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Usage Notes: Week 3

By Kevin Scott | 9/28/21 |

Now that our small sample size is growing, we can start to see snap share and usage come into focus. Still, I will continue to caution that three data points is not enough to know with certainty, and things will change as a season goes along.

And of course injuries will happen, as we saw with Christian McCaffrey and A.J. Brown. However as things shift week to week, we must pivot and continue to make the best decisions based on the data we have. Letís look at each of the three primary skill positions and see what we can learn from snaps and usage from Week 3.

Zack Moss

Running Back

  • With Christian McCaffrey injuring his hamstring in the first half, we saw the Panthers use both Chuba Hubbard and Royce Freeman in his absence. I am guessing McCaffrey will sit at least a game or two, so the snaps and usage of these backs matters. Hubbard played on 55% of snaps and Freeman on 15%, so clearly it will be primarily Hubbardís backfield while McCaffrey is out, but Freeman may have value as well. Hubbard finished with 11 carries (52 yards) and Freeman with 5 (17 yards), but Hubbard also received 5 targets (3-27). Just like Mike Davis had value last season, Hubbard will be the top pick-up of the week if heís available in your league. Youíll have to spend big to get him, but the Panthers did not put McCaffrey on IR so he could be back sooner rather than later.

  • Avoid the Texans backfield completely. Four backs played, and none saw more than David Johnsonís 38% of snaps. None are worth rostering with how they are being used.

  • Antonio Gibson salvaged his fantasy day with a 73-yard touchdown reception, but other than that, his usage was uninspiring. He only got 12 carries (31 yards) and 2 targets, catching 1. Donít overreact to this poor usage, since the whole offense was dismal and the game was a beatdown by the Bills. The positive those who roster Gibson is that J.D. McKissic only received 3 carries and 2 targets. However, McKissic played on 46% of snaps to Gibsonís 57%, likely because Washington trailed most of the game. Ryan Fitzpatrick canít get back soon enough.

  • We have seen a total shift in the Buffalo run game since Week 1, when Zack Moss was a healthy scratch. In Week 3, Moss played on 56% of snaps, while Devin Singletary played on only 43%. Moss also received 16 touches to Singletaryís 12, and outproduced him in every facet. It looks like Moss is now the Buffalo back you want, which was what we expected coming into the season. This is a good object lesson in why not to overreact to one data point.

  • Nick Chubb played on 49% of snaps and Kareem Hunt played on 41%. Chubb received 22 carries (84 yards) and Hunt received 10 (81 yards and a score). But the big differentiator came in the passing game, where Chubb did not receive a target and Hunt received 7 (6-74). This passing game usage is what gives Hunt significant stand-alone value. He is not a handcuff and should be started in most leagues.

  • It looked like TyíSon Williams could become a viable option for fantasy teams after Weeks 1 and 2, but Week 3 suggests that no Baltimore back should be started until things clear up. Williams played on 50% of snaps, Latavius Murray on 33%, and Devonta Freeman on 16%. Williams got only 5 carries, Murray 7, and Freeman 3. None received a target. I will be avoiding all of them until Baltimore starts committing to the run again (hopefully with one primary back).

  • DíAndre Swift played on 56% of snaps and Jamaal Williams on 49%. Swift got 14 carries to Williams 12, and they both ran well and scored. Swift is starting to separate himself a bit in the receiving game, as he caught all 7 of his targets for 60 yards. Williams got 2 targets and caught them both for 25 yards. Both backs have been effective and can be started weekly. I prefer Swift as heís more dynamic, but both are getting plenty of snaps and have played well.

  • It was an interesting day in the Arizona backfield. Chase Edmonds played on 66% of snaps, while James Conner played on 37%. This has been close to their average this season. But because of how the game played out, they both had 11 carries. Conner, who has been getting most of the short-distance and goal line work, punched in two touchdowns. And Edmonds, who has been getting virtually all of the passing-down and hurry-up work, got a team-high 8 targets (7-49). Edmonds should still be the preferred option, but Conner has value, particularly in games they are likely to lead.

