The Mundies: Happy New Year
“The Mundies” is a bi-weekly column by Scott Rinear, awarding life and the fantasy football winners, losers and mirages, starting here, at the conclusion of NFL Week 1. Now in its second year of publishing, this column presents an optimistic outlook on life and an analytical approach to the game.
No, I didn’t have a stroke and forget what month it is.
For me, there are two different New Year’s. The one is when the year changes based on a calendar I don’t remember voting on. The same one where, during my earlier drinking days, we would force ourselves to go out, always forgetting the previous year’s bust of a night. We assumed we were embarking on the greatest night ever, only to spend most of the night waiting in line for both drinks and cabs.
“But it might work for us.”
And then there’s the other new year, the topic of this column, the much better one. The proof that I do actually know what month it is. I love this exact time of year. It started in my childhood with the start of the new school year (I did not love it as much back then). Now, a few other things have joined the “new year” of school – changing the season from summer to autumn and, you guessed it, a brand-new NFL season.
So, now that I’ve explained myself and apparently satisfied a subconscious need to vent about my New Year’s Eve adventures, I say it again; Happy New Year!
Here in Seattle, we are far enough north to have somewhat noticeable changes in season. At least more so than Southern California or Florida, where it’s basically the same temperature year-round. But we lack extremes. It gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Yet, we typically don’t see the extremes of those spectrums (it barely snows in Seattle).
There is some blending. Fall blends into winter without a discernible change other than the official first day of winter on the calendar (again, I didn’t get to vote on that) and the whole Christmas thing. The change from winter to spring is gradual. But there is one transition that is always obvious: summer-to-fall. The leaves changing colors before falling to the ground is our visual queue (and I love it). And the new school year and new NFL season are engrained in my brain as symbolizing that change too.
Similar to the resolutions so many make during the lame new year, this time of year, when the calendar turns from August to September, has always signaled new opportunities for me. And it’s much less arbitrary than the “New Year’s resolutions,” where I guess it just seems like a good time to make a change. The new school year embodied this opportunity – a teacher, new classroom and challenges. This version of a new year was always exciting.
Currently, I’m experiencing the scholarly excitement vicariously through my daughters as they enter second and fourth grades (holy crap!), doing everything I can to ensure they have every opportunity possible.
The Student Becomes the Teacher
And there’s the last detail I described; the new NFL season. There’s nothing vicarious about my relationship with football. I’ve been a fan since 1987, when I was about eight years old, and I became aware of professional sports. I’ve played fantasy football since 2006, adding a different level to my passion for the sport. I will always be a student of the game, both fantasy football, and real-life NFL football. But back in 2020, I decided to try my hand at also being a teacher.
My passion for this is genuine. I know this because I’m approaching two years in this industry, and I continue to love it more every day. No fizzle. No “honeymoon period” crashing back to reality. I spend a lot of my free time pouring myself into this thing because I want to. I really want to! I’ve found I care more about helping someone else win their fantasy matchup than my own fantasy teams. After some bumpiness in the beginning (I’m an addict, so obsession is a part of me), I’ve established, maintained and improved a balance to where my family is now on board. My wife sees how happy this makes me.
So not only is this a wonderful time of year because I love playing fantasy football, but I now have this relatively new aspect – analysis. I’m helping others with their decisions and teams, swimming around in data and loving every second of it. I’m learning that it’s OK to be wrong, and it’s come with A whole new world of friends and inspirations. This new chapter allows me to simply chase a dream.
Third time’s a charm: Happy New Year, indeed.
And now, The Mundie Awards.
In the spirit of the “new year,” I’ve decided to pivot slightly with the awards format of this bi-weekly column series. Rather than coming up with new and somewhat random award names for each edition, I’ll be doing a regular awards series similar to a “winners and losers” format. I will also use this as an opportunity to eat some crow on preseason or weekly takes I missed on.
Also, keep in mind that NFL Week 1 is notoriously chaotic and unpredictable. This is not an excuse. Rather it’s a reminder not to make rash or bold decisions based on Week 1 results. I stand by the analysis you are about to read, but just because I list someone as a “loser” in this column does not mean you need to drop them immediately, especially after only one week. I’ll tell you what. If I think someone is immediately droppable, I will clarify that in their write-up.
So, without further ado, here are the new awards and their recipients after NFL Week 1 of the 2022 season:
THE NFL WEEK 1 MUNDIE AWARDS
The Mundie will be awarded to a player or players who were winners during the previous week(s), whether directly by scoring a lot of fantasy points or from a volume/opportunity standpoint that puts them in a position to score a lot of fantasy points moving forward.
