102 Things I Learned Doing 2022 Projections
At risk of sounding like a total nerd … I love doing player projections.
It requires a deep dive into every team – play volume, run/pass splits, target shares, efficiency metrics, etc., etc. – that really lays the groundwork for draft season.
I just wrapped up our initial 2022 projections (which, of course, will be constantly tweaked and updated from now until the season opener) and jotted down interesting, noteworthy or surprising tidbits I dug up throughout the process. Enjoy!
The Cardinals finished just 23rd in pass rate last season but ranked 4th in situation-neutral pass rate. (Expect more passing in 2022 if Arizona finds itself in more neutral game scripts.)
Kyler Murray posted a career-high 69.2% completion rate in 2021. He benefitted from a 3.5% drop rate – lowest among 31 qualifying QBs.
Zach Ertz saw 19.8% of Cardinals targets in his 12 games with the team last season. In HC Kliff Kingsbury’s first 2 years, Arizona TEs combined for 11.5% and 10.1% target shares.
Calvin Ridley averaged 10.4 targets across his 5 games last year. That’s a full-season pace of 177 targets that would have ranked 2nd among WRs.
Ridley’s 5.4 yards per target last season ranked 88th among 91 qualifying WRs. He ranked 14th among 72 qualifiers with 9.3 yards per target from 2018 to 2020.
Kyle Pitts’ 60.4 receiving yards per game last year were the 3rd most in NFL history by a rookie TE.
After passing on just 44.0% and 44.1% of their snaps in OC Greg Roman’s first 2 seasons, the Ravens’ pass rate spiked to 56.4% in 2021. Their 53.8% situation-neutral pass rate this past year was up from 42.6% and 43.9% the previous 2 years.
Marquise Brown has posted strong 24.6% and 25.9% target shares the past 2 seasons.
Mark Andrews ranked 3rd in yards per route run among 35 TEs with 40+ targets last season – his 4th straight top 4 finish.
The Bills easily led the league with a 68.3% situation-neutral pass rate over the first 11 weeks of the season. That dropped to 60.1% from Week 12 on. (That still ranked 2nd league-wide.)
In 14 career games with a 70+% snap rate, Gabriel Davis has averaged 6.2 targets, 3.6 catches, 53.8 yards and .8 TDs. Even if we remove last year’s massive playoff outing vs. the Chiefs, Davis has averaged 5.9 targets, 3.2 catches, 47.3 yards and .5 TDs.
Dawson Knox averaged 4.5 targets on an 11.7% target share over his first 6 games last year. That jumped to 4.8 targets on a 13.6% share over his final 11.
Isaiah McKenzie’s nickname, according to Pro Football Reference, is Lil’ Dirty.
New Panthers OC Ben McAdoo ran fast-paced offenses with the Giants. All 4 of his teams ranked top 7 in pace; 3 of the 4 ranked top 4 in situation-neutral pace.
D.J. Moore has scored on just 4.9% of his catches over the past 3 seasons. League-wide TD rate for WRs during that span: 7.8%.
Among 35 TEs who saw 40+ targets in 2021, Cole Kmet ranked 22nd in yards per route run and 25th in Pro Football Focus’ receiving grades.
David Montgomery’s carries per game through 3 NFL seasons: 15.1, 16.5 and 17.3
Khalil Herbert beat David Montgomery in yards per carry, yards after contact per carry, missed tackles forced per carry and Pro Football Focus rushing grade last season.
The Bengals ranked 25th with 61.5 offensive snaps per game last year. That was down significantly from their 65.6 and 65.0 plays per game in HC Zac Taylor’s first 2 seasons.
The Bengals ranked 15th with a 51.5% situation-neutral pass rate through Week 15. From Week 16 through the Super Bowl, that spiked to 59.0%.
Ja’Marr Chase’s 2.51 yards per route run last year was the 5th best mark by a rookie WR over the past 10 seasons.
Joe Mixon scored a career-high 13 rushing TDs on a career-high 4.5% TD rate last year. His rushing TD rate over his first 4 NFL seasons: 2.5%. (NFL average rushing TD rate over the last 3 seasons is 3.3%.)
Nick Chubb is the only player in NFL history with 4 consecutive seasons of 5.0+ yards per carry on 150+ rush attempts.
