Fantasy Football: Adam Levitan's Week 9 NFL Usage Notes

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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 9. Hat-tip to ProFootballFocus for a lot of the snap info found below.

1. Corey Davis Returns to Big Role

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The Titans didn’t coddle rookie Corey Davis as he came off a nasty hamstring pull. In his first game since Week 2, he played on 39-of-52 snaps (75 percent) and ran a route on 26 of Marcus Mariota’s 31 dropbacks (84 percent). Davis could only muster 2-28-0 on five targets despite the strong usage, but that was expected given Baltimore’s top-2 DVOA pass defense and a very slow-paced game which featured just 129 total plays. Things will get a little better this week and next against the Bengals and Steelers before really heating up in Week 12. From that point on Davis will face the Colts, Texans, Cardinals, 49ers and Rams. Running well ahead of Eric Decker (23 snaps Sunday), Davis is a talent worth watching very closely. He was the No. 5 overall pick in the draft for a reason.


2. Cam Newton Returns to Running Ways

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Newton’s continued shoulder problems over the last 1.5 years have been well-documented. The Panthers were calling fewer designed runs and trying to protect their franchise quarterback more. But that’s all out the window now as Cam has returned to the lethal running ways that made him such a dominant fantasy and real-life player in 2015. Over the last four games, Newton is averaging 9.3 DraftKings points per game solely on rushing stats. He has at least nine rush attempts in four straight games, something only Michael Vick and Tim Tebow have done at the quarterback position over the last 15 years (via ESPN’s Field Yates). Newton now has four rushing touchdowns on the season and has three rushing attempts from inside the 10-yard line. Only Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Devonta Freeman, Le’Veon Bell, Carlos Hyde, Mike Gillislee and Leonard Fournette have more. So as I noted in Leverage last Friday, rostering Cam gives us a huge floor because of his truly unique legs.


3. Curtis Samuel Gets Biggest Bump

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The Panthers clearly wanted to get Curtis Samuel on the field as their starting “Z” in the wake of the Kelvin Benjamin trade. Whereas the snap rates of slot man Russell Shepard (58.5 percent), Devin Funchess (73.8 percent) and Kaelin Clay (12.3 percent) stayed stagnant, Samuel led the team with 49 snaps and easily set a career high with a 75-percent snap rate. Funchess certainly gets a red-zone market share bump and perhaps a total target share bump, but the real role change here belongs to Samuel. Of course, the spot formerly occupied by Ted Ginn isn’t going to be a very consistent one as much of the job is to stretch the field. Ginn, certainly more polished than the raw Samuel, only had one game with more than 68 yards in eight played last season.


4. Vernon Davis a Pass-Catcher

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With the Redskins’ offensive line again in shambles due to injury, there was some concern Vernon Davis would be needed to block at Seattle Sunday. That was quickly put to rest as Davis was featured in the passing game, easily leading the team with a massive 29 percent target share and racking up a 6-72-0 line. Of course, Kirk Cousins didn’t have much of a choice with both Jordan Reed (hamstring) and Jamison Crowder (hamstring) out. He doesn’t trust Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson isn’t quite ready and Ryan Grant lacks NFL-level ability. If Reed and Crowder are out again against the Vikings Sunday, Davis will again be a reliable pass-catcher for Cousins. His price remains palatable at $4,700.


5. Kareem Hunt Not a 3-Down Back

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Kareem Hunt is a ridiculously special running back. But don’t let that overshadow his usage, which has quietly been slightly less than ideal all season. Hunt has not been a three-down back when Charcandrick West has been healthy, playing on just 68.3 percent of the snaps this season. So when the Chiefs fell behind in Dallas Sunday, no one should have been surprised that Hunt ended up with a season-low 54 percent of the snaps. The Chiefs started the season so hot that Hunt’s usage was never a concern, but now that they’re back to earth it’s getting highlighted. As noted on last week’s Week 9 game-by-game breakdown, Hunt does not have the same role as Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy or Todd Gurley. The good news is he gets to face the lowly Giants when the Chiefs come out of their bye, so the game script shouldn’t be a concern.


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.