NFL Snap Count Breakdown: Week 1
Andrew Cooper breaks down the NFL snap counts from Week 1 and highlights players that need to be on your radar.
No matter what they tell you about the “eye test” or feelings or narrative, fantasy football is a numbers game. You don’t win your matchup based on who “looked good”, you win it based on who scored the most points. In the grand scheme of things, points come from carries and targets. And you can’t get carries or targets unless you are on the field. Somehow I feel like someone on Reddit or Twitter will still find a way to argue with this logic.
Since a player’s snap count is the building blocks for his opportunity and, therefore, production, we are going to start at the very basics and give you the snap counts for each player from week to week. But that’s not enough. So we’re also going to analyze whatever trends we may see and do our best to predict how that will look moving forward so that you can stay AHEAD of your opponent. I mean, getting a guy by spending all of your FAAB on a him after he breaks out in week four is great and all but you know what’s better? Already having him because you knew his snaps were trending up and you bought him for $1 in week 3.
WR: Noticeably absent were 2019 breakout Deebo Samuel (Jones fracture, IR until Week 4) and first round rookie Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring). Aiyuk and Deebo are projected to play outside so the question for us was who would play in the slot with assumption being they keep that role when the two wide guys return. The slot snap leaders were Bourne (16), Kittle (12), Taylor (10), and Reed (5). Considering Bourne also led WRs with 57 snaps, it looks like he’s our man. Richie James also picked up a hamstring injury and is questionable for Week 2.
RB: Shanahan’s backfields are notoriously dangerous in fantasy given his “hot hand” approach. Mostert clearly had the hot hand out of camp leading the team in snaps this week with Tevin Coleman far on the backburner. Mostert also led pass snaps with 20 to McKinnon’s 16 but it’s clear McKinnon has carved himself out a role in the pass game.
TE: Kittle is obviously an every down player but we expected more snaps from Reed than 10, especially given the injuries to the WRs. We’ll monitor his usage obviously but unless it picks up he’s not an asset. Upside is there given his talent but we don’t need to tell you that he’s an injury risk if you’ve been following along.
WR: No surprise Allen Robinson led the charge. As they used a mix of 11 and 12 personnel, the rest of the receivers had a mixed bag of snaps. When Miller came in he primarily played from the slot (20 snaps) and when the other WRs came in, Robinson moved to the slot (15) snaps. No other WR played more than 2 slot snaps. Given Miller’s production, he’s the best bet to grab onto a bigger share.
RB: Unlike last year, Cohen was not featured heavily in the slot with only 3 slot snaps and 3 out wide. Instead he played 24 in the backfield playing on 21 overall pass plays compared to 16 for Montgomery. We know from his time in KC that Nagy prefers one, versatile back but perhaps he’s embraced the split backfield. Or, perhaps it was due mostly to Montgomery’s nagging injury.
TE: I had predicted big usage in the passing game for Jimmy Graham in my Yin and Yang TE article as part of our four part strategy guide and I was not disappointed. Graham was second only to Robinson in snaps, he played 28 snaps at WR (21 in the slot and 7 out wide), and he was a foot away from scoring his two TDs and a bad throw away from three. As also predicted, Cole Kmet looks like he will be coming up on the blocking side of things much the way Dallas Goedert did (12 pass plays, 5 spent pass blocking). Demetrius Harris spent even more time blocking on pass plays (10 pass plays, 6 spent blocking). Graham should be added in leagues where you need tight end help.
WR: A.J. Green on the outside and Tyler Boyd in the slot (32 slot snaps) were expected though it was unclear who would get the most play on the outside after the Bengals declined the 5th year option on John Ross and drafted Tee Higgins. It looks like Ross will clearly be getting the first crack at it given he led all wideouts in snaps. He’s the third guy to own for now despite not doing a while lot out there.
RB: When it comes to early draft picks you don’t want surprises and there were none here. Mixon played the bulk of the snaps with 40 total, 20 passing and 20 rushing. Gio Bernard chipped in on 19 pass plays, 1 run. Business as usual.
TE: C.J. Ozumah’s usage was good playing a good chunk of snaps, running a ton of routes (31 ties hot waiver pickups Dallas Goedert , Logan Thomas , and Jimmy Graham exactly), and blocking on minimal pass plays (only 6.3%). Only problem is there are a lot of options so he’ll likely be squeezed for targets barring some injuries. Drew Sample was relegated to blocking tight end as expecting, being asked to block on 16 of his 24 plays.