In their 7 games together last year, Nick Chubb out-carried Kareem Hunt 115 to 64. Hunt tallied 24 targets to Chubb’s 13.
Donovan Peoples-Jones’ 11.55 yards per target over the last 2 seasons ranks 2nd among 136 WRs with 50+ targets.
Browns TEs have combined for 27.8% and 27.3% of the team’s targets in HC Kevin Stefanski’s 2 seasons. (NFL average target share over the last 3 seasons is 20.1%.)
The Cowboys have ranked top 2 in pace and situation-neutral pace in all 3 seasons under OC Kellen Moore. They’ve finished 6th, 2nd and 2nd in offensive plays.
Dak Prescott posted a career-high 6.2% passing TD rate in 2021. He didn’t top 5% in any of his first 5 seasons. His average over those first 5 years: 4.6%.
CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper both registered 20% target shares in their healthy games last season.
Tony Pollard beat Ezekiel Elliott in yards per carry, Pro Football Focus rushing grade, Elusive Rating, PFF receiving grade and yards per route run last year.
Jerry Jeudy easily led Broncos WRs with 1.85 yards per route run last year. Tim Patrick ranked 2nd at 1.48; Courtland Sutton 3rd at 1.43.
Over his final 9 games alongside Jerry Jeudy last season, Courtland Sutton averaged just 3.9 targets on a 13.4% target share. Jeudy garnered 18.8% of targets in those games; Tim Patrick 17.6%.
Javonte Williams ranked 5th among 50 qualifying RBs in Pro Football Focus’ 2021 Elusive Rating, which measures what a RB does beyond the blocking he receives.
Amon-Ra St. Brown averaged 4.7 targets on a 13.6% target share over the first 11 games of the season alongside T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift. Those marks spiked to 11.2 targets and a 31.9% share over the final 6, with Hockenson and/or Swift sidelined.
Before his injury on Thanksgiving, D’Andre Swift led all RBs with 67 targets and 53 catches. He garnered 18.7% of Detroit’s targets over that 10-game stretch.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers have ranked bottom 2 in pace and situation-neutral pace in each of the last 2 seasons.
In their 14 healthy games together in 2021, Aaron Jones averaged 11.7 carries to A.J. Dillon’s 10.1. Targets were 4.2 to 2.0 in Jones’ favor. Jones edged Dillon 8 to 7 in carries inside the opponent’s 5-yard line.
Brandin Cooks has registered 23.1% and 25.8% target shares in his first 2 seasons with the Texans.
After a slow start to his rookie season, Jonathan Taylor has averaged 19.7 carries for 109.6 yards (5.6 YPC) and 1.1 TDs over his last 24 games.
Taylor easily led the league last year with 41 carries inside the opponent’s 10-yard line and 26 inside the 5. No other player had more than 30 carries inside the 10 or 16 inside the 5.
Nyheim Hines registered a career-low 10.9% target share in 2021. (12.6%, 11.3% and 13.8% in his first 3 seasons.)
Carson Wentz ranked 28th among 31 qualifying QBs in Pro Football Focus’ 2021 adjusted completion rate, which accounts for drops, throwaways, batted passes and passes when the QB was hit while throwing.
Michael Pittman ranked 19th among 90 WRs with 50+ targets in both yards per route run and Pro Football Focus’ receiving grade last year.
The 2021 Jaguars ranked 29th with 60.5 offensive plays per game. All 5 of new HC Doug Pederson’s Eagles teams finished top 8 in plays, averaging 67.0 per game.
Laviska Shenault’s 5.75-yard average depth of target in 2021 was 2nd shortest among 84 qualifying WRs (ahead of only Cole Beasley).
Dan Arnold registered a 17.6% target share in 6 games with a 50+% snap rate with the Jaguars last year.
Eagles TEs averaged a 32.3% target share in Doug Pederson’s 5 seasons at HC. NFL average is around 20%.
Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs pass rates over the last 4 seasons: 61.1%, 61.6%, 61.9%, 62.0%.
Tyreek Hill averaged just 11.2 yards per catch in 2021 after going for 14.7+ in each of the previous 4 seasons. His 10.97-yard average depth of target was nearly 2.5 yards shorter than his average over those previous 4 years.
Travis Kelce’s target share sunk to 20.8% in 2021 after checking in at 25.7%, 23.6% and 24.7% the previous 3 seasons.
