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NFL fantasy football stats & trends for Week 15: Rookie wideouts on breakout pace

Each week, NFL fantasy researcher Joel Smyth will identify important stats and trends to inform fantasy decisions ahead of your next matchup. These won't be your basic, elementary stats, but rather deep and unique insights to give you an edge over your friends (and enemies).

Here are eight notable nuggets ahead of Week 15 of the 2023 NFL season.

1) Indoor cat

Jared Goff
Detroit Lions DET · QB

The California kid is surely thankful his Detroit home comes with a dome. In Jared Goff’s career, he has played 22 games outside in the winter cold, averaging a miniscule 12.9 points. His weather-related struggles were on full display in Week 14, as he was held to 161 yards and threw multiple interceptions in Chicago, where the game-time temperature was 36 degrees Fahrenheit. When indoors, Goff’s fantasy average jumps to 19.1, solidifying him as a top fantasy option. Although none of his three playoff opponents bring pushover QB matchups, all three games will be inside, away from the elements. His best shot at a strong performance is at home in Week 15, as he has averaged six more points in Detroit than on the road since being traded to the Lions. 

2) WRB for Gang Green?

Breece Hall
New York Jets NYJ · RB

Breece Hall may be listed as a running back on the depth chart, but in fantasy, he might as well be a wide receiver, at least lately. Through the first seven games, just 31 percent of his fantasy points came through the air. But over the second half of the season, receiving has accounted for more than 80 percent of his fantasy production, forcing his managers to think outside the box when deciding their starts and sits. Incredibly, Hall is not on the list of 122 players with a goal-line carry this season (yes, you read that correctly), but he does have three straight games with eight or more targets. I don’t expect major changes to those trends in the fantasy playoffs, with matchup No. 1 coming against the Dolphins. Heading into Week 15, Miami was in the middle of the pack in rushing-generated fantasy points allowed to RBs but was ninth-toughest against the position in points allowed on receptions. Hall is going to be a risky start in the quarterfinals.

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3) In DeZone

DeVonta Smith
Philadelphia Eagles PHI · WR

Deebo Samuel shredded the Seahawks' secondary for the second time this season in Week 14. Samuel has been far more efficient versus zone coverage compared to man on the season and matched up perfectly against a Seattle defense that ranks top-three in zone coverage percentage. Although A.J. Brown is the fantasy WR4 on the year, DeVonta Smith is the Eagles receiver with better fantasy production versus zone this season. Smith has seen just one fewer target than Brown against zone (whereas his volume against man coverage is about half that of Brown) and Brown has yet to score against zone this season. Smith has been the WR6 in PPG over the latter half of the year and is set up to continue that trend in this matchup with the zone-heavy ‘Hawks.

4) Rookie rescue

Rashee Rice
Kansas City Chiefs KC · WR

Patrick Mahomes can’t do it all himself, and the Chiefs are finally taking notice. Kansas City has historically taken it slow when it comes to rookies; for example, Mahomes sat in Year 1, and Tyreek Hill never played for more than 68 percent of snaps in a game as a rookie. But with so few legitimate weapons at his disposal, Andy Reid played rookie playmaker Rashee Rice on 85 percent of snaps in Week 14, besting his previous career high by 16 percentage points. He’s established a decent volume-based floor, with at least nine targets in three straight games -- and that floor is particularly boosted in PPR. Rice's average of 4.4 air yards per target is the lowest among all qualified wideouts. Usually, an average depth of target that low makes it tough to find a ceiling. However, the big-bodied Rice is second only to Deebo Samuel in average yards after the catch. Plus, his 14 red-zone targets since Week 4 are tied for the fourth-most in the NFL -- and give him five more than Travis Kelce in that span. Now that the rookie is on the field more, he has acquired a Deebo-lite ceiling with a Michael Pittman-esque floor. 

5) Expecting better

Zack Moss
Indianapolis Colts IND · RB

Over the last two weeks, only Joe Mixon and Kyren Williams have been better than Zack Moss ... in expected fantasy points. His rough couple of games without Jonathan Taylor cannot be blamed on a lack of volume. Unfortunately, his 28.7 fantasy points below expected ranks dead last over these last two weeks. The good news is that this data suggests a promising future, as the Colts back should continue to see elite volume. His 15 red-zone opportunities in those two games led the NFL, but he never reached paydirt (after being tackled inside the 5-yard line nine times and having a TD called back on a holding penalty). Now, Moss is at home against a Mitchell-Trubisky-led Steelers team that just allowed aged veteran Ezekiel Elliott to finish as the overall RB1 in Week 14. Is a touchdown finally in store? The numbers say it’s possible.

6) Danger time

Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos DEN · QB

In the biggest moments of the most important games of the year, you need your players at their best. Even after a long stretch of wins in which the Broncos offense has rushed more often than league average, Russell Wilson still ranks first in passing fantasy points in the fourth quarter this year. Meanwhile, not only is Detroit a top-five matchup for fantasy quarterbacks, but the Lions' seventh-ranked scoring offense is likely to provide Wilson plenty of chances to throw this Saturday. Wilson will see consistent passing volume throughout the game once again, with a good chance of a late-game boost in this prime-time showdown.

7) Levis love

DeAndre Hopkins
Tennessee Titans TEN · WR

Going out on a limb here, but I think DeAndre Hopkins might be happy his rookie quarterback has taken over in Tennessee. Hopkins clocked in as the WR47 in points per game over roughly the first half of the season. Since Will Levis got under center in Week 8, Hopkins has been a WR1. The former Kentucky QB loves to sling it. In his time as the starter, the Titans offense has jumped from 26th in air yards to fourth. Hopkins has been the primary benefactor, ranking second in the NFL in air yards in that span while also receiving the seventh-most end-zone targets. He’ll need to continue seeing high-level volume as he matches up against Derek Stingley Jr. on Sunday (for the first of two meetings this month) -- back from injury, Stingley has been the 11th-highest graded cover corner, according to Pro Football Focus. 

8) Deebo Lite

Jayden Reed
Green Bay Packers GB · WR

It’s a copycat league, and Matt LaFleur seems to be copying his old coworker Kyle Shanahan’s use of versatile receivers. Over the last four weeks, Jayden Reed leads all wideouts with 100 rush yards on the exact same number of carries as Deebo Samuel. Much like Shanahan with Samuel, LaFleur is placing Reed in spots to highlight his yards-after-catch ability, and as a result, more than three-quarters of his receiving yards this month have come after the catch. That rate would rank first in the NFL on the season, setting him up well for a matchup against the Buccaneers, who are not only 31st against slot receivers but also last in yards after the catch allowed to the slot per reception. Reed’s fantasy production recently (15-plus fantasy points in four of his last five) seemed unsustainable at first, but after a career-high 10 targets in Week 14, the rookie has a great chance of keeping this run going with his increased volume.

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