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Snap Counts for Week 2: Running Backs Edition

Running backs can’t score fantasy points if they aren’t on the field, so this weekly article will provide impressions by analyzing snap counts and snap percentages.[1] Fantasy football is all about opportunity, and the NFL players having higher snap counts have a higher probability of scoring lots of fantasy points. I provide fantasy football snap counts here with some context and impressions to help you make fantasy transactions and gain an edge on your competition. Looking at context will involve analyzing carries and targets and whether running backs were able to convert opportunity to yards gained. Be sure to also read TFA’s Target Analysis and Rapid Reactions articles to see the full picture of all the week’s action.

Fantasy Football Snap Counts and Reactions

Arizona Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 David Johnson 60% -27% 7 1 15
RB2 Chase Edmonds 40% 29% 1 2 17

David Johnson was on the field less in Week 2. These snap counts are directly related to an injury suffered during the game (Johnson did return to the game though). David Johnson is still the clear lead back, and more targets will come. Indeed, Kingsbury hasn’t been afraid to line up Johnson as a WR from time-to-time (unlike his incompetent predecessor, Mike McCoy). Arizona throws it plenty (the most, in fact), so trust the opportunity here. You can continue to start Johnson with confidence.

Atlanta Snaps  +/- Carries Targets
RB1 Devonta Freeman 62% 12% 11 4 64
RB2 Ito Smith 38% -12% 4 3 45

My suspicion that Devonta Freeman’s lower Week 1 snap counts reflected a punishment for fumbling appears to be confirmed (by the way, pushing the fumbler is perhaps the dumbest common practice in the NFL – I have no idea how taking your best RB off the field for fumbling helps you win the game). Week 2’s snap counts correlate far closer to the Falcons’ 2018 numbers when Tevin Coleman and Freeman shared a backfield, so I’d expect the 65-35 split to continue. The far bigger concern is Freeman’s terrible efficiency, which appears to be tied to the Falcons’ poor offensive line play. You likely have to start him based on where you drafted him, but Week 2 was the second week in a row reflecting terrible efficiency numbers for Freeman.

Baltimore Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Mark Ingram 58% 26% 13 2 77
RB2 Gus Edwards 20% -18% 3 0 11
RB3 Justice Hill 20% -10% 1 2 14

Last week, I opined that Ingram’s snap counts likely reflected the lopsided nature of the game against Miami. Looks like I was correct because in a more closely-contested game, Ingram saw a spike in snaps. In fact, Ingram’s snap counts might have been higher if Ingram hadn’t temporarily come off the field with an apparent injury. Edwards and Hill remain involved, but Ingram looks like the most involved running back in this backfield. However, unlike Week 1, Lamar Jackson showed off his legs. Obviously, Ingram receives fewer carries when Jackson runs. Ingram’s ceiling is majorly capped if Jackson runs 10+ times per week, which is highly likely with a talent like Lamar Jackson. Ingram remains a hold, but I would move him for the right price.

Buffalo Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Frank Gore 59% 31% 19 2 83
RB2 Devin Singletary 33% -37% 6 0 57
RB3 TJ Yeldon 7% 4% 0 0 0

Singletary was on his way to another really nice game, especially after he scored a touchdown. Alas, Singletary injured his hamstring, which meant that Frank Gore saw a ton of snaps and even saw a few targets (0 targets in Week 1). If Singletary misses a few weeks, Gore is going to be on the field a ton. Despite Singletary’s injury, Yeldon only saw a mild increase in snap counts. Gore can be started in Week 3 assuming Singletary is out, but hopefully Singletary can return quickly because he was looking great.

Carolina Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Christian McCaffery 100% 0% 16 6 53

Another week, another 100% snap share for McCaffery. Nothing to see or discuss here. Don’t worry about the lack of work. Importantly, it was McCaffery who they team trusted to try and win the game on 4th and Goal at the end of the game. He remains heavily involved.

Chicago Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 David Montgomery 44% 6% 18 3 68
RB2 Mike Davis 25% -31% 3 0 1
RB3 Tarik Cohen 38% -32% 4 5 25

While Montgomery’s snap counts barely increased, his number of carries and targets certainly did. While he wasn’t terribly efficient, he was heavily involved, and it looks like Mike Davis won’t be as involved as his Week 1 snap counts indicated. Montgomery had five goal-line carries, but all five occurred on the same drive, meaning that he only converted 1/5 high value touches into a touchdown. I love the opportunity, but I hate the efficiency. Cohen went back to playing running back, instead of slot wide receiver. You aren’t starting Mike Davis anywhere, but Cohen and Montgomery are flex options. Neither Montgomery nor Cohen is particularly attractive given the Bears’ low-ceiling offense generated by the average-to-below-average play of Mitch Trubisky.