  • James Robinson sighting! He finally was given a featured role in Week 3 and produced just like he was producing last season. On only 59% of snaps he rushed 15 times for 88 yards and a touchdown, and also caught all 6 of his targets for 46 yards. While Carlos Hyde still played on 34% of snaps, Robinsonís involvement in the passing game is the most encouraging aspect. He could move into a nice weekly play if this continues.

  • Austin Ekeler only received 11 carries on 74% of snaps. But he again saved his fantasy day with his receiving work, getting 6 targets and going for 52 yards and a score. He is a weekly must-start due to his involvement in this very good passing game.

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams split the snaps for the Chiefs, 62% to 34%. CEH received 17 carries and Williams received 7. Both were effective on the ground. Both also got a bit of receiving work, but CEH scored. This will remain a frustrating split for those who roster CEH, but the more he gets involved in the passing game, the more weekly value he will have.

  • Mike Davis played on 60% of snaps and Cordarrelle Patterson on 42% of snaps, so a similar breakdown to past weeks. Davis got 12 carries to Pattersonís 7, but Patterson got 7 targets to Davisí 4. Davis is more likely to score rushing touchdowns, but Pattersonís involvement in the passing game is extremely valuable. He can be started in deep PPR leagues, even on a terrible Falcons offense.

  • Saquon Barkley is almost back to his pre-injury usage. He played on 86% of snaps, but 16 carries (for 51 yards and a score), and (most encouragingly) got 7 targets (6-43)! If that sort of target share continues, he will provide first-round value after all.

  • It was a terrible day for the Steelers, losing at home to the Bengals. But Najee Harris showed that he can be an elite option anyway. He rushed only 14 times for 40 yards, but caught 14 of 19 targets for 102 yards. You read that correctly. Since Ben Roethlisberger cannot throw deep any more, and since the offensive line canít block, the short throws are going to be the focus for this offense.

  • Another very disappointing day for those who roster Jonathan Taylor. He played on only 48% of snaps, which was less than Nyheim Hines (56%). He only received 13 opportunities (10 carries and 3 targets), while Hines received 12 (6 carries and 6 targets). That alone makes Hines the more valuable back on the week, but Hines also had the only rushing score. This usage makes Jonathan Taylor a committee back in a bad offense. He can be benched until something changes, if you have better options.

  • Michael Carter and Ty Johnson split snaps on Sunday, with Johnson playing on 57% and Carter on 43%. However, Carter got 12 opportunities to Johnsonís 8. Neither is worth playing until the offense improves, but Iíd hold Carter on your bench in case things turn around.

  • Yet again Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams split the snaps fairly evenly, so this seems to be the long-term plan for the Broncos. Gordon played 54% of snaps and Williams 40%, with Gordon receiving 20 opportunities and Williams 16. Williams produced more with his carries and has looked good, but both have sky-high potential if the other is injured or benched.

  • Myles Gaskin again led the way in snap share for the Dolphins, playing on 52% of snaps. But it was Malcolm Brown playing the second-most snaps, at 41%, and Brown also scored the only rushing touchdown. Salvon Ahmed played on only 5 snaps. Gaskin continues to get the most work, but the committee will keep him from accomplishing much in the scoring column.

  • Jon Gruden doubled down with his Peyton Barber love, giving him 57% of snaps compared to Drake getting 43%. Who cares about talent and salary level? Barber also got a ton of touches, getting 23 carries and gaining 111 yards. He also scored on the ground. And on top of that, Barber received 5 targets (3-31)! I cannot figure this out, and Iím not sure I want to. I guess you can pick up Barber, even though heís not a very good running back. Opportunity is king, and heís certainly getting his opportunities.

  • We finally saw the Bucsí running back situation play out the way I expected with Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones having minimal value but Giovani Bernard having PPR value. Bernard did not get a carry but played on 45% of snaps, catching 9 of 10 targets for 51 yards and a score. It seems like the Bucs will need to be behind or in a shootout for Bernard to see this kind of action and that doesnít seem likely to happen often. In this game, Fournette played on only 36% and Jones on 16%. Neither is a dependable fantasy option.

  • With Darrell Henderson out for Week 3, Sony Michel played on 74% of snaps and received 20 carries and 4 targets. However, he did very little with those opportunities, totaling 79 yards on his 23 touches. This looks to be Darrell Hendersonís backfield.

