Snap Count Observations: Transactions to Make for Week 4 (Fantasy Football)
Clear trends have formed across the NFL as players settle into well-defined roles. That makes sharing what I have discovered studying playing time quicker. Last week, I analyzed 19 NFL teams (ugh!); this week, I dive into a mere 10. I am not trying to gyp you, dear reader. Instead, some situations just are not worth writing about. It would waste your time to publish something about an 8% dip in Joe Mixon‘s snap share just because he had an inefficient day on the ground. Instead, what gets me excited is the sudden breakout of a player who is given an opportunity.
That situation couldn’t more perfectly describe the Romeo Doubs game on Sunday. The Packers placed Sammy Watkins on IR, and Christian Watson was inactive with his own injury situation. Before the game, Coach Matt Lafleur said of Doubs, “Certainly, he’s going to have to take more of a load this week.” That wasn’t coach-speak; it was truth. Romeo Doubs‘ previous season-high snap share was 61% (in a game Allen Lazard missed), and last week he played a mere 37% with Watkins, Watson, and Lazard all active and playing. This week, the Packers gave him the opportunity to be the team’s true WR2 behind Lazard, which resulted in 89% of snaps, and more importantly, a team-leading 8 targets, 8 catches, 73 yards, and a touchdown. This was a breakout game.
More notably, Doubs achieved these stellar numbers against a very good Tampa Bay defense. The Packers only finished with 14 points in this game, and Rodgers passed for a respectable, but pretty average, 255 yards passing on 35 attempts. The point is, it was tough treading. Against less inferior competition, Doubs may have absolutely smashed.
Sammy Watkins is out for at least 3 more games on IR. Plus, honestly who cares? It’s Sammy Watkins. His career has been washed for several years now. In truth, the fear coming into this game was that Doubs wouldn’t get elevated; the team would just play Randall Cobb more. Instead, Randall Cobb‘s role didn’t change one iota – he’s a slot receiver who plays less than half the snaps in a few formations. Doubs, on the other hand, played almost everywhere and practically never came out of the game. Talent wins in the NFL, and the Packers finally allowed Doubs to show off that talent that was so evident in the preseason (all he does is score TDs!).
I hope that you picked him up before this game on the news that Watkins landed on the IR because, without a doubt, Romeo Doubs is the top waiver wire pick up this week, and probably the best pick-up so far this season. Doubs flashed in the preseason, he has a profile that’s exciting, and he broke out against stellar competition. This breakout will only grow.
Anyway, situations like Doubs’ breakout are why we write this column, and why you read it. Let’s dive into a few more!
The Chicago Offense remains in the 1950s; Doesn’t Blink an Eye After Montgomery Goes Down
The Bears continue to run the most run-heavy offense we’ve seen in about 70 years – outdoing their hilariously antiquated run-pass ratio from last week by running the ball 40 times compared to just 17 passes. In the game, David Montgomery injured his ankle and knee on one of his three carries. Surprisingly, this injury didn’t affect Chicago’s game plan, as Chicago opted to plug-and-play Khalil Herbert into Montgomery’s workload to the tune of 20 carries. To the Bears credit, it worked. Herbert smashed for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
Supposedly, Montgomery is “day-to-day“, which doesn’t make Herbert the top-priority claim he would be if we knew that Montgomery would miss significant time. Still, he’s a must-add and worth probably 15-20% of your FAAB budget. Even on this terrible, archaic offense, a workload this heavy is juicy. Montgomery is bound to get banged up again if Chicago continues to try and run their running back into a wall every play. Herbert might be the best running back insurance policy out there.
Conclusion: Pick up Khalil Herbert – spend 20% of FAAB.
Dameon Pierce‘s Workload Remains Stable
Last week, I got excited about Dameon Pierce‘s 62% snaps. Pierce’s workload remained stable in this game, which is great to see. With this playing time, his workload increased (20 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown plus two catches on two targets for 21 yards).
Burkhead’s versatility was a bit more on display this week, as he saw three carries in Week 3 after zero in Week 2, and Burkhead importantly received 5 targets.
