News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Taking stock of every NFL backfield ahead of NFL Week 11

Nov 1, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) rushes the ball against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

NFL depth charts are always in a constant state of flux due to transactions, injuries, performance and at-times questionable coaching decisions. The RB 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 ahead of Week 11 in order to better determine:

  • Offenses that are featuring a single workhorse
  • Fantasy-friendly committee backfields
  • Situations that fantasy football owners should avoid

This isn't a full depth chart listing; I'm not concerned about special teams RBs or guys who will be lucky to play more than an offensive snap or two come game time. Rather, the goal here is to get an early idea of the league's various committee situations in an effort to see undervalued backfields. We’ll also take a quick look at Week 11 matchups with some DraftKings notes.

Each back’s Week 10 snap rate, carries and targets are listed next to his name in parenthesis. Note that the snap rates denote total snaps, so teams with a dual-threat RB/WR like Austin Ekeler or Tarik Cohen will have a total percentage higher than 100% since those backs typically spend a solid chunk of time lined up in the slot or out wide.

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WFT

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Notes: We saw Drake command at least 65% of the backfield’s snaps from Weeks 1-6, so this decrease in usage is a bit concerning when it comes to projecting his chances at a strong second half of the season. Yes, Drake managed to turn his 16 rush attempts into 100 yards last week. Also yes, Kyler Murray continues to be the engine of this rushing attack.

Through 10 weeks, Murray is averaging 29.3 fantasy points per game — the highest single-season mark from a QB in NFL history. He’s racked up 87 carries for 604 yards and 10 scores, leaving plenty of defenders in the dust along the way. It’s rare to even see the opposition lay a finger on Murray; his 388 rushing yards before contact represent more total rushing yards than any QB other than Lamar Jackson.

This backfield is split, and Murray (5) nearly has as many carries inside the 5-yard line as Drake (6). The good news is that the Cardinals’ Thursday night shootout against the Seahawks should produce plenty of fantasy-friendly opportunities for everyone involved. The bad news is that these RBs simply don’t receive many targets or goal-line touches that usually produce the most fantasy goodness. Drake is the preferred fantasy option moving forward, but more weeks than not, it’s going to be tough to rank him inside the top 15 options at the position.


ATLANTA FALCONS (FROM WEEK 9)

Notes: Gurley has averaged fewer than three yards per carry in four consecutive games. There were stretches early in the season where he actually looked solid and flashed some tackle-breaking ability; those days have been over for a while.

And yet, Gurley enters the Falcons’ Week 10 as the overall RB6. I don’t get it; you don’t get it. It happened. The veteran RB made bone-headed late-game blunders in Week 7 and 8 alike and still received his usual bell-cow role.

Hill has been far superior in the passing game to Gurley all season while also posting a better PFF rushing grade, averaging more yards per carry, and going for the same amount of yards after contact per attempt. Perhaps the Falcons decide to shuffle the rotation out of their bye, but it’s probably not going to happen. Gurley (probably?) won’t hold his 16-TD pace, but he’ll continue to warrant upside RB2 treatment thanks to this voluminous role.


BALTIMORE RAVENS

Notes: Dobbins continues to walk, talk and look like the best RB on the Ravens' roster.

It really hasn’t been that close. Pick a metric, any metric:

  • Dobbins: 71.8 PFF rushing grade, 0.25 forced missed tackles per rush, 5.4 yards per carry, 3.5 yards after contact per attempt
  • Edwards: 72.8 PFF rushing grade, 0.11 forced missed tackles per rush, 4.5 yards per carry, 3 yards after contact per attempt
  • Ingram: 54.1 PFF rushing grade, 0.05 forced missed tackles per rush, 4.2 yards per carry, 2.3 yards after contact per attempt

Unfortunately, the Ravens’ insistence on keeping all three backs involved has rendered each a non-viable fantasy asset. It’d be more feasible to take a chance on this group if the Ravens were still one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses, but they’ve scored just 24, 24 and 17 points since their Week 7 bye.

