Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football Rushing Report: Touches, schemes, matchups, more ahead of Week 13

2T9PM2P Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) carries against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

The Baltimore Ravens continue leaning away from Gus Edwards: Rookie Keaton Mitchell notched his first career start in Week 12, while Justice Hill handled 100% of touches inside the red zone, making the Ravens backfield as confusing as ever for fantasy managers heading into their Week 13 bye.

• The Chicago Bears lean on rookie Roschon Johnson to lead the backfield: In Khalil Herbert’s second game returning from an ankle injury that landed him on IR, the Bears relegated him back to a supporting role behind the rookie.

Dameon Pierce plays season-low 18% of snaps in return from injury: Despite having just one fewer carry than teammate Devin Singletary in Week 12, Pierce’s snap participation provides insight into his role moving forward.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Week 12 is officially a wrap, with fantasy managers once again having the opportunity to assess the league’s most confusing backfields ahead of the fantasy football playoffs. Here are five running back takeaways from Week 12’s targets and touches report that could bear a significant impact on running back outlooks in Week 13 and beyond.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

Baltimore Ravens rookie Keaton Mitchell gets his first career start

The Baltimore Ravens continue throwing wrenches into the mix for those looking to analyze the usage of their running backs in any cohesive manner. In Week 12, rookie Keaton Mitchell earned his first career start, subsequently leading the cohort in offensive snaps (32), touches (11) and routes run (15) on the day. Meanwhile, Justice Hill saw 100% of the running back carries inside the red zone and inside the five-yard line – an area where teammate Gus Edwards had dominated in previous weeks.

Despite having scored a whopping nine touchdowns over the last six games, he’s played 38% of offensive snaps or fewer in three of the Ravens’ last four games. They have a bye in Week 13, and when they do, fantasy managers will have some difficult decisions to make about which of these backs to trust heading into the playoffs. Mitchell appears to be the leading option coming out of their bye, as he's seen an increase in offensive snap share in each of the past four weeks while seeing a decline in his special teams snap share each week in that same span.

Devin Singletary and Dameon Pierce split carries in the Houston Texans backfield in Week 12, but the snap share tells a different story

After missing three weeks due to an ankle injury, Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce returned to action in Week 12. Though he just had one fewer carry than Devin Singletary on the day, he played a season-low 18% of Houston's offensive snaps, totaling just 18 yards on six total touches. Singletary, meanwhile, totaled just six carries on the day while playing 82% of the team's offensive snaps. Particularly notable is his involvement as a receiver, as he ran 35 total routes and was targeted on 20% of them.

Though the team may have been limiting Pierce’s workload in Week 12 given the fact that he was returning from an injury, his overall performance on the field this season hasn’t given the coaches many reasons to increase his workload significantly moving forward. Since Week 9, Singletary’s 72.3 PFF rushing grade ranks 15th among running backs (min. 25 attempts), tied with New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley for the second-most explosive runs in the league. Expect this to remain his backfield moving forward unless Pierce shows improvement in his efficiency, averaging just 3.0 yards per carry in 2023.

Roschon Johnson takes over the Chicago Bears backfield

In Khalil Herbert’s first game returning from injured reserve in Week 11, he led the Chicago Bears backfield in snaps and rush attempts. That all changed in Week 12, however, as rookie Roschon Johnson out-snapped Herbert 51-15, totaling 15 touches on the day – 11 rush attempts and four receptions for 75 scrimmage yards. Though he wasn’t perfect on the day, as he very nearly lost a fumble in Minnesota Vikings territory that could have changed the trajectory of the game, he still looked solid as a runner. 

Johnson ended the day averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, but he did manage an impressive 36% missed forced tackle rate against a tough Vikings run defense. So far this season, Minnesota’s defense has ranked among the best in the league with an explosive run percentage allowed (8.2%) and yards per carry (3.8), and it also ranks sixth in the league allowing just 2.6 rushing yards after contact per attempt. Both Herbert and D’Onta Foreman (inactive this week with an ankle injury) have outpaced Johnson with 77.3 and 76.3 PFF offensive grades, respectively, but the Bears’ newfound emphasis on the rookie in Week 12 could signal a change for the weeks to come.

It’s also worth noting that Foreman is set to hit free agency in 2024, which could make the coming weeks important ones in evaluating the rookie (and thereby their potential needs at the position) moving forward.

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Jaylen Warren receives more touches than Najee Harris for the first time this season

The Pittsburgh Steelers backfield has been under a microscope this season, as UDFA RB Jaylen Warren has outplayed former first-round pick Najee Harris in most facets of the game. It seemed as though the Steelers were finally in agreement there, too, as Warren untouched Harris 16-15 – the first time he’s seen more touches than Harris in a single game this season. The move coincides with the takeover of running backs coach Eddie Faulkner as the Steelers interim offensive coordinator after Matt Canada was relieved of his duties ahead of Week 12.

Surprisingly, Harris shined in this outing, however, with a 77.9 offensive grade that ranked seventh among all running backs (min. 15 touches) on the week. Harris totaled a season-high 99 rushing yards and notched his fourth rushing touchdown of the season in their win over the Cincinnati Bengals, averaging 6.6 yards per carry and 4.8 yards after contact per attempt. Considering their recent success with the run and Warren’s high level of efficiency, consider both to be viable flex plays moving forward. PFF’s strength of schedule tool grades the Steelers with the second-easiest remaining schedule for running backs through the fantasy football playoffs.

A.J. Dillon sees 82% of running back carries for the Green Bay Packers amidst the absence of Aaron Jones

The Green Bay Packers were once again without their top running back in Week 12 after Aaron Jones suffered an MCL sprain that has him considered week-to-week. Once again, the Packers called upon backup A.J. Dillon to take on the role, totaling 17 touches for 83 total yards on the day, which included his second-highest receiving yard total on the season to date. Unfortunately, Dillon’s touch total hasn’t translated to much production for fantasy football, however, as he scored just a single touchdown this season.

Though Dillon’s efficiency has left much to be desired this season, averaging career-lows with 3.5 yards per carry, a 10% missed forced tackle rate and 21.1% stuff rate, fantasy managers should consider Dillon a volume-based RB3/flex play moving forward in games without Jones. In four games without Jones this season, Dillon has averaged 16 touches per game, providing fantasy football managers a relatively safe floor though he’s lacked the desired ceiling.


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