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Backfield Report

Week 3 Backfield Report

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: October 14, 2020, 4:39 pm 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.

With two weeks under our belts, we now have some data to help clear some things up for us after an offseason of no preseason games and a Week 2 that saw the running back position decimated by injuries. 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 has one of the most secure workloads at the running back position and plays in an offense that has fired off 151 plays over the first two weeks. Only the Bengals have run more plays than Arizona. Drake’s counting stats leave a bit to be desired, but his schedule lightens up significantly with the Lions, Panthers, and Jets on tap Weeks 3-5. Drake is someone I’d actively be looking to buy at a depressed cost before he blows up. Edmonds has a nice little role of his own in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. The Cardinals are getting him targets out of the slot, and he was targeted on an end-zone shot last week against Washington. He’s a standalone FLEX who would be a top-10 fantasy back in the event Drake ever gets hurt.

 

ATLANTA FALCONS

 

 

Notes: Gurley saw his snap rate climb from 48% in Week 1 to 64% last week in Dallas. Atlanta was cruising along against the Cowboys, jumping out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter, before blowing the game late in the fourth frame. Playing with a lead will always help Gurley, but his lack of pass-game involvement is a concern for the safety of his floor. He has just two catches for one yard on five targets. Ito Smith also attempted to vulture Gurley on a goal-line carry last week but was blown up for a loss on the play. Gurley is a fine RB2 playing in an offense that is going to put a ton of points on the board, but he’s not the engine of it like he was in L.A.

 

BALTIMORE RAVENS

 

 

Notes: After Dobbins scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in his Week 1 debut, he saw just two carries against the Texans. Ingram took a direct snap 30 yards to the house against Houston. With all three backs playing significant enough snaps to get in each other’s way and Lamar Jackson also getting his fair share of rushing opportunities, picking a leader of this backfield each week will be difficult. It’s a good problem to have for OC Greg Roman but a nightmare for fantasy because this rushing offense is so good but also so spread out. Ingram is probably the back to own right now but Dobbins has the talent to pass him over the course of the season. This backfield gets the Chiefs, Washington, and Bengals over the next three weeks.

 

BUFFALO BILLS

 

 

Notes: Singletary has a pretty nice lead on the snap share through two weeks, playing at least 56% of the downs each of the first two contests, but he’s not getting many looks close to the end zone. Moss popped up on the injury report Wednesday, missing practice with a toe issue. If Moss were to miss Week 3 against the Rams, Singletary would be a candidate for 18-plus touches. Moss is getting more chances near the end zone, but the Bills’ true goal-line runner is Josh Allen. Singletary is the preferred between-the-20s back in Buffalo as a solid RB2/3.

 

CAROLINA PANTHERS

 

 

Notes: McCaffrey is going to be sidelined for a minimum of three weeks on I.R. after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the Week 2 loss to the Bucs. Davis stepped in and handled every backfield snap and touch in his absence following the injury. Davis isn’t nearly the playmaker McCaffrey is, and it’s not even close, but this coaching staff seems to believe in him as its starter now. Davis was targeted eight times last week against the Bucs and caught all eight for 74 yards. There’s a very real chance Davis messes around and gets 20 touches against the Chargers in Week 3. Reggie Bonnafon will likely be promoted from the practice squad as depth.

 

CHICAGO BEARS

 

 

Notes: The engine of the offense in the Week 2, Montgomery led the Bears in rushing and receiving against the Giants, scoring a 28-yard receiving touchdown on a little flipper from Mitchell Trubisky where Montgomery did all the work to create the score. Montgomery is very game script-dependent, but he has one of the most secure holds on early-down work among running backs. Cohen is one of the least efficient players in football, and Patterson is a converted wideout trying his hand at running back here and there. As long as the Bears are able to keep it close in Atlanta this week, Montgomery should again flirt with 18 touches as an RB2.

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CINCINNATI BENGALS

 

 

Notes: As my colleague Hayden Winks notes, Mixon has major leading-trailing splits. He gets 50% of the touches when the Bengals are ahead, as opposed to 18% when behind. It’s a bit disappointing to see him come off the field so much after he played heavy snaps over the second half of last season, but it’s not like Bernard is stealing significant touches. Mixon has just one carry inside the 10-yard line to this point and is averaging 3.3 yards per tote. Better days are ahead for Mixon with dates against the Eagles and Jaguars on deck Weeks 3-4. He’s a top-10 back the rest of the way with the running pack position decimated by injuries.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS

 

 

Notes: Chubb would’ve absolutely wrecked the box score even more than he did last week in the Thursday night win over the Bengals if not for the presence of Hunt. This backfield looks like a pretty even two-horse show, and both popped off in Week 2. Chubb has the edge in the carries department, but Hunt has also seen double-digit rushing attempts in both games while out-targeting Chubb 8-2 in the pass game. Both backs scored twice last week. Coach Kevin Stefanski likes to feature both and ideally prefers to run his offense through his running backs. Both Hunt and Chubb should be treated as top-24 plays week in and week out. Chubb has out-carried Hunt 5-2 inside the 10-yard line to this point.

