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.
What follows is a breakdown of each team's backfield ahead of Week 12 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 that will be lucky to play more than an offensive snap or two come gametime. 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 12 matchups.
Each back’s Week 11 snap rate, carries and targets is listed next to his name in parenthesis. Every team’s RB1 is simply whoever played the most snaps the previous weeks. 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.
Notes: The Cardinals have deployed a true 50/50 split between Drake and Edmonds since the former back returned in Week 10. We did see Drake get more involved as a receiver than he has all season, but ultimately he’s not getting the same ~20 touch role that was commonplace during the first six weeks of the season.
Edmonds has largely out-performed Drake all season; he remains a high-end handcuff that will dominate usage if Drake misses time. Still, his 17 total touches in two games with Drake back in action places him firmly in the low-end RB3 range at best.
The Patriots defense ranks ninth and 13th in yards before contact per rush and points per game allowed, respectively. They aren’t the same juggernaut we saw in 2020, although it’s tough to call it an easy matchup. I’d lean towards the other option in most start/sit questions regarding this group if the rankings are somewhat close considering the 1) reduced touch ceiling for both backs while each is healthy, and 2) reality that Kyler Murray is the engine of this rushing attack.
It’s truly absurd how good Kyler is with the ball in his hands.
Kyler Murray is pretty, pretty, pretty fast pic.twitter.com/tNSAI8I4Um
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 23, 2020
- RB1: Brian Hill (41% snaps, 4 carries, 0 targets)
- RB2: Todd Gurley (39%, 8, 1)
- RB3: Ito Smith (10%, 1, 0)
Notes: Gurley usually plays 60-70% in games that the Falcons win or manage to keep close compared to 40-55% when Matt Ryan and company are forced into comeback mode. Week 11 was a season-worst game from Gurley in terms of both usage and output; just realize the disparity in reps was more due to game script than a passing of a guard.
We haven’t seen Gurley average even 3.5 yards per carry in a game since Week 5. The 26-year-old back has been a TD-dependent fantasy option virtually the entire season, something that isn’t expected to change ahead of the Falcons’ final stretch.
Ryan has been a shell of himself with Julio Jones (hamstring) sidelined, but the Falcons-Raiders’ matchup does boast the week’s highest game total by a full two points (FantasyLabs). This could be a week where we see a return to form in terms of efficiency: The Raiders have allowed the fourth-most PPR points per game to opposing RBs through 11 weeks. Treat Gurley as the volume-induced RB2 that he’s basically been this entire season.
- RB1: J.K. Dobbins (63% snaps, 15 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Gus Edwards (21%, 3, 0)
- RB3: Justice Hill (11%, 0, 0)
- RB4: Mark Ingram (8%, 2, 0)
Notes: Dobbins RB1 szn has been cancelled due to lack of hustle as both the Ravens’ electric rookie RB and Ingram landed on the covid list.
This leaves Edwards as the team’s undisputed bell-cow back. We have an 11-game sample size of him functioning as the Ravens’ starting RB without Ingram involved:
- 17 carries-115 rush yards-1 TD, 62% snaps
- 23-118-0, 61%
- 21-82-0, 49%
- 16-67-0, 44%
- 19-104-1, 43%
- 14-92-0, 37%
- 12-76-0, 47%
- 8-23-0, 34%
- 21-130-0, 68%
- 16-87-1, 32%
- 11-23-1, 38%
It seems likely that Edwards will flirt with 15-20 touches; just realize the Ravens have consistently refrained from giving Gus the Bus a true three-down role due to his limitations as a pass-down threat.
This means that we should expect Hill to play anywhere from 30-60% of the offense’s snaps. It’s not an outrageous proposition; Hill (47 snaps) played more total snaps than Ingram (28) and Edwards (18) combined in the Ravens’ AFC divisional round loss to the Titans last season. This role only produced five targets, so don’t confuse this usage as viable for season-long fantasy, but he could be out there for a good chunk of the game and is a solid contrarian GPP dart.
Ultimately, only the Saints have been stingier against opposing RBs than the Steelers this season. Edwards is a volume-based RB2, but this isn’t anyone’s idea of a smash spot. Hill is a galaxy-brain RB dart throw in DFS land. Please scoop up Dobbins off your waiver wire if by some miracle he’s there.
BUFFALO BILLS (from Week 10)
Notes: Moss stopped scoring TDs in Week 10 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), Alvin Kamara (7) and Dalvin Cook (6) have scored more rushing TDs inside the 5-yard line than Allen (5).
Expect the Bills to put up plenty of points against a Chargers team that simply can’t avoid participating in a shootout. Overall, their last seven games have produced point totals of: 69, 57, 68, 61, 57, 50 and 62. Unfortunately, it’s just tough to have any level of confidence in either back receiving enough touches to put up anything resembling decent fantasy production.
As a whole, Bills RBs rank 31st in carries and 23rd 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 TD-dependent RB3s following their Week 11 bye. Even an injury to one would likely result in a similar two-back committee with T.J. Yeldon.
Notes: CMC (shoulder) is expected to miss another week of action. This means it should be the Davis show again. He bounced back in Week 11 after a string of disappointing starts:
- 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
- Week 11: 19-64-1 rushing, 2-15-0 receiving, 73% snaps, PPR RB10
Davis’ lack of touches in his three starts before Week 11 may have been more due to bad game script more than anything. Overall, the Panthers only ran 52, 43 and 47 plays in Weeks 7, 8 and 10, respectively. They've averaged 61.1 plays per game on the season.
