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Snaps and targets report: Week 6

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Week 6 of the NFL season is in the books and per usual, a lot is changing in the fantasy football world. At this point of the season, we have a large enough sample size to know who most players are and will be the rest of the way. But again, just looking at the box scores will never, ever tell the entire story. An edge can still be had.

Let’s find it.

New York Giants 20, Washington Football Team 19

Many fantasy managers scoffed at the idea of Devonta Freeman being the lead back of the Giants. And while the production hasn’t been otherworldly, Freeman has established himself as a solid flex play or RB2 if you need help at the position. He logged 73% of the snaps Sunday and handled 100% of the Giants running back carries. Over the last two weeks, Freeman has seen 86.5% of the running back carries, while ranking inside the top-10 in carries during that span.

Let’s talk about J.D. McKissic, who has established himself as a weekly flex play in PPR leagues. McKissic has now seen at least six targets in each of his last three games and during that span, he is third among all running backs in receptions (22) and second in receiving yards (166). This Washington offense will continue throwing to the running backs, as quarterback Kyle Allen has targeted the position just over 34% of the time since entering the starting lineup. He is also averaging 5.3 intended air yards per target, the lowest mark among all signal callers.

Meanwhile, after Logan Thomas disappeared for a few weeks, he reminded us all that he does in fact still exist, hauling in three of four targets for 42 yards and a score. When you run a ton of routes, you are going to have a few good games, and only Zach Ertz has run more routes among tight ends than Thomas (218).

Red-zone usage

Darius Slayton found the end zone in this game and saw two end-zone looks. He also saw 22% of the New York targets and is flirting with WR2 status in fantasy, especially since Evan Engram is hardly being used in this Giants offense.

Detroit Lions 34, Jacksonville Jaguars 16

D.J. Chark was questionable entering this game and played, despite hardly practicing, leading the skill position players with an 89% snap rate.

One of the biggest storylines in fantasy from Week 6 was the emergence of D'Andre Swift, who exploded for 116 yards and two touchdowns on a season-high 14 carries. The Lions made it a point to get their rookie running back involved coming out of their bye week, which tells me they were planning this all last week. Swift led the backfield with 29 snaps and despite Adrian Peterson still leading with 15 carries, Swift’s value is on the rise. He could see a second-half surge in usage similar to Miles Sanders down the stretch of the 2019 campaign. Consider Swift a solid flex against the hapless Falcons defense in Week 7.

Chark’s target totals have been a bit up-and-down this season, but it is definitely encouraging to see him get 14 looks from Gardner Minshew, despite possibly playing through an ankle injury. The efficiency wasn’t great, catching just seven balls for 45 yards but zero of his three deep targets were deemed catchable, while a few others were into tight windows.

Jacksonville’s defense is back to being god awful, which means there will be other fantasy relevant receivers outside of Chark. Keelan Cole went off for 143 yards on nine targets and has quietly had a productive season, averaging a solid 0.28 fantasy points per snap, tied for 24th among all receivers. Meanwhile, Laviska Shenault disappointed in this game, despite seeing seven targets. You’d like the Jaguars to give him more carries like they were to start the season but Shenault has also seen at least six targets in each of the last four games.

Red-zone usage

The Lions drew up three consecutive plays to T.J. Hockenson at the 1-yard line Sunday. Hockenson scored on the third try, and after the three end-zone looks, the second-year tight end is now second among all tight ends in that department with six. Despite playing alongside Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, Hockenson has seen 24% of Detroit’s end-zone targets this season, the highest mark among all tight ends with at least 15 targets on the year.

Indianapolis Colts 31, Cincinnati Bengals 27

Joe Mixon only played 53% of the snaps but he left the game in the first half with a foot injury. He missed a few drives and then returned to start the second half of the game. Despite leaving the game, Mixon still touched the ball 20 times and is one of the true workhorses in the NFL. Monitor his status in practice during the week in case the foot injury flares up. If for whatever reason he doesn’t play next week, Giovani Bernard would become a top-20 back.

Trey Burton played 35 snaps to Jack Doyle’s 39, but Burton ran more routes and found the end zone twice. Of course, one was a carry from the 1-yard line, but Burton needs to be picked up off waivers if you need help at tight end. Since being activated off IR in Week 5, Burton leads the Colts tight ends in routes run and is in a prime position playing alongside Philip Rivers. Tight ends have accounted for 20% of the Colts targets, 57% of receiving touchdowns and nearly 54% of the team’s end-zone targets so far this season.

