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Backfield Report

Dalvin Cook on Fire for the Vikings

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: November 12, 2020, 9:29 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: Drake injured his ankle in the Week 7 win over the Seahawks and is dealing with a ligament issue. Chase Edmonds had been the top RB stash all fantasy season and played 96% of the Cardinals’ snaps in the Week 9 loss to the Dolphins, recording 28 touches. Unfortunately, he managed just 88 scoreless yards on those touches. The workload and snap rate, however, was truly elite. Drake remains out of practice. Edmonds will be a top-five play against Buffalo this week, assuming Drake remains sidelined with his ankle issue.

 

ATLANTA FALCONS

 

 

Notes: Gurley’s getting the volume and seeing RB2 usage as a featured runner, but per-carry efficiency hasn’t at all been his thing. On 80 carries over the last four games, Gurley is averaging a horrendous 2.61 yards per rush. He’s making up for it with touchdowns, as Gurley leads the league with 41 red-zone carries and has nine touchdowns in nine games. He also has 20-or-fewer receiving yards in all but one game, so that’s also different from his Rams days. We know what we’re getting from Gurley at this point. Hill is Gurley’s insurance as the backup.

 

BALTIMORE RAVENS

 

 

Notes: Ingram has missed the last two games with a sprained ankle. In his absence, Dobbins has played 66% and 56% snap rates while Edwards has remained steady at 32% and 38%. Dobbins has essentially absorbed Ingram’s role, but it’s been Edwards who has scored in three straight games as the preferred goal-line back. Dobbins averaged 15 touches per game in the two without Ingram. That’s about all we can hope for as an RB3. Edwards is a TD-dependent option. When all three are healthy, none are more than RB4 plays.

 

BUFFALO BILLS

 

 

Notes: Moss has out-snapped Singletary in back-to-back games, and the rookie saw 11 combined carries and targets to Singletary’s three last week in a pass-happy game plan against the Seahawks. Moss also has the edge over Singletary in the red zone and scoring area, but both are behind Josh Allen for goal-line looks. Both should be treated as RB3/4 types.

 

CAROLINA PANTHERS

 

 

Notes: In McCaffrey’s first game back from a high-ankle sprain last week, he played 71% of the snaps and handled a robust 28 touches. There was pregame talk of a CMC-Davis split against the Chiefs, but McCaffrey played close to his normal rate and got his customary touches. CMC has handled at least 22 touches in all three games he’s played in this season but is now back on the shelf with a shoulder injury he suffered late against the Chiefs. Davis should be back in his 85%-plus snap share as an RB1 this week in a tough draw against the Bucs.

 

CHICAGO BEARS

 

 

Notes: Montgomery suffered a concussion in eek 9 against the Titans. Patterson (22%) and Nall (13%) played above their season norms in Montgomery’s absence. Patterson handled just three carries, and Nall secured all four of his targets in the pass game and caught a touchdown. If Montgomery is forced to miss any action, Lamar Miller would make the most sense to call up from the practice squad. Montgomery has been extremely underwhelming with his elite workload and snap share since Tarik Cohen’s torn ACL. He’s a volume-driven RB2 if healthy.

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS

 

 

Notes: The Bengals are coming off their bye week. 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. Mixon didn’t practice Wednesday.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS

 

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

 

Notes: The Browns are coming off their bye. Hunt has played a truly elite 90% and 86% of the Browns’ offensive snaps over the last two games, but he couldn’t get anything going in a molasses-slow game environment in Week 8 against the Raiders when the Browns fired off just 47 offensive plays. Nick Chubb (knee, I.R.) is reportedly eyeing a return for Week 10, which would send both he and Hunt back to RB2 status in a run-heavy offense.