Cincinnati Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Joe Mixon 54% 16% 11 5 27
RB2 Giovani Bernard 40% -22% 6 3 13
RB3 Samaje Perine 6% 5% 0 0 0

Mixon was clearly still hampered by the injury even if he still saw more than half of the snaps. Mixon’s efficiency numbers reflect this injury. Cincinnati’s offensive line isn’t great, but I really like seeing 5 targets for Mixon. He should improve when healthier. Cincinnati is currently the most pass-heavy offense in the league in neutral game scripts (throwing at nearly a 4:1 ratio). That passing volume alone likely limits Mixon’s number of carries, but if he gets 5+ targets every week, he will remain a solid RB2.

Cleveland Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Nick Chubb 61% -9% 18 4 98
RB2 Dontrell Hilliard 0% -18% 0 0 0
RB3 D’Ernest Johnson 39% 27% 3 4 48

It appears that Cleveland has found its preferred pass-catching back in D’Ernest Johnson (Hilliard was inactive for Week 2). Johnson played quite a bit, but Cleveland was in complete control of the MNF game, and the anemic NY Jets offense may have factored into Freddie Kitchens’ decision to lower Chubb’s snap counts and usage. Chubb’s usage remains strong.

Dallas Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Ezekiel Elliot 76% 22% 23 2 120
RB2 Tony Pollard 24% -8% 4 1 25

Week 2 showed a big increase in snap counts for Zeke, which isn’t a surprise. Zeke may not get 90% of the snaps anymore, but 23 carries is near the top of the league. Elliot owners can breathe a sigh of relief. Pollard is merely a high-ceiling handcuff.

Denver Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Phillip Lindsay 48% -5% 13 4 66
RB2 Royce Freeman 52% 5% 11 5 102
RB3 Devontae Booker 0% -2% 0 0 0

It’s still a 50-50 split in Denver, but neither Denver back has a clear role. Denver is using both backs in the exact same way: they both catch passes; they both run between the tackles. This is a mediocre offense using two backs identically for half the game. Both backs have upside, but that upside likely relies on the other back getting hurt. On film, Freeman looks like the better back, but nothing in the opportunity numbers suggests that Freeman will ever see more than 60% of the snap counts unless Lindsay can’t suit up. There’s really nothing actionable about this backfield except to continue to hold and hope for the best. If you believe in Freeman’s talent, you might be able to buy him cheaply before the breakout.

Detroit Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Kerryon Johnson 54% -3% 12 3 88
RB2 CJ Anderson 20% -10% 5 0 8
RB3 Ty Johnson 21% 12% 5 2 36

Well, CJ Anderson fell out of favor quickly in Detroit. Not only did his snap counts and usage decrease, he was promptly cut Tuesday and seemingly replaced by Paul Perkins. While most fantasy analysts interpreted the Anderson termination as a coronation of Kerryon, I have my doubts. Perkins will annoyingly have a role (especially for Lions fans like myself), and so will Ty Johnson who looked relatively impressive as a Theo Riddick clone. If you have Kerryon, I’d shop him to see if another owner thinks Kerryon will transcend his low-end RB2 status. Matt Patricia doesn’t understand offensive football at all, but he still has his finger on it, and Patricia’s finger won’t put Kerryon on the field more, even after Anderson’s exit.

Green Bay Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Aaron Jones 57% -2% 23 6 150
RB2 Jamaal Williams 47% 6% 9 4 41

Jones and Williams continue to share this backfield at nearly a 50-50 split, but Jones is seeing more opportunity in terms of carries and targets. Jones is also far more efficient. The good news for Jones owners is that his low, Week 1 efficiency numbers were due to the strong Chicago defense, not a decline in talent or offensive firepower. Minnesota is no joke of a defense, so his Week 2 numbers bode very well for Aaron Jones. Williams is on the field enough to be considered in the flex, but he’s not getting enough targets or carries yet. That said, Williams ran more routes than Jones, and new coach Matt Lefleur provided his running backs 39 touches(!) in this game. Williams is certainly worth owning and might be worth a flex start if he starts seeing more targets.

