Fantasy Football Rushing Report: Touches, schemes, matchups, more ahead of Week 5

2RT9T8D New York Jets running back Breece Hall (20) carries the ball against the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

In a league where NFL franchises continue to deploy a running-back-by-committee approach to the dismay of fantasy football managers everywhere, every week is a brand new adventure and learning experience. Here are five running back takeaways from Week 4’s targets and touches report that could bear a significant impact on running back outlooks in Week 5 and beyond.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

New York Jets RB Breece Hall continues to split work.

Most fantasy football managers expected a timeshare that would limit Breece Hall’s overall ceiling after free agent Dalvin Cook signed with the Jets. However, through three weeks, the splits remain a problem for his fantasy upside. The split of snaps with Cook had been fairly expected, particularly given Cook’s decently sized contract. Michael Carter‘s presence in the mix for snaps is a bit more interesting. 

Player Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Breece Hall 31% 34% 49% 44%
Dalvin Cook 50% 36% 25% 25%
Michael Carter 22% 32% 24% 31%

While fantasy managers are likely clamoring for more touches, the lack of efficiency from either Cook or Carter this season makes a good case for Hall to continue earning touches once healthy enough to manage a bigger workload. Despite having just two more rush attempts than Cook on the season, Hall has outgained him a whopping 137 yards, as his 22% missed forced tackle rate and 6.2 yards after contact per attempt both well-exceeded Cook’s production. 

There’s been no case made by Cook to retain his role of handling nearly 50% of the team’s designed running back rush attempts, so fantasy managers might look at this as a buy-low opportunity to trade and acquire Breece Hall before the true breakout comes to fruition.

Jaleel McLaughlin shines following injury to Denver Broncos starter Javonte Williams.

Williams has made his way back from a torn ACL, but unfortunately for fantasy managers, his availability was shortlived. In his fourth regular season game returning from a complicated knee injury that ended his 2022 season, Williams suffered a hip injury that could keep him out for several weeks. Stepping up in his absence was McLaughlin, who led all running backs with a 90.1 PFF rushing grade on the week. He totaled 72 rushing yards on seven attempts with an off-the-charts 86% missed forced tackle rate. His 8.0 yards after contact per attempt made teammate Samaje Perine (who just barely exceeded nine rushing yards total on six carries) look incompetent in comparison. Should Williams be out for any extended period of time, the Broncos would be crazy not to get McLaughlin the touches in his place. 

Jerome Ford maintains a workhorse role in Kareem Hunt’s second game with the Cleveland Browns.

There wasn’t a ton of clarity heading into Week 4 in regards to whether Ford would maintain a workhorse role once recent free agent signing Kareem Hunt had some more time with the team. As it turns out, Ford’s workload was safe for (at least) another week, totaling 16 touches on the day. He functioned as the team’s primary receiving back in Week 4, leading all Browns running backs with 24 routes run, tied for the second-most targets with backup QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson under center in Deshaun Watson‘s place

The Browns have a Week 5 bye, so it’s possible the team uses this time to scheme Hunt into a bigger role with the team. However, should that role remain with Ford, there could be continued upside for fantasy managers. PFF’s strength of schedule tool has the Browns rated with the third-easiest strength of schedule for the fantasy playoffs 

The Chicago Bears finally commit to RB Khalil Herbert.

It’s been three weeks of splitting reps for Herbert and rookie Roschon Johnson. That all changed in Week 4, as the team finally committed to Herbert in a workhorse roll, which was a resounding success. Herbert’s 80.2 PFF rushing grade ranked fifth among running backs in Week 4, one of just 11 running backs with 18 or more carries on the week. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry and posted a 39% missed forced tackle rate that ranked only behind Tennessee Titans RB/human bulldozer Derrick Henry.

If the Bears continue with this kind of usage, and it’s arguable he’s made the case that they should, Herbert will be an every-week flex play with RB1 upside.

Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard split work for the Carolina Panthers.

Sanders signed with the Panthers in free agency, most assumed he would stick as the team’s RB1 until further notice, forgetting about Hubbard, who was also in waiting. Through the first three games of the season, Hubbard played between 34-37% of the team's offensive snaps while also playing a role on special teams. This week was different.

Hubbard played a season-high 54% of snaps without a single snap on special teams, totaling 16 touches on the day – equal to the number of touches for Sanders. 

Though neither found a ton of success on the ground, Hubbard was generally a bit more efficient, across the board, exceeding Sanders in yards per carry, yards after contact per attempt and missed forced tackle rate. The shift is worth monitoring moving forward, as a split in touches would limit Sanders’ fantasy upside, particularly given he’s been a bit dependent on that volume for production, currently ranked 38th among running backs with 0.65 fantasy points per touch.


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