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Usage Notes: Week 4

By Kevin Scott | 10/6/20 |

Since it’s 2020, perhaps it is only fitting that fantasy managers face the most daunting challenge ever. We have seen a ridiculous amount of injuries to high-profile players. We have seen games postponed on short notice causing one bye to pop up out of the blue, due to Covid-19. We have seen shocking results, such as the Falcons and Texans starting 0-4 and the Cowboys starting 1-3.

All of the upheaval, and the challenges coming in from various angles has left many fantasy managers grasping at straws to try to save their season. Here is an important fact to keep in mind: the way you get out of a hole is not by winning a bunch of games, but rather by winning one game at a time. And the way to win one game at a time is to make smart moves, add quality players, and start the right guys. In this article I cannot help with all of that, but I hope to give you some data to help you choose the right players. Below I’ll look at the usage (snaps and level of involvement) of some running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends to help you see who might be primed for future production.

Running Back

  • Kenyan Drake is one of the biggest disappointments of the fantasy season so far. In a great matchup he produced only 35 yards on 13 carries (with no receptions), on 65% of snaps. Chase Edmonds played on 37% of snaps and produced 16 yards on only 4 carries, and had 5 receptions for 24 yards and a score. If Drake continues to look slow, this coaching staff will start giving more touches to Edmonds. Edmonds is likely not available anywhere, but if he is, grab him now.

  • Mike Davis and Reggie Bonnafon split snaps on Sunday (71% for Davis, 27% for Bonnafon), and both produced. Davis went for over 100 all-purpose yards and scored, and Bonnafon went for over 70 all-purpose yards and also scored. Bonnafon should be rostered, at least until McCaffrey returns.

  • Joe Mixon finally had a big game. He played on 83% of snaps, and produced a huge stat line (25-151-2, 6-30-1). This was likely a result of a terrible Jaguars defense, and many weeks he will struggle to produce behind an inferior line. But, this is why he is a weekly must-start.

  • With Nick Chubb headed to IR, D’Ernest Johnson will receive some of the highest bids of the week. He stepped in for Chubb and went for 13-95 on the ground, on only 17 snaps. This is a very good offensive line, and whoever is getting snaps is worth playing at RB. Kareem Hunt is now a must-start top option until Chubb returns, but don’t overlook Johnson.

  • Kamara played on 67% of the snaps, while Latavius Murray played on 41%. Kamara received 22 touches to Murray’s 15, but Murray scored twice to Kamara’s one score. Murray is very involved and makes for a nice flex play in any good matchup.

  • Adrian Peterson got 11 carries, while D’Andre Swift got 4 and Kerryon Johnson got 3. Peterson continues to lead the backfield by a wide margin when it comes to carries. However, Swift played on 23 snaps while Peterson played on 27, and Swift had 4 carries and 4 receptions (and scored a TD through the air). So it does appear that Patricia is slowly giving Swift more action. Try your best to hold on until he inevitably grabs hold of this starting job. It might be a long wait, but hopefully it will pay off.

  • Duke Johnson played on 55% of snaps, and produced when he touched the ball (5-24, 3-21 on 4 targets). David Johnson got 18 touches and remains the workhorse, but if you need RB help, Duke should be on your radar.

  • Myles Gaskin again led Miami backs with 65% of the snaps. He had 13 touches, while Matt Breida had 6 and Howard had 3. But Gaskin only produced 62 yards of offense. He can be started if you are desperate for a back, but he has a very low ceiling.

  • With Austin Ekeler getting hurt after only 3 snaps, Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson split snaps for the rest of the game (57% and 40%, respectively). However, neither could get anything going on the ground against a very good Bucs run defense. Both could be flex options for as long as Ekeler remains out, but don’t expect much since this Chargers’ offensive line appears to be struggling.