Cordarrelle Patterson (RB, Atlanta Falcons)
Ah yes, my first opportunity to eat some crow. Cordarrelle Patterson is a player I faded all offseason and have zero shares of across my 12 fantasy teams. In my preseason redraft rankings, Patterson sits at Points Per Reception (PPR) RB29, sandwiched between Miles Sanders and Rashaad Penny. My reasoning for the fade was I didn’t see the Falcons utilizing him consistently or reliablely this season. Maybe it’s also his age and me irrationally not being able to get past him wearing number 84 as an RB.
Usage-wise, 2021 was a tale of two seasons for Patterson (three, really). Patterson missed Week 11. Prior to that, Patterson averaged 8.6 rush attempts and 5.4 targets per game. The four games after Week 11 switched to 14.0 rush attempts and only 3.8 targets per game. Then he fell off a cliff during the final three games of the season. I did not think Patterson would see the same kind of opportunity share this year. I thought the Falcons would revert to the lower rush attempts, higher targets and that a combination of Damien Williams and Tyler Allgeier would take on more of the early down rush attempts.
If NFL Week 1 is any indication, I was dead wrong on this. First, Allgeier was a healthy scratch and Williams saw only two carries. The Falcons handed Patterson the ball a career-high 22 times, which he turned into 120 rushing yards at 5.5 Yards Per Carry (YPC) and a TD against a Saints team I have as a top-10 bad matchup for fantasy RBs. Add to that his three catches on five targets, and you get a 91.7 percent RB rush share and a 93.1 percent opportunity share. The Falcons are telling us that Patterson is their bell-cow RB, at least for now. I still worry about Patterson’s durability, especially if he sees 25 touches regularly (exactly 25 in NFL Week 1), but he should be an excellent RB2 fantasy asset moving forward.
Antonio Gibson (RB, Washington Commanders)
Antonio Gibson is a player I held strong on during the offseason when most people were ready to banish him from the Earth. Now, I obviously moved him down my rankings with his horrible preseason combined with a good preseason by Brian Robinson. Robinson was then named the starter before his tragic injury. Don’t confuse this with some sort of victory lap. I don’t consider myself a Gibson “truther” (whatever that means) and was not irrationally high on him. The aspect I held strong to is his talent and explosiveness with the ball in his hands. Yes, Robinson’s unfortunate injury thrust Gibson back to the top of the depth chart, and we have no way of knowing how this backfield would have looked with a healthy Robinson.
Regardless, Gibson gets this award, not for a huge, league-winning week. He gets this Mundie for his usage. One thing Gibson fans have been asking since his rookie season is, “why he’s not more involved in the passing game, being that he’s a converted college WR?”
Gibson averaged 3.3 targets per game in his first two NFL seasons. Veteran J.D. McKissic has been the pass-catching back during Gibson’s short time in the league. In 2020, McKissic exploded for 110 targets with an average of 6.9 targets per game. Last year that dropped to 4.8 targets per game (in 11 games). In McKissic’s only two other full seasons, he averaged 3.0 targets per game. I don’t think the 29-year-old McKissic is a lock to maintain the pass-catching role.
Against the Jaguars in NFL Week 1, Gibson saw 21 touches. Not an insane number, but the telling part is that included seven receptions on eight targets for 72 receiving yards and a 19.5 percent target share (which is a very good mark for RBs). McKissic caught three passes on three targets. This is a promising result in a game that followed a mostly neutral game script until the fourth quarter.
Will this change and sway back to McKissic in a negative game script? Maybe. I just don’t see why Ron Rivera wouldn’t keep Gibson heavily involved after what he showed in a solid NFL Week 1 victory for the Commanders.
THE NFL WEEK 1 MIRAGE AWARDS
The Mirage will be awarded to a player or players whose fantasy result I believe to be a mirage. This will be given out from both a positive and negative angle. Is it fool’s gold, or are better fantasy outputs ahead? Another way to look at this is helping you look past the box scores.
Devin Duvernay (WR, Baltimore Ravens)
This award will also serve the purpose of potentially warning you away from spending Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) or waiver priority on players who likely are not worth the investment. Case in point begins with Devin Duvernay of the Baltimore Ravens. A casual look at the box score and fantasy points leader board paints Duvernay as a player who will likely be a hot waiver pickup in Week 2.
