• Breece Hall shines without touch restrictions: After playing limited snaps through the first four weeks of the season in his return from a torn ACL, Hall exploded with 25 touches in Week 5 and looked great doing it.
• The Dolphins continue to split touches in their backfield: Despite efficiency from rookie De’Von Achane, the team continued to split work evenly between him and veteran Raheem Mostert. With Achane injured, fantasy managers should still expect a split in work moving forward.
• Tennessee Titans rookie RB Tyjae Spears is playing well: Though fantasy managers can still count on veteran stud Derrick Henry to dominate touches in this backfield, Spears has been the more efficient back for the Titans so far this season.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Week 5 was another showcase of the state of the running back position, with more injuries to manage to key fantasy assets that will force managers to make some tough decisions moving forward. Here are five running back takeaways from Week 5’s targets and touches report that could bear a significant impact on running back outlooks in Week 6 and beyond.
New York Jets RB Breece Hall is back
Jets head coach Robert Saleh came out this week to say that Hall would no longer play under restrictions following his return from a torn ACL that ended his 2022 season, and he didn’t let us down. Hall touched the ball on 78.1% of snaps played for the fifth-highest touch rate among all running backs, producing 194 yards on 25 touches, including a 72-yard house call for an RB3 finish on the week. Backup Dalvin Cook, who’d been splitting snaps with Hall to this point in the season, totaled just six touches on the day.
This usage was a clear signal to fantasy managers that he’s a lock as an RB1 moving forward and teammate Dalvin Cook is droppable in most leagues. Unfortunately, the Jets just lost their top run blocker, OT Alijah Vera-Tucker, to a season-ending Achilles injury suffered in Week 5. However, if the rest of the offensive line can step up, it’s wheels up for Hall rest of the season.
Rookie RB Emari Demercado shows up following an injury to Arizona Cardinals starter James Conner
Conner exited Week 5 due to a knee injury and is undergoing evaluation regarding his status moving forward. It’s unfortunate considering how well Conner has been playing, as he's averaging 5.4 yards per carry with an 86.0 PFF rushing grade that ranks fourth among all running backs. Following Conner’s injury, it was Demercado who stepped up as the next man up on the depth chart, playing 44 offensive snaps and totaling 57 scrimmage yards on 11 touches against the Bengals.
Though Conner is expected to miss several weeks, fantasy managers should be cautious about putting too much stock in Demercado’s workhorse role moving forward. Demercado was thrust into action backing up Conner after a neck injury sidelined second-string RB Keyontay Ingram. However, despite being inactive in Week 5, Ingram was making steps toward a return by logging limited practices on Thursday and Friday ahead of the game. Should Ingram make his return in Week 6, expect these two to split snaps and limit the streaming potential of either back moving forward.
Tennessee Titans RB Tyjae Spears is outplaying Derrick Henry this season
In this week’s panic or antic report, I discussed the fact that Spears outscored Derrick Henry for the second time this season in fantasy football. Though this shouldn’t signal to fantasy managers that there’s an impending “changing of the guard” for the Titans backfield or that Henry’s a total fantasy bust, it’s worth taking an extra moment to point out the difference in efficiency between the two running backs this season.
|PFF rushing grade
|Missed forced tackle rate
|Yards before contact/att
|Yards after contact/att
Though Henry is still unquestionably the Titans’ RB1, fantasy managers will want to note the disparity in efficiency between him and Spears so far this season. Henry, set to turn 30 years old in January, ranks second among active running backs with 1,972 career touches, and it would seem that we might finally be seeing the decline in efficiency we’ve feared. Keep in mind, however – even a declining Henry has a higher ceiling than most backs in the league.
The Miami Dolphins continue to split touches in their backfield.
Despite unbelievably rushing efficiency from rookie RB De’Von Achane, who’s totaled 527 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns on just 47 touches this season, the Dolphins continued the trend of splitting snaps among the running backs. Unfortunately, Achane suffered a knee injury that’s likely to keep him out for several games, but with the impending return of Jeff Wilson Jr. from injured reserve, expect that trend to continue.
In Wilson’s eight games played with the Dolphins last season, he averaged 10.5 rush attempts and three targets per game while Mostert averaged 10 rush attempts and 2.8 targets per game. In that span, Mostert and Wilson averaged 9.9 and 9.8 fantasy points per game, respectively. Given the near perfectly even split in touch rate between these two backs in 2022, this backfield may be a challenging one for fantasy managers to navigate until Achane returns.
Carolina Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard out-touches starter Miles Sanders for the first time this season.
Fantasy football managers may have thought they had a potential workhorse on their hands with Sanders, but the trends continue to be concerning regarding the usage of his backup, Chuba Hubbard. Week 5 marked the first week all season that Sanders had been out-touched in a game by Hubbard, albeit the second consecutive week that the trends looked to be headed in the wrong direction.
Through five weeks this season, Hubbard is averaging 4.4 yards per rush attempt to Sanders’ 3.1, far outpacing him with an 82.1 PFF rushing grade that ranks ninth among running backs. Hubbard’s 29% missed forced tackle rate, 3.5 yards after contact per attempt, and 11.4% stuff rate? Yeah — he’s got the edge over Sanders in all of those advanced rushing metrics, too. Don’t be surprised to see these touch trends continue as the Panthers seek some much-needed answers for their offensive woes.