  • Alexander Mattison did not disappoint when he had an opportunity to fill in for Dalvin Cook. On 68% of snaps, he rushed 26 times for 112 yards, and also caught 6 of 8 targets for 59 yards. It was a huge game, reminding everyone that he is among the most valuable handcuffs in the league. Watch carefully to see if Cook is going to suit up in Week 4; if not, roll with Mattison.

  • Aaron Jones is finally getting his chance to dominate a backfield. He played on 73% of snap, while AJ Dillon played on 29%. But Jones is so far ahead of Dillon that unless Jones is injured, Dillon will not have much impact most weeks. Jones finished with 21 opportunities and went for 96 yards, while Dillon received 8 opportunities and went for 26 yards.

  • I was very excited to see what Trey Sermon could do with a starting workload, but then of course Shanahan didnít give him one. He received only 10 carries and played on 59% of snaps, despite being just about the only healthy running back available. He salvaged his day with a score, but Shanahanís game plan prevented him from doing much.

  • Miles Sanders played on 60% of snaps and yet, amazingly, had only 6 opportunities. This is a travesty, and shows the Eagles coaches do not know what they are doing. In addition, he was very effective on his touches, averaging 13.5 yards per carry and over 9 yards per catch. I have no idea if Sanders is startable going forward, but all I can say confidently is that itís not his fault.

  • Ezekiel Elliott played on 70% of snaps and Tony Pollard on 38%, which is about what theyíve been averaging. Elliott got 20 opportunities, going for 116 total yards and two scores. Pollard got 12 opportunities, going for 65 yards. Elliott is likely to remain the superior weekly play due to getting more chances, and Pollard should remain an interesting flex option. The difficult part is that you will never know exactly when to play Pollard.

    D.J. Moore

Wide Receiver

  • D.J. Moore looked like the alpha many of us have been hoping heíd become on Thursday night. He dominated targets, receiving 12 of 34 of Darnoldís passes (35% target share!). He caught 8 for 126 yards. If this heavy usage continues, he will end up as a top-10 receiver this season.

  • While Robby Anderson only played on 7 fewer snaps, he received only 2 targets (1-8). He certainly is droppable if you need the roster spot, but keep in mind that the Panthers coaching staff did say after the game that they want to get him more involved. Terrace Marshall Jr. played on only 2 fewer snaps than Anderson but saw 5 targets (4-48). Neither is worth starting until one or the other starts getting more opportunities, but at least Marshall is playing well early in his career, a good sign.

  • Brandin Cooks played on 95% of snaps and received a ridiculous 39% target share (11 of 28). He caught 9 of them for 112 yards. Since there are no other decent options in this passing game, he can be started every week.

  • It was a rough game for the Washington offense, but Terry McLaurin still finished with 7 targets on only 24 passes thrown (29% target share). He only went 4-62, but with how badly Taylor Heinicke and the offense struggled, that wasnít a terrible result. He also played on 96% of snaps and should be in your lineups weekly.

  • It was a surprising day for the Buffalo receivers. Cole Beasley received 13 targets, a 30% target share, catching 11 for 98 yards. Emmanuel Sanders received 6 targets, but went for 5-94-2. And then came Diggs, who did receive 10 targets but only went 6-62. There will be days like this for Diggs, who will certainly be defended with extra attention. This makes Sanders and Beasley very intriguing weekly options. All three played on 66% or more of snaps.

  • Not much can be learned about the Bears offense in Week 3, as they were thoroughly crushed by the Browns. They ran only 33 offensive plays, not counting punts. Justin Fields was only 6-20, for 68 yards. The only positive is that Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney played basically every snap, and received a 30% and 20% target share, respectively. But Fields must improve for them to put up decent numbers.

  • It was a positive start for Odell Beckham Jr. He played on 64% of snaps and led the team with 9 targets (5-77). He also received a carry (10 yards). He looked quick and he is in line for some very nice games this season if he is able to stay healthy.

  • We had our first A.J. Green line to pay attention to this season. Likely because DeAndre Hopkins was banged up, Green got extra work. He played on 79% of snaps and got 6 targets, catching 5 for 112 yards. I thought he was done, but this makes me think he might be worth carrying on deeper rosters. Still, they will spread the ball around in Arizona and I expect Rondale Moore to start getting more snaps as the season goes on.

