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 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 ball the hell out.
Each back’s Week 5 snap rate, carries and targets are listed in the below tables. Great day to be great.
Related content for you: Fantasy Football Week 6: 5 to Waiver Wire Add, 5 to Drop, 5 to Buy Low, 5 to Sell High via Nathan Jahnke
Edmonds was a game-time decision leading up to Sunday due to a shoulder injury, but the issue didn’t seem to limit his usage at all. Through five weeks, Edmonds is the overall PPR RB17 and RB13 in expected points. His floor is a low-end RB2 as long as he remains the lead pass-down back inside of the NFL’s fourth-highest scoring offense.
Of course, Edmonds’ ceiling is limited as long as Conner continues to do vulture things. His touchdown in Week 5 came after Rondale Moore’s dazzling touchdown was rather inexplicably reversed. The ex-Steelers grinder looks to be pushing 250 pounds these days and has converted five of his six carries inside the five-yard line into touchdowns this season.
An injury to Conner would elevate Edmonds to high-end RB1 status, as the Cardinals have fed him a true workhorse 90% snap role when the team’s lead back has missed time in past years. Until then, fire up the Cardinals’ receiving-friendly back as a low-end RB2 and Conner as a TD-dependent RB3 who seems to again have a good chance of finding paydirt with the Cardinals-Browns’ matchup boasting the week’s fifth-highest implied game total.
The Falcons have a Week 6 bye and might not need to feature Patterson quite as frequently as a receiver once Calvin Ridley (personal) and Russell Gage (ankle) are healthy enough to return. Overall, Patterson has spent 88 snaps in the backfield this season compared to 55 elsewhere.
It’d make sense if Atlanta continues to go out of it way to feed Patterson — he’s really good — but even then, it’s tough to expect this extreme level of high-end production to continue.
- Patterson: PPR RB3, RB10 in expected points
- Davis: RB25, RB8
Consider selling high on Patterson during the bye, while Davis would be a great waiver wire addition, or extreme buy-low candidate, considering Gallman doesn’t seem poised to make this a three-headed committee anytime soon.
The Ravens made Le’Veon Bell a healthy scratch for their thrilling Monday night victory over the Colts. This didn’t exactly lead to a true takeover for Murray, who continues to function as one of the league’s least-efficient backs:
- PFF rushing grade: 66.5 (No. 35 among 53 qualified backs)
- Missed tackles forced per rush: 0.04 (tied for No. 51)
- Yards per carry: 3.4 (No. 48)
- Yards after contact per carry: 2.6 (tied for No. 35)
Try to avoid starting any Ravens running back if you can help it. The offense’s willingness to let Jackson throw more often than ever has sapped the upside of this backfield’s various talents. Murray remains the preferred dart, but I’ll be answering most start/sit questions including him with the other player.
Moss has posted 28%, 56%, 56% and most recently 72% snap rates in his four games since his healthy scratch in Week 1. Singletary remains a bit too involved to truly feel good about firing up Moss as an RB2 in fantasy land, but clearly, the Bills’ second-year talent is the preferred start inside of the NFL’s highest-scoring offense.
The problem: Josh Allen continues to be one of the league’s premier red zone rushing threats. Just nine players have more rushing scores than Allen since he entered the league in 2018:
- Derrick Henry (52 rushing touchdowns)
- Todd Gurley (38)
- Alvin Kamara (36)
- Aaron Jones (35)
- Nick Chubb (32)
- Dalvin Cook (32)
- Ezekiel Elliott (29)
- Melvin Gordon (29)
- Christian McCaffrey (28)
- Allen (27)
Additionally, Allen’s 2.5% check-down per dropback rate is the second-lowest mark in the league.
Moss is an upside RB3 who could be treated as much more in a more fantasy-friendly offense for his position. Singletary is nothing more than a low-ceiling RB4 even in a winnable matchup against the Titans’ 30th ranked defense in rush yards allowed after contact per attempt.
Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) is tentatively expected to return to action this week after managing to practice in a limited fashion throughout Week 5. He’s immediately expected to regain his every-down role and should once again be treated as fantasy’s top-ranked player. This is especially true against the Vikings’ 10th-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing backfields.
Hubbard isn’t expected to carry much standalone value while CMC is healthy, but his stranglehold on both early- and passing-down duties in Week 5 was a big step up from what we saw in Week 4. The Panthers released Smith, so it’ll be the Chuba show once again if McCaffrey misses any more game action. Do everything in your power to keep one of the game’s most valuable handcuffs on your bench.
Williams’ expected three-down role didn’t come to fruition with David Montgomery (knee, IR) sidelined, as Herbert was every bit as involved as the ex-Chiefs/Dolphins talent throughout the Bears’ Week 5 win over the Lions.
On the one hand, Herbert clearly offers some value as one-half of this two-back committee. There are only so many workhorses left in today’s NFL, so fantasy managers can live with groups featuring two backs over those featuring three or four. On the other hand, the Bears probably won't have the sort of overwhelmingly positive game script they experienced against the Raiders too often moving forward.
Check out the Tuesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for more thoughts on Herbert and the rest of the week’s waiver wire options.
The Bears are 4.5-point underdogs ahead of their Week 6 date against the Packers. Herbert and Williams should be placed right next to each other in rankings of all shapes and sizes but just realize this should be in the RB3 range as opposed to anything higher. The Bears’ 30th-ranked scoring offense hasn’t surpassed even 24 points in a game this season, as neither Herbert nor Williams are players who need to be started despite being in a winnable matchup against the league’s seventh-worst defense in yards before contact allowed per rush.
Mixon was a game-time decision and accordingly used sparingly during the Bengals’ Week 5 loss to the Packers. Still, he looked awfully spry on his way to the end zone, as he sent a Packers defender to the shadow realm on his way to paydirt.
Joe Mixon ????????????pic.twitter.com/ie4K9IcT0M
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 10, 2021
Perine (COVID, IR) isn’t a guarantee to be ready for Week 6 if Mixon somehow suffers a setback so get back to firing up the Bengals’ starting back as a top-12 option at the position. This is especially true ahead of a beautiful matchup against a Lions defense that hasn’t slowed down anyone on the ground this season:
- PPR points per game allowed to running backs: 31.6 (No. 29)
- Rush yards per attempt allowed: 4.4 (tied for No. 22)
- Rush yards after contact per attempt allowed: 3.1 (tied for No. 27)
Mixon and the Bengals have the position’s third-easiest schedule over the next five weeks in terms of average rank in PPR points per game allowed to running backs.
Chubb was largely unstoppable against the Chargers, tying for the week-high mark in total broken tackles (10). He ripped off one of his patented monster touchdown runs last week but was “vultured” on two red-zone scores while on the sideline. In reality, Hunt (PPR RB6) has been the superior fantasy option to Chubb (RB11) while performing better in terms of expected points (RB15 vs. RB18) through five weeks.
Both backs are incredible, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to rationalize the latter being featured any more than the former:
- PFF rushing grade: Hunt (No. 6 among 53 qualified backs), Chubb (No. 14)
- Missed tackles forced per carry: Hunt (No. 2), Chubb (No. 3)
- Yards per carry: Hunt (No. 6), Chubb (No. 2)
- Yards after contact per carry: Hunt (No. 4), Chubb (No. 2)
Only the Chargers, Chiefs and Vikings have allowed more yards before contact than the Cardinals this season so fire up both Chubb and Hunt as RB1s.