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Backfield Report

Arrows Up on Rookie RBs Moss and Dobbins

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: November 5, 2020, 1:10 am ET

NFL depth charts are always changing, whether it’s due to injuries, coaching decisions, or performance-related issues. The running back position, in particular, can be tough to stay on top of throughout the season, as the vast majority of teams have gone with some sort of committee approach, featuring two and sometimes even three backs.

Below is a breakdown of each team’s backfield to help us determine offenses that are using a single workhorse, committees, and situations to avoid for fantasy. I’ll use this space each week to track the numbers and provide some thoughts.

All snap counts and touches are compiled from Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference. Opportunities refers to the running back’s combined carries and targets.

 

ARIZONA CARDINALS

 

 

Notes: The Cardinals are coming off their bye. Drake injured his ankle in the Week 7 win over the Seahawks and is dealing with a ligament issue. He’s expected to head to injured reserve, which would cost him at least three weeks. Chase Edmonds has been the top RB stash all fantasy season and now gets the green light to the No. 1 job after outperforming Drake on a per-touch basis all year. Edmonds is averaging a robust 6.1 yards per carry and will be an RB1 moving forward. Rookie Eno Benjamin will presumably be the backup while Drake is out.

 

ATLANTA FALCONS

 

 

Notes: Gurley’s getting the volume and seeing RB2 usage as a featured runner. But he’s coming off his fewest snaps (51%) since Week 1 after disappearing from the game plan for a period of time in the first half last Thursday night against Carolina. He slugged his way to 18 carries for 46 yards but again found the end zone for the eighth time on the ground. Touchdowns have been his saving grace in fantasy. Gurley is averaging a pitiful 2.56 YPC over the last three weeks, spanning 61 carries. He also wasn’t targeted in the pass game last week. Gurley just doesn’t have the juice anymore on his bad knee. Meanwhile, Hill played a season-high 36% of the snaps against the Panthers, turning 11 carries into 55 yards. Hill has settled in as Gurley’s top backup and may soon start seeing a bigger share of the workload.

 

BALTIMORE RAVENS

 

 

Notes: With Ingram (ankle) out Week 8 against the Steelers, Dobbins essentially absorbed his role and played by far a season-high 66% of the snaps, turning in 15-113 on the ground. His previous season best for carries in a game was nine. Edwards’ playing time remained the same, but he found pay dirt with 16-87-1 as a rusher. He’s totaled 30 carries over the last two games. This rushing attack would be so much more attractive if it were a two-man unit rather than a three-man rotation. When all three are seeing snaps, none are more than RB4 plays. But if Ingram misses more time with his ankle sprain, Edwards and Dobbins are very attractive RB2 plays in a run-heavy offense. Dobbins has a higher ceiling. The Colts are up next.

 

BUFFALO BILLS

 

 

Notes: In Moss’ third game back from his toe injury, he narrowly out-snapped Singletary 53% to 48% while both backs handled 14 carries and one target in the three-point win over the Patriots. But it was Moss who scored a pair of touchdowns and operated as the preferred red-zone and scoring-area back. Singletary looks like he’s going to have to score on long touchdowns to see the end zone. Moss looks like the preferred RB2/3 between the two at the moment.

 

CAROLINA PANTHERS

 

 

Notes: Davis was a weekly RB1 in his month and a half of starter’s action, but Christian McCaffrey (ankle) is expected back from I.R. this week to face the Chiefs. In his lone healthy game this season, CMC handled 26 touches against the Raiders in Week 1. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to assume that heavy workload right out of the gates again, but the expectation is McCaffrey will be there in very short order. Davis is merely a bench stash moving forward.