  • With Fournette out, Ronald Jones played on 64% of snaps and produced (20-111, 6-17). While you’d like to see more production through the air, and a touchdown scored, he still played well overall. Jones is impossible to trust with Arians running the show, but if Fournette is out he has some nice upside potential.

  • Gus Edwards led Baltimore backs with 39% of the snaps, and he led in carries as well (9). This is truly a three-way timeshare at the moment, and all three backs should be avoided until someone breaks away from the pack.

  • Antonio Gibson had another excellent performance, even though he was out-snapped by J.D. McKissic (39 to 31 snaps). Gibson had 13-46-1 on the ground, while McKissic only had 2-6, but McKissic was very involved in the hurry-up offense and caught 7 balls for 40 yards. Still, Gibson himself caught 4 for 82 yards. Gibson is showing himself worthy of being a three-down back, and if Washington’s coaches give him that kind of work he could be a top-10 RB option.

  • Devonta Freeman played on 37 snaps, Dion Lewis on 21, and Wayne Gallman on 10. Gallman was by far the most effective back carrying the ball, though. He finished with 6 carries for 45 yards, while Freeman had 11-33. Freeman did produce 4-35 through the air, which adds to his value. All Giants’ players should be avoided if possible.

  • All Rams running backs are very risky plays on a weekly basis, because you simply never know who is going to play the most snaps. Coming off a huge Week 3, Darrell Henderson only played 39% of the snaps, while Malcolm Brown played on 61%. Brown produced 9-37 and 5 catches for 19 yards, while Henderson produced 8-22 and 1 catch for 16 yards. Neither was worth starting in the end, and that was without Cam Akers active.

  • Jonathan Taylor played on only 46% of the snaps, while Nyheim Hines played on 35% and Jordan Wilkins played on 17%. If the Colts are trying to ruin fantasy football, they are performing admirably. Taylor also did not do much with his opportunities, rushing 17 times for only 68 yards and no scores. He must be more decisive and efficient if he wants to keep getting that many opportunities.

  • Against a stout Colts defense, the Bears could not get anything going on the ground. David Montgomery finished with only 10-27 on the ground, though he did add 3 catches for 30 yards on 6 targets. Most encouragingly, he played on 85% of the snaps. He is a great play against softer fronts.

  • Josh Jacobs did not produce much against a tough Bills front (15-48, 3-25), but he played on 68% of the snaps. Richard (19%) and Riddick (9%) split the scraps. Jacobs is a one of the best RBs in the league and is a weekly must-start.

  • Miles Sanders played on 77% of the snaps and produced 13-46 and 2-30 receiving, on 4 targets. Wentz missed him on a beautiful angle route, where he likely would have had a huge gain. Wentz’s poor play has severely limited all Eagles’ offensive skill players, and Sanders might be the most affected. Teams do not respect the Eagles’ passing game, so Sanders is facing lots of stacked boxes. Then when he is targeted, Wentz is missing him. Hold onto Sanders and hope Wentz improves or is benched.

  • Jerick McKinnon played on 92% of the snaps for the 49ers, while Jeffery Wilson played on only 8%. This is McKinnon’s backfield until Mostert returns. He produced 14-54-1 and had 7 receptions for 43 yards, on 8 targets. He is a great weekly play, and should remain involved even after Mostert comes back.

  • James White (53% of the snaps), Rex Burkhead (35%) and Damien Harris (31%) split snaps for the Patriots, in true Belichickian fashion. But Harris appeared to have a breakout game in his first real NFL action, taking 17 carries for 100 yards. Like Michel, he was not involved in the passing game. This surely earned Harris more work going forward, but you never know with Belichick. White returned to his pass-catching role, catching 7 of 8 balls for 38 yards. If Harris is available on your wire, he should be a priority add.

  • Todd Gurley had a nice game since he scored two touchdowns, but he shared snaps with both Brian Hill and Ito Smith (23% of snaps each). Gurley looked like the slowest of the three. It would not be surprising to see Gurley’s workload scaled back, especially since the Falcons have started so poorly and may go into tank mode within the next few weeks.

