5 NFL Stats to Know Through Week 2
We may be just two weeks into the season, but we're already getting a clearer picture of how teams plan to utilize their players this season and whose stock could be trending upward or downward. Some of our best laid offseason fantasy plans could be coming to fruition -- or, perhaps inevitably, not everything is going quite as we expected.
Here are five stats to know -- both traditional and our advanced statistics -- from the season's first two weeks.
Ezekiel Elliott Split Opportunities With Tony Pollard 18-16 in Week 2
Ezekiel Elliott was a dud in Week 1, but it was easy to point to a tough matchup against Tampa Bay to explain his lack of touches, and he still held an excellent 81.2% snap rate, suggesting better days would be ahead. A potential shootout against the Chargers looked like a possible bounce-back opportunity for the Dallas running back.
A high-scoring game didn't quite materialize between the two teams, with the Cowboys edging out the Chargers 20-17, but Elliott did get into the end zone, finishing with a solid 16.7 fantasy points in half-PPR formats.
However, it wasn't all good news, as backup running back Tony Pollard would ultimately have the bigger fantasy day (21.5 points), notably splitting opportunities pretty evenly with Elliott. Although Elliott still saw the higher snap rate by a wide margin of 71.7% to 35.0%, the two were close in carries (16 to 13) and targets (2 to 3), ultimately leading to just 2 more opportunities in favor of Elliott.
Now, it's worth noting that isn't all doom and gloom for those counting on Elliott. That snap rate discrepancy still means he's the top dog in this backfield, and he also saw more routes than Pollard (22 to 7) and more red-zone carries (3 to 1).
Nonetheless, it's clear the gap between Elliott and Pollard is shrinking, and Elliott may not see the workload that many were hoping for. Meanwhile, Pollard's stock is on the rise, and he could have standalone value moving forward.
Derrick Henry Has 10 Targets Through Two Games
Despite his massive upside as a rusher, the knock on Derrick Henry has always been his lack of passing-game work. But could Henry be adding a new element to his game in 2021?
Henry not only saw a career-high 6 targets in Week 2, but he also saw 4 targets the week prior, putting him at 10 for the year. For context, Henry only saw 31 across 16 games last season (1.9 per game), and he only saw 24 over 15 games the year prior (1.6 per game). Before this year, he tallied four or more targets in a game just three times ever.
Part of this recent change could have to do with the Titans finding themselves in negative game scripts for much of their first two games, but in their Week 2 comeback win over Seahawks, it was clear they wanted to keep Henry involved through the air. Henry's 20 routes run were nothing to sneeze at, and his 6 targets garnered a 15.0% target share that ranked ninth at the position this week.
We already know what Henry can do on the ground alone, and adding a receiving element to his game would not only elevate his floor but also his already frightening fantasy ceiling -- as we saw from his massive score in Week 2.
Brandin Cooks Leads the League With a 54.1% Air Yards Share
Everyone figured Brandin Cooks would see some volume as pretty much the only show in town for the Texans, but it was unclear how much success he could have on what was expected to be one of the worst teams in the league.
But through two games, Cooks now ranks 5th in receiving yards (210) and is tied for 10th in receptions (14). He's been targeted 7 and 14 times and leads the league in air yards share (54.1%) and is third overall in target share (33.9%).
Cooks' production could take a hit a short-term hit with Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) out and Davis Mills pegged to start for the Texans on Thursday, but his immense role should keep him viable moving forward.
Robert Woods Saw a 30.0% Target Share and 43.1% Air Yards Share in Week 2
Despite typically being drafted behind Robert Woods, Kupp has been a target hog over the first two weeks, boasting a 37.5% target share and 36.5% air yards share compared to 23.2% and 27.8% for Woods.
But there's room for optimism if you've got Woods on your squad. While his role was disappointing in Week 1, his usage was elite in Week 2, with his 9 targets resulting in a 30.0% target share and 43.1% air yards share, and he also notched 2 carries.
So while Kupp is making the headlines, if Woods continues to earn this type of volume moving forward, he should have his share of big fantasy performances, too.
Matthew Stafford Is Averaging a League-Best 0.69 Passing NEP per Drop Back
Another reason to be optimistic about non-Cooper Kupp members of this Rams passing attack is that Stafford has been fantastic.
That's right, according to our passing metrics, it isn't Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, or Tom Brady leading the way in efficiency so far. Stafford is averaging 0.69 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, with Mahomes being the next closest at 0.57 per drop back.
Obviously, these numbers will even off over the long haul (Aaron Rodgers paced the league with 0.38 Passing NEP per drop back in 2020), but it's a positive early sign that Stafford could be on track for a big fantasy campaign despite his obvious limitations as a rusher.
His Week 3 showdown against Brady and the Buccaneers is showing an eye-popping 54.5 total on FanDuel Sportsbook.