 

DALLAS COWBOYS

 

 

Notes: With all of the injuries at running back in Week 2, there’s an argument Elliott is fantasy’s top running back moving forward the rest of the way. He leads the league in inside-the-10 carries with nine and could have had a HUGE game against the Falcons if he hadn’t been vultured by Dak Prescott for three short touchdown runs. Elliott still got one of his own and had another taken off the board on review before Prescott stole it the next play. Elliott’s 11 targets in the passing game has been a wonderful sight and raises his floor even more. Zeke gets the Seahawks, Browns, and Giants over the next three weeks. Pollard remains elite RB insurance.

 

DENVER BRONCOS

 

 

Notes: With Lindsay out, Gordon played 79% of the snaps in the Week 2 loss to the Steelers, handling 22-of-25 backfield touches. It was obviously a brutal matchup, but Gordon was able to find the end zone late with a 16-yard touchdown catch from Jeff Driskel. Lindsay is expected to miss at least one more game with his turf toe injury, but Gordon catches another tough draw against the Bucs and will be playing with a quarterback in Driskel who won’t scare the defense. Bucs DC Todd Bowles can jam up the box and sell out to stop Gordon. The volume should still be there, however, and Gordon is unlikely to leave the field much. He’s a fine RB2 play.

 

DETROIT LIONS

 

 

Notes: Despite his dropped would-be game-winner against the Bears in Week 1, Swift looks like a very natural pass-catcher and playmaker through the air. He’s seen five targets in each of the Lions’ first two games, but this three-man rotation in Detroit is sapping the life out of this backfield from a fantasy angle. Swift remains the one to have, but Peterson figures to remain a factor on early downs as long as he’s healthy. Johnson has started both games and seen seven and eight carries in each loss. Those 7.5 carries per game would look better on Swift’s line.

 

GREEN BAY PACKERS

 

 

Notes: The NFL’s leading rusher through two weeks, Jones was downright brilliant in last week’s stomping of the Lions. He averaged over 9.3 yards per carry and continues to make plays with the ball in his hands as a pass catcher. Williams still has his role as an oft-used change-of-pace and breather back, but the Packers are sixth in the league in offensive plays and now get dates with three NFC South offenses over the next three weeks, squaring off with the Saints, Falcons, and Bucs in that order. If Davante Adams (hamstring) is going to miss time, the Green Bay offense should run even more through Jones. He’s a top-three fantasy back.

 

HOUSTON TEXANS

 

 

Notes: With Duke (ankle) out last week against the Ravens, David played 95% of the snaps and handled every running back touch and target. Unfortunately, that was only 15 opportunities because Houston got shellacked on the scoreboard. David’s snap share is elite, but the Texans have been blown out in back-to-back weeks to open the season. I wouldn’t expect much different this Sunday against the Steelers. But the schedule softens Weeks 4 and 5 against the Vikings and Jaguars. Duke should be back, but David has a good grip on the work.

 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

 

 

Notes: In the Colts’ first game after Marlon Mack’s season-ending Achilles’ tear, Taylor played 67% of the snaps and handled 28-of-38 backfield touches as Indy cruised to an easy win over the Vikings. With this offensive line blocking for him, Taylor is arguably a top-five back the rest of the way. After being fed 15 touches and scoring two touchdowns Week 1, Hines saw his snap rate dip from 53% to 12% and recorded just one target and no rushing attempts. Hines’ Week 1 proved to be pretty fluky, but OC Nick Sirriani suggested Hines’ role will be different each week based on the opponent. He’s a highly-volatile RB3. Week 3 against the Jets favors Taylor big.