  • Aaron Jones played on 52% of the snaps and Jamaal Williams played on 57%. Jones received 20 touches and Williams received 16, and Williams was very effective through the air (8-95). Jones will still get his opportunities, even though the Packers limit his touches, but Williams should be owned everywhere.
D.J. Moore

Wide Receiver

  • Avoid all Jets, but an unowned player to keep in very far corner of the back of your mind is Jeff Smith. He played on 95% of the snaps and went 7-81 on 9 targets. It looks like he will get the most action at receiver other than Crowder, at least until Breshad Perriman returns. But I repeat: avoid all Jets.

  • Christian Kirk (3-19-1) played on 65% of the snaps and Andy Isabella played on only 42%, while Larry Fitzgerald played on 93%. Getting Isabella (2 catches for 3 yards) on the field more is a must for the Cardinals coaching staff, even if that comes at the expense of a Hall of Famer (Fitzgerald had 2 catches for 4 yards).

  • D.J. Moore led all skill players in snaps (77%), but did virtually nothing with them (4-49 on 6 targets). He has been one of the most disappointing players in the NFL through 4 weeks, and you should consider benching him until he shows something.

  • Meanwhile, Robby Anderson continues to ball out, catching 8 balls for 99 yards on 11 targets. He is a must-play and is currently the No.1 WR on the Panthers. He did this Sunday on only 57% of the snaps.

  • D.J. Chark returned and played 85% of snaps, and produced like a stud (8-95-2 on 9 targets). He will likely struggle against good defenses, since Minshew is limited, but in good matchups he is a must-play.

  • Laviska Shenault played on only 54% of snaps but was the second option in the passing game, getting 6 targets (5-86). He is shaping up to be a nice flex play in good matchups.

  • A.J. Green’s days as a relevant fantasy player appear to be done. He played 77% of the snaps and received 5 targets, but only caught 1 for 3 yards. Meanwhile, Tee Higgins produced 4-77 on 7 targets on 57% of snaps, and Tyler Boyd produced 7-90 on 8 targets. I would not be surprised if Green is phased out of the offense.

  • Odell Beckham Jr. played on 77% of the snaps and finally produced like a top WR (5-81-2 on 8 targets). He also had 2 rushes for 73 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown run. This will likely be his best game of the season, considering that even on such a huge day Mayfield only passed for 165 yards. He will have a few big games, but his standard game on this offense will likely be underwhelming.

  • Again Michael Gallup played the most snaps among Dallas WRs (82%) but produced very little (2-29 on 5 targets). He should be benched until he can show up in a bigger way. Meanwhile Amari Cooper finished with a whopping 16 targets and went 12-134-1, and Ceedee Lamb received 7 targets and went 5-79-2. Both have become weekly auto-starts in this crazy passing offense.

  • With Michael Thomas sitting again, Emmanuel Sanders received more than twice as many targets as the most-targeted player on the Saints (9). He went 6-93. It looks like the Saints offense will be much tougher to stop once Sanders and Thomas are both healthy.

  • Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay played on 89% and 82% of the snaps, respectively. Golladay received 8 targets (4-62-1) while Jones only received 2 targets (1-9). Hopefully this was just a strange game and he’ll go back to being more heavily targeted in future weeks.

  • Brandin Cooks played on 93% of the snaps and received 3 targets, but finished the day with 0 receptions. He should not be started until he shows he can click with Deshaun Watson and be productive in this offense.

  • Will Fuller had a nice game in Week 4, producing 6-108-1 on 7 targets, on only 77% of the snaps. He is always going to be a boom-bust option, but should be started against every poor or average defensive secondary.

  • DeVante Parker played on 80% of the snaps and received 12 targets! He continues to be heavily relied on by Fitzpatrick, and it will be interesting to see how the target distribution changes once Tua Tagovailoa comes in. For now, Parker is a great weekly play due to volume.

