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 5. Hat-tip to ProFootballFocus for a lot of the snap data found below.
1. Cameron Meredith Used Like Kevin White
I discussed Cameron Meredith a bunch last week in Usage, Targets and The Edge. The way he was used in Week 5 was even better than expected. Meredith played on 63-of-68 snaps against the Bears and has now played on 80-of-85 snaps since Kevin White went down. Eddie Royal (calf) being active did not change Meredith’s role as the every-down flanker.
Equally important is the continued chemistry between the flanker position and Brian Hoyer. White was not playing well, but had still seen 23 targets on his final 93 snaps with Hoyer. Meredith has now seen 15 targets on his last 80 snaps with Hoyer. Meanwhile, Alshon Jeffery continues to be an afterthought with just 6.2 targets per game. Meredith’s price has jumped to $4,100, but my initial read is that it is not chasing points to ride him again in a home game against the Jags Week 6.
2. Jordan Howard a Rare Breed
I only see seven RBs right now who are truly game-flow independent and get three-down plus goal-line work: Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Lamar Miller, Melvin Gordon and Jordan Howard. Yes, Jordan Howard. Over the last two weeks, he’s played on 90.6 percent of the snaps and handled 90.0 percent of the RB touches. Howard out-snapped Ka’Deem Carey 63-2 in Week 5 and got three red-zone carries. He also got three red-zone carries in Week 4 and has been targeted seven times over the last two weeks. This is the exact kind of usage we look for in cash-game running backs.
3. Rob Gronkowski, James White Get Bumps with Brady Back
The Patriots were predictably playing slow and conservative with Jimmy Garropolo/Jacoby Brissett at QB. With Tom Brady finally off suspension, things were different. The Patriots ripped off a season-high 81 offensive plays in Cleveland and also unleashed Rob Gronkowski. After he was limited to just 15 pass routes while playing 67 percent of the snaps in Week 4, Gronk was up at 80 percent of the snaps and ran 36 routes in Week 5. Part of that is likely due to his hamstring getting better, but a lot of it is also due to Brady’s return. Note that the Patriots ran a lot of 2-TE sets, which was expected from the moment they traded for Martellus Bennett. Gronk ran 36 routes and Bennett ran 29, highlighting the potential for both to have big games in the same week.
As for the running backs, the narrative came true. With Brady under center and the Patriots more pass-centric, there was far more opportunity for James White. He set a season high in snap rate (46.5 percent) and touches (9) even though the Patriots dominated the scoreboard for the entire game.
4. T.Y. Hilton a Load-Bearing WR
As mentioned in Leverage last week, Hilton’s role has changed. He’s not just a lid-lifting vertical streaker, he’s playing a chain-moving role as well. Hilton is now the only player in the NFL with at least 10 targets in each game this year and his Average Depth of Target is down at 12.7 (43rd in the league). With Donte Moncrief (shoulder) expected to miss a few more weeks and the Colts failing to mount a run game behind Grandpa Gore, Hilton’s massive season will continue.
5. DeAndre Washington Gets Strong Usage
Washington will not be popular in Week 6 after he only accumulated 10.2 DK points as the chalk in Week 5. But a look at his underlying usage reveals a chance for a lot more, assuming Latavius Murray (turf toe) is out again. Washington played on 37 snaps against the Chargers compared to 23 for Jalen Richard and 22 for FB Jamize Olawale. Washington also out-touched Richard in the red-zone 2-0, getting carries from the 8- and 5-yard lines. So while we can expect a relatively even touch count to continue (DWash and Richard each got 14 against the Chargers), there’s enough room for each to have far bigger games.
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