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Usage Notes: Week 5

By Kevin Scott | 10/12/21 |

It seems that this season has been extraordinarily difficult to predict. It’s not that all of my predictions have been wrong, and certainly the research for these weekly articles is helping to give me (and hopefully you) a handle on how things are likely to go. But still, the swings in player usage and role have been wilder than I can remember.

When fantasy football feels out of control, the number one thing that helps is to wade in to the data and figure out what has happened. Still, the unpredictability will remain, and that is part of what makes this game so interesting. I hope the data points below will help you with some ideas about how to keep grinding toward success. If you can grind out enough wins to make the playoffs, that’s all that matters.

Running Back

  • Darrell Henderson played on 66% of snaps and Sony Michel on 34%. Henderson saw 18 touches to Michelís 12, and Henderson had 99 total yards to Michelís 45. Both scored. This looks to be how McVay wants to split the workload when both backs are healthy. This makes Henderson by far the preferable play, but both have value since it is so difficult to find productive backs.

  • Cordarrelle Patterson continues his upward ascent in Atlanta. He had not seen above a 42% snap share through four weeks, and in Week 5 he played on 59% of snaps. Mike Davis played on 64%. However, Patterson received more carries than Davis, 14 to 13, and got a whopping 9 targets on top of that. Davis scored the rushing touchdown this week so you cannot drop Davis, but Patterson is by far the more preferable weekly play. Keep an eye on whether Wayne Gallman starts stealing more snaps from Davis.

  • Michael Carter played on 52% of snaps and Ty Johnson on 39% for the Jets. On a bad offense, Carter needs to be up near 70% before he becomes an attractive weekly play, but he has certainly moved into the role of lead back. He got 13 touches to Johnsonís 6. Tevin Coleman got 3 touches on 5 snaps Ė if those go to Carter, that could help give him a boost. Still, itís a bad offense for now, so tread carefully.

  • Miles Sanders played on 75% of snaps and got 11 carries and 6 targets. Itís the most touches he has received since Week 1. He didnít score, but he could have if they had given him the ball in the red zone instead of Hurts running it in. His value is certainly limited in this offense, but donít give up on Sanders. He is a dynamic back and has not played under 60% of snaps all season.

    AJ Dillon

  • Those who roster Aaron Jones would be allowed a bit of concern after Sundayís game. Jones played on 69% of snaps and got 19 opportunities, but AJ Dillonís role is increasing. He played on 33% of snaps and 12 opportunities, including 4 targets. He caught them all and also scored on a reception. Those who drafted Jones early were not concerned about Jones losing any receiving work to Dillon, but that appears to be an incorrect assessment. Both backs could be good weekly starts if this split continues.

  • Samaje Perine played on 61% of snaps on Sunday, while Joe Mixon played on only 28%. Perine got 11 carries (59 yards) and Mixon only got 10 (33 yards). Perine was by far the more effective back. This split will likely shift back toward Mixon getting the vast majority once Mixon is healthy, but Perine is worth holding in case his solid performance has earned him more weekly touches.

  • Rhamondre Stevenson returned from the Belichick doghouse and in Week 5 he played on 34% of snaps and got 11 carries. He did not do much with them, but this is still something to pay attention to. Damien Harris got more carries but played on one fewer snap than Stevenson, mainly due to getting banged up throughout the game. Harris was more effective (14-58-1), but Stevenson is worth adding in case his workload increases.

  • David Johnson played the most snaps among the Texans running backs (53%), but he received only 2 carries. Mark Ingram, who played on 44% of snaps, got 16 carries, and Phillip Lindsay, who played on 22% of snaps, got 5 carries. They seem to only use Johnson in the passing game, and Lindsay sparingly, which makes both interesting trade targets if you are the Kansas City Chiefs right now.

  • The split was back between James Robinson and Carlos Hyde. They played on 68% and 25% of snaps, respectively. However, Robinson had another big day on the ground (18-149-1), which should hopefully lead to more work and more snaps moving forward.

  • Although Jamaal Williams got more carries than DíAndre Swift and ran well (13-57), it was Swift who played on far more snaps (74% to 32%). Swift got 11 carries and scored on the ground, but his value really comes through the air. He caught all 6 of his targets for 53 yards. In PPR leagues, Swift is likely a top-five back due to his receiving usage. Since the Lions trail in most games, he should continue to get lots of work. Williams can still be used as a flex and is a good player, but Swift is the superior talent.

