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Fantasy Football: Running back handcuff index, matchup notes and Week 5 rankings

  • On pace to set career-high marks in receptions (34) and receiving yards (387), Derrick Henry remains an upside RB1 whenever he feels healthy enough to put on a uniform.
  • Khalil Herbert is a rock-solid RB2 for however long David Montgomery is sidelined thanks to the likelihood that he continues to flirt with 20-plus touches more weeks than not.
  • Only Joe Mixon (24) and Saquon Barkley (18.3) have more expected PPR points per game than Breece Hall (17.4) this season
Estimated reading time: 30 minutes
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Week 5 is here! It’s truly a great day to be great.

What follows is a fantasy football-themed breakdown of each and every backfield. The following five categories will be analyzed for all 32 teams:

  • Week 5 Fantasy Rankings: Where the running back falls in my full-PPR (point per reception) fantasy ranks. Updated ranks can be found throughout the week on PFF.com as well as the new PFF app.
  • Week 4 Usage: Every team’s top-three running backs in snap rate, carries and targets from the previous week.
  • Week 5 Matchup: Opponent’s rank in PPR points allowed to opposing running backs as well as yards before carry allowed per rush. Higher numbers are better for running backs; “32” illustrates the worst defense in a given category, and “1” is the best.
  • Handcuff Index: Consists of four tiers:
      1. Tier 1: Workhorse handcuff who would immediately be in the RB1 conversation if the starter goes down
      2. Tier 2: Plenty solid handcuff who would get a nice usage bump and be a staple in the RB2 conversation if the starter goes down
      3. Tier 3: Usage bump won’t prevent the team from continuing to use a committee of sorts; not a guarantee these handcuffs will crack the position’s top-24 should the starter go down
      4. Tier 4: Muddled mess that would likely devolve into an annoying committee without a clear fantasy-friendly back to prioritize should the starter go down
  • Key question: One key question for every team that is on my mind.

JUMP TO A TEAM:

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH


ARIZONA CARDINALS

  • Week 5 Fantasy Ranking: James Conner (RB20), Eno Benjamin (RB61)
  • Week 4 Usage: James Conner (67% snaps, 15 carries, 3 targets), Darrel Williams (20%, 4, 0), Eno Benjamin (14%, 5, 1)
  • Week 5 Matchup: PHI: 16 in PPR per game to RB, 16 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3. Benjamin and Williams largely split usage in Week 2 when Conner was banged up; neither would be must-start options in his absence.

Key question: When exactly is James Conner going to start scoring a lot of fantasy points?

Conner has struggled to get much of anything going this season, finding the end zone just once while averaging a brutal 3.2 yards per carry. Of course, this is hardly just his fault: Arizona grades out as PFF’s 21st-best run-blocking offensive line and has spent the better part of their 16 quarters attempting to recover from an early deficit.

Seriously: There has been a night and day difference in this offense between the first and last 30 minutes of play.

  • First half: -0.325 EPA per play (No. 32)
  • Second half: +0.196 (No. 1)

Ultimately, Conner has still played at least 60% of the offense’s snaps and routes in his three non-injured games and remains the featured goal line back in an offense that has asked Kyler Murray to attempt just *one* QB sneak over the course of his career. His usage remains elite, while more touchdowns *should* be on the way if/when this offense improves its efficiency and gets healthier. I wholeheartedly agree with my PFF comrade Nathan Jahnke’s assertion that Conner is a prime buy-low option.


ATLANTA FALCONS

  • Week 5 Fantasy Rankings: Tyler Allgeier (RB41), Caleb Huntley (RB48)
  • Week 4 Usage: Tyler Allgeier (44% snaps, 10 carries, 1 targets), Cordarrelle Patterson (29%, 9, 0), Caleb Huntley (22%, 10, 0)
  • Week 5 Matchup: TB: 3 in PPR per game to RB, 20 in YBC allowed per carry
  • Handcuff Index: 3. Allgeier is expected to lead the way, but hardly in a workhorse manner. Three backs will likely stay involved.

Key question: Should you go out of your way to target anybody in this backfield while Cordarrelle Patterson (knee, IR) is out?

