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By the Numbers

Week 2 Backfield Report

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: September 18, 2020, 10:24 am 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 one week under our belt, we now have some data to help clear some things up for us after an offseason of no preseason games. 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 didn’t bust any long runs or make any plays in the passing game against the 49ers’ stout front seven, but he out-carried Edmonds 16-6 and played a pivotal role in Arizona’s upset win. Drake buried his head and scored the game-winning one-yard touchdown with a little over five minutes to play. His snap share also remained very strong, as it’s been since he came to the desert. Drake will be a rock-solid RB1 play with major upside most weeks. The Cardinals have talked up Edmonds, and they used his receiving ability as a means to getting him on the field, flexing him out of the backfield and into the slot on 10 of his 28 snaps. He has standalone FLEX value in that role and would be an RB1 if Drake ever gets hurt.

 

ATLANTA FALCONS

Notes: Gurley found the end zone with a leaping one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and he looked fresh with the touches he did receive. Week 1 was mostly a blowout in Seattle’s favor, but 18-20 touches is basically what fantasy players signed up for when drafting Gurley as an RB2. We’ll never get the workhorse version of Gurley we saw in his L.A. days. Hill and Smith split work right down the middle as the backups. Hill would be the preferred bench stash.

 

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Notes: Ingram got the start and handled some early inside-the-10 reps, but he was unable to convert his lone attempt from down there into a score before getting yanked in those situations in favor of rookie Dobbins. He converted both of his two inside-the-five totes for three- and two-yard touchdowns. Dobbins looks like the back to own in Baltimore moving forward, but as many as four players, including Lamar Jackson, will be carrying the rock any given week. Both Ingram and Dobbins are very TD-dependent, but Dobbins gets the edge based on recency bias, skill, and youth. Ingram is in very real danger of crumbling to RB3/4 status.

 

BUFFALO BILLS

Notes: Singletary got the start, as expected, but lost out to Moss in the area of the field that matters most. Moss out-carried Singletary 4-0 inside the 10-yard line, and Moss caught a four-yard touchdown on a broken play. Moss was unable to pound in any of his goal-line carries, but he definitely has the edge there. Touchdowns were Singletary’s downfall as a rookie, as well, and with Moss and Josh Allen better bets for touchdowns, Singletary is an extremely volatile RB2. The Bills did well to get him looks in the passing game, however, which is a different way to raise his floor. Both Singletary and Moss are FLEX plays Week 2 vs. Miami.

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CAROLINA PANTHERS

Notes: No running back has more control over his team’s backfield than do-it-all back McCaffrey. The new coaching staff isn’t changing his role whatsoever. McCaffrey is the clear-cut overall RB1 week in and week out. He handled four carries inside the 10-yard line, scoring from six and three yards out. A tougher matchup awaits on the road against the Bucs in Week 2.

 

CHICAGO BEARS

Notes: Montgomery’s workload against the Lions was promising considering his questionable tag coming into it thanks to a weeks-long summer groin injury and the comeback nature of the game flow of the second half that favored Cohen. Montgomery still hasn’t shown much juice at the NFL level. His appeal is based solely off volume as the only early-down runner on the roster. Things look better for Montgomery as 5.5-point home favorites against the Giants, who are on a short week and fresh off allowing 100-plus yards to Benny Snell on Monday night. Cohen is a PPR-specific RB3 who needs the Bears to be chasing points on the scoreboard.

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Notes: Mixon’s depressed snap rate is a bit disappointing, but he crushed Bernard in total opportunities and should have much better days ahead against softer defenses than the Chargers. Bernard was only in on clear-cut passing downs, though obviously we’d like Mixon to get those chances because he’s a very natural pass-catcher. Neither back handled a carry inside the 10-yard line in Week 1. Mixon is a top-10 play Week 2 against Cleveland.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Notes: The Browns got boat-raced out of the stadium against Baltimore, and thanks to the blowout, Chubb was game-scripted out of the plan pretty quickly in favor of Hunt, who is better in the pass game. Chubb is an RB2 who needs his team to be playing with a lead. And the Browns looked like one of the worst teams in the league in Week 1. Cleveland is a six-point home favorite for Thursday night’s Week 2 date with the Bengals, putting Chubb in position for a major bounce-back. Hunt would take a back seat in that scenario as an RB3/FLEX.