  • On to another frustrating split in Denver. Melvin Gordon got 60% of the snaps to 42% for Javonte Williams, but Williams was far more effective, finishing with 11 touches for 86 yards. Gordon finished with 11 touches for 43 yards. It will be interesting to see if this stat line leads to more snaps for Williams, but I doubt it. The coaches seem to like the split they have.

  • I hope you didnít give up on Myles Gaskin. He led the way for the Miami backs on Sunday, playing on 69% of snaps while Salvon Ahmed played on 20% and Malcolm Brown played on 9%. The Dolphins didnít run it much, but Gaskin saw a whopping 10 targets and caught them all for 74 yards and 2 scores. It is hard to predict how the backs will be used, but Gaskin is clearly their best option.

  • Leonard Fournette played on 62% of snaps on Sunday, and continues to be their clear starter. He got 12 carries and 5 targets, finishing with 110 yards and a score. He should be started weekly for as long as this role continues.

  • Giovani Bernard played on only 17 snaps (23%), but got 4 carries and 2 targets, going for 35 yards and a score. He will likely only be a starting option in tougher matchups, and the Bucs somehow have a ridiculously easy schedule. But keep your eyes out for any matchup where they might trail.

  • Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt continue to be the best rushing duo in the NFL, producing a combined 259 yards from scrimmage in Week 5. Chubb played on 56% of snaps and Hunt on 44%, and Chubb got 22 touches to Huntís 17. Both are weekly must-starts.

  • Shocker special: Khalil Herbert out-snapped Damien Williams, 53% to 48%. I touted Herbert in my podcast as a sneaky pick-up before Week 5, but I did not even envision this kind of split. Both players ended up with 18 touches, with fairly equal yardage (75 to 84). Herbert is a must-add in leagues, and could be a nice option for those who lost Saquon Barkley or Clyde Edwards-Helaire, at least for a few weeks while David Montgomery is out.

  • Elijah Mitchell returned from injury for the 49ers and jumped right back into the role of starter, relegating Trey Sermon to the bench. Mitchell played on 68% of snaps and got 11 touches. Trey Lance took 16 carries himself, so Mitchellís upside is limited until Lance starts sharing the carries more. But if you have Mitchell on your roster, you have to like that he is clearly the lead back. However, Shanahan does change on a dime, so you should also consider adding Jeff Wilson if you have Mitchell. When he is healthy, he could immediately become the starter.

  • Devontae Booker played almost every snap after Saquon Barkley (ankle) left the game, and finished with 19 touches for 58 yards and two scores. He is not a dynamic back, but he is smart and a tough runner. He is a nice add this week for running back-needy teams, even though Barkley will likely only be out a couple games.

  • Tony Pollard continues to play about 40% of the snaps, sharing the workload with Ezekiel Elliott. On Sunday he got 18 touches to Elliottís 23, reminiscent of the split in Cleveland. Pollard is a great weekly option due to his regular involvement in a great offense.

  • Zack Moss played by far his highest snap share of the season, 74%, meaning that Devin Singletary saw his lowest, 26%. I donít know if this had to do with how they wanted to attack the Chiefsí defense or represents a shift in the timeshare, but it is something to keep an eye on. Moss doubled Singletary in touches, 14 to 7, and produced over 90 total yards. Still, both are risky weekly plays due to how the work is usually split up.

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire looked totally ineffective in his 7 rushes in Week 5, which he took for 13 yards. His only reception of the game ended with him being injured, and it sounds like he will be out for a few weeks with an MCL sprain. Darrel Williams can be added if you are desperate for a running back, but he is not a very good player. He will at least likely get 10 touches per game though, and that is something in this running back desert.

  • Despite being incredibly good on the touches he received, Jonathan Taylor played on only 52% of snaps. He got 15 carries and 4 targets, and took them for a combined 169 yards and two scores. The Colts played three backs, including Marlon Mack on 14% of snaps and Nyheim Hines on 38% of snaps. You have to keep playing Taylor weekly, but this slight usage is incredibly frustrating.

