Fantasy Football: 3 Things We Learned in Week 6

Perhaps more than anything, fantasy football is a game of adjustments. Season-long fantasy doesn't end at the draft, and smart owners learn to take the trends and data that each week of games offers and apply it to their roster decisions moving forward.

This weekly piece will look at trends from the previous slate of games and determine which trends in snaps, usage, and matchups are actionable moving forward.

A Swift Unleashing

After Sunday's Detroit Lions game finished, a game many predicted would be a Matthew Stafford-Kenny Golladay bomb-fest, we were left with this little nugget of information:

D'Andre Swift did, in fact, end up with 116 rushing yards and four targets on his way to a top-three finish at the position for fantasy managers.

After four weeks of middling usage, Swift was unleashed in a way not previously seen in his rookie year. Was this by design or a product of the game environment? Swift's opportunities (rush attempts plus targets) by week show a compelling trend: 8-10-2-8-BYE-18.

It seems to me there was a concentrated effort during the bye week to figure out ways to get Swift the ball, and that strategy paid off against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

At 36.8% of the rushing share, Swift saw his highest usage of the season by far, and it was enough to finally knock Adrian Peterson out of the primary rusher role. Peterson had seen fewer than 54% of the rushing work only once this season, but that plummeted to 39.5% on Sunday. Swift also chipped in with a 13% target share, his second best mark of the season.

It may be somewhat premature to call Swift a bell-cow back after one strong game against a bottom-10 rush defense, but fantasy managers should not hesitate to get Swift into their lineups for an enticing matchup with the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7. If the usage grows even more, we may finally be witnessing the emergence of the best Lions' running back since Barry Sanders.

Ryan Tannehill Might Be Good

On Sunday against the Houston Texans, Ryan Tannehill put up another ho-hum 364 passing yards and four passing touchdowns, once again proving to be one of the more elite quarterbacks of the past calendar year. After seeing the tweet below, I started to wonder just how elite Tannehill has been since he took over for Marcus Mariota midway through the 2019 season.

Here is the list of quarterbacks since 1990, according to Pro Football Reference, who have had this combination of passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns over any 16-game season:

Passing Rushing
Player Year Cmp% Yds TDs Yds Y/A TDs
Steve Young 1994 70.28 3969 35 293 5.05 7
Steve Young 1998 62.28 4170 36 454 6.49 6

Two Steve Young seasons. None since 1998. Not Vick, Mahomes, Manning, Rodgers, or Brady. That is how elite Tannehill's play is right now, and his production is across only 15 games as a starter.

As JJ Zachariason points out, however, Tannehill's touchdown rate of 7.5% in 2020 is almost identical to his 7.7% rate in 2019. We expect that number will regress down at some point, but considering how much attention is paid to the Titans' running game by opposing defenses, Tannehill might continue to see soft pressure, allowing for more efficient throws.

Critics could look at his schedule and say he has played the Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Minnesota Vikings in three of his last four games. But he has thrown for five touchdowns (and rushed for another) against the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos, two average-to-good defenses this year.

Tannehill's gauntlet gets a lot tougher in the weeks ahead with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7 and then the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, and Baltimore Ravens the month after. He has already cemented himself as a top-10 quarterback in fantasy this year, and if he can navigate through the next five weeks with that brutal schedule, he might be pushing for top-six the rest of the year.

Will the Real Aaron Rodgers Please Stand Up?

I'm Aaron Rodgers but lost to Tom Brady,
All you Jordan Love fans are just out here hating,
So won't the real Aaron Rodgers please stand up,
Put one of my MVPs in each hand up?
I'm Aaron Rodgers but lost to Tom Brady,
All you doubters out there feel free to start fading,
So won't the real Aaron Rodgers please stand up,
Please stand up.

In the battle of the GOATs on Sunday, old man Tom Brady certainly looked the part, but Aaron Rodgers looked rather WOATish on his way to two picks and a blowout loss. Much will be analyzed this week about Rodgers' performance. Was Davante Adams rusty? Has Rodgers suddenly lost his accuracy after two interceptions - his first of the season?

But it must be noted that this is the first week that Rodgers has faced a top-10 defense in terms of our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. In fact, after Week 6, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the top-ranked defense in the league by our numbers.

In his first four games, Rodgers faced the Vikings, Lions, Falcons and a depleted New Orleans Saints defense, which had fantasy mangers riding high until he ran into the Blitzkrieg that was the Bucs.

Rodgers found little resistance in throwing for 13 touchdowns and no picks in Weeks 1 through 4, but he bombed on Sunday. So which Rodgers do we trust?

There are two ways to look at this. First, we can say he probably won't face a defense like this again in 2020. Second, we can look ahead to when Rodgers might face tough tests and try to have other options available. Three of his next four games come against the Vikings, Texans, and Jaguars.

But the last third of the season looks a lot tougher with the Bears (twice), Colts, and Titans over his last seven games. Rodgers may be a sell-high candidate in single-quarterback leagues once mid-November rolls around.