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Backfield Report

Week 4 Backfield Report

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: October 14, 2020, 4:38 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.

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 a pretty secure workload and plays in an offense that is sixth in total offensive plays after three weeks. Drake’s counting stats leave a bit to be desired, especially after another disappointing Week 3 without a touchdown against the Lions. Drake has also seen his targets evaporate with just five on the year. Drake does draw the Panthers, Jets, and Cowboys Weeks 4-6, but we need to start seeing some production. Drake is still 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, playing roughly a third of the snaps. The Cardinals are getting him targets out of the slot. He’d be a top-10 back in the event Drake ever gets hurt.

 

ATLANTA FALCONS

 

 

Notes: Gurley scored his second touchdown of the season last week against the Bears, averaging a robust 5.71 yards per carry on 14 totes. 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 three catches for three yards on seven targets. And Hill ripped off a long touchdown run against Chicago while playing a season-high 34% of the snaps, totaling 80 yards on 10 touches. Hill has very clearly emerged as the No. 2 to Gurley and would be the back to own if Gurley goes down. The plus side for Gurley is the Falcons are No. 5 in offensive plays per game. Gurley is a fine RB2 playing in an offense that is going to score a lot, but he’s not the engine like he was in L.A.

 

BALTIMORE RAVENS

 

 

Notes: Ingram has single-digit carries in two straight games and zero catches in 2-of-3 contests. The veteran’s workload has taken a massive hit with the addition of Dobbins and continued use of Edwards in short yardage and closeout situations. This three-man backfield needs to somehow get down to two because obviously Lamar Jackson is the true leading rusher in Baltimore. Ingram is a low-floor, TD-dependent RB3 while Dobbins is unplayable in fantasy right now with three total rushing attempts the last two weeks. Edwards is a mere handcuff and potential league-winner if injuries happen ahead of him. There are too many bodies here.

 

BUFFALO BILLS

 

 

Notes: Moss missed Week 3 with a toe injury, and Singletary handled 89% of the snaps, turning 17 touches into 121 scoreless yards against the Rams. Moss returned to practice Wednesday and looks on track to be back in the lineup against the Raiders. It should go back to about a 55-45 split in favor of Singletary, though it’s not unreasonable to think he earned a bigger share of the snaps after his Week 3 performance. The problem will always be Josh Allen operating as the Bills’ goal-line runner and touchdown-scorer. Singletary is a big-play RB2/3.

 

CAROLINA PANTHERS

 

 

Notes: In the Panthers’ first game without Christian McCaffrey (ankle, I.R.), Davis played 76% of the snaps to Bonnafon’s 4% rate. Davis has seen a combined 17 targets in roughly a game and a half of action after McCaffrey’s injury. He went 8-45-1 as a receiver last week while handling 13 carries. Davis is a weekly threat for 20-plus touches in an offense that likes to use one back. Davis gets juicy draws with the Cardinals and Falcons the next two weeks.

 

CHICAGO BEARS

 

 

Notes: Tarik Cohen tore his ACL last week in Atlanta and is done for the season. Montgomery’s role became even more secure, and Cohen’s deletion from the lineup leaves behind 18 routes per game. Perhaps Montgomery will see more work in that area after seeing three targets in each of the first three contests. Expect Cordarrelle Patterson’s snaps to tick up some. But Montgomery has the volume we want in an RB2, even if his ceiling isn’t all that high. Matchups with the Colts and Bucs over the next two weeks are not ideal, though.

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS

 

 

Notes: Mixon is eighth in the league in carries, but he’s not scoring touchdowns and seeing minimal pass-game involvement with just nine targets through three games. Giovani Bernard isn’t getting the ball, but he’s running routes and keeping Mixon off the field. Mixon remains an RB1, but he has difficult draws with the Ravens and Colts after a Week 4 date with the Jaguars. Mixon fantasy managers have to be frustrated. He’s a buy-low candidate.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS

 

 

Notes: This backfield looks like a pretty even two-horse show. 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. Hunt missed practice Wednesday with a groin issue, and the Browns promoted Dontrelle Hillard from the practice squad, suggesting the injury could be serious. Hunt has dominated garbage-time opportunities in Cleveland. If he were to sit, Chubb could see 25-plus touches against Dallas’ top-paced offense where its defense faces a ton of plays.

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DALLAS COWBOYS

 

 

Notes: Elliott is fantasy’s top running back moving forward. His previous career high in snap rate was 84% last season. He’s on pace to destroy that mark. Elliott leads the league in inside-the-10 carries with 12 and total rushing attempts overall.

