Snap Count Observations: Transactions to Make for Week 3 (Fantasy Football)
Week 2 was chaos! We had a shootout in Baltimore, a stunning comeback from the New York Garrett Wilsons – err – I mean, Jets, and more Super Bowl hangover from the Bengals. While the games were fun, this post is all about looking at playing time trends. We had a few players suffer injuries (Jerry Jeudy, James Conner, Trey Lance), and we also saw a few players return from injury (Allen Lazard, Tee Higgins). Some of these situations resulted in exactly what we’d expect (situations I will largely ignore), and some resulted in unexpected data that may help you win your waiver wire period.
Recall from last week: I want to find actionable data. That might mean a significant increase or decrease in snaps, a significant deviation from average playing time, or changes due to injury. Not every game gave us actionable data, so you won’t find analysis for all 32 teams below.
Anyway, as we start to understand teams better, the analysis will get quicker and straighter to the point. Faster analysis will allow me to discuss more teams and offer more suggested actions, so I hope you continue to enjoy the format!
Kenneth Walker Eats Into Penny’s Workload and Playing Time
Kenneth Walker was brought along slowly, only playing 12 snaps and receiving only 4 carries. Interestingly, he saw 3 targets – three more than Penny saw. That’s a good sign, as some worried about his pass catching ability coming out of the draft. Still, Walker and Penny players are largely completing for only a slice of the backfield playing time, not all of it. Travis Homer played 35% of the snaps last week, and 45% this week, meaning Ken Walker only took playing time away from Penny. Seattle is unlikely to win a lot of games or be ahead very often, so that suggest Homer consistently will play a lot. If Walker and Penny are splitting only around 55% of the workload, then both Walker and Penny’s upside is capped.
Last week was clearly an aberration for the Seahawks, as the team played with added motivation to stick it to Russell Wilson. This week, the team looked flat and outmatched. No Seattle running back looks appealing if the flat version of the Seahawks plays most weeks.
Conclusion: Consider benching both Penny and Walker; Also consider shopping them to the RB needy.
Tyrion Davis-Price Perfectly Emulates Elijah Mitchell By Getting Hurt
Jeff Wilson 49%; Davis-Price 39%
In a rather surprising turn of events, Jeff Wilson played fewer snaps in Week 2 than he did in Week 1. This partially makes sense, considering Davis-Price was inactive last week, and the 49ers had basically no one other ball carries, other than Wilson, after Elijah Mitchell was injured. But with Davis-Price active, the 49ers plan to split the RB carries came to fruition (18 carries – Wilson; 14 carries TDP). The problem was that Tyrion looked awful, turning those 14 carries into a mere 33 yards, meanwhile Wilson skillfully turned 18 carries into 84 yards. It should be noted, however, Tyrion Davis-Price was on the field for a green zone attempt from the 1, but the carry went instead to Kyle Juszczyk, who converted. Also, now the word is that Davis-Price has an ankle injury. (Ok, the 49ers need to seriously evaluate their medical staff – 49er RBs are constantly getting hurt). Jordan Mason is the next man up and will have value because the RB1 and RB2 in SF are essentially indistinguishable from a workload perspective. That said, every 49er RB is apparently a ticking time bomb just waiting to come up gimpy. Spend appropriately.
Logical Coaching Prevails!
Coach Brandon Staley got the Sony Michel toe dip out of his system. After seeing what fantasy football managers have seen for years, Staley demoted Sony Michel because Michel is not good. The result was a much more respectable number of snaps for Austin Ekeler. The game was a shootout, which necessitated more Ekeler, but the primary worry is now gone.
Conclusion: You can worry less about Austin Ekeler‘s playing time.
Pacheco is the Victory Cigar
Last week, Isiah Pacheco has a surprising number of carries, but we reasoned that the blowout nature of the game vs. Arizona had something to do with his extended playing time. We were right; Pacheco barely played in this highly completive game. He can be dropped in your typical redraft leagues. CEH had another great game, but I still would be shopping him as he’s still playing less than Mckinnon. That said, CEH is doing more with less, so perhaps this number flips soon. If you shop Edwards-Helaire, make sure you get a good reward; this is still a running back on an explosive offense.
Conclusion: Drop Pacheco; Continue to shop CEH but increase the asking price from last week.
