Fantasy Football: Five teams with projected volume changes
Ben Gretch looks at five offenses that could be in for major 2019 volume changes compared to their 2018 results, and reviews the Fantasy implications.
In a couple weeks we'll be unveiling team outlook pages with a ton of useful information that will provide a snapshot of what to expect from each franchise in the 2019 season.
One of the big pieces of data those will include is vacated opportunity, something. Viewing available opportunity in this way is an important part of the puzzle as we prepare for the 2019 season, but as Heath alluded to with a few teams he discussed, context is important. For certain teams, overall volume changes can skew the data and have a significant impact on the upside or downside of the roster as a whole.
Here are five teams I'm projecting for significant volume changes in 2019:
Difference between 2018 totals and 2019 projection: +132 plays, +90 pass attempts
In 2018, two teams ran fewer plays than any other team in the past 12 seasons. The Dolphins were the first team to finish with fewer than 900 plays since 2006, while the Cardinals barely cleared that mark, finishing at 902.
Enter Kliff Kingsbury.
Kingsbury's Air Raid offense may not be a well-oiled machine right from the jump, but it will be fast, meaning a significant volume boost is in store over last year's snail pace. I'm projecting them for a nearly 15% increase in total plays and an 18% increase is pass attempts. That type of increase would mean far more targets and potential to accumulate fantasy stats up and down the roster.
Because the Cardinals also finished dead last in yards per play in 2018, they totaled fewer yards of offense than any team since the 2007 San Francisco 49ers. If Kingsbury can get the offense even close to league average efficiency with Kyler Murray at the helm, there's even more potential for 2018's worst Fantasy offense to be one of 2019's biggest surprises.
-109 plays, -100 pass attempts
No team ran more plays in 2018 than the Ravens, and it wasn't close. Their 1,135 offensive snaps were 62 plays clear of the Patriots, who finished with the second most.
It's no secret Baltimore went extremely run-heavy after Lamar Jackson took over the reins, but they maintained their up-tempo pace even despite the shift. A big reason for that was simple -- they won six of those seven games, and winning teams run more plays.
With Jackson under center full time in 2019, and the notoriously slow-paced and run-heavy Greg Roman taking over as the offensive coordinator and play-caller, the Ravens look poised to lead the league in rush percentage and keep the clock churning. I still have the Ravens projected for a slightly above average play total, but it's hard to envision much relevance from their pass-catching group if Jackson plays all 16 games.
+39 plays, +55 pass attempts
It's hard to read too much into the Titans' 2018 season totals given that things went haywire from the jump, with Marcus Mariota leaving Week 1 with an elbow injury. In Week 2, with Blaine Gabbert under center, the Titans scored on a fake punt early in the first quarter and quickly turned to the run, throwing just 22 passes all game. They got out to another lead in Week 3 and threw just 21 times. Mariota returned for what became a thrilling overtime win in Week 4, but Week 5 brought just 26 pass attempts and in Week 6 just 15, the fewest of any team in any game last season.
All told, the Titans threw 25 or fewer passes in eight of their 16 games last season. The other 31 teams combined to do that just 74 times. There's no doubting Tennessee wants to run the ball, but it's important to recognize how a Week 1 throwing arm injury to a team's starting quarterback can impact game planning all season.
Prior to 2018, the Titans leaned run-heavy, but the 500 pass attempts they averaged in 2016 and 2017 are a far cry from their 437 in 2018. With investments in Adam Humphries in free agency and A.J. Brown in the draft, plus a fully healthy Mariota and Delanie Walker, Tennessee is a solid bet to gain a few and possibly a lot of pass attempts. The Titans may not be a high-volume or even league-average team in that regard, but early drafters are completely ignoring their passing game weapons, creating a value proposition if their run/pass ratio returns to respectability.
+57 plays. +36 pass attempts
Despite a 12-win season, a string of quirky game flows and their own offensive efficiency limited the Chargers to 945 plays, well below the 1,007-play league average. The last time the Chargers finished below 1,000 plays was 2012, a down season for Philip Rivers during which he took a career-high 49 sacks.
The Philip Rivers we saw last year posted five-year bests in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and touchdown rate. Hunter Henry should be a full go for 2019 -- he made it back from his offseason ACL injury to log postseason snaps last year -- while Mike Williams will look to take another step after a breakout 2018.
The Chargers also continued to add pieces to an already strong defensive unit, bringing in veteran linebacker Thomas Davis and drafting former Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery in the first round, which should help keep the ball in Rivers' hands.
That might mean more of a run lean than the 2016 and 2017 versions of the Chargers that each threw more than 580 times, but it's unlikely we'll see a repeat of last year's 512 pass attempts. The only thing that would prevent a substantial rebound in play volume is a repeat of their impressive efficiency -- they finished tied for third in yards per play -- but either way the offensive production should be there.
+89 plays. +85 pass attempts
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Miami, if only because of the aforementioned note that their 878 plays represented the first time a team finished with fewer than 900 in an NFL season since the George W. Bush administration.
I have the Dolphins projected for the fewest plays again in 2019, but at a number that still represents more than a 10% increase over 2018's volume. They probably won't be good, but there's something to be said about situations where the only way to go is up. If Josh Rosen takes a step forward or Ryan Fitzpatrick recaptures some FitzMagic, guys like Kenny Stills or DeVante Parker could prove to be Draft Day bargains.
Still, even with this volume increase, neither Dolphin came out with a projection that cracked my top 40 wide receivers for PPR Fantasy points.
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