5 NFL Stats to Know Through Week 4
Sunday gave us a little bit of everything, with the Cardinals getting an impressive win over the Rams, the Chiefs getting back to doing Chiefs things, and both New York teams getting their first wins in overtime. Oh, and last night's Bucs-Patriots got a little attention for some reason.
But let's check out how things have shaken out from a fantasy standpoint after a month of NFL action. Here are five stats to know -- both traditional and our advanced statistics -- from the season's first four weeks.
Alvin Kamara Logged 26 Carries and Zero Targets in Week 4
Alvin Kamara demonstrated both the good and bad of his 2021 role this weekend against the Giants, tallying a career-high 26 rushes -- breaking his previous high of 24 just a week prior -- while also getting zero work in the receiving game.
While the increased reliance on the run has led to Kamara averaging far more carries than ever before -- he has the 3rd-most this year -- the lack of targets is concerning for his long-term outlook, as his 14 targets are tied for just 20th at the position.
Obviously, the dip in receptions is a big hit to his scoring in PPR and half-PPR formats right off the bat, but this also suggests that his outputs could be more reliant on game script than ever before.
Despite ultimately losing to the Giants, the Saints led for the majority of the contest, so if we include that game with New Orleans' two wins, Kamara has logged 24 or more opportunities (carries plus targets) in those three weeks. On the other hand, he only saw 14 opportunities in a Week 2 loss to Carolina.
Although that Panthers loss was an ugly day all-around for the Saints against a tough defense, the drop in Kamara's output was notable, and this offense just doesn't appear built to play catch-up, as well.
The Saints have been reluctant to let Jameis Winston air it out, owning a league-low 42% passing play percentage. Winston has notched just 20, 22, 21, and 23 pass attempts this year. Combine that with a slow pace and an above-average defense, and the Saints seem like a team that prefers to grind out wins through their run game and defense rather than get themselves into shootouts.
Maybe New Orleans will be forced to feed the ball to Kamara through the air more at some point -- he did see a season-high six targets against Carolina -- but as things stand, his upside appears limited in a bland offense despite the bump in rushes. And on top of all that, Taysom Hill remains a thing, as well, vulturing away three red-zone scores over the past two weeks.
Cordarrelle Patterson Scored 3 Touchdowns on a 30% Snap Rate in Week 4
Fantasy football can be kind of stupid sometimes. Cordarrelle Patterson as a top fantasy scorer in Week 4, eh?
There's no question Patterson has become a dangerous and versatile weapon for the Falcons, averaging a respectable 6.8 carries and 5.5 targets this season. He certainly made his six rushes and six targets count on Sunday, turning those dozen opportunities into a whopping three touchdowns and 116 total yards.
But to illustrate how bonkers this is, Patterson's still not even seeing the field for even half the snaps. In fact, he actually saw his lowest snap rate (30%) this week after notching 43%, 33%, and 33% the prior three games. On Sunday, he had a modest 28% route rate and 15% target share despite all three of his scores coming through the air.
Patterson's getting enough work to be relevant in deep formats, but Week 4 figures to go down as easily his best game of the year, and given his lack of overall snaps, his floor is way lower than he's demonstrated thus far.
Sam Darnold Leads the League With 5 Rushing Touchdowns on 6 Red-Zone Carries
A big part of his early success has been a surprise running element to his game, as he now leads the NFL with five rushing touchdowns. And yes, that includes running backs.
Darnold's averaging 5.0 carries per game, with his 20 rushes placing him sixth among quarterbacks, so this isn't entirely a fluke.
But before anyone gets too excited, it's also worth noting that he's only tallied 52 yards on these runs -- good for just 20th at the position -- and all those scores have come on a mere 6 red-zone carries. While at least some of these red-zone looks have been by design, it's also stilly to expect him to keep cashing in at such a high clip.
Darnold's had an encouraging start to the season through the air, and the rushing potential is certainly a welcome addition to his fantasy potential. It's also possible that he continues to see designed red-zone carries, particularly while Christian McCaffrey is sidelined.
But unless he starts propping up that rushing yardage on a more consistent basis or becomes a true weekly rushing threat at the goal line, it's probably fair to expect his fantasy output on the ground to tail off and be far more sporadic over the long haul.
Calvin Ridley Saw the Second-Most Air Yards in Week 4
While Calvin Ridley's volume through the first three weeks was as good as expected, leading the team in both target share and air yards share, his yardage was underwhelming due to a rather sharp drop in average depth of target (aDOT).
With Matt Ryan rarely throwing deep, Ridley was averaging just an 8.8 aDOT through three weeks, down from 14.3 in 2020. Ridley was also averaging just 1.3 deep targets (16-plus yards) per game.
But Week 4 potentially gave us a much-needed boost to Ridley's outlook. Not only did he see 4.0 deep targets, helping him to a more familiar 14.8 aDOT, but he actually saw the second-most air yards (193) in the entire league behind only Terry McLaurin.
While the end result in the box score wasn't entirely different from what we've seen from him in 2021, he hauled in 7-of-13 targets for a season-high 80 yards, and he's now up to a 27% target share and 48% air yards share for the year.
If Ryan starts throwing deep to Ridley more consistently, we could finally get some of those blow-up games we saw sans Julio Jones in 2020.
Dallas Has the Lowest Pass Rate Over the Past 3 Weeks
Prior to getting injured last season, Dak Prescott was an absolute beast in fantasy, and even if you include the game he didn't finish, he averaged 27.7 fantasy points over his five starts, which was better than any other quarterback. Part of his fantasy success was through sheer volume, passing 39, 47, 57, and 58 times in his four full games.
Prescott opened 2021 by chucking it 58 times in a Week 1 shootout against Tampa Bay, and to the delight of his fantasy managers, it looked like more of the same could be on tap for this season.
But since that game, Prescott's pass attempts have dropped to 27, 26, and most recently 22 -- all in victories -- and it's looking more and more like this is the preferred mode of attack for the Cowboys. This has led to Dallas having the lowest passing play percentage over that span (43%) -- lower than even New Orleans.
After a QB7 finish in the opening week, Prescott's been the QB29, QB14, and QB7 over the three weeks since, and he's the QB11 for the season. So, this trend hasn't completely tanked his value so far, but it's also hard to expect many more four-touchdown outings when throwing for just 188 yards on 22 attempts.
The Cowboys won't be able to impose their will with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in every game, and they don't have a shutdown defense, either, so Prescott should still find himself in passing shootouts when the right opponent roles around, much like we saw in Tampa Bay.
You're naturally still rolling with Prescott outside of very shallow formats, but at least for the moment, it's possible he'll be far more matchup-dependent than expected.
Week 5 against the Giants could be an interesting test. The game has an appealing 51.5 total, per FanDuel Sportsbook, but the Cowboys are favored by a touchdown at home, which could lead to another run-heavy game script.