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Backfield Report

Week 5 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.





Notes: Drake’s 13 carries and zero targets last week against the Panthers were new season-lows. He’s been targeted just five times on the season, way down from his 4.4 per game average last season in Arizona. And after averaging a robust 5.2 yards per carry in 2019 with the Cardinals, Drake is at a pitiful 3.8 mark through four games. Drake’s counting stats leave a bit to be desired, especially after another disappointing Week 4. Some have wondered if Drake is healthy after spending the last part of training camp in a walking boot. His snap rate remains strong, but after back-to-back Arizona losses, there’s concern Edmonds could eat into Drake’s touches. Drake does draw the Jets, Cowboys, and Seahawks Weeks 5-7, but we need to start seeing some production. Edmonds has a nice little role of his own in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, playing roughly a third of the snaps. He’d be a top-10 back if Drake ever gets hurt.





Notes: Gurley scored his third and fourth touchdowns of the season last Monday night against the Packers, punching in a pair of scores from inside the five-yard line. Playing with a lead will always help Gurley, but his lack of pass-game involvement is a concern for the safety of his floor, especially when the Falcons are losing every week. He has just four catches for nine yards on eight targets. Hill has pretty clearly emerged as the No. 2 to Gurley and would be the back to own if Gurley goes down, though he and Smith would probably form a committee. The plus side for Gurley is the Falcons are No. 3 in offensive plays per game and fourth in pace. Gurley is a fine RB2 playing in an offense that is going to score, but he’s not the engine he was in L.A.





Notes: Ingram has single-digit carries in three straight games and just three catches on the year. 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. Ingram played a season-low 25% of the snaps in last week’s easy win over Washington, as both Dobbins and Edwards out-snapped him. 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 eight rushing attempts the last three weeks. Edwards is seeing carries but is more of a handcuff and potential league-winner if injuries happen ahead of him. There are too many bodies here.





Notes: Moss missed Weeks 3 and 4 with a toe injury, and Singletary handled 89% of the snaps each game. After turning 17 touches into 121 scoreless yards against the Rams, Singletary went for 76 yards and a short touchdown on 24 combined carries and targets versus Vegas. Moss should be back for Week 5 against the Titans, assuming the game gets played. It should go back to about a 60-40 split in favor of Singletary, though it’s not unreasonable to think he earned a bigger share of the snaps after his performances against the Rams and Raiders. The problem will always be Josh Allen operating as the Bills’ main goal-line runner and touchdown-scorer. Singletary is a big-play RB2 but is somewhat touchdown-dependent.





Notes: In the Panthers’ first game without Christian McCaffrey (ankle, I.R.), Davis played 76% of the snaps to Bonnafon’s 4% rate. Last week, Davis got in on 71% of the downs and scored a one-yard touchdown on 20 carries and targets. Davis has seen a combined 23 targets in roughly two and a half games of action after McCaffrey’s injury. Davis is a weekly threat for 20-plus touches in an offense that likes to use one back. McCaffrey has to spend at least one more week on I.R. Davis gets a juicy date with the Falcons in Week 5 as a borderline RB1.





Notes: In the Bears’ first game following Tarik Cohen’s torn ACL, Montgomery was in on an elite 85% of the snaps and drew six targets in the passing game. He didn’t do a lot with them in a tough matchup against the Colts, turning in 57 total yards on 16 opportunities. But Montgomery has the volume we want in an RB2, even if his ceiling isn’t all that high. Another tough matchup is on deck against the Bucs.





Notes: Mixon finally busted his slump last week against the Jaguars, exploding for 181 yards and three touchdowns on 31 touches in a Bengals win. He played a season-high 82% of the snaps, while Bernard was in on just 17% of the downs. Mixon took off over the second half of last season in huge workloads, and the hope is this performance springboards him into a big October and remainder of the year. Mixon is a strong RB1, but tough road dates with the Ravens and Colts await him in Weeks 5 and 6. Bernard is waive-wire material.





