Snap Count Observations: Transactions to Make for Week 4 (Fantasy Football)

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Welcome to the NFL De’Von Achane! Wow, what a crazy week for fantasy football! Hopefully, you readers were some of the 0.6% of people who played him. If not, keep reading, and let’s see if we can find some usable trends.

Cleveland Browns

Jerome Ford Retains Lead Back Duties

Jerome Ford 56%; Kareem Hunt 20%; Pierre Strong 11%

I was not one of the people who spent huge to pick up Jerome Ford, and the primary reason was that it seemed inevitable on Tuesday that the Browns would sign Kareem Hunt. I felt pretty good about that decision when the Browns pulled the trigger on resigning Hunt. However, Hunt did not get used in a big way afterward. Ford played almost triple the number of snaps as Hunt, and former Patriot, Pierre Strong was mixed in as well. To be honest, I am a little surprised with Hunt’s usage. You could explain it away as a midweek signing, but it’s not like Kareem needed time to get acclimated with the coaches or the playbook, he’s been with this coaching staff for a few years now. It looks like the team just trusts Ford the most at this point.

Still, no one was particularly good. The leading rusher was Strong with 27 yards on six carries, but five of those six carries occurred on the final drive of the game after the game was well out of hand. Ford salvaged his day with a couple of touchdowns and got the only green zone carry of the day, but the backfield was pretty split. And Ford was not very effective (10/18/1 on the ground, 3/2/33/1 in the air). Tennessee has a well-established, strong run defense, so perhaps some of this ineffectiveness can be explained away by the matchup. Still, I am a little worried about how ineffective Ford was. Hunt wasn’t much better (5/13 on the ground, 3/2/22 in the air) so there isn’t a huge competition for Ford’s playing time. Still, you probably expected more efficiency, outside of the two touchdowns, from a player who cost so much FAAB.

Conclusion: Jerome Ford‘s playing time looks strong, but his efficiency should give you pause.

Tennessee Titans

Derrick Henry Ghosts This Week

Tyjae Spears 56%; Derrick Henry 38%

We are very used to Derrick Henry playing about 70-80% of the snaps. In this game, he came nowhere close. So what’s going on here?

Well, to begin, the Titans look putrid, and the Browns’ defense seems spectacular. The Titans ran only 46 total plays in the game on 10 drives and averaged fewer than five plays per drive. It’s hard to “establish the run” when the team goes three-and-out (or worse) half the time. The most hilarious part? The Titan’s “best” drive – a 10-play, 55-yard drive down the field, did not end in points – the team ran out of time due to a sack by Myles Garett with no timeouts left.

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Also, the game was out of hand pretty early as it was 20-3 midway through the third quarter. But this is all part of a bigger problem for the Titans. They aren’t very good. If the game script goes this way, it seems like the team wants to “save” Derrick Henry. In Week 1, against the Saints, in a competitive game, Derrick Henry “only” saw 15 carries, and only played 54% of the snaps. Everything was back to normal in Week 2 when he got 25 carries and dominated the snaps, but now we have this game where they got blown out of the building.

It sort of feels like Henry’s days in Tennessee are numbered. There were trade rumors throughout the offseason, and maybe that is a move the team could make if they start losing more games (1-2 right now, only one game back of the division-leading Colts (!!!)).

Spears is a solid player. He’s getting used throughout the game, not just when the game is out of hand. Maybe the team just sees too much tread on the tires for Derrick Henry. It seems crazy to think, but we might be nearing the end of Derrick Henry‘s dominance. It’s hard to say though with certainty because the team keeps flip-flopping. My advice would be to hold for now and try not to panic against one of the best defenses in the NFL right now, but you have to be a bit worried.

Conclusion: Don’t panic quite yet with Derrick Henry, but teamwide inefficiencies are a concern.

New Orleans Saints

Kendre Miller Is Being Brought Along Slowly

Kendre Miller 34%; Tony Jones 49%

Kendre Miller got the start and the first carry of the game. He had a few decent runs and finished with the most rushing yards on the team, but Tony Jones looked far more involved. Jones saw four targets to Miller’s three, and, as you can see above, he played quite a bit more. Also, Taysom Hill mixes into the equation at times as a runner at the QB position, so Miller saw his total touches only hit 10 for the game. The injury to Derek Carr didn’t help matters as the offense screeched to a halt with Jameis Winston taking over (with the exception of a late drive consisting of Herculean efforts by Chris Olave to win the game, only for their new kicker to blow it on a very makeable kick…).

So, all in all, the rookie looked okay. But, this was the final week of Alvin Kamara‘s suspension, so that is likely to eat into his usage. Jamaal Williams will probably get involved again too once he returns from injury. Basically, this is a crowded backfield on a below-average offense featuring a rookie coming off an injury with middling draft capital. Seems like he doesn’t have a path to redraft value.

Conclusion: Kendre Miller didn’t do enough to keep holding on to a roster spot in a shallow league.

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Los Angeles Chargers

Joshua Kelley Is Not Austin Ekeler

Joshua Kelley 79%

Joshua Kelley has now had two games to show he’s more than just a guy in Austin Ekeler‘s absence, but he can’t do it. He’s getting Austin’s playing time, but he’s not being utilized like Ekeler. Truthfully, this result makes sense; these players do not share the same skill set. Ekeler is special outside of the backfield, while Kelley has been pedestrian (one catch and one target in each of the two games without Ekeler). Without such an impact weapon, the Chargers changed their offense. They involved WR passes and way more passing to the WR and TE positions. Again, that’s smart coaching, but it means we need to move on from Kelley. He’s likely a flex option at best, even when Ekeler is out (which he might be again next week). Honestly, Kelley might be a better fantasy option when Ekeler is healthy as a change-of-pace guy.

Conclusion: Joshua Kelley plays a lot but doesn’t produce a lot without Austin Ekeler.

Indianapolis Colts

Josh Downs Introduces Himself

Josh Downs 80%; Alec Pierce 96%

Downs played as the slot receiver in this game and emerged as a fantasy option. He remains playing behind Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce, but he saw 12 targets on the day (most on the team) and finished with eight catches for 57 yards. Downs isn’t seeing big, down-the-field looks though – that honor would go to Pierce, who totaled 161 air yards on his seven targets. Gardner Minshew certainly changes the calculus for the Colts’ offense, so Downs may not be a real option for anyone other than needy PPR league teams. Still, Downs remains interesting since he earned 12 targets.

Conclusion: Keep your eye on Josh Downs, especially in PPR leagues.

Baltimore Ravens

Yes, Melvin Gordon Is Still in the NFL

Melvin Gordon 40%; Gus Edwards 44%

Melvin Gordon was elevated to increased playing time due to the injury to Justice Hill and saw a big uptick in carries due to an injury to Gus Edwards. He was okay, going 10 for 32 on the ground, and two for 23 through the air.

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This seems to happen every year: the Ravens find some older running back and plug-and-play. Why would 2023 be any different? Even with a new OC, time is still a flat circle as the Ravens are relying on a seemingly washed-up RB and Lamar Jackson is getting 10 designed runs. Melvin Gordon is probably usable in a pinch, but I am not getting excited. Justice Hill might be back and Gus Edwards could, theoretically, clear the concussion protocol. Still, he’s here and playing, so be aware.

Conclusion: Grab Gordon if you are desperate or all of the other Ravens’ RBs remain injured.

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