WR: As we just said we don’t want surprises for earlier picks like Stefon Diggs but we love present surprises for late round picks and that’s what John Brown owners got. As a fantasy gamer there is nothing better than seeing your guy play the whole game and that’s what you got from Diggs and Brown. Cole Beasley played the most slot snaps with 33 though rookie Gabriel Davis got a surprising chunk of snaps including 17 in the slot. Overall, Diggs and Brown should be owned everywhere. Beasely’s low aDot playstyle doesn’t interest us but Davis could be someone to watch.
RB: Owners were anxious to see what would happen here and the results should be annoying for both owners. Snaps and touches were split surprisingly evenly. If you take plays where the RB was run blocking for Allen out of the equation, Singletary played 10 run plays, 6 pass block, and 27 pass. Moss played 10 run plays, 6 pass block, and 20 pass. So slight edge to Singletary on pass plays.
TE: Second year tight end Dawson Knox was first on the depth chart but his snap count dominance was unexpected - 56 snaps to only 4 for Tyler Kroft and 3 for Reggie Gilliam. The job is his but, the way this offense operates combined with his lack of slot snaps (only 4), that likely just means he’s a touchdown dependent dart throw week to week. Still worth monitoring.
WR: When healthy, Odell Beckham Jr. should dominate the split end snaps and Jarvis Landry should dominate the slot snaps (20). However, Jarvis has banged up hip and didn’t practice Tuesday so that is certainly something to monitor. If you had asked me prior to doing the research for this article who played the most third WR for the Browns I would have shrugged but apparently it was Khadarel Hodge . Even rewatching the condensed version he was fairly invisible so not much to add outside the top two guys.
RB: A lot of us predicted this backfield would be split but not necessarily split the way it was. We figured Chubb would get more running downs and Hunt would get more passing downs but Hunt actually played on more running plays (13 to 11) while Chubb was in on more passing plays (24 to 23). The reality is that the work seems to be split down the middle to keep the defense guessing which is annoying for all parties. An injury to either would be a boon for the other.
TE: As we discussed in the intro to the Ultimate Tight End series, a tight end is almost already drawing dead if he’s third on the target totem pole. Well things ended up being even worse for Hooper given he was asked to block on 8 of his 39 pass plays (20.5%). David Njoku looked good until his injury but he will be on the IR for a couple weeks. What makes matters worse for Hooper is that, after Njoku went out, Harrison Bryant came in and only blocked on 1 of his 17 pass plays, playing 12 from the slot. Sometimes being the overall best tight end on the team isn’t great news if you are also the best at blocking. None of these tight ends are particularly appealing.
WR: Mike Evans was supposedly out this week then all of a sudden he was questionable then he was playing. Could have fooled us with him playing ~93% of the snaps this week. Outside of Godwin and Evans no one is particularly worth owning in seasonal leagues though Scotty Miller was clearly the next man up.
RB: The addition of Leonard Fournette really made this backfield cloudy coming in but Fournette obviously wasn’t up to speed, playing only 9 snaps. Rojo played 18 run plays and 15 pass plays while McCoy played 24 pass plays so that was your basic split so far. Fournette played 4 pass plays and 5 run plays it’s uncertain where his snaps will come from but likely from everyone. This is likely a wait and see situation.
TE: Rust was always a concern for Rob Gronkowski but being out-targeted by O.J. Howard was not. Despite playing 17 more snaps, Gronk ran 23 routes to 22 for Howard so clearly they like Gronk’s blocking. Because of The Target Conundrum, we knew Gronk would be a touchdown dependent guy (who has historically been capable of a lot of touchdowns). Now OJ Howard and Gronk are both TD dependent guys and that’s not a game I’m willing to play with a starting spot.
WR: With Courland Sutton and KJ Hamler out, we didn’t really get a good look of what this group will look like. One thing we did confirm is that Jerry Jeudy will be playing slot as only he and tight end Noah Fant got meaningful snaps/targets at slot. Obviously Sutton will slot in at split end so the question is whether Hamler can earn that flanker role or whether DaeSean Hamilton /Tim Patrick will hold him off.
RB: Last year Phillip Lindsay graded out as RB #141 out of 144 on PFF for pass blocking grade. For those keeping track at home, there are only 32 teams. So naturally they brought in Melvin Gordon who promptly played 22 pass snaps to Lindsay’s 9. I know Lindsay was injured in the second half but, even when he returns, that is likely how the usage will shake out. Reports suggest Lindsay is likely to miss multiple weeks but it's hard to believe that will make Royce Freeman a startable fantasy asset if he wasn't without Melvin there last year.
