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.
Click here for more PFF tools:
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 6 snap rate, carries and targets are listed in the below tables. Great day to be great.
Related content for you: Fantasy Football Week 7: 5 to Waiver Wire Add, 5 to Drop, 5 to Buy Low, 5 to Sell High via Nathan Jahnke
The Cardinals held a 23-14 halftime lead over the Browns in Week 6 and extended that to a 16-point lead before the start of the fourth quarter.
Conner and Edmonds’ usage by half was as follows:
- First half: Edmonds (21 snaps, 4 carries, 4 targets); Conner (15 snaps, 7 carries, 1 target)
- Second half: Edmonds (4 snaps, 0 carries, 0 targets); Conner (22 snaps, 9 carries, 0 targets)
It makes sense that Arizona decided to limit Edmonds’ touches in a borderline blowout with the four-year back continuing to play through a shoulder injury. Of course, this sort of extreme positive game script hasn’t exactly been a rarity for the 6-0 Cardinals this season, and their status as 17-point favorites for this week’s date against the Texans indicates similar usage could be on the horizon.
Edmonds remains a low-end RB2 in full point-per-reception (PPR) formats while Conner is more of a touchdown-dependent RB3 who sure looks poised to find the end zone inside of a Cardinals offense implied to score a robust 32 points — the second-highest mark in Week 7.
Atlanta Falcons (from Week 5)
The Falcons had a Week 6 bye and might not need to feature Patterson quite as frequently with both Calvin Ridley (personal) and Russell Gage (ankle) tentatively expected to return for their upcoming matchup against the Dolphins. 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 its 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 RB10, RB17 in expected points
- Davis: RB31, RB16
Consider selling high on Patterson 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.
It’d make sense if Davis finally makes the most out of his early-down work against a Dolphins defense that has largely been flamed by every grinder they’ve faced this season:
- Week 1: Damien Harris (23 carries-100 rush yards-0 rush TD)
- Week 2: Devin Singletary (13-82-1), Zack Moss (8-26-2)
- Week 3: Peyton Barber (23-111-1)
- Week 4: Jonathan Taylor (16-103-1)
- Week 5: Leonard Fournette (12-67-1)
- Week 6: James Robinson (17-73-1)
Davis’ 25 total forced missed tackles this season are tied for the fifth-highest mark in the league, as he’s played better than his production suggests. Continue to fire up Patterson as a rock-solid RB2 while Davis could be pushing the RB2 borderline himself based on both this matchup and the reality that six squads are on bye this week.
Keep an eye on the injury report to make sure Murray (ankle) is good to go. Ty’Son Williams would be expected to simply take Murray’s place inside of this evenly split three-back committee.
Ultimately, this Ravens offense is the Lamar Jackson show: He’s seventh in the NFL in rushing yards behind only Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Ezekiel Elliott, Joe Mixon, Jonathan Taylor and James Robinson. This week’s matchup comes against a Bengals defense that simply hasn’t been able to slow him down on the ground:
- Week 11, 2018: 26 rushes-119 rush yards-0 rush TD
- Week 6, 2019: 19-152-1
- Week 10, 2019: 7-65-1
- Week 5, 2020: 2-3-0 (27-3 win)
- Week 17, 2020: 11-97-0
Murray is a touchdown-dependent RB3 if active while all parties involved would be on the RB3 borderline if he misses time. Obviously, beggars can’t be choosers during this bye-heavy Week 7 but just realize none of these backs have the sort of even 15-touch upside that we’d like to ideally target.
Moss was a healthy scratch in Week 1. Since then:
- Snaps: Moss (178 snaps); Singletary (156)
- Carries: Moss (54); Singletary (49)
- Targets: Moss (14); Singletary (13)
This is just about as evenly split of a backfield as one will find. Moss’ stranglehold on fantasy-friendly red zone work gives him the clear nod in terms of who to rank higher but just realize the upside of both backs will remain limited as long as this timeshare persists.
Perhaps one of these players will take over more after the Bills’ Week 7 bye, but that seems like a bit of a pipe dream at the moment. Moss will continue to be a solid RB3 more weeks than not while Singletary is better treated as a low-ceiling RB4 during the second half of the season.
