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Alvin Kamara
AP
By the Numbers

Week 14: Taking Stock Of All 32 NFL Backfields

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: December 5, 2019, 4:35 pm ET

NFL depth charts are always in a constant state of flux due to injuries, performance and at-times questionable coaching decisions. The RB position in particular can be tough to stay on top of, as an overwhelming majority of offenses have replaced a single three-down back with committees of various shapes and sizes.

The good news is we now have 13 weeks of regular season data to help clear up the ever-murky RB position. Below is a cheat sheet that denotes the snap rates as well as combined carries and targets for each team's top-two RBs from Week 13.

Week 13 RBBC

What follows is a more specific breakdown of each team's backfield in order to better determine:

  • Offenses that are featuring a single workhorse
  • Fantasy-friendly committee backfields
  • Situations that fantasy football owners should avoid

Opportunities refer to a player's combined carries and targets. All snap count and touch data was compiled from Pro Football Reference. I'm refraining from posting every team's season-long workload rates moving forward and instead choosing a more specific split for each backfield that is defined underneath their respective team name.


Arizona Cardinals

Workload splits: Week 13 with Kenyan DrakeDavid Johnson and Chase Edmonds all active

  • RB1: Drake (80% snap rate, 18 opportunities)
  • RB2: Johnson (23%, 6)
  • RB3: Edmonds (0%, 0)

Notes: Edmonds was active in his first game since Week 8, but the second-year RB didn't play a single snap.

This is officially Drake's backfield. He's racked up at least 15 touches in every game since joining the Cardinals in Week 9:

  • Week 9: 15 carries-110 rush yards-1 TD, 4 receptions-52 receiving yards-0 TD, 84% snap rate
  • Week 10: 10-35-0, 6-6-0, 64%
  • Week 11: 16-67-0, 6-13-0, 90%
  • Week 13: 13-31-0, 2-20-0, 80%

Overall, Drake is the RB16 in PPR per game among all RBs over the last five weeks.

Treat the Cardinals' featured RB as a high-end RB2 for their home matchup against the Steelers in Week 14.


Atlanta Falcons

Workload splits: Week 13 with Devonta Freeman (foot) back

Notes: Freeman worked as more of a clear featured back without Ito Smith (neck, IR) in the equation.

The Falcons Offense (surprisingly) hasn't been anything close to a fantasy-friendly environment this season. Still, Freeman has functioned as a high-usage receiver with or without Austin Hooper (knee) in the lineup. Only Christian McCaffrey (11), Austin Ekeler (10) and Leonard Fournette (10) have more games with at least three receptions than Freeman (9).

Up next is a great matchup against the Panthers' run-funnel defense. They rank among the league's worst defenses against the run in a variety of metrics:

  • PPR per game allowed to RBs: No. 31
  • Rush DVOA: No. 31
  • Yards allowed per carry: No. 32
  • Rush yards allowed: No. 29
  • Rushing touchdowns allowed: No. 32

The Panthers have allowed at least twice as many rushing touchdowns as 25 other defenses this season. Treat Freeman as a borderline RB1 in this spot.

Hill and Barner would likely form a three-RB committee with Qadree Ollison if Freeman were to miss any additional game time. None of these backup RBs are worthy of a roster spot.


Baltimore Ravens

Workload splits: Weeks 1-13

Notes: 62 players have at least 50 rush attempts this season. 10 of those players have averaged at least five yards per carry. Three members of that select group happen to play for the Ravens.

Lamar Jackson is pretty much the real-life version of 2004 Madden Mike Vick.

Still, his impact as a rusher is in a way underrated considering how much it opens up the rest of the offense. Defensive ends aren't able to squeeze their gap when left unblocked due to the very real possibility that Jackson keeps the ball and rips off big play after big play.

The Ravens have 17 rushes of at least 20 yards this season. The next-closest team is at just 13.

Continue to treat Ingram as a borderline RB1 regardless of the matchup. He's the overall PPR RB9 through 13 weeks.

Edwards and Hill would likely form a two-RB committee of sorts if Ingram were forced to miss game action.

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Buffalo Bills

Workload splits: Weeks 7-13 with both Devin Singletary and Frank Gore active

  • RB1: Singletary (67% snap rate, 15.9 opportunities per game) 
  • RB2: Gore (32%, 10.9)

Notes: Singletary has racked up at least 15 touches in four of his past five games. This usage is fine, but two key factors are holding the rookie back from ascending to truly great fantasy football heights:

  • The Bills continue to feed Gore double-digit touches per game on a near-weekly basis despite his reduced snap count.
  • Josh Allen is a vulture disguised as a QB. Only Todd Gurley (25 rushing TDs), Derrick Henry (23), Aaron Jones (19) and Christian McCaffrey (19) have more scores on the ground than Allen (16) since Week 1 of last season.