TE: Noah Fant played a big role in the absence of Sutton and his usage looked good - he played 25 pass plays and only was asked to pass block on one snap. Lock clearly liked him so the only question is what the offense looks like with Sutton back and if there will be enough targets for him with Sutton, Jeudy, Melvin, and presumptively KJ Hamler all vying for looks. For now he should be owned in all leagues though he has tough tight end matchup this week with the Steelers.
WR: One aspect of Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense certainly lived up to expectation - they kept the pace of play fast and aggressive running a whopping 82 plays on the day. And the three primary receivers played the bulk of those though DeAndre Hopkins took most of the looks. The aspect that did not was that it’s supposed to be a heavy four WR set offense though the team deployed a lot of tight ends. Perhaps that will change when KeeSean Johnson gets back from his COVID designation but Andy Isabella certainly did not threaten the lineup.
RB: The box score might fool you with Chase Edmonds getting 5 targets to only 2 for Drake but Drake was out there for 36 pass plays compared to only 21 for Edmonds. Perhaps Edmonds earned more usage but as of now Drake is playing double the snap count of Edmonds. In games where they can’t quite keep this pace it could be slim pickens for the backup unless he earns a better split.
TE: The tight end in this offense should typically be irrelevant as last year they used four WR sets on nearly one fourth of the plays at the expense of the tight end. However, if there was a longshot to consider, undrafted free agent Dan Arnold did play 45 snaps including 18 out wide and 4 in the backfield. If he can essentially become the fourth WR in the four wide sets, that is when he may be relevant. Until then he’s just TD dependent dart throw.
WR: After the Carolina Panthers, this offense had one of the most consolidated snap shares last year which is great for fantasy football. The departure of Jason Garrett was concerning but it seems that trend is alive and well, simply replacing Randall Cobb in the slot with CeeDee Lamb (37 slot snaps). With the injury to Blake Jarwin limiting their ability to run two tight end sets, this offense will likely be one of the most consolidated once again which is fantasy news.
RB: Remember when we said Phillip Lindsay was graded as the fourth worst pass blocker for RBs last year? Well, Tony Pollard was third worst. A lot of people had him taking significant pass snaps from Zeke but, if you can’t be trusted to pass block, you won’t be on the field for those downs. Zeke played 41 pass snaps (31 routes, 10 pass blocking). Pollard played 8 pass snaps (8 routes, 0 pass blocking). Unless Pollard improves that aspect of his game he’s not going to take meaningful snaps from Ezekiel Elliott there.
TE: Many had Blake Jarwin as a breakout candidate but we were hesitant because of The Target Conundrum. We won’t be able to see who is right ebcuase he unfortunately suffered a season ending knee injury. Charles Schultz stepping in his full role immediately. If you liked Jarwin before you should like Schultz but, if you are like us, you were avoiding tight ends who were at best third on the target totem pole (which still means they don’t have top five TE upside) but likely fourth or fifth.
WR: Despite being questionable with a shoulder injury, Mike Williams played the majority of the game leaving no question who is the second wide receiver behind Keenan Allen . Jalen Guyton was the third receiver and is largely irrelevant.
RB: There was a lot of preseason hype surrounding Joshua Kelley and he delivered with 60 yards and a touchdown on his limited snaps. That said, Austin Ekeler still dominated the snap share, especially on passing downs playing 28 to only 4 for Kelley, so I wouldn’t go running out to start him yet (even though I did this week in the Scott Fish Bowl thanks to a series of events beyond my control).
TE: Let’s do a quick check on Hunter Henry . Healthy? Check. Good snap share? Check. Wide receiver snaps (18 in slot and 4 out wide)? Check. Pass blocking (only blocked on 2 of 33 pass snaps)? Check. Also systems go here folks - feel free to fire up Henry as a mid range TE1 but don’t be scared to continue to look for this year’s tight end breakout as Allen, Ekeler, and Williams offer a lot of target competition.
WR: This week had to be disappointing for Mecole Hardman owners, watching Demarcus Robinson bungle multiple touchdowns. But it seems evident that Hardman is essentially insurance for Tyreek Hill so we can likely expect Sammy Watkins at split end, Tyreek Hill at slot, and Robinson at flanker unless Hardman can overtake him. Even then, targets will be think given how good a healthy Sammy Watkins looked so Hardman is more of a boom/bust best ball play.
