Snap Count Observations: Five Transactions for Week 14 (Fantasy Football)
This morning I woke up and suddenly the fantasy playoffs are on the horizon, screaming through the open window in my mind like a Rooster hell bent on ruining my day. I’m not sure how the season flew by this quickly, but it’s exciting that we’re already here. This has been a year filled with some crazy twists and turns, so the playoffs should be just as wild. This is my annual reminder to anyone that follows my work that this isn’t the time to give up, even if you have the weakest team in the field. If you’re in, that’s what matters. I have seen eight seed teams win it all, and first place teams that dominated the regular season get smacked in the first weekend. I have personally been on both sides of that coin. Anything can happen in the fantasy playoffs, so stay diligent when you set your lineups, regardless of who you lost along the way. I have plenty of teams with Calvin Ridley, AJ Brown, Darren Waller, Chase Edmonds, Dalvin Cook, and others. It can be an easy excuse as to why you stopped paying attention, but you absolutely shouldn’t. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and if the dawn never arrives, then you can get some extra sleep.
As far as the actual recommendations go this week, it’s a bit of a pivot point for me. I’m not sure how every league handles trade deadlines, so some of these may not be applicable if they mention a trade. Take my general thoughts into account, not just my conclusion. If I say trade for Melvin Gordon, it also means don’t give up on Melvin Gordon. If I say trade for a player on waivers, it means add that player. Let’s win some championships, people.
The Minnesota Vikings Wide Receivers
Adding K.J is setting up to be an underrated move that I will be aggressively trying to make this week. Osborn walked right into the Adam Thielen role when Thielen went down, and there’s a very strong chance he will spend a full four quarters in that role on Sunday. Somehow Osborn ended up seeing more snaps than Justin Jefferson, and he was a mirror image of Thielen when it came to snaps and target share. The injury reports on Thielen do not look great, and I fully expect him to miss the game this week. Osborn is someone that can give you WR3 production with touchdown upside for more, but he will be widely ignored by a lot of your leaguemates. I know I had some ugly lineups last week that included random wide receivers filling in for guys who are missing significant time, and I would have loved to have Osborn around. He’s an excellent stash and a potentially solid start against the Steelers. Jefferson will draw the bulk of the coverage, so both Osborn and Tyler Conklin should find room to operate underneath. I would feel confident with him in my flex spot if Thielen can’t go this week, and I absolutely love him in DFS.
Conclusion: ADD K.J Osborn and START him if Thielen sits
The Carolina Panthers Running Backs (Snap Counts without CMC in 2021*)
Chubba Hubbard: 54% Snap Share, 68% Rush share 12.7% Target Share in CMC’s Absence
This one is technically a repeat, and also based on much earlier snap counts. The numbers next to Hubbard’s name reflect the usage he saw when CMC was out this year, not just his last game. As you can see, he wasn’t a full time player, but he was very heavily involved from a volume standpoint. The main reason I bring this up again is because of the bizarre Joe Brady situation. Brady was fired during the Panthers bye week, and the reports indicated it was due to Brady’s lack of willingness to run the football more. Rhule reportedly wanted to see 30-35 carries per game for the running backs, and Brady wasn’t making it happen. Regardless of my personal thoughts on how ridiculous that is, it could mean that the entire backfield will see a major uptick in work. Whoever takes over in the short term will almost certainly abide by Rhule’s wishes, and that could mean a surprisingly hefty workload for Hubbard. If we see something similar to Mike Davis in 2020, then Hubbard could be a quiet league winner during the most important part of the season. The reason I featured his usage was to show you my expectation for his floor, with his ceiling potentially being much higher. I’m confident in firing him up as an RB2 against the Falcons this week, and I’d try to get him onto my team right now if it’s still doable.
Conclusion: ADD, START, or Trade FOR Chuba Hubbard
The Denver Broncos Running Backs
It’s Week 14 of the 2021 season, which means I am contractually obligated by the fantasy Twitter oversight committee to mention Javonte Williams. Are you sick of hearing about him? Me too. But he needs to be addressed. Is he the RB1 in dynasty? Is he the top keeper for next year? I don’t know, because this isn’t the time to worry about that. I’m worried about how he will fare on my redraft teams. I am here to be a contrarian and warn you that Javonte szn may be a trap in the immediate future. We have known all season long that Williams is a baller, and the Broncos staff has clearly taken a liking to him as a prospect. He immediately split work right down the middle with veteran financial anchor Melvin Gordon, so they’re well aware of his abilities. I went into his game against Kansas City expecting exactly what I saw, so I am quite confused as to why there’s so much fuss about him. He’s an awesome player, who has been an awesome player. The obvious outlier was the absence of Melvin Gordon….. but guess who should be right back in Broncos backfield this week? Melvin Gordon. The Broncos offense was not more efficient or productive with Williams featured, so there is zero reason to make him the focal point of the offense this week or any week the rest of the year. There is actually more incentive to keep him healthy if he’s truly the future, and they are already tied to Gordon for this year. If I’m the front office in Denver, I’m getting every single yard out of Gordon before he leaves. I fully expect the rookie stud to fall right back into his 1A role and see similar work to what he saw all season. The Broncos 9 points didn’t change much for them as a franchise, so this Williams buzz is more confirmation bias and an over-reaction in my humble opinion. His team is notorious for rotating backs, even good ones (see: All-Pro Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, who are both now cut). If I’m wrong then great, because Williams is awesome. If I’m right, then at least we will always have the high yardage total and garbage time touchdown in a sleep-inducing island game that the Broncos lost by double digits.
The Atlanta Falcons Wide Receivers
I love this one so much, because I hammered a few too many prop bets on Gage’s receiving lines and it worked out fabulously. I don’t fully understand how the Falcons deploy receivers, because this is two straight seasons where Russell Gage has randomly became relevant and stayed that way for a few weeks. His target share has shot up recently, but nothing has really changed schematically for Atlanta. Matt Ryan seems to just be honing in on him more often, and that’s a good thing because chemistry matters in these situations. The Falcons will be trailing in most of their games the rest of the way, so I expect Gage to be a garbage time hero. Garbage Time Gage, if you will. Not every fantasy team in the playoffs will need someone like Gage, but there are enough wide receiver situations around the league that warrant a second look for managers in six team playoffs. All that matters during this time is fantasy points, not the names producing them. I expect Gage to provide WR3 production in PPR formats, and that may be good enough for plenty of potential Cinderella stories.
Conclusion: ADD or Trade FOR Russell Gage
The Baltimore Ravens Running Backs
Trading for anyone may be impossible in your league, so this one can be ignored if you passed the trade deadline. Or, you can read this as a recommendation to keep Freeman on your roster. His role on a typically run-heavy team has been really solid, but the Ravens have flat out stunk the last few games. I still believe they will right the ship before the end of the regular season, and Freeman could benefit from that greatly. He has quietly settled into top-dawg duties for John Harbaugh, and he even saw a 21% target share in a game that had a fairly neutral game script. His touchdown upside alone puts him in weekly flex territory, but if the Ravens figure things out during the fantasy playoffs then he could be someone that breaks open a game for you. I can already picture your opponent losing their mind as Devonta rips off 2 TDs and 70 all-purpose yards in 2016 fashion as you scrape your way to a fantasy title as the five seed. That may sound like a dream, but it’s a realistic one. I’m holding Freeman and firing him up against the Packers in Week 15, at the minimum.
Conclusion: Trade FOR or HOLD Devonta Freeman