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. Also, hat-tip to ProFootballFocus for a lot of the snap data found below.
1. Rob Gronkowski the Blocker
Speculation that Rob Gronkowski’s hamstring remains an issue seems plausible after examining his Week 4 usage. He played on 67.2 percent of the snaps, but caught just one pass for 11 yards on two targets. Of course, it’s hard to catch passes when you’re acting as a sixth offensive lineman. Gronk was asked to run block 15 times and pass block 11 times vs. 13 pass routes run. Meanwhile, Martellus Bennett racked up a 5-109-0 receiving line on the Bills. Perhaps Gronk’s usage will change as his hamstring gets healthier and Tom Brady gets under center, but there’s a very low floor here considering the $6,500 price tag.
2. Bears Turn to Cam Meredith
The ankle injury Kevin White sustained last week appears significant enough to keep him out at least through Week 5. The Bears ran 17 offensive snaps after White went down and the WR snaps were: Cam Meredith 17, Alshon Jeffery 9, Eddie Royal 7, Josh Bellamy 5, Deonte Thompson 4. The targets went Meredith 3, Jordan Howard 2, Zach Miller 1, Eddie Royal 1. It should be noted that White went down with under six minutes left in the third quarter and the Bears milked the clock the rest of the way as they held on for a win.
Moving forward, it’s clear that the man with the biggest change in snaps will be Meredith. He’s a 2015 UDFA out of Illinois State with 17 career catches, but has good size at 6’3/207 and has fared well in the preseason (19 catches on 166 snaps). White’s absence will also open up more targets for Royal and Jeffery. White was quietly Brian Hoyer’s favorite target, racking up 23 targets on his last 93 snaps.
3. Terrance West Seizes Control
News broke Sunday morning that Justin Forsett would be a healthy scratch, leaving only passing-back Buck Allen and West as active RBs. West proceeded to only play on 43.3 percent of the snaps, but he handled 80.2 percent of the RB touches and recorded a 21-113-1 line in the loss to the Raiders. Kenneth Dixon (knee) may be active against the Redskins this week, but he’s a fourth-round rookie who hasn’t been on the field since August. West will likely handle the lion’s share of early-down work again in Week 5.
4. Le’Veon Bell the Swiss Army Knife
The Steelers wasted no time saddling up Le’Veon Bell, as expected. When he came off suspension in 2015, he played on 95 percent of the snaps and touched the ball 26 times. When he came off suspension this year, he played on 85.2 percent of the snaps and touched the ball 23 times. Most importantly, the Steelers showed some creativity with him as a receiver. On his first 32 snaps, he lined up 19 times in the backfield, 7 as an outside WR, 5 as a slot WR and 1 in as a TE (via PFF’s Nathan Jahnke). It makes sense with Eli Rogers (toe) out and Markus Wheaton a weekly question mark. Even in tough running matchups (like the one Bell has Sunday against the Jets), he’s going to see enough creative volume and red-zone work to be very viable.
5. Latavius’ Role Continues to Diminish
I hit on Latavius in this space last week. I think it’s important to hit on him again because he’s home against the Chargers at just $4,200. If you told me this would be the salary and spot for Latavius a month ago, I would have said it’s a free square and we have to play him in all our lineups. But note that Murray’s snap count over the last four weeks has gone from 60.0 percent to 46.2, 47.0 and then 54.0 percent last week. His touches have gone 15, 14, 11, 10 from Weeks 1-4. Reports are swirling that the Raiders want to get a longer look at rookie DeAndre Washington, who is now averaging a whopping 6.4 YPC. So while I don’t think Latavius is completely out of play in this perfect spot Week 5, we just have to realize that he only had 45.4 of the Raiders’ RB touches in Week 4 and 55.5 percent in Week 3.
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.