Between the Lines: Week 13 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.

Running Back

- A couple of weeks ago, I declared Jonathan Taylor to be the backup to Nyheim Hines. Well, things change quickly in the NFL. In his past two games, Taylor has played on 56 and 48 percent of snaps, his highest share since before the Indianapolis Colts' Week 7 bye. Hines' usage is going in the opposite direction, playing at just a 33 percent clip in those same two games. That doesn't tell the whole story, though. In the past two games that Taylor has played, he's commanded a healthy 58 percent of the running back touches, compared to a meager 25 percent for Hines. Frustratingly, this remains a three-headed monster as Jordan Wilkins remains slightly involved. He's been above a 35 percent snap share just once, but he's still taking valuable touches away from the other two primary backs.

- Usually, trying to understand the usage in the New England Patriots' backfield is akin to deciphering the Da Vinci Code, but this year its been a bit less complex. Damien Harris has proven himself to be a solid fantasy football asset as the half-PPR RB19 since Week 10. This is when he started to get his feet under him as the primary back, and he has fallen below a 40 percent snap share just once since that happened. On the season, Harris has been trusted with a solid workload, failing to reach double-digit touches just once in the nine games that he's played. With Rex Burkhead out of the mix, that has also opened up slightly more playing time for James White, who has averaged around a 40 percent snap share the last three weeks. Sony Michel's return from injury has yet to make a major impact as he played on just 33 percent of snaps in the blowout win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

- Well hello, New York Giants! Don't look now, but this team is....good? And so has been Wayne Gallman. Since Devonta Freeman went down with an injury in Week 7, Gallman is the RB7 in half-PPR leagues. In the five games that he's played without Freeman, Gallman has been above a 50 percent snap share in all but one game and has no fewer than 12 carries in a single game. For a team with such low upside each week, Gallman has been a fantasy diamond in the rough. The ancillary pieces in the Giants' backfield have been little threat to Gallman's workload. Neither Dion Lewis nor Alfred Morris has seen a snap share above 30 percent in any of the last five games. Though it hasn't looked pretty at times, the workload for Gallman is about as stable as you could ask for from a waiver-wire pickup, and he should be trusted as a low-end RB2 over the coming weeks while the Giants continue their playoff push.

Wide Receiver

- Despite throwing at just a 56 percent rate, the Los Angeles Rams have given us a plethora of valuable fantasy wide receivers this year. They have been about as consistent as Jared Goff's play has been this year, but they still have two receivers among the top 24 in fantasy points this season -- Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Woods and Kupp have flip-flopped all season as to who the Rams' top wideout is, but both remain equally valuable. Recently, it has gone in favor of Woods, who saw a snap share below 80 percent for the first time all season this past Sunday. Furthermore, Kupp has been below a 75 percent snap share in three of the last four games after eclipsing that mark in each of the team's first eight games. The Rams' third receiver, Josh Reynolds, has similarly struggled to see consistent production despite a snap rate above 70 percent in seven of his last eight games. He's a boom or bust WR4 each week, but you may want to look elsewhere with how often the Rams run and with Woods and Kupp taking the majority of the target share.

- With Julio Jones in and out of the lineup for most of this season, it's been tough to glean which Atlanta Falcons wide receivers are best set up to thrive. Jones and Calvin Ridley are the two clear alphas in the offense, as both have had above an 80 percent snap share in games that they've been entirely healthy for. The only other constant behind these two appears to be Russell Gage, whose snap share has dipped below 50 percent just twice all season. These three lead the team in targets and should continue to do so while healthy. The only times that we've seen true spikes in usage for the ancillary players like Olamide Zaccheaus and Christian Blake are when one of Jones or Ridley has missed time, so neither should be trusted unless one of the dominant receivers is out again.

- It's obvious that Tyreek Hill, the current WR1 in fantasy football, is the primary wide receiver in the Kansas City Chiefs' offense. But even with Travis Kelce taking a large chunk of the work, this passing offense is prolific enough to warrant exploring the other options Patrick Mahomes has at his disposal. After missing five games due to injury, Sammy Watkins was quickly worked back into his normal role with snap shares of 72 and 75 percent in the last two games. Conversely, after reaching a 68 percent snap share in back-to-back weeks with Watkins out, Mecole Hardman has once again found it difficult to stay on the field with snap shares below 35 percent in each of the last three games. Regardless of who's playing, Demarcus Robinson has been reliable for Mahomes but not for fantasy managers. Even though he hasn't played on fewer than 40 percent of snaps in any game this season, Robinson only has one game with double-digit fantasy points.

Tight End

- In the first game without Will Fuller (sigh), we got a look into how the Houston Texans would use their remaining weapons. Jordan Akins saw his highest snap share (70 percent) since Week 2, but was only targeted three times for a measly 8 percent target share. Darren Fells has become an afterthought in this offense, coming off of three games at or below a 50 percent snap share. Finally, Kahale Warring, who many thought would see an uptick in usage, played on just 9 percent of snaps this past week. This was one of Deshaun Watson's worst performances of the season as he didn't throw a passing touchdown for the first time all year, so better days may be ahead for the offense as a whole, but tread lightly as you seek production from this tight end group.

- Over the past two games with Mike Glennon under center, the Jacksonville Jaguars' tight ends have seen new life for the first time all season. Both Tyler Eifert and James O'Shaughnessy have benefitted from Glennon's starts -- each securing a 14 percent target share in the last two games. One of Eifert's best receiving games of the season came this past week, catching all six of his targets for 45 yards. He did this on a season-high 72 percent snap share, and he's played fewer than 55 percent of snaps just once in the five games since the team's bye. O'Shaughnessy, meanwhile, has had snap shares above 55 percent in only the two games that Eifert left early or didn't play. If you're going to throw a dart at one of these for a fill-in play, Eifert is the one to do it with.