RB: If you spent the draft capital on Clyde Edwards-Helaire, you have got to be pumped with this usage. He doubled Darrel Williams ’s snaps and got the goal line looks even though he had some trouble punching them in. And, despite not catching any balls, CEH actually still outsnappEd Williams on pass plays as well, 21 to 14. It’s wheels up for the rookie.
TE: Not much to say here. Kelce is the best in the business. The other active tight end are there to block. If you are looking for Kelce’s handcuff, his name is Ricky Seals-Jones and he was inactive on game day. Seems they are keeping him on the shelf for a worst case scenario.
WR: Here’s one that went as planned to a certain degree. TY Hilton was outside playing the flanker. Parris Campbell was in the slot. The veteran Zach Pascal split snaps with the rookie Michael Pittman Jr. at split end. Pittman could be interesting if he can wrestle a bigger snap share away but, as a 6’4 223 pound rookie, his job may be to tether his foot to the line and eat the jam so that Hilton and Campbell can run around and make plays.
RB: Well, this backfield sorted itself out quickly. After Marlon Mack started, he promptly tore his achilles tendon. Nyheim Hines played 39 snaps, 32 of them on pass plays, and Jonathan Taylor played 26 snaps, 14 pass plays. That’s probably what your split looks like moving forward.
TE: With Trey Burton hitting the IR, it seems the Colts put Jack Doyle into the Eric Ebron role and are using the mammoth Mo Alie-Cox in Doyle’s former role as primary blocking tight end. Doyle played a surprising 27 snaps at the slot with 1 snap at WR. This makes him interesting with Rivers at QB but Doyle is slow. And I don’t mean slow is in Zach Ertz and Austin Hooper run 4.7 second 40 yard dashes compared to Evan Engram and Darren Waller in the 4.4 - 4.5 range. I mean he clocked a 4.91. Without speed, YAC is tough to come by making him a bit touchdown dependent.
WR: Preston Williams and DeVante Parker were your starters but Parker suffered an injury early brining Isaiah Ford into the fold. Ford mixed in with Mike Gesicki some at the slot but no one really found a grove against a tough Patriots secondary. Per coach Brian Flores, as of Wednesday, Parker is still rehabbing and may not be available. Probably unlikely to make Ford viable but could be a DFS play.
RB: The Bears traded Jordan Howard away because he himself will admit he’s had issues catching going back to high school. The Eagles excepted him into their two back system at the time. In a game the Dolphins were losing pretty much from the jump, there was really no place for a primary running down back. Myles Gaskin was the surprise beneficiary of the game script playing on 29 passing downs. No one else played more than 14 snaps. Patrick Laird is certainly droppable if you were still holding out hope there after playing just 4 snaps.
TE: Despite facing tough coverage from Joejuan Williams and Devin McCourty , Mike Gesicki ’s usage was exactly what we had hoped. 32 slot snaps, 7 out wide, only 6 at in-line tight end. In Chan Gailey’s offense, big slot is one of the main focal points. More on that here. Gesicki has a tough matchups his next three out of four games but, if you can weather the storm, his season opens up. Just remember that you get to start a WR at tight end.
WR: After not playing almost all of last season, coach Doug Pederson said that DeSean Jackson was on a snap count. He also said his snaps should increase and, given Jackson sharing his displeasure on social media, we expect that sooner rather than later. They have been attempting to trade him but a potential return of Alshon Jeffrey could shake things up as well. Those two and rookie Jalen Reagor are the only ones that interest us at this moment but we will monitor the situation.
RB: With Miles Sanders out, Boston Scott took over the lead role with Corey Clement chipping in on passing downs (18 of his 25 plays were pass plays). Will be interesting to see how the role is divided between Scott and Sanders upon his return.
TE: With the mess at wide receiver, the Eagles leaned even more heavily on two wide receiver sets as usual. Ertz retained his usual primary pass catching tight end role for the most part, with 21 snaps at slot and 8 out at wide receiver thought, give the injuries with the offensive line, he was asked to block on 14% of his pass plays which is far higher than his usual 4-5%. Dallas Goedert was asked to blocked as well on 18.4% of his pass plays and he played more on an in-line role with only 14 snaps in the slot and 4 out wide. Many people may have seen this week as some kind of “changing of the guard” at tight end but both guys played their typical roles - Ertz as a pseudo wide receiver and Goedert as classic in-line tight end. Who does better moving forward may be matchup dependent but we can tell you this - after losing to the lowly Washington Football Team, the game plan is not likely to be the same next week.
