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By the Numbers

Week 5: Taking Stock Of All 32 NFL Backfields

Updated On: October 2, 2019, 1:12 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 four weeks of regular season data to help clear up the ever-murky RB position. What follows is a 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 refers to each player's season-long production. More recent workload information is available in the notes section.


Arizona Cardinals

Notes: The Cardinals join the Falcons, Bengals and Redskins as the league's only offenses with a run-play rate under 30%. This isn't great for DJ's rushing floor, but he'll remain a locked-in RB1 as long as he continues to rack up opportunities in the passing game. Overall, Johnson (28 targets) joins Chris Thompson (28) and Christian McCaffrey (31) as the league's only RBs with more than 25 targets this season. Edmonds remains a valuable handcuff thanks to his theoretical three-down ability.


Atlanta Falcons

Notes: Freeman's snap rate is a bit inflated from Week 3 when Smith exited the game after just three plays due to a concussion. The Falcons' RB1 has played 49%, 62% and 63% snaps in games with Smith at full health. Life on the ground has been a struggle for both RBs behind the league's 25th-ranked offensive line in adjusted line yards per rush (Football Outsiders). The situation up front could be even more dire than usual in Week 5 if C Alex Mack (elbow) and RG Jamon Brown (concussion) are ultimately sidelined. Be sure to monitor our Week 5 Injury Dashboard for analysis, daily practice participation as well as estimated and official game statuses for every injured player.

 


Baltimore Ravens

Notes: Ingram posted 61% and 46% snap rates in Week 3 and Week 4, respectively, despite the Ravens falling behind by multiple scores in each game. Edwards and Hill will continue to be somewhat involved, but make no mistake about it: Ingram is the lead dog in Baltimore. This could result in some strong performances in the near future, as the Ravens have the league's second-easiest schedule in Weeks 5-8 for RBs in terms of PPR allowed to the position this season.

RB SOS

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Buffalo Bills

Notes: Singletary (hamstring) is trending towards a return after managing to get in a limited practice last week. Gore is locked in as the Bills' early-down RB regardless of Singletary's status, while Yeldon would likely spend most of his afternoon on the bench if the third-round rookie is active. There could feasibly be more rush attempts to go around in Week 5 if Josh Allen (concussion) is sidelined.


Carolina Panthers

Notes: Death, taxes, McCaffrey playing nearly every snap while racking up more touches than anybody else.


Chicago Bears

Notes: Mike Davis played just one snap in Week 3 before missing Week 4 for personal reasons. Meanwhile, Montgomery's snap rates have slowly approached featured back territory.

  • Week 1: 38%
  • Week 2: 45%
  • Week 3: 65%
  • Week 4: 69%

Cohen is too good to not siphon off targets and a few carries every week, but Montgomery is one of just 10 RBs with at least 15 touches in each of the last three games. I would strongly encourage fantasy owners to attempt to acquire the rookie's services before he inevitably begins to rack up yards and touchdowns in addition to the snaps.


Cincinnati Bengals

Notes: Life hasn't been pleasant for anyone behind the Bengals' 31st-ranked offensive line in adjusted line yards per rush. Mixon continues to work as the offense's lead back, but Giovani Bernard has been a bit more involved than anticipated. The lack of a bell-cow role has made it difficult for Mixon to reach his ceiling inside of the league's 30th-ranked scoring offense. Regardless of how his fantasy season shakes out, Mixon deserves credit for continuing to give 100% effort on each and every play.


Cleveland Browns

Notes: Chubb is fully established as the three-down RB in a Browns Offense that figures to continue to improve as the season progresses. He offers a solid pass-game floor with at least three receptions in every game this season in addition to a sky-high ceiling thanks to his ridiculous big-play ability. Chubb's 64% snap rate in Week 4 was far removed from his 99% mark in Week 3, but this seemed to be more a factor of blowout game script than the Browns consciously taking their bell-cow back off the field.

