Week-to-week player performance can be very volatile. The worst thing we can do is miss out on a fluky big day and then chase it the following week, when that player is both more expensive and more owned.
So by examining usage instead of performance, we can cut through some of the noise and figure out what’s sustainable. Here are the most important usage notes I saw in Week 4. Hat-tip to ProFootballFocus for a lot of the snap info found below.
1. Austin Ekeler used in pass-back roleWe didn’t get a great look at the Chargers’ new backfield because they fell behind 14-0 right out of the gate. Philip Rivers spent a ton of the game in hurry-up while facing prevent defenses. But it’s still notable that Melvin Gordon had 12 carries compared to just three for Ekeler. Of course, Ekeler was the no-doubt passing back, piling up an outrageous 15 catches on 16 targets. Gordon had four catches on six targets. In normal game scripts with fewer offensive plays and fewer passing plays, these two really threaten to cap each other.
2. Damien Williams back with forceWilliams (knee) missed two straight games. He returned on Sunday night and immediately led the backfield by playing on 35-of-63 snaps. Clearly the preferred pass-down back, Williams saw four targets while LeSean McCoy and Darell Williams combined for two. Meanwhile, McCoy and Darell each played 14 snaps but oddly neither recorded a carry. Regardless three backs seeing time is a disaster fantasy situation – even for the best offense in the league. Going into Sunday’s likely shootout, Damien is the best option but comes with a low floor.
3. Jake Kumerow slides in as No. 3Davante Adams (turf toe) missed Week 5 and I’d be a bit surprised if he made it back for Week 6. So it’s notable that Kumerow slid in as the clear-cut No. 3 wideout, playing on 48-of-72 snaps. Marquez Valdes-Scantling led the way with 68 snaps and Geronimo Allison was next with 62. The Cowboys’ defensive style forces targets to running backs, so Aaron Jones and Tra Carson combined for 12 of them. But in other matchups, these WRs will be much more needed and firmly in play.
4. Big Mike gets big usageMike Williams (back, knee) has been banged up for most of the year. So it was good to see him return in Week 5 and immediately log 62-of-70 snaps. He also saw 29% of Rivers’ targets and was in the slot 21 times. Williams is never going to be a high-volume guy because most weeks Keenan Allen won’t be blanketed by Chris Harris. But he’s a touchdown-maker at 6-foot-4 who has zero TDs on 28 targets this year.
5. Texans not ready to unleash KekeWith Kenny Stills (hamstring) out, I thought the Texans would use quietly gifted Keke Coutee as an every-down slot receiver. It’s a role he was highly productive in last year and Deshaun Watson clearly trusts him. However, Bill O’Brien had other ideas. He went with a two-TE set for much of the game, lining up both Darren Fells and Jordan Akins. When the dust settled, Coutee only played on 31-of-70 snaps and ran a route on 20 of Watson’s 36 dropbacks. That kind of usage makes Coutee a thin play even if Stills continues to miss time.
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