Snap Count Observations: Transactions to Make for Week 16
Despite finishing the game and looking fine, the NFL and fantasy football worlds were collectively rocked yesterday upon learning that Jalen Hurts may not play in the next two games. The Eagles still have plenty to play for with the division title not yet settled and the #1 seed – the only seed that gets a bye under the newer 7-team playoff format – still up for grabs. But let’s be honest, this is bigger news for fantasy football players because his absence coincides with the fantasy playoffs. Frankly speaking, this injury news couldn’t come at a worse time, particularly for Hurts, who ended up being a league winning player and surely on a ton of playoff rosters.
So what do you do in a situation like this? There is simply no natural replacement for Jalen Hurts on the waiver wire, considering his combination of rushing and passing ability. In addition, Hurts developed a nice chemistry with A.J. Brown, who is on pace to exceed the Eagles single-season receiving yards record, so this injury also affects Brown and Devonta Smith. Certainly, the Eagles backup QB, Gardner Minshew, is someone decent with NFL starting experience. He could fill in adequately and lead the Eagles to a win or two, but he’s not going to emulate Hurts’ fantasy output.
Also, there just are not a lot of streaming options this week. Jared Goff against Caroline is fine but not something particularly exciting. Goff is a player I know a lot about, and someone I have advocated for, but Goff’s road numbers are far less impressive than his stellar home production, and the Panthers’ defense is better than their offense. So, generally, there is no solution to this potential disaster. Maybe Hurts powers through, but based on the movement of Vegas lines alone, that seems highly unlikely.
The good news is that you assemble a fantasy team not a fantasy quarterback. You’ll need to live the stream and hope that you can piece together a fantasy Frankenstein at the QB position over the next two weeks and survive. You didn’t get to the fantasy playoffs just because you roster Jalen Hurts. Remember, you are a smart fantasy player (because you read this article), and you can still win a championship. Good luck!
Jauan Jennings Sees Uptick in Snaps After Deebo’s Injury
Jennings 84%; Ray-Ray McCloud 42%
Week 15 was the first week in the post-Deebo injury era, and I expected the 49ers to increase the usage of Ray-Ray McCloud because his speed can emulate some of what Deebo can do after the catch, but that didn’t materialize. McCloud barely played and only saw three targets. Meanwhile, it was Jauan Jennings who saw a season-high 84% snaps and led the team in targets. The thing we should know by now is that Kyle Shanahan doesn’t “plug and play” players; he builds an offense creatively around what he has.
Honestly, though, it really doesn’t matter. While Jennings’ playing time increased, it really didn’t amount to much (only 31 yards receiving). The 49ers concentrated their offensive production behind the two players you’d expect: George Kittle and Christian McCaffery.
This isn’t really a blurb about Jauan Jennings so much as there isn’t going to be any player who can replace Deebo in the 49ers’ offense.
Conclusion: Ray-Ray McCloud is not worth a pickup after the Deebo Injury.
Zack Moss Takes Backfield Lead
Moss 67%; Deon Jackson 32%
Jonathan Taylor‘s season is almost assuredly over after tweaking an ankle early in the game against Minnesota. Unlike before the Nyheim Hines trade, when Deon Jackson led the team in snaps and basically had the backfield to himself whenever Taylor missed time, it was Zack Moss who saw by far the most work. Generally, he was okay, accumulating 81 yards on 24 carries, but he’s still Zack Moss.
Truthfully, this workload was inflated as the Colts tried, but failed miserably, to just run out the clock after leading 33-0 at halftime. But still, there is a lesson to be learned in that Moss is likely to remain the primary ball carrier for the remainder of the year.
The D’Onta Foreman Experience Is Over
Foreman 30%; Chubba Hubbard 63%
Ever since the McCaffery trade, the Panthers have relied upon D’Onta Foreman as their lead back, until Week 15. In this game, the Panthers put Chubba Hubbard on the field far more than Foreman. Still, Foreman saw three more opportunities than Hubbard (10 carries for Foreman compared to 4 carries and three targets/catches for Hubbard).
This game wasn’t particularly negative in terms of gamescript. It wasn’t until the 3rd quarter that the Panthers were losing by more than one score, so this feels like a shift in policy. At the very least, the team seems to like Hubbard more as the passing game/negative gamescript back, which has been pretty typical for the Panthers.
Conclusion: Foreman cannot be trusted moving forward; Hubbard may eventually take control over the backfield.
Jerick McKinnon is a Major Piece of this Offense
McKinnon is on a tear scoring a ton of touchdowns in a short period of time. But his involvement in the passing game is what is most exciting. Prior to Week 9, McKinnon never saw more than 4 targets in a game, he then saw 8 targets in two straight weeks but wasn’t particularly relevant because he wasn’t involved at all in the running game. Now, he’s involved in both and he’s earning targets at an incredible rate (9 targets in Week 14, 8 in Week 15, and 10 carries to boot). He’s seeing the same target level as Travis Kelce and Juju Smith-Schuster. In this offense, that could win you a few fantasy playoff games.
Conclusion: McKinnon might be the unheralded guy you ride to a championship.
Royce Freeman Replaces Dameon Pierce
Yes, Ogunbowale led the team in snaps, but it was Royce Freeman who led the backfield in carries. Freeman played much more of what we’d consider the “Dameon Pierce Role”. He wasn’t great (11 carries for 51 yards and one target), but he was far more effective than Ogunbowale. Also, Rex Burkhead barely played and only saw involvement in the passing game.
There may have been some silver of excitement if a third running back wasn’t suddenly involved, so generally, this backfield is Y-U-C-K, Yuck. The team had a small spark on offense against Kansas City, but I see no reason to believe that surprise isn’t just an “Any Given Sunday” anomaly.
Conclusion: Ignore Houston’s backfield.
Rashid Shaheed Makes a Splash
Rashid Shaheed 71%
In a very big surprise, Shaheed led all Saint Wide Receivers in playing time. This undrafted free agent made a huge play (68-yard pass reception for a touchdown) on a pass from Taysom Hill. He even far surpassed Chris Olave in terms of playing time, so this snap share is a big surprise.
Shaheed certainly splashed, but 4 targets isn’t enough to move the needle. Plus, this offense is frustrating. Shaheed is maybe a name to remember in dynasty leagues, but I’m not trusting him in any fantasy playoff games.
Conclusion: Shaheed is only a name to remember in dynasty leagues for 2022.
Darren Waller Limited in Return
Waller’s playing time was far below his average, but this was his first game back from injury. Foster Moreau actually played more snaps, but it was Waller who ran a healthy number of routes (30 out of 44). From what I saw, Waller was limited to a passing game role and wasn’t involved in much blocking, but that’s fine. You don’t score points for blocking.
Conclusion: Waller should be fine moving forward.