Week 13 Fantasy Football Stats: An RB1 finish for Antonio Gibson?

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Antonio Gibson leads the NFL with 72 carries over the last three weeks. He has nine runs of 10-plus yards and nine catches on nine targets.

When we were (read: I was) so gassed up about Antonio Gibson during fantasy draft season, this is the buy we thought we were getting.

The Antonio Gibson resurgence is here

Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong for Gibson this year. His own injuries have held him back, the team’s disappointing defense has kept them out of run-friendly game scripts and multiple maladies to the Washington offense have made the unit unrecognizable.

Since his re-emergence, you can point to factors that have at least put a band-aid on those issues — if not outright fixed them.

Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson
Things are turning around for the better when it comes to Antonio Gibson. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

It appears that even if he’s still been on the injury report due to his shin at times, Washington at least believes the bye week got Gibson closer to 100 percent. This huge workload came right after the week off. The team has also gotten healthier since then. Obviously, Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t coming back but Curtis Samuel and Logan Thomas are starting to get back in the mix. Offensive linemen Brandon Scherff is back, as well, which is crucial considering the rest of the offensive line is so banged up they’re starting true no-name players.

Beyond the players, Scott Turner has continued to adjust his offense to account for Taylor Heinicke’s strengths and limitations while playing with a banged-up supporting cast. The team is quite play-action-heavy and runs plenty of route combinations to suit his arm talent. They also spread the field with three-plus receivers when they want to run looks, keeping the box light for Gibson behind a compromised line. Schematically, Washington has been on-point of late.

As for the defense, the front-four remains a problem amid injuries but they’ve solved some of their issues on the back end. Moving Landon Collins closer to the line of scrimmage while playing more three-safety looks has erased some of the coverage busts. Washington has been in positive or neutral game scripts as a result of this during their three-game winning streak which has allowed Gibson to go to work.

Gibson has been a frustrating player in fantasy this season. He might finish as an RB1 the rest of the way and enter 2022 on a hot streak.

Brandon Aiyuk has taken seven snaps out of the backfield in his entire career

There’s plenty of talk about Brandon Aiyuk taking over the Deebo Samuel role this week. I can't see it.

Folks compare Aiyuk and Samuel because they are both strong and physical players after the catch. True, but they are still quite different. Aiyuk has some freaky qualities with the way he moves and wins off-target passes, thanks to his python arms. But he’s not about to take true wide-zone running back looks like Deebo Samuel does. He’s not built like that — no wide receiver is. Samuel might be one of, if not the biggest unicorn at the position in today’s game.

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The good news for folks invested in Aiyuk, he doesn’t have to be that guy. Aiyuk is more of an explosive downfield player and now that he’s past the Kyle Shanahan mind games, he’s been producing with his opportunities. Aiyuk is 12th among wide receivers since Week 8 in yards with 336. The receiving pendulum has already started to swing his way too as Samuel has filled in more at running back. Aiyuk's 29 percent target share over the last three games leads the team.

Aiyuk is a great flex play and DFS value this week ($18) but it’s not because he’s going to fill Samuel’s role. No one can do that. Aiyuk’s role has grown enough on its own at this point and if a few extra targets spillover from Samuel’s absence ... that’s just gravy.

DK Metcalf is averaging 8.1 yards per catch since Week 8

Meanwhile, Tyler Lockett sits at 17.9. There’s obvious variance there but it remains discouraging to see how the balance of these two being impacted by Russell Wilson’s poor play is so drastically leaning toward Metcalf.

We know the deep passes outside the numbers, where Metcalf can dominate in tight spaces, have been problematic for Wilson post-finger injury. The bigger problem is that Wilson still isn’t comfortable working over the middle, where the Seahawks have at least tried to get Metcalf in space on deep in-breakers and slants.

At this point in Wilson’s career, it’s tough for a tiger to change his stripes. Especially when said beast is working with a damaged paw and living in an environment so fraught with chaos, even Joe Exotic would blush.

For the time being, it’s going to be hard to get away from these guys in starting fantasy lineups. For all the problems, Metcalf and Lockett are still top-24 receivers and Wilson scraped to a good fantasy day despite a brutal offensive showing on Monday night.