  • The best thing we can say about the Ravens running back situation is that at least itís an obvious ďavoid.Ē You know not to start any of them, since three players are splitting snaps and they are barely giving any of them carries. Latavius Murray led with 49% of snaps, then Devonta Freeman with 27%, then TyíSon Williams with 19%. Murray got 8 touches, Williams 6, and Freeman 4. Look in other directions for running back help.

    Robert Woods

Wide Receiver

  • Robert Woods rebounded in a major way, which we saw coming thanks to the underlying data. He has been playing almost every snap and we knew his day was going to come. He played on all but one snap while Cooper Kupp played on all but 8 snaps and still got 10 targets to Woodsí 14. Both are excellent weekly plays.

  • Elijah Moore played on fewer snaps than both Jamison Crowder (61%) and Keelan Cole (55%). Moore played on only 41% and didnít catch either of his 2 targets. In dynasty leagues he is a hold, but in redraft leagues he can likely be dropped. In my opinion heís far better than Cole, but it might take him time to gain the No.2 role permanently.

  • Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore both played on 87% of snaps, and both received 7 targets. Moore was again far more effective (5-42 compared to 2-30), but both are very involved. Darnold was bad on Sunday, but if he bounces back both players have nice weekly upside.

  • Tee Higgins returned on Sunday and played on 70% of snaps. He received 7 targets and caught 5 for 32 yards. When he is in the game, Boyd is pushed more to the background, so that is something to keep in mind. When healthy, Higgins is probably a weekly must-start, depending on your leagueís settings. His big days are coming, even with JaíMarr Chase on the same roster.

  • Chris Moore had a breakout day for the Texans, with Brandin Cooks getting the Belichick treatment. Moore played on 63% of snaps and caught all 5 of his targets for 109 yards and a score. This is likely a one-week thing, as the Texans will target Cooks far more on a weekly basis. But if you are in a very deep league, Moore is a name to keep in mind.

  • A.J. Brown played on 64% of snaps and led the team in targets with 6. However, he caught only 3 for 38 yards. He was working back from an injury, so Iíll excuse this poor game. But he is going to need to start producing like a top-30 fantasy pick very soon, or he is going to end up on a lot of benches. Iíd suggest continuing to start him, as I believe his talent is immense, and hope that the big production is coming.

  • Those hoping D.J. Charkís vacated targets would go to Marvin Jones or Laviska Shenault were sorely disappointed on Sunday. Jones caught only 1 of 5 targets and Shenault caught only 1 of 3 targets, despite the two playing on 93% and 73% of snaps, respectively. Instead Tavon Auston got 5 targets and Jamal Agnew got 8 targets, meaning no receiver had any value for the Jaguars. Lawrence needs to start peppering his best players with targets soon, but for now Iíd bench them all.

  • Amon-Ra St. Brown led all receivers in snaps for the Lions, playing on 69%. He also led in targets (8), catching 7 for 65 yards. This is the second consecutive week he has been the best receiver for the Lions, making him a must add in most leagues. They will trail most weeks and he is establishing a nice rapport with Jared Goff.

  • Adam Thielen again played on almost every snap (93%), but his involvement has trailed off. He received only 3 targets (2-40). He remains a decent flex play with upside, but in this offense he will likely remain a risky weekly start.

  • Justin Jefferson, meanwhile, continues to establish himself as a dominant alpha receiver. He caught 7 of 8 targets for 124 yards, on 90% of snaps.

  • Chase Claypool played on 55% of snaps and led the Steelers in receiving, catching 5 of 6 targets for 130 yards and a score. The Steelers fear JuJu Smith-Schuster is lost for the season with a shoulder injury, which makes Claypool and Diontae Johnson both no-brainer weekly starts, even with the poor quarterbacking weíve seen from Ben Roethlisberger.

  • Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton dominated targets for the Broncos. They both played over 90% of snaps, with Sutton getting 11 targets (7-120-1) and Patrick getting 9 targets (7-89). Both should be solid weekly starts the rest of the way.

  • With DeVante Parker (hamstring) out on Sunday, we heard from old friend Preston Williams, who finished with 3 receptions for 60 yards on 5 targets, on 74% of snaps. With Will Fuller and Parker out, Williams could have short-term value, particularly while Fuller is on the IR with his hand injury.