None of Dobbins, Ingram or Edwards cracked my top-30 players at the position this week. I’d rather take my chances with a similarly ranked WR.


BUFFALO BILLS

Notes: Moss stopped scoring TDs last week and accordingly failed to produce anything resembling high-end fantasy production. The rookie back has played the majority of the backfield’s snaps in three consecutive games, but this remains one of the league’s least fantasy-friendly backfields.

This is because Josh Allen is a saint and doesn’t waste his time 1) checking the ball down, or 2) giving the ball to someone else so they can score near the goal line. Overall, the Bills’ QB1 has only checked the ball down on 2.7% of his dropbacks, while only Cam Newton (7) and Alvin Kamara (6) have scored more rushing TDs inside the 5-yard line than Allen (5).

As a whole, Bills RBs rank 28th in carries and 21st in targets. Perhaps we could get behind one back if they dominated usage in this sort of offense, but with two, and in this economy, it’s impossible to trust either Moss or Singletary as anything more than a TD-dependent RB3 following their Week 11 bye. Even an injury to one would likely result in a similar two-back committee with T.J. Yeldon.


CAROLINA PANTHERS

Notes: CMC (shoulder) is expected to miss another week of action. This means that it should be the Davis show again. He’s struggled to provide the same level of production in his past few starts compared to what we saw earlier in the season:

  • Week 3: 13-46-0 rushing, 8-45-1 receiving, 76% snaps, PPR RB9
  • Week 4: 16-84-1 rushing, 5-27-0 receiving, 71% snaps, PPR RB7
  • Week 5: 16-89-0 rushing, 9-60-1 receiving, 83% snaps, PPR RB1
  • Week 6: 18-52-1 rushing, 2-3-0 receiving, 88% snaps, PPR RB20
  • Week 7: 7-12-0 rushing, 5-24-0 receiving, 72% snaps, PPR RB30
  • Week 8: 13-66-0 rushing, 1-11-0 receiving, 85% snaps, PPR RB32
  • Week 10: 7-32-0 rushing, 4-12-0 receiving, 63% snaps, PPR RB30

Davis’ lack of touches in his last three games has been due to bad game scripts more than anything. Overall, the Panthers only ran 52, 43 and 47 plays in Weeks 7, 8 and 10, respectively. They've averaged 60.2 plays per game on the season.

The Lions are quite literally the single worst defense in the league when it comes to giving up fantasy points to opposing RBs. Davis remains the undisputed workhorse of this backfield; follow the volume and fire him up as an RB1 for however long McCaffrey remains sidelined.

Nov 16, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs with the football in the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO BEARS

Notes: Exactly one good thing came out of this backfield last Monday night: Patterson’s electric 104-yard kick return for a score.

Otherwise, this was a disaster. The involvement of four backs with a true workhorse makes each a non-viable fantasy asset following the Bears’ Week 11 bye. David Montgomery (concussion) will be a volume-induced RB2 if he’s able to suit up against the Packers in Week 12.


CINCINNATI BENGALS

Notes: It remains unclear if/when Joe Mixon (foot) will be back in action. When healthy, he deserves to be fired up as anyone’s idea of an RB1. Literally nobody had more touches than Mixon in Weeks 1-6 prior to his injury. Yes, it’d be great to see him get more consistent pass-game usage, but it’s hard to complain too much about the potential for 20-plus carries during any given week.

Porous game script led to Gio's lack of involvement on the ground in Week 10; he posted 13-37-0 and 15-62-1 rushing lines in Weeks 7 and 8, respectively, before the Bengals’ Week 9 bye. Bernard has caught at least three passes in all but two games this season and would be locked in as a high-end RB2 if Mixon remains sidelined.

The Washington Football Team defense is one of just 11 units to allow more than 1.5 yards before contact per rush this season. They certainly boast their fair share of monsters across the defensive line, but don’t be afraid to start either Gio or Mixon with confidence, depending on how the latter back’s health shakes out.