 

DENVER BRONCOS

 

 

Notes: With Lindsay out the last 2.5 games, Gordon has played at least 62% of the snaps in all three games. He’s been a true workhorse but is stuck in a horrible offense that will be on its third starting quarterback this week with Brett Rypien making the start Thursday night against the Jets. Lindsay is also expected back this week or next from his toe injury.

 

DETROIT LIONS

 

 

Notes: This is another three-headed backfield we just have to avoid most weeks unless we can confidently project the Lions to win. Peterson played 60% of the snaps in the win over the Cardinals last week and turned in a 22-75 rushing line. Great volume. Not great production. Meanwhile, Swift played just 9% of the downs against Arizona. Something has to give. Swift and Johnson have basement-low floors, and Peterson’s upside isn’t all that high given his volume.

 

GREEN BAY PACKERS

 

 

Notes: Tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns through three weeks after pacing the NFL in the same category last season, Jones’ usage has been exceptional. He’s a legit top-five fantasy back in an offense that is firing on all cylinders in Year 2 under coach Matt LaFleur. Williams isn’t a bad end-of-roster hold, but Jones didn’t miss a single game last year.

 

HOUSTON TEXANS

 

 

Notes: Duke has been sidelined since the first half of Week 1. The Texans, however, are 0-3 and have run the second-fewest offensive plays. Despite the incredible snap rate for David, the touches haven’t been there because the Texans have been getting creamed on the scoreboard. Duke is practicing again and should be back soon. David will remain the every-down back, even when Duke is back, giving him back-end RB2 value in one of the more painful offenses.

 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

 

 

Notes: Despite the Colts beating the hell out of the Jets in Week 3, Taylor’s snap rate dipped from 67% in Week 2 to just 40% last Sunday. He was able to find the end zone, but Hines got back involved on 33% of the snaps after a 12% clip the week before. The good news is it’s just those two in the wake of Marlon Mack’s season-ending Achilles’ tear. Taylor is an every-week RB1 behind the Colts’ offensive line, and Hines is a game flow-dependent RB3/FLEX.

 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

 

  • James Robinson (53% snap rate, 54 opportunities)
  • Chris Thompson (38%, 16)

 

Notes: After seeing one target in the season opener, Robinson has been targeted 10 times the last two weeks and actually led the Jaguars in receiving with a 6-83 line on six targets last Thursday night. He’s also dominating all of the early-down rushing work. Robinson is handling a Leonard Fournette-like workload, even with the Jaguars playing super slow and running very few plays. Robinson has settled in as an every-week RB2 with some touchdown upside.

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

 

 

Notes: CEH is fourth among running backs in inside-the-10 carries, but he hasn’t scored since Week 1. The rookie has eclipsed the 25-touches mark in 2-of-3 games and has a commanding grip on the backfield work. Williams played more snaps than Thompson last week, but it was Thompson who was getting the early touches before a fumble. CEH is a top-five fantasy back.

 

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

 

 

Notes: Jacobs is second in the league in carries and tied for fourth in carries inside the 10-yard line. The Raiders trailed the Patriots most of last Sunday, but Jacobs still played a promising 59% of the snaps, a three-week low but still positive. And he was targeted four times while seeing 16 carries. Jacobs is a locked-in top-eight fantasy running back week in and week out.

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

 

 

Notes: Kelley was projected to handle a big chunk of the early-down work in a game the Chargers were heavily favored last week against Carolina, but it was the Panthers who came into L.A. and won by five. Ekeler ended up playing a season-high 72% of the snaps and caught all 11 of his targets. Justin Herbert’s insertion under center has been a blessing for Ekeler’s pass-game usage. He’s drawn 15 targets the last two weeks, catching all of them. Ekeler also scored on the ground against Carolina. He’s back in the RB1 mix after an iffy Week 1. Kelley will see better days in Chargers wins, but we were maybe too bullish on him last week.

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

 

 

Notes: The Rams are one of the most run-heavy offenses in the league, and Henderson has emerged as the lead back over the last two weeks with a couple big games against the Eagles and Bills. Akers can likely be cut loose, and while Brown continues to pace the team in snaps, it’s Henderson who is the back to own for the Rams. He’s the starter moving forward, and the Rams host the Giants in Week 4 as massive 13-point home favorites.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

 

 

Notes: Gaskin’s usage has been superb, but he plays in a horrible offense behind one of the league’s worst lines. Howard is also always there to steal the goal-line chances. Howard has 16 carries for 12 yards and three touchdowns with no targets in the passing game. Gaskin is a fine FLEX play moving forward, but his touchdown upside is pretty low as long as Howard is healthy.

