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Staff Writer

Usage Notes - Week 8

Each week we’ll review some interesting data points related to player usage; information I consider to be among the most predictive and actionable in fantasy football. The truth doesn’t always lie in the stats but usage tells the story of how a coaching staff intends to utilize a player.

Here are some of the most important usage statistics for Week 8:

Running Back

  • In Week 8, with Ito Smith out, Devonta Freeman again played 80% of the snaps. He took 13 carries for only 39 yards, but he received 8 targets and caught them all. His involvement in the passing game is keeping him relevant.

  • Christian McCaffrey played only 78% of the snaps in Week 8 because the game got out of hand, with the 49ers blowing out the Panthers. He was extremely effective even against a premier defense, and continues to cement his standing as the No.1 player in fantasy going forward.

  • David Montgomery played 73% of the snaps, his highest percentage to date. His touch count was even more encouraging, receiving 27 carries and 5 targets (caught 4). He turned those 31 touches into 147 yards and a touchdown. If that usage continues, and Cohen continues to see a decreasing workload, Montgomery might become a usable player in fantasy after all.

  • Many will be excited about Miles Sanders’ good game in Week 8. He rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown, and caught three balls for 44 yards. Although that is an excellent week, he only touched the ball 6 times, and only played on 18% of snaps. Jordan Howard meanwhile, received the vast majority of carries (23) and had 111 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown himself. He also played in 73% of snaps. While fantasy owners could play either player, Howard remains the superior option with the usage he is getting.

  • Devin Singletary’s usage jumped in Week 8 playing on 68% of the snaps. Although he only received 3 carries, he saw 6 targets (4-30-1). The utilization in the passing game suggests the Bills’ coaches see him as superior option there. Gore still saw 9 carries, but played on only 29% of the snaps. This may represent a changing of the guard and since Singletary did not do too much against a strong front, now would be an ideal time to trade for him in dynasty leagues.

  • Aaron Jones saw his snap share rise for the second consecutive week. In Week 8 he played on 64% of snaps. With both he and Williams healthy, it is clear he is their top option and Williams is spelling him to keep him fresh.
  • Todd Gurley and Darrell Henderson split snaps in Week 8 almost equally, 52% to 48% in Gurley’s favor. Interestingly, Henderson out-touched Gurley 14 to 10, and out-gained him 69 yards to 44. Whether this has now turned into a full-time RBBC or not remains to be seen, but this is not good news for Gurley owners. Although Gurley saved his day with a touchdown run, it is clear the Rams do not trust him to carry a full load, or are protecting him for a playoff run. Both players are only flex options at this point.

  • Tevin Coleman produced 118 yards and 4 offensive touchdowns (3 rushing, 1 receiving) on only 48% of the snaps and 13 touches. Meanwhile, Matt Breida received 12 touches but only produced 50 yards, with no touchdowns. He played on 28% of snaps and left early with an ankle injury.

  • Sony Michel and James White each played 41% of the snaps. Generally Michel is getting the carries while White is getting the targets, making both risky weekly plays.

  • Matt Patricia seems to have learned how to handle his running backs from Bill Belichick. The snap shares of the Lions backs in Week 8 were 40% (Ty Johnson), 30% (Tra Carson), 25% (J.D. McKissic), and 10% (Paul Perkins). After many fantasy owners spent over half of their FAAB budget to acquire Johnson, this was disappointing to say the least – though it should not have been too surprising as Patricia never gave Kerryon Johnson the work he should have when he was healthy. It would not be wise to start any Lions back until one of them is getting over half the snaps and touches.

  • Rashaad Penny’s snap share rose to 30% in Week 8, and he received 8 carries (Carson had 20). He ran well, so watch to see if his snap share continues to rise, which would likely only hurt Carson’s value and make each of them dart throws in a given week.

    Emmanuel Sanders

Wide Receiver

  • Emmanuel Sanders played on 82% of snaps for the 49ers days after he joined the team. Samuel (70%) and Kendrick Bourne (48%) were the other receivers who saw significant playing time. Dante Pettis (30%) seems headed for the bench for the foreseeable future and can be dropped with confidence in redraft and in the majority of dynasty leagues.

  • Robert Woods played on 98% of the snaps, yet only received 2 targets (2-36) against the lowly Bengals. This happened even though Brandin Cooks left early with a concussion. Cooper Kupp had 7 catches for 220 yards, on 10 targets. Woods is on a cold streak and can be benched until he works things out with Goff.

  • Josh Reynolds took over for Brandin Cooks (concussion), playing 89% of the snaps and producing 3-73-1. Cooks has now had multiple concussions this season and is in danger of seeing a prolonged absence. Reynolds is likely to be a hot waiver wire add this week.

  • Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett played 96% and 93% of snaps in Week 8. Newcomer Mohamed Sanu played 54% and Jakobi Meyers played 36%, seeming to share snaps. It is uncertain whether Dorsett will continue to play virtually all the snaps or whether Sanu will begin eating into his playing time. If the snap counts stay at this level, both Dorsett and Sanu are worthy flex options.

  • D.K. Metcalf played his highest percentage of snaps of the season, 92%. He received 5 targets (second most on the team) and scored two touchdowns, continuing his dominance in the red zone. He is a risky play, as often Seattle will control the game and by running the ball, but in close games Metcalf has lots of upside and is a high-ceiling start.

  • Zach Pascal’s big Week 7 got him a huge increase in his opportunity in Week 8. He received a career-high 92% of the snaps. Unfortunately, the Broncos completely shut down the Colts’ receivers, holding Hilton to 2-54 and Pascal to 1-6. However, if Pascal remains the starter on the other side of Hilton moving forward, he could be a very important waiver addition for the playoff push.

