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Fantasy Usage Model

NFL Conference Championship Player Projections

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: January 23, 2021, 2:25 am ET

Doing player projections forces someone to make multiple micro-decisions on how each game will be played out and how each player will do within their matchup. For that reason, I really value the opinion of people around the industry who do the dirty work of building these out player by player. I've done player projections for season-long drafting for years, but I've rarely bothered with doing them on a weekly basis. That changes for the 2020-21 NFL Playoffs. If it goes well, I'll do more research to clean up my process during the offseason and could come back with weekly player projections next year. We'll see.

If you're using these to bet player props, I'd be extra careful betting overs for a few reasons. One, these are mean projections, not median projections. That minor difference can incorrectly skew towards betting overs. Secondly, it's very easy to overlook in-game injury risk. Unless otherwise noted in the comments below, I'm projecting players as if they're going to play 95-98% of their normal number of snaps. Lastly, the betting market loves to bet overs because they're more fun to sweat, but that also can inflate their lines. This doesn't mean we can never bet overs on player props. We just have to pick our spots.

Updated: Friday afternoon. 

QB Projections

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BUF Josh Allen24.342.227.53121.880.727.5310.43
KC Patrick Mahomes22.234.522.02962.140.343.7150.16
GB Aaron Rodgers21.236.325.12852.180.362.990.14
TB Tom Brady18.339.225.62951.800.591.800.08


Chiefs QBs: Patrick Mahomes is in the concussion protocol because he passed out, but some doctors believe he didn't actually suffer a concussion (which was my initial reaction, too). Instead, it's possible that Mahomes was karate chopped to the neck, causing a temporary pass out. If that's the case, he'll play without limitations. Even if he did suffer a concussion, it's possible that he plays. I think there's a better than 90% chance Mahomes plays all things considered. In fact, I'm more concerned about his toe injury at this point. I knocked his passing efficiency and a lot of his rushing projection because of that turf toe, but if reports are positive later in the week, I'll bring his projection up a hair.

Chiefs QBs Continued: The Bills played Mahomes to perfection in Week 6. For The Win's Steven Ruiz notes that the Bills were the first defense in the NextGenStats era to not blitz the quarterback a single time in a game. They played Cover 4 zone defense for most of the game, forcing the Chiefs to throw shallow passes and run the ball far more than usual. A similar game plan -- lots of Cover 2 and Cover 4 zone -- should be coming. For this reason, it makes some sense to bet the unders on longest completions for the Chiefs' skill players.

Bucs QBs: Tom Brady wasn't asked to do a whole lot against the Packers in Week 6 because the Tampa defense had a pick six and returned another interception to the two yard-line. The Packers are expected to play a lot of Cover 2 zone defense, which will encourage rushes but isn't likely to confuse Brady. Green Bay is only 12th in defensive EPA, and the Bucs are 1st in offensive EPA since their Week 13 bye.

Packers QBs: Aaron Rodgers really struggled against the Bucs in Week 6 (0 TDs, 2 INTs on 4.7 YPA), particularly when blitzed. His two interceptions were on blitzes, and other plays were neutralized due to pressure. Tampa blitzes almost twice as much as the Rams do (44% to 27%), so how well the Packers' newly-assembled offensive line communicates will be the matchup to watch. Rodgers will be prepared, but this won't be an easy matchup against this blitz-heavy Cover 3 zone defense.


RB Projections

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GB Aaron Jones14.410.7520.404.43.3230.27
BUF Devin Singletary13.88.7390.454.83.6240.21
KC Clyde Edwards-Helaire11.011.1510.412.21.4120.14
TB Leonard Fournette10.67.8320.333.62.8170.17
TB Ronald Jones9.89.7480.421.61.280.07
GB Jamaal Williams7.97.9280.291.91.5110.11
KC Darrel Williams7.77.4330.
GB AJ Dillon2.22.4110.080.40.320.02
BUF T.J. Yeldon1.


Packers RBs: I ended up getting there because of his long run, but I was wrong with my Aaron Jones Divisional Round projection. Based on last year's playoffs and the eye test from this year, I thought Jones was going to have a higher share of the backfield snaps and touches. That didn't happen. Jones is still the best bet for production, but Jamaal Williams and even AJ Dillon mixed in last week. Jones' projection reflects similar usage. Remember, the Bucs defense is first in rushing EPA and has forced opposing offenses into the highest neutral pass rate in the NFL. Green Bay is likely to be passing here, weather permitting.

Chiefs RBs: I will take a little victory lap on projecting Darrel Williams over Le'Veon Bell last week, but I think Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a reasonable chance of playing this week. If he gets in more than one limited practice or one full practice, then he'll be in. I have the projections set up as if CEH is the 1A in a two-back committee with Williams, who has been the preferred passing down back when everyone is healthy. Go read the "Chiefs QBs Continued" section from above to see why I think Kansas City will run a tad more than usual this week. ... Updated Friday: CEH was limited in practice all week and is listed as questionable. I'm viewing him as likely to play and as the starter. In the four games before his injury, Edwards-Helaire had expected PPR point totals of 14.5, 16.3, 7.0, and 12.5 (12.6 per game) while the No. 2 running back averaged 7.6. That was Bell at the time. With Bell looking unlikely to play, both CEH and Williams should receive opportunities. I have an early-down lean for CEH and a passing-down lean for Williams.

Bucs RBs: Ronald Jones looked fine at times last week but also walked with a little limp. He should gut it out again, but I think Leonard Fournette will be the 1A in this two-back committee. For whatever reason, Fournette looks better now than he did earlier in the year. Historically, the Packers two-high defense has invited rushing production, so I slightly tilted Tampa's pass/run splits in favor of more rushing here. The cold weather bolsters that change, too. ... Updated Friday: Jones was a full participant on Friday and was left off the final injury report. I'm giving him a higher share of the early-down workload. This very well could be a hot-hand approach. I'll take my shots on RoJo winning that battle on the ground over Fournette, but this is obviously a very fragile projection.


