Fantasy Football Rushing Report: Touches, schemes, matchups, more ahead of Week 7

2T23H61 Denver Broncos running back Jaleel McLaughlin runs during an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Denver Broncos rookie Jaleel McLaughlin isn’t going away any time soon: RB Javonte Williams returned from injury in Week 6, but his return wasn’t enough to put Jaleel McLaughlin’s lightning back in the bottle.

Alexander Mattison dominates touches for the Minnesota Vikings: If fantasy managers were still wondering what to make of the Vikings trading for RB Cam Akers, Week 6 provided more clarity than ever.

San Francisco 49ers leaned into RB Jordan Mason over Elijah Mitchell with Christian McCaffrey injured: With McCaffrey’s status for Week 7 uncertain, fantasy managers will be cautious about putting too much stock into Mitchell moving forward.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The NFL is in its running back by committee era, but that doesn’t mean your fantasy football teams need to struggle. We’re here to help with five observations regarding running back usage in Week 6, including pointing out some misleading stats, which could have a significant impact on running back outlooks in Week 7 and beyond. 

WR:CB Matchup Chart


Alexander Mattison continues to dominate touches for the Minnesota Vikings

After the Vikings traded to acquire Cam Akers from the Los Angeles Rams, there was a lively debate in the fantasy football community regarding whether or not Mattison would retain his role as the workhorse back. That question continues to be answered emphatically by the coaching staff, both in terms of total snaps and touch totals. Mattison totaled 24 touches on the day, leading the team with a 36.4% adjusted target share. Meanwhile, Akers played just nine offensive snaps, earning two touches, including one rush attempt and one reception, each coming in the third quarter. 

Though Mattison has held a firm grip on the role as the Vikings’ starting running back even with Akers in the building, his fantasy ceiling might not be as high as one would have originally hoped given the team’s heavy emphasis on the pass to start the season. To date, Kirk Cousins leads the league with 235 pass attempts and 158 completions while the Vikings offense as a whole ranks dead last in the league with 116 rush attempts. The saving grace for Mattison’s fantasy floor despite his inefficiencies as a runner may be his involvement in the passing game, as he's seen six or more targets in three of six games this season.


Veteran Damien Williams earns touches over Emari Demercado as the Arizona Cardinals look to fill James Conner’s shoes

Were you a victim of the Emari Demercado fantasy football waiver wire swindle of 2023? If so, you may be entitled to compensation.

Just kidding, unfortunately. If you were unlucky enough to have snagged Demercado on your waiver wire, Week 6 was all the proof you need to see that his usage following James Conner’s injury was a product of circumstance. Backup running back Keaontay Ingram returned to the active lineup in Week 6 and led the team with 12 touches. Playing just behind him was veteran back Damien Williams, who had been elevated to the active roster from the practice squad ahead of the game, totaling nine touches for 44 scrimmage yards compared to Demarcado’s three-for-17. 

The most interesting part regarding this usage in Week 6 might be the fact that Demercardo actually led the entire Cardinals backfield with 33 total snaps on the day —18 of those 33 snaps came in the fourth quarter, as the Cardinals attempted (in vain) to climb out of what would eventually be a 17-point deficit. The bulk of Demercardo’s snaps came running routes, as he finished with a 55.8% route participation rate that ranked fourth on the team, while Ingram and Williams combined for just 14 total routes on the day. In short, this might be a backfield to avoid entirely for fantasy due to the way the workload is shaking out for the time being.


Denver Broncos RB Jaleel McLaughlin maintains a role in the offense after Javonte Williams returns from injury

Williams suffered a quad injury in Week 4 that opened the window for a bit of a breakout McLaughlin. Despite Williams’ return to action in Week 6, it seems as though the rookie isn’t going away any time soon, which is likely to complicate this backfield's viability moving forward for fantasy managers. With Williams, McLaughlin and teammate Samaje Perine all active for Week 6, not a single one of them exceeded 20 snaps or 10 touches on the day. 

Through six weeks, McLaughlin currently leads the Broncos running back corps with 6.0 yards per rush attempt, a 32% missed forced tackle rate, and 4.1 yards after contact per attempt. Despite having totaled 19 fewer rush attempts than Williams on the season, McLaughlin has amassed just 13 fewer rushing yards and 10 fewer yards after contact while tying Williams to lead the team in explosive runs. His energy will be difficult to put back in the bottle for this offense that badly needs an element of explosivity, so exercise caution with any of these options in lineups moving forward.


The San Francisco 49ers lean into Jordan Mason over Elijah Mitchell once Christian McCaffrey leaves due to injury

McCaffrey left the game due to an oblique injury in Week 6 and did not return. Now, as his status remains up in the air, fantasy managers will likely be forced to make a decision between a familiar face in Mitchell or the new jam in Mason. The 49ers let their snap shares do the talking following the injury, sending a clear indication that it might just be Mason to lead the backfield in case of McCaffrey’s absence. 

Immediately following the injury, Mason subbed in to finish the drive, which led straight into the fourth quarter. 

Following that initial drive, Mason played 66.7% of team snaps to close out the day while Mitchell was in for just 13.3%. Mason closed out Week 6 leading the team with a 75.1 PFF rushing grade on those five attempts, totaling 27 rushing yards that included an eight-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Niners a lead (even if they did go on to eventually lose it). Mitchell's lack of usage in a critical game situation despite his long tenure with the team is a signal to fantasy managers everywhere that Mason is the one to roster. In limited opportunities this season, Mitchell has averaged just 2.7 yards per attempt for a career-low 51.9 PFF rushing grade.


Carolina Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard plays well in a starting role, strengthening the argument for an increased workload once Miles Sanders returns

Hubbard took full advantage of his first starting opportunity of the season in Week 6 while Sanders was out managing a shoulder injury. The team deployed him in a workhorse role right out of the gate, deploying him on 77% of offensive snaps for 20 total touches on the day, which ranked 11th among running backs on the week. He now leads the team with 242 rushing yards despite having totaled seven fewer carries than Sanders on the year, ranking 13th among all running backs with an 80.8 PFF rushing grade. 

In the mix with limited snaps were Raheem Blackshear, as well as WR Laviska Shenault, who has periodically contributed to the run game, though they combined for just six total attempts on the day. As long as Sanders is out, continue to fire up Hubbard as one of the few players that can be reasonably considered a workhorse, and expect him to force this coaching staff to make some tough decisions upon Sanders’ return with how Hubbard has outplayed him to date this season.

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