Jets Continue to Deny the Eye Test
Breece Hall looks really good, but the Jets don’t seem to care. Fantasy players love to talk about the fallacy of logical coaching – this idea that coaches will do the right thing by playing the more talented player but never actually do. Despite Hall clearly looking superior at running, catching, etc., he continues to get passed over for playing time by Michael Carter.
The Jets were in catch-up mode for a lot of the game, so it is possible that Carter simply has the “Hurry-up Offense” RB role. But still, Hall had 10 targets last week and looked great. This week: only one. I recognize that things like pass-blocking are super important for veteran QBs and coaches, but eventually, Breece’s talent is going to become too much to ignore. I remain a believer, so I am throwing out offers for Breece.
Conclusion: Go get Breece Hall for cheaper than you should.
Lovie Smith Realizes He’s Actually the Head Coach – Swaps RB Playing Time
Last week, Lovie Smith suggested after the game that Dameon Pierce should have played more in Week 1. Turns out, as the head coach, he can actually control that. I guess that after years of horrific results at the University of Illinois, perhaps the most surprised person that Lovie Smith is an NFL head coach is Lovie Smith.
All kidding aside, Smith did acknowledge that Pierce’s low playing time in the first week was a mistake, and he rectified it in Week 2. So, credit where credit is due. As a result, Pierce had a strong grip on the playing time, and he handled every running back carry. His efficiency was decent, considering he plays for a below-average offense. He even saw a target, while Burkhead only saw 3. Pierce looks like a solid player, but his offense may not give him a ton of touchdown opportunities.
Conclusion: Pierce is playable, but not an automatic start.
Jamaal Williams is not a D’Andre Swift Replacement
Swift was apparently fighting a gimpy ankle. You wouldn’t know it watching him play, as he played games did things I couldn’t do while healthy.
D’Andre Swift knifes his way through the defense for a Lions TOUCHDOWN!! pic.twitter.com/WVJxd2MlW5
— Brian Y (@byysports) September 18, 2022
The Lions limited Swift’s carries to just 5, but they really didn’t give Jamaal Williams many more possibilities. He played exactly his average number of snaps in Week 2, while Hard Knocks favorite, Craig Reynolds, saw a small uptick. This more or less confirms that Reynolds would take the Swift role were he to miss any time (godforbid), while Williams simply has a defined and static role – a role that isn’t particularly valuable unless he falls into the endzone multiple times.
Super Run Heavy Team Finds Workhorse
The Bears as an offense look awful, which is perhaps not a surprise. But, even bad offenses can produce good fantasy football players. David Montgomery looks to be the only usable Bear right now because he turned 80% of the snaps into 15 carries for 122 yards. The best parts of the Bears’ offense were runs to David Montgomery – a sentence I never thought I’d ever write again. 80% usage is CMC/Saquon/Fournette workhorse levels. And this was a game that wasn’t even close. The Bears should have been 80% passes down 20 in the second half, but they weren’t! The Bears ran the ball, in a game that was never competitive, 27 times compared to 11 total passes… Remind me, what year is it?
No, a team that runs 38 TOTAL OFFENSIVE PLAYS is not a team you want any of your fantasy players to play for, but the takeaway is that the Bears are apparently never going to gamescript out David Montgomery, which is good news because they look like a team about to lose… a lot…
Conclusion: Montgomery is the only Bear you want to roster. Not a terrible trade-for target, as he’s probably pretty cheap.
Rookies Get Demoted
The Packer Rookies had a chance to shine against Minnesota, but dropped the ball… literally.
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 11, 2022
The result? Drama Queen Aaron Rodgers has your playing time yoinked!
Some of this was to be expected. With Allen Lazard healthy again, the Packers leaned hard on Lazard and the Washed-up Veterans (Watkins, Cobb). Christian Watson was the most punished, as he only ran 8 routes on 25 passes (he was involved in some gimmicky stuff, like end-arounds and hand-offs, but nothing particularly valuable). Truthfully, the Packers didn’t need WRs to win this game – they won it through the running backs alone. They are unlikely to blow out everyone this badly, so we shall see.
Conclusion: Allen Lazard is by far the WR1 for the Packers – Doubs and Watson are limited playing time, role players.