Notes: Chubb suffered a sprained MCL early in the Week 4 win over the Cowboys and is expected to miss several weeks on I.R. Even with his injury, Hunt saw just 11 opportunities on 35% of the snaps against Dallas while Johnson stepped right into 13 carries for 95 yards on 23% of the plays. It looks like coach Kevin Stefanski is going to keep this near 50-50 split going with Johnson in the Chubb role. Hunt is an every-week RB2. Johnson is suddenly an RB3.





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 14 but was vultured by Pollard on a short touchdown last week in the blowout loss to the Browns. The plus side is Elliott has seen at least seven targets in three consecutive games. He’s on pace to obliterate his previous career highs in the pass game.





Notes: With Lindsay out the last 3.5 games, Gordon has played at least 62% of the snaps in all three games and is coming off a season-high 80% playing time clip last Thursday night against the Jets when he went 23-107-2 on the ground. He’s been a true workhorse but is stuck in a horrible offense that has already started three quarterbacks. Lindsay is expected back this week, but Gordon has earned No. 1 treatment. He’s a volume-based RB2. Lindsay is an RB4.





Notes: Peterson has emerged as the early-down starter and rushing attempts leader over the past couple weeks, and Swift has settled in as the third-down back and pass-game specialist. Johnson played a season-low in snaps against New Orleans and appeared to get hurt late in the loss. If Johnson misses time, this backfield becomes way more attractive for fantasy. Johnson wasn’t getting many touches the last two weeks, but it was enough to be felt.

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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. Jones caught yet another touchdown last Monday night against the Falcons. Williams played a season-high in snaps Week 4 and tied for the team lead in targets. He’s elite RB insurance if Jones ever goes down.





Notes: In Duke’s first game back after missing 2.5 contests with an ankle injury, David’s snap rate dipped all the way to 55% after getting in on 96% of the snaps Weeks 1-3. Duke played 38% of the snaps and handled nine opportunities. David was given a combined 19 carries and targets against Minnesota but is averaging just 3.9 YPC and hasn’t caught a touchdown. With Duke back, David is more of a low-end RB2/borderline RB3 with a low floor.





Notes: Despite winning in easy fashion the last two weeks, Taylor has played just 40% and 46% of the snaps after getting in on 67% of the snaps in Week 2, Marlon Mack’s first game out after an Achilles’ tear. Hines and Wilkins each handled nine carries last week against the Bears. Taylor plays in an extreme run-heavy offense, keeping him on the RB1 map, but it’s tough to see his snap rate dip the last two weeks in positive game scripts.




  • James Robinson (60% snap rate, 75 opportunities)
  • Chris Thompson (34%, 16)


Notes: Thompson didn’t see a single target or carry in last week’s narrow loss to the Bengals. Robinson has completely taken over his backfield and played a season-high 76% of the snaps in Week 4. He’s a legit RB1 candidate with 14 targets in the pass game the last three weeks on top of his rushing attempt totals of 16, 16, 11, and 17 in four games this year. Robinson plays for a bad team but handles the goal-line work and sees pass-game involvement.





Notes: CEH is coming off a brutal Weeks 2-4 stretch against the Chargers, Ravens, and Patriots where he didn’t score a touchdown. This is still a one-man backfield all things considered. Better days are ahead for the rookie back, who is sixth in the NFL in carries. He gets the Raiders in Week 5. The window to buy CEH may be closing very quickly.





Notes: Jacobs is second in the league in carries. Jacobs is a locked-in top-eight fantasy running back week in and week out with dates against the Chiefs, Bucs, and Browns on deck.





Notes: Ekeler is going to miss significant time on injured reserve after suffering a severe strained hamstring in the Week 4 loss to the Bucs. In his absence, Kelley out-snapped Jackson 57% to 40% and handled 12 combined carries and targets. Neither Kelley nor Jackson has the skill set of Ekeler in the pass game. Expect Kelley to be the 1A moving forward.