 

CHICAGO BEARS

 

 

Notes: Montgomery has played 85%, 81%, 85%, 83%, and 84% of the snaps in the five games since Tarik Cohen tore his ACL, seeing 29 targets in that span. The bad news is Montgomery has failed to produce anything of note in the box score with a combined 74-251-1 (3.39 YPC) rushing line across those contests with 21-136-0 receiving. At this point, it’s hard to expect much more out of him; he’s shown time and again he can’t make defenders miss. Lamar Miller remains on the practice squad, and coach Matt Nagy suggested he’s getting close. Montgomery simply isn’t getting the job done. Miller deserves a shot. It can’t get any worse.

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS

 

 

Notes: Mixon has missed the last two games with a foot injury. In his absence, Bernard played 76% and 64% of the snaps, totaling 174 yards and three touchdowns on 37 combined carries and targets. Look for Mixon to return following the Bengals’ Week 9 bye.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS

 

  • Kareem Hunt (56%, 140 opportunities)
  • D’Ernest Johnson (14%, 32)

 

Notes: Hunt has played a truly elite 90% and 86% of the Browns’ offensive snaps over the last two weeks, but he couldn’t get anything going in a molasses-slow game environment last week against the Raiders when the Browns fired off just 47 offensive plays. The Browns have a Week 9 bye, and Nick Chubb (knee, I.R.) is reportedly eyeing a return following the open date.

 

DALLAS COWBOYS

 

 

Notes: In the first two games without Dak Prescott, Elliott played season-low 61% and 66% snap rates, posting empty 12-49 and 12-45 rushing lines in a pair of blowout losses. His snap share was back up to 78% last week, which is still below his early-year norm, but he still did nothing in the box score with a 19-63 effort. He saw 10 targets in Week 6, catching eight, but Zeke has been targeted just four times total over the last two contests. Elliott is the overall RB46 across Weeks 6-8. He’s going to be very TD-dependent running behind an injury-ruined offensive line and facing stacked defensive fronts. Either Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush will start Week 9 against the Steelers. It’ll be Dallas’ third QB since Prescott’s injury.

 

DENVER BRONCOS

 

 

Notes: Gordon and Lindsay were both healthy for the entirety of last week’s comeback win over the Chargers. Gordon out-snapped Lindsay 55% to 45% and out-carried him 8-6 while also seeing seven targets to Lindsay’s three. Lindsay, however, ripped off a 55-yard touchdown run and 27-yarder to set up a DaeSean Hamilton score on the next play. It was evident Lindsay has more juice in his legs, but Gordon’s role as the targets leader gives him a safer floor. Both are startable this week in a soft matchup with the Falcons in a dome environment.

 

DETROIT LIONS

 

 

Notes: In the Week 8 blowout loss at the hands of the Colts, both Peterson (20%) and Johnson (18%) played season-low snap rates while Swift was in on a season-best 62% of the plays. Peterson also handled a season-low five carries, turning them into seven yards. Swift did nothing with his six carries, gaining one yard, but he’s set season-bests in snap rates each of the last two weeks. The Lions may slowly be moving toward a Swift-led backfield, but as long as there’s three eating up playing time, Swift’s floor will remain scary-low.

 

GREEN BAY PACKERS

 

 

Notes: Jones is one of the most efficient running backs in the league. While he splits snaps with Williams, he still gets insane usage and scores at an incredible clip. With Jones out the last two weeks with a calf strain, Williams has played 89% and 85% of the snaps and handled 23 and 22 touches. With Williams and rookie RB AJ Dillon now on the COVID-19 list, Jones is expected to return this week against the 49ers and handle a significant snap load as an RB1.

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HOUSTON TEXANS

 

 

Notes: The Texans are coming off their bye week. David is seeing RB2 usage but isn’t quite seeing workhorse action with Duke cutting into his pass-game work. Interim coach Romeo Crennel suggested Duke could play even more moving forward, but that hasn’t been the case at all two games into Crennel’s tenure. Houston now gets a cake date with the Jaguars.