WR: Here’s one that went according to plan! Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley lined up primarily outside with Russell Gage in the slot. It’s nice when things go as planned. And despite losing, they did rack up a lot of passing yards so expect this to remain the same.
RB: Remember we talked about Phillip Lindsay and Tony Pollard’s pass blocking? And their ranking 161 and 162 out of 164? Well last year Brian Hill was the grand prize winner ranked #164. And his prize was them adding Todd Gurley who has been solid in the passing game. This Sunday Gurley played on 22 pass snaps, blocking on 6. Brian Hill received what should be one last chance in that aspect being asked to pass block on 4 plays, one of which he allowed his defender to hit Matt Ryan . Gurley should likely have a three down role with Ito Smith and Brian Hill spelling him when necessary.
TE: The good news for Hayden Hurst is that his usage looked pretty good - he played on 48 pass snaps and only blocked on 2 which included 27 in the slot. The bad news is that he was fourth on the target totem pole behind Julio, Ridley, and Gage. This week vs. the Cowboys the over/under is 53 points and the Cowboys just lost Leighton Vander-Esch. If Hurst can’t put together a better game against them then you may want to look elsewhere. Over the last five years, 97.5% of teams have had two or fewer guys get 100+ targets. That means the 3rd guy has gotten 100+ on 4 out of 160 teams and Hurst isn’t even third right now.
WR: We didn’t really get to see who the “starters” are because the Giants first play was a three tight end set with Evan Engram , Kaden Smith, and Levin Toilolo. But clearly Darius Slay ton emerged as a wide guy (55 snaps wide vs. 3 in the slot) while Sterling Shepard played a lot of slot (38 slot snaps and 14 out wide). The assumption is that, once Golden Tate returns, it will be Slayton and Shepard out wide with Golden Tate primarily in the slot.
RB: Saquon Barkley is the every down back here, clearly. That’s how Jason Garrett’s offense roles.
TE: Despite the disappointing stat-line, Evan Engram had great usage in his first game back from injury. He played the most snaps of any position player. He lined up at wide receiver 31 times (27 in the slot and 4 out wide). He had 7 registered targets as well as defensive and offensive pass interference calls which totals 9 looks - matching the team high with Saquon Barkley . He’s a guy you start every week though there is some concern that the return of Golden Tate reduces his WR snaps a bit.
WR: D.J. Chark Jr. was your split end, as expected. Dede Westbrook was expected by many to be the slot WR but, after missing almost all of training camp with a shoulder bruise, Doug Marrone made him an inactive despite not appearing on the injury report. Keelan Cole (15 slot snaps) was the slot guy in his place so we’ll have to see how this competition unfolds moving forward. Laviski Shenault Jr. is clearly ahead of Chris Conley and fellow rookie Collin Johnson for the other outside role which is no surprise given that Shenault was drafted three rounds earlier.
RB: James Robinson was named the starting running back on the depth chart which many believed was symbolic. Well, he got all 18 of the running back carries on Sunday so clearly it was a bit more than just symbolic. He also played 18 pass snaps which is more than the 12 pass snaps Chris Thompson played. It seems it’s Robinson’s job to lose.
TE: The tight end snaps were split but not split evenly as Tyler Eifert played on 16 pass snaps and James O’Shaughnessy on only 10. If you must own someone, it’s Eifert. Emphasis on “if you must”.
WR: With Denzel Mims out, Breshard Perriman played every snap on the outside. It’s unsure how much competition there is there but Perriman certainly left the door open with his performance. It was Jamison Crowder playing from the slot (39 snaps) who shined this week which makes sense given the guys forming the shell of the Bills quarters defense, like Tre White.
RB: After all the rumors and speculation, Le’Veon Bell did get the start and he also got the bulk of the snaps and the work. Then he hurt his hamstring and promptly went on IR. Frank Gore took most of the running work and Josh Adams stepped up in the passing game. They added Kalen Ballage to the roster for the time being.
TE: We said it in our Know the Scheme tight end article but Gase is notorious for using tight ends as part of the protection rather than the attack. He once again showed that by having Herndon run 22 routes and block on 9 pass plays, a brutal pass block percentage of 28.8%. Which is a shame because Herndon did well on the targets he did get while actually going out. If Gase were to go away or change his ways, Herndon would be much more valuable of an asset.
WR: Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones would normally be your outside receivers but Golladay was out this week so rookie Quintez Cephus stepped up and played a monster snap share. Danny Amendola was the primary slot guy (25 snaps) and the other wideouts switched in and out without much consequence.