  • Same story with Christian Kirk. He played on 57% and got 8 targets (7-104). I think he will also eventually lose snaps to Moore, but for now he is a potential flex play in good matchups. The main issue is that you just never know who is going to be the primary target after Hopkins.

  • Marvin Jones continues to be the top wide receiver for the Jaguars. He played on 97% of snaps and received the most targets (8, 24% target share). He went only 6-62, but the involvement makes him a strong weekly flex play.

  • Keenan Allen and Mike Williams continue to dominate targets for the Chargers. Allen received 12 targets (32% target share) and Williams received 9 (24%). They both scored, but Williams finished with the most yardage by far (122) and scored twice. Williams has moved into being a weekly must-start in this offense, and will make a huge fantasy impact this season if he stays healthy.

  • Marquez Callaway is heating up. He played on 61% of snaps in what was a blowout for most of the game (so that the Saints did not have to pass much). He still got 5 targets and scored a touchdown (4-41-1). If the Saints would ever get into a game flow where they have to pass and are not playing a great defense, he could finally have a huge game.

  • Jakobi Meyers received a whopping 14 targets, going 9-94. He is playing the Wes Welker / Julian Edelman role, so he has lots of value in PPR leagues, especially if Mac Jones improves. Nelson Agholor received 8 targets, but only caught 2 for 17 yards. He was in on 81% of snaps and was targeted, so donít get too concerned. But you shouldnít start him until he starts clicking with the quarterback.

  • Kadarius Toney didnít do too much in Week 3, but you should notice that he played on 66% of snaps. He did receive 3 targets (2-16), but the main reason he played so many more snaps is that both Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton suffered hamstring injuries. I could see Toney getting more involved over the next week or two.

  • On a day when Joe Burrow only threw 18 passes, JaíMarr Chase got 5 of them (28% target share) and Tyler Boyd got 6 of them (33%). Chase finished with 4 catches for 65 yards and two scores, and Boyd finished with 4 catches for 36 yards and a score. Both benefited from Tee Higgins being out, though one could argue that the Bengals could have opened it up on offense with Higgins in there. Either way, all three players look like great fantasy options for the season, especially if the Bengals increase their passing game.

  • With Diontae Johnson out and JuJu Smith-Schuster injured during the game, the Steelers depended heavily on Chase Claypool, who finished with 15 targets (9-96). Amazingly, that was only a 26% target share, as they threw it 58 times in the loss. Ben Roethlisberger looks done, which hurts this whole offense. But the short passing game will likely help these players retain value.

  • Michael Pittman Jr. is looking like an alpha receiver. I was concerned after Week 1, but the past two weeks have been very encouraging. He played on 93% of snaps in Week 3 and received 12 targets (a 32% target share). He caught only 6 for 68 yards, which isnít great, but the indicators are flashing that big games are coming.

  • Julio Jones (3-47) played on only 50% of snaps due to tightening up, and A.J. Brown played on only 12% after a hamstring tweak early in the game. The whole passing game was thrown into disarray, but it was Nick Westbrook-Ikhine who stepped in, playing on 78% of snaps and leading the way with 4 catches for 53 yards and a score. In case Jones and Brown miss time, he is a name to consider in deep leagues.

  • Elijah Moore was on his way to a nice day before he suffered a concussion. By the end of the game he played on only 48% of snaps, but in those snaps he received 6 targets (3-22). Corey Davis should see even more targets, and did see 10 on Sunday (5-41). However, the entire Jets offense is awful right now, so temper expectations.

  • Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton both played on 76% of snaps, and both caught all 5 of their targets. Patrick had more yards (98 to Suttonís 37). KJ Hamler is out for the season with an ACL injury, so that means that even when Jerry Jeudy comes back, Patrick should stay very involved. We should also see more action for Noah Fant.

  • Jaylen Waddle led Dolphins receivers, playing 88% of snaps and gaining a 27% target share (13 targets). He caught 12, but only for 58 yards. This shows just how low his average depth of target was, yet in PPR leagues he should retain excellent value. Also, once Tua Tagovailoa is back under center, his aDot should improve. Also, Waddle is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. So as the Dolphins improve, I expect we will see good things from Waddle. Hold him or pick him up if you can.

