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
- Teams that are most open for a rookie back to thrive in 2020
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 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 both undervalued situations as well as teams that could theoretically enable a highly productive rookie running back.
Each back’s Week 3 snap rate, carries and targets are listed in the below tables. Great day to be great.
Related content for you: NFL Week 4 fantasy football rankings, waiver targets & drop candidates via Sosa Kremenjas
Conner found his way into the end zone twice in the Cardinals’ Week 3 win over the Jaguars, but Edmonds continues to soak up the ever-important receiving work. Ultimately, Kyler Murray is the engine of this offense on the ground as well as through the air. The fact that Derrick Henry (20 rushing touchdowns), Dalvin Cook (17), Alvin Kamara (16) and Nick Chubb (15) are the only players with more scores on the ground than Murray (14) since Week 1 of last season reflects the reality that the 2019 NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick is a fantasy cheat code.
Week 4’s matchup against the Rams isn’t ideal for all parties involved in terms of expected success on the ground, but Edmonds’ robust receiving role still slots him in as a low-end RB2 in full point-per-reception (PPR) formats. Consider buying low on the Cardinals’ RB1, as the ceiling is the roof here if Conner ever misses time. The latter back is more of an RB4 in this brutal matchup against Aaron Donald and company.
Patterson is inexplicably the PPR RB10 after three weeks of action, as he continues to make the most out of his opportunities on the ground as well as through the air. Dealing with the NFL’s GOAT kick returner (not including punts, chill out Bears fans) in the open field isn’t a rewarding task.
Cordarrelle Patterson is a GOD pic.twitter.com/vhhso3vehD
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 28, 2021
With that said, don’t expect Patterson to consistently work as the passing game’s No. 2 option like he did in Week 3. Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts should lead the way more weeks than not while Davis actually has a 17 to 16 target lead over Patterson this season.
The biggest takeaway from this Falcons offense after three weeks is that it looks like a shell of its former selves so be careful chasing points from a backup running back who has a limited touch ceiling. Continue to fire up Davis ahead of Patterson, as the former back is tied with Jonathan Taylor for the most touches (50) without a score through three weeks. Hopefully, that positive regression comes soon, as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to squeeze the veteran inside the position’s top-24 options.
Patterson holds extra value as long as Russell Gage (ankle) is hurt but just realize that expecting a descending offense’s likely No. 4 option to continue to produce high-end fantasy production might be wishful thinking. Credit to Patterson for the great start, but I’ll likely answer most start/sit questions with the other guy due to the expectations that this passing game gets to flowing more heavily through Ridley and Pitts in future weeks.
There’s simply no way to feel good about this backfield at the moment. Williams has looked like the best option all year long, but that hasn’t stopped the Ravens from keeping Murray and Freeman plenty involved.
Through three weeks, only Derrick Henry (353 rushing yards), Joe Mixon (286) and Nick Chubb (262) have more rushing yards than Lamar Jackson (251), who is also averaging a career-high 29 pass attempts per game.
None of these running backs are viable starting options as long as the group remains a three-pronged committee. Williams and (to a lesser extent) Murray should still be kept on benches in hopes of future clarity at the position. This week’s road trip to Denver provides even more reason to fade this situation for, at least, a week.
Moss has outscored Singletary in fantasy land this season even after missing Week 1. This is thanks to three total touchdowns through two weeks. Life inside of the Bills’ high-scoring offense can be fruitful for anyone involved.
Don’t expect Moss to consistently function as an RB2 as long as 1.) Josh Allen keeps on keeping on as a rusher near the goal line, and 2.) Singletary splits snaps and touches. Still, one could do worse than a talented second-year back who is set up for 10-plus touches inside of an offense that is capable of scoring 30 points against just about anyone.
Treat Moss as an upside RB3 ahead of a dream spot against the Texans. Singletary is more of a low-end RB4 as the secondary option in both the passing game and on the goal line. Check out the Tuesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for more information on Moss and the rest of the week’s top waiver-wire options.
CMC (hamstring) won’t be put on the injured reserve, meaning the Panthers are tentatively expecting him to miss fewer than three games.
For now, Hubbard is the back to roster in Carolina. It’s impossible to expect the rookie to fully take over McCaffrey’s role, but that doesn’t mean upside RB2 value isn’t on the table ahead of matchups against the Cowboys, Eagles and Vikings. Don’t be surprised if Freeman emerges as a nuisance in short-yardage situations, but Hubbard’s status as the lead pass-down back and overall touch leader still leaves his floor awfully high.
Blowing your entire FAB budget on Hubbard isn’t advised, as he could feasibly be back to a pure bench stash by Week 6. Still, finding top-20 options on the waiver wire isn’t easy to do, so I’d feel good about sprinkling around 30% bids on the rookie — and potentially up to 50% if you’re looking to directly replace CMC. Don’t worry about picking up Freeman for the moment, as his Week 3 usage suggests more of a pure backup role as opposed to working as the backfield’s 1B option.
Removing the fact that Chicago put forward one of the worst offensive efforts of the last two decades during its Week 3 loss to the Browns, Montgomery’s usage was great to see. His 59% snap rate in Week 1 seems like a distant memory, as back-to-back 79% and 81% performances cement him as one of fantasy’s last remaining true three-down backs.
It’s tough for the Bears to be much worse than they were in Week 3, although we probably shouldn’t give Matt Nagy any ideas. Ultimately, a home spot against a Lions defense that didn’t exactly slow down Elijah Mitchell (PPR RB13) or Aaron Jones (RB2) seems likely to provide the medicine this run game needs. Fire up Montgomery as an upside RB2 who is due for a bounce-back performance. I particularly love the idea of pivoting off the potentially chalky and $100 more expensive Chuba Hubbard in favor of the Bears’ workhorse on DraftKings.
Williams isn’t a realistic standalone option but remains one of fantasy’s more underrated handcuffs considering the likelihood that he would receive a true every-down role if Montgomery were to miss any time.
Mixon’s combined carries and targets in seven games since Week 1 of 2020: 21, 20, 20, 31, 22, 21, 33, 22 and 19. Madness.
His 91 scoreless yards against the Steelers weren’t exactly what fantasy managers had in mind last week, but the fifth-year veteran has largely exceeded expectations through two weeks behind the Bengals’ 25th-ranked offensive line in run-blocking grade.
- PFF rushing grade: 80.2 (No. 5 among 60 qualified backs)
- Rushing yards: 286 (No. 2)
- Forced missed tackles per carry: 0.19 (tied for No. 26)
- Total forced missed tackles on carries: 13 (tied for No. 3)
- Yards per carry: 4.3 (No. 22)
- Yards after contact per carry: 3.1 (tied for No. 15)
- Explosive runs: 7 (tied for No. 3)
Up next is the same Jaguars defense that surrendered 25-151-2 rushing and 6-30-1 receiving lines to Mixon in Week 5 last season. Don’t be surprised if one of the position’s biggest workhorses goes bonkers on Thursday night.
Chubb (PPR RB8) and Hunt (RB9) continue to simultaneously provide weekly RB1 production inside of the Browns’ ninth-ranked scoring offense. Extra credit goes to Hunt, who racked up the second-most broken tackles of Week 3 (7) during Cleveland’s beatdown of the Bears. Either would be ranked inside the position’s top-five players on a weekly basis without the other, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Continue to start Chubb in lineups of all shapes and sizes while Hunt is increasingly close to joining that conversation as well. Even if some of the more gifted lineups might have better options on paper than Hunt, the Browns’ status as two-point favorites against a mediocre run defense in a matchup with a game total tied for the week’s third-highest mark makes this about as good of a spot as managers could ask for.