Houston Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Duke Johnson 39% -24% 6 1 31
RB2 Carlos Hyde 61% 24% 20 0 90
RB3 Cullen Gillaspia 5% 5% 0 0 0

Houston doesn’t believe Duke Johnson can replace Lamar Miller. Instead, Johnson pretty much plays the exact same role for Houston as he did in Cleveland, which is largely a passing-downs back. 6 carries is a bummer, but only 1 target in a game that was close throughout suggests that Watson isn’t interested in checking the ball down. Alternatively, the low target numbers reflect the return of Keke Coutee. Under either explanation, Johnson doesn’t look like a great fantasy asset. In contrast to Duke, Houston does believe that Carlos Hyde can replace Lamar Miller. Believe it or not, Carlos Hyde is actually the Texans back you want to own because he has a role close to the goal-line, but his upside is capped because he doesn’t have a role in the passing game. This backfield is a bit of a mess, but Hyde is probably the only Houston RB worth considering in a starting spot on your team. That said, Hyde could be useful when the bye weeks start rearing their ugly heads.

Indianapolis Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Marlon Mack 68% -8% 20 3 63
RB2 Nyheim Hines 19% -8% 2 2 14
RB3 Jordan Wilkins 15% 15% 5 1 86

After being inactive in Week 1, Wilkins saw a few snaps and was super efficient while on the field. Even so, he is not a threat to Marlon Mack. Somewhat surprisingly, Mack so three targets while running a route on 51% of Brissett’s drop-backs, which Mack owners are not used to seeing. Mack saw low efficiency in this game, but the Titans are a decent defense. Mack is still a strong, high-end RB2.

Jacksonville Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Leonard Fournette 97% 11% 15 6 87
RB2 Ryquell Armstead 0% -14% 0 0 0
RB3 Tyler Ervin 3% 3% 0 0 0

The closest thing to Christian McCaffery in this league of split backfields is Leonard Fournette. The offense isn’t great, especially with a backup quarterback for the foreseeable future, but you might want to consider buying low now. 97% snap percentage is extremely rare and will lead to more production.

Kansas City Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Damien Williams 51% -14% 9 5 56
RB2 LeSean McCoy 41% 11% 11 3 23
RB3 Darwin Thompson 5% 2% 1 0 1

Both Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy got beat up in this one. We will have to see what their status is later in the week. Without Williams and McCoy at full health, Darrel Williams played a bit more. Both Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson are worth picking up given the upside of the offense. The lack of rushing efficiency is a bit concerning, but Kansas City was extremely successful throwing the ball deep downfield, so that was the offensive focus. Damien Williams continues to be worth starting when healthy, especially due to his over 9 aDOT in Week 2.

LA Chargers Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Austin Ekeler 73% -2% 17 6 133
RB2 Justin Jackson 27% 2% 7 1 64

Austin Ekeler remains a workhorse. More importantly, he is a beast in the passing game. His longest catch came when Ekeler lined-up wide. He is an RB1 until Gordon returns (then I don’t know). Jackson is a strong running back himself, demonstrating strong inefficiency in limited usage. If Ekeler goes down before Gordon returns, Justin Jackson could have fantastic value. For now, start Ekeler with complete confidence and hold Jackson if you have room on your bench. Melvin Gordon likely won’t return for 5-6 more weeks, and Ekeler hasn’t exactly been the model of health.

LA Rams Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Todd Gurley 64% -6% 16 4 67
RB2 Malcolm Brown 36% 9% 6 1 47
RB3 Darrell Henderson 0% -3% 0 0 0

I love Sean McVay, not just because he is an offensive genius, but because he generates predictable data. The Rams plan is this: Gurley plays 2/3 of the series, and Brown plays 1/3. That’s the plan, and they don’t deviate from it. As I said last week, the Rams don’t have a “goal line back”, nor do they have a “passing downs back”. Gurley and Brown are interchangeable pieces sharing time. Gurley hasn’t put up mind-blowing stats, like he did in 2017 and 2018, but he scored a touchdown, received 16 carries, and got 4 targets. That’s above-average opportunity. Gurley is very safe.

Miami Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Kenyon Drake 55% 1% 6 6 48
RB2 Kalen Ballage 34% -6% 4 5 12
RB3 Mark Walton 16% 8% 3 2 27

The Dolphins are a dumpster fire. Their efficiency is awful, their team is worse, and neither back is a workhorse. You can drop Ballage, and you can move Kenyon Drake permanently to your bench (hopefully both these things already happened!). The only reason to hold Drake is the off-chance that he gets traded. Miami has no fear of going 0-16 if it means they can stockpile draft picks. I have no doubt they would move Drake in a heartbeat if someone offered a 3rd round pick. Otherwise, for your own sanity, do not start ANY Dolphin in fantasy.