  • Isaiah Ford did had 10 targets, but only produced 4-48. He is a decent player but is not special as a talent, and at some point you would expect Preston Williams to start getting more involved.

  • Jalen Guyton played on 85% of the snaps for the Chargers, but was targeted only once. Fortunately for him, it was a 72-yard touchdown reception. I have no idea why he wasn’t targeted more often, but Herbert seems to only have eyes for Keenan Allen.

  • Speaking of Allen, he received 12 targets on 25 passing attempts, an insane target share. He turned those 12 targets into only 8-62, but since he’s the focus of the passing game and Herbert has been decent so far, his stock remains sky-high.

  • With Godwin out, Justin Watson played on 74% of the snaps. However, he only received 6 targets (4-40). Mike Evans played on 71% and received 8 targets (7-122-1). Scotty Miller played on 53% and received 7 targets (5-83-1). Likely Miller and Evans will continue in their roles but receive fewer targets when Godwin is in the lineup.

  • Marquise Brown played on 75% of the snaps and received 8 targets, but only went 4-86. The Ravens just did not have to throw the ball much to beat Washington, but his usage was encouraging nonetheless.

  • Terry McLaurin had a ridiculous 14 targets, catching 10-118. Even dealing with an injury and against a great defense, he was fantastic. Haskins was not great but was not terrible, so he is likely going to remain in the lineup for now, and that is both a positive and negative for McLaurin. He could really explode with a better QB under center, but Haskins targets him a ton. Either way, McLaurin needs to be started every week.

  • Zach Pascal and T.Y. Hilton both played 75% of the snaps. Pascal received 8 targets to Hilton’s 5, and both caught 3 balls (3-58 for Pascal, 3-29 for Hilton). The truth is that you want to avoid all pass-catchers in this slow-paced, antiquated offense, but Hilton has not been a good play once in the first four weeks. He should sit on your bench, and is a cut in shallow leagues. Meanwhile, Pascal makes for an interesting flex play if his usage continues.

  • Bills WR snaps: Diggs 92%, John Brown 85%, Gabriel Davis 59%, and Cole Beasley 30%. McKenzie and Roberts also played 34% and 10% of snaps. It is clear that the coaches want Diggs and Brown on the field for basically every snap, and the rest are fighting for roles. Davis was only targeted once, but scored on a 26-yard touchdown. Beasley, meanwhile, got 4 targets on half as many snaps, and went 3-32-1. Diggs and Brown are the only receivers on the Bills I am comfortable starting, unless desperate.

  • Deebo Samuel returned but only played on 34% of snaps. He seemed to share snaps with Kendrick Bourne. Brandon Aiyuk led the WRs in snaps, at 88%. Likely they were just easing Samuel back in, and he and Aiyuk should play virtually every snap together moving forward. Both are dynamic and make for nice weekly options, especially once Garoppolo returns.

  • Damiere Byrd played on 97% of snaps and received 10 targets (5-80) for the Patriots. This has been the case all season, as he has locked down his role as their top outside receiver. He is not very dynamic, but he should be rostered simply because of his involvement. Harry and Edelman received 6 targets, but each only caught 3 of them. They played 76% and 61% of snaps, respectively.

  • Olamide Zaccheaus played the most snaps among Falcons’ receivers (76%). Calvin Ridley played 64% and Julio Jones left early and played only 21%. While Ridley caught zero of his five targets, Zaccheaus caught 8 of his 9 targets, for 86 yards. Since it appears the Falcons will be trailing weekly, and Jones might be out for a while, Zaccheaus is a nice pick up if you need a receiver.

Tight Ends

  • Jake Butt played on 50% of the snaps and might be the main pass-catching TE while Noah Fant is out with an ankle injury. He only received 1 target in this game though, so he is a very risky play. Nick Vannett also played half the snaps and got 2 targets. Both are very low-upside options.