CLEVELAND BROWNS

Notes: Both Hunt (PPR RB13) and Chubb (RB11) provided borderline RB1 value in Week 10. They dominated touches in an offense that doesn’t exactly have many better options with Odell Beckham (knee, IR) sidelined. Normally we don’t see sky-high upside in two-RB backfields, but this situation might be unique enough to be an exception.

Cleveland has a chance to be able to play with a similarly positive game script moving forward. Their second-half schedule is borderline erotic in terms of the run defenses they’ll be up against, particularly after this week:

  • Week 11: Eagles (No. 4)
  • Week 12: Jaguars (No. 28)
  • Week 13: Titans (No. 25)
  • Week 14: Ravens (No. 14)
  • Week 15: Giants (No. 24)
  • Week 16: Jets (No. 26)

Both Chubb and Hunt are excellent real-life football players, although they’re much closer to the RB1/borderline RB2 range when each is healthy. Chubb is the superior option thanks to his larger workload, while Hunt has more value in full point-per-reception leagues. Still, arguably every remaining game other than their Week 14 matchup against the Ravens could feasibly yield the sort of positive game script that we’re looking for to make the most out of this situation. Both backs can be started with confidence for at least the next month and likely beyond.


DALLAS COWBOYS (FROM WEEK 9)

Notes: Zeke and the Cowboys have a Week 10 bye to get healthy. There are $90 million reasons for Dallas to continue to hand Elliott a workhorse role, but it’s tough to dispute that Pollard has been the vastly superior back on a per-rush basis over the past two seasons:

  • Elliott: 79 PFF rushing grade, 0.16 forced missed tackles per rush, 4.3 yards per carry, 3.0 yards after contact per rush
  • Pollard: 86.1 PFF rushing grade, 0.25 forced missed tackles per rush, 5.0 yards per carry, 4.1 yards after contact per rush

Note that Pollard ranks toward the top of the league in all of these categories; it’s less of an indictment on Zeke than a reflection on the reality that the second-year talent has looked like one of the league’s better backs with his limited opportunities.

Elliott will be a volume-based RB2 with potentially somewhat better days ahead considering that this offense at least somewhat resembles an NFL-caliber unit when either Andy Dalton or Garrett Gilbert is under center. Pollard remains a more than solid handcuff, but standalone value remains little more than a pipe dream.


DENVER BRONCOS

Notes: Gordon forced six missed tackles in Week 10 after totaling that many combined in Weeks 7-9. His average of four yards after contact was the ex-Chargers RB’s highest mark since Week 1. Gordon truly looked better than he had all season, but all it produced was 46 scoreless yards.

Lindsay has functioned as more of a 1.B option than true No. 2 RB for most of the season, although this Week 10 usage is certainly concerning. He’s not somebody who needs to be rostered across most fantasy formats; even an injury to Gordon would likely lead to a two-back committee of sorts between Lindsay and Freeman.

The Dolphins are a “bad” run defense by most advanced metrics, although they’re still a more-than-solid overall unit that has allowed 21 or fewer points in four of their past five games. Gordon's constant struggle to get even 15 touches per game renders him as nothing more than a TD-dependent RB3.

Nov 15, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32) runs after a catch for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Washington Football Team at Ford Field. Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT LIONS

Notes: The Lions have given Swift some hefty workloads this season, but those usually coincided with them trailing and forced into comeback mode. Things changed last week, as the Lions decided to free their stud rookie back. The results were nothing short of remarkable.

This is legit RB1 usage right here, people. Swift’s combination of high-end pass-game chops and open-field elusiveness has been on full display for most of the season; by all accounts, the 21-year-old back has looked the part of a three-down stud throughout the year.

