News & Analysis

Committee Report: Relevant backup fantasy RBs heading into Week 14

Nov 26, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) carries the ball while being pursued by Indianapolis Colts linebacker Jabaal Sheard (93) during the first quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Staying on top of fluid backfield situations from week to week for all 32 teams is quite the tedious task, even for fantasy diehards. To help with your fantasy preparations, my weekly RB Committee Report is intended to be your one-stop shop for tracking each and every fantasy backfield. Each week, we’ll go around the league to hone in on who’s trending up or down in terms of workload distribution and volume, as well as efficiency, in order to pinpoint which backs are making the most (and least) of their opportunities.

Kenyan Drake 79.1 / 34.5 Aaron Jones 3.6 / 47.6
Mike Davis 72.6 / 44.9 Danny Woodhead 31.3 / 23.8
Peyton Barber 68.4 / 19.6 Devontae Booker 15.3 / 31.6
Rex Burkhead 31.4 / 27.8 LeGarrette Blount 18.7 / 34.4
Jamaal Williams 87.3 / 35.8 Rod Smith 40.3 / 20.1

Arizona Cardinals

Fantasy Starter Backup to Know
Adrian Peterson Kerwynn Williams (PPR)

Adrian Peterson missed last week’s game with a neck injury and has yet to be cleared for contact. Kerwynn Williams handled 16 of the 22 backfield touches in Peterson’s absence against the Rams, including both of the team’s attempts inside the five, finishing with 97 yards on 16 carries. There was one second-quarter stretch during which Williams had six straight runs of seven-plus yards, including a long of 25, although he forced only one missed tackle on the day. Still, he’s in line for a heavy workload against Tennessee. As for Peterson, he’s averaged 19 PPR fantasy points during Arizona’s three wins since his arrival versus only four points in the team’s three losses.

Atlanta Falcons

Starter Backup to Own
Devonta Freeman Tevin Coleman

In his first game back since a Week 10 concussion, Devonta Freeman held a 13-11 advantage in touches over Tevin Coleman and produced 74 yards on 12 carries against a tough Vikings defense. It was back to the usual workload split, with Freeman playing 74 percent of the backfield snaps compared to 38 percent for Coleman, who had not played more than 44 percent of the snaps in any game this season prior to Freeman’s injury. Freeman sits 10th in elusive rating on the season.

Baltimore Ravens

Starter Backup to Own
Alex Collins Danny Woodhead (PPR)

Danny Woodhead will factor into negative game scripts, but he’s played less than a third of the backfield snaps in all four games he’s been active this season. Alex Collins has emerged as the most reliable fantasy option in the Ravens’ backfield, and he posted a 129.4 elusive rating on Sunday, forcing five missed tackles on his 15 carries while averaging 4.4 yards after contact. Collins was also dealing with migraines earlier this week, a situation that bears monitoring for his Week 14 status.

Buffalo Bills

Starter Backup to Know
LeSean McCoy Travaris Cadet (PPR)

Averaging eight touches per game over the past three weeks, Travaris Cadet has surpassed Mike Tolbert in the Bills’ weekly game plan. LeSean McCoy remains the only fantasy option in this backfield, and he still handled 17 touches in a 20-point loss to New England.

Carolina Panthers

Starter Backup to Know
Christian McCaffrey Jonathan Stewart (12+)

Christian McCaffrey is within reach of Reggie Bush’s all-time record for most receptions by a rookie running back (88). While both he and Jonathan Stewart had 11 touches in Week 13, McCaffrey salvaged a 49-yard effort with his sixth touchdown of the season. The rookie is up to eighth among RBs in PPR scoring despite the presence of Stewart, who has logged double-digit carries in all but one game.

Chicago Bears

Starter Backup to Own
Jordan Howard Tarik Cohen (PPR)

That’s two straight duds now for Jordan Howard, and the game script excuse only holds so much weight. Meanwhile, Tarik Cohen ranks ninth out of 50 qualifiers in elusive rating, and his 19 missed tackles forced as a receiver trails only Alvin Kamara’s 24 among running backs. Cohen has been on the field for 43 percent of the backfield snaps over the past three weeks but is averaging less than 35 yards from scrimmage in that span. His increased involvement is more a hit to Howard’s fantasy stock than anything else.

