5 NFL Stats to Know Through Week 3
Three weeks are nearly in the books, and while we may be getting a better idea of player roles and team tendencies, that doesn't mean we aren't seeing our share of surprises every week. Let's dig in and see what's standing out in the early going.
Here are five stats to know -- both traditional and our advanced statistics -- from the season's first three weeks.
Najee Harris Sees a League-High 19 Targets in Week 3
While Najee Harris played nearly all of the snaps over the first two weeks of the season, confirming his role as Pittsburgh's bell cow back, his actual opportunities (carries and targets) remained somewhat underwhelming, as he saw 16 carries and 3 targets in Week 1, followed by 10 carries and 5 targets in Week 2. While a touchdown saved his fantasy day in Week 2, it was fair to wonder just how much upside he would have moving forward, particularly in a sluggish Steelers offense led by a declining Ben Roethlisberger.
Well, while the offense still carries plenty of questions, we saw the most encouraging performance yet from Harris in Week 3. With Pittsburgh forced to play catch-up in an eventual loss to Cincinnati, Harris would go on to see a league-best 19 targets while also adding on 14 carries, blowing away his usage in his prior two games.
Those targets led to a whopping 32.8% target share, which was tops at the position this week, and he also led all backs in route rate (83.9%) and snap rate (94.8%).
We obviously can't expect this many targets every week, and multiple wideout injuries almost certainly played a role. But this is still encouraging all the way around, and if this is any indication of how the Steelers plan to use Harris moving forward, then we needn't worry about his upside after all.
Saquon Barkley Logs Over 80% of the Snaps Again
The running back with the week's second-highest snap rate behind Najee Harris? None other than Saquon Barkley, who logged 84.4% of the snaps in Week 3, following up his fantastic 82.8% snap rate the week prior.
Barkley also saw his most opportunities on the young season, tallying 16 carries and 7 targets against Atlanta. With 94 total yards, 6 receptions, and a score, the net result was 18.4 fantasy points in half-PPR formats. The arrow is decidedly pointing up for Barkley these days.
Next week's spot against New Orleans is a tougher draw -- the Giants are 7.5-point road underdogs -- but Barkley's receiving work should be there after posting a 70.3% route rate on Sunday, trailing only Harris and Alvin Kamara at the position.
Mike Gesicki Led All Tight Ends in Targets This Week
Well, it's safe to say that at least with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, Gesicki's looking like a much more desirable tight end option these days. Gesicki's 12 targets were the most of any tight end in Week 3, even edging out Travis Kelce, and he was second on the Dolphins behind only Jaylen Waddle (13 targets).
Those dozen looks were good for a 25.5% target share and after also seeing 6 targets in Week 2, Gesicki's now posted the third-best target share at the position over the past two weeks (20.2%). Both his snap rate (65.5%) and route rate (68.3%) have also improved over this span after logging just 38.5% of the snaps and 55.2% of the routes in the opening game.
Whether this change in role is connected to Brissett specifically remains to be seen, but with Tua Tagovailoa out until at least Week 6, we should have more confidence in starting Gesicki for the near future.
Justin Fields Posted a 20.69% Passing Success Rate, the NFL's Worst Mark Through Three Weeks
It's safe to say that Justin Fields' first start was nothing short of a complete disaster by just about every statistical measure, and perhaps the most shocking part was that he didn't even run much, notching just 3 carries for 12 yards.
We've already seen some forgettable passing performances over these first few weeks, but Fields' may very well rank as the worst of the bunch. He went 6-for-20 through the air for just 68 yards and no touchdowns while also getting wrecked for an absurd 9 sacks. The end result was an abysmal 20.69% Passing Success Rate, the lowest figure any NFL starting quarterback has produced this season. That means he actually hurt his team on the vast majority of his dropbacks.
For comparison, Aaron Rodgers' dismal Week 1 dud against New Orleans came with a 34.48% Passing Success Rate, while Jameis Winston's Week 2 clunker in Carolina netted a 23.08% Success Rate. Even Zach Wilson's four-interception outing against New England came with a 37.84% Success Rate.
In terms of Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), Fields was predictably just as poor, with his -0.62 Passing NEP per drop back ranking second-worst on the year, barely behind Winston's Week 2 start (-0.63).
Obviously, this isn't all on Fields, between shaky offensive line play and the Bears curiously not letting him utilize his legs more. If you have Fields in deeper formats, you're probably holding on to him with hopes of better days ahead, but with Matt Nagy noncommittal on his starting quarterback this week against Detroit, it remains to be seen when that next opportunity will come.
Stefon Diggs Ranks Third Overall in Air Yards (386)
This was especially disappointing in Week 3, as Josh Allen had easily his best game of the season, balling out for 358 passing yards and 4 scores through the air. Instead of Diggs, it was Emmanuel Sanders who reaped the benefits, catching 5-of-6 targets for 94 yards and 2 touchdowns. Cole Beasley also had himself a day, leading the team in targets (13), receptions (10), and yards (98).
While Diggs comparatively posted a more modest final start line of 6 catches for 62 yards, he still saw 10 targets (23.3%) and led the team in air yards by a wide margin (39.3%). It's that last part that should lead to bigger days going forward, as Diggs ranks third overall in air yards (386) this season behind just Brandin Cooks (428) and Davante Adams (406). And despite that Week 3 result, Diggs still leads Buffalo in target share (26.4%), too.
The Bills are a massive 16.5-point favorite over the Texans this week, and while there's obvious blowout risk, Diggs should still be in a great spot to finally cash in on his promising usage thus far.