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 13. Hat-tip to ProFootballFocus for a lot of the snap info found below.
Jeff Wilson Jr. moves to front in San FranciscoMatt Breida injured his ankle in warmups Sunday and lasted just 10 snaps. That left Wilson to play on 54-of-76 total snaps and third-stringer Matt Dayes to get just one. Remember, Jerick McKinnon and Raheem Mostert already are on IR. Wilson, an undrafted free agent out of North Texas, is a sub-average NFL athlete at 5’11/208 with 4.57 Pro Day speed. The good news is he has Kyle Shanahan’s league-best run scheme on his side and caught 24 balls in 11 games as a senior last season. Those pass-game chops showed up against the Seahawks, as he posted an 8-73-0 receiving line on nine targets while running 33 routes. I suspect Alfred Morris — who has been a healthy scratch the past two weeks — to be active in a complementary early-down role against the Broncos Sunday. But Wilson should get a solid share of that early-down work plus the pass-down usage in Week 14.
Chris Godwin flexesThe #FreeGodwin movement has been running for two years now. We finally got a taste on Sunday thanks to DeSean Jackson’s thumb injury. Godwin ran a route on 38 of Jameis Winston’s 39 dropbacks, ducked into the slot 14 times and predictably showed well with a 5-101-1 line on a solid 20.9 percent target share. Godwin is now 24th among 108 qualifying WRs in the predictive yards per route run metric after ranking 13th as a rookie last season. The Bucs would be wise to shut Jackson down and let Godwin run free the rest of the season. If he does, his usage plus talent plus scheme will be difficult for defenses to contain.
Tyrell continues to run ahead of MikeTravis Benjamin’s return from a foot injury was slow. But over the past two weeks, he’s played on an impactful 37.5 snaps per game. Benjamin’s increased role has been at the expense of Mike Williams, who only played on 34-of-63 snaps against the Steelers Sunday night. Meanwhile, Keenan Allen was in on 58, Tyrell 50 and Benjamin 28. With a dream matchup at home against the Bengals pending and Melvin Gordon (knee) still shaky, Tyrell’s hold on the No. 2 job is notable. He’ll get a handful of deep shots from Philip Rivers, opening up a very wide floor/ceiling combo. Perhaps more notably, Tyrell’s role combined with Benjamin’s leaves Mike with a target projection in the 2-4 range.
Rex returns to muddle Patriots’ backfieldRex Burkhead (neck) played Sunday for the first time since going down in Week 3. He operated as expected, rotating in as a backup to both early-down pounder Sony Michel and passing back James White. Burkhead ended up playing on 17-of-74 snaps, getting seven carries plus two targets. Michel remained in a version of the old Blount role, playing on 30 snaps and running a pitiful four pass routes — but getting 17 carries. White remains the most valuable back on New England because of his pass-game role and trust with Tom Brady. White was reduced to just 33 snaps against the Vikings but led the team with a 28 percent target share. Of course, weekly New England gameplans can change the touch count here greatly. If Bill Belichick believes the Patriots simply can run the ball down the Dolphins’ throats all day Sunday, then Michel will be featured over White.
Randall Cobb returns to full-time role, questionable healthCobb has battled a bunch of really nagging injuries, most notably a hamstring pull. But he finally returned Sunday and was immediately put back into a full-time role. He played on 61-of-76 snaps and was in his usual slot spot for 51 of them. It’s unclear how healthy Cobb is, though, as he hasn’t topped 40 yards since Week 1 and saw a meager 10.6 percent target share against the Cardinals. It will be tough to find a ceiling for Cobb, even with this solid role, Mike McCarthy gone and a matchup with the Falcons on deck.
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