  • Will Fuller returned and saw 6 targets (3-20) on 61% of snaps. As he works into the offense, he will see more targets, but donít expect him to hit his ceiling in this offense until Tua is back and playing well.

  • Henry Ruggs III tied for the team lead in targets with 7, a 16% target share. Carr just loves to spread the ball around, capping the upside for all of his receivers. Ruggs caught 4 for 78 and is always a threat for a long touchdown with his speed so you could do worse in your flex spot. Bryan Edwards actually played on more snaps (76% compared to 58% for Ruggs), and got 5 targets (3-89). Again, both can be valuable, but youíll never know when itís going to be their day.

  • Hunter Renfrow led the Raiders receivers in fantasy points, catching 5 for 77 yards and a touchdown (on only 52% of snaps). He has been a very consistent scorer this season, and is worth rostering in PPR leagues.

  • Three weeks of games, and three weeks of Cooper Kupp crushing it. Kupp played on fewer snaps than Robert Woods (88% to 82%), but received an incredible 12 targets (32% target share). Woods received only 6 targets and went 3-33. DeSean Jackson even outproduced Woods on 32% of snaps, going 3-120-1 on 5 targets. Itís time to be concerned about Woods, and I might shift him to my bench as I did with Brandon Aiyuk, until I see some better production. Still, the high snap share is encouraging.

  • This was a DK Metcalf week, as he received a 28% target share (9 targets) and caught 6 for 107 yards and a score. The Seahawks struggled on offense, and Tyler Lockett was contained for only 4 catches for 31 yards. Both should always be in your starting lineups.

  • Justin Jefferson finally outscored Adam Thielen, catching 9 of 11 targets for 118 yards and a score. He should never be benched.

  • Davante Adams sometimes seems to be the only receiver Aaron Rodgers can see. He received 18 targets, catching 12 for 132 yards and a score. And that line could easily have been much bigger. The other receivers on the roster, like Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allan Lazard, will not have an opportunity to do anything big until the targets start getting spread around more. Still, MVS did catch 3 of 4 targets for 59 yards and a score, and can be used in a pinch.

  • After two weeks in Shanahanís doghouse, it looks like Brandon Aiyuk might be coming out to play. He played on 86% of snaps and received 6 targets, catching 4 for 37 yards and a score. He was still well behind Deebo Samuel (10 targets), but heís catching up.

  • DeVonta Smith played on all but one snap (98%), but he had only 6 targets (15% target share). Jalen Hurts is really struggling, and I do not know if he will be able to turn it around. Do not drop Smith, but you likely need to bench him until things improve.

  • The Cowboys did not need to throw it much to beat the Eagles, and Dak Prescott finished with only 26 pass attempts. Even though Ceedee Lamb and Amari Cooper both played on 86% of snaps, both only had 3 receptions. Better days are ahead, and pay attention to when they have a matchup against good offenses. Those are the games to circle.

Tight Ends

  • Dan Arnold did get 4 targets (12% target share), but he again played on only 37% of snaps and was then traded from Carolina to Jacksonville on Monday. He has little fantasy value at the moment.

  • Logan Thomas again played 100% of snaps. Since he never leaves the field, he should probably never leave your lineups, unless you only can start one tight end and have one of the most elite ones on your roster. He caught all 4 of his targets (17% target share) for 42 yards and a score.

  • Dawson Knox flashed again, played on 78% of snaps and catching 4 of 5 targets for 49 yards and a score. If youíre hurting at the position, you could certainly do worse than an athletic tight end playing the large majority of snaps in a very prolific offense.

  • Cole Kmet saw his snap share jump up again, to 96%! Donít miss the fact that he has clearly taken over as the Bears primary tight end. Unfortunately he only had one reception in this awful loss, but he did receive 4 of Fieldsí 20 throws, a 20% target share. If this offense improves, he still has a chance to produce.

  • No Browns tight end should be started until something changes. David Njoku led the group in snap share (62%) but did not receive a target. Austin Hooper played on 60% and Harrison Bryant on 41%. Hooper did score, but he received only 3 targets (2-19-1).

