Snap Count Observations: Transactions to Make for Week 7
I saw a lot of lower scores around my various fantasy leagues this week. This does tend to happen as NFL defenses acquire film, scheme, and level the playing field. As with NFL defenses, fantasy players have a pretty solid picture of who to play and when. Personally, I didn’t make a lot of mistakes in my start-sit decisions (other than apparently playing Lamar Jackson over Marcus Mariota, but c’mon). Bye weeks make those decisions easier, but they take away the strengths of your roster. Fantasy football giveth, and it taketh away.
We also saw a lot of things confirmed that we expected. Eno Benjamin was, in fact, relied upon heavily in Arizona with both Darrel Williams and James Conner sitting the game out, and Deon Jackson strongly led the Colts backfield without Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor available. Alternatively, plenty surprised us. The New York Jets absolutely handing it to the Packers was not something I would have bet on, especially in a game where Zach Wilson looked like trash and the team barely threw. Apparently, strong offensive and defensive lines plus a fantastic running back can still get it done, even in the modern NFL.
The point is, there is still plenty to learn and plenty of unexpected events heading our way. Studying these numbers, I see a lot of the same game-to-game, but we have to stay on our toes. At any moment, Cam Akers could just suddenly leave his team. A Robby Anderson type might suddenly be shown the door after he tests the limits with the new coaching staff. Plus, the trade deadline is coming up, and the Panthers may ship out big names like D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey. Hopefully, this article can help you anticipate some of those drastic changes that are bound to occur.
Robinson Takes Command of Commanders’ Backfield
After a week to acclimate to the NFL and test his body, the Commanders handed over the majority of the running back work to Brian Robinson. To me, he looked pretty average. 60 yards is okay on 17 carries, but he didn’t look particularly special on the field. The problem for Robinson is that he is not a pass catcher. He ran no routes last week, and he ran zero routes in Week 6. Positively, Robinson saw all of the goal line work (confirming my theory from last week), so Robinson is at least seeing some high-value touches. Of course, Robinson needs the Commanders to drive down the field and get to the green zone before he can receive those touches, which may be a tough bet on a bad team now without its QB1, so we are still looking at a running back with a likely low number of high-value touches.
Moreover, Washington wants to make your life as a fantasy manager even worse. Now that Robinson is dominating the carries (17 carries for Robinson; five for Antonio Gibson; three for J.D. McKissic), Washington divided up the pass-catching work between Gibson and McKissic. After years of misusing Gibson as a pure runner, now the Commanders start using Gibson in the passing game?!? Gibson actually looked okay catching passes out of the backfield (3-for-18 on three targets) – a surprise to no one who watched his college tape. Alas, Gibson ran only seven routes (25% route participation) and McKissic ran 14 (50% route participation). Note: Three targets on seven routes tell you everything you need to know about Gibson’s ability as a pass catcher.
Due to this strict division of labor, no running back is an exciting option in Washington. Robinson will apparently see enough carries to deserve starting lineup consideration, but his ceiling is entirely touchdown-dependent. McKissic is now unusable with his route participation cut in half (no targets in Week 6!). And among all that, Gibson gets a few scraps here and there to shut him up – a workload that screams waiver wire fodder, not start consideration.
Conclusion: Robinson is the only Washington RB that should be anywhere near your starting lineup. Gibson is nothing more than a hold in case Robinson gets injured.
Stevenson is a Workhorse Without Harris
Last week, I explained that the Patriots were forced to exclusively play Stevenson after Damien Harris‘ injury because the Patriots had no other active running backs. I assumed that in any game moving forward without Harris available, the Patriots would activate someone like Pierre Strong or Kevin Harris, and give one of those backups 30-40% of the RB work. Well, I was very wrong.
A week after Stevenson played 90% of the snaps, Stevenson played 86% and looked fantastic. Most notably, this game was out-of-hand late into the game (31-15), yet Stevenson was still toting the ball, which allowed him to score his second touchdown. This Stevenson usage is contrary to Bill Belichick’s history of RB usage, but when you’re wrong, you’re wrong.
I am sure most readers of this column still started Stevenson with glee, so his added usage was just more good news. That said, if you did add a Pierre Strong type as a wait-and-see on my advice, you can drop them now.
Conclusion: When Damien Harris is unavailable, the Patriots will strongly rely on Stevenson. No other Patriots RB is worth holding.
Big Game Singletary
During the Podcast last week, The Ballers explained that the Buffalo Bills ride Devin Singletary in games that are close and give him a break on games they dominate. This nail-biter against Kansas City proved that theory to be 100% true. Make note of this as a Singletary manager: play him with confidence in close games, but consider other options when Buffalo is expected to dominate.
Also, Zack Moss didn’t play, but James Cook did, after scoring his first touchdown on an impressive run last week. He may not jump Singletary any time soon, but his opportunities and role are increasing.
Smith-Schuster Sees Season-High Snaps
Juju’s routes and snaps have gone up steadily over the last two weeks. His output was strong in this game with five catches for 113 yards and a score. That said, he scored on a broken play and was very lucky to avoid three tacklers who all bumped into each other. Those 42 yards and TD probably should have been an 11-yard catch and no score. If Juju went 5-for-80 instead of 5-for-112 and a score, you’re likely feeling very different today.
