WATCH: MARSHAWN LYNCH’S SUSPENSION UPHELD
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 in fantasy football.
So by examining player 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 7. Hat-tip to Pro Football Focus for a lot of the snap info found below.
1. Josh Doctson Moves Ahead Of Terrelle Pryor
Josh Doctson dominated at TCU, racking up 143 catches for 2,344 yards and 25 TDs over his final 23 games. He also tore through the NFL Scouting Combine and has the athletic profile of an elite fantasy WR, as I noted here ahead of the 2016 draft. So it was great to see him finally healthy and getting a big shot with the Washington Redskins on Monday night when he played on 54 of 64 snaps and ran a route on 40 of Kirk Cousins’ 46 dropbacks. After the game, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, “We drafted Josh to be the No. 1 guy.”
The surprising part isn’t that a now-healthy Doctson is being pushed into a big role. It’s that it’s coming at the expense of Terrelle Pryor instead of Ryan Grant. In the first half Monday night, Pryor played only one snap while Doctson got 29. Pryor got a lot more burn in the second half, playing on 29 of 30 snaps. Overall, the final WR snap count was Jamison Crowder 58, Doctson 54, Pryor 30 and Grant 26.
Pryor’s second-half usage suggests he’s still in the Redskins’ plans, but we now know that Doctson is the guy they want to ride. After all, Pryor has been atrocious this season and ranks 111th among 115 qualifying WRs in PFF’s grades. On DraftKings, Doctson is just $3,900 against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 8.
2. Raiders Turn To Committee With Lynch Suspended
Marshawn Lynch has been suspended for the Oakland Raiders’ Sunday game at Buffalo. The Raiders ran 51 snaps after Lynch was ejected in Week 7, and here was the RB snap count: DeAndre Washington 18, Jalen Richard 15, FB/HB Jamize Olawale 11 and empty set seven. Note that Washington did have the two chances from inside the 5-yard line in the first half, converting one for a touchdown. Also note that in most passing situations, it was either Olawale on the field as a pass protector or an empty set.
We also can look at the two games Latavius Murray missed in Oakland last season for clues. In those, the total carries were Washington 19, Richard 12 and Olawale six. The reception counts were Richard with eight, Washington with five and Olawale with one. Note that Washington did out-snap Richard 69-37 in those games. I believe Washington will play slightly ahead of Richard this week, and has the better shot at goal-line work, but a muddy pass-game picture and a tough matchup make this a low-floor situation all around. If forced, Washington at $4,100 projects for the most volume.
3. Jordan Reed Appearing Healthier
Reed came out of the Redskins’ Week 5 bye and played on 73 percent of the snaps while running a route on 30 of Kirk Cousins’ 39 dropbacks. On Monday night, Reed was in on 78 percent of the snaps and ran a route on 34 of Cousins’ 46 dropbacks. Perhaps most importantly, we saw Reed run 19 routes from the slot in Week 7 after just eight slot routes in Week 6.
Given all the turmoil in Washington’s wideout corps (see above), using Reed and excellent Vernon Davis together a lot makes sense. If Reed truly is healthy, we know he is a mismatch-proof dominator in the passing game. The only issue here is market share, as Cousins hit nine different pass-catchers Monday night. Reed has a shaky 17.1 target share on the season.
4. Patriots Leaning More On Dion Lewis
The Patriots still have a four-headed running back monster with Lewis, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead and James White all receiving work in Week 7. But we’ve seen a significant change in Lewis’ role, as he has carried the ball 24 times over the last two weeks while playing on 38.7 percent of the snaps. During that same timespan, Gillislee had 18 carries on 18.3 percent of the snaps.
We know projecting week-to-week backfield usage in New England is a highly volatile exercise, but Lewis’ early down and clock-killing role is rising. The emergence of Lewis and the return of Burkhead (ribs) has hurt White, who has run just 16.5 pass routes per game the last two weeks. White was at 29.8 routes per game in the first five weeks of the season.
5. Marlon Mack Benefiting From Injury In Indy
In the Indianapolis Colts’ first game since they lost Robert Turbin (arm) to injured reserve, Marlon Mack set season highs in snap rate (47.8 percent), routes run (20) and targets (six), and he out-snapped Frank Gore 32-22. This likely had a lot to do with a blowout, as the Colts fell behind the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-0 at halftime.
But with the Colts 2-5 and QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) looking like he’ll miss the whole season, it’s time for Mack to get an extended look. The fourth-round pick is a favorite of the draftnik community, and he caught 65 passes across three seasons at South Florida. An explosive athlete who will benefit when the Colts are trailing, Mack’s role is rising. He’s a thin GPP play for now but is very likely to turn into more down the line.
6. Jets Split Work Between Matt Forte, Bilal Powell
The Atlanta Falcons gave up the most receptions to running backs last season at 6.8 per game, and they’re at 6.5 this season. So it will be an interesting spot this week for New York Jets running backs Bilal Powell and Matt Forte, who both excel in the passing game.
With Powell back healthy from a calf injury in Week 7, the RB snaps were Forte 28, Powell 21 and Elijah McGuire seven. The touches were Forte 12, Powell 11 and McGuire three. So we have a relatively even split here between the two veterans, with McGuire fading to the background. Even in an excellent matchup, the committee approach caps upside.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.