Snap Count Observations: Five Transactions for Week 11 (Fantasy Football)
Week Nine and Week Ten were like the last two seasons of Game of Thrones. They were exciting, interesting, and unpredictable – but ultimately left you feeling empty and very confused. Upsets were happening left and right, while big men scored touchdowns and quarterbacks disappointed their fanbases in a way that mirrored the lame story arc given to Daenerys Targaryen. This is the first season I can recall where there aren’t any clear top teams this late into the year. The Bucs lost to the Football Team, the Bills have already lost to the Jaguars, and Arizona became the first Cardinal to ever lay an egg when they lost to the P.J. Walker-led Panthers. I’m personally hoping the madness continues for entertainment purposes, but it’s been tough for fantasy leagues. The grind doesn’t ever stop, but we need to be even grind-ier than usual with this type of parity. Individual matchups become crucial, and the studs in “start your studs” might mean a third-string running back in a great matchup instead of your disappointing third-round pick in a terrible one. This week I’m going to focus primarily on trade targets that can help your team take the final step before the fantasy playoffs. The waiver wire is uniquely thin right now, but there are still two options that may be available:
The Denver Broncos Running Backs
This situation has taken a lot longer to develop than I expected, so there is no guarantee that the Broncos do the right thing anytime soon. That thing, of course – is to make Javonte Williams their true 1A. Both Gordon and Williams have been decent fantasy producers this year, but neither one of them has truly taken over the backfield. Williams is at the top of every list in terms of efficiency metrics so his rookie season is showing major promise, but he hasn’t been given a chance to be the guy. If his talent hasn’t been enough to convince the coaching staff, it’s very possible that Melvin Gordon‘s goal line blunder this past weekend tipped the scales. Gordon fumbled a ball on a crucial drive for the Broncos that all but shut the door on a potential comeback, and Williams was given the bulk of the snaps afterward. The snap count distribution between the two of them was as lopsided as its been all season this past week, even though Gordon still saw a bit more work overall. If Williams is given 60% of the snaps going forward, he should be able to turn a corner both on the field and in our fantasy lineup. Both of these guys warrant lineup consideration this week, but I’m going to be closely monitoring Williams’ usage to see if Denver’s coaching staff is turning an eye towards the future. He has a great shot at a Jonathan Taylor-esque run to end the season, so I’d rather get out in front of it now. Worst case scenario, he’s a reliable RB2 in your flex spot.
Conclusion: Trade FOR Javonte Williams (Especially in Dynasty Leagues)
The San Francisco 49er Running Backs
Eli Mitchell has been featured in this column many times, and I’m proud of the analysis I’ve given on many occasions regarding how to approach him. First I suggested you bid aggressively for him on the waiver wire, then I suggested you stay the course when he flopped the first week, and then I suggested you trade for him two weeks ago. All boxes were checked, and Mitchell has been a crucial addition to many teams. He’s the fifth leading rusher in the NFL over the past four weeks, and he appears to have a stronghold on the top spot that was once given to Raheem Mostert. The second man in that rotation is Jeff Wilson, Jr. Trey Sermon is completely absent from any fantasy conversation until something drastically changes, but Wilson should be on your radar now. He returned to action two weeks ago for the first time and barely saw any work, but his usage increased dramatically in Week ten. Wilson was once a goal-line vulture that visited us in our nightmares, so it’s possible he is making his way towards that status again. Eli Mitchell is going to see the bulk of the carries between the 20s, but an untimely finger injury this week could be enough to convince Shanahan that he should let Wilson be the punisher near the end zone to manage the wear and tear that Mitchell is bound to accumulate. It’s a good strategy for real football, so we should be prepared for it in fantasy football. I’m still on the Eli train for now, but Wilson should be added as a wait-and-see bench stash.
Conclusion: ADD Jeff Wilson, Jr
The Tampa Bay Buccaneer Running Backs
Tampa Bay was the biggest letdown of Week Ten, which is saying a lot. They looked out of sorts on both sides of the ball, and their powerful offense looked more like a wimpy excuse for a football team playing on way too high of a Madden difficulty setting. Up until this point Leonard Fournette has over exceeded expectations, so he’s not going to be an easy player to acquire. This may be a good opportunity to pounce on a manager who’s thinking “here we go again” with Fournette, who has sputtered out down the stretch in previous seasons earlier in his career. He’s not a player that is ever fully trusted, but he’s in a spot that commands it. If you recall the 2020 season, and only the 2020 season – then you know what I mean. Fournette was a workhorse down the stretch and throughout the playoffs, and his usage this week should tell you that he was technically a workhorse, just running a really ugly race. Snap share, rush share, and target share are more important than pure production when trying to identify trade targets, and Fournette is a screaming buy. His passing game share in a Tom Brady offense is enough to entice us alone, but his domination of the running back carries and goal-line usage makes him a potential league winner if (and when) the Bucs get back to business. Trust and experience have always been more important to Tom Brady-led teams than pure talent, so I expect the full 2020 playoff treatment for Fournette going forward.
Conclusion: Trade FOR Leonard Fournette
The Baltimore Raven Receivers
I think Rashod Bateman is a stud. I want to get that out of the way. I don’t think you should target Hollywood Brown because Bateman is a fraud, I want you to target him because Bateman is the exact opposite. Marquise Brown has never been a target hog, so I’m not concerned at all about Bateman’s emergence. Mark Andrews will likely see a bigger hit to his workload than Brown ever will, and it’s very possible that the young rookie could help open up even more lanes for the Jackson/Brown connection down the field. Even in a game that was as ugly as it was hilarious, Marquise still saw an elite target share. I personally think that he’s the most underrated asset in fantasy this year, and he continues to produce in the prop bet column week in and week out. If you play with sharper players who think that Rashod Bateman is a threat to Brown’s usage, then you should out-sharp them by taking him off their hands. They will think they pulled the rug out from under you when in reality they sat down on the rug and handed you the corner. Hollywood Brown is a set it and forget it RB2 who is viewed much differently than that, so it’s time for us to punish the people that don’t believe in him. The iron is hot, and I plan to strike.
Conclusion: Trade FOR Marquise Brown
The Dallas Cowboy Running Backs
A blowout is never a time to take backup running back usage too seriously, but Tony Pollard is an excellent trade or waiver target regardless. We’ve seen Alexander Mattison produce at an elite level when Dalvin Cook goes down, and we are about to see AJ Dillon get the full RB1 treatment with Aaron Jones sidelined. There aren’t very many true handcuffs in fantasy football, but Tony Pollard is the one that’s lurking in the shadows should anything happen to Zeke. This week was important because it gave us some insight into how the Cowboys operate with Zeke resting, and that should indicate exactly how they’d run with Zeke sidelined. Tony Pollard is a talented player (in my opinion, more so than the guy playing in front of him), and the Cowboys clearly have no issue handing him the keys to the backfield if needed. Zeke is pretty durable, but so was Derrick Henry. Zeke is an excellent player, but so is Saquon Barkley. AJ Dillon could be a league winner, but so could Tony Pollard. He should be rostered for the upside alone, and his usage this weekend shows us that he’s far from forgotten in Jerryworld. The last time I suggested a handcuff like this before it was truly necessary, it was Darrel Williams. I hope I don’t curse Zeke of course, but I can promise you that everyone who read my write up on Williams is very happy they took the advice.
Conclusion: ADD or HOLD Tony Pollard