 

DALLAS COWBOYS

Notes: The Cowboys said they wanted to get Zeke more involved in the passing game this season after a down year in that area, and OC Kellen Moore funneled four targets to his RB1 against the Rams. Elliott shook a couple defenders on his way to the end zone for a 19-yard TD catch in the second quarter. Elliott is one of the few backs who has a commanding grip on his team’s backfield opportunities. He’s a top-five fantasy back. Pollard is an elite handcuff.

 

DENVER BRONCOS

Notes: Lindsay had to leave Monday night’s loss early and missed much of the second half with what is being called a turf toe injury. It allowed Gordon to handle workhorse duties over the final 30 minutes. Gordon lost a fumble earlier in the night, but the Broncos went right back to him. He was able to put the Broncos ahead with a late one-yard touchdown before the Titans kicked a game-winning field goal. Gordon has a brutal Week 2 draw with the Steelers, but should see the requisite volume as a back-end RB2/FLEX play. Freeman will be the distant No. 2.

 

DETROIT LIONS

Notes: This backfield is one to pretty much avoid at all costs until one of the three is phased out. Johnson got the start but played the fewest snaps. Peterson was the early-down workhorse but offers nothing in the pass game and is extremely TD-dependent. Swift saw the most snaps but dropped the game-winning touchdown, though he did cash in his lone goal-line carry for a one-yard touchdown. Swift is the preferred back to own if we were going to pick one. Swift could see an even heavier snap share in Week 2 with the Lions as six-point road ‘dogs at Green Bay.

 

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Notes: Jones and Williams were essentially splitting series in the first half before the Packers got out to a gigantic Week 1 lead in Minnesota. It was all Jones after the break as the team’s clock-killer. He out-carried Williams 3-1 inside the 10-yard line and punched in a late five-yard score. Jones also out-targeted his backfield mate 6-4, though he only turned those into 10 yards. Ervin is used on jet sweeps, and Dillon is a change-of-pace between-the-tackles bruiser.

 

HOUSTON TEXANS

Notes: New OC Tim Kelly was doing a good job of getting both Johnsons on the field at the same time in the first half, but Duke ended up twisting his ankle and missing the second half. David carried the mail from there on out but saw just five second-half carries with the Texans getting blown out. D.J. looked like his pre-injury Cardinals self against the Chiefs, though, scoring from 19 yards out with a nice jump-cut to the edge. If used as a true three-down back, Johnson should crush his summer ADP. He gets a tough Week 2 date with the Ravens.

 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Notes: Mack got the Week 1 start in Jacksonville, and I firmly believe he would’ve been in for a big game before tearing his Achilles’ in the second quarter. Mack was getting targets in the passing game and picking up chunk yards on the ground. It was surprisingly Hines who was the guy in the red zone for the Colts, seeing two inside-the-10 carries to Taylor’s one. Hines converted his prime looks for a pair of scores, catching one and running in the other. With Mack now out for the season, this backfield is much easier to project. Think of Taylor as the Melvin Gordon to Hines’ Austin Ekeler in the old Chargers Offense with Philip Rivers. Both have value, but Taylor should be much more stable from a volume standpoint. He has RB1 upside.

 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

  • James Robinson (68% snap rate, 17 opportunities)
  • Chris Thompson (24%, 2)

Notes: The Jaguars ran the fewest plays (47) in Week 1, playing slow, methodical, efficient offense. Robinson got off to a hot start, turning his first 10 carries into 61 yards, but the final six totaled just one yard. He’s going to need the game script to be in his favor this season as a non-factor in the passing game, making Robinson a very volatile RB2/3. Thompson saw just two targets on 20 Gardner Minshew pass attempts. He’s a low-floor, minimal-upside RB3 in PPR who should do better in games where the Jaguars are chasing points.