  • Tyrell Williams returned from injury and played in 89% of the snaps for Oakland. He finished with 6 targets and had 3 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. When healthy he has been a solid WR 2.

  • Christian Kirk is in the same boat. He returned from his ankle injury and played 86% of the snaps for Arizona, producing nicely (8-79 on 11 targets).

  • Sammy Watkins returned from his hamstring injury, playing on 86% of the snaps. He produced 5-45 on 8 targets with Matt Moore under center. He looked healthy and his stats should increase once Mahomes returns.

  • While Julio Jones’ usage remained virtually the same the week after Sanu was traded (78% of snaps), Calvin Ridley saw his snaps go from 65% to 80%. However, Julio was the biggest beneficiary of Sanu being gone, receiving 12 targets (10-152). Ridley caught 4 for 70 on 7 targets. The increased usage was likely due to the Falcons trailing most of this game, as Matt Schaub threw 52 passes on the day. Russell Gage and not Justin Hardy took Sanu’s role in the offense, playing 59% of snaps and receiving 9 targets (7-58).

  • Cole Beasley’s snap share went from 55% in Week 7 back up to 79% in Week 8 – behind only John Brown (92%). Pay attention to the matchup when considering whether to start Beasley. In close games or games where the Bills trail, he is a solid start (3-41-1 on 7 targets in Week 8). Otherwise he is extremely risky.

  • D.J. Chark and Chris Conley both played 74% of the snaps for the Jaguars. With Dede Westbrook aggravating his shoulder injury and Marqise Lee also getting banged up in Week 8, Conley and Chark are entrenched as the top options for the Jags for the foreseeable future.

  • Keenan Allen gave it a go on his injured hamstring and surprised with 10 targets (7-53). He was clearly not 100% and was limited to 69% of snaps, his lowest percentage of the season. That he still found a way to get open against the solid Bears defense speaks to his excellent route-running.

  • Marvin Jones played on 87% of the Lions snaps but returned to earth after his big Week 7. In Week 8 he caught 4 for 22 on 5 targets. Kenny Golladaym played on 83% of the snaps and put up 6-123-2 on 8 targets while Danny Amendola played on 67% of snaps and put up 8-95 on 8 targets. Amendola has now had 8 receptions in back-to-back weeks and has carved out a nice role in the offense. In PPR leagues he is a decent weekly start.

  • Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman have been competing for time as the third receiver for the Chiefs, and Hardman made a statement for more playing time in Week 8. Although he played on only 22% of snaps compared to 64% for Robinson, he had two receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. Robinson has two receptions for 6 yards.

  • Matt Nagy still cannot decide what he wants to do on offense. The question marks surrounding his run/pass split remain, as do questions about personnel. Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel have been switching off as the second receiver for a few weeks, and it flip-flopped again on Sunday. Miller went from 75% to 51% of snaps, while Gabriel went from 58% to 74%. Neither can be trusted until the coaching staff commits to one of them.

  • Although Alex Erickson’s snaps fell from 94% to 60% from Week 7 to Week 8, he still was the most productive Bengals receiver (6-97). Auden Tate (98%) received an incredible 13 targets but only produced 5-65, while Tyler Boyd (90%) produced 6-65 on 9 targets. Andy Dalton seems comfortable with Erickson as he works the slot, which seems likely to continue, even if A.J. Green returns.

  • DeAndre Carter played as Houston’s third receiver (57% of snaps) over Keke Coutee. Carter only had 1-46 on 3 targets, and neither he nor Coutee can be used until they begin producing.

Tight ends

  • Ryan Griffin of the Jets played on 95% of the snaps and produced a high-end stat line (4-66-2). Of his seven games, he has been usable only when he scored a touchdown, which has been twice. Otherwise he is simply not targeted enough to be viable.

  • Darren Fells seems to have grabbed the starting tight end job for the Texans and does not look like he wants to give it up. He played 90% of snaps in Week 8 and had 6 receptions for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns. As long as he is the starter in a dynamic offense, he can be started with confidence.

  • Zach Ertz played on 90% of snaps but was again overshadowed by Dallas Goedert (3-22-1; played on 75% of the snaps). The Eagles offense is still figuring out their identity, and although Ertz will likely have some big games coming up, he will not produce this season like he has in the past.

  • Jonnu Smith stepped in for the injured Delanie Walker and played the role even better, producing 6-78-1 on 7 targets; playing on 73% of the snaps. If Walker remains out, Smith is a great option. When Walker returns, you’ll have to wait and see what happens before trusting either.

  • Tyler Eifert saw his highest snap share of the season, 72%. It could have been to drum up interest in a trade, and it may work. He produced 6-74 on 9 targets.

  • Luke Willson jumped to 70% of the snaps in Week 8 for the Seahawks. Although he only had 1 reception for 7 yards, be on the lookout for him to start getting more involved in the offense in the same way Will Dissly was.

  • Tyler Kroft returned from injury and seemingly took over for Dawson Knox in Buffalo. While it is true that Knox still played on 45% of snaps, he was not targeted. Meanwhile, Kroft had two receptions for 32 yards on 4 targets, and played on 58% of snaps. He is another player worth a look for those hurting at tight end.

  • Gerald Everett’s rollercoaster season continued in Week 8, as he played on only 48% of the snaps. Here is his weekly snap share this season: 39%-71%-88%-57%-81%-53%-74%-48%. The Rams’ coaches are either changing their game plans weekly based on opponent or they are unsure if they want to remain an offense that plays 11 personnel the vast majority of the time. Everett returned to minimal production with the decreased snaps (2-15), which is particularly surprising since Brandin Cooks left early. Everett has huge upside, but banking on him being heavily used remains a roll of the dice.