Cincinnati Bengals

Starter Backup to Know
Joe Mixon Giovani Bernard (PPR)

Joe Mixon’s concussion opened the door for Giovani Bernard, who handled every backfield touch and looked awfully spry against Pittsburgh with several chunk gains. Bernard averaged 3.54 yards after contact and forced six missed tackles on 13 rushes. With Mixon yet to practice this week, Bernard appears headed for another big workload against Chicago. The caveat here is that Cleveland is generating only 1.15 yards before contact and owns PFF’s No. 27 run-blocking grade. Still, it would be interesting to see what happens if Bernard comes through again, considering Mixon had gotten 20-plus carries in back-to-back weeks and was coming off a season-high 114 rushing yards against Cleveland.

Cleveland Browns

Starter Backup to Own
Isaiah Crowell Duke Johnson (PPR)

Another week, another even backfield split as Duke Johnson held a 34-32 edge over Isaiah Crowell in snaps but Crowell had an 11-9 advantage in touches. Ultimately, neither player was a fantasy factor against the Chargers. On the season, Johnson ranks ninth among all RBs in elusive rating and 15th in PPR scoring on 111 touches, while Crowell sits 52nd in elusive rating and 39th in PPR scoring on 175 touches.

Dallas Cowboys

Starter Backup to Know
Alfred Morris Rod Smith

One week after getting 12 fewer carries than Rod Smith, Alfred Morris was the featured back against Washington and racked up 127 yards and a score on 27 carries. While it’s certainly possible the extended role was the Cowboys coaches throwing a bone to “Alf” against his former team, his production should be too tough to ignore. Frankly, he’s been the most effective Cowboys’ RB this season and currently ranks third out of 50 qualifiers in elusive rating, averaging 4.04 yards after contact along with a missed tackle forced once every 5.2 rushes. On the docket this week is an appealing matchup against the Giants, who are 26th in fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs.

Denver Broncos

Starter Backup to Know
C.J. Anderson Jamaal Charles

After out-touching C.J. Anderson for two straight games, Devontae Booker played just 11 snaps against Miami in Week 13, his lowest total since Week 7. Perhaps having seen enough of Booker’s pedestrian numbers, coach Vance Joseph went back to Anderson, who responded with 110 yards on 19 touches – his biggest output since Week 4. With Jamaal Charles continuing to get his usual smattering of touches, Anderson remains a risky fantasy option.

Detroit Lions

Starter Backup to Know
Ameer Abdullah Theo Riddick (PPR)

Ameer Abdullah sat out Week 13 with a neck issue, and Theo Riddick (14 touches) wound up splitting the workload with Tion Green (11 touches), although the former held a 40-21 edge in snaps. Riddick found little running room (21 yards on nine carries) but was his usual self in the passing game, hauling in 5-of-5 targets for 41 yards. Green, an undrafted free agent, ripped off a 33-yard gain on his first NFL carry and finished with 51 yards and a score on 11 carries, including a couple chances near the goal line. Still, as has been the case pretty much all year, this remains a backfield to avoid in fantasy.

Green Bay Packers

Starter Backup to Own
Jamaal Williams Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones returned from his MCL sprain in Week 13, but it was Jamaal Williams who carried the mail. Williams held a 23-1 edge in touches, including both rushing attempts inside the five, and finished with 123 yards. For what it’s worth, Jones’ lone carry went for a 20-yard touchdown. While Jones did enjoy some success pre-injury, it’s important to note that he was getting 2.9 yards before contact, tops in the league. In contrast, Williams has been given only 1.2. But the two backs are virtually identical in yards after contact (2.6 to 2.5) and elusive rating (35.7 to 34.8). Williams with more opportunities, more room to run, and a healthy Aaron Rodgers, could be quite the lottery ticket for Weeks 15-16.

Houston Texans

Starter Backup to Know
Lamar Miller Alfred Blue

Alfred Blue suffered a concussion against Tennessee, one week after logging a season-high 12 carries and 31 percent of the snaps. The result was another hefty workload for Lamar Miller, who produced 94 yards on 19 touches and forced six missed tackles. All in all it was a solid day at the office for this year’s King of Inefficiency, who trails only Le’Veon Bell in RB snaps this season. Miller ranks 44th in elusive rating this season and has produced the fewest fantasy points per opportunity (0.35) of any of the top-20 PPR backs.

Indianapolis Colts

Starter Backup to Know
Frank Gore Marlon Mack

Marlon Mack’s first carry of Week 13 came in the second quarter, and it went for 25 yards. He gained eight, five, and four yards on his next three carries, yet finished with only six rushes to Frank Gore’s 13 as Indianapolis suffered its ninth loss. The Colts have little to lose by turning the keys over to the rookie, who ranks 11th in elusive rating (Gore is 36th), although it will likely be too late to help fantasy owners this year.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Starter Backup to Know
Leonard Fournette T.J. Yeldon (12+)

Laboring through a lingering ankle injury, Leonard Fournette has averaged just 2.9 YPC over his last four games and ranks outside the top-24 PPR backs in that span. Still, he got another 20-plus carries for the sixth time this season and had 18 more touches than the next-closest Jacksonville running back (Chris Ivory).

