Between the Lines: Week 16 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

- With Joe Mixon now out for a ninth consecutive week, its time we take a quick look at the Cincinnati Bengals' backfield usage. Aside from a flukey Week 14 in which Giovani Bernard fumbled early, Bernard has been the main guy with at least a dozen opportunities in all but that one game. He's also played on at least 60 percent of snaps in six of the nine games that Mixon has been out. The biggest threat to Bernard is Samaje Perine, who had his best game in years this past week, taking 17 touches for 136 total yards and two touchdowns. However, this came on only a 38 percent snap share, and Perine has been above 40 percent just once this season. It's fair to say that Bernard is the guy to trust the most, especially with how much he's getting targeted (4.2 targets per game since Mixon got hurt).

- While the biggest piece of news for the Washington Football Team this week will be the release of Dwayne Haskins, we shouldn't let that overshadow the return of Antonio Gibson. After missing two games due to a toe injury, Gibson came back to a mediocre 31 percent snap share but was given 14 total opportunities. The lack of usage is likely due to the negative game script Washington faced from the start, giving way to more playing time for J.D. McKissic. McKissic stayed in his normal role as the pass-game back, securing 10 targets for the third time in four games and playing on a nice 69 percent of snaps this past week. Peyton Barber was quickly relegated to the bench as he saw just one carry on four snaps.

- The Dallas Cowboys' backfield has been rather intriguing in recent weeks as it's starting to look like investing $60 million into Ezekiel Elliott might not have been the best use of cap space. For the fourth straight week, Elliott didn't see more than a 66 percent snap share and continues to cede opportunities to Tony Pollard. Elliott is still getting a healthy workload when on the field, recording double-digit touches in every game this season, but he has been wildly inefficient with them as he has just two games with more than 100 total yards since Dak Prescott got hurt in Week 5. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Pollard has cut into Elliott's workload to the tune of a 39 percent snap share and 10.8 opportunities per game. Unfortunately, the days of Elliott as the lone guy in the backfield seem far behind us.

Wide Receiver

- Long gone are the days in which Will Fuller was a mainstay atop the fantasy football leaderboards, but his absence opened up opportunities for other players to step up. Brandin Cooks has clearly been the biggest beneficiary despite already playing a high snap rate when Fuller was on the field. Cooks has played on more than 96 percent of snaps in each of the last two games, and his role is as solid as ever, peaking with a seven-catch and 141-yard performance this past week. Chad Hansen seems to be Fuller's most direct replacement as he's had a snap share above 90 percent in three of the four games without Fuller. After posting two straight games with seven targets, Hansen has seen just six total targets over the past two weeks. Keke Coutee is the final player to see a bump in usage, but he has yet to eclipse an 80 percent snap rate and has similarly struggled to see consistent targets.

- The Indianapolis Colts blew a lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers this past week, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy. But, that doesn't mean all hope is lost for their wide receivers, who will need to be full go in Week 17 as Indy pushes for a playoff berth. The aged T.Y. Hilton has been the Colts' primary receiver for the majority of the season, leading the team in targets and yards, but he still doesn't have the snap share of an elite number-one wideout, failing to post a snap share above 75 percent in each of the team's last seven games. This has given more playing time to the likes of Michael Pittman Jr. and Zach Pascal. Prior to the game against the Steelers, Pittman had posted a snap share above 80 percent in seven straight games and had fewer than five targets in just two of those games. Pascal has consistently been the third receiver in the offense with snap shares ranging from as low as 60 percent to as high as 88 percent in the last eight games.

- Even though the Las Vegas Raiders' passing attack is centered around tight end Darren Waller, the Raiders' receivers have shown plenty of promise this season. Among those receivers is a reborn Nelson Agholor, who has set career-high marks in several categories. For the first time since Weeks 8 and 9, Agholor has recorded back-to-back games with a snap rate over 75 percent, this time coming in losing efforts. While posting a relatively decent 68 percent snap share on the year, Henry Ruggs only has two games with more than four targets as Agholor has claimed the deep-threat role in the offense. Finally, Hunter Renfrow, who once showed promise as a reliable PPR option, has been as consistent as they come with a season-low snap share of 17 percent in Week 15 and no game with a snap share above 70 percent. Agholor is the only non-Waller option I would trust as a part of the Raiders' passing game.

Tight End

- This past week the Los Angeles Chargers were without their stud tight end Hunter Henry, leaving Donald Parham Jr. and Stephen Anderson to fill in. Though Anderson had the edge in targets with six to Parham's three, Anderson had just one more receiving yard than Parham. Parham (81 percent) also nearly doubled Anderson (44 percent) in snap share. If Henry is to miss more time, Parham is the better option.

- A multi-week absence from Julio Jones has given Hayden Hurst the opportunity to put together multiple weeks of solid fantasy performances. On snap shares of just 66 percent and 65 percent the past two weeks, Hurst has posted at least four receptions and a touchdown in each of the team's past two games. Fortunately for Hurst, there isn't another tight end on the Atlanta Falcons who has sniffed any sort of relevance, giving him a shot to finish as a TE1 on the season.