The Panthers haven’t been quite as horrendous against opposing RBs in 2020 as they were in 2019, although the league’s 29th-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position remains a unit to target. Fire up Swift as a top-12 option at the position this week, and cross your fingers that Johnson, as well as Peterson, remain afterthoughts moving forward.


GREEN BAY PACKERS

Notes: Jones failed to find the end zone in Week 10, although his receiving usage was encouraging. Overall, Jones played eight snaps in the slot or out wide, demonstrating high-level ability as a true receiver along the way. Just three RBs have averaged at least 1.25 yards per route run when lined up in the slot or out wide over the past two seasons:

It’d be nice if Jones had more of an every-down role, considering he’s routinely functioned as one of the league’s best talents at the position since being drafted back in 2017. Still, he’s received at least 15 combined carries and targets in every game this season — the Packers get him the ball plenty, even if it’s not quite as much as fantasy managers would prefer.

A-aron has a tough matchup ahead against a Colts defense that is just one of three units to allow fewer than 20 PPR points per game to opposing RBs. Still, this Packers offense is largely matchup-proof when they’re clicking; fire up Jones as a high-end RB1. Williams doesn’t really hold much standalone value when both Jones and Davante Adams are healthy, but he’s a plenty viable handcuff and valuable bench stash.


HOUSTON TEXANS

Notes: Yes, Duke disappointed in his first game as his offense’s true three-down back. Also yes, the usage was the absolute best-case scenario that truthers such as myself would have asked for.

It’s not like Duke was exposed as a scatback who couldn’t run between the tackles; he trucked the life out of Andrew Sendejo and had another 23-yard burst that featured multiple defenders grasping for air. Don’t let 60 minutes of middling play lead you to believe The U’s all-time leading rusher isn’t capable of putting up better production in a future matchup that maybe isn’t as influenced by Mother Nature.

David Johnson (concussion, IR) will be sidelined for at least another week, meaning Duke can be fired up (again) as a usage-based RB2 with the potential for more if this high-end usage sticks around. Week 10 marked just the second time all season Deshaun Watson and company were held to fewer than 20 points; don’t expect Sunday’s matchup against the banged-up Patriots defense to be the third.


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Notes: What a mess. Credit to Hines for working as the lead back in a matchup that actually featured a positive game script, but the only clarity we’ve found from this backfield at this point is that all three backs will continue to remain involved.

Hines has been the best back all season, but his usage has been even more sporadic than the Colts’ pair of early-down grinders. We can live with two-RB committees in fantasy land; three backs are much more difficult to get a handle on. It’s impossible to trust either Hines, Taylor or Wilkins as more than TD-dependent RB3s moving forward, even against the Packers’ atrocious run defense. I’d lean Hines over both this week, but even then, it’s going to be a struggle to squeeze him inside of the position’s top 25 options at the position.


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Notes: Robinson has posted 25-99-1 and 23-109-0 rushing lines in two games with Jake Luton under center. The latter performance could’ve been far bigger had the Jaguars offensive line managed to do their job in a more legal manner.

The Jaguars seemed even more confident in RB1son’s passing-down ability after Chris Thompson (back, IR) was forced out of action. Ultimately, only Christian McCaffrey (30.1), Alvin Kamara (27.4), Dalvin Cook (27) and Aaron Jones (20.3) have averaged more PPR points per game than Robinson (18.1) this season.

This week’s matchup against the Steelers’ ferocious front seven is hardly ideal, but Robinson earned weekly matchup-proof RB1 treatment a while ago. Fire him up as a top-10 option at the position as long as he continues to possess one of the league’s most robust workloads.


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (FROM WEEK 9)

Notes: The Chiefs have played three games with Bell. Their RBs have posted the following usage:

  • Edwards-Helaire: 85 snaps, 19 carries, 12 targets
  • Bell: 52 snaps, 16 carries, 4 targets
  • Williams: 24 snaps, 3 carries, 2 targets
  • Darwin Thompson: 7 snaps, 4 carries, 1 target

The allure for Bell was the potential for a souped-up pass-game role; that hasn’t been the case. Desperate times call for desperate measures, don’t feel like you have to hold Bell through the bye week.

