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Usage Notes: Week 1

By Kevin Scott | 9/15/20 |

It was a strange Week 1 with injuries popping up before the action even started, sidelining important players like Courtland Sutton, Kenny Golladay and Miles Sanders. Coupled with the fact that there was no preseason action, it felt like driving blind in many respects. This season is going to be strange so it is important to remember not to get too up or too down from one week. Itís a grind, and whether you won or lost in Week 1, you still have a long road ahead.

We now have 1 out of 16 data points from which to learn, make assumptions, and strategize. While most will go only off what they saw on the screen or what they see in the box scores, this article aims to take it a step further, diving into the actual player usage. How often was a player on the field, and how often were they targeted? That often tells you much more about their future fantasy potential than how many yards they may have produced in a given week.

We will go through the three primary positions Ė running back, wide receiver, and tight end Ė and see what we can learn that others might miss. And hopefully what you glean will enable you to make the right moves on your path toward winning your league(s).

Nyheim Hines

Running Back

  • Just like last season, Christian McCaffrey played 100% of snaps in Week 1. It looks like the new coaching staff doesnít see a need to take him off the field. This is obviously gold for fantasy purposes, and even though he didnít explode, production is all but guaranteed if he stays healthy.

  • Some feared we would see a more even split between Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard this year, and that was certainly not the case in Week 1. Elliott saw 63 of 69 snaps, and Pollard played on 10. Pollardís opportunities may increase, but for now he is not playable unless youíre desperate.

  • On the other hand, we saw an interesting split between the Arizona backs, with Kenyan Drake playing on 74% of snaps and Chase Edmonds playing on 36%. Edmonds being on the field that often, and his involvement in the game plan, makes him a solid flex option, or as an option to start at running back in a pinch. On top of that, he could be a league-winner if Drake gets injured. If heís available in your league, you should grab him.

  • Devin Singletary played on 63% of snaps, while rookie Zack Moss played on 48% of snaps in Buffalo. Both got 9 carries and Singletary was targeted 7 times to Mossí 4. Clearly the coaching staff wants both of them involved, and the snap share could start to slant toward Moss if he can be more effective. For now, both are viable options, but neither is a great option as long as there is such an equal split.

  • Austin Ekeler was a disappointment in Week 1, only receiving 1 target. It seems he only caught so many balls last season because Rivers loves to throw to his backs. He did get 19 carries, but it was noteworthy that rookie running back Joshua Kelley got 12 carries himself. Kelley got those 12 carries on only 18 snaps, so when he is in the game heís in there to pound it. Kelley is a great pick-up for those in need of a running back option, even though Ekeler is still clearly the No.1 option (and played on 70% of snaps).

  • Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire played on 69% of snaps for the Chiefs, and was extremely effective. Current back-up Darrel Williams played on 34%. CEH was far more effective, and I anticipate his snap share increasing as he gains comfort in the offense.

  • Alvin Kamara played on 45 snaps and Latavius Murray played on 23, so about a 2-to-1 split is what we saw. I think weíll continue to see such a split moving forward, so Murray should retain flex value (and lots of potential upside in the case of a Kamara injury).

  • Malcolm Brown may have been the surprise of the week, playing on 61% of snaps and showing great effectiveness. He got 18 carries and 4 targets, and totaled over 100 yards from scrimmage. Meanwhile, Cam Akers played on only 33% of the snaps and was far less effective. Brown is another great waiver wire add if he is available in your league.

  • In a trend that was solidly established last season, Aaron Jones played on only 55% of the snaps for the Packers. He was clearly the main back in the rushing game and contributed 4 receptions, so it isnít something to worry about for fantasy owners. The Packers coaches truly do want to work multiple backs in the system. While that limits Jonesí potential upside, heíll still get plenty of opportunities.

  • Joe Mixon only played on 59% of the snaps, while Giovani Bernard played on 30%. This is concerning for Mixonís owners, as his main path to a potential breakout is if he is more involved in the passing game. This is something to keep an eye, and needy owners may want to consider picking up Bernard.

  • In the shocker of the week, Nyheim Hines played the most of any Colts running back, getting 39 snaps. Marlon Mack was injured, so itís difficult to tell how many he would have gotten, but Jonathan Taylor only received 26. It was clear even prior to the injury that the Colts want to involve Hines, and he is very dynamic with the ball in his hands. He is worth your largest waiver bid of the week in PPR leagues, particularly with Mack done for the year with an Achilles tear.

  • In another shocker, Myles Gaskin of the Dolphins played on 39 of 58 snaps, playing ahead of Matt Breida. This could be that Breida just needs more time to learn the system, but itís very concerning for his owners nonetheless. Gaskin is not an exciting player, but if you need a running back badly enough, you might need to consider making a bid on him.