 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

 

  • James Robinson (58% snap rate, 37 opportunities)
  • Chris Thompson (34%, 8)

 

Notes: Robinson posted his first career 100-yard game and scored his first touchdown in the narrow loss to the Titans in Nashville last week. He also saw four targets in the passing game after being targeted just once in the opener. Thompson has been a lightly-used third-down option who caught a touchdown to tie the game at 30-30 late in the fourth quarter. Thompson’s volume is too much of a concern to make him much more than a deeper-league PPR stash. Robinson runs hard and gets one of the best draws he’ll see all season Week 3 versus Miami. He should be fired up confidently as a volume-based RB2 in a game the Jaguars are favored.

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

 

 

Notes: CEH has played at least 62% of the snaps in each of the Chiefs’ first two games and is tied for seventh in the league with 17.5 carries per game. He’s also third among running backs with seven inside-the-10 carries. After catching no passes on two targets in the opener, CEH’s pass-game skills showed up in Week 2 against the Chargers, catching 6-of-8 targets. A tough date with the Ravens is on deck, but the rookie is in the mix as a top-five rest-of-season back.

 

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

 

 

Notes: Jacobs has seen elite-level usage through two weeks, handling at least 30 touches in each Raiders win. He’s second in the league in carries to only Derrick Henry and trails only Ezekiel Elliott in inside-the-10 carries. With nine targets to his name, Jacobs has already seen 33% of the targets he saw last season as a rookie. The increased pass-game usage has upped his week to week security, but Weeks 3-5 could be a test to that theory with the Patriots, Bills, and Chiefs on tap. The Raiders figure to be underdogs in all three matchups. Richard scored last week from 20 yards out but has just three touches so far.

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

 

 

Notes: Ekeler looked more like the 2019 version of himself with rookie Justin Herbert under center last week against the Chiefs. Ekeler averaged a robust 5.8 yards per carry and secured all four of his targets for 55 yards after being targeted just once by Tyrod Taylor in the opener. Ekeler needs to be catching passes to live up to his ADP. The bad news for him is rookie Kelley has out-carried Ekeler 6-1 inside the 10-yard line and saw his snap rate climb all the way to 52% after being at 27% in Week 1. Kelley handled 23 carries against the Chiefs and caught 2-of-3 targets. With L.A. favored over Carolina, a top-12 week is in Kelley’s range of outcomes.

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

 

 

Notes: Brown touched the ball just 11 times against the Eagles after getting 21 touches versus Dallas in Week 1. He was still in on 54% of the snaps but ended up breaking a finger, leaving his Week 3 role in question against the Bills. Akers is also hurt, too, after playing just three snaps in Week 2 before injuring his ribs. The star of the Rams’ backfield against Philly was Henderson, who played 42% of the snaps after being in on just 7% in Week 1. Henderson scored his first NFL touchdown and piled up 121 yards on 14 touches. This backfield figures to have a couple more twists and turns, but Henderson now looks like the one to have in fantasy. Week 3 against the Bills looks tough on paper, but running back is just too shallow right now.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

 

 

Notes: Gaskin’s snap rates over the first two weeks: 63% and 65%. His 29 routes led all Miami running backs against the Bills. Gaskin is clearly the most talented running back on this roster, but Howard still figures to be a thorn in his side when it comes to touchdown opportunities. Howard has five carries inside the 10-yard line to Gaskin’s one. But Gaskin is averaging eight carries and 5.5 targets per game with a plum Week 3 matchup on deck with the Jaguars.

 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

 

 

Notes: The Vikings are dead last in offensive plays through two weeks, and it’s not even close. Minnesota has run fewer than 50 plays in both of its games while getting thrashed in time of possession. The defense is bad, and the offense has two good players in Cook and Adam Thielen. Cook has a strong handle on the playing time, but he hasn’t seen the elite workloads because the Vikings have struggled to possess the ball. Cook has the Titans, Texans, and Seahawks next. Mattison is up there as one of the elite handcuffs in fantasy.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

 

 

Notes: If Michel doesn’t score on the ground, he’s totally useless for fantasy. He’s been out-carried 9-1 inside the 10-yard line by Cam Newton, the Patriots’ new power runner. White missed Week 2 due to the tragic death of his father in a car accident. Burkhead was ripping up yards as a pass-catcher with 4-47 on six targets. He played 71% of the snaps. This is Cam’s backfield, leaving none of Michel, White, or Burkhead as particularly strong fantasy players.

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

 

 

Notes: Kamara touched the ball 22 times against the Raiders in the Saints’ first game without Michael Thomas (ankle), and Kamara ended up leading the team in both rushing and receiving. Clearly the engine of the offense now sans Thomas, Kamara is a top-three fantasy back with the Packers, Lions, and Chargers next on the schedule. Murray carried the ball 15 times in Week 1 but touched the ball just five times against Vegas. He’s mostly just a Kamara handcuff.