Hopefully things clear up a bit after the bye, but for meow, Edwards-Helaire should be considered more of a middling RB2 than borderline RB1 moving forward. The Chiefs seem content to let the best QB alive air the ball out to his heart’s desire, but don’t rage-trade CEH just because his production hasn’t been as great as we would’ve liked. The man is still the lead RB for the league’s most-explosive offense after all.

Nov 15, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) gestures a peace sign before scoring a touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Allegiant Stadium. Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Notes: Richard (chest) left early during the Raiders’ dominant 31-12 victory over the Broncos last week. The injury and exceptionally positive game script enabled Booker to rack up a season-high 17 touches on his way to scoring two revenge-induced TDs. He’s the preferred backup option to own in Las Vegas, but don’t expect this sort of standalone value moving forward.

That’s because Jacobs remains one of the most heavily used backs in the league.

Richard's absence could open up some passing-game work for Jacobs, but either way, he has the sort of bell-cow role to continue to warrant matchup-proof RB1 treatment. The idea that Jacobs is a game-script-dependent back is largely exaggerated; the second-year talent has at least 15 touches in all but one game this season.


LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Notes: Justin Jackson (knee, IR) is sidelined, while Troymaine Pope was used on special teams only in his return to action in Week 10. Austin Ekeler has sent out some optimistic tweets in recent weeks, although Week 13 looks like the earliest he could be back.

This leaves Ballage as the new RB1 in Los Angeles. He’s racked up 40 total touches over the past two weeks, averaging a solid enough 4.2 yards per carry and 5.4 yards per target along the way. The latest NFL player to seem actually #good once freed from their Adam Gase shackles, Ballage hasn’t looked anything like the same guy we actively faded despite possessing a massive workload in 2019.

Ballage is my preferred waiver wire addition at the RB position this week, primarily due to his chance to dominate usage in winnable matchups against the Jets and Bills over the next two weeks. Fire him up as a top-20 option at the position for these spots. Check out the Tuesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for my full thoughts on this week’s waiver wire.


LOS ANGELES RAMS

Notes: The Rams’ post-bye offense gave Akers the first touch of the game, although he still worked behind Henderson and Brown when it came to total reps. This is a mess: Akers largely isn’t trusted as a three-down back, Henderson continues to look like the best pure runner and Brown operates as the steady pass-down and short-yardage option.

This week’s matchup against the Buccaneers’ relentless front seven is the opposite of ideal. None of the Rams’ backs are top-24 options this week, and it’d likely take more than one injury for any single player to emerge as a true difference-maker in fantasy down the stretch.


MIAMI DOLPHINS

Notes: Ahmed’s stranglehold on lead-back duties grew tighter when the Dolphins decided to release Jordan Howard. However, the looming return of Matt Breida (hamstring) could turn this back into a more evenly distributed committee. Myles Gaskin (sprained MCL, IR) is eligible to return after this week, but there is still no clear timetable for his return.

There’s potential for Washington to play more moving forward after debuting for the Dolphins in Week 10. The Broncos’ banged-up defense isn’t a unit to overly fear, although we shouldn’t discount the potential for Tua to suffer a typical rookie-bump against Vic Fangio’s well-coached defense.

Still, it appears the Dolphins’ undrafted rookie will function as the offense’s lead back for another week. Ahmed has been fine, but it’s hardly like he’s emerged as a three-down workhorse. Overall, he has just one target over the past two weeks and has forced just two missed tackles on 28 rush attempts. I’d be careful in treating Ahmed as more than a TD-dependent RB3.