Michael Pittman is the Only Show in Town
Parris Campbell 86%; Austin Dulin 64%
Without Michael Pittman, the Colts offense looks horrendous. They got blanked by the Jaguars! Matt Ryan barely completed 50% of his passes, and the pass catchers looked rough. Particularly Parris Campbell, who played by far the most snaps, but turned two targets into zero catches, and the team never attempted to scheme him the ball through the running game. ::shrug emoji::
It’s clear that Campbell’s injuries have done him in. He’s not going to become a thing. Austin Dulin looked alright, with 7 targets, 5 catches, and 79 yards, most of which occurred on a 39-yard splash play. The offensive woes aren’t great for Jonathan Taylor either. Dulin is worth holding, in case he becomes the WR2, but everyone else is droppable, even with Pittman sidelined.
Conclusion: Drop every Colt except Taylor, Pittman, and Dulin
James Robinson Defies Medical Science
Last week, I made a joke about the foreseeability of Cam Akers struggles in view of his Achilles injury. Perhaps I need to rescind that statement, given the miracle of modern science that is James Robinson. Robinson, less than a year removed from an Achilles injury, handled 23 carries in an NFL football game. Given, he wasn’t dominant with those carries, but he still out-touched Travis Etienne 25-to-12. The Jaguars were always in control of this football game, so the run-heavy nature of the offense isn’t surprising. What is surprising is just how willing the Jags are to rely on a guy who is overcoming the hardest injury to overcome for a running back.
I am still not sure I trust this production from Robinson. But, even in a competitive game against Washington last week, Robinson looked pretty good. At the moment, he looks like a steal.
On the Etienne side, the Robinson Recovery is not good news. Etienne is in a true split backfield, and he hasn’t led in touches even in games where the team is trailing or in a shootout. This isn’t what you drafted.
Conclusion: Start Robinson with confidence; Sit Etienne in some circumstances.
The exact same analysis above regarding Jamaal Williams applies here but perhaps more concretely. Despite Alvin Kamara sitting out due to injury, Ingram played essentially the same number of snaps as he did when Kamara played in Week 1. Instead, Kamara’s snaps went to Tony Jones and Dwayne Washington.
Ingram did see a small uptick in carries (10 in Week 2; 4 in Week 1), but this game was very low-scoring and competitive. Ingram just has a role with the Saints, and context doesn’t change that role. Kamara is hard to replace with a Mark Ingram-type.
Conclusion: Mark Ingram will not see a fantasy-relevant uptick in usage or performance when Kamara isn’t healthy.
Stevenson Irrelevant Even With Increased Playing Time
Without Ty Montgomery, Rhamondre was asked to perform double duty: play his normal allotment of snaps and Montgomery’s. It still didn’t matter. Even with significant playing time, he wasn’t good – seeing only 1 catch for 4 yards on two targets. Harris did his usual thing, but this just isn’t a particularly good offense.
Conclusion: You can drop Rhamondre Stevenson if you need room.
Pickens Plays Big Snaps
George Pickens was a preseason darling, and those impressive plays have earned him a significant number of snaps. He’s playing essentially the same number of snaps as Dionte and Claypool, and it’s clear that the base-set for Pittsburgh is a 3-wide set. That’s good. Unfortunately, Pickens has not delivered. He disappointed again in Week 2 with only three targets. However, his one catch was impressive, for 23 yards. Pickens will struggle to get targets with Dionte earning so many, and again, we have an offense that looks below-average to poor. Still, I am not dropping him yet because he is on the field so often. The best Steelers offenses could support three fantasy-relevant WRs, but of course, those offenses were helmed by a Hall of Fame QB; this one is helmed by Mitch Trubisky.
Pickens could surpass Claypool for target volume and collect a bunch of air yards in doing so. This is probably wishful thinking, but we know that rookie WRs take some time to become useful. I choose to remain patient after all the good we saw in the preseason.
Conclusion: Hold George Pickens due to playing time.
Eno is Not a Connor Replacement
I’ve said this a few times today: some running backs just have a role on a team, and injuries to teammates do not impact that role. Depth Charts are not always as simple as “next man up”.