Kansas City Chiefs

Starter Backup to Know
Kareem Hunt Charcandrick West (12+)

The tale of two seasons continues for Kareem Hunt. The good news is that he got all but two of the Chiefs’ backfield touches in Week 13. The bad news is that amounted to only 12 touches and 63 yards, as Kansas City threw the ball 78 percent of the time in a shootout. Hunt is getting only 1.0 yards before contact over the last six games, compared to 2.79 yards before contact in his first six. Still, only Dion Lewis has forced more missed tackles than Hunt since Week 6.

Los Angeles Chargers

Starter Backup to Own
Melvin Gordon Austin Ekeler (12+)

Melvin Gordon produced 106 yards on 23 touches against Cleveland, including three runs of 14-plus yards and the Chargers’ lone goal-line opportunity. Austin Ekeler turned his six touches into 40 yards and is averaging 72 yards on nine touches over his last four games. While Ekeler has deservedly chipped into Gordon’s workload a bit, he’s not getting enough work to be a fantasy factor independent of touchdowns.

Los Angeles Rams

Starter Backup to Know
Todd Gurley Lance Dunbar (12+)

Replacement-level backups

Miami Dolphins

Starter Backup to Know
Kenyan Drake Damien Williams (PPR)

I cautioned last week to dial back expectations for Kenyan Drake against Denver’s top-graded run defense, considering Drake was getting a league-worst 0.05 yards before contact behind the Dolphins’ league-worst run-blocking grade. And then Drake responded by posting a near-perfect 94.6 overall grade. Still, I would be remiss not to mention that 106 of Drake’s 120 yards came after contact, and it took a league-high seven missed tackles to amass that rushing total. A fantastic effort, no doubt, but perhaps not the type of production one should expect on a weekly basis. Damien Williams’ (shoulder) absence also contributed to Drake playing a season-high 79.1 percent of the snaps.

Minnesota Vikings

Starter Backup to Own
Latavius Murray Jerick McKinnon

While Murray logged 19 touches to Jerick McKinnon’s 14 against Atlanta in Week 13, McKinnon held a 36-30 edge in snaps and wound up with more fantasy points. In a close game that saw Minnesota post an even 52-48 pass-run split, McKinnon caught 5-of-5 targets for 28 yards and a score, plus he was given the team’s lone carry inside the five, an area that has belonged to Murray. Both backs continue to hold RB2 value, but all things considered, Murray is the more reliable option with double-digit carries in eight straight. He’s been a top-10 fantasy back in all formats since Week 7, averaging 4.5 yards on 18 carries to go with five touchdowns in that span.

New England Patriots

Starter Backup to Own
Dion Lewis Rex Burkhead (PPR)

Rex Burkhead has multiple scores in back-to-back games, the first Patriots running back to do that since BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2010. He and Dion Lewis both had 15 touches against Buffalo, although Lewis posted Week 13’s fourth-best elusive rating as he forced four missed tackles and averaged 4.4 yards after contact. He also had two runs of 15-plus yards. Lewis is second only to Alvin Kamara in elusive rating this season and is averaging 5.3 YPC, but Burkhead has matched his season’s TD total in the last two weeks alone. The Patriots were playing with a lead and ran the ball more than they threw it. Of course, the Patriots are 10-2 and play from ahead most weeks, which keeps both backs in the weekly RB2 mix.

New Orleans Saints

Co-Starter Co-Starter
Mark Ingram Alvin Kamara (PPR)

There’s not much more to say other than Alvin Kamara is insane, having finished as a top-10 fantasy running back in each of the last seven weeks despite sporadic usage. The most elusive back in the league, Kamara is forcing a missed tackle once every three touches and is averaging 4.24 yards after contact. He and Mark Ingram continue to sit No. 1 and No. 2 among RBs in fantasy scoring since Adrian Peterson’s departure prior to Week 6.

New York Giants

Starter Backup to Know
Orleans Darkwa Wayne Gallman

Rookie Wayne Gallman had been making some headway of late, but in Week 13 it was Orleans Darkwa who led the way with 15 touches, while Gallman and Shane Vereen both got four. Darkwa managed only 32 yards on his 14 carries, though he somewhat salvaged his fantasy day by scoring on a goal-line carry. It will be interesting to see how the Giants’ offense performs in the wake of coach Ben McAdoo’s firing, but this remains a backfield to avoid in fantasy until further notice.

