Between the Lines: Week 5 Snap Count Analysis

The Baltimore Ravens' backfield has offered little fantasy value. Is there any sign of life for a running back based on their snap shares?

In fantasy football, one way to gain an edge over opponents is to look beyond the box score and examine player snap counts. While a quick scan of player stats can tell us who actually performed and produced, snap count data can give us an indicator of guys who are seeing the field on a consistent -- or inconsistent -- basis.

After all, opportunities breed fantasy points and snap counts are one of the more predictive metrics for fantasy football performance. This makes sense, intuitively, as the more a player is on the field, the more opportunities he'll have to touch the ball, and the more opportunities he'll have to score fantasy points.

In each of these weekly articles, I'll evaluate each position by looking at snap count, opportunity, and efficiency trends. All data, unless otherwise noted, comes from numberFire's Snap Count page.

Running Back

- I was all in on Kenyan Drake entering the season, and things have not gone as expected. With the emergence of Chase Edmonds, Drake's value has plummeted since the start of the season. The positive side is that Drake is consistently out-snapping Edmonds -- Drake carries a 67 percent snap share through five weeks compared to just 37 percent for Edmonds. However, Edmonds has been much more efficient with his opportunities as he's scored 0.8 half PPR fantasy points more than Drake on 49 fewer opportunities. The only way for Drake to return on his preseason value is for him to start executing when given the opportunity to do so.

- The biggest storyline on Sunday was Alex Smith returning to the football field for the first time in 693 days after a terribly gruesome leg injury. But, for the sake of this article, we're going to turn our attention to the Washington Football Team backfield. After seeing a shocking 41 percent snap share in Week 1, Peyton Barber has effectively been removed from Washington's backfield rotation, seeing a combined 15 snaps in the four weeks since. That leaves J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson to lead the backfield. Over the past four weeks, McKissic and Gibson have seen the exact same number of snaps. Where the difference comes is from the usage when each player is on the field. Gibson is getting an opportunity on nearly 40 percent of his snaps while McKissic is getting an opportunity on 28 percent of his snaps. Hopefully this trend continues and Gibson can begin to separate himself even more in the coming weeks.

- If I would've told you last week that the Baltimore Ravens would win by 24 points in convincing fashion against the Cincinnati Bengals, most people would have expected the Ravens' running backs to have a decent level of production. Well, that wasn't the case at all. No Ravens running back had more than seven fantasy points (half PPR) on Sunday -- this is truly a three-headed monster. Surprisingly enough, Gus Edwards led the backfield in snaps with a 40 percent snap share, which is often the situation in blowout games from Baltimore. Through five weeks, no Ravens running back has seen a snap share over 43 percent in a single game. Furthermore, each of their primary three backs is averaging between a 30 and 35 percent snap share. Unfortunately, none of these backs can be trusted in your lineup until one of them is removed from the rotation.

Wide Receiver

- The Indianapolis Colts' receivers have been decimated by injuries so far this year. First, Parris Campbell went down with Michael Pittman Jr. soon to follow. That's left T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal as the Colts' primary receiving threats (if you can even call them that). For the first time this season, Hilton had a snap share greater than 80 percent, reaching a snap share of 95 percent on Sunday. Pascal wasn't far behind Hilton this week, with a 91 percent snap share. However, Hilton showed up much better in the box score, earning six catches for a nice 69 yards on 10 targets (all season-high numbers as well) while Pascal hauled in his only 2 targets for a measly 15 yards. Marcus Johnson was the only other receiver who eclipsed a 50 percent snap share this week but had a similarly quiet day with 3 catches for 53 yards on 3 targets. With how slow the Colts play, their receivers may offer fewer valuable fantasy weeks than we'd like.

- Speaking of teams marred by injury, the Philadelphia Eagles are going through another year in which Carson Wentz' pass catchers cannot seem to stay healthy. The biggest beneficiary of the open opportunity was Travis Fulgham, who caught 10 of his 13 targets for 152 yards while scoring for the second straight week. His 78 percent snap share was second among Eagles' receivers behind only John Hightower (81 percent snap share), Philadelphia's fifth-round pick this year. Greg Ward also had a decent day with a 69 percent snap share, but neither he nor Hightower had over 26 receiving yards. While DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Dallas Goedert remain sidelined with injuries, there's an opportunity for one or more of these pass-catchers to succeed.

- Though there isn't much fantasy football value on the New York Jets this season, there are still a couple of notable takeaways we can learn from. Over the past two weeks, Jeff Smith has seen a snap share of 95 percent and 99 percent, which are both outstanding marks. In those same two games, he's seen 9 and 11 targets, respectively. Though he hasn't turned it into major production yet, the peripheral stats are encouraging to see. In Jamison Crowder's second game back from injury, he once again got a healthy snap share of 75 percent. Crowder has quietly put up a fantastic fantasy season thus far (aside from the two games he missed), averaging 18.8 half PPR fantasy points per game (third-best among wide receivers). He has yet to see fewer than 10 targets in a game this season, and with few good options (outside of the aforementioned Smith), that's likely to continue.

Tight End

- On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers demonstrated, once again, an elite ability to scout wide receivers with Chase Claypool breaking out for four touchdowns. The converted tight end turned wide receiver took the spotlight off the rest of the offense, though. Eric Ebron continued to play a solid role, posting a snap share above 75 percent for the third straight week. Unfortunately, his game was also overshadowed by a costly fumble, but he's also commanded at least five targets in each of the last three weeks. Vance McDonald is the only other threat to playing time, but he's steadily hovered around a 55 percent snap share while getting only eight targets so far this season. If Diontae Johnson misses some time, Ebron could stand to benefit with a slight uptick in targets.

- There were a lot of people in the fantasy football world that wanted Irv Smith Jr. to break out this season and take over Kyle Rudolph's role as the Minnesota Vikings' lead tight end. While it won't jump out in comparison to the other tight end performances this week, Smith had the best game of his career from a box score standpoint, totaling 64 yards on 4 receptions. Smith also played on a season-high 68 percent of the snaps and has been in on 55 percent of the teams' snaps in each game this season, steadily increasing in each of the last three weeks. Meanwhile, Rudolph remains a constant in this offense, recording snap shares of 70 percent, 74 percent, 73 percent, and 74 percent over the past four weeks -- talk about consistency! Both of these players will likely continue to share time, making neither of them reliable fantasy assets.