Eno Benjamin remains the “change of pace back”. We didn’t even see Darrel Williams in Week 1, but once Conner was hurt, Williams slid into 46% of the snaps. Darrell Williams looked the better running back to me, and he has a history of stepping up when filling in for an injured teammate. That said, the reports of Conner’s injury are that it is not serious, so Williams is not a priority add, but Conner has been labeled “injury prone” in the past, so this is a good one to have on your radar. If you have a deeper bench, Darrel Williams wouldn’t be a terrible add.
Conclusion: Darrell Williams is the true James Conner backup; worth a low-priority add if you have space on the bench.
Panic for Pitts? No.
I have a lot of shares of Kyle Pitts, so if you are feeling the pain of two terrible performances, I am right there with you, friend. Adding more fuel to our fury, the Falcons coach said after the game regarding Pitts usage, “It’s not fantasy football. We’re just trying to win”. Well, from one patronizing jerk to another, I’d like to point out that you didn’t win, Arthur, so maybe us fantasy players know a thing or two, like, ya know, THROW THE BALL TO YOUR BEST PLAYER!
Sorry, needed to get some anger out of my system.
While these first two weeks were horrible, there is still reason for optimism. Pitts ran the most routes of any Falcon, he played the most snaps of any Falcons playmaker, and he ranks second on the team in vertical routes. Aaaaaand, his Week 3 opponent, Seattle, has struggled against the tight end so far this year, particularly last week against the 49ers, who didn’t even have a healthy George Kittle.
Drake London is developing into a very good wide receiver. That’s probably good because defenses are clearly game-scripting Kyle Pitts in 2022 because he is a terrifying athlete. Eventually, this will work out. Try to be patient. Just remember, after two weeks last year, Mark Andrews was the TE17. There is still much hope.
Conclusion: Scream mean things at Arthur Smith; Don’t panic about Kyle Pitts.
Cam Akers Isn’t Dead
Cam Akers may not have played more snaps than Darrell Henderson, but he did get more opportunities (15 opportunities to 10). Perhaps more importantly, Akers was the only running back to see any targets (3), which he turned into 18 yards (meh).
Henderson still looks more effective, albeit barely. This game should not have been as close as it was (it was 31-10 in the 3rd quarter – a blocked punt turned TD and a safety in the last few minutes made the game close), but it’s not exactly clear who is the end-of-game clock milker, as both backs cycled in and out during the fourth quarter. That last statement probably says it all – the Rams want this backfield to remain a split. The 80%+ snaps Henderson saw from Week 1 appear to be an outlier in view of a dramatic deficit to the Buffalo Bills. Plus, with the Rams’ penchant to throw near the goal-line, neither Rams RB option looks particularly exciting.
Conclusion: Both Rams RBs are FLEX plays.
Dolphins Backfield Switcheroo
The Dolphins’ backfield situation is going to be difficult to predict. Unlike last week, Raheem Mostert led the backfield with 55% of the snaps while Edmonds had 51%. However, these end-of-game numbers don’t really tell the whole story because, at halftime, Mostert had played 80% of the snaps while Edmonds was at 27%. The 4th Quarter crazy comeback was largely fueled by the Dolphins’ passing game, and Edmonds appears more clearly involved in that phase because the snap counts evened out, but again, that doesn’t tell the whole story! Mostert and Edmonds each had three targets, and Mostert did far more with his three targets than Edmonds did (28 receiving yards to 8).
This offense looks deadly, and defenses will have to shift over to focus on Waddle and Hill. That makes Mostert very interesting in games that aren’t crazy shootouts.
Conclusion: Mostert is a priority add if still available on the waiver wire.
Kenyan Drake Gets Demoted
A lot of people, including myself, played Kenyan Drake this week after seeing him play nearly 60% of the running back snaps. He seemed in line to be the primary ball carrier in Baltimore with Dobbins out another week. However, he ended up only playing 25% of the snaps this week. He played terribly, but so did every other Ravens running back. Still, his playing time was shocking.
The only explanations for his cratering snap counts was missed pass blocking. Kenyan Drake was given a 17.7 score by PFF in blocking, which means he must have missed several assignments badly. Those misses must have got him yanked in favor of Justice Hill and Mike Davis. Hill was apparently very good in pass blocking – getting the highest blocking grades of any Raven.
Drake is probably a cut candidate once Dobbins returns, which was nearly this week and probably next. Throw him Drake to the wolves.
Conclusion: Cut Kenyan Drake.