10 Potential Backfield Changes
It’s 2 a.m. heading into Monday morning, and I worked my normal Rotoworld blurb shift all day. I have only watched the games I was assigned to, so this is more or less box score scouting and reading game recaps. I’ll have better takes in Friday’s Fantasy Forecast, but here are the quick takeaways:
1. Marlon Mack fractured his hand after helicoptering his way to 100 yards and a score, so there are a ton of reps of for grabs. This week, Jonathan Williams was the backup runner (Nyheim Hines has always been a pass-catcher only), and he picked up 116 yards on 13 carries. I wouldn’t call Williams a major pick up, however, because Jordan Wilkins has been viewed as the primary backup to Mack. Wilkins just happened to be inactive this week after suffering an ankle injury in Week 10. The severity is largely unknown, but I did find it interesting that Wilkins was “questionable” not “doubtful” or “out” heading into Sunday after not practicing last week. That may indicate a return is close. Practice reports will be key for Week 12.
2. David Johnson, who was left off the injury report this week, shouldn’t have been active this week. He played eight meaningless snaps and wasn’t given a single touch, while Kenyan Drake had 16 carries and six receptions. DJ will be hard to trust in Week 13 after the upcoming bye, but it could give him time to heal. Chase Edmonds may also return then. You hate to see it.
3. Todd Gurley smashed a previous season-high (18) with 25 carries on Sunday Night Football. I expected this for a few reasons. Offseason reports indicated Gurley was being saved for the second half of the season, and here we are. The home matchup, especially coming off an ugly, was the perfect time to use up some of those touches. Gurley should see 15-25 touches moving forward as an upside RB2. With that said, the same injury concerns are still there and the Rams are capable of total clunkers, so Gurley remains quite boom-or-bust.
4. Latavius Murray averaged 5.3 carries with a healthy Alvin Kamara in Weeks 1-6, but he was more involved in Week 11, finishing with 10 carries and two receptions. Kamara will still definitely get his, but Murray is a better flex option now than he was to begin the season.
5. Phillip Lindsay set a season-high in snaps (51) after a report indicated his role was increasing. Royce Freeman played a season-low 23 snaps and only had eight carries to Lindsay’s 18. This split makes Lindsay a more palatable RB2 and knocks Freeman to the RB4 range.
6. Devin Singletary set a new season-high in snaps (52) and had more touches than Frank Gore, especially before Gore saw three carries in garbage time. Gore also had his second-lowest snap count (19) of the season. Singletary is a more reliable RB2/3 now.
7. Bo Scarbrough was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday and ended up leading the backfield in carries (14) and offensive snaps (31). He still split reps with Ty Johnson (18 snaps) and J.D. McKissic (14), but he should be viewed as the 1A in this three-back committee after picking up 55 yards and one score in Week 11. Scarbrough is a low-ceiling add in 12-man leagues. Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic can be dropped in most leagues.
8. Game script was not on Ronald Jones’ side with the Bucs trailing 13-0 at the end of the first quarter, but RoJo only seeing four rushes was a disappointment. He still lost a ton of snaps to Peyton Barber and Dare Ogunbowale. Jones did see four targets at least. RoJo the pass-catching back might’ve died before he could live, but I’ll give him one mulligan before giving him the full cancel.
9. Adrian Peterson started and played the first two drives, but Derrius Guice played 20 snaps and managed to break off a 45-yard touchdown on a screen play. Guice isn’t likely to fully establish himself as a workhorse in 2019 with the Redskins presumably taking a long-view approach with his worrisome injury history, although I do expect the touch split to begin favoring Guice over Peterson. Neither are must-play flexes for now.
10. Brian Hill finished with 15 carries as the clear-cut No. 1 back for the Falcons with Devonta Freeman sidelined, but rookie Qadree Ollison, who is not a good prospect, came in at the goal-line and scored on his first career touchdown. Very tilting. Hill has a modified bellcow role, not the entire backfield to himself.
Bonus. Tony Pollard’s box score (56 total yards and one touchdown) is a little misleading. The rookie only played 12 snaps, which is close to his season average.
10 Regression Candidates
A pass-catcher’s usage (targets and/or air yards) this week is a decent predictor of next week’s fantasy performance. The following pass-catchers were either used more or used less than what their box score indicates, making them positive or negative regression candidates. This section made possible by airyards.com.
1. Julian Edelman saved his fantasy day with a random touchdown pass, but he did only have 10.3 PPR points as a receiver. That relatively low total was a disappointment given the matchup and his WR1-level usage. Edelman was given 10 targets and 144 air yards. His 91 unaccounted for air yards (air yards minus receiving yards) were the third-most on the week.
2. Zach Pascal would be mostly irrelevant if T.Y. Hilton returns next week, but he’d be an underrated flex option if Hilton is out again. Pascal had WR2/3 usage with 102 air yards and six targets this week against the Jaguars. His 85 unaccounted for air yards were the fourth-most of the week.
3. Amari Cooper was actually a negative regression candidate heading into this week because he was converting his red-zone targets into touchdowns at unsustainable rates, but Amari didn’t deserve 6.8 PPR points this week. Cooper had WR1-level usage (eight targets and 120 air yards).
4. DeAndre Hopkins did have 15.0 PPR points, but he could’ve had a bigger day with his 12 targets and 142 air yards. Hopkins getting his aDOT up a little bit this week (11.8) is also a nice sign. The Texans might get Will Fuller back this Thursday with the division rival Indianapolis Colts on the schedule.
5. Odell Beckham was inches away from a touchdown on Thursday Night Football, but he ended with 10.0 PPR points. Odell’s 10 targets and 122 air yards are major positives, especially since he had a season-high in air yards in Week 10. These high-usage weeks are stacking. Hopefully high-production weeks start stacking, too. He gets the Dolphins next.
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6. D.J. Moore finished with 17.5 PPR points, but he could’ve had a much bigger day if he did more with his 15 targets and 156 air yards. Moore is quietly on the WR1/2 borderline right now, even with Kyle Allen playing like one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. Ian Hartitz noted Moore is leading the NFL in targets since the Panthers Week 7 bye.
7. Noah Fant had 9.3 PPR points and continues to see strong usage for the position. This week, Fant saw 11 targets and 83 air yards. The rookie has the profile of a high-ceiling NFL player, so he’s a very interesting TE1/2 right now. I’ll also note WR Tim Patrick had eight targets and 115 air yards. Patrick > DaeSean Hamilton, although Courtland Sutton is the clear-cut No. 1 for Denver.
8. Dede Westbrook only had 4-32-0 coming off a shoulder injury, but he did see six targets and 75 yards (WR3/4 usage) from Nick Foles, who is known for targeting his slot receivers often. D.J. Chark, who had the most air yards (218) on the week, is the clear-cut No. 1 receiver, but Westbrook is a usable flex for those in PPR leagues. The usage is there.
9. Jets TE Ryan Griffin was left wide open multiple times on Sunday, which led to a 5-109-1 receiving line. Griffin caught all of his targets and more than doubled his air yards (43) with receiving yards (109). The tight end has had usable weeks in three of the last four, but I would not get carried away with Griffin, who still belongs in the streaming TE2 conversation. A friendly home matchup against the Raiders does help cancel out some of the negative regression, however.
10. Larry Fitzgerald hung 14.7 PPR points on the Niners in San Francisco, but he finished with just five targets and 16 air yards. Betting on a boomer-aged receiver with limited volume in an inconsistent offense isn’t something I’m looking to do. Fitzgerald is barely on the flex radar to me, especially with the Rams’ stingy defense scheduled next.