In a league designed to provide inconsistency, where “Any Given Sunday” isn’t just a cliché, it can be difficult to know which players to look out for on any given week. Before this season, did anyone think Lamar Jackson would be leading the race for the MVP award? Did we expect that Baker Mayfield would suffer a sophomore slump? Who picked Dalvin Cook to be the league’s leading rusher? It has been exactly how everyone imagined, right?! In my NFL Week 12 preview, I pick out three players to watch out for that might not be top of everyone’s list.
It can be difficult in the NFL to decipher who is truly performing well. Again, we have you covered with Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric.
OSM determines how much of a team’s performance can be attributed to an individual. While most statistical analysis focuses purely on team performance, such as passing yards and completion percentage, where the statistics are the total of a combination of the efforts of multiple players, OSM isolates just the factors that an individual can control. As such, it gives an accurate indicator of an individual player’s contribution to their team.
OSM is graded out of 100, although it is near impossible to achieve this score. A grade of 40 or over can be considered an “elite” performance.
Ross Dwelley – TE – San Francisco 49ers
At 9-1, the San Francisco 49ers are the surprise team of the 2019 NFL season. They lead the way in the NFC West and currently hold the number 1 seed in the NFC.
This week, the 49ers take on the Green Bay Packers in a must-win game for both franchises. At the time of writing, the 49ers go into the game with questions marks around star tight end, George Kittle. His return to practice on Thursday is a positive sign, but there is no clear indication of whether he plays.
Kittle has been a go-to threat for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo this season. He provides a potent downfield target, with 541 yards and two touchdowns before his injury. His overall OSM grade of 40.11 is a testament to his elite performance this season. He leads all 49ers players by overall OSM grade.
If he can’t go on Sunday, how do they replace him?
The second-year tight end out of San Diego may not be a familiar name to NFL fans, or even 49ers fans, but he arrived on the national stage in fashion in the win over the Arizona Cardinals last week. His first career touchdown pulled the 49ers back in the game after they went down 16-0. Jimmy Garoppolo then found him wide open in the end zone early in the third quarter for the 49ers’ first lead of the day.
The performance earned him an elite OSM grade of 40.69, higher than Kittle’s overall grade for the season. He was in the top five for tight ends in catch completion percentage (80%) and top three in tight ends for creating separation with an average separation of 3.7 yards, as per NFL Next Gen Stats.
If Kittle can’t go on Sunday, Dwelley is set up for success against a Green Bay Packers team that has struggled against the tight end position this year. They have given up 627 yards to tight ends this year. They have also allowed three top 10 ranked tight ends by OSM grade this season. Both Greg Olson (41.23) and Darren Waller (46.53) have had elite performances. Travis Kelce (32.45), Zach Ertz (39.18), and Hunter Henry (33.87) all put up grades in the very good performance bracket against the Packers.
Those are some elite, household names at the tight end position. Ross Dwelley may be set to join them today.
Kelvin Harmon – WR – Washington Redskins
It’s been a poor year for the Washington Redskins, on and off the field. It’s difficult to find positives from the 2019 NFL season so far. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin is one player that has been featured prominently, providing big plays, highlight-reel catches and posting over 500 receiving yards. After a breakout game last week, another rookie WR is primed for the spotlight.
Kelvin Harmon came to the United States from Liberia when he was just four years old.
After a dominant college career where he racked up 1017 yards as a sophomore, becoming the first NC State receiver to have a 1,000-yard season since 2003, he was highly regarded as an NFL Draft prospect.
When the 2019 NFL Draft came around, Harmon slipped. It was highly anticipated that he would be a day two-player, but it wasn’t until the sixth round, and the 206th overall pick, that the Redskins selected him.
Every year there is a draft slip mystery, and in 2019, that mystery was Kelvin Harmon. At the time, scouts and analysts attributed his slip to a lack of speed and potential for him to struggle to create separation in the NFL.
Harmon dispelled those myths last week.
He received an OSM grade of 40.52 in the game against the New York Jets, which made him the 6th ranked WR in Week 11. Despite all the clamor over McLaurin, it was the third-highest OSM grade received by a Redskins player in the 2019 season. Only Paul Richardson’s 43.13 grade in Week 3 and Vernon Davis’ 41.18 grade in Week 1 are higher.
Harmon’s completion percentage against the Jets was a contributing factor. He snagged five of his six targets for an 83.3% completion percentage. While Harmon hasn’t been targeted frequently this season (he only has 15 targets versus 56 for Mclaurin), he consistently catches passes thrown to him with a season completion percentage of 86.7%.
Ironically given the reason for his draft fall, the other contributory factor in his elite performance against the Jets was his ability to gain separation. His average separation in that game was 3.7 yards, which would put him in the top 10 receivers for the season.
Week 12 gives Harmon another chance to shine. The Redskins take on the Detroit Lions, who have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL this season. They’ve given up 2886 passing yards this season, third-worst in the league. It’s a prime opportunity for the young man from Liberia to prove that 31 teams got it wrong.
Nick Chubb – RB – Cleveland Browns
Despite Kareem Hunt’s return from suspension, Chubb is still the number one back in Cleveland and will continue to carry the load for an inconsistent Browns team.
Chubb has the chance to have a career day in Week 12 against a Miami Dolphins team that has been dreadful against the run in 2019. They are ranked as the second-worst team in rushing defense, giving up 1483 rushing yards so far. Only the Cincinnati Bengals have given up more yards. However, the Dolphins have given up more rushing yards to running backs, with 1285 of those yards coming from running backs as opposed to rushing quarterbacks.
Despite being third on the rushing yards leaderboard and the first running back to hit 1,000 rushing yards this season, Chubb’s OSM grades have been inconsistent throughout the 2019 season. He has twice featured in the top five running back rankings, with a 20.26 grade in Week 6 and a 20.18 grade in Week 10. However, he has also had multiple games where he has received poor OSM grades. The most recent coming in last week’s infamous win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chubb received an OSM grade of 3.88 as he struggled to just 3.4 yards per carry, despite not facing any eight-in-the-box defensive formations.
When you look at Chubb’s OSM grades compared to the Browns’ results, a pattern emerges. In his three highest-graded games, the Browns are 2-1. In his three lowest graded games, the Browns are 1-2.
Put simply, if the Browns are to succeed against the Dolphins today, that success will lay with Nick Chubb.