  • Jaylen Waddle played the most snaps at wide receiver for the Dolphins, and got 6 targets. But he only caught 2 for 31 yards. He will likely be helped by Tua Tagovailoa returning, but needs to be benched until he can start producing.

  • Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown are all weekly must-starts, because you never know who is going to produce the most yards or who is going to score. They are all playing over 50% of snaps in this ridiculous offense, and all are capable of spike weeks. This week it was Brown and Evans each scoring twice, but it could be Godwin next week.

  • Marquez Callaway is heating up. Although his biggest play was on a Hail Mary pass, he still finished with 4-85-2 on 8 targets. The Saints offense looks bad overall, but Callaway is a player you can start if you are desperate for a receiver. He played on 82% of snaps.

  • Curtis Samuel played only 5 snaps before leaving again with his groin injury. He can be dropped or benched for the long term, depending on the depth of your league. I am unsure if he will get healthy this season, but you should not start him until you see production for a couple weeks, with no setbacks.

  • Odell Beckham Jr. led Cleveland skill players with 81% of snaps, but he was an afterthought for Baker Mayfield and was only targeted 3 times (2-20). Both Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins received more targets and were more productive. It might be the end of the line for Beckham if he canít start producing very soon.

  • On 58 snaps (77%) Mike Williams received 16 targets! He caught 8 for 165 yards and two scores. He is clicking with Herbert and is establishing himself as an elite receiving option. You have to start him every week.

  • Meanwhile, Keenan Allen played on 91% of snaps and caught 6 of 9 targets for 75 yards. This is still a solid line, but it certainly seems that he is now behind Williams in Herbertís progressions.

  • Rondale Moore saw his highest snap share of the season (48%), and was second on the team in targets (6) behind DeAndre Hopkins. He finished with 5-59 and also rushed three times for 38 yards. They are clearly trying to get the ball in Mooreís hands, so he is worth an add if you are needy at receiver. It is still likely to be frustrating, as you never know which Cardinals will get touches aside from Hopkins.

  • Kadarius Toney continued his breakout party from Week 4 in Week 5, taking over for the Giants and catching 10 of 13 targets for 189 yards. He also got a carry for 7 yards. He looks incredibly quick and dynamic in the open field. Even though the Giants are not very good, Toney could become a stud fantasy contributor and should be added everywhere. Kenny Golladay left early with another injury, which just give Toney added opportunity to establish himself as the top option in the passing game. Just keep in mind that Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton will return soon. I think the coaches should be smart enough to keep Toney in the game, although we are talking about Jason Garrett. So just keep an eye on how things shake out, but grab Toney wherever you can.

  • Those who roster Stefon Diggs are officially worried. He saw only 5 targets on Sunday night and caught only 2 for 69 yards. Josh Allen seems to have a better rapport with Dawson Knox and Emmanuel Sanders this season.

  • If you picked up Sanders late or off the wire, you are feeling pretty good. He looks quick and healthy, and scored twice against the Chiefs. The Bills spread the targets around, so he will have quiet games, but in this great offense he is a nice weekly flex play.

  • Mecole Hardman had one of the best games of his career, mainly because the Bills totally took Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce out of the game. Hardman finished with 9 catches for 76 yards and 12 targets, putting to bed for now the thoughts that Josh Gordon would take over his role. If Hardman is on your wire you can add him, but just know that most weeks he will catch 2 or 3 balls for 30 yards.

  • Parris Campbell was second among the Colts receivers in targets with 6, despite only playing 55% of snaps. Zach Pascal played on 86% of snaps, ahead of Campbell, and received 5 targets. They also mixed in Ashton Dulin on 33% of snaps. Similar to the running back situation in Indy, this mix is very frustrating and will zap the potential upside of all the Colts receivers.

  • Marquise Brown continues to play like an elite wide receiver this season. On 90% of snaps he got 10 targets, and caught 9 for 125 and two scores. The Ravens are no longer a heavy rushing team, so expectations should be adjusted for Brown. He is an every-week start, even with Bateman returning from IR soon.

