Between the Lines: Week 9 Snap Count Analysis

In fantasy football, one way to gain an edge over opponents is digging into weekly snap counts. While a quick scan of box scores can tell us who actually performed and produced, snap count data can give us an indicator of guys who are seeing the field on a consistent -- or inconsistent -- basis.

After all, opportunity is the creator of fantasy points.

First, a player needs to get meaningful snaps. Then, they need meaningful opportunities. And lastly, they must actually convert that opportunity into fantasy production. This weekly article addresses the first and most critical portion of the opportunity funnel: playing time.

Today, we will look at five big takeaways from Week 9. For a look at all of last week's snap count data, numberFire has you covered.

1. Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Are we finally starting to see some separation in the Kansas City Chiefs backfield? It certainly looks that way after the Chiefs' Week 8 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Damien Williams played a backfield-high 72% of the team's snaps. Darrel Williams and LeSean McCoy were on the field for just 18% and 10% of the team's snaps, respectively, and the memories of their on-the-field impacts are looking more and more like fingerprints on an abandoned handrail.

McCoy's 10% represents a major drop from 39% in Week 8 and is well under his previous 22% snap share nadir in Week 5. Williams' 72% did not just represent time blocking; his 14 touches were 10 more than McCoy, and he used one of them to break free for a 91-yard score (though it was arguable Tyreek Hill's speed that stole the show on that play).

If Williams continues to get such a high percentage of the work, he becomes a near must play. In a backfield that has been a dart throw for much of the season, Williams looks to finally be providing some separation. He'll be deserving of a spot in your flex at the very least and could provide RB2 numbers if Reid indeed makes him the guy in the Chiefs' backfield.

2. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

You don't need to panic about Austin Ekelers usage...yet. He did, after all, just total 93 yards on 12 rushes and 4 receptions, resulting in a perfectly respectable 13.3 PPR points this week. However, the early season running back stud played on just 34% of the Los Angeles Chargers' snaps this week, easily his lowest snap share of the season (45% in Week 6) and well below Melvin Gordon's 63%.

The main reason that you shouldn't yet panic is that the Chargers had this game in complete control, which allowed them to run the ball more than they've been able to this season. The Chargers came into Week 9 with a 66.7% pass ratio. Just 44.1% of their plays against the Green Bay Packers this week came through the air, largely taking away the most effective part of Ekeler's game.

With an away game against the surprising Oakland Raiders (who are 3-1 at home) and a matchup against the Chiefs the following week, the Chargers should need to once again lean more heavily on the pass, and Ekeler should see his snap share on the uptick. It's easy to make a snap reaction in fantasy on a weekly basis, but don't do that here. Ekeler should continue to provide PPR RB2 numbers throughout the rest of the season.

3. Mohamed Sanu, WR, New England Patriots

There's no doubting that Mohamed Sanu was an important member of the Atlanta Falcons. After one week with the New England Patriots, however, it's hard to imagine him wanting to be in any other uniform. Sanu was on the field for 100% of the Pats' snaps this week, one of just a small handful of receivers in the league to do that this week.

Neither he nor Bill Belichick let that field time go to waste. Sanu's 14 targets not only led New England this week, but they were the third-most among all wide receivers in Week 9. Those targets also represented a season high and are the most he's seen in a game since seeing 14 against the Carolina Panthers in Week 6 of the 2014 NFL season.

While Sanu will continue to have solid weeks in his new uniform, it's good to remember that the Patriots will rarely be playing from behind like they did this week in a 37-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Heading into Week 9, the Pats passed on just 58.2% of plays; they passed on 73.9% of plays this week. He's a weekly start going forward, but remember to temper your expectations.

4. Zay Jones, WR, Oakland Raiders

Zay Jones may never become a household name in the NFL, but after miring on the Buffalo Bills for the first few weeks of the season, he might finally be getting an opportunity to be involved.

Jones was traded by the Bills to the Oakland Raiders nearly a month ago. He didn't take the field in the team's Week 7 loss to the Packers but saw a 39% snap share in Week 8, which jumped to 92% this past Sunday. While he saw just four targets in a 31-24 win over the Detroit Lions, that number tied for second on the team (as did his three receptions) and likely gave him some hope of jump-starting his career.

That is not to say, of course, that you should be adding him to your fantasy teams. Far from it. The Raiders are a run-oriented team that has the fifth-lowest pass percentage in the league. Jones is, at best, fourth in the pecking order for receptions, and that's just not fantasy worthy.

5. Kalen Ballage, RB, Miami Dolphins

The Mark Walton experiment lasted all of a couple of weeks. If it were up to the Miami Dolphins, it would continue until the end of the season, but Walton's offseason arrests have caught up to him, and the NFL has suspended him for the next four games.

With Kenyan Drake's talents now in Glendale, Arizona, that leaves Kalen Ballage to see the biggest uptick in work. Ballage opened the season seeing 40% of the teams snaps in a 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Over the next few weeks, his involvement steadily decreased, and coming out of the bye in Week 6, he was on the field for just 5% of the team's offensive snaps.

He's seen a steady rise since then, and while neither his 30% snap share nor 7 totes for 19 yards this past week are impressive, they indicate that he was the clear number two in the pecking order and the player who would take over the lion's share of the work should anything occur to Walton, which has now just happened.

The second-year player out of Arizona State has a career high 49% snap share, which he set in Week 15 last year. He should blow that away this week when the Fins take on the Indianapolis Colts. It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins can actually get their ground game working against them this week; the Colts are giving up the ninth-fewest standard fantasy points per game to opposing backs, though they rank 20th against the run in numberFire's metrics.

He's worth a pickup in your league if you're desperately weak at the position. If nothing else, he has the potential to be a low-end flex play. We project him for 7.03 standard points this week.