Rex Burkhead isn’t going away, but here’s the best part about Sunday for Pierce: he fumbled in the green zone on Sunday (a fumble recovered by his own team), but, maturely, the team didn’t punish him for the fumble. The Texans left Pierce in the game and gave him the next carry on the next play. That shows trust in the rookie. The fumble occurred while Pierce was spinning away from would-be tacklers. Sometimes negative plays happen when you let players with talent try to demonstrate it. Pierce has established himself as the clear, lead back in Houston. That makes him a low-end RB2.
Conclusion: Start Pierce with confidence.
Akers Playing Time Continues to Trend Upward
Cam Akers played a bit better in Week 3, but it took until the late-game phase for him to demonstrate it. At one point, Henderson had 80% of the snaps.
Darrell Henderson has played 80% of the Rams' snaps. Cam Akers has only played 5 of 25 snaps.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 25, 2022
At the point Mike Clay was referring to above, Akers had only 3 carries for 5 yards and no targets. But then, in the third quarter, Akers led a fantastic drive, rushing the ball 6 of 9 plays for 47 yards and a touchdown. But then, right as we are ready to declare, “Cam Akers is back”, he gets 4 more carries on the Rams’ final drive, rushes for only 9 yards, and fumbles – a critical fumble that gave Arizona new life in a game the Rams more-or-less dominated. Adding injury to insult, the fumble occurred on the Arizona 2-yard line. (a touchdown there would have sealed the game for the Rams).
When the Rams were on Hard Knocks, in Akers’ rookie season, Akers fumbled on the goal-line in the team’s big scrimmage. Akers was punished for that fumble for basically the first half of the year. That said, he was a rookie back then, so maybe the same punishments don’t apply to a third-year “veteran”, but this was a critical error. Luckily, Kliff Kingsbury had no intention of trying to win the football game, so Akers’ mistake didn’t cost the Rams a win.
The fumble gives me some unease, but once Akers found his form in the 3rd, he basically handled all of the running back carries. That’s a trend worth noting. Let’s just hope the team doesn’t punish him too badly for the fumble.
Conclusion: Akers is probably fine to start in Week 4, assuming the team doesn’t punish him for the untimely fumble. I’d still be ranking him as a FLEX at best though.
Jeff Wilson is the Only Show In Town
After Tyrion Davis-Price exited the game in Week 2 with an injury, I assumed the 49ers would elevate Jordan Mason to the team’s RB2 workload. That did not happen in this game. Jeff Wilson dominated the playing time and workload. Wilson received 12 carries and three targets, while Mason only got one carry and no targets. Wilson was efficient as well, rumbling for 75 yards rushing and 31 receiving. Clearly the team just doesn’t trust or need Jordan Mason yet.
Conclusion: Drop Jordan Mason unless you have a deep bench. The team seems comfortable leaning on Wilson alone.
Javonte Williams Loses Snaps to… Mike Boone?
Javonte still had a decent workload – 12 carries and 5 targets. But Boone was coming into the game a lot on 3rd down, which doesn’t bode well for Javonte’s strong target share numbers (basically the only thing keeping his fantasy value afloat).
Javonte Williams has only played 13 more snaps than Mike Boone. Not a joke.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 26, 2022
Had Javonte scored the touchdown Melvin scored, we probably wouldn’t be talking about him here, but this is not the player you drafted highly. Worst of all, the Denver offense looks awful. Hopefully, some things change as a result of this putrid offense, but this is the third week of bad offensive output, which clearly qualifies as a trend in the NFL.
Conclusion: Lower expectations for Javonte.
Baltimore Brings J.K. Dobbins Along Slowly
This game was a shootout, which might be a trend for Baltimore (their defense looks rough), but Dobbins seeing fewer snaps than Hill is more likely a product of Baltimore easing him back into the NFL gauntlet following his devastating preseason knee injury in 2021.
Here’s the good news: Dobbins saw more carries than Hill, and saw the only two RB targets. Here’s the bad news: he was horribly inefficient (23 yards on 7 carries, meanwhile Hill went 6 for 60; also worth noting, Lamar Jackson went 11 for 107 and a touchdown on the ground).
