NFL depth charts are always in a constant state of flux due to transactions, injuries, performance and, at times, questionable coaching decisions. The running back position, in particular, can be tough to stay on top of, as an overwhelming majority of offenses have replaced a single three-down back with committees of various shapes and sizes.
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What follows is a breakdown of each team's backfield in order to better determine:
- Offenses featuring a single workhorse
- Fantasy-friendly committee backfields
- Situations fantasy football owners should avoid
This isn't a full depth-chart listing, as I'm not concerned about running backs who make their living on special teams or guys who are only expected to see a touch or two per game. Rather, the goal here is to get an early idea of the league's various committee situations in an effort to see undervalued situations and backs poised to play at a high level.
Each back’s Week 11 snap rate, carries and targets are listed in the below tables. Great day to be great.
Conner has posted PPR RB1, RB16 and RB7 finishes on 26, 14 and 27 opportunities in three games with Chase Edmonds (ankle) sidelined. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals’ nominal starting back will return following Arizona's Week 12 bye, as that’ll be the difference between Conner working as an RB1 or as a lower-end RB2 down the stretch. Either way, There’s simply too much scoring upside here to truly fade Conner even once Edmonds returns.
Overall, he’s scored on eight of his 11 carries inside the five-yard line and figures to continue to function as the primary touchdown scorer inside of the league’s fourth-ranked offense for the remainder of the season.
Ollison hadn’t recorded a touch or offensive snap before Week 11 so naturally, he worked as the Falcons’ clear-cut lead back with Cordarrelle Patterson (ankle) sidelined.
Stay the hell away from this group until Patterson returns. There’s simply too much potential for the group to (again) switch up the rotation overnight, and nobody has shown enough upside to warrant trying to figure out this headache. The Falcons have scored three total points in their last eight quarters of football.
Hopefully, Patterson is able to suit up this Sunday and get back to supplying weekly RB2 fantasy production against the Jaguars’ sneaky-solid run defense, as only the Bills, 49ers and Buccaneers have allowed fewer yards before contact per carry than Jacksonville. His plus ability in the passing game helps unlock this offense, as only three players are averaging at least three yards per route run through 11 weeks of action.
Murray suited up for the first time since Week 6 and worked as the backfield’s clear-cut No. 2 option. This makes sense, as Freeman has vastly out-performed Murray this season in terms of PFF rushing grade (73.7 vs. 65.1), missed tackles forced per carry (0.22 vs. 0.06) and yards per carry (4.6 vs. 3.5). The results have been rather splendid in fantasy land in recent weeks, as the ex-Falcons veteran has ripped off PPR RB23, RB21, RB11, RB30 and most recently RB9 finishes in his last five games.
Fire up Freeman as a low-end RB2 with confidence ahead of Sunday night’s matchup against Myles Garrett and the Browns. There’s always a chance that Week 11’s splits were actually a result of the Ravens easing Murray back into action, but either way, this backfield is far more manageable these days. There are only so many true workhorses left in today’s NFL, so fantasy managers can live with two-back committees such as this one.
Check out the Tuesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for full thoughts on Freeman and the rest of the week’s waiver wire darlings.
This situation was already difficult enough to wrap our collective heads around due to the limited usage stemming from the Josh Allen experience, as Buffalo ranks 32nd and 18th in carries and targets to running backs this season. Now? This backfield has reached full-on crisis mode. Nobody from Buffalo can be started with an iota of confidence in fantasy land when all three of these backs are active.
The latter point holds extra true in this week’s spot against the Saints’ juggernaut of a run defense, which has allowed fewer PPR points per game to opposing backs through 11 weeks of action. I’ll be answering almost every start/sit question including a Bills running back with the other guy.
CMC has peeled off PPR RB1, RB3, RB4 and RB3 performances in his only four fully healthy games of 2021. Cam Newton‘s presence under center has done a lot for this group, and it turns out that McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson are capable of making a big play or two when something even close to resembling a league-average quarterback is under center.
Ultimately, it’s unclear if any mere mortal can handle McCaffrey on an option route. This sort of trump card makes him a borderline cheat code in both real life and (especially) in fantasy land.
CMC is so good lmao pic.twitter.com/Fi6TvuE8Mt
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 23, 2021
Matchups stopped mattering for CMC a long time ago so fire him up as the highest-ranked player in all of fantasy ahead of Sunday’s spot against the Dolphins. Hubbard remains the preferred handcuff but just realize Abdullah would likely remain annoyingly involved on pure passing downs.
Montgomery is playing a true every-down role — nobody at the position played a higher percentage of their offense’s snaps in Week 11. This sort of volume could be lethal against a Lions defense that has allowed five separate running backs to pop off for 20-plus PPR points this season.
- Aaron Jones (41.5 PPR points, RB2)
- Alexander Mattison (26.3, RB6)
- Joe Mixon (26.3, RB4)
- Nick Chubb (22.4, RB6)
- Montgomery (22.6, RB5)
Montgomery has scored four times in his last eight quarters of action against this defense so don’t be surprised if he finds the end zone on at least one occasion on Thanksgiving Day. Lock him in as an upside RB2 at worst, as there’s potential for more passing-down work than usual this week with Andy Dalton starting in Justin Fields‘ (ribs) place.
Herbert continues to be the recommended stash over Damien Williams (knee), although neither backup holds anything close to resembling standalone value at the moment.
Mixon is the RB8 in PPR points per game after 11 weeks of action. The volume on hand as a rusher has been borderline erotic, as he joins Najee Harris, Jonathan Taylor and Derrick Henry as the league’s only four running backs with at least 180 carries this season.
The only complaint is the fact that Evans and (especially) Perine have taken the bulk of passing-down work in recent weeks. Mixon has one or less catch in six of his 10 games this season, as he is RB15 in expected PPR points per game. Historically, one target is worth about 2.7 carries in fantasy land. The difference between Mixon working as a borderline RB1 vs. potentially the RB1 lies in this pass-down usage.
The good news is that Mixon should be able to produce just fine solely on the ground against a banged-up Steelers defense that was just fleeced by Austin Ekeler to the tune of four touchdowns last Sunday night. Only the Vikings and Jets have allowed more rush yards before contact per carry than the Steelers so fire up the Bengals’ undisputed lead back as a low-end RB1 in this sneaky-fine spot.
Perine is the preferred handcuff here, but Evans would certainly steal away plenty of passing-down work. None possess anything close to standalone value at the moment.
Chubb has arguably been the NFL’s single-best running back this season when looking at yards after contact and missed forced tackles per carry — two metrics that attempt to better quantify running back production independent of their surrounding cast.
RB ranks in missed tackles forced per carry and yards after contact per carry (rushing only, PFF)
Further left: Not forcing many missed tackles
Further right: Making a lot of dudes miss
Further down: Not racking up many yards after contact
Further up: Dragging dudes all day pic.twitter.com/E7sUdOf2w5
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 23, 2021
As the PPR RB3 and RB6 in his last two games with Kareem Hunt (calf, IR) sidelined, Chubb is an every-week upside RB1 as the engine of a Browns offense that can’t do anything other than run the ball these days. The ceiling isn’t as high as usual with Cleveland limping to 17 or fewer points in six of their last eight games. With that said, don’t be surprised if Chubb finds a way to rack up explosive plays in Sunday’s matchup against the Ravens’ 31st-ranked defense in yards after contact allowed per carry.