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Top 10 Fantasy Football Takeaways from Week 1 Usage

By Jared Smola | Updated on Wed, 13 Sep 2023 . 10:01 AM EDT

1. Kenneth Gainwell: Eagles feature back (at least for one week)

Kenneth gainwell d'andre swift boston scott
Snap Rate 62.1% 28.8% 12.1%
Route Rate 42.9% 35.7% 9.5%
Carries 14 1 1

It wasn't a huge surprise that Gainwell led the Eagles' Week 1 backfield. It was a huge surprise that Gainwell dominated playing time and work.

He handled 87.5% of the RB carries and drew a 12.0% target share. Gainwell also received both carries inside the Patriots' 10-yard line.

Gainwell certainly isn't guaranteed to have this role going forward. And he's already dealing with a rib injury.

But just the fact that this type of usage is in his range of outcomes makes him an exciting fantasy asset.


2. Kyren Williams leads Rams backfield

Kyren Williams Cam Akers
Snap Rate 65.4% 34.6%
Route Rate 70.7% 7.3%
Carries 15 22

Akers wound up out-carrying Williams 22 to 15. But Williams actually held a 15 to 14 lead before Akers racked up eight carries on a garbage-time final drive.

More importantly, Williams smoked Akers in passing-game usage. In fact, Williams ran the fourth most pass routes (29) of all RBs in Week 1.

It's slightly concerning that Williams only drew two targets on those routes (6.9%). But we should expect more targets going forward if he maintains a route rate anywhere close to 70.7%.

Considering Akers' history with HC Sean McVay, Williams needs to be considered the favorite to lead the Rams backfield in fantasy points the rest of the way.


3. Kenneth Walker busy in the passing game

Kenneth walker zach charbonnet Deejay dallas
Snap Rate 64.0% 22.0% 22.0%
Route Rate 54.5% 21.2% 15.2%
Carries 12 3 2

The Seahawks laid an egg in Week 1. But Walker’s usage was a bright spot.

He handled a solid 70.6% of the RB carries AND dominated passing-game work. Walker registered a strong 54.5% route rate and drew a 19.2% target share -- a mark he topped just once all last season.

Overall, Walker garnered 73.9% of Seattle's backfield opportunities (carries + targets). That was the 10th-highest mark among RBs in Week 1.


4. RB1 usage for Travis Etienne

Travis Etienne Tank Bigsby D'ERNEST JOHNSON
Snap Rate 80.0% 21.4% 1.4%
Route Rate 83.3% 11.1% 0%
Carries 18 7 1

There was no committee backfield in Jacksonville in Week 1.

Here's where Etienne ranked among RBs in key usage metrics:

  • Snap rate: 3rd
  • Route rate: 1st
  • Carries: 6th
  • Targets: 10th
  • Total opportunities: 3rd

It's worth noting that Bigsby received both of Jacksonville's carries inside the 10-yard line, converting one into a score. But the rookie lost a fumble and dropped a pass that turned into an INT, so don't expect his role to grow any time soon.


5. Joshua Kelley is a factor

Austin Ekeler Joshua Kelley Elijah Dotson
Snap Rate 51.3% 47.5% 1.3%
Route Rate 52.2% 43.5% 2.2%
Carries 16 16 0

One of the biggest surprises of Week 1 was the Chargers running on 52.6% of their snaps -- the eighth-highest run rate on the week. That led to 32 total RB carries.

We're not expecting that type of run rate -- or that number of RB carries -- going forward. And we're definitely not expecting 16 carries for Kelley every week.

But it sure looks like he's a real part of the Chargers' offense. Kelley started mixing in for Ekeler on the very first drive of Week 1 and wound up playing just three fewer snaps. He received two of Los Angeles' six carries inside the 10-yard line. And he even ran 20 pass routes -- just four fewer than Ekeler.

Kelley is the clear handcuff to Ekeler, who's already dealing with an ankle injury. And it looks like Kelley could be a RB3 or flex candidate even behind a healthy Ekeler.


