Snap Count Observations: Transactions to Make for Week 6 (Fantasy Football)
Another great week of football! Some things seem back to normal (Joe Burrow is good), and some things seem completely upside down (the Patriots are the worst team in the NFL?). Let’s look at some playing time numbers and make some observations.
Zay Jones Is an Important Piece of Offense
Calvin Ridley‘s two best games this season have come when Zay Jones has been healthy. In Week 1, Ridley had a great game, and he turned in another highly productive game in Week 5 (eight targets for seven receptions and 122 yards). Without Zay Jones, the Jaguars were force-feeding the ball to Christian Kirk and Evan Engram, and the offense was a little stagnant. I do get the feeling that the Jaguars prefer Christian Kirk as a zone-beater, and Ridley is used more against man-to-man defenses. When I was watching this game, it seemed like Ridley was having his way with one-on-one coverage, beating the man coverage at will. Also, the Bills were without Tre’Davious White. So perhaps the return of Zay Jones isn’t quite the sole catalyst the headline above suggests, but his presence does seem somewhat important to this offense as a whole.
Jones didn’t play a ton in this game, as the team eased him back. His snaps were in the 80-90% range in Week 1, so playing less than half the snaps is not what we should expect from a fully healthy Jones moving forward. I am not rushing out to pick up Zay Jones, even though he did score a touchdown, but I think his presence raises Ridley’s ceiling.
Conclusion: Calvin Ridley should stay in your lineup.
Colts Ride the Hot Hand
The return of Taylor did little to slow the Zack Moss train down. He dominated playing time, carries, and rushing yards. Zack Moss looked great again, against one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Is Jim Irsay’s wallet having some regrets?
The Taylor deal got done mid-week, and Jonathan Taylor was returning from an alleged injury. So it does make some sense that the team didn’t throw him into the fire after four weeks away from regular season football and missing the entire preseason due to contract disputes. This ramp-up period is probably going to take a few weeks for Taylor given his absence from the game for so long. Also, the impressive play of Zack Moss isn’t helping matters, if you roster Jonathan Taylor. The team is wise to ride the hot hand!
Still, there is some room for optimism. Taylor played only 10 snaps, received six carries, and earned a target. Having an opportunity on 70% of his played snaps is pretty impressive, but completely unsustainable. These plays were likely scripted, so the high usage number isn’t really surprising. 18 yards on six carries isn’t anything to write home about, but he did turn a screen into a 16-yard gain. He is still a very good player, but I would not rush to insert him into my lineup until his playing time cracks at least 45%.
Conclusion: Hold Jonathan Taylor, but wait on playing him until he ramps up.
Trenton Irwin Is a Name to Know
Irwin 76%; Tyler Boyd 73%
Without Tee Higgins, the Bengals turned to Trenton Irwin. Irwin is an undrafted player who has bounced around the league, mostly with the Bengals in practice squad roles. His talent may not blow you off the page, but he saw 10 targets, which is at least notable. He is 6’2″ and 207 lbs., so not a far cry from Tee Higgins‘ body type. He had four career touchdowns on 18 career receptions before yesterday, so he has some red zone appeal. Reeling in eight passes is at least somewhat impressive, even if it was against the Arizona Cardinals. Irwin did have his fair share of mistakes, including a fumble, which wasn’t lost, and he fell on a route that led to an interception (although the fall was caused, arguably, by an illegal contact). Irwin did return some punts too, so that makes him somewhat more interesting if you get points for that in your league.
The Bengals looked a little better. Joe Burrow continues to take a lot of sacks, but Burrow looked at his best when he was force-feeding the ball to Ja’Marr Chase – a strategy fully endorsed by this weekly column. The emergence of Trenton Irwin demonstrates that Tyler Boyd‘s role will not change in response to the Tee Higgins injury, and Irwin more or less assumes Higgins’ full role. That might be worth a very low FAAB bid in a deep league.
Conclusion: Trenton Irwin is an add in deeper leagues.
Jaleel McLaughlin Is Impressive but Plays Limited Snaps
McLaughlin 33%; Samaje Perine 60%
You don’t need to look beyond the box score to see who the more impressive running back is for Denver. Jaleel McLaughlin had nine carries for 68 yards and four targets leading to three catches, 21 yards, and a touchdown. Meanwhile, plodding Perine could only muster 22 yards on six carries, but he was impressive as a pass-catcher (five targets, four receptions, 73 yards). Javonte Williams did not play, and the depth chart does not appear to have changed in view of McLaughlin’s impressive coming-out party last week. McLaughlin was a hot waiver wire name last week, and he’s producing enough efficiency to justify a starting role in fantasy lineups, but only playing a third of the snaps on a bottom-half offense is not super exciting.
Conclusion: McLaughlin is probably only an emergency spot start.
Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua Can Coexist
Nacua 100%; Kupp 95%
Cooper Kupp took the field like nothing had happened to his hamstring, playing basically every snap. Meanwhile, Puka Nacua did play every offensive snap. Both players continued to be target hogs, as demonstrated by each of their entire careers, albeit Nacua’s is significantly shorter. Kupp saw 12 targets, and Nacua earned 11. There was some concern that these two players could not coexist because of the overlap at WR. Those concerns were completely unfounded as Sean McVay is a smart coach who found a way to get his best players on the field and be useful.
Through five weeks, Nacua is averaging 12 targets per game (bolstered significantly by the 20-target game in Week 4). But even in a game where the target monster Cooper Kupp returned, Nacua still earned essentially his average in targets. He’s good at football, and good players earn targets. So as long as Matthew Stafford remains healthy, both Nacua and Kupp are top-20 WRs. They both must be started
Conclusion: Keep starting Nacua and Kupp.