Notes: Henderson was a Week 4 bust, as Brown played a season-high 61% of the snaps against the Giants and handled 16 opportunities to Henderson’s nine. Henderson is still the back to own here, but Brown is definitely going to be a thorn in the side all season. And with Cam Akers expected back this week, things could get even hairier in the L.A. backfield. The good news is the Rams run the ball at an incredibly high clip, but for now I'd prioritize Henderson, Akers, and Brown in that order.





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 18 carries for 14 yards and three touchdowns with one target 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.





Notes: Cook leads the league in rushing yards and touchdowns. That makes up for his down marks so far in the passing game with just 11 targets across four games. Cook is fifth in the NFL in carries and is a top-six fantasy back moving forward. Mattison remains an elite backfield backup.





Notes: Sony Michel has been sent to I.R., and Harris was activated from the list in time for Week 4 against the Chiefs. Burkhead’s snaps dipped to 35% with Harris getting in on 31% of the plays and handling 17 carries for 100 yards with no targets in the pass game. Harris looks to be the early-down guy now with more skill than Michel. Burkhead and White will mix in on pass downs and important blocking situations. Harris is now the back to own in New England.





Notes: Kamara has touch counts of 22, 19, and 22 in the three games Michael Thomas (ankle) has missed. Clearly the engine of the offense, Kamara is a top-three fantasy back. Murray has carry totals of 15, 12, and 14 sandwiched around a three-carry Week 2. He scored his first two touchdowns of the season last week and has standalone RB3 value.





Notes: In Freeman's second game with the team, he played 54% of the snaps and handled 15 touches but totaled just 68 scoreless yards on them. Lewis was right behind him at just over 30% of the playing time. Playing in a bad offense, none of these backs are all that attractive from a fantasy angle. Freeman looks washed up.





Notes: Similar to the Giants above, the Jets have a hodgepodge of mediocre running backs but are expected to get Le'Veon Bell back from his hamstring injury this week. Managers can cut Gore loose if they haven't already.





Notes: Sanders has handled 70 opportunities in three weeks against the Rams, Bengals, and 49ers, playing over 77% of the snaps in all three contests and totaling over 100 yards in two of three outings. He’s a top-eight fantasy back with a brutal upcoming schedule against the Steelers and Ravens before a cake date with the Giants. The Philly offense is so decimated that Sanders will remain the focal point.





Notes: The Steelers' Week 4 game was postponed.





Notes: With Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert out with knee injuries for the second straight game last week, McKinnon saw his snap rate hike all the way to 92% to Wilson's 8% clip against the Eagles. McKinnon handled 24 opportunities to Wilson's four and totaled 97 yards with a touchdown last Sunday night. Mostert is practicing this week and appears to be nearing a return. McKinnon has earned a larger role moving forward. When everyone is healthy, it'll be interesting to see how things play out. For now, Wilson looks like he can be dropped.





Notes: Carson sprained his knee in Week 3 against the Cowboys but played through it against the Dolphins and scored his first two rushing touchdowns of the season on 20 opportunities. He is a strong RB1/2 in the league’s most potent offense. Hyde is worth a speculative add as Carson’s direct backup, but he missed Week 4 with a shoulder injury. Homer is operating as the breather back in pass-game situations.





Notes: Fournette missed Week 4 with an ankle injury, and McCoy left early with an ankle issue of his own. Both are expected to miss Week 5 against the Bears. In their absence, Jones played a season-high 64% of the snaps against the Chargers and rushed for 111 yards while also seeing a whopping nine targets. Vaughn caught a touchdown on six total opportunities. Jones and Vaughn should be the one-two combo against the Bears. Vaughn should pass McCoy on the depth chart.





Notes: The Titans' Week 4 game was postponed.





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, especially at the goal line. But Barber's snap rates have been 2% > 11% > 7% over the last three weeks following his big Week 1. Gibson has found the end zone in three straight games and settled in as an RB2 in an offense that projects to play from behind quite a bit. Perhaps Kyle Allen will steadily pepper Gibson with targets in the old Allen-Christian McCaffrey situation Allen was in last year with Carolina.

Nick Mensio

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