  • Dan Arnold played on 54% of the snaps and was second on the Cardinals in receiving (4-39 on 4 targets). That was about the only encouraging thing for the offense in this game.

  • Drew Sample returned to relevance in Week 4, playing on 85% of the snaps and producing 3-47 on 5 targets. A tight end playing that many snaps on a pass-heavy offense is a good option, even if he isn’t uber talented.

  • Austin Hooper finally had a decent day, garnering the second most targets on the team (7) and producing 5-34-1. He also played on 84% of the snaps, which is a good sign. But don’t miss what rookie TE Harrison Bryant did. I have been saying for a few weeks to keep an eye on him as his usage has been trending up, and now might be a good time to buy him if you’re in need of TE help. He played on 69% of the snaps and produced 4-37. They clearly want to involve him on a weekly basis.

  • Dalton Schultz had another nice day, producing 4-72-1 on 8 targets, on 77% of the snaps. He must be in your lineups, since Dallas’ defense is looking historically bad and they will likely be in shootouts every week.

  • Greg Olsen played on 56% of the snaps and Will Dissly played on 43%. Olsen received 7 targets (5-35) and Dissly received 2 targets (2-15). Olsen remains a nice add if you need TE help.

  • Mike Gesicki again disappointed with only 1 reception (3 targets). In a game where the Dolphins threw it 45 times, this is severely disconcerting. Perhaps Tua would help Gesicki get more targets, but for now he must be benched.

  • Hunter Henry played on 85% of the snaps but only received 3 targets (2-39). This is Herbert being most comfortable throwing to his first read, and he needs to grow in the mental side of the game before he is finding his various receivers more evenly. Henry is another one of those tight ends drafted in the middle rounds that is very difficult to trust (along with Gesicki, Hurst, Higbee, Engram, etc.). If you have him, you likely have to play him.

  • Mark Andrews received only 3 targets but caught all of them for 57 yards and two scores. The touchdowns bailed his fantasy owners out, but there will be games with more passing attempts as well. Jackson only threw it 21 times on the day.

  • Logan Thomas was again a no-show (1-8 on 4 targets), though he played on 93% of snaps. It is hard to know whether defenses are scheming to take him away since there are no other threats on the field, or if he just isn’t very good. Though this was the first time he was not heavily targeted, he should be benched until he starts producing.

  • Evan Engram played on 84% of the snaps and received 10 targets. However, with Daniel Jones only dinking and dunking, he produced only 6-35. This offense looks awful, and Engram and the rest of the pass catchers should be benched or cut, until the coaches start allowing Jones to throw it down the field more often.

  • Despite Tyler Higbee playing 84% of the snaps, he only received 4 targets and went 3-21. Higbee is very talented and is playing almost every snap, so he is a good weekly play. He is just a much better play in games where the Rams will be forced to pass.

  • The Colts are doing their best to make all of their receivers and tight ends irrelevant for fantasy football. Although Mo Alie-Cox has performed extremely well, they gave him only 46% of the snaps, while giving Jack Doyle 62% and Trey Burton 50%. All must be benched until one of them becomes prioritized. There are simply too few targets to go around in Indy to start any pass-catcher.

  • Zach Ertz played on 95% of the snaps but only produced 4-9 on 5 targets. The 49ers defense is very good and schemed to take him away, but it also appears Ertz has lost a step. He is only a good option against poor defenses.

  • Robert Tonyan is the talk of the town right now. On Monday Night Football he caught all 6 of his targets for 98 yards and 3 touchdowns! He did all of that on only 67% of the snaps. Clearly Rodgers is clicking with Tonyan, making him a solid weekly play, but keep in mind he was without his top two receivers for this game (Davante Adams and Allen Lazard).

Kevin Scott is a fantasy pro who is the co-host for The Lowdown Fantasy Football Podcast. He plays in over 40 leagues annually and has made over $100,000 playing fantasy football. You can follow him @kevinscottff.