Snap Count Observations: Transactions to Make for Week 2 (Fantasy Football)
Week 1 is always rather revealing. For some teams, our expectations were confirmed (e.g., Justin Jefferson is indeed a monster). Meanwhile, for other teams, we saw some surprising usage and notable playing time (see below). Regardless, every season is new and different, so we need to try and stay in the moment and not think too hard about previous usage and our offseason expectations. Conversely, one week of data is a tiny sample size and may not bespeak all future playing time and trends. I will do my best to filter signal from noise and deliver only notable playing time observations.
So why do we care about snap counts? Obviously, players need to be on the field to score fantasy points, but we need to dig deeper than that. We also want to look at playing time through the lens of production, which this article will do. For example, Sammy Watkins played 67% of the Green Bay offensive snaps this week, leading all Packers WRs, but he only managed three targets for 18 yards. Watkins used to do this same thing for Kansas City all the time – play a lot of snaps but do nothing with it. We don’t care about useless playing time. We care about impact players playing less than expected, players doing a lot with a little bit of playing time (suggesting bigger playing time later), and unexpected players playing big-time reps.
In other words, we want to comb through a lot of numbers to find actionable data. Indeed, that is the goal of this article: note interesting playing time data, and then make suggestions for your fantasy team, like “Pick up Player A” from the waiver wire, or “Hold Player B who underperformed”, or “Trade Player C high”, etc..
I will write this article weekly and publish on Tuesdays before your waivers run. I hope you find this article helpful and that you win championships because you read it. Given that this is our first week actually watching fully competitive football, this article will be a bit longer than usual. In the future, as trends continue and players fall into defined, expected, and predictable roles, this article will become a bit more focused and concise. With that introduction, let’s get to the numbers.
Running Back Snap Counts – Heavy Henderson Usage
By now you’ve likely heard about how bad Cam Akers performed for fantasy teams in Week 1 (3 carries for no yards). If you are a Cam Akers manager and you’re looking for a silver lining, you won’t find it here. Frankly put, Akers barely played. He played only 12 snaps, compared to Henderson’s 55.
It should be noted that Akers sat out most of the preseason with an injury. Not much about this injury is known, as the team merely labeled this a “soft tissue injury”. Also, we know that Akers is still recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered during offseason 2021. After the game, Coach Sean McVay said, “Cam’s got to maximize his [opportunities]”, which isn’t exactly a vote of confidence from the head coach or an excuse for poor play. Akers’ fantasy managers were hoping to hear that the soft tissue injury was still bothering Akers in Week 1, which would explain away this poor usage and performance. We didn’t get that confirmation.
Meanwhile, Henderson, who also had injury issues that held him out of pre-season, was not limited at all. He dominated usage and opportunities (13 carries and 5 targets).
The game was essentially a blow-out, with Buffalo routing the defending champions. Perhaps Henderson has the RB role that is leaned on more heavily when the Rams are losing (e.g., obvious passing situations, hurry-up offense, etc.). However, even that “optimism” is bad news for Akers, suggesting that he wont get any high-value touches other than the occasional goal-line carry.
Conclusion: Akers has to stay on your bench in Week 2; Start Henderson with confidence against the Falcons.
Pass Catcher Snap Counts – Kmet Very Involved
Cole Kmet was a popular tight end sleeper this year, but he sorely disappointed in Week 1 (no catches on only one target). Still, Kmet was on the field a ton – only Darnell Mooney out-snapped him of the Bears pass catching options. It’s important to remember that the Bears-49ers game had horrendous weather (the weather in Chicago was a downpour for the entire game with a flooded NFL field). Fields only attempted 17 total passes, and only completed 8.
— Overtime (@overtime) September 11, 2022
Conclusion: Don’t panic – crazy weather prevented Kmet from being involved in a fantasy relevant way. Hold Kmet.
Running Back Snap Counts – Three-way Split on Bad Offense
As of today, we still aren’t exactly sure who the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots is. Is it Matt Patricia? If so, good luck Patriots fans. Is it someone else? Then why hide it? Either way, this offenses looks B-A-D, Bad. And now, the team’s starting quarterback has a back injury. Not good.
Injuries I’m tracking following Week 1
Dak Prescott (Fractured Thumb)
Keenan Allen (Hamstring)
Eli Mitchell (Knee)
Tee Higgins (Concussion)
Chris Godwin (Hamstring/Knee)
Najee Harris (Foot)
Mac Jones (Back)
Wan’Dale Robinson (Knee)
— Matthew Betz (@TheFantasyPT) September 12, 2022
With the foundation of a bad offense, we have an ugly split in playing time and usage. Harris managed only 9 carries, but surprised with 3 targets; Stevenson got 8 carries and only two targets, but did very little with those opportunities (27 total yards, no touchdowns); and Montgomery only got two carries, but led the running backs in targets with four. Montgomery also, notably, got the team’s only touchdown on a green zone pass where he rolled into the end zone.
