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. Here we go with the week 3 snap counts and opportunities for running backs.
 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’s snap counts continue to be very concentrated. Indeed, David Johnson resumed his nearly 90% snap rate when unscathed and uninjured in a game. You have to love the 9 targets in this “Air Raid” offense. All told, Johnson remains safe.
Atlanta’s snap counts are great news for Freeman! 90% of the snaps represents by-far his largest opportunity in 2019. The bad news? Those came at the expense of an Ito Smith concussion. Here, Atlanta played a closely contested game against the Colts, who have been stingy against the run so far this year. Despite that, Freeman saw plenty of opportunity and finally returned some efficiency. Ito won’t completely go away, but those holding Freeman should finally feel some confidence in starting Freeman.
Mark Ingram was a beast in this game both in terms of efficiency and his 3 touchdowns. While 60% of the snaps isn’t preferred, defenses are finally respecting Lamar Jackson’s ability to run and throw the ball, which is opening up lanes for Ingram, and he’s taking advantage. Ingram looks like a great option moving forward mostly because Baltimore looks like a legitimate offense.
Devin Singletary missed the game, which meant an uptick in snaps for TJ Yeldon. Most expected a usage spike for Gore, but the snap counts do not reflect that prediction. Nevertheless, Gore was still efficient and scored. It looks like Buffalo views Yeldon as purely Singletary’s backup, so expect him to fade into the background once Singletary returns. For now, Gore is getting consistent usage and returning mediocre efficiency. That said, he has an awful match-up this week (@NE) and should preferably find your bench.
McCaffery continues to be a workhorse, and no other Carolina RBs are worth discussing here. Frankly, McCaffery is just awesome. Finally, his week two efficiency dip appears related to a better-than-expected Tampa Bay defense.
The good news is that Montgomery’s snap counts appear to be increasing. The bad news is that his usage is not. Montgomery actually received 5 fewer carries and the same number of targets as he did in Week 2. In fact, Montgomery didn’t start getting consistent usage until very late in the game against Washington. Montgomery’s decreased usage is particularly surprising given that the Bears were way ahead early in the game. How do you only run the ball 18 times in a game where you are ahead by 28 at halftime? Regardless, Montgomery’s playing time increased, Mike Davis has been rendered irrelevant, and Cohen remains a gimmick RB who basically only catches passes. Better days should be ahead for Montgomery, but fantasy players are justifiably upset at Matt Nagy’s decisions.
Healing helped Joe Mixon’s efficiency. However, the improved health did nothing to his snap counts, and 60% appears to be his ceiling in 2019. He is getting a few targets sprinkled in, so there is some upside here, even if the Bengals OL is weak. Bernard remains relegated to a handcuff role for fantasy.
Chubb received essentially all the work, and it led to a ton of opportunity (30!). He had a solid night efficiency-wise, especially against a good LA Rams defense. These carry and target numbers bode extremely well for Nick Chubb. And yet, the numbers would be even more exciting if Cleveland was able to live up to their off-season expectations.
Pollard looks like more than just a handcuff, and Dallas used him in pressure situations. Zeke still sees a ton of touches, but his target counts have come down from 2018. He’s crazy efficient running behind one of the best lines in the NFL. Start him with confidence, but all fantasy players should be considering rostering Tony Pollard if he’s sitting on your waiver wire.
Lindsay had a great game with big efficiency and two touchdowns. But truthfully, nothing else really changed for Denver’s backfield. The snap counts and carry splits are still quite close to 50-50. This might be the perfect time to sell high on Linsday. Freeman had a TD called back on a questionable holding call, which is notable if you are keeping your eye on him like I am.
Kerryon burst forth as a workhorse. The efficiency numbers give you pause, but we did receive confirmation that Kerryon is the Lions’ goal-line back. Also good news, the Lions interior lineman all rank in the top 5 of their respective positions according to PFF, meaning that Kerryon’s OL is better than most expected. The problem is that Kerryon faced 8-men in the box far more than average. Defenses are keying-in on Darrell Bevell’s run-first tendencies, and hopefully, he’s smart enough to notice and get Kerryon the ball in space and outside the tackles (consider me skeptical on this front). Kerryon remains a solid RB2.
|Green Bay||Snaps||+/-||Carries||Targets||Total Yards|
True to his word, Matt Lafluer gave more snaps and touches to Jamaal Williams. As a result, Williams saw more snaps, touches and targets than Jones. Jones salvaged his horribly inefficient day with a touchdown, but these numbers are cause for concern. Jones can still be started due to his usual efficiency, but 39% of snaps, 10 carries, and one target is not RB1 usage. Furthermore, Williams should be added in all leagues.
Johnson saw his snap counts increase, but not his usage. Meanwhile, Hyde was horribly inefficient and didn’t get much opportunity because Houston scored a few long touchdowns. Hyde is still the back to roster, but this backfield remains messy.