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Notes: CEH still managed a top-10 week at the position, but his week could have been so much better if not for multiple failed attempts at the goal line. Edwards-Helaire and Washington’s Peyton Barber led the league in carries inside the 10-yard line in Week 1 with seven apiece. CEH did find the end zone once at least and separated himself even more from Williams, who looked slow with no ability to shed tacklers on his handful of touches. CEH is an elite RB1 moving forward in the league’s best offense. He should see more than two targets most weeks.

 

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Notes: Week 1 was about as good as it gets for Jacobs. The Raiders were leading or within one score throughout the day, allowing Jacobs to soak up big-time snaps and see a whopping six targets after getting just 27 passes thrown his way as a rookie. Jacobs looked good in space and converted his goal-line chances for three touchdowns. His six inside-the-10 carries was third in the league for Week 1, trailing only Clyde Edwards-Helaire (7) and Peyton Barber (7). Booker looked like the preferred lightly-used third-down back over Richard when Jacobs needed a rest. Hopefully Jacobs can stay involved on passing downs because the schedule gets tougher moving forward. Jacobs does get to run behind a top-five offensive line.

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Notes: Ekeler is on pace for just 16 targets after seeing 108 the year before. Obviously it’s only been one week, but Tyrod Taylor’s unwillingness to throw it to his running backs is going to be a major problem for Ekeler in fantasy. On top of that, Kelley out-carried Ekeler 3-1 inside the 10-yard line, scoring once from five yards out. Without catches and touchdowns, Ekeler’s floor is lowered significantly, making him more of a volatile RB2, especially against tougher defenses. Kelley should be added everywhere he’s available in the old Melvin Gordon role.

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Notes: Everyone expected Brown to get the start for the Rams, but nobody saw him handling this much of the Week 1 workload against Dallas. A pedestrian talent, Brown ended up leading this committee and converted his scoring opportunities for one- and two-yard touchdowns. Akers struggled, but his 15 touches were promising. Henderson was playing on a bum hamstring and looks to be a distant No. 3 in L.A. Brown, Nyheim Hines, and Benny Snell were the top backs to add off waivers this week. Ultimately, the Rams would like Akers to pull ahead of Brown, but the veteran is a steady hand who knows his role and gets the job done. Henderson can safely be dropped in all 10- and 12-team redraft leagues.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Notes: The Dolphins appeared to come out of the gates in a full-blown four-way committee, giving all four backs touches in the first half. Gaskin easily looked like the most talented of this group, and his increased snaps as the game went on proved that. Howard is still going to be a thorn in the side as the goal-line back, but Gaskin already looks better than Breida. Howard will be phased out of the offensive game plan anytime the Dolphins are chasing points on the scoreboard, making Gaskin the preferred back to own in Miami at the moment.

 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Notes: The Vikings could never get a hold of the ball in the first half, watching the Packers and Aaron Rodgers cram it down Minnesota’s throats. Only the Jaguars (47) ran fewer plays than the Vikings’ 49 in Week 1. Cook didn’t tally the yards, but he did turn his five inside-the-10 carries into a pair of touchdowns and a two-point conversion. He’s the workhorse after securing an extension last weekend. Cook is a top-five back moving forward. Mattison is one of the premier handcuffs to own and offers some standalone value on 8-10 weekly touches when Cook needs a breather. If Cook ever got hurt, Mattison would be a legit top-10 fantasy back.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Notes: Michel scored a short touchdown, but Cam Newton is the Patriots’ new power back and the best bet to lead this team in rushing scores after scoring twice on the ground in Week 1. A four-man committee where none of them are seeing volume or the bulk of the goal-line carries makes this a backfield to completely avoid. None of the four are worth owning in 12-teamers.

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Notes: Kamara did almost nothing on the ground against the Bucs, turning 12 carries into 17 yards while having a late rushing score called back, but he crushed it in the pass game with 5-51-1 on eight targets. Murray out-carried Kamara 15-12 and 4-3 inside the 10-yard line. With Michael Thomas (ankle) expected to miss several weeks, the Saints could become even more run dominant, giving Murray standalone FLEX value while Kamara is a top-five back. A Monday night date with the Raiders is on tap in Week 2. I like Murray quite a bit in that spot.