Ty Montgomery rolls in for the #Patriots touchdown. 💪
No, literally. pic.twitter.com/vOsegBWaRO
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 11, 2022
Conclusion: Do not start any Patriots running backs if you can avoid it. Harris is only a usable option in positive game scripts, of which there are likely going to be very few. Montgomery potentially usable in PPR leagues.
Mike Gesicki – Not Part of the Game Plan
Mike Gesicki 42%.
There were rumblings in the offseason that Mike Gesicki‘s role would change as the team focused more on passing to their talented pair of wide receivers. Those predictions came true in Week 1. Gesicki only played 42% of the snap counts, which led to only 1 target for 1 catch for 1 yard. I hope you didn’t draft Gesicki, but if you did, move on.
Conclusion: Drop Mike Gesicki
Running Back Situation – Dameon Pierce Takes a Backseat to Rex Burkhead
Preseason darling and player found to be more important than Oxygen, Dameon Pierce, disappointed in Week 1. Pierce received 11 carries and one target for 34 total yards, but he barely played compared to veteran Rex Burkhead. Burkhead appears to have a firm grasp on this backfield and is clearly the preferred pass-catching back (8 targets compared to 1 for Pierce). The Colts are a good defense, and Pierce was slightly more efficient on the ground than Sexy Rexy, but Pierce was not the lead back the market expected when his ADP shot through the roof.
Still, Pierce looked alright in his opportunities and the Texans hung tough with a decent team. The team doesn’t look as bad as some thought, so Pierce likely will have more value in the future. He also can earn more playing time as he outperforms Burkhead on the ground. That said, Pierce does not look like a league-winning running back.
Conclusion: Pierce is an RB3 at best for the next few weeks.
Texan Tight Ends – Look Beyond Two TDs
Surely nobody actually started O.J. Howard in a redraft league, but you likely saw his name at the bottom of the screen while watching Red Zone as a TE scoring leader. Howard had two touchdowns, resulting in a TE2 finish on the week (before the MNF game).
Another OJ Howard touchdown! pic.twitter.com/qQLK47U1hG
— Sidelines – Bama (@SSN_Alabama) September 11, 2022
Howard’s outburst is a bit fluky because he scored on his only two targets of the game. You should not rush to add Howard on the waiver wire. Meanwhile, Brevin Jordan also only saw two targets, but he ran far more routes than either Brown or Howard (25 RR for Howard, 15 and 6 for Brown and Howard, respectively). Brown is primarily an extra blocker, and Howard is a situational guy. Howard could have “Jimmy Graham for the Bears” value, but this offense doesn’t scream red zone opportunities.
Wide Receivers – A Lot of 3WR sets
The Lions have a good offense; they hung 35 on Philadelphia. D’Andre Swift looks like a star, and the offensive line looks very strong, even without their starting guard, Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Amon-Ra was the headliner, per usual, racking up 12 targets. But the Lions base set appears to be 3-WR. This has a Rams 2017 feel, where Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods were all typically in starting fantasy lineups every week. Right now, Josh Reynolds is holding down that Brandin Cooks, deep threat role. Reynolds dropped a pass that was a likely TD so even he could have been a startable player. Chark and St. Brown look like clear starters in 3WR leagues.
Conclusion: The Lions offensive weapons look strong and startable every week, particularly Swift, St. Brown, and Chark.
Clear RB Leader Until J.K. Dobbins Returns
Many people expected Mike Davis to lead the Ravens backfield in touches until J.K. Dobbins was healthy enough to return, but then the Ravens signed Kenyan Drake after being cut by the Raiders. After Week 1, we know that Mike Davis is useless, and the clear backfield leader is Kenyan Drake. The outcome of this game was never in doubt, and despite Drake being labeled a “pass-catching back” in Oakland, he got the lead-back treatment in Baltimore. Mike Davis is not taking any playing time or carries away from Kenyan Drake.
Dobbins apparently wanted to give it a go in Week 1, but the team held him out, perhaps because the Ravens were merely playing the Jets. But Dobbins could return any day. Until that happens, however, Drake is the only Ravens RB worth rostering. Also, Drake may remain usable until Gus Edward returns from injury.
Ya Gotta Earn it, Rookie
Breece Hall was not handed the keys to the kingdom just because he was the first running back drafted in 2022 by the Jets. Instead, Coach Robert Saleh did the typical veteran favoritism nonsense that NFL coaches love to do for some reason, and played Michael Carter more than Hall. Additionally, Breece fumbled in the fourth quarter, which probably had something to do with the snap splits.
Still, Hall’s talent could not be denied because he earned 10 targets, the most of any running back in Week 1. Breece Hall didn’t stun us with his rushing ability, and 6 catches for 38 yards won win you many weeks, but 10 targets indicate strong pass-catching talent. Breece can be started next week if he’s this involved in the Jets’ passing game.
Conclusion: Start Breece Hall in Week 2.