Jonathan Taylor didn’t find the end zone, but I’m still encouraged by his Week 6 outing. He handled 12 of the 13 running back carries, while seeing 73% of the touches, his highest mark in a game this season. Taylor also caught four passes for 55 yards and broke off a few big plays both through the air and on the ground. The Colts will enter their bye in Week 7 and likely utilize their rookie running back even more coming out of it.

Is A.J. Green back? I honestly have zero clue. After appearing to be phased out of the offense for a few weeks, Green came back to life Sunday with a team-high 11 targets, hauling in eight of them for nearly 100 yards. The Bengals are throwing the football 41 times per game, a top-three number in football, making it very possible that Green, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins are all viable for fantasy.

Baltimore Ravens 30, Philadelphia Eagles 28

Gus Edwards finished with 32 snaps, most among the Baltimore running backs. Mark Ingram suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and, after returning in the second quarter, ultimately couldn’t finish the game. Edwards finished with a team-high 14 carries, which is usually the case when Baltimore is playing with a lead. Head coach John Harbaugh stated that Ingram has “a chance” to play following Baltimore’s Week 7 bye, meaning Edwards should be added off waivers. He’d likely be the 1A in a committee with J.K. Dobbins.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — the Eagles lost players due to injury. After already being depleted, both Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz suffered injuries in this game. Sanders is dealing with a knee injury that will keep him sidelined for 1-2 weeks, meaning he’ll be out this Thursday night against the Giants. Boston Scott is likely the top waiver add of the week.

Travis Fulgham has been such a great story. After bursting onto the scene last week, Fulgham produced again against another great defense, catching six of his 10 targets for 75 yards and a touchdown. He’s averaging right under 40 routes per game over the last two weeks and even if Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson return on a short week, Fulgham has earned a large role in this Eagles offense.

Marquise Brown has seen at least a 22% target share in every game this season, while seeing at least six targets in each game, too. There will be some big games coming from Hollywood, who is third in the league in air yards, while his 16 deep targets lead the NFL.

Red-zone usage

Fulgham continues to see high-value targets, too. He was targeted three times in the end zone on Sunday, tied for the third-most among any player from Week 6. And his four such looks over the last two weeks are tied for the most among all pass-catchers. With Ertz and potentially Dallas Goedert still sidelined, the Eagles lack a clear top red-zone target.

Tennessee Titans 42, Houston Texans 36

Duke Johnson’s return to the lineup in Week 4 seemed to hurt David Johnson, who played just over 60% of the snaps then. However, he logged 78% of the snaps Sunday and handled 20 of the 25 running back touches for the Texans. He hasn’t had any earth-shattering games but he’s averaging a healthy 16.5 touches per game through six weeks of play.

Jonnu Smith left this game with an ankle sprain that has him questionable for Week 8. Anthony Firkser stepped in and thrived, hauling in eight of a team-high nine targets for 113 yards and a touchdown. He enters the streaming radar if Smith can’t play this week as the Titans will use their tight ends a lot in the passing game, especially off play-action where Tannehill is third in the NFL in attempts.

Will Fuller continues to smash. He went off for 123 yards and a touchdown, giving him three consecutive games with a score. Fuller now has 100 yards or a touchdown in all but one game this season, which came back in Week 2 where he played only 63% of the snaps against the Ravens. He’s a WR1 the rest of the way, while Brandin Cooks continues to produce. After a goose egg in Week 4, Cooks has accumulated 17 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns over the last two weeks and is a strong WR3 going forward, especially with Deshaun Watson and this Houston offense clicking right now.

Atlanta Falcons 40, Minnesota Vikings 23

Alexander Mattison definitely disappointed in this game, but once Kirk Cousins tossed three interceptions and Minnesota went down early, it was going to be tough for him to produce much. The main story from the Vikings is the continued usage of Irv Smith. Last Sunday night, Smith ran a route on around 73% of Cousins’ dropbacks, while playing 61 snaps. During that game, the Vikings ran out of 12 personnel (two tight ends) a season-high 34% of the time. That was already encouraging but then Smith out-snapped Kyle Rudolph against the Falcons, ran a route on nearly 80% of Cousins’ dropbacks and lined up in the slot a season-high 10 times. It appears the Vikings are finally letting Irv swerve.

Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson continues to look like a star. Sure, most of his production came in garbage time, but Jefferson is now fourth among all receivers in fantasy points per snap (0.35). This is a concentrated passing offense and if Minnesota’s defense continues to struggle, Jefferson and Adam Thielen could both finish as top-15 fantasy wideouts.