  • Raheem Mostert was the main ball-carrier for the 49ers and played on 61% of snaps. He also received 5 targets, more than he ever had last season. McKinnon also got in on 31% of the snaps and was effective, so he makes another nice pick-up. However, Tevin Coleman should work into the mix more in future games, so donít go crazy spending on McKinnon.

  • Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt split the snaps on Sunday, in a terrible game for the Browns. They each played 51% of the snaps. Chubb likely would have played a bit more had the Browns not been down big in the second half, but either way it looks concerning for those who drafted Chubb early. This is a situation to monitor closely.

  • DíAndre Swift played on 47% of snaps for the Lions, while Adrian Peterson played on 33% and Kerryon Johnson played on 27%. This is a situation to avoid until it clears up, which may never be the case under Matt Patricia. To make things worse, Peterson received 14 carries while Johnson got 7 and Swift got 3. Swift scored the only rushing score, which helped salvage his day, but starting any of these players right now is a very risky endeavor.

  • James Robinson started for the Jaguars and played on 72% of snaps! He was also the only running back to receive a carry and caught one pass for 28 yards. He is likely not available on your wire, but if he is grab him now. The cherry on top was that Chris Thompson only played 12 snaps and had two receptions.

  • Ronald Jones played on 50% of snaps and had 17 of 22 running back rushes. His share might decrease as Fournette learns the offense, but for now he is the starter and has the most upside. He also received 3 targets and caught 2 for 16 yards. Fournette only received 9 snaps and McCoy received 25, but Jones was the one they wanted to run the ball, at least in Week 1.

  • The Washington backfield looks like another one to avoid until one back emerges. J.D. McKissic received 31 snaps, Peyton Barber 29, and Antonio Gibson 18. The annoying part is that Barber got the most touches and scored the touchdowns but was totally ineffective for the most part, while Gibson was the most effective.

  • Dalvin Cook played on 61% of snaps and Alexander Mattison played on 39%, so it was a much more even split than many envisioned. This is something to watch carefully, as Mattison could become a weekly option in your flex if it continues.

  • Chris Carson played 28 snaps and Carlos Hyde played 21. It seems they are going to split the early-down carries fairly evenly, or perhaps that is just for a while since Carson is coming back from an injury. If it holds, Hyde will have a real impact in leagues and will offer a decent floor as an option during bye weeks or due to injuries.
  • J.K. Dobbins played on 39% of the snaps, Mark Ingram played on 36% of the snaps, and Gus Edwards played on 26% of the snaps. Since the Ravens run it so often, all of them will likely have value, but until either Dobbins or Ingram emerges as the main ball-carrier on early downs, all of their values will be capped. Watch this weekly snap count carefully.

  • In true Belichick fashion, no Patriots running back played on more than 19 snaps. Three backs all played on 19 exactly, with the fourth back playing on 9. Avoid them all until one begins to play more (or until James White begins to click with Newton in the receiving department).
Diontae Johnson

Wide Receiver

  • Stefon Diggs and John Brown were both every-down players for the Bills. Gabriel Davis got into the game on 53% of snaps for the Bills. He is a good-looking rookie receiver and one to keep an eye on. Even though Diggs and Brown both played every snap, they clearly want to get Davis involved.

  • DeAndre Hopkins also played on all but one snap, and clicked with Murray in his first game as a Cardinal, catching 14 balls. He looks like a steal in the late-second round.

  • Larry Fitzgerald played on 83% of snaps and Christian Kirk played on 80%, but neither was very involved. It was simply the Hopkins show on Sunday.

  • Although Michael Gallup did not do much on Sunday (3 receptions for 50 yards), he played 100% of snaps for Dallas and will be in line for some big games as a result. Amari Cooper played all but two snaps, while Ceedee Lamb played on 85% of snaps. It seems clear that Dallas wants to play 11 personnel, and that is even more likely now that Blake Jarwin is done for the season with an ACL injury.

  • For the Packers, Davante Adams played on 70 of 76 snaps, Allen Lazard played on 68, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling played on 42 - so they also prefer 11 personnel a majority of the time. Lazard is the player to pay attention to here. Since he is playing every down, he should have some very nice games when teams scheme to take away Adams.

  • Calvin Ridley led the Falcons receivers with 88% of the snaps, just ahead of Julio. They are 1A Ė 1B, and both are great starts weekly.

  • Corey Davis and A.J. Brown both played on 85% of snaps, with Humphries playing on 56%. All three will have value this season, but Davis and Humphries are likely available on your wire and could be excellent pick-ups Ė especially if Tennessee continues to focus on the pass.

  • Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both played on essentially every snap. If things eventually click with Brady, better days are ahead for both.

  • Terry McLaurin played on 65-of-70 snaps, while Steven Sims played on 58. They are the two Redskins receivers to own, and if Sims is on your wire he makes an excellent pick-up. He only produced 3 receptions for 50 yards, but bigger days are ahead, especially since Washington will often be trailing.

