Strength in Numbers: Actionable Week 5 Stats

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We are officially in the heat of fantasy football season. Injuries are stacking up. Bye weeks start this weekend. The NFL is sending its castoffs to London. So many things happen every weekend that it's almost impossible to keep up with it all. Almost.

Strength in Numbers is here to help sort out what's real and what's not. Every week, we'll break down the most actionable takeaways from the past week in a concise, numbers-filled format. Without further ado, let's get right into it.

1. According to Pro Football Focus, Elijah Mitchell played 44 snaps on Sunday. Trey Sermon played two. Mitchell ran 18 routes on 35 Trey Lance dropbacks, while Sermon only ran one route.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has done everything he can to tell us the team does not view Sermon as favorably as they did a few months ago.

In Week 1, the third-round rookie was a healthy scratch. Raheem Mostert, Mitchell, and JaMycal Hasty were the three active running backs. In Week 2, Sermon got one snap. It came in the fourth quarter. He fumbled and got banged up. Mitchell and Hasty handled the load almost entirely. Week 3 comes around and Mitchell and Hasty are hurt. Sermon is the only running back left on the San Francisco roster. He played 59% of snaps and handled 10 carries, splitting time with fullback Kyle Juszczyk. In Week 4, Sermon runs 13 routes to Juszczyk's 40. He did record 19 carries and pick up an admirable 89 yards (albeit against a soft Seattle run defense), but the 49ers didn't trust him in passing situations.

By this point, Mitchell is healthy again. He was the one who relieved Mostert after the veteran suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1. While Shanahan didn't use him a lot in passing situations either, Mitchell was active over Sermon in Week 1, and it took three injuries for Sermon to even crack a 50% snap share.

In Week 5, Sermon went back in the doghouse. He played two snaps, and Mitchell operated as the clear RB1 ahead of his earlier-drafted teammate. Juszczyk kept his receiving role, out-routing Mitchell 22-17, but the bigger picture is how Mitchell dominated Sermon. Mitchell likely won't be a fantasy RB1 unless he can earn more work on passing downs, but he's a viable starter moving forward. Sermon is at best a bench stash.

2. Damien Williams got all three Bears RB targets, but sixth-round rookie Khalil Herbert out-carried him 18-16. Herbert had 34 snaps to Williams' 31. Williams led 10-7 in routes.

Williams was the guy early on before making way for Herbert in the second half when the Bears had a lead. This looks like it'll be a committee until David Montgomery returns, but Williams has the upper hand considering his pass-catching pedigree. Since the Bears were leading the whole game on Sunday – something which probably won't happen very often – they may have wanted to pull back on Williams' workload.

Herbert is worth picking up, but don't fret about Williams. He remains a start-able option until Montgomery returns on account of his multi-faceted utilization.

3. At tight end, Dalton Schultz only trails Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, and Dawson Knox (more on him later) in fantasy points. Schultz has out-routed Blake Jarwin 49-22 and notched 16 targets in that span.

Schultz leads the Cowboys in targets over the past three weeks. That's certainly a mirage, but it does look like he has jumped so far ahead of Jarwin to the extent where Dallas now has a clear TE1 and TE2 rather than a timeshare.

Michael Gallup's return will add even more competition for targets to this aerial attack, but it doesn't take much to be a top-12 tight end in fantasy. Schultz has surely risen into that group. He ranks eighth in half-PPR expected points per game over the past month, according to Underdog Fantasy's Hayden Winks.


4. Trey Lance had 16 carries in his debut, becoming only the sixth quarterback to rush that many times in a game since 2006, per PFF's Nathan Jahnke.

Lance is expected to miss some time with a sprained left knee, plus 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan already said Jimmy Garoppolo will reassume the starting job once he's healthy. But that's okay, because Lance proved that he's going to be a great fantasy starter when he gets the nod. Lance didn't actually play well – 15-of-29 for 192 yards and a pick, plus a mediocre 66.3 PFF grade – but the rushing workload demonstrates his enormous upside.

