The Opportunity Analysis

The Opportunity Analysis


Arizona Cardinals projected drop-backs is a combination of Arizona’s 2019 drop-backs, and Chip Kelly’s Eagles jump for Year 1 to Year 2. Yes, this is a stretch. But, Kliff Kingsbury and Chip Kelly were both trying to adjust their college style offenses to the NFL. It was clear for Kelly that in Year 2 he had a better grasp on how his offense would work in the NFL, which resulted in a solid volume increase in that second year. It is worth noting Kelly’s Eagles drop-backs went up from 586 to 674.

Carolina Panthers had very little data to go on as neither coach has much experience in the NFL. In this case, a conservative approach was taken and used the average drop-back of all NFL teams (623) over the past 7 seasons, combined with the two years new Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady spent with The Saints in 2017 and 2018.


[Column 1] 2019 Drop-backs – This represents how many times a team dropped back to pass the ball in 2019

[Column 2] 2020 Available Targets – This represents how many targets from players who are no longer on the team from 2019 are available in 2020

[Column 3] 2020 Projected Drop-backs –  This represents the average number of drop-backs the current Offensive Coordinator or Play-Caller’s teams have averaged over his career when he was calling plays (some assumptions are outlined above and later in this article)

[Column 4] Projected +/- Drop-backs – This column reflects how many more or less drop-backs a team will see from 2019 based on their Offensive Coordinator or Play-Callers tendencies from prior years

[Column 5] New Available Targets – This metric combines columns 2 and 4 to give a new projection of how many new opportunities or potential targets are available in 2020

Detailed Analysis

Let’s quickly touch on the analysis behind 2020 Projected Drop-Backs. Based on drop-back data from 2013-2019, most teams that have outlier years (meaning they have a higher or lower than normal pass volume) typically get closer to their team’s average drop-backs per season the next year. The outlier years allow us to identify teams who are due for dramatic increase or decrease in pass volume, which should help or hurt fantasy players heading into the following season. For example, if we use the benchmark of 550 drop-backs, 76% of those teams that had under 550 drop-backs in a season saw an increase of at least 45 drop-backs the next season, with the average being 76 more among those teams under 550.

The final step in getting to 2020 Projected Drop-Backs is to factor in each team’s current offensive play-caller’s historical drop-backs. The reason why this is important is that some Offensive Coordinators call more pass plays than others. A great example of this is evaluating the Atlanta Falcons and their Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter. In 2019 the Falcons led the NFL in drop-backs with 755, which is significantly higher than the NFL average of 623. However, even though there will most likely be a regression in drop-backs in 2020, it will not be as significant. This is because we know Koetter’s teams average drop-backs per season have been around 686 since 2013, which is well above the NFL average of 623.

This leads us to the two key components in the Opportunities Analysis. The first part is available targets, which reflects how many targets from the prior season were vacated by players leaving the team and are now available to current players heading into 2020. The second part is the projected 2020 drop-backs. This number is comprised of the current Offensive Coordinator and/or Play Caller’s average drop-backs per season since they have been calling plays dating back to 2013. In some cases, if applicable, data was used based on drop-backs of teams that these play-callers coached under. An example of this is Arthur Smith, as he was on the staff in prior seasons in Tennessee.

If you have made it this far, you are probably asking “why does this matter”? It is simple; More pass volume = more targets = more fantasy points. A prime example of this is Michael Thomas and the New Orleans Saints. In 2018 the Saints only dropped-back to pass 548 times. In 2019 that number grew to 619. The 619 is more in line with what we have seen over the last 7 seasons, as the Saints have an average of 648 drop-backs since 2013. This increase in drop-backs allowed Thomas to keep his target share relatively the same, only going up from 29 to 32 percent. However, it was the increase in pass volume that allowed his targets to jump from 146 to 185. The end result is that Thomas was able to go from a Top 10 Wide Receiver to the #1 Wide Receiver overall.

After combining these two factors we get a new metric called New Available Targets, which shows the new opportunities for each team in 2020. The final step is to factor in new players via free agency, the draft, or coming back from injury, to see how many of these new opportunities could potentially go to them or be absorbed by current players on these teams.

*References and sources in this article include Expand The Boxscore, Pro Football Focus, and Pro Football Reference*