JuJu takes it home‼️
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 16, 2022
This feels like a sell-high moment. I like the uptick in routes and snaps, and he looks healthier than he did earlier in the year. But still, this offense runs almost exclusively through Travis Kelce. The Chiefs spent a bunch of money and draft picks on guys who run fast to pull the defense away from their rockstar TE, but those players don’t do anything fantasy relevant. MVS is trash; Hardman is trash. Yes, technically MVS saw a touchdown that was called back for a really dumb “ineligible player downfield” penalty, but that doesn’t change the fact that MVS is never targeted downfield. Of his three targets that weren’t called back for a penalty, those targets accumulated to 21 air yards. He’s not a Tyreek Hill replacement in any way, shape, or form. Drop him to the waiver wire and never consider him again.
Conclusion: Sell high on Juju; Ignore all other WRs in KC.
Gesicki Involved Again?
Mike Gesicki saw a season-high in snaps in Week 6, but more importantly, was suddenly very involved in the offense again. Gesicki saw seven targets for six catches, 69 yards, and two touchdowns, leading to a much-improved Griddy:
teddy to gesicki for the touchdown. gesicki hits a much better griddy than the last time he pulled it out. pic.twitter.com/JdJps3YtmZ
— josh houtz (@houtz) October 16, 2022
The pre-season report on Gesicki was that he was going to be asked to block more, but in this game, he ran 42 routes (out of 55). Both of his TDs were near the goal line, so he’s also very involved at that part of the field – something the Dolphins aren’t particularly good at. The TE landscape is still awful, so perhaps Gesicki is a streamer again. It will be interesting to see if this continues after Tua’s return.
Conclusion: Gesicki should again be considered a streaming option at TE.
J.K. Dobbins Not Healthy Enough
Just weeks after not even being raised to the active roster, Kenyan Drake led the Ravens backfield again. Some of this feels a bit “hot hand-y,” but Dobbins has played fewer snaps than Drake in two straight weeks. Also, Dobbins apparently left the game with a knee tweak, which is supposedly minor, but nonetheless indicates a more troubling situation: Dobbins just isn’t himself. Dobbins has not been good since he returned from injury. His first week back was 7-for-23, his second was a particularly gross 13-for-41, and now this week he saw seven carries for a mere 15 yards. YUCK. He also hasn’t seen a target in two straight weeks, and my data suggests he didn’t even run a route against New York. Bad, ugly, and worse: Gus Edwards still remains on the PUP, but he has started practicing, and his return could be any time now.
Time may help this, as perhaps additional healing allows Dobbins’ explosiveness to return. That said, he did suffer a particularly nasty injury last season, and it may just not be in the cards for 2022. If he can’t outplay Kenyan Drake, I have trouble believing he’ll be able to outplay Gus Edwards and Kenyan Drake. Consider moving on.
Conclusion: wait until Dobbins demonstrates a modicum of explosiveness before starting him again.
Robinson Makes Immediate Impact
After his strong game, the Giants increased Darius Slayton‘s playing time, but he couldn’t maintain any semblance of his target dominance from Week 5. That’s likely due to the partial return of Wan’Dale Robinson. Robinson played limited snaps, suggesting the team may not have been resolute about his health situation. Still, in the 12 routes that the team did allow him to run, he saw more targets than any other wide receiver, including Slayton, who ran more than double the number of routes (26). That translates to a 33% TPRR for Robinson compared to an 11.5% TPRR for Slayton. Oh, and by the way, Robinson found the end zone on one of his catches.
Wan’Dale Robinson was tied for 1st among Giants WRs in target share (16.1%) in his first game back
He was also last among Giants WRs in snap share (23%) 👀
— Marvin Elequin (@FF_MarvinE) October 17, 2022
The point is: Robinson is by far the best healthy receiver on the Giants at the moment, where a blackhole-sized void exists for target opportunities. Robinson is likely to be on a lot of waiver wire articles, but maybe some people are scared off by the *mere* four targets and only 38 yards receiver. Not you, however, you see through those numbers and see the potential now.
Conclusion: Spend up to get Robinson.
Malcolm Brown Given First Opportunity – Yawn
Cam Akers is done as a Ram. The team moved on by activating Malcolm Brown and Ronnie Rivers to the active roster. No surprise, Henderson led the way, but Brown saw seven carries and one target. It went about as poorly as you’d expect. I didn’t see any burst, and I don’t know that his role lasts for very long.
A name to know is Kyren Williams, who is currently on IR, but eligible to return after the Rams’ Week 7 bye. Williams is someone the Rams staff loves, and had a three-down profile at Notre Dame (77 catches over 24 games). That profile may be necessary to produce anything in this Rams offense, which lost yet another offensive lineman for the year. For all the non-Achilles reasons Akers wasn’t performing, a ground-and-pound RB won’t work behind this beat-up and struggling OL. A pass catcher who could get out into space though, now you have my attention.
D’Onta Foreman Clear RB2
The Panthers are a dumpster fire, and their fire sale has already begun with the trade of Robby Anderson earlier today. McCaffrey’s name has been thrown about in some rumors, so D’Onta Foreman may inherit a role as lead-back. I recognize that watching this offense requires you to strap your eyelids into that device from A Clockwork Orange, but just look at what Dameon Pierce is doing in Houston to remind yourself that an RB seeing 80% of the carries is super valuable. If you have the room, you can probably sneak Foreman onto your roster before the trade happens and hope.
Conclusion: Sneak Foreman onto your roster if you are RB-needy.