It's well-documented by now that rushing is a cheat code for fantasy quarterbacks, and Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts are the only two who can even come close to matching Lance in that department. The third overall pick had 16 rush attempts in his first career start after recording seven in one half in relief of Garoppolo in Week 5. It remains to be seen whether he's a good real-life quarterback, but Lance is a worthy fantasy option if he gets the job later in the year and needs to be on your shortlist of targets for 2022.

5. For the first time this year, Rondale Moore ran more routes than Christian Kirk. Moore ran 20 routes on 34 Kyler Murray dropbacks, while Christian Kirk ran 18. Maxx Williams also suffered an injury that is likely to end his season, which could lead to the Cardinals running more 4-WR sets.

Fantasy managers have been calling for more routes for Moore, often clamoring for the rookie to see an increased role at A.J. Green's expense. The issue with that is 72.9% of Moore's snaps have come from the slot this season (per PFF), while Green primarily plays outside. In fact, Moore has played 97 snaps from the slot in 2021 and only 20 lined up outside. Kirk, not Green, is standing between Moore and an every-down role, so it's intriguing that Moore out-routed him for the first time in Week 5.

Williams was also in the midst of a career campaign, so it's a devasting injury for an ascending player. However, that could also open up more looks for Moore if the Cardinals choose to use more 4-WR sets without a dependable tight end. He remains a bench hold in most leagues because he still only ran a route on 58.8% of Murray's dropbacks in Week 5, but the arrow is clearly pointed up for Moore.

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Quick Hits

This section will be used for stats I think are worth mentioning (and for which the takeaway is fairly intuitive) but aren't important enough to write up fully. Let's get to it:

  • I may have been wrong about Kadarius Toney. Yes, it took multiple injuries for him to see the field, but it's not like he was the only man left standing and merely performed at replacement level. The Florida product has legitimately dazzled over the past two weeks, notching 267 yards at 12.1 yards per target. A two-week sample hardly proves that Toney is good, but you have to be much more open to it than you were at this time last month. It's one thing if he's doing just okay, but he's earned 22 targets and performed at an incredible level. For his long-term outlook, that's a great sign. In the short term, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton should be back soon, so he will have legitimate target competition.

  • During the Jaguars' first four games, Laviska Shenault lined up in the slot 82.5% of the time. In Week 5 – with D.J. Chark sidelined – Shenault lined up out wide on 86.5% of his snaps. He got just three targets, although he was able to bust his only catch for a 58-yard gain. Jamal Agnew assumed the slot duties previously manned by Shenault.

  • Establish The Run's Adam Levitan pointed out that Ricky Seals-Jones took over the Logan Thomas role with Thomas sidelined. Thomas was one of only a few every-snap TEs in the league. In Week 5, Seals-Jones played 82-of-83 snaps and ran a route on 46 of Taylor Heinicke's 53 dropbacks. He's likely a viable option as long as Thomas remains out.

  • David Njoku turned seven targets into 149 yards and a touchdown, but he still only ran 21 routes on 38 Baker Mayfield dropbacks. While Njoku did out-route Austin Hooper in Week 5, both tight ends have been splitting time fairly evenly all season, plus Harrison Bryant mixes in sometimes as well. Don't overreact to Njoku's big game.

  • A.J. Brown admitted after the game that he was on a snap count in his return from injury, but his role in the passing game was as strong as ever. Brown ran 24 routes on 27 Ryan Tannehill dropbacks and notched six targets on 22 team pass attempts. There's no reason to worry even though he only managed a meager 38 yards.

  • Leonard Fournette had 29 dropbacks on 45 Tom Brady dropbacks. It's possible Giovani Bernard isn't fully healthy, but Fournette has distanced himself from Ronald Jones as the Buccaneers' lead runner and could be pulling away from Bernard for passing-down work. In one of the best offenses in the NFL, he's a weekly fantasy starter.