Duvernay caught four passes on four targets for 54 yards and two TDs. That’s 21.4 PPR points and a top-10 WR finish (before “Monday Night Football”). It’s the type of surface-level, TD-based stat line that will look mighty appealing. “Don’t chase points” or “don’t chase TDs” are common pieces of advice in fantasy football, and they apply here. It was an insanely efficient day for Duvernay. The odds of reaching 21.4 PPR points on only four targets and a 13.7 percent target share are low. If Duvernay’s volume and opportunity improve following this performance, then I may change my tune, but until then, “don’t chase points.”
Diontae Johnson (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers)
On the flip side of Duvernay, we have Diontae Johnson. The now fourth-year man who caught seven passes for 55 yards and zero TDs (12.5 PPR points). This one will look like a dud on the surface and, strictly from a fantasy-points-scored angle. Sure, it’s not what we are expecting from Johnson. But one of the main concerns with Johnson coming into this season is the transition from Ben Roethlisberger to a new QB, who for now is Mitchell Trubisky.
Roethlisberger, especially in 2021, liked getting the ball out quickly, which benefitted a player like Johnson. “Will Johnson still be a target monster without Roethlisberger?” has been a common question. Johnson earned 12 targets against the Bengals, good for a 32 percent target share and 50 percent WR target share. A 30-plus percent target share is an elite number. No, that level is likely not sustainable over the course of the season outside of your Davante Adams-level target hogs. Yet, it showed Johnson can still rake in the targets as the focal point of this newly led Steelers’ passing attack. Don’t let Johnson’s relatively low fantasy result in NFL Week 1 scare you from starting him every week, which is what you should be doing.
Honorable mention (Every skill position player from the Bears-49ers game): Please don’t base any short-term decisions on any Bears or 49ers fantasy players based on the results of this game. If you did not actually watch any of this game with your eyes, it is difficult to describe how bad the weather conditions were. Go check out some footage. I’m holding off on short-term speculations until these teams play a game that’s not in a monsoon.
THE NFL WEEK 1 BUFFALO BRANCH AWARD
No relation to the Bills. The Buffalo Branch Award will be handed out to a player or players who were “not great Bob” during the previous week(s) and is representative of the trend rather than the exception for that player.
Cam Akers (RB, Los Angeles Rams)
“Thursday Night Football” seems so long ago now. But the goose egg from Cam Akers stands out. Akers is a player I have faded all offseason. I originally had Akers at PPR RB30 in my preseason redraft rankings. Still, even I talked myself into raising him a bit to RB25. I did not think he looked any better than average when he came back from injury at the end of the 2021 season, and Sean McVay likes Darrell Henderson.
I am not saying I called Henderson getting the majority of carries in NFL Week 1 over Akers. I did think Akers would be more involved. Rather, I saw Akers as a huge risk at his draft price as an RB2 based on that if he did not come out of the gates hot and Henderson did, it would spell disaster for Akers. The reason is that McVay simply does not use a committee backfield.
In 2021, the Rams’ lead back was Sony Michel or Henderson, depending on the week. Not including the fantasy-irrelevant Week 18, Henderson was the Rams’ lead back in 10 games, and Michel was the lead back in six. The point here is it was always one or the other. Whoever the Rams’ lead back was in any given game, that role averaged a 79.9 percent RB rush share and 80.8 percent opportunity share for the season. The reason those are so close is the Rams barely threw to the RB.
Against the Bills, Akers had only three carries for zero yards and zero targets. He also very visibly bailed on a block when Bills’ defensive tackle Jordan Phillips broke through for a direct hit on Matthew Stafford. Meanwhile, Henderson saw 81.3 percent of the RB rushes and 85.7 percent of the RB opportunities (rush attempts plus targets). Now, Henderson didn’t light up the fantasy scoreboard either. No one on the Rams did outside of Cooper Kupp. It’s Henderson’s usage as the lead back that spells at least short-term trouble for Akers, as Henderson’s market share numbers align with the numbers from 2021. Do not drop Akers. Do not trade Akers yet, as following a goose egg is not an ideal time to move a player. Unfortunately, it’s a situation where he’ll need to be a bench clogger until we see more action.
Thank you so much for reading! As I have moved toward more analytics-based fantasy football content, my goal is to provide that content in a manner that is as easy to digest as possible. Advanced analytics are very useful, and I think can be explained simply and logically. Please feel free to reach out to me to explain more about the analytical concepts I present in these columns. My Direct Messages (DMs) are always open.
And as always, find me on Twitter, talking fantasy football, joking around, posting GIFs and lending my support where it’s needed @MunderDifflinFF.