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Notes: Barkley got hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on two-thirds of his 15 carries Monday night against the Steelers, turning those carries into just six total yards on the night. However, Barkley was able to save his fantasy night with 6-60 as a receiver on a team-high nine targets. OC Jason Garrett did a good job of moving Barkley out wide on 13 snaps to get him some space. Much better days are ahead, as Lewis is no threat for snaps of carries. Barkley is Garrett’s new Ezekiel Elliott as a true every-down workhorse. He gets the Bears next.

 

NEW YORK JETS

  • Le’Veon Bell (57% snap rate, 8 opportunities)
  • Frank Gore (25%, 6)
  • Josh Adams (23%, 4)

Notes: Bell got the start, as expected, but hamstring woes from the summer crept up and bit him against the Bills, forcing Bell to leave Week 1 early only to be sent to I.R. this week. He’ll miss at least the next three games. Coach Adam Gase said Gore will start in his place, but Adams looked better in his limited opportunities, scoring a late touchdown. The Jets also added Kalen Ballage on Wednesday. None of the three will be worth starting in fantasy Week 2 against the Niners.

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Notes: Miles Sanders (hamstring) missed Week 1 but is practicing in full for Week 2 against the Rams. He should slide in as a 65-70% player and handle 20-plus opportunities, moving Scott to change-of-pace duties and Clement to special teams. Sanders is a top-10 back going forward.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Notes: Conner was a favorite of the fantasy community as a third-round pick in summer drafts. But his injury history reared its ugly head in the first half of Week 1 against the Giants. Conner had to leave with an ankle injury after 6-9-0 rushing and never returned to the field. In his absence, Snell rushed 19 times for over 100 yards and proved he’s ready to carry the mail for however long Conner is out. He didn’t practice Wednesday. Snell will be a borderline RB1/2 with the Steelers settled in as 7.5-point home favorites against the Broncos in Week 2.

 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Notes: Mostert is the early-down playmaker, and McKinnon, finally back healthy, settled in as the Niners’ third-down back while Coleman was the lightly-used COP back. Mostert ripped off a 76-yard receiving touchdown and handled a commanding 19-of-30 backfield touches. With all of the injuries in the pass-catching group, this offense is going to run the ball even more. And the Week 2 date with the hopeless Jets offers a chance at 25-plus carries for Mostert. He’s an RB1. Coleman can be dropped in 12-team leagues. McKinnon is a deep-league PPR roster filler.

 

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Notes: Carson only handled six carries to Hyde’s seven, which is a definite concern coming out of Week 1, but he did see six targets in the passing game, scoring twice through the air. Hyde out-carried Carson 1-0 inside the 10-yard line, too. It’s not comforting for Carson’s fantasy managers, but the pass-game usage is promising, especially with rookie DeeJay Dallas a healthy Week scratch. Carson should see more carries Week 2 at home against New England.

 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Notes: Jones was the early-down guy and McCoy the pass-game back for his blocking ability. Fournette did nothing with his handful of looks and continues to show why the Jaguars gave up on him. Fournette should get more chances as he gets more comfortable in Tampa, but Jones out-carried him 2-0 inside the 10-yard line against the Saints and continues to be praised as the lead back by coach Bruce Arians. Jones is the one to play Week 2 against the lowly Panthers.

 

TENNESSEE TITANS

Notes: Much like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Ezekiel Elliott, King Henry has a stranglehold on his team’s backfield work. Henry didn’t bust any big runs against the Broncos in Week 1, but the volume got him to his 100 yards. The King now gets a Jaguars Defense he has historically dominated after gashing them for rushing lines of 19-159-2, 17-44-1, and 17-238-4 in his last three matchups. Those Jacksonville defenses had more talent than this current one. Henry is a top-two Week 2 fantasy back alongside Christian McCaffrey.

 

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

Notes: Of all people, Barber tied for the league lead with seven carries inside the 10-yard line in Week 1 against the Eagles, scoring a pair of short touchdowns to help aid Washington’s comeback win. Gibson should see more playing time in games the Football Team is chasing points, but his lack of goal-line looks is a concern for his ceiling in fantasy. McKissic is involved just enough as a pass-catcher to be a nuisance and drag on Gibson. Barber may not score two more touchdowns all season. He’s a low-floor, plodding grinder.

Nick Mensio

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