Darnell Mooney ranks second in target share among all WRs since Week 8

The second-year receiver has thrived with Justin Fields but has taken another leap lately with Andy Dalton under center and Allen Robinson out. It looks like both of those variables will remain in Week 13.

Ignore Mooney’s ugly catch rate during this span. His 14-yard aDOT from Weeks 11-12 with mostly Dalton playing is helping to offset some inefficiency. You don’t need a high catch rate to thrive where he's getting targets. He’s a volatile but extremely enticing play at $17 in Yahoo DFS.

Chase Claypool owns 37 percent of the air yards in games played since Week 8

Diontae Johnson sits at 39 percent with one more game played. After multiple injuries and issues across the board, this offense is extremely concentrated between these two players.

That makes it at least easy to project this unit ... even if playing non-Johnson receivers still doesn’t feel so easy.

Johnson gets so many targets in the short to intermediate areas that he’s a lock every single week. He’s sixth in receiving yards since Week 8. Claypool’s air yard volume comes on deep shots down the right side of the field when Ben Roethlisberger thinks he has single-coverage presnap. It’s inherently more volatile. However, maybe he hits on a few this week against a Ravens defense that’s 31st in explosive play rate allowed.

Vikings run defense is 32nd in EPA/rush allowed since Week 8

Minnesota has issues all across the defense but one of their biggest flaws was on full display after getting barrelled over by the 49ers last week.

Jamaal Williams will get the start this week in place of D’Andre Swift. Williams is a solid veteran who coaches just can’t help but trust given his overall reliable play. He inhaled 20 touches on Thanksgiving when Swift went down early. A full workload against this Vikings defense makes him a clear-cut RB2, at worst.

Williams is just $16 in Yahoo’s daily game. It’s going to be hard picking between him and Alexander Mattison ($18) in that format — though you could play both together and unlock big stars. In season-long, there are several typically starting running backs you can consider playing Williams ahead of because the projections are similar.

Running back comparison since Week 10

- Player A) 37 carries (3.7 ypc) 21 targets (9.9 ypc)

- Player B) 38 carries (4.8 ypc) 24 targets (5.5 ypc)

These are two of the best receiving backs in the NFL right now. One you’d expect. The other you would never have guessed would be deployed like this before the season.

Player A is of course Austin Ekeler.

Player B is none other than Leonard Fournette.

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Fournette has been the absolute workhorse in the Bucs backfield. He’s cleared 60 percent of the snaps in all but two of the games since Week 4. The two outliers were cake-walk wins over the Bears and Giants.

The Ekeler-like receiving usage is what’s made Fournette an every-week lock at the position. He still caught six passes even when he lost some rushing work against New York in Week 9. Giovani Bernard is an after-thought in this offense. Fournette is a top-10 running back the rest of the season.

Tua Tagovailoa leads all QBs in play-action rate at 43 percent

The Dolphins quarterback is in his own neighborhood when it comes to play-action usage. Kyler Murray is second with 37 percent and Lamar Jackson is third with 36 percent.

Sidebar: It’s wild the league leaders are even this high right now. We’ve come a long way in five years. Matt Ryan led the NFL with 27.6 percent play-action rate (per PFF) in his 2016 MVP season and was the lone starter north of 25%.

Much has been made of the RPO-heavy approach adopted by the Dolphins this year with Tua under center. Whatever you think of its future sustainability and the ceiling it may or may not bring down the line, it’s working right now.

It’s also given a tremendous boost to Jaylen Waddle. The rookie ranks fifth in the NFL with 77 catches and is pacing for a triple-digit season. He’s such a perfect fit in this RPO-heavy attack and I think he’s looking better every single week. Remember, he was still coming back from a devastating ankle injury this offseason and it makes sense he’s looking more explosive the farther he gets from that. He’s offering more juice on his layup catches than earlier in the season.

Conversely, DeVante Parker, as a big outside contested-catch specialist, isn’t the most optimal fit in this RPO-heavy offense. Parker is a fine bench hold but his return isn’t moving my projections for Waddle at all.

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