Nov 16, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) hands the football to Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Notes: The Vikings’ stud RB has been nothing short of remarkable during his last five non-injury-shortened games:

  • Week 3: 22 rushes-181 yards-1 TD, 2 receptions-18 yards-0 TD, PPR RB5
  • Week 4: 27-130-2, 2-16-0, PPR RB2
  • Week 8: 30-163-3, 2-63-1, PPR RB1
  • Week 9: 22-206-2, 2-46-0, PPR RB1
  • Week 10: 30-96-0, 4-16-0, PPR RB15

Yes, Week 10’s scoreless performance wasn’t exactly what fantasy managers were hoping for. Also yes, Cook remains locked in as anyone’s idea of a top-two fantasy option, and he’s set up majestically against the Cowboys’ league-worst defense in yards before contact allowed per rush.

Mattison remains the preferred handcuff in this backfield, although he’d be ranked as more of an upside RB2 than locked-in RB1 if Cook misses time due to the reality that Abdullah would steal some pass-down work.


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Notes: The Patriots’ second-year back has been solid this season, but don’t count on Harris relegating a healthy Sony Michel (knee, IR) to the bench. Both early-down backs have made the most out of their opportunities through 10 weeks:

  • Harris: 83.5 PFF rushing grade, 0.12 forced missed tackles per rush, 5.5 yards per carry, 3.2 yards after contact per attempt
  • Michel: 72 PFF rushing grade, 0.12 forced missed tackles per rush, 6.7 yards per carry, 4.1 yards after contact per attempt

It’s possible the Patriots utilize a dreaded four-RB committee once Michel returns to action. Everyone involved carries minimal upside, with Cam Newton leading the league in rushing scores inside the 5-yard line. Burkhead or White would carry some weekly value if the other misses time, but together they more or less cap each other's upside.

This week’s matchup against the Texans’ 29th-ranked defense in yards before contact allowed per rush is borderline erotic. Harris can be treated as a top-20 option at the position *if* Michel remains inactive. The return of the offense’s incumbent starter would leave all four RBs as non-recommended starts until we have some sort of idea of the usage distribution.


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Notes: Kamara is presently averaging the ninth-most PPR points per game by a running back in a single season ever:

  • 2000 Marshall Faulk (32.9 PPR points per game)
  • 2002 Priest Holmes (31.5)
  • 2020 Christian McCaffrey (30.1)
  • 2006 LaDainian Tomlinson (30.1)
  • 2001 Faulk (30)
  • 2019 McCaffrey (29.5)
  • 2003 Holmes (27.8)
  • 2003 Tomlinson (27.7)
  • 1975 O.J. Simpson (27.4)
  • 2020 Kamara (27.4)

The only weekly question with Kamara is whether or not he should be ranked ahead of Dalvin Cook. This week I’m going to go with no, due to 1) Cook’s pristine matchup against the Cowboys, and 2) the presence of Jameis Winston under center with Drew Brees (ribs) sidelined.

Don’t expect Kamara’s usual fantasy-friendly dose of 15-20 touches to go anywhere; just realize it’d make sense if this offense doesn’t function at quite the same high-level efficiency with Brees sidelined, even in a more than winnable spot against the Falcons.

Murray remains fantasy’s single most valuable handcuff, and he’s a worthwhile flex option in an offense trending towards a run-first unit as long as their starting QB is out.


NEW YORK GIANTS

Notes: Devonta Freeman (ankle, IR) will miss at least the Giants’ Week 12 matchup against the Bengals. Gallman has scored five times in his last four games despite losing early-down and passing-down work to Morris and Lewis, respectively. Daniel Jones leads this offense in rushing through 10 weeks of action.

Gallman will be a volume-based RB2 coming out of the Giants’ Week 11 bye, although expectations should be limited, given that this remains a three-RB backfield and that the Giants’ No. 3 RB isn’t getting the same sort of near-every-down role we saw Saquon Barkley and (to a lesser extent) Freeman receive earlier this year.


NEW YORK JETS (FROM WEEK 9)

Notes: Watching announcers attempt to juice up the Jets backfield these days is pretty, pretty, pretty brutal.