 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

 

 

Notes: The Vikings are dead last in offensive plays. 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. He did just set a career high with 181 yards on the ground last week against the Titans and now gets easy matchups with the Texans and Seahawks coming up next. Cook amazingly has four rushing touchdowns despite all of the Vikings’ offensive struggles.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

 

 

Notes: Burkhead has carry totals of 7, 6, and 6 through three weeks, but he’s exploded in the passing game with 16 targets the last two weeks with James White missing action due to the death of his father. Burkhead also converted a pair of short touchdown runs last week. That’s pretty fluky since Cam Newton is the preferred short-yardage and goal-line runner, but Burkhead looks to be someone to at least add in 12-team leagues. Michel also ripped off the two longest runs of his career in Week 3 against the Raiders. All three of Burkhead, Michel, and Taylor saw double-digit touches against Las Vegas. White is expected back this week. Burkhead is the only one worth rostering in 12-teamers. White and Michel are borderline.

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

 

 

Notes: Kamara has touch counts of 22 and 19 in the two games Michael Thomas (ankle) has missed. Clearly the engine of the offense, Kamara is a top-three fantasy back. Murray rushed 15 and 12 times in Weeks 1 and 3 but sandwiched them around a three-carry game.

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

 

 

Notes: In the Giants’ first game without Saquon Barkley (torn ACL), all three of Lewis, Freeman, and Gallman played heavy snaps in a three-man rotation. Lewis looks toast and Gallman isn’t a favorite of the coaching staff, so this backfield should eventually be Freeman’s. The problem is he might be toast, too, and this offense is one of the worst in football. Not a whole lot to like.

 

NEW YORK JETS

 

 

Notes: Similar to the Giants above, the Jets have a hodgepodge of mediocre running backs. None are worth having in fantasy. Le’Veon Bell (hamstring, I.R.) is eyeing a Week 5 return.

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

 

 

Notes: Sanders has handled 53 opportunities in two weeks against the Rams and Bengals, playing over 77% of the snaps in both contests and totaling over 100 yards in each. He’s a top-eight fantasy back with a brutal upcoming schedule against the Niners, Steelers, and Ravens. Still, the Philly offense is so decimated that Sanders will remain the focal point.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

 

 

Notes: After getting hurt in Week 1, Conner has posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing games with a touchdown run in each, and his schedule remains somewhat soft with matchups against the Titans, Eagles, and Browns on deck. Conner has reestablished himself as a back-end RB1.

 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

 

 

Notes: With Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert out with knee injuries, McKinnon started Week 3 against the Giants and played 62% of the snaps. He went just 14-38-1 on the ground with 3-39 as a pass catcher. Wilson wasn’t much better as a runner, posting 12-15-1 on the ground, but he did hang a 3-54-1 receiving line on the G-Men. Both Mostert and Coleman are expected to miss at least one more game each. Both Wilson and McKinnon have RB3 appeal.

 

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

 

 

Notes: Carson sprained his knee last week against the Cowboys but appears to have avoided a serious injury and practiced Wednesday. He is a strong RB1/2 in the league’s most potent offense. Hyde is worth a speculative add as Carson’s direct backup.

 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

 

 

Notes: After Fournette posted a 100-yard game and a touchdown against the Panthers in Week 2, most expected him to surpass Jones for lead-back duties. But coach Bruce Arians went back to Jones against the Broncos, and now Fournette has an ankle injury that forced him to sit out Wednesday’s practice. Jones continues to hold onto desperation RB3/FLEX value. The smart money is still on Fournette eventually claiming the No. 1 job in Tampa. McCoy is dust.

 

TENNESSEE TITANS

 

 

Notes: Henry scored his first two touchdowns of the season last week against the Vikings and has the safest workload in football. He’s a top-three fantasy back moving forward.

 

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

 

 

Notes: If the Football Team is chasing points, then Gibson is the play. If for some reason Washington is in the game or leading, Barber will steal more of the looks. Gibson is unlikely to score many goal-line touchdowns and is still running fewer routes than McKissic. This three-man backfield in a bad offense is one to try and avoid for fantasy decisions.

Nick Mensio

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