 

DALLAS COWBOYS

 

 

Notes: In four games without Dak Prescott, Elliott has posted empty 12-49, 12-45, 19-63, and 18-51 rushing lines. And after seeing 10 targets in Week 6, Elliott has totaled just seven targets over the last three weeks. He’s the overall RB46 in that four-week span and has devolved into a low-floor RB3 in one of the league’s worst offenses. At least Andy Dalton (concussion) should be back after the bye, but Elliott’s snap share has been way down post-Dak while Pollard’s averaged 10.75 touches in that same span. Elliott is going to be very TD-dependent.

 

DENVER BRONCOS

 

 

Notes: Gordon out-snapped Lindsay 60% to 38% in Week 9 against the Falcons, but Lindsay out-carried (8) and out-targeted (3) Gordon (6, 1) in the loss. Gordon should still be considered the back to have in Denver as a low-end RB2 while Lindsay is a borderline RB3/4.

 

DETROIT LIONS

 

 

Notes: The Lions employed about as even a three-man RBBC as we’ve seen from them all season last week in the loss to the Vikings. Johnson played a season-high 33% of the snaps, seeing his most carries (4) since Week 2 and setting a season-best with three targets. Peterson was in on 27% of the snaps and drew eight carries and an abnormal five targets. Swift, after playing 62% of the snaps in Week 8, dropped back down to 40% but led the backfield with 18 combined carries and targets, totaling 99 yards. Swift is the only fantasy-viable option here.

 

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. In his first game back after missing two with a calf injury, Jones played 61% of the snaps with Williams out on the COVID list. Jones handled 20 touches against the Niners while Tyler Ervin touched the ball 12 times on 33% of the snaps. Williams is back for Week 10. Jones and Williams will form a 55:45 split.

 

HOUSTON TEXANS

 

 

Notes: David suffered a concussion after just three touches in Week 9 against the Jaguars. In his absence, Duke handled 20 touches and was in on 81% of the plays. If David needs to miss game action, Duke will be an immediate RB2 in a #revenge game against the Browns. But when David has been healthy, he’s commanded workhorse RB2 snaps and touches.

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

 

 

Notes: Taylor has set new season-lows in playing time each of the last two weeks (34%, 31%) and handled just seven combined carries and targets in Week 9 against the Ravens. He again took a back seat to Wilkins, who handled 13 touches. Wilkins has taken over as the leader of this three-man RBBC, rendering none of them as anything more than RB3 plays.

 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

 

 

Notes: Robinson has averaged 25.5 touches over the last two games and is an every-week RB1 with four touchdowns over his last three games. He’s seeing elite usage.

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

 

 

Notes: In Bell’s three games with the Chiefs, CEH has set season-lows in playing time (53%, 50%, 40%) and carries (8, 6, 5) in consecutive weeks. Bell has played 33%, 26%, and 31% of the downs. Williams played 29% of the snaps in Week 9, forming a dreaded three-man RBBC. Expect CEH to remain the lead back by default, but his workload has taken a significant hit, sending the rookie to RB2/3 status. Bell is toast, and Williams is just in for pass-blocking.

 

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

 

 

Notes: Jacobs played through a knee issue and illness last week against the Chargers, and his 56% snap rate was the second-lowest of the season despite the Raiders controlling the game with a lead. Booker’s eight carries and 23% playing time were season-highs for him. Both scored touchdowns against L.A. Jacobs is an every-week RB1 ahead of easy matchups. Booker has established himself as the Raiders’ RB2 to have in case of a Jacobs injury.

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

 

 

Notes: Austin Ekeler (hamstring) remains on injured reserve. Jackson was expected to lead this backfield last week against the Raiders, but he exited on the opening drive with a knee issue, playing just 4% of the downs. Kelley’s 54% snap rate was his second-highest of the season, and Kalen Ballage was promoted from the practice squad to handle 39% of the downs and lead the team in rushing with 15-69-1 and 2-15 receiving on three targets. Jackson isn’t expected to practice this week. Troymaine Pope should be back from his concussion, however. This backfield is a weekly nightmare to figure out and gets a tough Week 10 date at Miami.