Joe Flacco and company actually moved the ball well through the air against the Patriots last Monday night, but we continued to see Gore work ahead of the offense’s more explosive rookie. Perine will play more snaps in games that the Jets fall behind; the problem is that 1) goal-line opportunities are hard to come by in the league’s 32nd-ranked scoring offense, and 2) this offense ranks 26th in total targets to the RB position.

Neither back needs to be held through the Jets’ Week 10 bye.


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Notes: Sanders continues to be featured as a workhorse when healthy. The only reason why his Week 11 performance wasn’t better was due to Scott and Clement managing to find the end zone twice on their combined four carries. Neither is the team’s goal-line back or anything like that; Sanders simply had an unlucky week in the scoring department.

Up next is a Browns defense that has been good, not great, against opposing RBs. The likes of Giovani Bernard (20.6 PPR points), Ezekiel Elliott (20.5), James Conner (17.2) and even Jonathan Taylor (15.4) managed to put up solid production against Myles Garrett and company. I expect Sanders to join this group with 15-plus PPR points; treat him as a top-eight option at the position this week and beyond.

Nov 15, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 36-10. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Notes: Conner’s snaps took a turn for the better after we saw him relegated to the sideline for large portions of Week 8 and 9. The cause for concern with Conner is that the Steelers seemingly want to throw out of empty as much as possible these days:

  • Week 1: 6 pass attempts out of empty
  • Week 2: 8
  • Week 3: 3
  • Week 5: 8
  • Week 6: 1
  • Week 7: 6
  • Week 8: 20
  • Week 9: 23
  • Week 10: 16

The 9-0 Steelers (+100) join the Chiefs (+103) as the league’s only teams with a positive point differential in the triple digits. It’s maddening that Conner hasn’t been able to put together some bigger performances in recent weeks. However, another smash spot (on paper) is on the horizon against the Jaguars’ 28th-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position.

Go back to the well with Conner as a high-end RB1 for another week. The Steelers have clearly opened up their passing game recently, but their bell-cow back is due for positive TD regression in an offense that hasn’t replaced him with another back.

None of the other Steelers RBs are realistic fantasy options this week. We’d likely see a fairly low-volume three-back committee if Conner is forced to miss any time.


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Notes: Hasty (collarbone, IR) could miss the rest of the season. It seems like Raheem Mostert (ankle, IR) has a good chance of returning following the 49ers’ Week 11 bye. If not, look for McKinnon to continue to function as the offense’s lead back. We’ve seen McKinnon work as the starting RB on four separate occasions this year:

  • Week 3: 14 carries-38 yards-1 TD, 3 receptions-39 yards-0 TD, PPR RB14
  • Week 4: 14-54-1, 7-43-0, PPR RB6
  • Week 9: 12-52-1, 3-16-0, PPR RB8
  • Week 10: 18-33-0, 1-13-0, PPR RB38

Volume, for lack of a better word, is good, particularly when coach Kyle Shanahan is the one doing the scheming. The 49ers’ Week 12 matchup against the Rams is fairly brutal, but either McKinnon or Mostert would warrant RB2 treatment depending on who projects to be the offense’s lead back.


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Notes: Sheesh. This backfield has been a mess with Chris Carson (foot) and Carlos Hyde (hamstring) sidelined. None of Collins, Dallas or Homer have especially stood out or done anything to warrant enhanced usage moving forward. It seems more likely than not that either Hyde or (especially) Carson would take over as the undisputed lead back if healthy enough to suit up Thursday night against the Cardinals.

For meow, it seems like Hyde has a better chance to suit up. Coach Pete Carroll said Hyde is “a little bit ahead of” Carson at the moment, although it’s hardly a sure thing that the former back will suit up himself. Anybody involved in the Seahawks’ No. 1 ranked scoring offense warrants fantasy consideration; just realize that this backfield is incredibly fluid at the moment.

Further complicating matters for these RBs is the reality that Russ is cooking like never before.