RB: The downfall of Kerryon Johnson has not been over exaggerated as both rookies D’Andre Swift and Adrian Peterson out snapped and out played him in their very first games with the team. As Matt Patricia is a Bill Belichick disciple and he had the Lions switch to the modified Erhardt Perkins system the Patriots use, I would not be surprised to see a split similar to the Patriots with Peterson in the Michel role, Swift in the James White role, and Kerryon essentially being Rex Burkhead .
TE: Hockenson’s usage was as you would have hoped, only blocking on 3 of 30 pass plays and lining up at WR 19 times (13 in the slot and 6 out wide). He’s like one year away from any monster breakout as Kenny Golladay , Marvin Jones , and Danny Amendola are all free agents this year but he’s a great start as long as Golladay is out and he should still manage to be a back end TE1 high end TE2 on the season.
WR: The starting three wide outs were clearly Davante Adams , Allen Lazard , and Marquez Valdes-Scantling . Allen Lazard led in slot snaps with 22 but he only received 3 targets while in the slot - Adams only played 10 slot snaps while getting 6 targets. This week the plan seemed to be target Adams no matter where he was (17 targets). Tough to trust anyone outside of Adams but at least it was clearly Adams and MVS rather than a muddled snap share.
RB: This snap share looked fairly similar to last year. Aaron Jones is your starter and primary running down back getting 17 carries while playing 22 pass snaps (2 blocking). Jamaal Williams is your passing down specialist coming in for 23 pass snaps (8 blocking) with only 7 carries. Last year in a couple negative game script games we did see Jamaal Williams out-snap Aaron Jones so keep an eye out for that in tough games. Rookie A.J. Dillon was a non-factor.
TE: There were hopes that Jace Sternberge would take over some of the Jimmy Graham role and play a good chunk of slot snaps. In fact, in the offseason he had said that himself. Instead they used Robert Tonyan on a bunch of in-line snaps and he didn’t get a target. He’s technically the guy to watch but it’s looking more likely another year without a fantasy relevant tight end out of GB.
WR: Anyone who followed along last year might remember that the Panthers were our favorite team for this article because they had the most highly condensed snap share every week. And what do you know - in Week 1 it looks like new coach Matt Rhule and coordinator Joe Brady will carry on that tradition. DJ Moore and Robby Anderson are your outside guys with Curtis Samuel in the slot.
RB: CMC played 65 of 67 snaps. That’s why you drafted him first overall and didn’t think about it.
TE: Ian Thomas is your primary pass catching tight end played 28 pass snaps, Chris Manhertz comes on in blocking situations for two tight end sets (25 snaps blocking out of 36). Done deal. Might seem appealing for Ian Thomas but his upside is limited due to the same Target Conundrum we brought up before.
WR: And just as the Panthers are nice and clean, the Patriots are a mess, as usual. Edelman is a staple in the slot and it looks like Damiere Byrd has earned the starting spot across from N’Keal Harry. He wasn’t particularly effective in Arizona with ample playing time so for now I’d focus on Edelman and Harry.
RB: The only back that played more than 30% of the snaps was fullback Jakob Johnson. But this backfield has operated the same way for 20 years now. You have an early down back in Sony Michel (formerly guys like LeGarrette Blount , Stevan Ridley , Corey Dillon). And a pass catching back in James White (formerly Dion Lewis , Danny Woodhead , Kevin Faulk). The guys like Rex Burkhead and J.J. Taylor can fill in either roll if need be. During the Belichick era, no running back has gotten both 200+ carries and 35+ catches.
WR: The rookies came out firing with Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards having the two highest snap shares this week. Ruggs (13 slot snaps) split the slot action with Hunter Renfrow but was moved all over the field. Given this usage, Ruggs and Edwards are the most exciting to own.
RB: Josh Jacobs put a lot of criticism to bed by playing 22 pass snaps which was his biggest knock coming in. Jalen Richard , the biggest threat there after the Lynn Bowden trade, only played 7 snaps on the day. Wheels up for Josh Jacobs .
TE: Despite playing more in-line snaps than expected (36 in-line with 8 in the slot and 12 out wide) Waller’s usage on the day ended up being ideal with him only blocking on 1 of his 28 pass snaps (3.6%). Josh Jacobs made things easy but, in more pass happy games, he should flash some big numbers. Moreau (80%) and Witten (22.2%) both spent a fair time blocking so they are no threat there.