After averaging 13.9 carries and 4.3 targets in healthy games as a rookie, Clyde Edwards-Helaire sunk to 12.9 carries and 2.5 targets per game last year.
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr averaged 8.5 yards per pass attempt with WR Henry Ruggs over the first 7 games of last season but just 6.9 over his final 11 games without Ruggs.
Hunter Renfrow averaged 8.3 targets on a 23.1% target share in the 7 games Darren Waller missed or left early last season. Renfrow averaged 7.4 targets on an 18.8% share in 11 games alongside a healthy Waller.
Renfrow ranked 4th league-wide with 13 targets inside the 10-yard line last year.
Among 90 WRs with 50+ targets last season, Bryan Edwards ranked 81st in yards per route run and 78th in Pro Football Focus’ receiving grades.
Darren Waller saw 23.2% of Raiders targets in his 11 healthy games last season. That was down from 26.3% in 2020 but up a tad from his 22.4% share in 2019.
Los Angeles Chargers
Keenan Allen’s yards per route run has declined in every season since 2017, from 2.55 to 2.32 to 2.01 to 1.91 to 1.78. Last year’s mark ranked 30th among 90 WRs with 50+ targets.
Mike Williams beat Keenan Allen in both yards per route run and Pro Football Focus’ receiving grade last year. Williams’ 1.97 yards per route run ranked 15th among 90 qualifiers.
Austin Ekeler scored on 7.2% of his touches in 2021. He scored on just 3.7% of his touches over the previous 3 seasons.
Ekeler ranked 6th league-wide in carries inside the 10-yard line and 4th in carries inside the 5 last year.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams averaged 62.2 offensive plays per game in 2021 – their fewest in 5 years under HC Sean McVay.
80.4% of the Rams’ offensive TDs came through the air last season. That number didn’t exceed 62.2% in any of HC Sean McVay’s first 4 seasons.
Cooper Kupp’s 10.2 yards per target last season was not a career high. He averaged 10.3 yards per target back in 2018 (albeit in 8 games).
Rams RBs have not combined for greater than a 12.5% target share in any of the past 3 seasons. (NFL average RB targets share over that span is 19.0%.)
Jaylen Waddle set an NFL rookie record with 104 catches. His 140 targets were the 4th most by a rookie since targets started getting tracked in 1992.
Among 50 RBs with 100+ carries last season, Myles Gaskin ranked 45th in Pro Football Focus’ rushing grades and 47th in Elusive Rating.
Kirk Cousins is 1 of 4 QBs – along with Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen – to rank top 12 in fantasy points and Pro Football Focus passing grade in both of the last 2 seasons.
Justin Jefferson’s 3,016 receiving yards are the most in NFL history through a player’s first 2 seasons – 261 more than anyone else.
Adam Thielen maintained a 22.0% target share in his 11 healthy games last season – down just a tad from his 22.9% share in 15 games in 2020.
New England Patriots
Jakobi Meyers’ 21 red-zone targets last season were just 1 fewer than CeeDee Lamb and more than guys like Jaylen Waddle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
Hunter Henry averaged 4.1 targets on a 12.5% share over New England’s first 11 games last year. That climbed to 4.9 targets on a 15.9% share over the final 7 (including playoffs).
Henry posted a huge 18% TD rate last season (NFL average for TEs is around 8.5%). But Henry did rank 3rd among TEs in red-zone targets and 2nd in end-zone targets.
The Patriots have finished top 12 in rushing TDs in 18 straight seasons. They’ve ranked top 6 in 13 of those 18.
New Orleans Saints
Alvin Kamara posted career lows in yards per carry (3.7), catches per game (3.6) and receiving yards per game 3.6 (33.8) last year. He also received his lowest career Pro Football Focus rushing and receiving grades.
New York Giants
Saquon Barkley averaged 13.5 carries and 5.2 targets in 10 games with a 50+% snap rate last season. By comparison, he averaged 16.7 carries and 6.8 targets in 29 healthy games prior to his 2020 ACL tear.
Daniel Jones’ 2.6% passing TD rate is the 5th lowest mark among 41 QBs with 300+ attempts over the past 2 seasons. (Jones posted a 5.2% TD rate as a rookie in 2019.)
