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Two weeks are in the books. Puka Nacua and Kyren Williams both went undrafted in most leagues, but they rank WR2 and RB2, respectively, in PPR fantasy leagues right now. We’re going to get a lot of stuff wrong, but sifting through usage metrics can help us work through what matters and what doesn’t. That’s the goal of this article: to break down the most actionable takeaways from each week in a concise, numbers-filled format and work through what’s important. Let’s get right to it.


Christian McCaffrey plays every offensive snap in Week 2 victory

Christian McCaffrey played 100% of offensive snaps on Sunday, something he hadn’t done since his historic 2019 season with the Panthers. McCaffrey notched at least 20 carries for the second consecutive game, a feat he accomplished just once with San Francisco last year.

CMC has only eight targets through two games — and his 14.8% target share is still elite for an RB, just not what we’re used to from McCaffrey — but he’s run 55 routes on 64 Brock Purdy dropbacks. That 85.9% route rate is exactly what we want to see, and McCaffrey’s 20.2% target share in five Purdy regular-season starts in 2022 indicates that’s likely variance as opposed to a reason to worry.

McCaffrey had a 50.6% designed rush share with the 49ers last year. Whenever a game would get out of hand, they’d take him out of the game and mix in the backups. This year, his designed rush share is 73.7%. In Week 1, we saw Kyle Shanahan give McCaffrey 22 carries in a game in which they went up multiple scores immediately. In a closer game on Sunday, Shanahan literally didn’t take CMC off the field. This is the type of workload McCaffrey was getting in Carolina half a decade ago, but now he’s getting that role on one of the best offenses in football. Assuming McCaffrey’s target share rebounds slightly in the coming weeks — which seems reasonable based on his route rate and target share both in his career and with Purdy — he legitimately could have one of the greatest fantasy seasons of all time if this usage continues. Workhorse usage from the most talented dual-threat RB of this generation on a fantastic offense is basically the ideal archetype. He does have a lengthy injury history, so we’ll see whether the 49ers ever decide to monitor his touches, but his short-term role is truly ridiculous fantasy-wise.


Puka Nacua in historic company to begin career

Puka Nacua leads the NFL in target share. His 25 receptions easily lead the league. In fact, he has the most receptions of any player through their first two career games in NFL history. He’s the WR2 in fantasy and he hasn’t scored a touchdown yet. Simply put, the ascension of Nacua is unlike anything I have seen in the past decade of fantasy football. It’s unheard of for a Day 3 rookie WR to be this dominant immediately.

Cooper Kupp is on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and could return as soon as Week 5. With that being said, the Kupp hamstring saga has been a weird one, with the star wideout visiting a specialist in Minnesota to figure out what’s wrong. This injury could linger throughout the season or get reaggravated at any time, plus Kupp is on the wrong side of 30 and has had multiple seasons cut short by injury. Nacua could easily be a high-end fantasy WR1 for the entire season, and he’s likely an easy starter even once Kupp is back.

The discovery of Nacua — and Tutu Atwell, who has posted WR2 numbers in his own right over the past two games — has been devastating for Tyler Higbee, who relied on volume to post low-end TE1 numbers after Kupp got hurt in 2022. Higbee had a 7.9% target share in Week 1 and followed it up with a 12.7% mark against the 49ers. Considering he’s averaged 6.9 yards per target for his career and primarily operates underneath, he’s simply not getting the volume necessary to warrant a roster spot right now. Van Jefferson has been similarly affected. Despite running 50 routes on 61 Stafford dropbacks, Jefferson mustered only four targets.

The Rams are averaging 78 plays per game and Stafford has thrown the ball 93 times. Nacua and Atwell are both going to come back down to Earth slightly, but the share metrics are impossible to ignore. Nacua is a legit fantasy WR1 in Week 3 and Atwell is a WR2/3. Once Kupp returns, Nacua can still be a fantasy starter, just like Robert Woods was a fantasy starter alongside Kupp in previous seasons (and Woods has never had a stretch like what Nacua has done in Weeks 1-2). There’s also a chance Kupp just never gets healthy and/or truly splits his role with Nacua in 2023.


D’Onta Foreman inactive as Roschon Johnson ascends to RB2

D’Onta Foreman was a healthy scratch in Week 2, as Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson shouldered the load for Chicago. Herbert was still the lead back, maintaining an edge on early downs (19-13, per PFF’s Nathan Jahnke) and matching the rookie on third downs (5 to 5), but it’s encouraging that the Texas product was able to marginalize Foreman so quickly. Heralded as a brilliant pass protector coming out of college, Johnson could usurp Herbert for primary passing-down duties soon considering Herbert has just 36 targets in 32 career games and doesn’t have much of a receiving pedigree dating back to his days at Virginia Tech.

With that being said, Herbert has averaged 4.9 yards per carry for his career despite playing behind some below-average offensive lines. Last year, fantasy players were pining for Chicago to give Herbert the ball instead of David Montgomery. Now, those same people are predicting Johnson will beat out Herbert for the RB1 gig. Herbert also graded out very strongly in PFF’s rushing grade in the first two years of his career. He’s not an aging veteran whose incumbent status is the only reason he’s getting touches; he’s legitimately a young exciting player in his own right. Furthermore, the Bears’ low-volume passing attack may prohibit Johnson from pulling in fantasy-relevant target numbers even if he assumes a primary passing-down back role. Plus, they look like one of the worst offenses in football through two games. Johnson may become the preferred option on passing downs at some point, but I’d be surprised to see him cast Herbert away as he did Foreman. This looks like a two-back committee on a bad offense the rest of the season, and both Herbert and Johnson may need the other to get hurt to ascend into an every-week fantasy starter role.


Kyren Williams inherits workhorse role sans Cam Akers

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