WR: There were a couple interesting twists in this one. First, we assumed that Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp would be the snap leaders but did not expect them to split time in the slot (16 slot snaps for Kupp and 14 for Woods). It seems the Rams are embracing the idea of having “positionless receivers”. The second surprise was that rookie Van Jefferson played nearly as many snaps as incumbent veteran Josh Reynolds . For fantasy purposes, we’d prefer one guy earn the role and the other be the “next man up” as was the case with Reynolds last year behind Kupp, Woods, and Brandin Cooks .
RB: It’s funny how some coaches or GMs like Bill Belichick won’t even tell you who will be active on game day or not yet Rams GM Les Snead is willing to tell us pretty much exactly how the running backs will be used on the Rich Eisen Show. He essentially said that Cam Akers has looked good and will factor in, Malcolm Brown has been an asset for the team, especially in short yardage, and that Darrell Henderson may mix in on passing downs. He then said he and coach Sean McVay are a big fan of the “hot hand” approach. Well, that’s exactly how the running backs were used and, as of now, it seems Malcolm Brown is the hot hand. Anyone that knows how 49ers coach Shanahan has operated in the past should be weary of the term “hot hand”.
TE: We’ve done detailed discussions on the Rams tight ends before but the short and sweet is that they now like running two tight end sets. When it’s Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee , Everett is the primary pass catcher as we’ve seen for 3 and a half years, including the first half of last year. During those periods, Higbee blocked on one of every four pass plays which is unsustainable for tight end production. When it was Higbee and Johnny Mundt at the end of last year however, Higbee was in the Everett role and played well. It was looking like it had reverted to the original plan as Higbee blocked on 24.1% of pass plas this week and Everett blocked on 11.1% but Everett hurt his back and had to leave the game. If Everett is out, Higbee could be a viable tight end once again but, based on McVay’s words, that would only be temporary. Now is the time to sell Tyler Higbee before your leaguemates realize that “last five game Tyler Higbee ” was a product of best case scenario.
WR: This team always has the least consolidated snap share and, quite frankly, the most frustrating. Rarely does anyone play more than 70% of the snaps (last year, on the season, Nick Boyle led the team with 69% and the next closest was Willie Snead with 62%). Last year the only guy worth owning was Marquise Brown when healthy. This year it seems the same though I guess you can take flyers on Devin Duvernay or Miles Boykin . Don’t be fooled by Willie Snead as he’s basically out there blocking most plays like a pulling guard.
RB: Again, convoluted. Dobbins and Ingram are both worth starts if you need them but it will likely be a guessing game who scores. Even Gus Edwards got 15 snaps compared to their 23 and 21 respectively. Justice Hill will also return at some point. Start them if you must.
TE: This is the one shining light on the teams. The glorious Mark Andrews . Last year he only played 457 snaps - the same exact number as Hayden Hurst and far less than Nick Boyle (769). Now Andrews is actually out-snapping Boyle and he scored two touchdowns this week. Tight end 1 overall is within his range of outcomes.
WR: Michael Thomas has been so dominate snap and target wise that no other Saints WR has been relevant in years. So when he suffers a high ankle sprain, it worth taking notice. I’m not doctor but from what I understand and “high ankle sprain” can range from a ligament sprain all the way to broken bones in the leg. Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith should be the main beneficiaries.
TE: It may seem like Josh Hill played a lot of snaps but this is where usage comes into play. Hill blocked on 37.5% of his pass snaps and Cook only blocked on 1 pass snap (4.2%). This is fantasy football and we care about the pass catchers. If Cook were to get hurt, it wouldn’t be Hill who is the handcuff but rookie Adam Trautman.
Taysom Hill : We created an additional category just for the league’s premier “football” position player. He played 17 snaps doing whatever it is that he does. He’s the one player where you need to watch the game to actually know what he does but it’s usually pretty fun. Not worth starting at any position in fantasy as of now though.
WR: Given how this offense operates, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are your fantasy options. If David Moore or Phillip Dorsett or Josh Gordon become relevant, you will hear it here first. But as of now, don’t worry about it.
RB: Chris Carson showed a new side of his game playing 18 pass snaps and catching two touchdown passes. Ball control has been his issue in the past, especially with fumbles, but he had no trouble reeling in 6 catches. Slightly concerning would be Carlos Hyde actually getting more carries than him but the combination of carries plus pass catching is better than just carries in most formats.
TE: Greg Olsen seems to be the resounding winner of the tight end guessing game. Not just from a snap count stand point, but from a pass play stand point: 27 pass plays for Olsen compared to 14 for Dissly and 7 for Hollister. He also played 13 slot snaps and 6 at wide receiver making him an interesting add in deeper leagues.
