Snap Count Observations: Transactions to Make for Week 15 (Fantasy Football)
It’s fantasy playoff time! If you are reading this then you are likely still alive and ready to go win a championship!
By this point in the season, less and less is in flux, but, every season some player comes out of nowhere to carry teams to fantasy championships. This year, that player might be Ezekiel Elliott, who looked pretty good in a very strong role. We often see a veteran with fresh legs come through and have a great stretch at the end of the season. The name I always associate with this late-season phenomenon is (and I am probably dating myself here) Tim Hightower in 2015, who was signed midseason and finished the year with 96 carries for 375 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in eight games and three starts. The Zeke situation feels familiar, even though he has been a Patriot all season. More on Zeke below (and other noteworthy performances).
Heavy Zeke Usage
Without Rhamondre Stevenson, Zeke basically never came off the field. It was vintage Ezekiel Elliott usage; we’re talking like rookie year Zeke. And he was quite effective…against a good Steelers defense! Zeke handled every RB carry and saw eight of Zappe’s 28 targets (30.8% target share)! That is elite usage.
There is every reason to believe this heavy usage continues, assuming Stevenson continues to miss time. The Patriots have nothing to lose here, and the Patriots aren’t trying to save Elliott for the playoffs or anything. And there is nothing in the way of competition here: the only other “RB” who played any offensive snaps was Ty Montgomery, who is listed as a WR again by most sites. Perhaps we can’t expect this level of passing game involvement, but any running back seeing 100% of the rushes deserves to be in your lineup. Zeke is rostered in most leagues (72% at the time of this writing), so you likely can’t pick him up, but if for some reason you can, go get him.
Conclusion: Start Zeke.
Ekeler’s Role Still Fine
There were several reports about the Chargers “riding a hot hand” and evaluating the backfield. That wasn’t exactly true. Ekeler still handled the majority of the backfield snaps, as usual, and saw a decently high target share (seven targets). His rushing load was lessened, however. He only saw 10 carries, with six going to Isaiah Spiller and three going to Joshua Kelley. Neither was effective.
Conclusion: So long as Ekeler maintains his high playing time and passing game involvement, he remains a fine fantasy option ROS.
Firm Backfield Split
McKinnon 45%; Clyde Edwards-Helaire 48%
Replacing Isiah Pacheco was a team effort between CEH and McKinnon. CEH handled more of the rushing duties (11 carries to McKinnons’s four) and actually ended up with more targets (four to McKinnon’s three). McKinnon got the only carry inside the 10 given to a Chiefs player, and he scored. To my eyes, it looked a bit like they were giving each back a series, not “roles.” So I don’t think McKinnon scoring from the seven is any suggestion that he’s the preferred back near the goal line. Neither running back was particularly effective, and in a 50-50 split, neither option is particularly enticing.
I would have expected a bit more McKinnon in a game where the Chiefs were, at one time, losing 14-0, but that deficit was cut to 14-7 on that McKinnon score shortly before halftime. The game was competitive thereafter, so do with that information what you will. Interestingly, CEH actually ran two more routes than McKinnon, so it would appear that CEH has the slightly higher floor here, but neither’s ceiling looks great. Pacheco may return sooner rather than later, so if you need room on your bench, I would be fine dropping McKinnon if you picked him up.
Conclusion: Neither Chiefs RB looks like a good option in replacing Isiah Pacheco‘s recent production.
Life Without Nico and Tank Is Pretty Ugly
The Texans’ offense looked awful yesterday against a good Jets defense. Every first-half drive ended in a punt after Nico Collins left the game early with a calf injury. C.J. Stroud only completed 10 passes for 91 yards and looked pretty bad doing it. Being sacked four times and lacking two of his favorite receivers all contributed.
The Texans’ team leaders in targets were John Metchie and Noah Brown, but only one of the 10 passes targeting those two players was completed. Brown does appear to be the de facto lead receiver after Collins, but he played fewer snaps than Xavier Hutchinson and Robert Woods, neither of whom made any impact (13 total receiving yards between the two of them).
Conclusion: No Texans pass catcher is interesting should Collins miss time. Brown is the best option of the bunch, however.
Life Without Mark Andrews
Lamar Jackson was forced to sling the ball around this week, and he looked really good doing so. His 316-yard, three-touchdown game (with 11 rushes for 70 yards for fun) was excellent. And his target tree is nicely concentrated. He’s looking at Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, and Isaiah Likely, with each WR seeing 10 targets and Likely seeing seven. Each of these three players is a viable option for the fantasy playoffs.
Conclusion: Start Flowers, Beckham, and Likely.