  • Cooper Kupp played on 86% of snaps, while Robert Woods was at 85%. The Rams want to keep Kupp out there even when they are not in 11 personnel, as Kupp only ran from the slot on 52% of his plays.

  • Quintez Cephus played on 86% of snaps and received a whopping 10 targets! He only caught 3 of them, so this was missed by most. But he is one to keep an eye on. He may only have a large role if Kenny Golladay or Marvin Jones miss time, but there is also a chance he begins to play ahead of Jones at some point this season.

  • Parris Campbell played the most snaps of any Colts receiver (two more than Hilton). He was the most effective as well, catching 6 for 71 yards on 9 targets. Hilton only had 4 receptions for 53 yards on his 9 targets. Campbell is a great waiver wire add if he is available in your league, and makes for a great trade target as well.

  • DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett both played 100% of snaps. They are going to be out there every play, every week. Since both have built up good chemistry with Wilson, they are excellent weekly plays.

  • Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins both played over 85% of snaps, while the next highest receiver was at 33%. Mecole Hardman will be fighting with DeMarcus Robinson and others to get on the field, making him worth a drop unless you have the roster depth to hold him.

  • With Golden Tate out, Darius Slayton had a huge game Monday night playinh on 90% of snaps. Sterling Shepard played on 83%. Slayton looks like he is going to stay the top option in this passing game, even when Tate comes back.

  • The Panthers, in their first week under Matt Rhule, played in 11 personnel 77% of the time. Samuel played on 77% of snaps, with Robby Anderson at 85% and D.J. Moore at 89%. Donít read too much into Andersonís big day Ė he will be a boom-bust option weekly, as will Samuel. Moore will get the most opportunities and targets, even though in Week 1 he only turned his 9 targets into 4 catches for 54 yards. Bigger days are coming and he is a must-start.

  • Mike Williams played on 82% of snaps and caught 4 of 9 targets for 69 yards. If Taylor did one thing well on Sunday, it was throwing some nice deep balls to Williams.

  • The Cincinnati receivers surprised with their snap counts on Sunday. A.J. Green was the most productive (5-51) but played the least snaps, 67%. Tyler Boyd was the next most productive (4-33) and played the second-highest number of snaps, 82%. And John Ross played the most snaps of the group (88%) but only produced 2-17. Green looked like he was back to his old self, and should be a great option for as long as he stays healthy. Boyd and Ross will likely split having good games, but both could be usable if Burrow improves as the season goes along.

  • Breshad Perriman played every snap for the Jets, but only produced 3-17 on 5 targets. If you have him he is a hold, as he should do better in future matchups against easier defenses.

  • Preston Williams, in his return from a knee injury, played all but two snaps. He didnít produce much against a good Patriots defense.

  • Odell Beckham Jr. played 81% of snaps and received 10 targets, but he only caught 3 for 22 yards. The Ravens simply shut him down and he looked out of sync with Mayfield.

  • Diontae Johnson and Juju Smith-Schuster both played 86% of snaps, and both were effective. They are good weekly plays, since Ben looks to be back to himself.

  • Russell Gage played on 71% of snaps, got 12 targets and had 9 receptions. Take this with a grain of salt, since the Falcons were in comeback mode for most of the game. His targets will often be at 2 or 3, but if you are desperate for a receiver who is able to put up good numbers on occasion, he is a worthwhile add.

  • NíKeal Harry led Patriots receivers with 81% of snaps (Edelman was down at 58%). Much of that could be a function of the Patriotsí game plan against the Dolphins, but either way itís good news for Harry. He looks locked in as the top starter on the outside.

  • Adam Thielen played every only snap (50) for the Vikings. It was amazing how few plays Minnesota ran, and keep that in mind both for game pace projections and in the sense that Thielen could have some gigantic games when the Vikings are forced to run more plays.

  • For Houston, Will Fuller played on 47 snaps, Randall Cobb played on 46, and Brandin Cooks (quad) played on 31. Those are very confusing numbers, particularly as it relates to Cooks. Fuller, meanwhile, looks to have taken over the mantle as the No. 1 option, receiving 10 targets (8-112).

  • Jerry Jeudy played on 44-of-59 plays and was effective except for two bad drops (4-56). It is unclear how much he will be targeted once Sutton returns, so digest these results cautiously.

  • Scotty Miller played on 66% of snaps for the Bucs (5-73 on 6 targets), and apparently won the No.3 job over Justin Watson. He is quick and great in the slot, which Brady loves. He is another excellent add in PPR leagues.

  • Danny Amendola had 7 targets and caught 5 for 81 yards, on 73% of snaps. He is a player to consider adding if you need depth at wide receiver.