Minnesota Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Dalvin Cook 72% 4% 20 3 191
RB2 Alexander Mattison 12% -11% 4 0 25
RB3 Ameer Abdullah 11% 3% 1 0 2

Dalvin Cook is a beast right now, and Minnesota is riding him like a workhorse. He is the only running back getting targets, and he received 80% of the carries. There are no concerns about Dalvin Cook’s workload moving forward. I hope you drafted him!

New England Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Sony Michel 49% 16% 21 0 85
RB2 James White 31% -16% 3 4 29
RB3 Rex Burkhead 24% -22% 5 2 68

For the second straight week, the Patriots destroyed their opponent, and for a second straight week, Sony Michel carried the rock a bunch. In positive game-scripts, Sony dominates in touches. That said, he’s completely ignored in the passing game regardless of game script. Sony should continue to be a fine play because he will get the high-value goal line touches for an offense projected to score a lot and be in the Green Zone (10 yard line or closer) frequently. This particular game saw the Patriots absolutely destroy the Dolphins – it was never close. As a result, Sony’s snaps went way up. I wouldn’t expect to see 49% ever week, but because the Patriots are so good this year, positive game scripts might become very common. Sony feels like this year’s LeGarrette Blount for the Patriots, which could be very valuable (recall that he had 18 touchdowns in 2016). Sony only got one touchdown in the game, but the Patriots defense has actually scored two of their own. Had the offense had two more possessions, its possible that Sony scores again. James White continues to prove that he was overdrafted. He will be fine, but he’s not looking to repeat his 2018 RB9 season.

New Orleans Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Alvin Kamara 65% -11% 13 3 60
RB2 Latavius Murray 35% 8% 5 1 23

Kamara continues to lead in snaps, but Drew Brees’s absence is the story here. Kamara’s passing opportunity and efficiency took an enormous hit when Brees left the game. I trust Sean Payton to coach-up Teddy Bridgewater with a week of preparation as the starting QB. Kamara’s ceiling lowered, but Kamara is too good to be completely QB dependent. I’d worry more about Murray without Brees. The number of goal-line carries for New Orleans takes a hit without Brees, meaning Murray’s best attribute disappeared. If you bench slots, Murray isn’t undroppable anymore.

NY Giants Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Saquon Barkley 87% 7% 18 7 135
RB2 Wayne Gallman 13% -7% 0 1 0
RB3 Elijhaa Penny 11% 2% 0 0 0

Barkley continues to dominate snaps and almost all opportunity. We haven’t seen Barkley play with Daniel Jones yet, so Barkley’s targets may come down slightly (Jones appeared inclined to throw the ball downfield during the preseason). That said, there is nothing to worry about for Barkley. Jones is an upgrade at QB, so the overall offensive efficiency will improve meaning that Barkley will see more snaps, more opportunity, and more fantasy points.

NY Jets Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Le’Veon Bell 90% -10% 21 10 129
RB2 Ty Montgomery 35% 28% 3 3 40
RB3 Trenton Cannon 0% -1% 0 0 0

Lev Bell saw a TON of touches in Week 2. 10 targets and 31 total touches for a running back is incredible. You have to be happy with the opportunity. However, until Sam Darnold returns (and maybe after…), this offense isn’t going to score a lot of points and touchdowns. Lev will get you points by catching a bunch of passes and getting all the carries. He’s a great, low-floor RB1. If he has a rough week right before Darnold returns, he could be a buy-low.

Oakland Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Josh Jacobs 46% -28% 12 0 99
RB2 Jalen Richard 31% 15% 2 3 5
RB3 DeAndre Washington 23% 14% 3 2 35

In a game where the Raiders were put in a negative game script for the majority of the game, Jacobs saw fewer touches and far fewer snaps. Jacobs was drafted to be a workhorse who could also catch the ball out of the backfield. Instead, Gruden split that role between Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. This does not bode well for Jacobs. The Raiders do not project to be in a lot of positive game scripts, but they also won’t play the Chiefs every week, so we have to hope that the rookie demonstrates to his old curmudgeon of a coach that he can be useful in the passing game. So far, we have no data that suggests that he’s going to get that opportunity.

Philadelphia Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Miles Sanders 43% -5% 10 4 37
RB2 Jordan Howard 22% -1% 8 1 26
RB3 Darren Sproles 35% 4% 0 3 5

Another week, another split backfield. Surprisingly, Sanders saw more targets than Sproles (Sproles ran more routes), so there is hope for Sanders. None of these running backs looks particularly appealing, but Sanders offers the most upside. You can move on from Jordan Howard if you took a shot.

