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Fantasy Football: Running back handcuff index, matchup notes and Week 3 rankings

  • Christian McCaffrey led the league with a 93% snap share in Week 1 and is one of six running backs expected to receive 20-plus combined carries and targets in Week 3.
  • One drastic change from Week 1 to Week 2 featured Raheem Mostert displacing Chase Edmonds atop the Dolphins depth chart.
  • Jeff Wilson predictably led the way in San Francisco and has the potential for even more future work with Trey Lance (ankle, IR) and Tyrion Davis-Price (ankle) joining Elijah Mitchell (knee, IR) on the sideline.
Estimated reading time: 30 minutes
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Despite what the overlords at PFF might think: Running backs are people too, and we care about them very deeply in fantasy football land.

Of course, a player can only do so much without, you know, actually getting to touch the football. The following table denotes the top three running backs from every offense in Week 1 alongside their snap rate, carries, targets and route rate; this will help fuel the following anecdotes and rankings.

 

Takeaways

Eight running backs played at least 70% of their offense’s snaps: Christian McCaffrey (93%), Leonard Fournette (86%), Saquon Barkley (86%), David Montgomery (80%), Joe Mixon (76%), Josh Jacobs (75%), Jonathan Taylor (73%) and Najee Harris (71%). Each is cemented as a bell-cow back, with Jacobs being the notable surprise. Note that Jacobs has been losing pass-down work to Brandon Bolden (hamstring) and Ameer Abdullah, but he’s still a weekly upside RB2 as long as Josh McDaniels keeps the committee at two players as opposed to three.

Running backs that played over 60% of their offense’s snaps and should work as the leader of their committee more weeks than not: Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott, Javonte Williams, Austin Ekeler, Dameon Pierce, James Robinson, Michael Carter and Rhamondre Stevenson. Note that Pierce and Robinson are a bit more game-script dependent than the other parties involved due to Rex Burkhead and Travis Etienne soaking up plenty of pass-down work, while Stevenson’s status as the Patriots’ most fantasy-friendly back is contingent on Ty Montgomery (ankle, IR) staying out of the picture, Damien Harris staying healthy and Pierre Strong Jr. (shoulder) not getting more involved.

James Conner (ankle) left the game for good shortly after halftime, leading to a near even split between Darrel Williams and Eno Benjamin. Conner’s injury isn’t considered overly serious, but this split usage behind him really hurts the idea that any of these backups are worthy of a bench spot in traditional re-draft fantasy leagues. Gun to my head, I’d give Eno the slight edge, but neither he nor Williams would be a viable RB2 option if Conner misses time. Check out the Tuesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for full thoughts on this week’s waiver wire.

Cordarrelle Patterson remains the leader in the clubhouse in Atlanta regardless of which other running backs are available. Still, Tyler Allgeier is the next man up for Damien Williams (ribs, IR) and looks to have a decent chance to see double-digit carries more weeks than not. This role in and of itself isn’t all that alluring, but perhaps Allgeier could take over the backfield if anything happens to C-Patt. Allgeier was one of just four draft-eligible running backs with PFF grades north of 70 in receiving, rushing and pass-blocking.

Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt as well as Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon continue to split things pretty close to down the middle. This was more true than usual for D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams as well this week, but that can be attributed to Swift being limited with an ankle injury.

The Chiefs continue to keep three backs involved on an every-week basis. Clyde Edwards-Helaire should lead the way in counting numbers more weeks than not; just realize it’s going to be awfully difficult for CEH to achieve even season-long RB2 production with Jerick McKinnon soaking up so much pass-game work.

Darrell Henderson went from arguably the single-most featured running back in Week 1 to a split committee with Cam Akers. Neither should be trusted as more than a low-floor RB2 until there’s some sense of rhyme or reason in this backfield.

Another drastic change from Week 1 to Week 2 featured Raheem Mostert displacing Chase Edmonds atop the Dolphins depth chart. While it’s not a given this persists all year, neither warrants RB2 consideration at the moment, and I’ll be answering the majority of close start/sit questions involving either with the other guy.

The Saints backfield devolved into a three-headed mess without Alvin Kamara active. Latavius Murray could also feasibly get more involved in future weeks. Obviously, Kamara is an auto-start once healthy enough to suit up; otherwise stay the hell away from this suddenly pass-first offense.

The presence of Ty Johnson in New York really hurts Breece Hall’s already thin utilization. Both Carter and Hall are middling RB3 types with this sort of usage.

Miles Sanders continues to lead the Eagles’ three-back committee, although less positive game-script could lead to more funky snap rates in the future with Kenneth Gainwell being the likely beneficiary of more pass-down opportunities.

Imagine using the 41st overall pick on a running back and then featuring him as your *third* running back. F*ck this Seattle backfield.

Jeff Wilson predictably led the way in San Fran and has the potential for even more future work with Trey Lance (ankle, IR) and Tyrion Davis-Price (ankle) joining Elijah Mitchell (knee, IR) on the sideline.

The Titans pulled their starters before the end of the third quarter; Hassan Haskins ideally wouldn’t see more than 10-20% of the snaps in a more neutral game script. Note that Dontrell Hilliard (hamstring) was inactive.

Antonio Gibson still managed to see 18 combined carries and targets in a game script tailor-made for J.D. McKissic. This is always a risk with Gibson, but he’ll remain in the mid- to low-end RB2 conversation until Brian Robinson (gunshot, IR) is back in action.

Handcuff index

The following teams would be expected to hand their backup running back something pretty close to a fantasy-friendly three-down role should their team’s starter be forced out of action:

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