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Tevin Coleman
AP
By the Numbers

Week 8: Taking Stock Of All 32 NFL Backfields

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: October 23, 2019, 12:52 am 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 seven weeks of regular season data to help clear up the ever-murky RB position.

Below is a Week 7 cheat sheet that denotes the snap rates as well as combined carries and targets for each team's top-two RBs from their last game.

Week 7 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

All snap count and touch data was compiled from Pro Football Reference. Opportunities refer to a player's combined carries and targets. All data references each player's season-long production. More recent workload information is available in the notes section.


Arizona Cardinals

Notes: Johnson (back, ankle) played just three total snaps in Week 7. Coach Kliff Kingsbury noted that his starting RB is a "warrior" but simply "didn't feel right after a couple plays." Be sure to monitor our Week 8 Injury Dashboard to see if Johnson is able to get in a full practice ahead of the Cardinals' upcoming matchup against the Saints.

Edmonds completely balled out in DJ's absence, posting 27-126-3 rushing and 2-24-0 receiving lines on a position-high 94% snap rate. Clearly the Cardinals believe in Edmonds' three-down ability, giving him potential standalone value in Week 8 due to the heightened risk of limited snaps for Johnson if active.

Kyler Murray and Kingsbury haven't quite taken over the league as quickly as some hoped, but one major difference in the offense between this year and last has been the run game. Overall, the Cardinals rank 13th in adjusted line yards per rush after finishing the 2018 season as the league's 25th-ranked unit (Football Outsiders). Most of the credit should probably be given to Kingsbury for his ability to scheme the RBs into space, as PFF still grades the Cardinals' offensive line as the league's 30th-ranked unit in run blocking.

Note that the Cardinals signed Alfred Morris on Tuesday. He's unlikely to steal too many, if any, touches from Edmonds.


Atlanta Falcons

Notes: Ito Smith (concussion) played just three snaps last week before getting hurt and has already been ruled out for Week 8.

Freeman gained just 25 yards on nine touches before being ejected against the Rams in Week 7 for attempting to fight Aaron Donald (lol). 

Hill was already rotating with Freeman prior to the ejection, indicating that this backfield will likely continue to work as a 1.A/1.B committee. Perhaps Freeman will flirt with a snap rate closer to 70% with Smith sidelined, but it'd be surprising to see him suddenly inherit a workhorse role.

Both RBs should be approached with caution in the Falcons' 19th-ranked scoring offense that has finished with between 38 and 103 rushing yards in every game this season. It's tough to see the offense moving the ball against the Seahawks if Matt Ryan (ankle) is ultimately sidelined in favor of 38-year-old backup Matt Schaub.



Baltimore Ravens

Notes: Ingram boasted a 51% snap rate in Week 7 after dipping to 39% in Week 6. He only had 12 carries and a target, as Lamar Jackson (14-116-1 rushing) largely took over the game on the ground. Continue to treat Ingram as a middling RB2 as the lead back in the league's second-highest ranked scoring offense following the Ravens' Week 8 bye.

Edwards doesn't have 10 touches in a game since Week 1, while Hill hasn't reached even eight combined carries and targets in a game this season. They'd likely form a two-back committee if Ingram were forced to miss time.

This is a RB article, but Jackson's performance as a pure rusher this season has been nothing short of spectacular.

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Buffalo Bills

Notes: Yeldon was a healthy scratch in Singletary's first game since the rookie injured his hamstring in Week 2.

Overall, Gore worked well ahead of the Bills' third-round pick during the team's Week 7 win over the Dolphins:

  • Gore: 54% snap rate, 11 carries, 1 target
  • Singletary: 39% snap rate, 7 carries, 0 targets

Similar to the situation in Baltimore: Any RB in Buffalo will occasionally suffer reduced workload when Josh Allen (4-32-0 rushing in Week 7) gets more involved on the ground than usual.


Carolina Panthers

Notes: CMC had a bye week to rest up. He's racked up 27, 37, 25 and 26 touches in four games without Cam Newton (foot, out) this season. Continue to fire up McCaffrey as the overall RB1 ahead of Week 8's difficult road matchup against the 49ers.

Bonnafon got loose for a 59 yard touchdown in Week 5 and tentatively appears to be the handcuff to own in Carolina. Still, I'd caution in assuming the undrafted rookie would inherit a massive three-down workload if McCaffrey were to miss time. There are a handful of RBs in the world with CMC's dual-threat ability, and Bonnafon, who never had more than three catches in a game at Louisville, isn't one of them.


Chicago Bears

Notes: Montgomery had *two* carries in the Bears' embarrassing blowout loss at home to Teddy Bridgewater and the Saints in Week 7.

His snap rates have been a roller coaster this season:

  • Week 1: 38%
  • Week 2: 45%
  • Week 3: 65%
  • Week 4: 69%:
  • Week 5: 54%
  • Week 6: Bye
  • Week 7: 46%

The Bears' third-round rookie will continue to hold a low pass-game floor as long as Cohen (9-19-0 receiving in Week 7) functions as the backfield's clear No. 1 receiving RB. Neither player has enough consistent volume to be considered as anything more than a boom-or-bust RB3 in the Bears' 26th-ranked scoring offense.

Davis has played five total offensive snaps since Week 3.


Cincinnati Bengals

Notes: The Bengals' talented three-down back posted 10-2-0 rushing and 1-2-1 receiving lines last week at home against the Jaguars' injury-riddled defense. Last season Mixon played at least 65% of the offense's snaps in 11-of-14 games. He's reached that mark exactly zero times in 2019.

Gio doesn't have double-digit touches in a game this season and is more of nuisance for Mixon's fantasy owners than a RB that holds any semblance of fantasy value.

None of this is meant to disparage either RB: The Bengals rank dead last in adjusted line yards per rush and have targeted their talented pass-catching RBs at just the 18th-highest rate in the league. There simply hasn't been much fantasy production to be had from the RB position in the Bengals' 28th-ranked scoring offense.

A road matchup as 13-point underdogs against the Rams isn't anyone's idea of a get-right spot.


Cleveland Browns

Notes: Only Christian McCaffrey (28.5 combined carries and targets), Leonard Fournette (26), Chris Carson (23.6) and Ezekiel Elliott (23.6) have been fed the rock more consistently than Chubb (23.3) this season. The Browns' featured back has even demonstrated a decent pass-game floor, catching at least three passes in all but one game this season.

Kareem Hunt returned to practice this week and is eligible to return in Week 10. His presence could relegate Chubb to more of a 1.A role in the backfield with a reduced snap rate in the 60-70% range, but it's extremely unlikely that we see the Browns' most-consistent playmaker function as anything other than the offense's lead back. My money is instead on Hunt simply soaking up all of Hilliard and Johnson's snaps once eligible, particularly in his first game or two back.

Ian Hartitz

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