As was the case last week, this new and improved (we think) Targets and Touches column will focus on different stats for 2018, as you'll see below. This column will no longer be a restatement of catches, yards and receptions (If you want those, check the box score). Instead, my hope is to bring you some more actionable data. For running backs, that means looking at total touches and playing time. I'll give you their touch total this week, their touch totals from the past few weeks, as well as the percentage of offensive plays during which they were on the field in the given week (per Next Gen Stats). Here's what that will look like:
Got it? Good. Now, for the passing games I'll provide you with two key stats: target share and air yards share. The target share (TS) represents the percentage of the team's targets that player saw in the given week. Air yards, if you aren't familiar with the term, represent "the total number of yards thrown toward a receiver on a play in which he is targeted, both complete and incomplete. If you add them up over a game or a season, you get a receiver's total Air Yards." As such, the air yards share accounts for the receiver's percentage of the quarterback's total intended air yards. The perfect marriage for a fantasy wideout is a healthy target share and plenty of air yards. For more on why you should care about air yards, read this. But if you're too lazy and trust us that air yards matter (#respect), here's how the pass-catchers will look below:
Our hope is this data will give you more actionable information to use when contemplating your starting lineup, adds/drops, and trades. But feel free to give me feedback on Twitter @AlexGelhar. Now, let's dive into what Week 4 had to offer and what it might mean as we head into Week 5.
percent TS = percentage of total team passing targets player received
percent AY = percentage of total team air yards player received
Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams
Cook missed Week 3 with a hamstring injury, and his usage and playing time in Week 4 indicate he's not fully healed yet. The short week may have played a part in his lightened workload as well, but his status will need to be monitored before trusting him in Week 5 lineups.
The Rams passing offense is so potent and so well-distributed it's hard to not start this trio every week. All three went for over 100 yards and found the end zone against a stout Minnesota defense. Such is the power of a Sean McVay-led offense.
New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars
This result was pretty predictable. The Jets fell behind early, forcing them into a more pass-heavy game script. Powell is the preferred back in those situations, leading to the sizable disparity in touches and playing time between him and Crowell. Make a note for games in the future that could follow this trajectory.
There isn't much to glean from Sam Darnold, a rookie, struggling mightily on the road against the Jacksonville defense. Powell was the team's leading receiver with four catches for 26 yards.
Fournette tried to play through his hamstring injury but was ruled out at halftime after leaving during the second quarter. That opened up opportunities for Yeldon, who made the most of them by finding the end zone twice. Yeldon has played on 73 percent of Jags' snaps when Fournette misses or is ruled out in-game this season. He's a solid RB2/flex play if Fournette misses more time.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
It appears the Dolphins featured Gore over Drake, but the box score is misleading. Eight of Gore's 13 touches (including his touchdown) came on Miami's final drive when Brock Osweiler was under center and the team trailed 38-0. This backfield is a mess. Drake is young and talented, though -- so it might be best to hold pat rather than outright cutting him loose.
The Dolphins average 23.5 pass attempts per game, fewest in the league. That's a small pie for wide receivers to eat from, and most end up starving each week. This includes Stills, who is averaging right around three catches for 40 yards per game since his Week 1 statistical explosion (4-106-2).
Rex Burkhead landing on injured reserve last week forced the Patriots hand in the backfield and created a much clearer division of labor. Michel is the primary engine on the ground, as he handled 25 carries in a promising performance (112 yards, one touchdown). White remains a do-it-all option who led the team in receptions (eight) and receiving yards (68) against the Dolphins.
Gordon didn't reach the typical threshold (10 percent) but he needs to be mentioned at least. The former-Brown is nursing a hamstring injury still, which could be why he was only used on 20 percent of the offensive snaps. Also, this game was a blowout. The Patriots have a short week before playing the Colts on Thursday Night Football this week, and Julian Edelman returns, so proceed with caution when it comes to Gordon.
Philadelphia Eagles at Tennessee Titans
Ajayi looked solid after returning from a back injury that sidelined him in Week 3. Corey Clement was out this week, helping free up opportunities for Ajayi and Smallwood. This backfield could get more frustrating as it gets healthier.
Jeffery's return quickly concentrated this passing attack. Wentz looked early and often for his top three targets and pummeled them with targets and air yards. This might become more of the norm as the Eagles offense finally takes shape.
The Titans rushing attack is toothless, with Henry and Lewis averaging a combined 3.15 yards per rush. Lewis at least offers some upside in the passing game as he's second on the team with 18 receptions.
