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. Saints Turn to True Backfield Committee
Mark Ingram got partially out of the doghouse in Week 9, coming off the bench behind Tim Hightower for 17 touches while playing on 33-of-86 snaps. Hightower got 24 touches on 36 snaps and Travaris Cadet got one touch on 13 snaps. That usage allowed both Ingram and Hightower to go berserk and smash their salary-based expectation, but it’s a unique situation when you’re a running back playing San Francisco. You have positive game scripts because you’re often winning, you get to face a talent-deficient unit and you get to rip off significantly more plays as a team due to Chip Kelly’s pace. I suspect this backfield will continue to be a relatively even timeshare, which will be a problem in less unique matchups than SF.
2. Darren Sproles Again Handles Lead-Back Duties
Over the last two weeks, Sproles has been in on 112 of 151 snaps (74.1 percent) and touched the ball 36 times. During that span, Ryan Mathews has been in on 16 snaps (10.6 percent) and touched the ball 11 times. Yes, Mathews is a threat to keep vulturing TDs at the goal-line ahead of the 190-pound Sproles. But coach Doug Pederson conceded on Monday that Sproles is the guy for now, adding that it’s “hard to take him off the field.” Sproles’ ceiling is capped because he can’t handle 25 touches and his TD expectation is low, but he’s going to catch 3-6 balls per game and get 10-15 carries. That’s a lot of work for someone who costs just $4,300.
3. Corey Coleman Hits the Ground Running
As we discussed on The Edge, there was little reason to think Corey Coleman would be limited in his return from a broken hand. He was fully cleared and obviously able to stay in shape given his injury. So it wasn’t a surprise to see Coleman play on 90.9 percent of the snaps against the Cowboys and earn a solid 25.9 percent target share. It also wasn’t surprising to see the Browns run a season-low 44 plays as this is what the Cowboys do – they grind the clock, play slow and hog the ball to the point where offenses can’t even get on the field. Coleman’s usage shows he’s on the right track for a big game in better matchups.
4. Kenneth Dixon Eats into Terrance West
The Ravens host the Browns on Thursday, which is one of the best possible spots for a running back. The Browns’ expansion-caliber defense ranks 31st in Football Outsiders’ DVOA vs. the run, 27th in YPC allowed, 28th in rush TDs allowed and 31st in rush yards per game allowed. So it’s very possible there’s enough room for two RBs to eat against the Browns Thursday night. But it’s important to realize that the Ravens came out of their bye determined to get Kenneth Dixon more work. Terrance West only out-snapped Dixon 29-20 and out-touched him 16-11.
5. Overreaction on Booker vs. Bibbs
Early on Monday, Redskins coach Jay Gruden specifically said Rob Kelley would be his lead guy for now and Matt Jones would have to earn the role back. That was clear. Later in the day however, coach Gary Kubiak lightly mentioned that Kapri Bibbs might get a little more work. It was standard coachspeak in my estimation (you can listen for yourself here). The bottom line is that Devontae Booker out-snapped Bibbs 45-8 and out-touched him 11-3. One 69-yard touchdown pass (as impressive as it was) isn’t going to completely flip this backfield. For now, I’m projecting a 70-30 split in favor of Booker for Sunday’s Week 10 game at New Orleans.
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.