  • 2012: 24.6 pass attempts
  • 2013: 25.4
  • 2014: 28.3
  • 2015: 30.2
  • 2016: 34.1
  • 2017: 34.6
  • 2018: 26.7
  • 2019: 32.3
  • 2020: 37.1

Hyde is a risky RB2 who could see somewhat reduced touches in his first game back from injury if active. I’d try to avoid starting any of Collins, Dallas or Homer if Hyde and Carson remain sidelined; there’s simply too low of a touch and snap ceiling alike for everyone involved in this muddled three-back committee at the moment.

Oct 25, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (27) against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Notes: Jones has essentially been benched twice this season: 1) Week 2 against the Panthers after a botched handoff, and 2) Week 8 against the Giants after dropping/fumbling a deflected target. The third-year back has looked like the best back on the Buccaneers as a pure rusher throughout 2020, but clearly coach Bruce Arians has been skeptical.

Maybe we finally saw a change in attitude in Week 10. RoJo lost a fumble early in the game, but Arians stuck with his much-maligned third-year back and was rewarded for doing so. Overall, Jones converted his 23 carries into 192 yards and a score courtesy of a 98-yard jaunt straight through the heart of the Panthers defense.

Fournette didn’t exactly disappear, and if we’ve learned one thing from this backfield over the past two years, it’s that things are never set in stone. Still, RoJo will be the preferred fantasy option moving forward with this AB-version of the offense leaning more heavily on the WRs than RBs in the passing game.

The Rams are a stiff test, but RoJo can be fired up as a top-24 option at the position as the lead early-down back in one of the league’s most explosive offenses. Fournette is better approached as a boom-or-bust RB3.


TENNESSEE TITANS

Notes: Yes, it’s annoying the Titans don’t play Henry on a higher percentage of their snaps. Also yes, it sucks that he has just one target over the past three weeks. That’s okay; winter is coming, people.

  • September: 3.88 career yards per carry
  • October: 4.33
  • November: 5.6
  • December: 5.38
  • January: 5.2

Nobody has more touches than Henry this season. You don’t need me to tell you he’s a weekly auto-start RB1, particularly against a Ravens defense that he hung a 30-195-0 rushing line on the last time they met in the AFC Divisional Round.

None of the Titans' backup RBs are worthy of a bench stash.


WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

Notes: McKissic has five more targets than any other player in the NFL over the past two weeks. Many have pointed out that McKissic is in the game to “protect” Alex Smith. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound back hasn’t been asked to pass block on more than five snaps in a game this season. If the Football Team is punishing Gibson for his inability to pass protect, they’re doing so by having McKissic run routes.

Gibson isn’t perfect, but he’s already unequivocally earned the team’s early-down work, and the collegiate WR certainly seems worthy of enhanced usage in the passing game. It remains unclear why exactly all these designed looks are going to McKissic instead of Gibson:

  • McKissic: 68.9 PFF receiving grade, 7.1 yards per reception, 6.6 yards after the catch per reception, 1.34 yards per route run, 2 drops
  • Gibson: 65.8 PFF receiving grade, 7.8 yards per reception, 9.6 yards after the catch per reception, 1.59 yards per route run, 1 drop

It’s not like McKissic is feasting on check-down attempts that come after he’s diagnosed whether or not his help is needed in pass protection; the journeyman has a position-high 31 targets when lined up in the slot or out wide — a full 14 additional opportunities than the next closest back. Gibson has just four-such targets all season.

This isn’t a personal vendetta against McKissic; it’d be easy to love the guy in this sort of fantasy-friendly role if he was doing more with it. The frustration comes from the reality that Gibson has continued to look like the second-best player in this offense behind only Terry McLaurin.

Alas, Washington has made it clear they value McKissic over their stud rookie back. Both are top-24 options at the position with their current workload; just realize that Gibson would be a top-10 fantasy back if the Football Team ever decides to feature him as a receiver.

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