Charles Herrmann (@HermsNFL) The Lateral Chief Editor
(Herms Music Recc: "New Eyes Open" by The Draft)
Some interesting things happened yesterday in the NFL and there's no way for a couple of dudes to tackle all of it. Rather than trying to do it all, The Lateral picked three big things to talk about and really hone in on. Malcolm teed it up with the Week 10 Sunday Storylines, and now your ol' pal Herms is here to take a crack at breaking it all down. What are we to make of Raiders RB Devontae Booker? What's going on with Saints WR Michael Thomas? That and plenty more is ahead as we take a deeper look inside the Week 10 storylines.
Inside The Week 10 Sunday Storylines
Devontae Booker: The New Vulture, Or Something Worse?
As Malcolm shared before, Booker has been producing flex-worthy results running behind starter RB Josh Jacobs over the past couple weeks. From a distance the Las Vegas backfield in 2020 looks like a one-man Jacobs show, but if we take a closer look, things have been trending toward a committee since Week 7. By plainly looking back at the play-by-play recap from yesterday's action, you can see slightly more usage of Booker as the game got further and further away from Denver, but this doesn't seem like a complete fluke you can chalk up to positive game script.
When comparing the more of the advanced rushing stats of Jacobs and Booker, it seems on paper the Raiders are having a harder time getting Jacobs in open space before he reaches the point of first contact. On top of that, Jacobs is seeing stacked boxes around a quarter of the time, around 5% more often than in 2019. Booker, meanwhile, is finding the big play recently which at least in some part probably has contributed to his recent increased usage. It's no surprise the Raiders are trying to create more of an RBBC given that prior to yesterday Jacobs has not been able to recreate his tough running success from a year ago.
While I have yet to complete going over the game footage from Weeks 9 and 10 to refine my view, my takeaway here is that Booker's potential role moving forward is not quite as a vulture per se but simply as more of a change of pace back to open up the offense. The next three games for Las Vegas are vs KC, @ ATL, and @NYJ, all of which present opportunities for both backs to thrive. It wouldn't surprise me if Booker is a viable mid-tier RB3 in the near future and should anything happen to Jacobs in the injury department, you'd be looking at an easily viable low-end RB2. Nothing to get super excited about here, but I would pick up Booker off the waiver wire this week in a deeper league.
Hope all goes well for Saints QB Drew Brees and his torso in general. Who knows how long he'll be out at this point, but it's pretty safe to say it will be a while. In the interim, New Orleans have both Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill as backup options to fill in. Logic would dictate that Winston would be the player most likely to be at the helm given how many different ways the team likes to use Hill as a weapon.
Should that be the case, the Saints may opt to change up the scheme a bit and play to Winston's strength: gunning it downfield. Going from a guy who threw for the league-fewest intended air yards per attempt to the guy who chucked it four full yards further on average is quite the contrast. I'll leave what that all means for the supporting cast to people more qualified to hypothesize, but that certainly wouldn't be great news for WR Michael Thomas, a player who's own average depth of target (aDOT) has never been all that high.
Speaking of Thomas, what the heck is going on with him? Since his return in Week 9, he's had about as much receiving work as RB Alvin Kamara has out of the backfield. I don't blame the Saints either; Kamara is the league's hottest hand to date. Beyond that and the injuries Thomas suffered that kept him out so long, don't forget about this fun tale. It's not within my best interest or yours as the reader to try and speculate on some behind the scenes stuff best served for talk radio, but the fact of the matter is that Thomas isn't receiving the insane target share he did last year (just scroll down a bit and compare). Maybe they're ramping him back up after returning from injury, maybe it's something more, but for now at least I concur with Malcolm's assessment and view Thomas as a flex option for the time being.
2020 Rookie Wide Receiver Roundup
While I don't have a lot to contribute in the way of analysis, I would like to redirect you to this three year old article from PFF.com of the top 10 rookie WR fantasy seasons in standard scoring to have as a frame of reference as we track this class and their standard scoring through the end of the season together. Coming back to revisit this feels like a neat activity.
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