Snap Count Observations: Five Transactions for Week 4 (Fantasy Football)
Things are finally heating up in the fantasy football world, which means that we’re all destined for constant pain, anger, and anxious feelings about the waiver wire. Last week’s column had some pretty significant hits as James Robinson finally exploded for a top-five finish, and Michael Pittman continued to see an elite target share which bodes well for his season-long outlook. Pittman is still a trade target that you can acquire for cheap, but Robinson’s window is likely slammed shut.
With Week 4 on the horizon, there were a few names that just barely missed the list below. Ty’Son Williams makes for an intriguing trade target in Baltimore, Chuba Hubbard is the clear top option on the waiver wire, and both Dalton Schultz and Dawson Knox are intriguing tight end stashes for struggling teams. The snap counts in general are starting to come into focus and we’re almost near the point where we can project fairly steady usage for most of the season. There is plenty of football ahead, but the Week 3 mark historically gives us enough data to begin trusting what we’re seeing. Week 4 and beyond should be more focused on trade targets and massive shifts in snap counts that we wouldn’t expect.
The Chicago Bears Running Backs
David Montgomery is already in the every-week RB2 conversation, but the shine has worn off a bit from Week 1. Damien Williams was seeing work in the passing game early on, and the Bears offense, in general, has been abysmal. Week 3 was the icing on the ugly cake as the Bears’ offense completely forgot the sport they were playing and Montgomery flopped like an Animal Planet whale video in slow motion. There are still serious concerns about the future of the offense in Chicago, but if we learned anything from Matt Nagy and his staff in 2020, then we should expect Montgomery to be featured all year long. His snap counts hit a season-high this week, and his target share was amongst the best at the position on Sunday. His usage is on the rise, but his production was muted this week. That’s the ideal situation to be targeting in a trade. The Cleveland defense is a nightmare for any running back, so this was a tough spot for a team at a bit of a crossroad relying on a rookie quarterback for the first time. Montgomery managers are probably panicking a bit, so you should be able to get a borderline workhorse back at face value, which could end up being a league-winning early move for contenders.
Conclusion: Trade FOR David Montgomery (RB2 Price tag)
Arizona Cardinals Pass Catchers
The Cardinals pass-catching corps is a bit of a headache. All four guys have had their moments through weeks, but it’s not totally clear how the Kliffs of King Bury want to deploy them on a week-to-week basis. The two veterans of the group lead the way from a snap count perspective in Week 3 just as they have all season, but all four of these guys have been fantasy gold for brief stints. Rondale Moore only played on 34% of snaps this week, and I tried to warn people that his production thus far was a bit of a trap. 40% of his fantasy points were the result of a Vikings busted coverage in Week 2, and he’s schemed into the gameplan but his target totals are very modest and don’t tell us anything special regarding his every-down potential in Arizona this year. With Kirk quietly producing as a top-15 receiver through three weeks and A.J Green having a huge game this past Sunday, Rondale Moore may end up as the odd man out more times than not. He and Kirk are going to trade big games, but relying on long touchdowns to produce for you every week has historically been a subpar strategy in normal managed league formats. If Christian Kirk is still available on waivers he’s worth an add and Rondale Moore should potentially be shopped as an extra piece in trades for more reliable producers. If A.J Green falls off like he has every other year, then we can revisit this conversation. For now, I’m not aggressively targeting any Cardinal pass-catcher except DeAndre Hopkins.
The Cincinnati Bengals Pass Catchers
Ja’Marr Chase is silencing all of the critics right now, and he’s currently a top ten fantasy wide receiver. It may seem foolish to trade him away, but this is a perfect time. His snap counts are excellent, but his status as an alpha from a metrics perspective hasn’t arrived yet. He’s simply the most exciting cranium in a three-headed dragon with an above-average touchdown rate. If someone sees Ja’Marr Chase as an every Week WR1, then you should be stealing someone like Calvin Ridley or AJ Brown away from them because of it. Chase is third in the pecking order in terms of target share through three weeks in Cincinnati, and this week he saw fewer targets than Tyler Boyd while Tee Higgins was sidelined. Chase has scored four touchdowns in three weeks, so his production absolutely jumps off the charts. He’s a great talent, and I absolutely want him on my roster if I can start him in the flex spot weekly. Burrow has spread the ball around pretty well up until this point, but Chase has popped because of his big-play ability and finding the end zone. His touchdown rate is completely unsustainable, and he will likely come back down to earth here soon. I still love him as a prospect and he should be able to maintain WR2 production, but if you can get a bonafide target hog in return for Chase, you should do it. This isn’t a recommendation to ditch Chase, just a recommendation to try and trade him at his peak.
Conclusion: Trade AWAY Ja’Marr Chase (if you can get a WR1 Price tag)
The Atlanta Falcons Wide Receivers
Calvin Ridley: 95% Snap Share, 31% Target Share
Other ATL Receivers: Does it really matter?
I put this one below the Bengals for a reason. Calvin Ridley is the perfect target for fantasy managers who have Ja’Marr Chase. Ridley was the odds-on favorite to lead the league in receiving before Week 1, but he’s taken a backseat to just about everyone else when big-name receivers are discussed. He’s not flopping like AJ Brown, but he’s not dominating like Cooper Kupp. His production has been mediocre, but his target share and role in the offense are both still elite. Ridley is the only show in town, so it makes sense that defenses have honed in on him more than they did in the past. Ridley has 16 touchdowns in the past two seasons, but through three weeks he’s only found the end zone once. He’s an elite talent with an elite target share, and things are going to go a lot better for him soon. There’s nothing glaringly wrong with his situation, he just hasn’t connected on enough big plays to remind us why he was a top 25 fantasy pick. I do have some bubbling concerns about his aDOT and air yardage totals, but I believe in his talent and role enough to try and trade for him at a discount. These are the types of “risks” that win you leagues.
Conclusion: STEAL Calvin Ridley
Washington Football Team Wide Receivers
Terry McLaurin: 96% Snap Share, 30% Target Share (28% on the season – 7th in the NFL)
McLaurin is in a very similar boat to Ridley, so I don’t have too much to add here. It’s rare that we see elite players like Brown, Diggs, Ridley, and Terry in situations like this after three weeks, so you want to take advantage. McLaurin has produced passable numbers so far, but his managers are likely frustrated with their choice to draft him as highly as they did. Taylor Heinicke is a work in progress and the Washington offense looks sketchy in general. Any 1-2 or 0-3 managers that took Terry in the fourth round are probably open to a discussion, as they may not assume brighter days are ahead. His 30% target share this week was elite, and his 28% target share overall is the 7th best in the NFL. He’s the same guy he’s always been, he’s just working with a new signal-caller. As Walter White taught us, building chemistry takes time and McLaurin’s career arc signifies that they will make the Volcano spew lava soon enough. Curtis Samuel could also return from IR any week now, which should open up some lanes underneath for Scary Terry to operate within. His high-value target totals are only going to rise from here.
Conclusion: Trade FOR Terry McLaurin