  • Henry Ruggs III played virtually every snap aside from when he was getting checked for a knee injury, and he looked very explosive. If heís healthy, he is the Raidersí No.1 option and is a great start in good matchups.

  • D.J. Chark only played 42 snaps, but the Jaguars only had 47 as a team so bigger days are ahead against softer defenses.

  • Jalen Reagor did play 60% of snaps, but could only manage one reception. The whole Eaglesí offense looked out of sync.

  • Miles Boykin is a player to watch. He played on 70% of snaps and got 4 of Jacksonís 25 targets. Itís not a high-volume offense, but he could have some very nice games if he is playing a large percentage of snaps weekly.

  • Marquise Brown only played 64% of snaps, likely because the Ravens got so far ahead. He still produced nicely (5-101 on 6 targets) and is a great start weekly due to his explosive upside.

  • Emmanuel Sanders only played on 50% of snaps but thatís sure to increase given the injury to Michael Thomas (ankle).

  • Anthony Miller shockingly only played on 41% of snaps in Week 1. He seemed to split WR snaps with Javon Wims and Ted Ginn Jr.. This is extremely concerning, and I would hold off on starting him until we see his snap share increase.

Tight Ends

  • Tyler Higbee seemed to answer the questions about whether he was an every-down player. He played on 90% of snaps. Although he only caught 3 balls, the Rams went with a very run-heavy game plan in this one. Bigger games are coming.

  • Evan Engram played on every snap for the Giants. He only had 2 receptions for 9 yards on 7 targets, but then the Giants were generally ineffective. If you own Engram, it might be wise to look for another option to start until he shows he can click with Daniel Jones.

  • Ryan Izzo played every snap for the Patriots. Many were hoping to see Devin Asiasi get some action, but he played only 10 snaps and did not have a target. We donít know whether this will continue or whether it will change with a new game plan, but obviously avoid Asiasi until further notice.

  • Jonnu Smith played on 76% of snaps and had 7 targets, producing 4-36 and a touchdown. This is a nice start to the Jonnu Smith era, and should make you feel great about drafting him late.

  • Zach Ertz played 87% of snaps and Goedert played 84%. Both scored, but Goedert produced a better stat line (8-101-1). If you drafted Ertz you likely have to play him, but keep a close eye on this situation.

  • Austin Hooper played on 82% of snaps in his first game with the Browns, but he caught only 2 balls. He is already missing the Falcons.

  • Rob Gronkowski only had 2 receptions for 11 yards, which is quite concerning. However, he played on 83% of snaps, and the whole Bucsí offense looked out of sorts for much of the game. If he keeps playing a large majority of snaps, he will break out soon.

  • Logan Thomas played on 74% of snaps and had a team-high 8 targets (4-37 with a touchdown). This was the beginning of what looks like a break-out from Thomas, and he should be gobbled up instantly in every league.

  • With Blake Jarwin out, Dalton Schultz played on 72% of snaps. He is not a special talent and is mostly a blocker, but he might be worth a pick-up if youíre desperate. I would not be surprised if the Cowboys went and signed Delanie Walker, so bid with a bit of caution.

  • C.J. Uzomah played on 73% of snaps and had 5 targets (4-45). He is another nice pick-up for those desperate for a tight end.

  • Noah Fant had a big day (5-81-1) but played on only 73% of snaps. He took himself out of the game often. If he can get in better shape (or become a better blocker) and stay in for all of the snaps, his upside is even higher.

  • Dan Arnold played on 58% of snaps for the Cardinals and had 2 receptions. He could become a bigger factor down the line, but for now heís a wait-and-see.

  • Greg Olsen played on 40-of-58 snaps and Will Dissly played on 25-of-58 snaps. Both were involved, but Olsen had 4 targets and a touchdown reception. It is tough to know if heíll stay more involved going forward or if Dissly will earn more playing time as the season goes on. For now, Olsen seems like a nice play.

  • The Jetsí offense looked bad for most of the day, but Chris Herndon did play on 75% of snaps and had some receptions late (6-37 on 7 targets). Against a softer defense, Herndon is a good play.

  • Kyle Rudolph had only 2 receptions and Irv Smith had only one, but they each got fewer than 35 snaps since the team only played 49 total. They are difficult to trust in such a conservative, slow-paced offense, but both have upside in the right matchup.

  • Jace Sternberger is indeed behind Robert Tonyan. Sternberger played on 12 snaps, while Tonyan played 48. However, Tonyan did not have a target while Sternberger had one, so who knows? You should likely avoid both until a breakout occurs.

    Gerald Everett played on only 24 snaps (65 for Higbee). Unless he starts playing more than half the snaps, he should be avoided.

Kevin Scott is a fantasy pro who is the co-host for The Lowdown Fantasy Football Podcast. He plays in over 40 leagues annually and has made over $100,000 playing fantasy football. You can follow him @kevinscottff.