Dallas Cowboys

Notes: Zeke resumed his role as the Cowboys' every-down featured back in Week 4, posting a 97% snap rate and racking up 18 carries along with a season-high seven targets. Of course, this might not necessarily be a sign of things to come after the offense scored just 10 points against the Saints. Either way, continue to fire up Zeke as a high-end RB1 thanks to his status as the focal point of one of the league's better offenses. Tony Pollard (two snaps in Week 4) will almost assuredly be more involved moving forward, but he's still not expected to offer any standalone fantasy value unless Elliott misses game time.


Denver Broncos

Notes: Lindsay had more carries (nine) than Freeman (six) last week, but the target advantage leaned heavily towards Freeman (six) over Lindsay (one). This is further evidence that the Broncos aren't treating either RB as a clear-cut early-down or pass-game specialist. Rather, both Lindsay and Freeman have been trusted to function as a three-down RB during their respective snaps, which has been for roughly half of the offense's plays in every game this season. Life in the league's 26th-ranked scoring offense won't feature the most-consistent production, but there's still value in a two-back committee where each RB is capable of handling both pass-game and goal-line work.


Detroit Lions

Notes: Paul Perkins has been inactive in each of his first two games since the Lions signed him to replace C.J. Anderson. The result has been back-to-back performances with at least 20 rushes and 70% snaps for Kerryon, who totaled 157 combined rushing and receiving yards in Week 4 against the Chiefs. Ty and McKissic will continue to steal some of the backfield's fantasy-friendly targets, but Johnson is plenty capable of flirting with RB1 status more weeks than not with this type of high-end usage.


Green Bay Packers

Notes: Williams suffered a scary concussion on the first play of Week 4 and should be considered very questionable for Week 5. Jones went on to play 84% of the offense's snaps with Williams sidelined, although we probably shouldn't expect this type of usage to continue in Week 5. Sure, Jones *should* receive a nice bump and play more than his 40-60% snap rate in Weeks 1-3, but No. 3 RB Dexter Williams wasn't active last Thursday night. Coach Matt LaFleur has preached his commitment to a committee approach all season, so I wouldn't anticipate him completely handing the backfield over to Jones this early in the year.


Houston Texans

Notes: Johnson surprisingly out-snapped Hyde 45-to-33 last week, but the latter RB still had twice as many touches. The presence of Keke Coutee in 3-WR sets with Kenny Stills (hamstring) likely sidelined won't help Johnson's already-small underneath target share. #FreeDuke.


Indianapolis Colts

Notes: Mack was a victim to both an ankle injury and game script in Week 4. He ultimately played a season-low 36% snaps and had just 11 carries with zero targets. Coach Frank Reich confirmed Mack was never ruled out due to injury, noting that the offense instead rolled with Hines while they were in hurry-up mode. This was a reminder that Mack hasn't quite busted his status as a sneaky game-script dependent RB, though it'd be surprising if he doesn't get 15-20 touches on a near weekly basis with better injury luck inside the Colts' run-first offense. Still, Sunday night's matchup against the Chiefs at Arrowhead is far from a smash spot for the Colts' starting RB.


Jacksonville Jaguars

Notes: Fournette's ridiculous volume finally resulted in some elite-level production in Week 4, as the Jaguars' every-down RB converted 29 carries into 225 yards and added an additional two receptions for 20 receiving yards. Armstead flashed some solid three-down ability as well, but was less of a change-of-pace option and more of a pure backup that only got reps when Fournette needed a breather. Regardless, Armstead is an underrated handcuff given Fournette's injury and off-the-field history. More positive regression could be on the way for Fournette considering he's racked up a league-high 88 touches this season without a score. Devonta Freeman is the next-closest player at 64 scoreless touches.


Kansas City Chiefs

Notes: Damien remains sidelined without a clear timetable for return. The lack of usage for Darwin Thompson in the past two games leads me to believe that Damien and Shady would form a two-RB committee with the entire backfield at full health, regulating Darrel to a clear No. 3 RB role. Damien and Darrel seem to be the offense's primary pass-down RBs after each worked ahead of McCoy in terms of both pass blocking snaps as well as targets. This leaves Shady to continue to work as the offense's lead early-down back that is also fully capable of handling some pass-game duties. Of course, any role that consists of a near double-digit touch floor inside of the league's No. 1-ranked scoring offense should be just fine for fantasy business. By the way, remember this time a month ago when the entire fantasy industry shouted from the mountain tops that McCoy was washed?

