Snap Count Observations: Transactions to Make for Week 12 (Fantasy Football)
It’s a quick turnaround for nine teams in the NFL this week, which means it’s a quick turnaround for your fantasy team. Let’s get right into the snap count observations to help with the Thanksgiving weekend slate!
Justin Fields Returns
We don’t talk a ton about QBs in this column, but a big-name QB returning from a month-long injury is worth discussing.
Fields played a pretty darn good game, to be honest. The Lions have not looked great as a defense over the past few weeks, with stinkers against the Chargers and the Ravens (but there was a dominant performance against the Raiders in Week 8 sandwiched in there), so I suppose you could chalk up his strong performance to a struggling defense. The Lions really struggled against Lamar Jackson, and an equally mobile Justin Fields had himself a day on the ground against that same defense (18 rushes for 104 yards). The Lions may have trouble containing mobile quarterbacks, but still, 18 rushes for a quarterback is HUGE. It’s the most running attempts for a QB since last year, when Justin Fields also ran 18 times. This is why Justin Fields is a cheat code for fantasy football. Even against a stronger defense, you’d still be salivating to hear that your QB ran 18 times.
From a passing perspective, Fields looked pretty good. He connected with DJ Moore on a perfectly thrown 39-yard TD pass that he fit between a CB playing close and a safety coming over. Also, he threw a fantastic deep shot at the end of the game that probably should have been caught (and should have won them the game), but WR Tyler Scott took a terrible angle on the ball. Fields did all this with a bloody hand and a thumb that probably wasn’t 100% strengthened yet. These were all positive signs. I didn’t really see any bad throws, he just doesn’t have a lot of volume, as he only threw 23 times total in a game where Chicago was on offense for over 40 minutes of the game.
That said, the Bears’ offense frequently settled for field goals. Long drives ended without touchdowns, which is a stat that has to fall on the QB (and also the coach, who inexplicably elected to take a nine-point lead with a field goal rather than go for it on fourth down with six inches to gain, while coaching a team that was 3-7 on the year!). At the same time, the Lions were playing a bit of a “bend but don’t break” defense due to Fields’ mobility, so this was partially due to strategy and scheme.
All-in-all, Fields is running a TON, and his passing looks serviceable. That makes him a strong fantasy option every week.
Conclusion: Justin Fields looks like a top-10 QB option again.
New Offensive Coordinator Leans More on Running Game
The Buffalo Bills fired Offensive Coordinator Ken Dorsey last week, and the Bills responded with a great offensive day putting up an impressive 32 points against the New York Jets‘ stout defense. Firing assistant coaches can have this type of effect – players realize that their actions can get good coaches fired. Things get real when you see a man lose his livelihood. The same thing happened with Detroit last season after the Lions fired secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant (since that firing, the Lions have won 16 of 20 games). It appears that something similar happened in Buffalo.
Beyond the psychological impact of a coordinator change, the change in leadership also resulted in a change of scheme. In a very un-Buffalo fashion, the Bills leaned much harder on the running game than before. Against the Jets, Buffalo ran the ball 38 times (a number that includes a few Josh Allen scrambles) and passed the ball 32 times. Certainly, some of that run-heavy ratio is due to the lopsided score (32-6, Bills). But even at halftime, the run-pass ratio was pretty close to 50-50 (21 passes to 18 rushes). That’s encouraging for James Cook, who finally scored in this game, albeit on a passing play.
Latavius Murray annoyingly got 10 carries, and Ty Johnson played a fair bit. But again, that seems to have been more dependent on the score of the game. Cook received 11 of the first 15 RB carries when the matchup was still a 10-point game or less. It was about midway through the third quarter, when the game started to get out of hand, that Murray and Johnson mixed in more regularly.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a cataclysmic change in philosophy, just a bit of a tilt more toward a balanced offense. The Bills still looked to pass early and often, as that is their identity. But a bit more run-game involvement is a good thing for the Bills and James Cook.
Conclusion: Things look better for James Cook than they did a week ago.
Miles Sanders Sees Uptick in Snaps
For the first time in a while, Miles Sanders played a notable amount of snaps. For the past few weeks, it has been Hubbard dominating the snaps. Perhaps Sanders is finally healthy, or perhaps it has to do with who is calling the plays (it’s worth remembering that Frank Reich recently resumed playcalling duties for Carolina).
Sanders played 27 snaps and saw 12 opportunities during that playing time (11 rushes for 50 yards and one target that resulted in a two-yard reception). Hubbard was still slightly more efficient, accumulating 57 yards on one fewer rush, and he saw two targets to Sanders’ one.
I am not sure this really matters, as we are discussing running backs on the worst team in the NFL. The Panthers did play against a very strong Dallas defense, which may have had something to do with a low offensive output for the entire Panthers team, but a lot of defenses have been slowing this team down too. Regardless, it’s something to note. If, for some reason, you’ve been rolling with Hubbard, I don’t think that’s a wise move. Alternatively, if you are desperate for a running back, Sanders was probably dropped in your league, so he’s likely worth a pick-up. I don’t see a ton of exciting RB waiver pick-ups this week unless for some reason Zach Charbonnet is available.