Pittsburgh Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 James Conner 54% 8% 11 4 45
RB2 Jaylen Samuels 39% 6% 3 1 31
RB3 Benny Snell 4% 4% 1 0 23

James Conner got dinged up in this game, providing opportunity for Samuels. Samuels is worth picking up in case Conner can’t go this week, but it’s looking like he can. The entire Steelers offense takes a big hit with Big Ben being out for the year, so Conner moves to a low-end RB2 unless his snaps start increasing over 80%.

Seattle Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Chris Carson 54% -23% 15 3 87
RB2 Rashaad Penny 33% 7% 10 1 65
RB3 C.J. Prosise 13% 13% 2 3 20

Rashaad Penny was effective in this game, and Chris Carson fumbled giving him the doghouse treatment. Despite his “sit in the corner and think about what you did” moment, Carson still saw more touches. Carson remains a high-end RB2. C.J. Prosise played in Week 2 after being inactive in Week 1. He cut into Carson’s receiving usage, which is a bummer. Seattle actually threw the ball 35 times in this game, cutting into Carson’s upside slightly. Penny is going to have value in this offense and would be a fantastic handcuff should anything (god-forbid) happen to Carson.

San Francisco Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Matt Breida 29% -15% 12 1 132
RB2 Raheem Mostert 47% 18% 13 3 151
RB3 Jeff Wilson 21% 21% 10 0 34

In their first week without Tevin Coleman, the 49ers split the load nearly evenly among three backs. Rushing efficiency under Kyle Shanahan is nothing new, but this was absurd. Mostert had an amazing game, and Jeff Wilson converted three goal-line carries into two touchdowns. Don’t read too much into Breida’s snap counts because the game was a blowout, and Breida didn’t see a snap in the fourth quarter resulting from that large lead. That said, all three of these backs will have roles; even Wilson might have a goal-line role. Thus, none of them have huge upside, but all of them are super-efficient and playing in probably the most running back-friendly system there is. I am starting Mosert and Brieda every week. Wilson is a home run flex play.

Tampa Bay Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Peyton Barber 65% 29% 23 1 89
RB2 Ronald Jones 12% -19% 4 0 9
RB3 Dare Ogunbowale 25% -14% 0 1 9

Peyton Barber receiving 23 carries was the surprise of the week. Equally surprising, Ronald Jones barely played after displaying some burst in Week 1. Barber looked decent in this game, but I am just uncertain that we can trust this workload. That said, Tampa’s defense looks solid, so negative game scripts may not occur as frequently as Bucs fans are used to. I wouldn’t trust Barber, personally, but 23 carries is hard to ignore in a league filled with timeshares. My advice would be to hold onto him and play him only in the right matchups, but you might still be disappointed.

Tennesee Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Derrick Henry 50% -9% 15 3 93
RB2 Dion Lewis 50% 7% 3 1 14

Tennessee continues to split their backfield evenly, while Henry sees far more work when he’s on the field. It’s surprising to see Henry get more targets, but this data is likely noise because Lewis ran twice as many routes as Henry. Notably, Marcus Mariota has the fewest downfield passes in the league; he’s checking down a ton. Lewis should see a lot of those check-downs when he’s on the field. Henry is a decent option with limited upside unless he scores.

Washington Snaps  +/- Carries Targets Total Yards
RB1 Adrian Peterson 29% 29% 10 2 32
RB2 Chris Thompson 45% -19% 2 8 51
RB3 Wendall Smallwood 26% 26% 1 2 13

Adrian Peterson was as inefficient as Derrius Guice. Thompson again saw the most snaps, and I think this is now a trend. Washington isn’t particularly good, so the pass-catching back should see a lot of work. Peterson salvaged his day with a TD, but his opportunity is capped by his team. Thompson is probably the only back worth starting if you are desperate.

Biggest Takeaways

  • Mark Ingram is the clear leader of the Baltimore running backs, but his upside is capped by designed runs for Lamar Jackson.
  • David Montgomery saw an increased opportunity at the expense of snap counts for Mike Davis. Nevertheless, the Bears weak offense is limiting his upside.
  • Duke Johnson isn’t looking like a good fantasy asset – most carries are going to Carlos Hyde, and Johnson isn’t seeing receiving work due to Watson’s downfield preferences or the presence of Keke Coutee.
  • Gurley’s usage and production are safe; he is simply playing 25% fewer series than 2017 and 2018.
  • Sony Michel sees 20 carries in positive game scripts but is not involved in the passing game whatsoever. However, the Patriots project to be in a lot of positive game scripts.
  • Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert should be started every week. Jeff Wilson’s involvement is unclear given that the 49ers won in blowout fashion.
  • Ronald Jones isn’t getting any opportunity. Move on.

[1] All data from profootballreference.coms

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