Kadarius Toney played 50+% of the Giants’ offensive snaps in only 7 games last season. But he averaged 7.4 targets on a 20.8% target share in those outings.
Toney is 1 of 8 rookie WRs to average 2+ yards per route run over the past 5 seasons. (The other 7: Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, A.J. Brown, Hunter Renfrow, Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin and Chris Godwin.)
New York Jets
17 rookie QBs have recorded 300+ dropbacks over the past 5 seasons. Zach Wilson ranks bottom 4 among those 17 in completion rate, yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt, passer rating and Pro Football Focus passing grade.
Elijah Moore averaged 8.1 targets on a 19.6% target share over the final 7 games of his rookie season. He ranked 6th among WRs in PPR points over that stretch.
The Eagles ranked 10th in pass rate (63%) and 5th in situation-neutral pass rate (61%) through the first 6 weeks of last season. From Week 7 on, Philly ranked 32nd in pass rate (42%) and 29th in neutral pass rate (43%).
Jalen Hurts led all QBs with 140 carries, 782 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs last year, despite missing 2 games. He also led the position with 34 red-zone carries and 13 carries inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.
Hurts averaged 8.8 carries for 50 yards when the Eagles were pass-heavy over those first 6 games. He averaged 9.6 carries for 53.8 yards over his final 9 games.
Dallas Goedert averaged 6.1 targets on a 24.1% target share in 9 healthy games without Zach Ertz last season. His PPR scoring average in those games would have ranked 5th among TEs.
Najee Harris handled 85.8% of Pittsburgh’s RB carries and 88.7% of the RB targets as a rookie last year.
Pat Freiermuth’s 9.5 PPR points per game last year were the 4th most by a rookie TE over the past 10 seasons, behind only Jordan Reed, Evan Engram and Kyle Pitts.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have ranked top 14 in yards per pass attempt in all 5 seasons under HC Kyle Shanahan. That includes 3 top-9 finishes and a pair of 2nd-place finishes.
Trey Lance carried 16 and then 8 times in his 2 starts last season. In 2 seasons under Kyle Shanahan in Washington, QB Robert Griffin averaged 7.4 carries per game.
Deebo Samuel averaged 10.1 targets (31.0% share) and .8 carries over his first 8 games of last season. Over his final 11 games (including playoffs), Samuel averaged just 4.9 targets (18.2% share) but 7.3 carries.
After escaping the doghouse, Brandon Aiyuk averaged 5.9 targets on a 21.0% target share over San Francisco’s final 14 games (including playoffs).
George Kittle’s target share in healthy games has shrunk the past 3 seasons from 27.0% to 23.2% to 21.4%.
Elijah Mitchell tallied 17+ carries in 9 of his 11 regular-season games last year. Only Joe Mixon had more games of 17+ carries.
The Seahawks’ 56.1 plays per game last year were the 3rd fewest by any team over the past 10 seasons.
Russell Wilson posted a 72.0% completion rate, 9.6 yards per attempt and an 8.0% TD rate prior to his Week 6 finger injury last year. In 9 games after returning from that injury: a 61.5% completion rate, 7.0 yards per attempt and a 5.5% TD rate.
D.K. Metcalf’s target share has grown from 19.3% as a rookie to 22.9% in 2020 to 26.1% last year.
Tyler Lockett’s 2.35 yards per route run last season was a career high and ranked 9th among 89 WRs with 50+ targets.
Rashaad Penny led all 50 RBs who carried 100+ times last season in Pro Football Focus’ Elusive Rating, which factors in missed tackles forced and yards after contact.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs HC Bruce Arians’ offenses have finished top 6 in pass attempts in 5 straight seasons (3 with Tampa, 2 with Arizona).
Ryan Tannehill’s 4.0% passing TD rate last year was his lowest mark since his 2012 rookie campaign. He threw a score on 7.2% of his passes over his first 2 seasons with the Titans. (NFL average passing TD rate over the last 3 years is 4.6%.)
A.J. Brown has posted 25.0% and 27.5% target shares in his healthy games over the past 2 seasons.
Derrick Henry set career highs last year with 2.5 targets per game and a 7.5% target share.
Antonio Gibson averaged 4.4 targets on a 15.2% share in 5 games without J.D. McKissic last season. He averaged 2.7 targets on an 8.1% share in 11 games with McKissic.