do a lot of, though, is look at a player's opportunity or matchup through the lens of personnel groupings.
By personnel grouping, I mean which type of offensive package his team is deploying on a play-by-play basis. Are they rolling out big sets with frequency, or are they more likely to spread it out with three to four wideouts?
For those who might be a bit unfamiliar, personnel groupings are commonly referred to in numbers like 21. The first of the two figures, the "2", refers to the number of running backs (including fullbacks) on the field, whereas the second, "the 1", indicates the number of tight ends in the formation. So, 21 personnel is very traditional in that you get a fullback, running back, tight end, and two wideouts. Today, that traditional set isn't as popular as it once was, with a trend toward 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, and three receivers) for purposes of efficiency in the passing game.
You can find this personnel grouping information in a neat, sortable format over at Sharp Football Stats. You can see how frequently a team uses (or opposing team faces) each grouping and what kind of success they have found in doing so. You can even narrow it down to run and pass game efficiency.
While shifting our focus forward, we take a look at last week's personnel usage to find a few valuable pieces of data for season-long fantasy owners and DFS players alike.
Let's see what we can find.
The Eagles' Two Tight End Looks
When the Philadelphia Eagles took Dallas Goedert with the 49th overall pick in the 2018 draft, expectations were high for the big, talented tight end. Last year, the South Dakota State product was limited to 47.89% of the team's snaps with only 33 catches, 334 yards and 4 touchdowns on 44 targets. He made the most of his opportunities, but behind Zach Ertz, the question has been whether he'd get enough chances to be fantasy relevant.
Through seven games, Goedert is showing what he brings to the table for the Eagles' offense. He has 17 catches, 182 yards and 3 touchdowns on 27 targets, putting him on pace to out-perform last year's marks by a considerable margin. And over the last three weeks alone, he's managed 12 catches (17 targets), 139 yards and 2 scores, while playing 70.3%, 58.3% and 75.3% of the team's snaps over that span.
This past Sunday, the Eagles took the win 31-13 over the Buffalo Bills, but in neutral game script (when the score was between seven points either way), Philly rolled out two tight ends on 64% (25) of their 39 snaps. When in that look, Carson Wentz dropped back 13 times, averaging 7.6 air yards per attempt but turning in a 108.5 passer rating and one touchdown.
In 2019, Philadelphia has deployed two-plus tight ends on just 30% of their snaps in neutral scripts, but over the last three games, they're at 61% in that split. The next-closest team (San Francisco) does so at just a 50% rate during that time.
All this is to say that both Goedert and Ertz are viable in DFS. Ertz and his season-long prospects will continue to suffer, but don't overlook Goedert at $5,000 on FanDuel. This week's opponent, the Chicago Bears, has seen two or more tight ends 32 times in the past three games, and in doing so, they have allowed teams to complete 16 of 19 attempts for a 60% success rate and 10.6 yards per attempt.
The Rams Leading With 11
This last week, in their 24-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Los Angeles Rams utilized 11 personnel on all but one of their 57 offensive snaps. But even more notable, they ran it on all 38 of their snaps when up by at least a field goal. That's in spite of Brandin Cooks' early exit from the game due to injury.
For the season, the Rams have used three wideouts at a 75% rate when they have been ahead by three or more. Only the New York Jets do so at a higher rate (78%) in those situations, though they have ran 84 fewer players, so the sample is much more telling for Sean McVay's offense.
Within the Rams' season-long split in 11, they boast a 51% pass rate with Goff averaging just 7.8 air yards per attempt with a 95.7 passer rating and seven touchdowns to two picks. The Rams have actually been more successful on the ground, putting together a 54% success rate (the NFL average is 47%) en route to 4.4 yards per carry and five rushing touchdowns. Todd Gurley and company have been making good use of L.A.'s open offense, particularly when ahead.
The Rams will rest up on bye this week, but they should be favored in their next five -- maybe six -- games. They'll be at home for three of them, and one of their road games is at the Arizona Cardinals, who rank seventh-worst against the run, according to our power rankings. Now could be the time to buy low on Gurley and hope for a monster finish to the season.
Jacksonville's Red Zone Approach
Yesterday, I talked about Leonard Fournette and his opportunity around the red zone. The dude is long overdue for regression, but maybe it's not as likely as we think -- and that has a lot to do with the Jaguars' red zone offense.
Inside the 20, Jacksonville has deployed 11 personnel on 72% of their plays. Only four other teams -- the Seahawks, Browns, Jets and Washington -- have done so more frequently in the red zone this year. You can certainly run out of 11, and the Jags have 45% of the time, but Fournette has struggled to only 1.4 yards per carry and a 16% success rate on 16 runs. Not great, Bob!
The team's rushing success rate jumps to 33% on their six red zone rushes out of 12 personnel (a heavier look with two tight ends), but they have mostly struggled on the ground inside the 20 while Gardner Minshew has excelled with his arm. In 11, Jacksonville's 42% passing success rate isn't all that great, but it's far better than their running effectiveness, and they have eight touchdowns to zero interceptions to show for it (plus, just a 3.2% sack rate).
Of Minshew's 28 red zone passing attempts, 16 have gone to wideouts, including seven to standout D.J. Chark and six to Dede Westbrook. In Week 8, Chark drew three red zone targets and converted one for an eight-yard score. Westbrook wasn't productive with his one look, but in Week 7, he led the way with two red zone targets.
Fournette might or might not be due for regression, and if the Jags opt for the more efficient play, it's through the air in the red zone. That bodes well for the week-to-week upside of Minshew as well as the production of both Chark and Westbrook. Jacksonville's not on the main slate, as they play in London, but if you are getting exposure to that game, it's hard to pass up on a Minshew-to-Chark stack at their respective price points ($7,200 and $6,400).