Wilkins’ crazy efficiency last week thankfully didn’t result in additional playing time or carries. Instead, it remains the Marlon Mack show. Mack even got three targets in this game, which is good news for his upside.
Leonard Fournette salvaged his day with an eleventh-hour, 67-yard run. Before that run, he went backward more than he went forward. Fournette is a full-time player with fantastic usage numbers (especially the 8 targets), but low efficiency. Tennessee has a strong defense, so perhaps the awful efficiency stems from tough competition. For now, you should trust the usage numbers because no statistic is stickier than usage in fantasy football.
|Kansas City||Snaps||+/-||Carries||Targets||Total Yards|
In a game where Damien Williams was hurt, it was Darrel Williams, not Darwin Thompson, who saw a spike in usage. McCoy’s snap counts actually decreased, but he re-aggravated his ankle injury during the game. I am not sure what the plan for Thompson is, but the plan does not appear to involve playing time right now. Darrel Williams should be picked up after playing 54% of the snaps; Darwin can be dropped.
|LA Chargers||Snaps||+/-||Carries||Targets||Total Yards|
Ekeler continues to put up high-efficiency numbers. The Chargers threw the ball a ton in this game, mostly at Keenan Allen, but Ekeler still saw 7 targets. The offense is rather siloed through Allen and Ekeler, so continue to start Ekeler with confidence. Justin Jackson continues to be rather efficient, but his usage cannot justify a starting lineup slot.
UPDATE: Melvin Gordon may report to the Chargers as soon as this week. You can drop Justin Jackson if this occurs, but Ekeler should continue to have some value while Gordon re-acclimates.
|LA Rams||Snaps||+/-||Carries||Targets||Total Yards|
Like Chicago, the LA Rams present us with another case of good news/bad news. Gurley’s snap counts went up, which is great! So much of the off-season was spent fretting over whether Gurley would play less, but 75% of the snaps is fantastic and among the league leaders. That said, the issue is efficiency. The Rams OL looks worse, and Gurley isn’t finding the same explosive plays that he did in 2017/2018, at least not yet. My biggest concern is the 1 target in Week 3 and only 6 on the year. So much of Gurley’s damage occurred through the passing game in years past. Right now, Cooper Kupp is always open, so Goff is looking his way even though Gurley consistently runs routes. You are still playing Gurley, but his ceiling lowers significantly if he isn’t receiving targets.
Gross. Neither of these running backs matter for fantasy, so until further notice, move on from all Miami RBs. Drake wasn’t horrible, so he remains a hold with 6 targets, but I’d be looking to move on. Like I said last week, the best thing that could happen to those holding Drake is that Drake gets traded.
Dalvin Cook is turning into a fantasy superstar. His usage and efficiency are both off the chart. He’s everything you want in a fantasy running back right now: he plays in an offense designed around him, he’s always on the field, and he’s dynamic. Minnesota won this game handily, so Cook actually sat the entire 4th quarter, which means that his usage might have been higher had the game been closer! Right now, Cook is a locked-in, every week RB1. Mattison remains a high-upside handcuff.
|New England||Snaps||+/-||Carries||Targets||Total Yards|
With James White inactive for the birth of his child, Burkhead’s snap counts shot up. Burkhead was quite efficient too in yet another lopsided Patriots victory. Sony Michel scored a touchdown early, but his efficiency numbers are pathetically bad. His yards-per-attempt for the year is 2.4, which isn’t representative of his season because playing Miami inflated his YPC. Last week, I said that Michel’s ability to score TDs in this offense has high value. But can the Patriots offense continue to give touches to a running back who has been so, so inefficient? Maybe there is a health issue? All this considered, it’s going to be very hard to start a running back only playing 22% of the snaps, even in an offense this good.
|New Orleans||Snaps||+/-||Carries||Targets||Total Yards|
Alvin Kamara is frankly unstoppable. I mentioned last week that I trusted Sean Payton, and I was right to do so. Payton recognized that without Brees, Kamara is his most important player, and so, Payton got Kamara the ball a ton. It looks like Kamara is going to play heavy snaps with Brees sidelined.
|NY Giants||Snaps||+/-||Carries||Targets||Total Yards|
Sadly, Barkley got hurt in this one, and will be out for several weeks with an ankle injury. Unsurprisingly, Wayne Gallman was the next man up, but Gallman lacks Saquon’s talent. On the bright side, the Giants offense leveled-up with Danny Dimes playing QB. As such, Gallman stands to benefit from the increased offensive efficiency, but he lacks Saquon’s big play ability. Gallman is a fine PPR play, but I don’t see him as more than a flex play in most formats. Also, don’t be surprised if the Giants sign another RB (e.g. Orleans Darkwa, Jay Ajayi) to piecemeal replace Saquon.
|NY Jets||Snaps||+/-||Carries||Targets||Total Yards|
Lev Bell continues to dominate snaps, posting his second 100% snap count of the season. He’s getting a ton of opportunity, but the Jets offense is woeful right now. The Jets get a bye week, and then hopefully Darnold returns in Week 5. Note: A savvy fantasy football move would be to target Lev next week after the bye and trade a player who hasn’t yet served his bye week. By making this move, you avoid Bell’s bye week, and you may still be able to buy him cheaply if any manager rostering Bell is nervous about his early season production and the Jets pitiful offense. Pro tip: Most fantasy players do not account for bye weeks when evaluating trades.