This was the breakout game many had been anticipating from Davis. He'd received a fair amount of targets, but with the Titans passing attack stuck in neutral trusting him in starting lineups was hard. Well, a 9-161-1 performance on 14 targets is going to turn some heads. He owns a 32 percent target share on the year.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
All of a sudden this backfield looks like a committee after Miller enjoyed a three-week stranglehold on pseudo-featured back duties. It's possible this is a one-week blip, but those relying on Miller will need to watch this closely.
Fuller left in the second half with a hamstring injury, forcing rookie Keke Coutee to step up to the plate. Coutee performed well as a fill-in and could be a decent waiver-wire option if Fuller misses next week's game, especially in PPR.
Hines' elevated playing time and growing role in the passing game make him worth an add (if available), or worth considering in the flex in PPR. He has reception totals of nine, five, one and seven so far, and caught two touchdowns in Week 4. Wilkins is a non-factor and could end up ceding more work to the more electric Hines in short order.
Hilton left this game early and now appears unlikely to play on Thursday night against the Patriots. Pascal had a nice game but only played on 51 percent of the snaps compared to 81 percent for Chester Rogers and 80 percent for Ryan Grant. Determining how the targets will be divvied without Hilton is anybody's guess, but the Colts will likely be throwing the ball often in Week 5.
Buffalo Bills at Green Bay Packers
Perhaps the Packers are preserving their backs for the postseason. Perhaps the coaching staff simply refuses to see the light. Whatever the reason, fantasy footballers are left in the dark, waiting for the team to feature Aaron Jones. He's been the team's most effective and electric back since returning from a suspension last week. The Packers backfield rotation doesn't seem to be changing (yet), so starting a Packer back carries plenty of risk.
Aaron Rodgers locked in on his top targets with Randall Cobb (hamstring) sidelined. So if Cobb and Allison, who left this game with a concussion, miss Week 5, who will Rodgers turn to? Marquez Valdez-Scantling filled in for Cobb in the slot, playing 74 percent of the snaps, and looks like the next man up. He could be on the WR3 radar if both Cobb and Allison are out but he carries plenty of risk.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
Johnson still looks like the best back on the team, but Blount and Riddick aren't going away. Johnson could be a bit of a fantasy rollercoaster while embroiled in this committee..
It was Tate's turn to shine this week, though Golladay and Jones contributed with big plays. All three remain weekly considerations regardless of format.
Last week I said it was surprising the Cowboys hadn't given Zeke more work. This week he gets 29 touches. Coincidence? I think not. More importantly, though, is the fact that Elliott is playing through knee and ankle injuries. It might be wise to stash Rod Smith now in case things take a turn for the worse.
Here's all you need to know about Dallas' passing attack: Elliott's 88 yards are the highest total by a Cowboy in a game this year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears
Rookie Ronald Jones finally saw the field. But nothing changed in this backfield. We really don't need to give this group any fantasy thought until something does change for the better.
It appears the Fitzmagic has died. Fitzpatrick struggled mightily and was benched for Jameis Winston, who didn't fare much better. O.J. Howard will be out from two to four weeks with a sprained MCL, putting Brate on the streaming tight end radar. The Buccaneers next face a Falcons defense that can't stop anyone after suffering several major injuries.
Rather puzzlingly, Howard out-touched Cohen 63-21 through the first three games. That changed on Sunday when Cohen saw eight targets and carried the ball 11 times. He did most of his damage in the passing game (7-121-1). Hopefully, the lightbulb finally went off for head coach Matt Nagy to use Cohen more in the passing game, as the jitterbug had seen just eight targets to Howard's 11 in the first three weeks. Howard owners should watch this split with worry the next few weeks, as Howard has amassed just 121 rushing yards on his last 49 carries (2.5 YPC).
I'm pretty sure we can't count on six touchdown passes from Mitchell Trubisky again anytime soon, but this passing distribution is starting to look a little more consistent. Robinson is the safe play, while Gabriel is the bigger-play threat..
Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons
Like last week, Bernard was the workhorse. Rookie Mark Walton got on the field more (35 percent), but barely mixed into the action (seven touches).
Tyler Eifert suffered another season-ending injury, which is disappointing as he appeared to be rounding back into his playmaking form of old. Dalton tossed a few passes to his ancillary targets but largely fed his most reliable options, as has been the case all year.
Smith played just five percent of the snaps in Week 3, so his 40 percent snap share here was a bit of a surprise. Devonta Freeman is likely to return next week, though, putting Smith back to the bench and making Coleman a riskier flex play.
Yes, Julio Jones has yet to score a touchdown (lulz amirite?), but through four weeks he leads the NFL in receiving yards (pending Monday Night Football). There's no reason to panic. Surprisingly, Ridley leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns as well (also pending Monday Night Football).