WR: We received the answer to a very important question this weekend - Diontae Johnson has secured an outside role. He played 55 snaps which was identical to locked in slot receiver Juju Smith-Schuser. Now it’s between James Washington , Chase Claypool, and Eric Ebron to battle for the rest of those snaps.
RB: James Conner was reported to have suffered a high ankle sprain (again, hard to tell what that exactly entails). But recent reports suggest it might not be as bad as it may seem. Tomlin has always been a “player’s coach” so I trust him to make this backfield as muddied as possible to appease the starter while also motivating the rest of the backfield. If Conner misses any time though, Benny Snell is a start.
TE: Ebron is the primary pass catcher (24 routes vs 16 blocking) compared to Vance McDonald (16 routes vs 22 blocking) but we would like that split to be more pronounced. An injury to one or the other may unlock a startable fantasy asset.
WR: Anyone watching the game may be surprised to see how many snaps Randall Cobb and Brandin Cook played as they didn’t make a heavy impact. This is the first game for them both however so they may need time to catch up to Fuller’s speed. Cobb is only on option in deep PPR leagues while Cook is probably best suited for standard or best ball leagues, given his deep threat nature.
RB: David Johnson showed flashes of vintage David Johnson this week which is rewarding for those who rolled the dice on him. The fact that he played 48 snaps to Duke Johnson ’s 14 makes him and easy start next week.
TE: This felt like a convoluted tight end group coming in but Jordan Akins blew the snap share out of the water. Even better, he played 24 snaps at slot which is indicative of usage in the passing game. He only had two targets to show for it but he is a viable add in deep or tight end premium leagues.
WR: Corey Davis truthers hold onto your hats as he was clearly the starter opposite A.J. Brown and actually outperformed him. Adam Humprhries played a bunch of slot but he won’t be fantasy relevant in this low passing offense.
RB: Derrick Henry was Derrick Henry but it’s hard to fully gauge his usage without a healthy Darrynton Evans. Henry last year was a top 5 back in all PPR formats with only 18 catches (a career high for him). The last back to be top 5 without at least 25 catches was Marshawn Lynch in 2012. The pass work this week was promising as long as it continues. He has a super high floor anyway so you start him every week.
TE: In our tight end series, we talked about how Jonnu Smith blocked on way too many pass plays, even when Delanie Walker was out. He essentially needs a drastic change in usage, not an increase in snaps, to be fantasy relevant. Well, this week he did see a nice change, going from blocking on ~24% of pass snaps last year to 13.3% this year. It’s still a low volume offense but now he has back end TE1 in his range of outcomes.
WR: Adam Thielen is Adam Thielen , we knew that. What we didn’t know is who would be opposite him but that was clearly Olabisi Johnson. Justin Jefferson played 23 of his snaps in the slot so that is figured out for now. Tajae Sharpe was a non-factor. The only question is whether any Jefferson or Olabisi can be fantasy relevant. I like betting on the unknown in Jefferson.
RB: Dalvin Cook is a start for your fantasy team every week, no question. Gary Kubiak is a zone blocking god so, if Alexander Mattison can continue to produce, perhaps he can be a flex play too. The 2016 Falcons saw two top end running backs so it’s not crazy to consider.
TE: Kyle Rudolph at this point is a heavy blocking tight end so he’s not particularly interesting for fantasy. Irv Smith Jr. was interesting if he could secure slot snaps like last year but he didn’t really, playing on only 4 slot snaps and 2 out wide. He’s droppable.
Washington Football Team
WR: Terry McLaurin was the every down type guy as expected and Steven Sims played a similar snap share as predicted. Sims could be worth a stab but this offense could be tough sledding so for now only McLaurin is worth the start.
RB: Despite some heavy speculation on Antonio Gibson, McKissic dominated the pass snaps with 25 (Barber played 6 and Gibson played 8). But it was Barber who plunged in the touchdowns. It’s looking like a split backfield on a bad team so the pass catching back is the one I want and that looks like McKissic for now. Gibson worth a deep stash.
TE: The former tight end turned quarterback turned tight end, Logan Thomas surprised everyone this week leading the team in not only tight end snaps but also targets. He’s one of my favorite tight end adds this week after playing 28 snaps at WR (24 at slot and 4 split out) and only pass blocking 6.5% of the time. I want the guys who in a primary pass catching roll who play WR and that’s Logan Thomas .