6. Ravens feature Zay Flowers 

Zay Flowers odell Beckham Rashod Bateman
Route Rate 94.1% 100% 58.8%
Target Share45.5%13.6%13.6%

A 45.5% target share in your NFL debut? Not bad!

Six of Flowers' 10 targets were designed looks. It's certainly encouraging that Baltimore is looking to get the ball into his hands. But we can't expect that many designed targets going forward, especially when TE Mark Andrews is back. It's also worth noting that Flowers registered a minuscule 2.8-yard average depth of target.

We'll see how this Todd Monken offense evolves when Andrews returns (and with RB J.K. Dobbins out for the season). But Flowers at least looks like the top Ravens WR for fantasy football -- and an exciting WR3 play in Week 2.

Bateman, on the other hand, is unstartable until that route rate climbs.


7. Michael Pittman, Colts' alpha

Michael Pittman Josh Downs Alec Pierce
Route Rate 98.0% 77.6% 87.8%
Target Share28.2%17.9%7.7%

If there was any question over who would lead this Indianapolis passing game this season, Pittman's Week 1 performance answered it emphatically.

His 11 targets were four more than any other Colt and a strong 28.2% of the team total.

What makes Pittman even more exciting going forward is that this Indy offense played fast and threw the ball more than expected. The Colts ranked third in offensive pace (seconds per snap) in Week 1 and 12th in Pass Rate Over Expected.

If that continues, Pittman will crush his ADP.


8. Christian Kirk is Jacksonville’s No. 3 WR

Calvin Ridley Zay Jones christian kirk
Route Rate 97.2% 94.4% 63.9%
Target Share34.4%21.9%9.4%

Just like we saw in the preseason, Kirk finished well behind WRs Calvin Ridley and Zay Jones in pass routes. He's pretty much only playing in 3-WR sets.

And in the Week 1 win over the Colts, that led to just three targets.

Kirk will see higher route rates in games where the Jaguars are pushed to pass more and deploy more 3-WR sets. And he'll still turn in some strong fantasy outings this season.

But Kirk's weekly floor is significantly lower this year than last.

9. RB-centric offense in Atlanta

Bijan Robinson Tyler Allgeier
Snap Rate 62.7% 54.9%
Route Rate 70.8% 45.8%
Carries 10 15

The combined four targets for WR Drake London and TE Kyle Pitts was the big Week 1 story out of Atlanta.

The culprit? Falcons RBs hogging most of the work.

Robinson and Allgeier combined to account for 79% of the team's opportunities (carries + targets).

There's certainly nothing to complain about with Robinson's playing time. The 70.8% route rate is especially strong for a RB. He drew a 33.3% target share on QB Desmond Ridder's 18 passes (LOL). 

The surprise was how big a role Allgeier played. He out-carried Robinson and handled all four Falcons carries inside the 10-yard line. Allgeier even played a decent-sized role in the passing game, garnering a 16.7% target share.

Positive game script certainly helped Atlanta lean on its RBs in Week 1. Don't expect 18 opportunities for Allgeier every week. But he's looking like a potential RB3 or flex play, especially in half- and non-PPR leagues.


10. Jahmyr Gibbs needs more work

David Montgomery Jahmyr Gibbs
Snap Rate 77.5% 26.8%
Route Rate 51.4% 24.3%
Carries 21 7

Gibbs was used sparingly in the Thursday night opener vs. the Chiefs. The rookie garnered only 20.6% of Detroit's carries. And, more surprisingly, he ran only nine routes and registered a 5.7% target share.

The good news: Gibbs looked electric every time he touched the ball. HC Dan Campbell said afterward that his role will grow going forward.

Gibbs still has a chance to pay off that third-round ADP over the course of the season. But, until his usage improves, consider him a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3.


Jared Smola Author Image
Jared Smola, Lead Analyst
Jared has been with Draft Sharks since 2007. He’s now Lead Analyst, heading up the preseason and weekly projections that fuel your Draft War Room and My Team tools. He currently ranks 1st among 133 analysts in draft rankings accuracy.
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