Between the Lines: Week 8 Snap Count Analysis

Several teams are shifting with how they use their wide receiving corps. What can we learn about player usage by looking at the snap counts?

In fantasy football, one way to gain an edge over opponents is to look beyond the box score and examine player snap counts. While a quick scan of player stats 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, opportunities breed fantasy points and snap counts are one of the more predictive metrics for fantasy football performance. This makes sense, intuitively, as the more a player is on the field, the more opportunities he'll have to touch the ball, and the more opportunities he'll have to score fantasy points.

In each of these weekly articles, I'll evaluate each position by looking at snap count, opportunity, and efficiency trends. All data, unless otherwise noted, comes from numberFire's Snap Count page, where you can find more in-depth details about player snap usage.

Running Back

- The Baltimore Ravens' backfield has been a mess for fantasy football managers this entire season. Up until this week, no Ravens running back had topped 44 percent of snaps played in a single game. With Mark Ingram missing Week 8 due to injury, that left J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards to their own devices. Dobbins secured a season-high 66 percent snap share while Edwards played on only 32 percent of snaps. However, the usage was a little closer in the box score, as both Dobbins and Edwards were given 16 opportunities apiece. Dobbins was a bit more efficient with his touches, out-gaining Edwards 121 to 87, but it was Edwards who found the end zone on a two-yard score. All this to say that until Ingram returns, the backfield will still remain a committee, but I'm giving the edge to Dobbins as the more explosive and electric player.

- While the main story in Miami this week may have been Tua Tagovailoa's first start, what's transpiring in the backfield needs to get some attention as well. Jordan Howard has been inactive in each of the last three games for the Miami Dolphins, leaving the door open for Myles Gaskin to take over the top spot in the backfield. Gaskin hasn't played fewer than 63 percent of the team's snaps in a single game this season, and that came to a head Monday with his season-high 88 percent snap share. The only other back encroaching on his opportunity is Matt Breida. Breida has only eclipsed a 30 percent snap share once this season, and he played on a season-low 16 percent of the snaps this week in conjunction with Gaskin's career-best snap share. While Howard remains inactive, Gaskin is a locked-in RB1 candidate, as he's also averaging six high-value touches (receptions and rushes inside the 10-yard line) per game, which is sixth-most among running backs.

- We now have two games under our belt in the Le'Veon Bell Kansas City Chiefs era, and it doesn't look great for those with Clyde Edwards-Helaire on their teams. In the first six games of the season, Edwards-Helaire had played on 66 percent of the team's snaps, with Darrel Williams having the next highest team snap share at 27 percent. Over the past two weeks, with Bell on the team, Edwards-Helaire's snap share has dipped to 51 percent. Bell, on the other hand, has only gotten a 29 percent snap share, seemingly taking over Williams' role. The rest of the snaps are coming from a combination of Williams, DeAndre Washington, and Darwin Thompson, each of whom has snap shares between six and nine percent in the past two games. It's important to keep in mind that the Chiefs have been in overwhelmingly positive game scripts in their past two games, outscoring their opponents 78 to 25, so these trends could change with a closer matchup. But, the likelihood of seeing Edwards-Helaire as a workhorse is very slim at this point.

Wide Receiver

- In a shocking loss to the Dolphins, the Los Angeles Rams threw the ball an alarming 61 times, the second-highest total of Jared Goff's career. As expected, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods remain Goff's top options in the receiving core as both have yet to play a game below an 82 percent snap share. Entering the season, there was a bit of a debate as to who would take over the WR3 role -- would it be Josh Reynolds or Van Jefferson? While Jefferson got a lot of buzz in training camp and on Hard Knocks, Reynolds has firmly secured that spot. After three games with a 61 percent snap share or lower in the first four contests, Reynolds has been above a 72 percent snap share in each of the team's past four games. Jefferson is, unfortunately, an afterthought at this point, without a game above a 30 percent snap share since Week 2.

- The Dallas Cowboys are an absolute dumpster fire, and that's putting it politely. With the downgrade to Andy Dalton, there was still some optimism that the Cowboys receivers could maintain some fantasy relevance, but all that was thrown out with Ben DiNucci under center. CeeDee Lamb seems to be impacted most by these changes -- after starting the season with five receptions in each of his first six games, Lamb has only four receptions across the past two games combined. This has come with a decrease in snaps, as well, playing on only 47 percent of snaps (a season-low for Lamb) in Sunday night's abysmal matchup. Amari Cooper has been kept on the field the entire season, as he only has one game below a 75 percent snap share, but his boom or bust nature is showing even more so without Dak Prescott. Surprisingly, Michael Gallup has been the team's biggest beneficiary, as he hauled in 7 receptions on 12 targets for 61 yards on an 87 percent snap share this week. It'll be tough to figure out each week which receiver(s) you can trust, as the high floors are no longer there without Prescott at quarterback.

- Joe Burrow has been on an absolute tear as of late, throwing for over 300 yards in five of his last six games. This has come to the benefit of his receivers, who, as a position, are getting targeted on 69 percent of his passes, the fourth-highest rate in the league. All season, the Cincinnati Bengals three primary receivers have been Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green, and Tee Higgins. Boyd leads the way with 54 total receptions on a healthy 76 percent snap share. Higgins (33) has slightly edged out Green (31) in receptions, and his 72 percent snap share is right on the tail of Green's 74 percent share. Furthermore, the rookie has scored three touchdowns while Green has yet to hit paydirt. Boyd and Higgins are my favorite candidates to lead the way the rest of the season but expect Green to remain involved and capitalize on the opportunities he's being given.

Tight End

- After missing Week 6 due to injury, Noah Fant has quickly resumed the lead tight end role, putting to bed the hopes of an Albert Okwuegbunam breakout. In his past two games, Fant has played on 70 percent and 78 percent of the team's snaps, respectively. In those same two games, Fant has seen seven and nine targets, though he hasn't turned that into much production, with only 85 combined yards to show for it. The aforementioned Okwuegbunam hasn't been above a 40 percent snap share once this season, so his production is likely more variance than anything. Expect Fant to resume his TE1 status this upcoming Sunday in a matchup against the Atlanta Falcons' porous defense.

- In his age-33 season, Jimmy Graham has seemingly found new life as a member of the Chicago Bears. On the season, Graham is currently a top ten tight end in half-PPR (point per reception) leagues. His 68 percent snap share on the season firmly leads all Chicago tight ends, and he has yet to play on fewer than 62 percent of the team's snaps. Behind him is a mix of Demetrius Harris and rookie Cole Kmet, who have a combined one game playing more than 50 percent of the team's snaps. Much to my chagrin, Graham seems like a reliable tight end option (as far as reliable tight end options go) if you're in a pinch at the position.