WR Projections

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GB Davante Adams22.311.18.5990.67
BUF Stefon Diggs21.311.38.61000.46
KC Tyreek Hill20.69.86.3890.65
TB Chris Godwin15.98.16.2790.30
BUF John Brown15.08.75.5730.37
TB Mike Evans14.17.74.7650.48
BUF Cole Beasley13.07.05.3600.29
GB Allen Lazard11.55.94.2560.29
GB Marquez Valdes-Scantling10.05.62.9540.29
KC Sammy Watkins9.85.43.6410.34
TB Scotty Miller9.56.13.4500.19
KC Mecole Hardman7.73.62.4320.18
BUF Gabriel Davis6.83.92.2360.17
KC Demarcus Robinson4.62.51.9200.11
TB Tyler Johnson4.32.41.6230.06
BUF Isaiah McKenzie4.02.21.7170.10
GB Equanimeous St. Brown2.01.10.780.07
KC Byron Pringle0.70.40.330.02


Bucs WRs: Antonio Brown is banged up. He needed an MRI, but at least dodged a serious injury. I kept him in projections for now, although I dinged his target share and efficiency. I'll update on Friday following final injury reports. ... As for Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, I'm leaving Godwin projected as the 1A here for two reasons -- health and matchup. Evans is playing all snaps, but he didn't look fully comfortable running routes on tape in my opinion. Evans also will see CB Jaire Alexander in coverage. Alexander followed Evans in their Week 6 matchup, even when the Packers played zone. It's not a straight up one-on-one matchup, but it's close to that. Alexander arguably is the second-best coverage corner in the NFL right now. Meanwhile, Godwin will face slot CB Chandon Sullivan, a 2018 undrafted free agent. There's a reason Godwin saw seven targets to Evans' two in this matchup three months ago. Of course, Evans' insane red zone projection keeps things tight between the two. For the contrarian DFS tournament bros, Evans should come in at lower ownership than Godwin. ... Updated Friday: Brown has been ruled out. 80% of his snaps have been at outside receiver, so Scotty Miller (77% outside) is the favorite to start in three-receiver sets over rookie Tyler Johnson (58% outside). 

Packers WRs: Davante Adams was fine last week, but it was a win to drop his efficiency numbers against the Rams and Jalen Ramsey. This week, it's the opposite. The Bucs were the largest pass funnel in the NFL this season per neutral pass rate against. Adams will see underrated CB Carlton Davis in coverage for some snaps, but I like Adams' chances of a big game here. Davis isn't on Ramsey's level, and the Bucs primarily ran Cover 3 zone defense against Green Bay in Week 6. That defense makes it tough to stop the short and intermediate pass, aka Adams' bread and butter. Marquez Valdes-Scantling's matchup is also slightly easier than last week's. The Rams sell out to defend the deep pass, while the Bucs are far more aggressive with blitzing and only use one deep safety. That leaves them vulnerable to speedy deep threats like MVS. I bumped his projection up slightly because of this. He remains ultra boom-bust.

Chiefs WRs: It will be harder to complete deep passes against the Bills two-deep zone defense, especially if Mahomes' toe makes it harder to buy time in the pocket. Buffalo played a lot of quarters coverage against the Chiefs in Week 6. I'm expecting that to happen again. As for Sammy Watkins, I'm leaving him out until he practices. Last week, the Chiefs' routes were: Tyreek Hill (41-of-43), Travis Kelce (37), Mecole Hardman (34), Demarcus Robinson (31), Byron Pringle (19). I brought up Hardman's projection now that he's clearly a near every-down route runner. ... Updated Friday: Watkins is expected to play after getting in limited sessions all week. He has some obvious re-injury risk, but I'm expecting him to start as the No. 2 receiver. In his last four healthy games, Watkins averaged 9.9 expected PPR points. Hardman (8.8) had more fantasy usage than Robinson (4.6) over that four-game span despite running fewer routes. Pringle pretty much didn't play.

Bills WRs: Cole Beasley seems to be grinding through a semi-serious knee injury right now. He was shut out in the box score last week. Another week away from the injury should help out, but I still slid more targets John Brown's way. Brown has been a baller whenever healthy, and I'm not sure the market realizes just how much passing volume we can project for Buffalo with Zack Moss out and negative game script expected. ... Updated Friday: Gabriel Davis is questionable after going DNP, DNP, limited in practice. I left him in projections but knocked his target share down just a tick.


TE Projections

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KC Travis Kelce20.49.87.1950.65
GB Robert Tonyan12.95.94.7540.47
TB Rob Gronkowski9.65.73.3440.32
TB Cameron Brate7.14.02.6320.20
BUF Dawson Knox6.64.42.3270.27
GB Marcedes Lewis0.
GB Dominique Dafney0.
KC Nick Keizer0.
KC Ricky Seals-Jones0.
BUF Lee Smith0.60.40.320.02


All TEs: For DFS, it's either Travis Kelce or correlating the position with the quarterback. Kelce should be the highest-owned player of the slate.

Bucs TEs: Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate are running nearly identical routes right now -- last week's routes: Gronk (19), Brate (16) --  which is why their projections are tighter compared to their seasonal averages. With that said, it seemed like the Packers liked the matchup they had with Gronk against the Packers' Cover 2 defense in Week 6. He had a 5-78-1 receiving line on a team-high eight targets in Week 6. Gronk is a better field stretcher than Brate, so it's possible Gronk rebounds here.


Follow me on Twitter (@HaydenWinks) if you have questions.