Running Back Certainty; Wide Receiver Uncertainty
The Giants’ backfield is Saquon Barkley. Barkley looked healthy and dominated to the tune of 18 carries for 164 rushing yards and 6 receptions for 30 yards. Saquon had the highest snap share of any running back in the NFL (higher even than Christian McCaffery’s 81%), which is exactly why I picked him as a league winner. Saquon is a top-5 RB start each week.
Meanwhile, the pass-catching group looks rough. Surprisingly, Kadarius Toney barely played, and there was no indication that he was still nursing the injury from any post-game comments. Toney wasn’t targeted, and his only opportunities were rushing attempts. Coach Brian Daboll rambled off some incoherent nonsense about Toney being in some packages and not others. Regardless of how vague this answer is, the fact that Toney isn’t a full-time player is bad news. Toney seems to either be in the doghouse or not part of the full game plan.
Wan’Dale Robinson injured his knee in the first half, impacting his snap share. It was hard to tell, but he looked to be the WR2 after Golladay. Golladay did not impress, but he’s playing the type of snaps where you want to see if anything happens here, especially with Toney in the doghouse and Robinson potentially injured (although it doesn’t sound serious).
Conclusion: Hold Golladay one more week. Hold Toney too, but it doesn’t look good for him. Either can be dropped if necessary.
Winning Using A Lot of Pieces
Want clarity? The Chiefs won’t give it to you.
Juju played fewer snaps than MVS, but doubled him in targets. Meanwhile, at running back, Pacheco played by far the fewest snaps, but carried the ball 12 times, while CEH and McKinnon combined for 11 total carries. Pacheco looked great carrying the ball; he looked efficient and he scored a touchdown, but he got zero targets (and as far as I can tell, didn’t even run a route). Also, most of Pacheco’s snaps were in the fourth quarter, which was apparently garbage time. But CEH is getting the headlines for his two TDs on three catches, even though he was out-targeted by Jerrick McKinnon. Ugh!
The most important thing to take away from this data is that the Chiefs scored 44 points, the highest of the weekend. You want pieces of this offense however you can get it. Even a 30% usage guy on the Chiefs can still find the end zone twice, so it’s worth having exposure. Right now, the best non-Travis Kelce player is JuJu.
That said, I am not optimistic about CEH. He ran only 13 routes and only got 7 carries. I would be trying to sell him high.
Conclusion: Sell CEH; Buy McKinnon; Sit Skyy Moore; Start MVS and JuJu.
Also Winning Using A Lot of Pieces
The Chargers are very similar to the Chiefs, except we didn’t expect this. The craziest stat of the day for the Chargers is that seven players led the team in targets with 4. Nobody dominated the target share for the Chargers, especially after Keenan Allen got hurt. Adding to the struggle of predicting playing time in this offense were the struggles of Mike Williams and Josh Palmer. The presumed WR1 and WR2 after Allen went down combined for 15 total yards on 5 catches.
Despite the lack of production, Williams and Palmer are clearly the wide receivers to roster. Their playing time is so much higher than the players who did perform.
The scary number is Austin Ekeler‘s sub-50% playing time mark. Ekeler got no green zone touches, after coming in second in that department in 2021. The addition of Sony Michel is apparently eating into his usage. Ekeler remains in your lineup because he was one of those seven guys with four targets, but you don’t like to see your first-round draft pick playing snap counts in the 40% range. Despite this grim early season outlook, I won’t quite say I told you so yet though. Still, lots of time in the season for things to change.
A True 50-50 Split
Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are truly splitting the work, as Zeke only received two more total snaps than Pollard. Pollard may be the running back the team turns to when trailing, and Dallas did a lot of trailing in this game. Still, the O-Line in Dallas looked average (giving up 5 sacks and only grinding 71 team rushing yards), so I am not excited to start either Cowboys running back.
Note: Noah Brown played 88% of the snaps. He’s worth an add in deeper leagues, but keep your expectations low because Michael Gallup will replace him once healthy, and Cooper Rush is not the QB I’d trust to support a third passing option.
Conclusion: Zeke and Pollard are RB3s at best.
Burks Flashes in Limited Playing Time
Treylon Burks 37%.
Treylon Burks only ran 14 routes in the 24 total offensive snaps he played. He was playing behind Robert Woods, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, and Kyle Phillips. But, despite limited playing time, he nearly lead the team in offensive yards. Only Phillips out-targeted him, and his 5 targets/14 routes run is a 36% TPRR, which is insane (above 20% is great).
Burks is being brought along slowly. I don’t know if the limited snap numbers is related to the asthma issues reported in the offseason or the antiquated “gotta earn it, Rookie” mentality held by far too many NFL coaches. Either way, he flashed. Throw out some offers for those only paying attention to the 3 catches or the limited snap share numbers. Or, if he’s on your waiver wire, I’d add him for cheap.
Conclusion: Buy Treylon Burks.