 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

 

 

Notes: After touching the ball 28 times in Week 2, the first game without Marlon Mack (Achilles’), Taylor has averaged just 15 touches over the last five weeks. And in Week 8 against the Lions, Taylor (34% of the snaps, 13 touches) took a back seat to Wilkins (51%, 21) while both Wilkins and Hines combined for three touchdowns. Taylor has been a pretty big disappointment over the last month-plus and now may find himself in a three-man RBBC. Taylor is battling a bit of an ankle issue and can’t be trusted as anything more than an RB3.

 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

 

 

Notes: The Jaguars are coming out of their bye week. With Chris Thompson going to the COVID list ahead of Week 7, Robinson played a season-high 90% of the snaps and handled a season-best 26 touches against the Chargers, scoring on the ground and via the air. Dominating the playing time, Robinson is a weekly RB1, even on a bad team with Jake Luton now at QB.

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

 

 

Notes: In Bell’s two games with the Chiefs, CEH has set season-lows in playing time (53%, 50%) and carries (8, 6). Bell has played 33% and 26% of the downs, eliminating Darrel Williams from the offense. Expect CEH to remain the lead back, but Bell is going to make the gap closer than Williams ever did. CEH is more of an RB2 now moving forward. Bell is an RB3/FLEX.

 

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

 

 

Notes: In the Raiders’ blowout Week 7 loss to the Bucs, Jacobs set season-lows in snap rate (49%) and carries (10), and that’s the concern with his week-to-week consistency. However, last week the Raiders dominated the Browns with a ball-control game plan around Jacobs handling a season-high 31 carries. When the Raiders are losing, Jacobs doesn’t see the field as much. He needs the Raiders to be leading or within one score to realize his RB1 upside. Jacobs gets a Week 9 date with the 2-5 Chargers. The game has a 53-point total and pick’em spread.

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

 

 

Notes: In the first game without Austin Ekeler (hamstring, IR) in Week 5, it was Jackson who played 59% of the snaps to Kelley’s 35% clip and out-touched the rookie 20-12 while seeing six targets to Kelley’s one. Jackson looked like the far superior player against the Saints. After the Chargers’ bye, it was Kelley who played 47% of the snaps against Jacksonville in Week 7. Jackson was in on 38% of the plays. The script flipped back to Jackson in Week 8, playing 47% of the downs and handling 20 touches. He’s been targeted 17 times over the last three games. Kelley (24%), meanwhile, played behind even Troymaine Pope (29%), and coach Anthony Lynn said he thinks Kelley is playing timid after some fumble issues. Jackson is the back to have.

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

 

 

Notes: Henderson played a season-high 53% and 56% of the snaps Weeks 6-7, but he left Week 8 early after 18 snaps with a thigh injury. The Rams had settled on a one-two combo of Henderson and Brown with second-rounder Akers merely insurance. With the Rams now on their bye, coach Sean McVay said he doesn’t expect Henderson to miss any time. Henderson is a high-end RB2 in the NFC’s run-heaviest offense. Brown is the steady veteran while Akers is mere insurance as the No. 3 back. Akers saw his first nine carries since Week 5 last week.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

 

 

Notes: Gaskin played a season-high 88% of the snaps in Tua Tagovailoa’s debut start last week against the Rams but now has a sprained MCL that is expected to land him on I.R., costing him a minimum of three weeks. Breida missed practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury. The Dolphins traded for DeAndre Washington at the Tuesday deadline and could be forced to go with some combo of Jordan Howard and Patrick Laird this week in Arizona.

 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

 

 

Notes: Making his return from a groin injury, Cook played a season-high 88% of the snaps and handled 30 carries against the Packers in an upset win at Lambeau. Cook accounted for all four Vikings touchdowns and is a premier RB1 moving forward alongside Alvin Kamara.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

 

 

Notes: Sony Michel remains on I.R. In the Week 8 narrow loss to the Bills, White (49%) paced the backfield in playing time while Harris (31%) was the clear preference on early downs with a 16-102-1 rushing line. Burkhead played 45% of the snaps. This three-man RBBC is one to avoid for most fantasy lineup decisions. But Harris is a safer RB2 when we can project a Patriots win.