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Baldwin wasted no time establishing himself as the team's No. 1 wide receiver in his first game back from injury. It was encouraging to see Lockett not completely disappear as well, though his weekly involvement may be more sketchy moving forward.
David Johnson, RB - 25 touches (Wk 3: 16, Wk 2: 14, Wk 1: 14), 91 percent snap share
Chase Edmunds, RB - 3 touches (Wk 3: 5, Wk 2: 6, Wk 1: 8), 13 percent snap share
This is more like it for Johnson's usage. Week 4 was the first time DJ crossed 20 touches and 100 scrimmage yards on the year. Our letter writing campaign to Mike McCoy must have worked! Huzzah!
Josh Rosen is still getting acclimated as a starting quarterback in the NFL. His wideouts didn't do him any favors this week, dropping several big passes. It might be prudent to sit Fitzgerald until he and Rosen develop a better connection, though his air yards and target share profile is encouraging in Rosen's first start.
Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders
It'll be tempting to rush to the waiver wire and blow a high priority or a bunch of FAAB on Chubb, who rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns on three carries against the Raiders. However, those rushes came on the only three snaps he played all game. Hyde's still the featured back here, though Chubb may have made a pretty good case for a few more touches per game.
The Browns ground game was on fire, taking some of the air out of the passing attack. However, it looks like Baker Mayfield is forming a trio of favorite targets in Landry, Callaway, and Njoku. Callaway and Njoku make for nice stashes, but be cautious starting this passing attack against the Ravens in Week 5.
Jon Gruden really is running this offense like it's 1998, as he's treated Marshawn Lynch-like an old-fashioned bell cow. Lynch looked great against the Browns, racking up 157 total yards.
Cooper had a great game (8-128-1 on 12 targets) but the story of this passing offense is Cook. Through four weeks he leads his position in receiving yards (374), is second in receptions (27), and tied for first in touchdowns (three). He's also one of just five tight ends to command 20-plus percent of his team's targets thus far.
New Orleans Saints at New York Giants
Barkley's involvement in the passing game helps him when the Giants fall behind. He has 25 receptions over the last three weeks.
With Evan Engram out with a knee injury, Manning funneled as many targets as possible to this trio. OBJ has been rock-solid but has yet to find the end zone or go nuclear in the stat sheets. He's averaging over 11 targets per game, though, so be patient.
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Chargers
Breida was healthier than Morris coming into this game, but at a certain point he may just win the lion's share of the touches on production/talent alone. Stay tuned.
In his first start of the season, C.J. Beathard showed an affinity for targeting Kittle and Garcon. There are probably better options at wideout than Garcon at this point in the fantasy season, but this is great news for Kittle.
Gordon and Ekeler are on pace to be one of the most productive running back duos in league history. Here's to hoping they keep it up for the sake of our fantasy rosters!
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Collins' fumble near the goal line may have cost him some touches in this game, but he and Allen have formed a pretty regular committee all season. Collins caught a touchdown, but we should accept by now that he's not the featured back many hoped he'd be when they drafted him in August.
The matchup was brutal, as Baltimore's defense is strong, but Conner's production the last three weeks is concerning. He's had three-plus catches in each game, though, giving him a relatively safe weekly floor.
Aside from Switzer popping up with 15 percent of the targets, there was nothing unexpected from this group, except perhaps the production. McDonald led the way with a whopping 62 receiving yards.
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
This was a very encouraging performance to see from Hunt, who'd been a bit of a disappointment in fantasy thus far. With Sammy Watkins suffering a hamstring injury, there might be more targets to go around in the coming weeks, which would be good news for Hunt. I did recommend trying to trade Hunt last week coming off his two-touchdown game, and it still might not be the worst idea in the world if the offer is right.
Watkins leaving this game with a hamstring injury forced Patrick Mahomes to turn more to Conley and Hunt (nine percent TS). He knows where his bread is buttered, though, and wasn't shy about looking to his top two options either.
Royce Freeman, RB - 8 touches (Wk 2: 8, Wk 1: 15), 27 percent snap share
Philip Lindsay, RB - 14 touches (Wk 2: 15, Wk 1: 17), 41 percent snap share
Lindsay's ejection last week didn't cost him this week, and he continues to look like one of the best rookie running backs in the league. He scored on a goal-line carry, which was supposed to be Freeman's gig. Freeman still found the end zone, but this takes a little shine off of his weekly upside.
Rookie wideout Courtland Sutton made a few eye-popping catches in this game and led the team in air yards. If this becomes more of the norm, we may have to adjust our expectations for Thomas and Sanders.
-- Alex Gelhar is a freelance writer for NFL Fantasy and a full-time law student. He saw ���The Predator��� this weekend, and highly recommends it for fans of the original or fans of a good time at the movies.