The NFL now makes snap counts available to anybody prepared to download the game book at the end of each contest, but all they tell you is the number of snaps a player was on the field. In terms of using them to understand what a player is actually doing, that's next to useless. At Pro FootballFocus.com we have been keeping our own snap data for years, and we can go a lot deeper than that.
We keep a log of not only which snaps players were in on, but also what they did on those snaps and where they lined up. This is vital when you are trying to draw conclusions from a player's time on the field and how he is being used by his team.
Let's take a closer look at a few big stories around the league relating to snap counts and see if we can come to some more informed conclusions.
Much was made of Welker's low snap count in Week 1, the first week the NFL made this data freely available. That week he played just 63 percent of the team's snaps, so a whirlwind of stories began to circulate about whether he was being phased out of the offense in favor of Julian Edelman. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels claimed that the figure was a product of a game-specific plan that featured Welker less, and that seems a plausible explanation. Nine of those missed snaps came in run-heavy personnel packages that he would never have been a feature of, and since that game his playing time has increased to 76 percent and then 82 percent in successive weeks.