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

 

 

Notes: Kamara is averaging just 12.4 carries per game but is on pace for a career-high 151 targets and 126 catches. The catches would set a single-season record for running backs. He’s seen at least eight targets in all but one game. Murray is seeing enough (10.1 carries per game) to eat into Kamara’s rushing work. Kamara remains an elite RB1 with at least 100 yards in six straight contests. Murray is a top-end RB4 with RB1 upside if Kamara goes down.

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

 

 

Notes: After playing 73% of the snaps in a 20-19 win over Washington in a game the Giants controlled, Freeman was hurt in Week 7 and missed Week 8 against the Bucs. He was averaging 20 combined carries and targets in his three weeks since taking over as the lead back. Freeman is averaging a disgusting 3.2 YPC, but the usage was there as an RB2. Freeman didn’t practice Wednesday. In his absence last week, Gallman and Alfred Morris split early-down work 2:1 while Dion Lewis was the pass game-only option. Gallman is the best bet of the bunch for fantasy production for Week 9 against Washington if Freeman sits again.

 

NEW YORK JETS

 

 

Notes: This offense is putrid. But Perine did play a season-high 70% of the snaps in a competitive Week 7 loss to the Bills, turning 13 touches into 55 yards and one touchdown. Gore played just 28% of the downs. The split was tighter in Week 8 with both backs handling 10 combined carries and targets each. The Jets just will not go away from Gore enough to make Perine usable in fantasy. Treat the rookie as a low-floor RB3/FLEX this week vs. New England.

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

 

 

Notes: Sanders has missed the last two games with a knee injury and now gets the Week 9 bye to rest up. When healthy, he’s an elite RB1 on a dominant snap rate. In his two games missed, Scott handled 65% and 69% of the snaps, seeing 12 and 15 carries. He’s Sanders’ backup.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

 

 

Notes: The Steelers’ bellcow, Conner is an every-week RB1. He’s seen at least 15 carries in six straight games and has scored in five of those six contests.

 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

 

 

Notes: Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson are now both on I.R. with sprained ankles. Tevin Coleman (knee) returned last week only to get hurt again after six snaps. Hasty handled 13 combined carries and targets to McKinnon’s seven. Hasty projects as the lead back on early downs with McKinnon splitting snaps and handling third-down, hurry-up, and two-minute work. Hasty should be added in all formats, but this offense has been ravaged by injuries all over.

 

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

 

 

Notes: Carson, Hyde, and Homer were all injured last week. Carson and Hyde were inactive, and Homer was in on seven snaps as an emergency breather back to rookie DeeJay Dallas. The rookie played 79% of the snaps and handled 23 touches after combining for six touches Weeks 1-7. Carson has the best shot at returning this week between him and Hyde.

 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

 

 

Notes: Jones fumbled in the second quarter last Monday night and was benched, playing just 24% of the snaps to Fournette’s 73% share. Fournette now has the early-down and pass-game edges over Jones, setting himself up for RB1 usage if he’s able to fend off Jones.

 

TENNESSEE TITANS

 

 

Notes: Henry has one of the safest workloads in football, dominating the Titans’ snaps and touches. He leads the league in rushing attempts and yards. Henry has scored eight times on the ground over the last five weeks. He’s a top-three RB1 every week.

 

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

 

 

Notes: Washington is coming off its bye. Gibson set a season-high with 20 carries for 128 yards and one touchdown in Washington’s blowout win over the Cowboys in Week 7. McKissic is still leading the backfield in snap share and receiving production, but at least the WFT has eliminated Peyton Barber from the game plan and settled on a duo of Gibson and McKissic. Gibson is a solid upside RB2 with a cake Week 9 home date against the Giants on deck.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for Rotoworld since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.