Data is king and a driving force in the popularity of fantasy football. Since data-driven information is what most fantasy players crave, there is a tremendous amount of data provided to fantasy consumers each day. That being said, sometimes to become the best you have to look beyond the box score to identify and anticipate happenings. Below I identify specific teams and players trending in the target and snap world. These could be opportunities for waiver claims, trade targets and or helpful notes about players on your current roster or bench.
Breaking down the 49ers’ receiver shares
If you follow the 49ers closely, you know about the growing legend of Debo Samuel. Those who cover the team frequently mentioned his outstanding play throughout camp but Samuel was still listed behind Dante Pettis and Goodwin on the official depth chart heading into Week 1. Enter Week 2, where the rookie led the 49ers in targets (seven), receptions (five) and yards (87) in a win over the Bengals. Samuel also scored his first NFL touchdown and added two rushing attempts for seven yards. Sometimes in fantasy football, snaps and targets can be misleading, especially snaps. A WR may be an excellent blocker against the run but never see a target.
Week 1 WR snaps and PPR points:
Deebo Samuel: 88% / 6.7 points
Marquis Goodwin: 74% / 1.7 points
Richie James: 38% / 13.9 points
Kendrick Bourne: 25% / 1.9 points
Dante Pettis: 3% / 1.7 points
Week 2 WR snaps and PPR points:
Marquise Goodwin: 51% / 16.7 points
Dante Pettis: 49% / 0.8 points
Richie James: 46% / 1.7 points
Deebo Samuel: 40% / 20.4 points
Kendrick Bourne: 32% / 1.4 points
Summary: Snaps don’t always equate to fantasy production. For example, Samuel’s snaps went down in Week 2, yet he dominated in most statistical categories and fantasy points. If you drafted Pettis early, time to limit expectations and bench him until he proves you wrong. Samuel and Goodwin are the 49ers’ wide receivers to own especially while Trent Taylor works his way back from injury. In my opinion, Samuel has a chance to be a fantasy stud at the WR position.
The new No. 2 wide receiver in Pittsburgh
In many sophisticated high-stakes drafts this summer, the trend among Steelers’ wide receivers was that Donte Moncrief was going very high, even surpassing James Washington in most drafts. There was chatter of Ben Roethlisberger and Moncrief developing strong chemistry and that they would eventually hit it off on the field. Also, with the anticipation that JuJu Smith-Schuster would be facing double coverage, the secondary Pittsburgh wide receiver was primed for many opportunities.
Meanwhile, Washington grinded his way to an eye-opening preseason: 10 receptions for 208 yards and two TDs. Fast forward to Week 3. Big Ben is down for the count and second-year Oklahoma State Cowboy Mason Rudolph is taking over as the Steelers’ starting quarterback. Targets can also be misleading and sometimes fantasy owners need to look into snaps to identify hidden gems, such as the case in Pittsburgh. Based on targets, Washington doesn’t scream “pick me up” or “trade for me.” Through two weeks of play, the rookie has seen nine targets and caught four receptions for 74 yards. But when we look closer at the data, we can see that Washington is on the rise, especially with his former college quarterback starting as the new signal-caller in Pittsburgh.
Week 1 Pittsburgh WR snaps:
Ju Ju Smith-Schuster: 90%
Donte Moncrief: 90%
Ryan Switzer: 67%
James Washington: 52%
Diontae Johnson: 36%
Week 2 Pittsburgh WR snaps:
Ju Ju Smith-Schuster: 82%
James Washington: 60%
Diontae Johnson: 47%
Donte Moncrief: 32%
Ryan Switzer: 23%
Summary: Don't be lazy and assume that all the snap and target data you read about is the be-all-end-all. Take the time to look under the hood to uncover the most valuable players. If you drafted Washington, take comfort knowing that he should emerge over the upcoming weeks. According to the data, Johnson is third in the pecking order to invest in for fantasy. Moncrief saw his snaps deteriorate and he has more drops than receptions this season. He is safe to either bench or drop with Roethlisberger out of the picture.
A steal in the dessert
Don't look now, but those who invested modest draft picks in Arizona players are off to a hot start in fantasy. Through two games, rookie Kyler Murray has 95 pass attempts and 657 passing yards. Needless to say, the Cardinals are chucking the rock. Larry Fitzgerlad and Christian Kirk are the only WR duo besides the Bengals’ Tyler Boyd and John Ross to have 20-plus targets each after two weeks.
Week 1 Arizona WR snaps:
Larry Fitzgerald: 96%
Christian Kirk: 93%
Damiere Byrd: 88%
KeeSean Johnson: 76%
Week 2 Arizona WR snaps:
Larry Fitzgerald: 95%
Christian Kirk: 93%
Damiere Byrd: 93%
Michael Crabtree: 32%
Summary: Cardinal wide receivers were a steal in season-long drafts based on the pure volume they receive each game. Fitzgerald and Kirk are not the sexy names at WR, but the statistics say they are supermodel fantasy values thus far. Damiere Byrd is a nice insurance play if you roster Fitz or Kirk, and expect Crabtree to become more involved as well.
The disappointing Bears RBs
After the way the Bears’ offense finished the 2018 campaign, there were many fantasy players looking for big things from the Chicago backfield. Trey Burton and Anothy Miller were out for most of camp and preseason. Thus far, the Bears’ offense (and especially QB Mitchell Tribirsky) have looked dismal and unprepared. David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis make up one of the deepest and most diverse RB committees in the NFL. Let's look into their numbers through two games.
Week 1 Chicago RB snaps:
Tarik Cohen: 70%
Mike Davis: 56%
David Montgomery: 38%
Week 2 Chicago RB opportunities (carries plus targets):
David Montgomery: 21
Tarik Cohen: 9
Mike Davis: 3
Summary: Prior to their Week 2 victory over the Broncos, head coach Matt Nagy told local media that Montgomery would be eased into the role of a workhorse RB for the Bears. If you look at the increase in usage of Montgomery from Week 1 to Week 2, that workhorse role could be coming sooner than later. There is a lot of pressure on the Bears to win now, and Nagy will be leaning on Montgomery and Cohen to help get the offense up to speed. Cohen currently has 15 targets. Only Christian Mccaffery, Chris Thompson and Le'veon Bell have more targets at the running back position through two weeks. Don't hesitate to play both Montgomery and Cohen in your Week 3 matchup as the Bears take on the lousy Redskins.
Getting closer to a split in Seattle
You can count on the Seahawks to run the ball. Many fantasy players used a high pick on Seattle RB Chris Carson and took a mid-round flyer pick on RB Rashaad Penny due to his upside. Prior to the Jadaveon Clowney trade, there were rumors of Penny for Clowney circulating. Some experts were picking Penny based on a potential trade to the Texans. In my opinion, there are glaring numbers below that fantasy players should anticipate. Chris Carson had a costly fumble in Week 2 against Pittsburgh, which opened the door for Penny to get more touches.
Week 1 Seattle RB opportunities (carries plus targets):
Chris Carson 22
Rashaad Penny 6
Week 2 Seattle RB opportunities (carries plus targets):
Chris Carson 18
Rashaad Penny 11
Summary: Carson is a big, tall and upright runner, while also powerful. Carson’s frame increases the chances of a potential injury and lost fumbles. With Seattle’s timeshare in the backfield, I would recommend picking up or trading for Penny while the price is right. It's a long season and if Penny had full scratch at RB due to injury, he could put up monster numbers. His Week 2 37-yard TD run is a foreshadowing of his potential and things to come in the future.