For the Falcons, it appears that Julio Jones is still very good at football. Finally recovered from his hamstring injury, Julio torched the Vikings to the tune of eight catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Like they seemingly always are with Julio, the reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

Pittsburgh Steelers 38, Cleveland Browns 7

This game is pretty cut and dry. Pittsburgh probably has the best defense in the NFL and a lot of players are going to struggle against them. Kareem Hunt still dominated the backfield and will continue to do so until Nick Chubb returns to the lineup. And despite his huge game against the Cowboys a few weeks back, Odell Beckham remains a WR3 in fantasy in this run-first offense that wants Baker Mayfield to do as little as possible.

Speaking of WR3, is JuJu Smith-Schuster even that? Yes, I know Pittsburgh attempted only 22 passes in this game, but JuJu still finished with just two catches for six yards in a game where the Steelers were without Diontae Johnson. He has yet to lead the team in targets in any game this season and was out-targeted by both emerging star Chase Claypool and James Washington Sunday. JuJu is sporting the fourth-lowest average depth of target of all receivers this season (5.04 yards), so he is going to need seven or eight targets each week to be worth a spot in your starting lineup and he simply isn’t seeing that volume. I’d still be hesitant to drop him, but you can’t start him with any confidence right now.

Denver Broncos 18, New England Patriots 12

With Melvin Gordon sidelined with an illness, Phillip Lindsay took over as the lead back for the Broncos. He outsnapped Royce Freeman 40-25 and handled 23 of the 31 running back carries. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark and looked pretty good. Gordon is expected to be back this week, but I envision a 50/50 split between he and Lindsay, especially since it was essentially a full split back in Week 1 before Lindsay suffered the toe injury.

James White led the New England backfield with a 54% snap share, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering the Patriots were trailing for the entire game. All three running backs are going to play every week and game flow will dictate who plays the most.

Tim Patrick has now eclipsed the 100-yard mark in two straight games, while scoring a touchdown in two of his last three. He isn’t the sexiest option in fantasy, but Patrick continues to see consistent targets in an offense that is missing Noah Fant, K.J. Hamler and obviously Courtland Sutton. Patrick is a very viable waiver wire target heading into Week 7.

Red-zone usage

Rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam made his season debut here and got plenty of looks. He saw six targets, which isn’t shocking when you remember that Okwuegbunam and quarterback Drew Lock developed quite the rapport during their time together at Missouri. Albert also saw a whopping four end-zone targets, easily the most among any tight end from Week 6. Fant could return next week and Okwuegbunam was third among Denver tight ends in snaps but he is definitely a name to remember. No, seriously. Remember it. That way it’ll be easier to spell.

Chicago Bears 23, Carolina Panthers 16

There really isn’t anything that stands out too much from this game. David Montgomery once again saw a ton of usage, touching the ball 23 times. He wasn’t very efficient, totaling just 97 scrimmage yards and couldn’t convert from the goal line but the fact remains that no one in Chicago is taking touches away from Montgomery, who leads all running backs in routes run (95) over the last three weeks of play. Volume alone will keep Montgomery in the mix as a weekly RB2.

Chicago’s defense, meanwhile, continues to play well, holding both Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore out of the end zone. Still, Moore eclipsed 90 yards for the second consecutive week and paced the team with a healthy 11 targets. Both should be strong WR2 plays for the rest of the season. Mike Davis, meanwhile, got banged up in this game but fought through it and finished with around 13 fantasy points. It was his worst game since taking over this backfield, but Davis remains a top-10 play until Christian McCaffrey is back.

Miami Dolphins 24, New York Jets 0

Jordan Howard was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive week for the Dolphins, as Myles Gaskin continued to benefit. He touched the ball 22 times in this game for 126 yards and is now averaging 21 touches per game over the last two weeks, while seeing a massive jump in short-yardage work with Howard on the bench. Gaskin is a weekly RB2 until he proves otherwise.

Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed three first-half touchdowns in this game, got the Dolphins to one game back in the AFC East and has now been benched for Tua Tagovailoa. It is both interesting and exciting at the same time, but it is fair to question how the target distribution will look with Tua under center. Over the last year and change, Fitzpatrick has thrown into tight windows at one of the highest rates in the NFL.

