Between the Lines: Week 12 Snap Count Analysis

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

- Antonio Gibson SZN is here, and hopefully it's here to stay. The rookie running back put on an awesome show on Thanksgiving with 136 total yards and 3 touchdowns on 25 touches. This came on a 65 percent snap share, which was tied for his season high. Fortunately, J.D. McKissic looked to be phased out a little bit more as he recorded a season-low 41 percent snap share. This could very well be due to the game script that the Washington Football Team faced, as McKissic has been much more heavily used when the team is trailing. Finally, Peyton Barber confusingly got 11 carries, but 7 of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of hand. Though they have a tough matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13, Gibson should be confidently played as an RB1 through the fantasy football playoffs with some much easier matchups.

- Cam Akers has officially entered the chat.... or has he? Akers had an exciting day this past week, capped by an explosive 61-yard run and his second consecutive game with a touchdown. However, he still only played on just 27 percent of snaps, which was his second-highest total on the season. Meanwhile, Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown continue to stay in the mix with snap shares of 32 and 40 percent, respectively, this past week. In the team's past three games, not a single running back has eclipsed a single-game snap share above 50 percent. In these three games, Henderson has a slight edge in total opportunities (30) over Akers (25), but picking which of these players to start each week might be a fool's errand.

- The other Los Angeles team saw the return of fantasy superstar Austin Ekeler, who was far from limited in his first game since Week 4. Ekeler's 30 total opportunities (14 carries and 16 targets) was a career-high, far above his previous high of 23 opportunities -- so much for working him back into the lineup. Regrettably, Joshua Kelley vultured a goal-line touch and scored from one-yard out, but Ekeler was clearly the better back. Kelley only had 6 other carries and had a 23 percent snap share while Ekeler tied a season-high with a 72 percent snap share. The sky is the limit for Ekeler the rest of the season and can confidently be played as a top-five running back rest of season.

Wide Receiver

- Another player who returned from injury without a hitch was Deebo Samuel. Samuel racked up 133 receiving yards on a career-high 11 receptions while getting a very healthy 88 percent snap share, his second-highest rate of the season. Richie James has also enjoyed a nice stretch of games, playing on over 88 percent of snaps in each of the last three games. Unfortunately, he hasn't had much production since his breakout game in Week 9. Brandon Aiyuk, who has had a snap share above 70 percent in every game he's played, missed this week. Kendrick Bourne stepped in with a 57 percent snap share, but only saw 5 targets and shouldn't be trusted in any lineups.

- A couple of weeks ago, we saw Preston Williams suffer another season-ending injury after he had just started to gain some momentum with his production. This has left the door open for DeVante Parker to take a commanding hold of the WR1 role in the Miami Dolphins' offense. Parker has been a bonafide stud in the last three games, leading the team in snap share (94 percent), target share (30 percent), air yards share (37 percent) and more in these games. Behind him, it has been a combination of Jakeem Grant and Malcolm Perry, who each sport a snap share above 60 percent since Week 10. Unfortunately, Perry suffered a chest injury, which could give Mack Hollins a more expanded role, but Parker (and possibly Grant) are the only two that I would consider starting on a weekly basis.

- We now have four games of the Antonio Brown experience in Tampa Bay, so it's about time we take a look at how things are shaking out. Since joining the team, Brown has gotten snap shares of 78 percent, 49 percent, 62 percent, and 73 percent. In his presence, he has effectively rendered Scotty Miller useless as he hasn't gotten above a 40 percent snap share since Brown arrived. Both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans have stayed relatively involved with snap shares of 94 percent and 84 percent, respectively, in the last four games. Surprisingly, Evans has led the team in targets (35) over that span, with Godwin (31) and Brown (29) not far behind. While you're more than likely starting all of these players in season-long leagues, it may be difficult to identify which of them will have the high-ceiling game in a given week.

Tight End

- Ever since Dak Prescott got injured, the Dallas Cowboys have been a hot mess. One consistent player, though, has been Dalton Schultz. While Schultz does not have the ceiling of other tight ends, he has seen at least five targets in five of Dallas' last six games and is now only two targets behind Michael Gallup for third place on the team in targets. This has only amounted to an average of 6.5 fantasy points per game, but he continues to be involved as his snap share hasn't dipped below 80 percent since Week 5. He has virtually no competition at the tight end position, either, as Blake Bell is the only other tight end on the team to record a snap share above 40 percent (which he has only done twice). If you're really in a pinch, you could do worse than to start Schultz.

- This offseason, the Chicago Bears gave Jimmy Graham a two-year, $16 million contract with $9 million guaranteed, and now he's getting out-snapped by rookie Cole Kmet. In the Bears' last two games, Kmet has out-snapped Graham 89 to 53. Granted, this past week was a blowout loss to the Green Bay Packers, Kmet's 79 percent snap share was the second-highest snap share for a Bears tight end this season (second only to Graham's 80 percent snap rate in Week 1). Graham, unfortunately, is hitting the wrong side of regression -- after scoring four touchdowns in the team's first five games, he has only scored once in the last six games. This doesn't make Kmet a reliable tight end option, it only makes Graham a much less worthwhile dart throw.