Jacobs was fighting an illness and an injury, so Gruden likely limited his snap counts to protect his body. Jacobs still saw the more carries than Richard and Washington combined and nearly as many targets as those two combined. Jacobs’ usage is great, but the offense surrounding him is not. Jacobs moves into flex play range unless Gruden makes a concerted effort to get him more involved in the passing game.
Not a lot changed in Philly from Week 2 to Week 3, and this backfield remains the dreaded three-headed monster. Sanders might have seen an increase in snaps had he not fumbled twice in the game. Sanders was particularly effective in the downfield passing game, catching two long passes when lined up wide. However, Howard remains a thorn in Sanders’ side because Howard continues to get the goal-line work and convert. Sanders is still the most valuable back based on usage and this new downfield passing role, but he isn’t moving into RB2 range until he starts getting goal-line work or close to 50% of the snaps.
Conner’s snap counts and usage remain fine, but he continues to run inefficiently. The Steelers looked bad with Mason Rudolph playing QB, and defenses are scheming to stop Conner and Smith-Schuster. This offense misses Antonio Brown, even if the team does not miss his antics.
The story of this game was Chris Carson’s continued fumbling issues: the symptom has become an epidemic. Carson was supposed to dominate snaps with Rashaad Penny inactive. Instead, Carson’s inability to hold onto the football cost him significant playing time. His fumbles also probably cost the Seahawks the game because the team was mostly playing catch-up through the air. These two factors meant lots of CJ Prosise. Pete Carroll is too loyal to Carson to bench him – he even defended Carson after the game, saying that the fumbles resulted from the multiple, perfect punches-outs. However, if these fumbles continue, Rashaad Penny stands to benefit in a big way. If you believe fumbles are contagious, go buy Penny now before the breakout. Personally, I am still holding Carson.
|San Francisco||Snaps||+/-||Carries||Targets||Total Yards|
Breida clearly has a stranglehold on the RB1 role, but RB1 in this system only means about 30-40% of the snaps. Adding to the complications, Kyle Shanahan indicated that Tevin Coleman should return in Week 5 after San Fran’s bye week. It will be very interesting to see what they do if Coleman does indeed return, because Jeff Wilson has clearly carved out a goal-line role on this team. Wilson again vultured two touchdowns from the more-highly used 49ers backs. Will Coleman replace Wilson as the goal-line back? Will SF use four running backs in Week 5? I honestly don’t know right now because Coleman has barely played. It’s also possible that Coleman replaces Mostert, not Wilson. This backfield is a total mystery right now, but it maintains high upside. You might want wait and see in Week 5, if you can.
|Tampa Bay||Snaps||+/-||Carries||Targets||Total Yards|
Speaking of looking elsewhere, look elsewhere from Tampa Bay for running back help. Just when we thought Peyton Barber took control of this team’s RB snaps, Ronald Jones has an extremely efficient day both on the ground and, very surprisingly, through the air, albeit on only one target. Arians appears to be employing the “hot-hand” approach, which makes this backfield impossible to project and predict. Avoid in you can until we see consistent data.
When Tennessee isn’t in a positive game script, Derrick Henry’s snap counts take a hit. Even though Dion Lewis wasn’t given many targets or carries, he ended up on the field more than Derrick Henry. Tennessee prefers to win on the ground, but they can’t do that if they get down early. Consider selling Henry because he is clearly not matchup proof.
Thompson makes it three-straight weeks as the Redskins RB leading in snap counts. He was very efficient too in this one against a strong Bears defense. Peterson gets work on the ground, but almost none of his touches are high value touches because Washington’s offense isn’t strong enough to sustain a running back that isn’t catching the ball. Thompson can be started in some circumstances!
- Devonta Freeman saw 90% snaps in Week 3 and finally returned efficiency, which bodes well for his future.
- Week 3 confirmed that Kerryon Johnson is the Lions’ goal-line back.
- Darrell Williams, not Darwin Thompson, stands to benefit from any injury to LeSean McCoy or Damien Williams.
- Todd Gurley is only averaging 2 targets per game, which severely limits his ceiling.
- Alvin Kamara’s importance to the Saints means that his snaps and usage will remain high while Brees is sidelined.
- Tampa Bay is employing a “hot-hand” approach, which will frustrate fantasy players because predicting which back gets hot will be nearly impossible.
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 All data from profootballreference.com