Los Angeles Chargers

Notes: Troymaine Pope served as the Chargers' No. 2 RB in last week's comfortable 20-point victory over the Dolphins with Justin Jackson (calf) sidelined and Gordon in an emergency-only role. MGIII is fully expected to retake his spot as the offense's starting RB for this week's matchup against the Broncos. Gordon posted a snap rate of at least 70% in eight of nine games at full health in 2018. Still, the offense's lack of depth at WR with each of Mike Williams (back) and Travis Benjamin (quad) sidelined could help Ekeler carry some standalone fantasy value for a bit longer. The Chargers' over-qualified backup RB possesses the type of receiving skill that could enable the offense to utilize plenty of 2-RB formations if they wish.


Los Angeles Rams

Notes: The Rams finally got Gurley going in the passing game last week, as he wound up with more targets (11), receptions (seven) and yards (54) than he had in Weeks 1-3 combined. Yes, Jared Goff won't have 68 pass attempts every week, but Gurley's downfield usage (he notably drew a deep defensive pass interference on a wheel route near the end zone) is a good sign of things to come. Brown continues to work as the clear No. 2 RB and won't offer any standalone value unless Gurley misses game time. The biggest problem for the Rams' rushing attack is the absence of a dominant offensive line, as they're averaging 0.69 fewer adjusted line yards per rush in 2019 compared to their league-best mark from last season.


Miami Dolphins

Notes: Drake is set up well with the league's fifth-easiest schedule among RBs over the next month, while Ballage appeared to mercifully get benched in favor of Walton in Week 4 due to continued incompetence to the highest of levels. Perhaps the league's single-worst offense can improve slightly following their Week 5 bye.


Minnesota Vikings

Notes: A road matchup against the Bears in Week 4 hardly had the making of a great spot for Cook, but the focal point of the Vikings Offense managed to put together respectable 14-35-1 rushing and 6-35-0 receiving lines in a losing effort. Cook shouldn't have much trouble getting back on track in Week 5 against the Giants. Meanwhile, Mattison (10% snaps) actually worked behind Ameer Abdullah (11%) with the Vikings in catch-up mode for most of the game. Abdullah won't command a double-digit role anytime soon, but it's a potential sign that Mattison might not necessarily have a three-down workhorse role if Cook were to miss game time.


New Orleans Saints

Notes: The Cowboys' ridiculously-athletic LBs made life difficult for Kamara in Week 4, but he's still locked in as a high-end RB1 after he played more than 75% of the offense's snaps and racked up at least 20 touches in back-to-back weeks. Murray has just seven touches in two games without Drew Brees (thumb) and won't offer standalone value until the Saints get their longtime franchise QB back unless Kamara is forced out of action.


New England Patriots

Notes: The Patriots' ever-changing committee backfield continues evolve on a near-weekly basis. Burkhead played 74% of the offense's snaps in Week 3 ... but his 18% rate against the Bills trailed both Michel (45%) and White (52%). Bolden (8%) scored the group's only touchdown. Games against the Redskins, Giants and Jets in Weeks 5-7 indicate some fantasy-friendly game flow for Michel could be on the horizon, but he failed to get much of anything going in September despite the Patriots spending literally zero seconds trailing. Your guess is as good as mine as to who will work as this group's lead back in any given week.


New York Giants

  • RB1: Wayne Gallman (40% snap rate, 9 opportunities per game)
  • RB2: Jon Hilliman (10%, 10)

Notes: Saquon Barkley has reportedly shed his walking boot already and is progressing faster than planned. He's still out of the picture for at least the next few weeks. Gallman (60% snaps) worked well ahead of Jon Hilliman (35%) in Week 4. Gallman also racked up 18 carries and seven targets compared to 10 rush attempts and zero pass-game opportunities for Hilliman, so he can safely be regarded as this backfield's clear-cut RB1. Matchups against the Vikings and Patriots over the next two weeks won't yield as many easy looks for Gallman as he had against the Redskins, but continue to fire him up as a high-end RB2 as long as he remains a threat to reach 20 touches in any given week.