  • Mark Andrews played on 79% of snaps and led the team with 7 targets (5-109). Thatís a 23% target share, very elite for a tight end. Start him with confidence every week.

  • Donít be concerned with T.J. Hockensonís poor stat line (2-10). He played on 84% of snaps and was clearly just taken away by the Ravens defense. There will be games like this against good defenses, since there are so few threats on this Lions offense.

  • Maxx Williams again played on over 75% of snaps for Arizona and was involved (3-19). While he only received 3 targets, that is still worth noting when there is so little to be excited about at the position.

  • Donít get too frustrated with Jared Cook. He only caught 2 for 27 yards, but he played on 70% of snaps and is very involved. Again, in this landscape he is looking like he could finish as a top-10 option.

  • A very deep league name to know is Jody Fortson. He is a converted wide receiver who looked good for the Chiefs on Sunday. He only played on 6 snaps but got 2 receptions, including one for a score. It looks like they may try to work him into the offense a bit, and he can obviously catch the ball.

  • It was a strange day for the Patriots tight ends. Hunter Henry played on 72% of snaps and received 6 targets, going 5-36. Jonnu Smith played on only 42% of snaps, potentially because he was injured, and received 6 targets. But he only caught one of them for 4 yards. Henry should be picked up in any leagues where he is available, and you might need to bench Smith until he shows something more.

  • Kyle Pitts again played over 80% of snaps, but only received 3 targets (2-35). He is clearly still figuring out the pro game, so it will likely be up and down if you keep starting him. But isnít that true for the vast majority of tight ends?

  • Evan Engram made his debut on Sunday and played on 56% of snaps. He received 6 targets, a 24% target share, but only caught 2 for 21 yards. He continues to offer upside if he can stay healthy and start clicking with Daniel Jones.

  • Eric Ebron played on more snaps than Pat Freiermuth in Week 3, but Freiermuth again outproduced him, catching 3 of 5 targets for 22 yards and a score. Ebron, like Ben, looks done. He caught none of his 3 targets.

  • Tyler Kroft, along with Elijah Moore, suffered an injury on Sunday. He ended up playing only 43% of snaps, finishing with 2 targets (2-12). Avoid all Jets until they start playing better offense.

  • Mike Gesicki led the Dolphins tight ends in snap share for the second consecutive week, playing 66% of snaps. More importantly, he saw 12 targets, a 24% target share! He cauht 10 of them for 86 yards, making him extremely valuable among tight ends (especially in tight end-premium leagues). If he was dropped in your league, make him a high priority pick-up.

  • Perhaps Tyler Higbee is going to only perform well in odd-numbered weeks? He had a nice Week 1, a 0 in Week 2, and now in Week 3 he caught all 5 of his targets for 40 yards and a score. He also was banged up for a few snaps in the game, or it could have been better. He is a solid start every week (even in even-numbered games).

  • Gerald Everett had a bit of a breakout in Week 3, after playing lots of snaps in the first two weeks but not getting many opportunities. He received 5 targets in Week 3, a 16% target share. He caught all 5 for 54 yards. I continue to maintain he is a solid weekly start among tight ends this season.

  • Tyler Conklin went off in Week 3, catching 7 of 8 targets for 70 yards and a score. He played on 72% of snaps. A 21% target share for a tight end is something we must pay attention to, even if there is a solid chance we donít see it again. Pick him up if you need a tight end, and watch closely for what happens in the next couple games.

  • George Kittle did not score, but at least he was involved. He led the team in receiving yards (92) and caught 7 of 9 targets. It was good to see him looking like the old Kittle. He also played every snap.

  • Robert Tonyan played on 73% of snaps but just wasnít involved. He caught his only target. Itís hard to garner targets when Davante Adams is getting 18!

  • It appears Dalton Schultz remains firmly entrenched as the top tight end option for Dallas. He again played on more snaps than Jarwin (69% to 56%) and was far more involved in the passing attack. He finished with the most targets and receptions on the team (6 receptions on 7 targets for 80 yards and two scores). If he is still sitting on your wire, Iíd definitely pick him up.

Kevin Scott is a fantasy pro who has made over $100,000 playing fantasy football. Catch his podcast "Grinding the Data" and you can follow him on Twitter @kevinscottff.