Dobbins may get more opportunities soon, and he may also become more efficient after his confidence in his reconstructed knee grows. Baltimore plays Buffalo next week, and I’ve got a feeling Josh Allen is about to feast on that poor Baltimore secondary, which is bad news for Dobbins. I think he’s a desperation play next week. I’d bench him if I could and hope we see some burst to give us confidence in starting him in Week 5 and beyond.
Conclusion: J.K. Dobbins is not a startable running back in fantasy yet given the Ravens’ poor defense.
Breece Finally Leads Backfield
I’ve been preaching patience with Breece Hall for the past two weeks, and our patience is starting to be rewarded. For the first time this season, Breece Hall led the Jets backfield in snaps, and it paid dividends.
Hall saw 11 targets, which he converted into six catches for 53 yards. Michael Carter, meanwhile, only saw two targets for one catch for seven yards. That poor output for Carter is not a surprise. The one target Carter received that didn’t turn into a catch, he straight-up dropped with no pressure around. That was the last target Carter saw in the game, early in the third quarter.
Michael Carter isn’t going away, but the Jets are slowly starting to trust Breece more and more. His talent jumps off the page when you see him get 10+ targets two out of three weeks. Next week, let’s hope he leads the backfield in carries as well as snaps and targets.
Conclusion: Get Breece in those lineups!
Romeo Doubs is Legit
I already spilled a bunch of ink about Doubs in the intro, so I won’t rehash here.
Conclusion: Go get Doubs!
Kyle Pitts Snaps Decrease but Usage Increases
Kyle Pitts 67% (season average 81%)
Okay, so it wasn’t quite the 2-TD breakout many analysts were hoping for, but it could have been.
Kyle Pitts goes for 162 and a tuddy if Mariota doesn’t sail this pass into northern Saskatchewan.
Stick with me on Pitts. Arthur Smith has heard our call. The monster game is coming. pic.twitter.com/3RKY3u4qkQ
— Kyle Lindemann (@LuckIsMadeFF) September 26, 2022
Look, I get it. The above clip can be spun however you want to spin it. For the Pitts believers, it’s just more ammunition to support his impending breakout. For the Pitts haters, you’ll just point to Mariota missing and say, “see, I’ve been worried about the QB situation the whole time”. Fantasy Football is fun that way, the same clip can be argued to support whatever argument you want to take. As a lawyer in real life, it makes my heart sing.
The “Mariota’s the Problem” crowd may have a point, but I’ve spent two years analyzing tight end league winners, and I’ve found that league-winning TEs get a ton of air yards. The key stat from Sunday is this: Kyle Pitts led all tight ends in air yards in Week 3 with an aDOT of 18.3. The only relevant TE who came close is Cole Kmet, with a 15.3 aDOT. Not a lot of NFL TEs get the opportunity to catch a 50-yard bomb because they aren’t fast enough or athletic enough to earn that opportunity. Kyle Pitts is that fast and that athletic. I’d rather have my TE have the opportunity to go “162 and a tuddy” than one who blocks 85% of the time.
Speaking of blocking, it would appear that Pitts is doing less of that, given the dip in snaps. Atlanta’s coaching staff suffered an identity crisis with Pitts, at least until this week. They wanted to play him as a true tight end, and they wanted him on the field all the time, which required a lot more blocking. This week, the Falcons flipped the script. The team leader in TE snaps this week was actually Parker Hesse, who played 75% of the snaps because he was constantly blocking (Hesse saw no targets – he’s essentially another OL). This freed up Pitts to run more routes (Pitts ran 17 routes on 20 Mariota attempts), and the results speak for themselves (8 targets, five catches, 87 yards). Pitts was the leading receiver for Atlanta in all major categories, he just didn’t score a touchdown.
The good news: Kyle Pitts is being used more creatively and getting thrown to in ways that suggest big fantasy scoring later. The bad news: Marcus Mariota didn’t become Peyton Manning by watching Derek Carr play ahead of him for a few years.
Conclusion: Things are trending in the right direction for Pitts.