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

 

 

Notes: The Rams are coming off their bye. 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. 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 time out.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

 

 

Notes: Every-down back Myles Gaskin (knee) is on I.R. and missed his first game last week against Arizona. In his absence with Breida also out with a hamstring injury, Howard was active for the first time since Week 4 and went 10-19-1 on 34% of the reps. Ahmed handled seven carries on 46% of the snaps. Breida is expected back for Week 10 against the Chargers. He should be in line for over a dozen touches as the leader of his committee.

 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

 

 

Notes: Cook has been the best football player on the planet the last two weeks, totaling 52-369-5 on the ground with 4-109-1 in the pass game against the Packers and Lions. He’s the best fantasy back going right now as the overall RB1 and rushing yards leader.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

 

 

Notes: Sony Michel is expected back from I.R. as soon as Week 10. In the Week 9 win over the Jets, Burkhead (15) narrowly out-touched Harris (14), and Burkhead scored his first touchdown since Week 4. Harris offers nothing in the pass game and will likely lose his lead-back gig on early downs to Michel, or they’ll split things. There are too many bodies in this backfield.

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

 

 

Notes: Kamara is averaging just 12 carries per game but is on pace for a career-high 144 targets and 120 catches. He’s seen at least eight targets in all but two games, and one of those was the Week 9 blowout over the Bucs. Murray is seeing enough (10 carries per game) to eat into Kamara’s rushing work. Kamara remains a top-two RB1. 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 Weeks 8 and 9. 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. Gallman has been the lead back in Freeman’s absence, handling 13 and 15 touches and scoring both weeks. Gallman is the best bet for fantasy production if Freeman has to miss again in Week 10.

 

NEW YORK JETS

 

 

Notes: The Jets are now headed into their bye. Perine is expected to take over lead-back duties for an 0-9 team after the open date after Gore out-touched the rookie 12-6 in Week 9. This offense is so bad, however, that Perine is still just an RB3/4 until we see less of Gore.

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

 

 

Notes: The Eagles are coming off their bye. Sanders has missed the last two games with a knee injury but is expected to be back Week 10 against the Giants. 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. But he’s coming off a 46% snap rate against Dallas in Week 9 where he handled just 11 touches. The Steelers surprisingly trailed for much of that game before eventually coming out on top in the fourth quarter. Conner is in a major rebound Week 10 spot at home against the Bengals.

 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

 

 

Notes: Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson are both on I.R. with sprained ankles. Tevin Coleman (knee) returned in Week 8 only to get hurt again after six snaps. Without all three, McKinnon (74%, 16) and Hasty (26%, 6) handled the work against the Packers last week. Coleman’s Week 10 status is up in the air. McKinnon would be the one to play against the Saints.

 

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

 

 

Notes: Carson, Hyde, and Homer were all injured in Week 8, allowing Dallas to soak up 79% of the snaps. Carson and Hyde were both out again in Week 9, but Homer returned to play 48% to Dallas’ 31% rate. Carson and Hyde should be back as soon as Week 10 to top this backfield.

 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

 

 

Notes: Jones fumbled in the second quarter in Week 8 and was benched, playing just 24% of the snaps to Fournette’s 73% share. Fournette again vastly out-snapped Jones 66% to 32% in Week 9’s blowout loss to the Saints, though neither back did anything in the box score. Still, it looks like Fournette is the clear lead back and one to have in fantasy for the Bucs as an RB2.

 

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. Henry has scored eight times on the ground over the last six weeks. He’s a top-three RB1 every week.

 

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

 

 

Notes: McKissic played a season-high 83% of the snaps last week and leads all running backs in routes run from the backfield. Gibson saw a season-low six carries in the loss to the Giants and suffered a shoulder injury in the process, keeping him out of practice Wednesday. McKissic would have some fantasy appeal if Gibson can’t go against the Lions.

Nick Mensio

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