New York Jets

Notes: McCaffrey is the only other RB with a workload similar to Bell after four weeks of action. The Jets' workhorse RB would undoubtedly benefit from the return of Sam Darnold (mono) in Week 5. The matchup against the Eagles' beastly front seven isn't ideal, but continue to treat Bell as an every-week RB1 with this type of astronomical usage. Ty Montgomery's proven three-down ability makes him an underrated handcuff option.

Oakland Raiders

Notes: Jacobs racked up 17 rush attempts and a season-high two receptions vs. the Colts in Week 4. Still, even this solid level of usage is a bit underwhelming in a game that the Raiders were leading by two touchdowns as early as the second quarter. Coach Jon Gruden told the media last week that they want to get Jacobs more involved as a receiver, but he's been a game-flow dependent back to this point. There's no reason why Jacobs shouldn't be this offense's three-down bell-cow RB.


Philadelphia Eagles

Notes: The Eagles showed signs of dwindling down their three-headed backfield to a two-RB committee in Week 4, as Jordan Howard (53% snaps) and Miles Sanders (35%) worked well ahead of Darren Sproles (11%). Howard stole the show with 15-87-2 rushing and 3-28-1 receiving lines, but Sanders also had his best performance yet by converting 11 rushes into 72 scoreless yards. Both RBs are in play as home favorites against the Jets' banged-up front seven this week. I still think Sanders separates himself from Howard and Sproles at some point this season, but Howard will continue to offer fantasy value with a weekly floor of double-digit carries.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Notes: The Steelers debuted a full-blown two-back committee on Monday night, as Conner (64% snaps) and Samuels (46%) were each heavily involved all game. They both finished with 10 carries and eight receptions, with most of the pass-game work coming via high-percentage tap passes. I wouldn't count on this Mason Rudolph-led offense enabling two high-end fantasy RBs on a weekly basis, but the coaching staff clearly feels most comfortable getting Conner and Samuels involved as much as possible. They're each set up fairly well again in Week 5 at home against a Ravens Defense that was just gashed by Nick Chubb.


Seattle Seahawks

Notes: Carson might not approach his 76% snap rate from Week 4 with Penny (hamstring) tentatively expected to be back in the equation Thursday night against the Rams. Of course, it'll also be hard to keep the Seahawks' starting RB off the field if he can continue to hold onto the ball and break tackles at a ridiculous rate. Overall, Carson's 21 broken tackles in Week 4 were the most that Sports Info Solutions has ever recorded in a game (per Corey March).


San Francisco 49ers

Notes: Coach Kyle Shanahan said that Coleman (ankle) has a 'good chance' to suit up Monday night against the Browns. His presence would lead to a full-blown committee that could potentially include all four of the offense's RBs. It'd be impossible to predict snap and touch counts in this case: Each of Coleman, Breida and Mostert offer theoretical three-down ability thanks to their respective talents as both rusher and receiver, while Wilson seems poised to score every 49ers touchdown inside the five-yard line into perpetuity.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Notes: Coach Bruce Arians continues to utilize a hot-hand approach between Jones and Barber, but the former back has slowly begun to run away with the featured job. Snaps and touches are still a bit too close to feel too comfortable about firing up Jones as a weekly fantasy option, although Week 4 was the first game this season that he led the backfield in snaps and touches. Jones is looking more and more like a legit talent after being written off by most following his tumultuous rookie season.


Tennessee Titans

Notes: Henry joins Chris Carson, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Austin Ekeler, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Le'Veon Bell as the only RBs with at least 15 touches in every game they've played this season. The Titans have fully embraced him as the engine of their offense, which led to a season-high 75% snap rate and 28 touches with optimal game flow in Week 4's 14-point win over the Falcons. Continue to fire up Henry as a weekly high-end RB2 that is fully capable of providing week-winning value thanks to his patented big-play ability.


Washington Redskins

Notes: The presence of Colt McCoy or Dwayne Haskins could threaten Thompson's massive target share if they ultimately beat out Case Keenum in this week's QB competition. He'll continue to offer a low ceiling regardless of who is under center as long as Washington operates as a bottom-five scoring offense. Peterson is yet to reach 40 yards or 15 touches in a game this season.


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