Not really. It’s fair to consider Tyler Allgeier the favorite for the most work, but Caleb Huntley looks poised to take plenty of the fantasy-friendly short-yardage work, while Avery Williams could stay in the mix as well. Reminder: Damien Williams (ribs, IR) worked as the clear No. 2 back behind Patterson in Week 1 and is eligible to return as early as Week 6.

The Falcons’ eighth-ranked scoring offense has exceeded expectations through four weeks, but back-to-back brutal matchups are on the horizon against the Buccaneers and 49ers. If anything, I’d take a small flier on Damien Williams, otherwise don’t go out of your way to add any of these committee backs who offer minimal long-term upside. I’d much rather target guys like Rachaad White, Jaylen Warren and Alexander Mattison on the waiver wire.

Friendly reminder: PFF’s Nathan Jahnke has you covered every week with his waiver wire targets. You can hear Nathan and I discuss the week’s top free agent options on the Tuesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast.


BALTIMORE RAVENS

  • Week 5 Fantasy Ranking: J.K. Dobbins (RB17), Mike Davis (RB65)
  • Week 4 Usage: J.K. Dobbins (52% snaps, 13 carries, 4 targets), Justice Hill (34%, 8, 2), Mike Davis (3%, 0, 0)
  • Week 5 Matchup: CIN: 9 in PPR per game to RB, 19 in YBC allowed per carry
  • Handcuff Index: 4. This backfield was unusable with Dobbins and Edwards out in Weeks 1-2; veteran additions would be plenty possible.

Key question: Is J.K. Dobbins now a weekly must-start?

It’s certainly looking that way, especially with Justice Hill (hamstring) far from a lock to suit up Sunday night against the Bengals. Hell, Rashod Bateman (foot) is also banged up, so a heightened focus on the run game could be in order.

Dobbins saw his usage increase across the board in his second game back from injury:

  • Week 3: 7-23-0 rushing, 2-17-0 receiving, 45% snaps
  • Week 4: 13-41-1 rushing, 4-22-1 receiving, 50% snaps

Some combination of Mike Davis and Kenyan Drake will probably spell Dobbins here and there, but the talented third-year back sure looks poised to flirt with 20 combined carries and targets in an offense implied to score the fifth-most points of Week 5. Dobbins should win close start/sit questions in leagues of most shapes and sizes — especially standard and half-PPR.


BUFFALO BILLS

  • Week 5 Fantasy Ranking: Devin Singletary (RB21), Zack Moss (RB59), James Cook (RB62)
  • Week 4 Usage: Devin Singletary (87% snaps, 11 carries, 5 targets), Zack Moss (10%, 3, 0), James Cook (3%, 0, 1)
  • Week 5 Matchup: PIT: 25 in PPR per game to RB, 6 in YBC allowed per carry
  • Handcuff Index: 3. Moss would most likely lead the way on early downs with Cook seeing more fantasy-friendly work in pass-first situations.

Key question: Will Devin Singletary’s workhorse usage continue? 

On the surface, Singletary hasn’t been that involved in the Bills offense, posting touch totals of 10, eight, 18 and 15 over the first four weeks of the season. However, his snaps have gone from 59% and 54% in Weeks 1-2 all the way up to 73% and 88% in Weeks 3-4.

This is similar to the every-down role that Singletary had down the stretch in 2021. Things went pretty well for him:

  • Week 14: 4-52-0 rushing, 6-37-0 receiving, 82% snaps, PPR RB14
  • Week 15: 22-86-1 rushing, 1-10-0 receiving, 93% snaps, RB7
  • Week 16: 12-39-1 rushing, 5-39-0 receiving, 68% snaps RB10
  • Week 17: 23-110-2 rushing, 0-0-0 receiving, 80% snaps, RB5
  • Week 18: 19-88-1 rushing, 2-24-1 receiving, 76% snaps, RB3
  • Wild Card: 16-81-2 rushing, 3-13-0 receiving, 86% snaps
  • Divisional Round: 10-26-1 rushing, 4-25-0 receiving, 100% snaps

Josh Allen has posted career-low numbers in average target depth (7.1) and time to release (2.64) through four weeks. Underneath options Jamison Crowder (ankle, IR) and Isaiah McKenzie (concussion) are hurt, while second-round rookie James Cook is seemingly back in the doghouse after dropping his only target of Week 4 and playing a total of two snaps.

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