New York Jets

Starter Backup to Own
Matt Forte Bilal Powell

Matt Forte has taken the upper hand in the Jets backfield of late, and he’s averaging 12 PPR points per game, which puts him right in mid-RB2 territory. The veteran has double-digit carries in three straight along with three touchdowns in his last three games, and he’s averaging four catches per game since Week 6. Bilal Powell has scored 10-plus fantasy points in only three games this season, but one of those was last week against Kansas City as he got a team-high 20 touches, including all five of the team’s carries inside the 5.

Oakland Raiders

Starter Backup to Own
Marshawn Lynch Jalen Richard (12+)

Marshawn Lynch posted an 82.2 overall grade in Week 13 and ranks fifth in fantasy scoring over his last four outings. He’s also climbed to eighth (out of 50) in elusive rating on the season. Lynch was averaging only 11 carries per game entering Week 12 but has racked up 43 carries over his last two games as he’s now dominating the Raiders’ backfield snaps. Beast Mode appears to be getting stronger as the season wears on.

Philadelphia Eagles

Starter Backup to Own
LeGarrette Blount Jay Ajayi

The Eagles haven’t trailed a whole lot this season. In falling at Seattle in Week 13, they posted a 68-32 pass-run split as Jay Ajayi paced the backfield with 7.6 fantasy points. The main takeaway here is that Ajayi saw his snap share increase for the second straight week (41.3 percent) and led the way with 12 touches, compared to eight for LeGarrette Blount and six for Corey Clement.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Starter Backup to Own
Le’Veon Bell James Conner

Le’Veon Bell has played 123 more snaps than the next-closest RB in the league. For those with a roster spot to spare – not just Bell owners – Bell has played just one 16-game season in his four-year career and has handled 55 of 58 RB touches over the last two weeks. Rookie James Conner (4.6 YPC) would be a plug-and-play RB2 if Bell were to miss time.

San Francisco 49ers

Starter Backup to Own
Carlos Hyde Matt Breida

Matt Breida saw his biggest snap share (32 percent) since Week 5 and ran for 45 yards on a season-high 12 carries (3.8 YPC). However, his Week 13 elusive rating ranked dead-last out of 43 qualified RBs, as he averaged only 1.67 yards after contact and didn’t force a single missed tackle on 13 touches. Granted, Carlos Hyde didn’t fare much better with only 66 yards on 20 touches. Zooming out for additional context, Breida has enjoyed a full yard more than Hyde before contact (2.3 to 1.3) this season, but Hyde holds a 2.7-2.0 edge in yards after contact. In other words, Week 13’s distribution did not signal a changing of the guard from Hyde, who still sits ninth among RBs in PPR scoring this season.

Seattle Seahawks

Starter Backup to Know
Mike Davis J.D. McKissic (PPR)

Mike Davis returned from his groin injury and played 73 percent of the backfield snaps for Seattle in Week 13, finishing with 101 yards on 20 touches against the Eagles’ No. 1 run defense. He did this despite the Seahawks throwing it 62 percent of the time the O-line generating only 0.92 yards before contact. No other Seattle running back had more than two touches.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Starter Backup to Own
Doug Martin Peyton Barber

Peyton Barber went over 100 yards rushing in Week 13, something Doug Martin has not done in his last 22 games. He averaged a healthy 3.04 yards after contact but forced only three missed tackles on 27 touches to finish 29th in elusive rating for the week. While the 143 yards were encouraging and should certainly warrant starting consideration, Martin was a full practice participant on Wednesday and looks likely to return from his concussion.

Tennessee Titans

Starter Backup to Own
DeMarco Murray Derrick Henry

At this point, coach Mike Mularkey is the last person in the world who doesn’t see that Derrick Henry is head and shoulders more effective than DeMarco Murray. Henry had 109 yards and a score on 11 carries against Houston in Week 13, as he forced three missed tackles and averaged 3.64 yards after contact. And yet, Murray had two more touches. On the season, Henry ranks sixth in elusive rating while Murray ranks 32nd.

Washington Redskins

Starter Backup to Know
Samaje Perine Byron Marshall

Samaje Perine can be forgiven for his dud Week 13 showing after two straight 100-yard rushing games. With Washington playing from behind, Byron Marshall was a bit more involved and saw nine touches to Perine’s 15.

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