Between the Lines: Week 10 Snap Count Analysis
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, where you can find more in-depth details about player snap usage.
-- It's official, Jonathan Taylor is now the handcuff to Nyheim Hines. Even in a game in which the Indianapolis Colts had either a neutral or positive game script for the entire game, Taylor struggled to stay on the field. Taylor's snap share has decreased in each of the last four games, cratering at a mere 24 percent in Week 10. On the other hand, Hines hit a season-high 56 percent snap share on Thursday night and clearly looked like the best player in the Colts' backfield. The frustrating part of this season has been how involved Jordan Wilkins has remained since Marlon Mack went down for the season. Though he's only been above a 50 percent snap share once this season, Wilkins is involved enough to frustrate fantasy managers who have Taylor on their team.
-- Kenyan Drake returned to action on Sunday after missing just one game due to injury, leaving a lot to be desired by Chase Edmonds managers. Last week, Edmonds handled a robust 28 of 30 running back opportunities on a season-high 96 percent snap share, but that dropped dramatically with Drake back in the lineup. Edmonds' snap share fell to 49 percent, which was the highest in a game that Drake played all the way through. Subsequently, Drake's 52 percent snap share was his lowest in a game that he played in full. The opportunity share, however, went back to what what we've been used to seeing as Drake led the way with 16 rushes and Edmonds securing two more targets than Drake. That said, Kyler Murray is a touchdown vulture and significantly limits the ceiling of the backfield, even if they weren't sharing opportunities.
-- James Robinson has been an absolute beast this year and is one of the few candidates who could be considered a league-winner after being a waiver-wire pickup for most teams. Among all running backs, Robinson's 68 percent snap share ranks fourth. Once thought to be a threat to Robinson's snap share, Chris Thompson has continued to battle injuries the past several weeks and is now on injured reserve, keeping Robinson in line for a bell-cow workload. Since Week 6 (Thompson's last fully healthy game), Robinson has seen snap shares of 69 percent, 90 percent, 72 percent, and 83 percent. Even on one of the worst teams in football, Robinson remains a top option regardless of matchup.
-- Stefon Diggs has been the alpha among Buffalo Bills wide receivers and is on pace for a career year in many statistical categories. Diggs' 92 percent snap share on the season is about as good as it gets, but there remain questions behind him regarding who the most valuable second-tier receiver is. Coming into the season, John Brown was the de facto number-two and seems to have that role locked down as he's played on at least 74 percent of snaps in all but one game this season (which was the game he left early due to injury). Cole Beasley has worked his way into a nice role, though, with only one game under a 61 percent snap share, nearly hitting season-high mark 79 percent snap share this past week. He is also averaging 6.7 targets per game, which slightly edges out Brown's clip of 6.0 targets per game. Finally, after seeing a rise in snap share in every game from Week 4 through Week 7, Gabriel Davis has trended in the opposite direction the last three games, playing on just 51 percent of snaps in Week 10.
-- The Philadelphia Eagles are a disaster right now, losing against their putrid NFC East foe New York Giants. But for the first time in a while, the Eagles had some pass catchers return to action. Notably, Alshon Jeffery played his first game of the season, but he was in on only 27 percent of snaps and only saw one target -- he still isn't worth adding. Jalen Reagor, in his second game back from injury, played on a season-high 88 percent of the snaps and led the team in targets (7) and air yards (96). The rookie could be the most valuable receiver going forward as long as DeSean Jackson continues to miss time. Travis Fulgham, who I once thought could remain valuable despite players returning, saw his target share drop below 25 percent for the first time since Week 5 but still played on 88 percent of the team's snaps, tied for the lead. It's not a great sign that this coincided with the return of the other players, and most of the Eagles' weapons will remain of the boom-or-bust variety.
-- Right now it's looking like Drew Brees will miss at least a couple of weeks, giving Jameis Winston an opportunity to lead the New Orleans Saints and give life to the Saints' pass-catching options with his gun-slinging mentality. Michael Thomas now has two games under his belt following a six-game absence. In the last two games, Thomas has snap shares of 55 percent and 78 percent, but it's important to keep in mind that the 55 percent clip came in a blowout game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately, Tre'Quan Smith left this last game after just 16 snaps due to a big hit from a defender, so Smith's status for Week 11 is certainly up in the air. Emmanuel Sanders hasn't shown any level of consistency despite the regular injuries to his teammates, as he's failed to reach a 60 percent snap share since Week 4. Deonte Harris may be the biggest beneficiary in the coming weeks, as he played on the third-most snaps among Saints receivers in Week 10.
-- After an extremely strong start to the season, Jonnu Smith has faded. His average of 15.3 half-PPR fantasy points per game through the first four contests was good enough to be the TE2, but he has averaged just 5.2 half-PPR points per game in the last five games. Part of his decrease stems from a slightly lower snap share as he's gone from an 83 percent snap share in the first four games to a nice 69 percent snap share in the last five. Meanwhile, teammate Anthony Firkser has seen a subsequent increase in his snap share, going from 31 percent to 44 percent in those splits. Though he's been saved by touchdowns in each of the past two games, Smith can no longer be trusted as a TE1.
-- Now two games in sans George Kittle, it's high time we examine how the San Francisco 49ers' tight end group has shaken itself out. Early indications pointed to Ross Dwelley being the guy to benefit most, as he has been in the past, but Jordan Reed is playing with new life. Reed played on just 44 percent of snaps in Week 10, but that was his second-highest mark in the five games that he's played this season. He also tacked on six targets, which is the third time he's done so this year. On the other hand, Dwelley saw a 52 percent snap share, which is the lowest total for him in games that Kittle has fully missed. Furthermore, Dwelley has yet to record a game this season with more than four targets, further indicating that Reed is the Niners' tight end to have on your fantasy football team.