Conclusion: Sanders might be worth a pick-up as his snap share ticks up.
Chigoziem Okonkwo Barely Plays
Chigoziem Okonkwo was a popular TE sleeper this season after his late-season surge in 2022, but he has been a huge disappointment this year. He’s currently TE18 on the season, or in other words, completely irrelevant. Things got worse on Sunday as he only played 16 total snaps. The Titans worked in two other tight ends, Trevon Wesco and Josh Whyle, who both played as much or more than Chig. Wesco appears to be a pure blocker and did not see a target, but Whyle saw two targets, which equaled Okonkwo’s opportunity.
If for some reason you are still rostering him, it’s time to move on. Hopefully, this advice applies to no one, but he is still rostered in 25% of Sleeper leagues.
Conclusion: Drop Chigoziem Okonkwo.
Charbonnet Gets All the Workload Now
Zach Charbonnet 85%
The number above is encouraging, but it doesn’t really tell the whole story. The fuller story is represented by this number: Zach Charbonnet played 50 of the 55 snaps (91%) after Kenneth Walker exited the game due to injury. This is now Charbonnet’s backfield, and it sounds like Walker will miss quite a bit of time, as coach Pete Carroll called Walker’s oblique injury “legit” (as opposed to all those fake NFL injuries they lie about…).
It’s perhaps presumptive to believe that Charbonnet will handle close to 90% of the running back snaps and opportunities like he did after the Walker injury. It’s possible that the Seahawks start involving another running back more or activating a practice squad player to fill in some of the void left by Walker’s absence. However, the Seahawks do have a history of giving all the workload to the RB1B after the RB1A gets injured. After Rashaad Penny‘s injury in 2022, the Seahawks essentially gave all the workload to Kenneth Walker, who was a rookie in 2022. It’s not unheard of that Charbonnet could dominate the backfield now, even as a rookie.
His skill set is exciting, especially his ability to catch passes. He saw and caught six targets in this game, so that gives you a little indicator of what’s possible for him.
If he’s somehow on your waiver wire, blow all your FAAB. All of it. There’s likely not a better option for the rest of the year. The only other RB who has come close this year is Jerome Ford, and even he is now losing some luster as he splits carries with Kareem Hunt and plays behind a rookie QB who isn’t scaring anyone. Charbonnet is only available in 49% of Sleeper leagues, so there’s a 50/50 shot that he’s out there. I’m honestly surprised it’s that high, as I would have guessed closer to 25-30%.
Conclusion: Blow your FAAB on Charbonnet.
DPJ Not a Threat to Jamo’s Snaps
When the Lions made the trade deadline deal to acquire DPJ, many people thought the move was an indictment on Jameson Williams. Williams came off a horrible game against Baltimore, where he dropped everything thrown to him except one ball that he caught out-of-bounds. However, that narrative does not appear to be the case. DPJ barely played on offense this past week and actually played more special teams snaps (seven) than offensive snaps (three). This was our first real chance to see if DPJ would affect Jamo’s playing time because DPJ missed Week 10 with an injury.
A midseason trade is always hard for a skill-position player. Perhaps DPJ is still learning the ropes. I will note that one of Jared Goff‘s interceptions was on a pass intended for Peoples-Jones. I didn’t see a lot of DPJ after that play. Watching the tape, it doesn’t seem like a mistake on DPJ’s part – it looks like Jared just didn’t see a linebacker moving over, but reading a defense, especially a zone defense, is frequently a responsibility of the receiver. Perhaps he was benched after a mistake, but it’s hard to say for certain.
I personally always saw the DPJ move as a move to bolster the returner position. Kalif Raymond is a fantastic punt returner, but the Lions are still trying to fill the void of a kick returner. They tried Craig Reynolds in that role this week, but he promptly fumbled his only real return opportunity. But it was always possible that DPJ could get more involved in the Detroit offense.
The point is probably moot now anyway. While DPJ gets his feet under him in Detroit, Jameson Williams is playing great football. He sprung a 75-yard TD for David Montgomery last week with a fantastic downfield block (a block only possible due to his incredible speed), and this week he ran the perfect pylon route on an inside leaning safety to catch a 32-yard TD that allowed Detroit to quickly score after going down 12 points with less than four minutes to go. After the game, Dan Campbell spoke highly of Jameson, saying he was “part of the herd” and someone they can rely on. You might remember I wrote at length about how the Detroit coaching staff wasn’t sure they could trust Williams. Now it seems that they can. (just a quick note, Dan Campbell is very transparent with the media, so these statements aren’t just lip service).
Conclusion: Jameson Williams‘ role is unaffected by DPJ.