This past week included some subtle differences in snap percentage among running backs. Ezekiel Elliott silently took a major hit in usage. Devin Singletary quietly sits at No. 4 in snap percentage for running backs despite some disappointing stats this past week. Dallas, Kansas City and Washington led the week in offensive snap counts — by a lot.
We are also starting to see some units come together that needed time to adjust after free agent acquisitions. The Miami defense is starting to hit their stride and yes, we know how strange that is to read. Brandin Cooks is completing his yearly ritual where he joins a new team and starts producing. On top of that, the Houston offense is starting to click with Bill O’Brien gone. The Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski connection seems to be back and he can now be started again. The new defenses to fear for matchups are Denver and Kansas City as they have been shutting down opposing offenses and killing fantasy matchups. In parentheses are the weekly rank finishes in half-point per reception (PPR) league points. Keep in mind that Christian McCaffrey is coming back soon — so sell Mike Davis.
1. Quarterbacks who have disappointed so far due to lack of chemistry with new receivers:
Deshaun Watson (QB1), Ryan Tannehill (QB3) and Carson Wentz (QB4) were all drafted fairly high and were expected to produce to their average draft position. But all have had to adjust to not having their top receiver in the lineup.
In Ryan Tannehill’s case he finally got his back in A.J. Brown. Wentz is looking up as he is set to have DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery return soon. Travis Fulgham was an important emergence for Wentz. Watson has essentially had a brand-new receiving group. He added Randall Cobb, Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills. Will Fuller III counts if you want to count the injury time.
2. Running Backs pronounced dead by many:
Kenyan Drake (RB2) has seen a ton of carries but has not produced. After this week, he actually ranks fifth in carries among all running backs. This past week he looked significantly better on film and ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns. He still has 22 yards receiving on the year which is not good but he looks significantly better and should not lose his job to Chase Edmonds now.
D’Andre Swift (RB3) now appears to be worth starting or trading for the right price. This is still not a superstar buy or RB1 start though. He had just 14-of-33 carries for the running backs, which is just 42 percent of the team’s carries. He also played in just 38% percent of the snaps this week. He has better receiving usage than others on the team but he had just three catches this past week for 7 yards. He is however worth a start in the RB2 spot with the bye weeks in full swing or worth buying if your team lacks depth.
J.D. McKissic (RB16) was listed as my top add of the week as he has been infringing on Antonio Gibson’s usage recently. He had eight carries to Gibson’s nine carries. McKissic had six catches for 43 yards while Gibson had four catches for 25 yards. His performance of 11.4 fantasy points is good enough for 16th this week; it’s the landscape of running backs now. Neither is exciting but McKissic clearly has taken the role of the lead when the team is in a negative game script. Negative game script is essentially part of the game plan with Washington so he is a worthwhile safe RB2/FLEX for teams being devastated by bye weeks or injury.
3. Late-round wide receivers that continue to produce:
The cat is out of the bag with Justin Jefferson (WR1) and there’s not much else to add, congratulations Minnesota — good pick. Christian Kirk (WR3) has completed his coming out party. While Kyler Murray completed only nine passes, two went to Kirk who had 86 yards and two touchdowns. Kirk had an 81% snap percentage in Week 6 – 20% higher than most other weeks this year. He is clearly dependent on matchup at this point so play him accordingly; his usage is increasing.
Brandin Cooks (WR7) is another receiver worth buying if you lack depth. Will Fuller III had 11 targets to Cooks’ nine targets. Cooks hauled in 9-of-9 targets for 68 yards and a touchdown though. Randall Cobb has been losing his targets to Cooks and now Darren Fells also. Fells is worth a waiver-wire add if you do not have a Top-5 tight end.
4. Defenses worth avoiding have changed:
Run defenses have largely stayed the same. These are the Top-6 teams in rushing defense: Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Denver. The Top-6 separate themselves significantly from the other teams and can be worth changing a lineup over. The Top-5 for passing Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) are: Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Miami. Kansas City makes the list when factoring in schedule. These teams present legitimate problems when starting all quarterbacks and some receivers. As expected by many, the easiest pass-matchups by a landslide are: Jacksonville, the New York Jets, Atlanta, Seattle and Buffalo. The easiest running back matchups are: Miami, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Houston. The biggest surprises are obviously Buffalo and Miami, it’s like they’ve traded places this season.