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

 

 

Notes: Barkley is done for the season with a torn ACL. Lewis was the only other running back active against the Bears last week. He handled every running back touch post-Barkley, but managed a pitiful 10-20-1 rushing line. The Giants will activate Wayne Gallman for Week 3 and just signed Devonta Freeman on Tuesday. We’ll need a couple weeks to see this backfield rotation, but Freeman is obviously the best bet for the course of the season, even if he might be washed. Lewis is confirmed not very good. And Gallman is behind him.

 

NEW YORK JETS

 

 

Notes: In the first game without Le’Veon Bell (hamstring, I.R.), Gore played 57% of the snaps en route to a late-career Gore-esque 21-63-0 rushing line with no catches. Perine, Ballage, and Adams all played minimal snaps behind him. Gore is a plug-your-nose desperation FLEX play against the Colts for Week 3 where the Jets are massive 11-point road underdogs.

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

 

 

Notes: That 40% snap rate is extremely misleading for Sanders. He missed Week 1 but was in on 77% of the downs against the Rams and totaled 131 yards and a touchdown on 23 touches. With Jalen Reagor (thumb) now out and decimating the Eagles’ wideout room even more, the Eagles should be looking to dial back Carson Wentz’s throws and start feeding Sanders even more on the ground while continuing to feature him in the pass game alongside Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and DeSean Jackson. Sanders has a tasty Week 3 date with the Bengals.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

 

 

Notes: After exiting Week 1 early with an ankle injury, Conner reclaimed his workhorse role, out-snapping Benny Snell 50-10 against the Broncos and pasting them for 16-106-1 on the ground. Conner had fantasy managers extremely worried after Week 1, but he looks healthy and played 77% of the Week 2 snaps. He’s back in the RB1 mix with the Texans’ pushover defense up next, followed by the Titans and Eagles in Weeks 4 and 5.

 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

 

 

Notes: Mostert and Coleman are now out after they both injured their knees in Week 2 against the Jets. Coleman was sent to I.R., and Mostert is expected to miss multiple weeks with a sprained MCL. It leaves Jeff Wilson and McKinnon as the Niners’ new one-two combo. Wilson should be picked up in all formats. He scored five touchdowns on 30 touches last season and gets a mouthwatering date with the Giants in Week 3, followed by the Eagles and Dolphins. McKinnon may see more rushing chances, but he’s mostly been a pass-game back so far.

 

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

 

 

Notes: Carson’s snap rate jumped from 45% in Week 1 to 63% this past Sunday night in the thrilling win over the Patriots. Hyde was phased back to clear No. 2 status, and Carson handled 20 touches in the win, catching his third touchdown of the young season. He obviously can’t keep up that pace, but better touchdown luck on the ground should be in order. The Seahawks are letting Russ cook as a thrower, chucking the ball at the second-highest clip through Week 2. Carson is a strong RB1 moving forward. Hyde would only enter the convo if there’s an injury.

 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

 

 

Notes: Jones scored a touchdown last week against the Panthers but lost a fumble later in the game and may have kissed his job away with it. Fournette’s snap rate jumped from 13% in Week 1 to 43% in Week 2, and he was the “closer” for the Bucs in the win. Fournette should lead this backfield moving forward after dusting Carolina for 12-103-2 with four catches on five targets. McCoy has nothing left in the tank and is only ever in there for his pass protection.

 

TENNESSEE TITANS

 

 

Notes: Henry somehow doesn’t have a touchdown to his name through two weeks and was one of the bigger DFS disappointments of Week 2 with 25-84-0 and no catches against the Jaguars. He still commands all of the work in the Tennessee backfield and is an elite RB1 moving forward. The Vikings are up next and are fresh off getting annihilated by Jonathan Taylor. King Henry is a lock for 20-plus carries every time he steps on the field.

 

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

 

 

Notes: After Barber led the league in inside-the-10 carries in the Week 1 upset over the Eagles, he played just one snap in Arizona. The Cardinals commanded that game from start to finish, so it was Gibson’s turn to see the bulk of the backfield work. Gibson played 65% of the snaps and handled 14 touches, scoring once on the ground. It should be that way most weeks with Washington projected to be one of the worst teams in the league. McKissic has played 44% of the snaps both weeks but has just 12 touches. He’s not a recommended bench stash.

Nick Mensio

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