Snap Count Observations: Five Transactions for Week 2 (Fantasy Football)
Football is back, which means the timeless tradition of massive overreaction after the first slate of games has returned in a blaze of glory. We promise every year that we won’t do it, but every year without fail, we panic about our favorite players if they don’t dominate right out of the gate. Scoring fantasy points is crucial for obvious reasons, but usage is typically more indicative of how things shake out on a generalized, season-long basis. If your players are seeing the field, seeing targets, and staying involved, then you don’t need to panic. If your player is Brandon Aiyuk, then you might need to panic.
I’ll be covering snap count analysis every week for the full 2021 NFL season. Every Wednesday I’ll put out an article covering the top five snap share percentages that stuck out to me the most, for either positive or negative reasons. I will also add a potential transaction for each of them, so you can use this information to your advantage. This is the type of data that can help identify the top waiver targets before they gain popularity and provide meaningful signals for trade candidates. I’ll do my best to share week over week trends to highlight players falling out of favor with the coaching staff or working their way up the depth chart. Total fantasy points don’t always tell the full story during a season, only a few chapters. Consider snap counts both the prologue, and the epilogue. They’re an underrated statistic that deserves more attention from serious fantasy players.
Let’s get to it.
The Buffalo Bills Running Backs
Second year bruiser Zack Moss was a healthy scratch on Sunday. This was quite the shock, as a lot of people (myself included) expected him to be the primary back in Buffalo. Not only was Devin Singletary the 1A, he was essentially the 1Only. Moss didn’t even play, and Matt Breida only saw snaps to give Singletary a break. The usage here was workhorse-esque, albeit on a team that doesn’t prioritize the running game. If this keeps up then Singletary will be a very valuable asset on one of the best offenses in the NFL. I don’t expect it to remain this way for too long and I think there is more to the Zack Moss situation than it appears, but Singletary should be held and started until we see otherwise.
Conclusion: Hold and Start Devin Singletary
The Pittsburgh Steelers Running Backs
Najee Harris: 100% of Total Snaps, 100% of RB Snaps, 100% of RB Rush Attempts, 9.4% Target Share
The first round rookie in Pittsburgh became the first running back since 2019 to play every snap in an NFL game. The last person to do it was Christian McCaffery, who went on to produce a few decent fantasy games after that. The offensive line issues in Pittsburgh reflected themselves on the stat sheet for Harris since his eventual game line looked brutal, but the usage was promising. The Steelers organization is going to do everything possible to justify this pick, even if it means running Harris into the ground in his first season. If Harris’ continues to dominate snaps in this way he will be a lock for a high-end RB2 finish at worst, with an easy path to the top 8 if his target share continues and the Steelers don’t play the Bills every week.
Conclusion: Trade FOR Najee Harris
Denver Broncos Running Backs
The split here was expected for the most part, but the fact that Williams saw 50% of the snaps and a larger share of the rushing workload than Gordon is meaningful. I expected Gordon to be the clear 1A during the first few weeks, but it was a dead-even split after just one. Williams didn’t outproduce Gordon, but most of Gordon’s production came from one big touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter. Gordon hasn’t done anything to lose the job, but keep in mind we have seen this story before as recently as 2020 with Phillip Lindsay in the backfield. It may only take one bad game from Gordon or one explosion from Williams for the tide to turn in favor of the rookie. This is the last chance you have to get Javonte Williams onto your roster.
Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receivers
I fought against my instincts and repeated a team on here, but it was too important to overlook. The Steelers had three receivers being drafted in the first ten rounds of fantasy drafts, and it’s just a matter of time before one of those players lets people down. Big Ben and the Pittsburgh passing game won’t support all three of these young pass catchers, and someone will be the odd man out. JuJu Smith-Schuster was the favorite to fall out of favor before the season started, but after one week he’s the one who saw the most snaps. His target share was in line with Claypool’s so the competition will remain heated between the two, but JuJu might not be as dead in the water as some people will have you believe. Diontae Johnson picked up right where he left off as the clearcut WR1 on a good offense, and the world still doesn’t care. His target share was amongst the best at his position this week, despite missing a chunk of plays while he was being checked on the sidelines. I would hold both JuJu and Claypool with a slight edge to Claypool long term, and I would be aggressively trading for Johnson as his fantasy managers might be bored of his dynamite consistency.
Conclusion: Trade for Diontae Johnson, Monitor and Hold Both Claypool and JuJu
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wide Receivers
The entire fantasy industry and all of your friends will be talking about Antonio Brown this week, and for good reason. His production during an island game was notable and exciting. His return to fantasy relevance has begun, but his perception as a potential WR1 couldn’t be more dangerous. Brown played a very clear third fiddle for the Bucs passing attack, and his target share wasn’t anything to be excited about. He was on the receiving end of a few big plays, and he will continue to play that ‘boom or bust’ role this year. Brown will be a strong flex option most of the time, but he’s not the top trade target in Tampa Bay. Chris Godwin was the clearcut WR1 for the defending champs, and he was a dropped touchdown catch away from exploding for fantasy managers. This is the best possible scenario to trade for an excellent receiver on a top NFL offense, because very few people noticed the pecking order. They were too busy enjoying the game, which is a good thing. Godwin’s primary statistics didn’t fully reflect his week one usage. That’s an advantage for us. There will be a lot of variance from this receiving corps, but Godwin should be the most consistent pass catcher amongst the group and is locked in as a reliable WR2.