Tight Ends

  • Dallas Goedert (Covid-19 list) played on 67% of snaps and Zach Ertz on 60%. Goedert caught 2 of his 3 targets for 28 yards, and Ertz caught only 1 of his 6 targets for 7 yards. This frustrating timeshare continues, and I would suggest trading away Goedert after his next big game. I believe they will sap value from each other all season.

  • Robert Tonyan led Packers tight ends with 59% of snaps, but he was outproduced by Marcedes Lewis. Tonyan received only 2 targets and caught 1 for 8 yards. If you drafted Tonyan to be your starter, it looks like it is time to search for a better option.

  • Hunter Henry continues to look like the clear lead option for the Patriots at tight end. While Henry and Jonnu Smith both played on 62% of snaps, Henry received 8 targets to Smithsí 2. He caught 6 for 75 yards and a score. He looks to be clicking with Mac Jones and is a solid weekly option.

  • I was surprised that Anthony Firkser played on only 42% of snaps on Sunday, behind MyCole Pruitt (59%). Firkser had more targets (4), and caught 3 for 33 yards. but Pruitt scored. Firkser needs to be benched until he is getting more snaps, and can be dropped if you need a roster spot.

  • I was not surprised, however, to see Dan Arnold lead the Jaguars in targets. It has been clear all season how much Trevor Lawrence loves throwing to tight ends, and Arnold is a receiver playing the role. He played on 73% of snaps and got 8 targets, catching 6 for 64 yards. This sort of usage makes Arnold a must-start in most leagues, assuming this trend continues. Pick him up immediately if you need a tight end.

  • T.J. Hockenson played on 81% of snaps, leading Lions skill players, but got only 3 targets (2-22). It has been a few weeks since he has produced like a top tight end, which is very concerning for those who roster him. For now, you likely have to keep starting him and hope for the best, but certainly be on the lookout for a player like Arnold who can give you a boost in case Hockenson does not bounce back.

  • Tyler Conklin continued his streak of games over 70% of snaps to start the season. He played on 75% and got 3 targets (2-25). This can be a low-volume passing offense, so there will be slow weeks for Conklin. But the underlying data is still strong and he is worth holding, particularly in TE-premium leagues.

  • Noah Fant got only 4 targets (3-20) but he played on 97% of snaps. This is likely the Steelers doing a great job taking him away, so donít worry. He is a top tight end option every week.

  • Ricky Seals-Jones played on 99% of snaps for Washington, and got 8 targets (5-41). He took over the role completely for Logan Thomas, meaning he will have very nice upside for as long as Thomas is out. I recommend starting him next week against the Chiefs, as it is hard to find a tight end playing every snap.

  • David Njoku played on fewer snaps than Austin Hooper (64% to 72%), but Njoku received 7 targets to Hooperís 0. He caught all 7 for 149 yards and a score. Perhaps they have shifted Hooper into a blocking role and Njoku into a receiving role, but itís more likely just the way this game panned out. I still do not recommend starting any Cleveland tight end, since theyíd prefer to run the ball and have three tight ends who play significant snaps.

  • Jared Cook played on more snaps than Donald Parham (67% to 53%), and got 3 targets to Parhamís 2. But Parham was more productive catching both his targets for 29 yards and a score. Parham is worth an add in tight-end premium leagues, since heís playing around half the snaps and Herbert likes to target him in the red zone.

  • Evan Engram could also benefit from the rash of injuries for the Giants. He played on 74% of snaps in Week 5, his highest mark of the season. He caught all 4 of his targets for 55 yards.

  • Dalton Schultz continues to widen the gap between himself and Blake Jarwin. He again led the Cowboys in targets with 8, on 73% of snaps, finishing with 6 receptions for 79 yards. He is among the best tight end options every week and should be started with confidence.

  • Dawson Knox is officially a thing. He continues to score most weeks, and led the team in receiving against the Chiefs (3-117-1). He has a great connection with one of the top quarterbacks in the league, so he is worth a weekly start unless you have a top 5 tight end.

  • Mark Andrews won fantasy weeks for many managers in Week 5, putting up 11 receptions and 147 yards, with two scores and two 2-point conversions. He played on 77% of snaps. Andrews is obviously a top tight end option and should be started weekly, especially in this new pass-happy Ravens offense.

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.