The Jets are very bad.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38, Green Bay Packers 10

We’ll talk more about Rob Gronkowski in a minute, but he appears to be (somewhat) back. He led the Tampa Bay skill position players in offensive snaps Sunday afternoon, playing 85% of the snaps. Gronk didn’t look like he did during his prime but easily looked the best he’s looked all season.

Back to Gronk. He led the Bucs with eight targets, converting them into five catches for 78 yards and his first touchdown of the season. Again, he didn’t look as good as ever, but he looked a lot more spry in this game, while averaging a healthy 3.55 yards per route run, way up from his 1.48 mark for the entire season. He ran 22 pass routes to Cameron Brate’s 11 and after an ugly, ugly start, Gronkowski appears to be back in the mix as an every-week TE1 in fantasy.

While I’m not freaking out over Mike Evans, I am a bit worried. He caught just one of his two targets on Sunday and has now played three games alongside Chris Godwin this season. In those games, Evans has totaled 14 receiving yards and is sporting a target share of around 10%. It seems like Godwin is often the first read for Tom Brady and with Tampa Bay’s defense playing so well, their passing rate is down about 3% from last season. Here are a few receivers drafted after Evans that I’d prefer rest of season: Will Fuller, Stefon Diggs, DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Robert Woods.

San Francisco 49ers 24, Los Angeles Rams 16

After Week 5, Rams head coach Sean McVay stated that rookie running back Cam Akers would see a larger workload in Week 6. The lie detector determined that was a lie, as Akers logged just one offensive snap Sunday night and did not register a touch. For the time being, Darrell Henderson is the only member of this Rams backfield that you can even remotely trust in fantasy.

Raheem Mostert has looked fantastic whenever he’s been on the field. The problem is he’s struggled to stay on it. Mostert suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday night that limited him to just 35 snaps. He tried to come back into the game but couldn’t play through it and will now miss some time. It was very interesting to see the 49ers give Jamycal Hasty notable run, especially late in a competitive game. Jerick McKinnon still outsnapped him 23-15, but Hasty received eight of his nine carries in the fourth quarter to help close out the game. Tevin Coleman still isn’t ready to return and it appears that San Francisco is going to give Hasty a look. With insane lateral agility, Hasty is a great fit for this offense and warrants your attention.

Deebo Samuel is back, and I’m so happy. He’s played over 80% of the snaps in each of the last two weeks and saw nearly 19% of the targets in this game. Samuel hauled in all six of his looks for 66 yards and a touchdown and because all of his targets are so close to the line of scrimmage, he shouldn’t drop many passes. But the 49ers are so good at scheming ways to get Samuel in space, who now leads the league in yards after the catch per reception (12.5).

Tyler Higbee only ran one more pass route than Gerald Everett, as he continues to have a very low floor. The Rams are still relying on the run and setting up play-action, as Los Angeles is calling run 48.8% of the time, the fourth-highest rate in football. As a result, Higbee leads all tight ends in run-blocking snaps with 170, while ranking just 29th in routes run.

Kansas City Chiefs 26, Buffalo Bills 17

It was fair to worry about Clyde Edwards-Helaire after the Chiefs signed Le'Veon Bell, but CEH did everything he could to assure everyone that he is the lead back in Kansas City. He torched Buffalo for 161 rushing yards on 26 carries as the Chiefs offensive line created huge running lanes all night long. Still, 94 of his rushing yards came after contact as he dominated. Darrel Williams did score a touchdown in this game, while Clyde had another called back but he still played 49 of the 73 offensive snaps.

Arizona Cardinals 31, Dallas Cowboys 10

There had been concerns Kenyan Drake would lose his starting job entering this game but for the time being, that isn’t happening. Drake went off for 164 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against Dallas, though his garbage time 69-yard touchdown helped boost those numbers. Still, he outsnapped Chase Edmonds 42-23 and outcarried him 20-5. Drake also saw three red-zone carries, one from inside the 5-yard line, while Edmonds only saw one red-zone carry. I’d still lean toward selling high on Drake after this performance, however, as he continues to offer you nothing in the passing game.

Ezekiel Elliott is a fantastic buy-low in fantasy. Yes, he lost two more fumbles Monday night and lost playing time to Tony Pollard. But he still ran well in this game and Pollard isn’t suddenly taking his job or anything. And while the Cowboys offensive line has fallen off a cliff lately, that could benefit Zeke in the passing game, as Andy Dalton will have to check it down, especially since he won’t be running much. Elliott salvaged his night with eight catches on 11 targets.

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