Singletary has three carries inside the 10-yard line this season; Gore and Allen have combined for 22.

The minimal scoring-area touches for Singletary makes it tough to trust him as more than an upside RB3 despite the ideal usage. Perhaps the Bills will decide to lean on their talented rookie more than usual in Week 14 against a Ravens Defense that has been significantly better against the pass (No. 3 in DVOA) than the run (No. 24) this season.


Carolina Panthers

Workload splits: Weeks 1-13

Notes: Some fantasy studs make their living with several 'boom' performances that make up for their 'busts' in a big way.

And then there's Run CMC, who apparently knows how to do nothing other than boom:

  • Week 1: PPR RB1
  • Week 2: RB41
  • Week 3: RB4
  • Week 4: RB2
  • Week 5: RB2
  • Week 6: RB8
  • Week 8: RB6
  • Week 9: RB1
  • Week 10: RB4
  • Week 11: RB1
  • Week 12: RB2
  • Week 13: RB13

It's ridiculous that McCaffrey's Week 13 performance felt like a disappointment, but that's the point we've reached during his historic season.

Continue to treat the league's most-productive non-QB as the overall RB1.

The Panthers claimed former-Bears RB Mike Davis earlier in November, but he's yet to play a snap. I wouldn't expect a single RB to inherit CMC's monstrous workload if he were to miss any game action. We have oodles of evidence that no RB in the league is capable of providing the same rushing and receiving threat as McCaffrey, so it seems a bit silly to assume there's another back on the Panthers that would walk into this same workhorse role.


Chicago Bears

Workload splits: Weeks 7-13 since team's Week 6 bye

Notes: Montgomery's average of 4.7 yards per carry in Week 13 marked just the fourth time all season that the rookie managed to gain more than even 3.5 yards per rush. Montgomery has looked good as a receiver when given the opportunity, but his 32 targets on the season pale in comparison to Cohen's 74 pass-game opportunities.

Week 13 was the first time that the Bears managed to surpass 20 points since Week 7. It's tough to expect much of a ceiling from Cohen as long as he continues to struggle to get even double-digit touches per week, while Montgomery's lack of big plays (3 carries of 15-plus yards on 172 rush attempts) makes him one of the league's more touchdown-dependent starting RBs.

Neither back should be considered anything more than a mid-tier RB3 for Week 14's matchup against the Cowboys.


Cincinnati Bengals

Workload splits: Weeks 1-13

Notes: Mixon has at least 15 touches in all four games since the Bengals' Week 9 bye. The backfield has also trended towards more of a 70/30 split in Mixon's favor compared to the 55/45 rotation that defined the first half of the season.

Overall, Mixon posted a season-best 79% snap rate and dominated usage over Bernard in Week 13. Perhaps this was due to the Bengals (for once) experiencing some positive game script. The return of Andy Dalton elevates the floor and ceiling alike of everyone involved in this Bengals Offense. Still, Mixon deserves credit for largely making things happen regardless of who has been under center in recent weeks:

  • Week 10: 30-114-0 rushing, 2-37-0 receiving, PPR RB9
  • Week 11: 15-86-1 rushing, 1-17-0 receiving, RB9
  • Week 12: 18-79-0 rushing, 0-0-0 receiving, RB27
  • Week 13: 19-44-1 rushing, 4-26-0 receiving, RB16

Continue to treat Mixon as an upside RB2 in Week 14 when the Bengals take on the Browns in Cleveland. Bernard isn't worthy of a bench spot due to the uncertainty surrounding whether or not he'd receive a three-down role if Mixon were forced to miss any game action.


Cleveland Browns

Workload splits: Weeks 10-13 with Kareem Hunt active

  • RB1: Nick Chubb (67% snap rate, 23.5 opportunities per game)
  • RB2: Hunt (58%, 12.5)

Notes: Chubb had fewer than 20 touches last week for just the second time all season. 16 carries and two targets is hardly pedestrian usage, but Hunt continues to work as the offense's clear-cut pass-down back and actually managed to out-snap Chubb in the Browns' Week 13 loss to the Steelers.

Christian McCaffrey (43 targets), Alvin Kamara (37) and Leonard Fournette (30) are the only RBs with more targets than Hunt (25) since he returned from suspension.

Still, it's hard for Chubb's fantasy owners to complain too much. Both Browns RBs have functioned as RB1s in their four games together:

  • Chubb: 84-372-1 rushing, 6-84-0 receiving, PPR RB10
  • Hunt: 25-125-1 rushing, 20-118-1 receiving, PPR RB11

Both backs are set up well down the stretch run with winnable matchups, particularly in Weeks 14 and 15:

  • Week 14 vs. Bengals (No. 25 in fewest PPR per game allowed to opposing RBs)
  • Week 15 at Cardinals (No. 23)
  • Week 16 vs. Ravens (No. 7)
Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.