  • Joe Mixon is not healthy. He played 19-of-67 snaps (28.4%) in Week 5, although the Bengals did lean on him when it mattered most in overtime. Samaje Perine was placed on the team's COVID list – it's unclear whether he could be back for Week 6 – so the Cincinnati backfield will be heavily influenced by news reports throughout the week. Is Mixon healthy? Can Perine play? We don't know at the moment, but what is evident is that Mixon was not close to full strength against the Packers.

  • A.J. Dillon had six total targets through four games. In Week 5, Aaron Rodgers threw him the ball four times. However, Dillon only ran 10 routes, which was in line with where he was in previous weeks. Dillon was lucky to see a target on 4-of-10 routes and hasn't experienced a role change despite promising box-score numbers.

  • Kenny Gainwell ran a route on a season-low 19.6% of Jalen Hurts' dropbacks. Miles Sanders set a new season-high by running a route on 67.4% of dropbacks. Sanders also played a season-high 74.6% of snaps, while Gainwell played a – you guessed it – season-low 23.9%.

  • Dawson Knox is a must-start option at tight end. In Week 5, he ran a route on 29 of Josh Allen's 32 dropbacks and turned his four targets into 117 yards and a score. He's now scored a touchdown in four straight games. That's not at all sustainable, but he is running a route on almost all passing plays in one of the best offenses in the league. At fantasy's weakest position, that easily makes him a top-12 option.

  • Zack Moss is distancing himself from Devin Singletary. Singletary played a season-low 26.3% of snaps; Moss played a career-high 73.7% of snaps. Moss has seen his role increase every week since he was a surprise healthy scratch in Week 1. Moss ran 19 routes to Singletary's eight, the widest gap of the season. Moss is a viable starting option in fantasy, while Singletary is nothing more than a stash at this point.

  • Devontae Booker had 19 touches after Saquon Barkley left in Week 5. Gary Brightwell had none, although fullback Elijhaa Penny did handle one rushing attempt.

  • In only his second game on his new team, Dan Arnold was second on the Jaguars in routes, going out for a pass 32 times on 43 Trevor Lawrence dropbacks. Keep in mind James O'Shaughnessy had eight targets in Week 1. Arnold is worth keeping an eye on and may even be worth starting for TE-needy teams.

  • Hayden Winks found that the Eagles have a 73% neutral-script pass rate over the past three weeks, the highest mark in the league. Jalen Hurts has scored at least 20 fantasy points in every game this year. The Eagles play the Buccaneers – who have given up the fewest rushing yards in the league and allow fewer than three yards per carry – in Week 6.

  • D'Andre Swift's passing-game role is only rivaled by Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler. PFF's Dwain McFarland noted that Swift played 74% of snaps in Week 5 (a new season-best for him) and ran a route on 73% of Jared Goff's dropbacks. Swift is a top-10 PPR back despite the inadequacies of the Detroit offense.

  • Ray-Ray McCloud took over JuJu Smith-Schuster's slot role for the Steelers after the 24-year-old left with a shoulder injury. The Steelers also brought in Anthony Miller for a workout on Monday. Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool (who could see more slot snaps too), and Najee Harris figure to make up one of the most concentrated target distributions in the league with Smith-Schuster out for the season.

  • Keelan Cole played more snaps and ran more routes than Elijah Moore in Week 5. Moore could be getting eased back in after he missed a game with a concussion, but it's worth keeping an eye on, although neither player is likely to be fantasy-relevant given Zach Wilson's struggles.

  • With Calvin Ridley inactive, Cordarrelle Patterson played the majority of snaps for the first time in 2021. He played 46 snaps in total, 24 at running back and 22 at wideout. Mike Davis' snap rates were in line with previous weeks.

  • Darrel Williams got five touches after Clyde Edwards-Helaire left on Sunday Night Football, while Jerick McKinnon got one. However, McKinnon played more snaps in Week 5 than the previous four weeks combined and ran 24 total routes (including when Edwards-Helaire was healthy). Williams figures to be the primary back while CEH gets healthy, but McKinnon should have a role too, especially as a pass-catcher.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for the Week 6 edition of Strength in Numbers.