Hubbard has produced the following in three games without Christian McCaffrey (hamstring, IR):
- Week 4: 13-57-0 rushing, 2-14-0 receiving, 47% snaps, PPR RB36
- Week 5: 24-101-0 rushing, 5-33-0 receiving, 65% snaps, RB16
- Week 6: 16-61-1 rushing, 1-4-0 receiving, 66% snaps, RB22
Note that Hubbard’s Week 4 passing-game work was severely impacted by Rodney Smith, who was released last week.
The Panthers’ rookie back isn’t CMC — nobody is. Still, he’s a safe bet for 15-plus touches per game with the ceiling for much more depending on how the game goes. Head coach Matt Rhule wants to redefine the Panthers offense by establishing the run, so it’d make sense if Hubbard starts to flirt with the 20-touch mark more weeks than not.
This backfield’s schedule prior to their Week 13 bye is borderline erotic:
- Week 7: Giants (No. 26 in PPR points per game allowed to running backs)
- Week 8: Falcons (No. 23)
- Week 9: Patriots (No. 12)
- Week 10: Cardinals (No. 7)
- Week 11: Football Team (No. 19)
- Week 12: Dolphins (No. 30)
Fire up Hubbard as an upside RB2 for however long McCaffrey remains sidelined. Freeman is nothing more than a bottom-of-the-bench stash in the deepest leagues.
Herbert impressed in his first game as the Bears’ featured back, tying Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram and Devin Singletary for the most total forced missed tackles (6) in Week 6. The rookie’s performance could have been even bigger had the refs not called an awfully questionable hold on his nullified touchdown run. Through six weeks, only Tony Pollard has a higher percentage of carries with at least three yards after contact than Herbert.
Still, Damien Williams (COVID, IR) could return as early as this week, which would likely split this backfield back down the middle. Tarik Cohen (knee, PUP) is also eligible to return, although the reality that the Bears’ pint-sized gadget hasn’t returned to practice yet makes a return this Sunday seem iffy.
Further complicating matters is this week’s matchup against the Buccaneers’ ferocious front-seven. Teams have gained just 89 rush yards before contact on 98 carries against this group. The Bucs have allowed league-low marks in rush attempts (75), rush yards (254) and rush touchdowns (1) by opposing running backs through six weeks.
The best way to attack this defense is by throwing the ball, something that Justin Fields could struggle with this week if the Buccaneers are able to pressure him even a little bit. Herbert would be a volume-induced RB2 if neither Williams nor Cohen returns while the presence of either would leave him as more of a high-end RB3 option. Williams would also be a high-ish end RB3 if active, but it’s best to wait at least a week after Cohen comes back to get an idea of what his 2021 role looks like.
Only Derrick Henry (178 touches) and Najee Harris (136) have more combined carries and receptions than Mixon (124) this season. The RB12 in both actual and expected PPR points through six weeks, Mixon has received the sort of high-end volume most envisioned when taking him in the second round of their fantasy drafts back in August.
Credit to Mixon for largely functioning as one of the league’s better talents with the ball in his hands during the early parts of the season, particularly as a rusher:
- PFF rushing grade: 84.5 (No. 3 among 59 qualified running backs)
- Yards per carry: 4.3 (No. 25)
- Yards after contact per carry: 3.3 (No. 14)
- Missed tackles forced per carry: 0.18 (No. 33)
Mixon remains a weekly RB1 regardless of the matchup while Evans could be getting closer to earning a more consistent weekly role thanks to his demonstrated excellence as a receiver. His bump in usage last week came with Samaje Perine (COVID, IR) sidelined, but the rookie could take over the backup job sooner rather than later if he keeps on balling out as a receiver.
Chris Evans as a true receiver ???? pic.twitter.com/LTZNs9U2Nm
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 19, 2021
Hunt (calf, IR) is out for at least the next three weeks while Nick Chubb (calf) has already been ruled out for Thursday night’s matchup against the Broncos.
This leaves the Browns with Johnson and Demetric Felton as their top-two backs. Look for the former play to soak up the majority of this backfield’s early-down work. Felton has certainly flashed with his opportunities this year, but they’ve almost exclusively come as a receiver. Overall, Felton has yet to run the ball, and he’s lined up in the backfield on just two of his 35 offensive snaps.
Johnson is a volume-based RB2 with Chubb sidelined this week but don’t get too carried away on the waiver wire considering this is likely just a one-week spot start. Felton is more of a low-ceiling RB3 in PPR formats against a Broncos defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest PPR points per game to the position this season.
Check out the Tuesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for full thoughts on this situation and the rest of the week’s top potential waiver wire additions.