Davis remains the undisputed workhorse of this backfield; follow the volume and fire him up as a RB1 for however long McCaffrey remains sidelined.
CHICAGO BEARS (from Week 10)
- RB1: Cordarrelle Patterson (50% snaps, 11 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Ryan Nall (34%, 1, 2)
- RB3: Artavis Pierce (12%, 3, 0)
- RB4: Lamar Miller (10%, 0, 2)
Notes: Exactly one good thing came out of this backfield the last time we saw them: Patterson’s electric 104-yard kick return for a score.
CORDARRELLE PATTERSON REVENGE GAME SZN ALL HAIL OUR ONE TRUE KINGpic.twitter.com/9hAgHB5X1p
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 17, 2020
Otherwise this was a disaster. The involvement of four backs without a true workhorse renders each as non-viable fantasy assets if David Montgomery (concussion) remains sidelined.
The good news is Montgomery was at practice after the Bears’ Week 11 bye and appears to be trending towards a return. He was functioning as a true volume-based RB2 prior to getting his bell rung:
- Week 4: 10-27-0 rushing, 3-30-0 receiving, 85% snaps, PPR RB27
- Week 5: 10-29-1 rushing, 7-30-0 receiving, 81% snaps, PPR RB13
- Week 6: 19-58-0 rushing, 4-39-0 receiving, 85% snaps, PPR RB14
- Week 7: 14-48-0 rushing, 5-21-0 receiving, 83% snaps, PPR RB24
- Week 8: 21-89-0 rushing, 2-16-0 receiving, 88% snaps, PPR RB19
The ceiling isn’t as high as it should be for someone getting this sort of workload, but it’s again going to be tough to keep Montgomery out of our top-24 ranks as long as he’s treated like Midwest Saquon Barkley. This is particularly true against the Packers’ joke of a run defense; they join the Lions and Texans as the league’s only three defenses allowing at least 30 PPR points per game to running backs.
Notes: Perine has been getting more and more involved as the offense’s lead early-down option. And yet, this isn’t even Gio’s largest concern at the moment. The real issue in Cincy is the potential for this offense to divulge into a complete dumpster fire without Joe Burrow (torn ACL, IR) under center to help make up for this atrocious offensive line.
Fifty-nine QBs have thrown at least 50 passes over the past two seasons. Here’s how Ryan Finley ranks:
- PFF passing grade: 28.4 (No. 59)
- Yards per attempt: 5.2 (No. 58)
- Adjusted completion rate: 56% (No. 59)
- QB rating: 55.5 (No. 55)
The Bengals scored 13, 10 and 10 points in Finley’s three starts last season. Joe Mixon and Bernard combined for three, four and six targets in those contests. Not great!
The Giants have been an underrated good-not-great defense all season, and they’re set up brilliantly against objectively the worst starting QB in the league. I’d refrain from trusting anybody involved in this Bengals offense if you can help it. Gio is the most realistic fantasy option, but even then he’s better treated as a low-ceiling RB3 as opposed to the top-20 option we had with Burrow under center.
Notes: It’s pretty ridiculous how good Chubb is at football.
Mondays suck. We know this.
However, at least you don't have to try to tackle Nick Chubb. This is good. We know this. pic.twitter.com/xKincxB15Y
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 23, 2020
*Both* Chubb and Hunt managed to jump over defenders last Sunday. They’re each truly top-10, if not top-five, talents at the position as a whole, and the Browns have done a great job feeding both legit RB1 workloads in this post-OBJ offense.
Cleveland has a chance to be able to play with similarly positive game script moving forward. Their second-half schedule is borderline erotic in terms of the run defenses they’ll be up against:
- Week 12: Jaguars (No. 27)
- Week 13: Titans (No. 24)
- Week 14: Ravens (No. 14)
- Week 15: Giants (No. 25)
- 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 are 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 the remainder of the season.
Notes: Zeke and the Cowboys are (kinda) rolling with Andy Dalton back under center. 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: 80.6 PFF Rushing Grade, 0.16 forced missed tackles per rush, 4.3 yards per carry, 3 yards after contact per rush
- Pollard: 88.1 PFF Rushing Grade, 0.27 forced missed tackles per rush, 5.2 yards per carry, 4.3 yards after contact per rush
Note that Pollard ranks among the league’s top-four RBs 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 truly looked like one of the league’s better backs with his limited opportunities.
Of course, the Cowboys are fully expected to continue to feed Zeke to his heart’s desire on Thanksgiving and moving forward. Pollard is nothing more than an A+ handcuff and contrarian GPP dart throw, while Zeke is trending back towards RB1 territory with the Cowboys offense looking functional for the first time since losing Dak Prescott (ankle, IR).
Notes: Gordon scored twice last week and nearly had a third before losing a fumble at the goal line. And yet, Lindsay actually led the way in terms of total opportunity.
Both back have split the load more times than not when each has been healthy this season. Gordon usually gets more of the pass-down work, but Drew Lock’s league-high 10.5-yard average target depth isn’t exactly the most fantasy-friendly feature for a RB to deal with.
The Saints boast the league’s single-best defense in fewest PPR points per game allowed to opposing RBs. Only Aaron Jones (16.6 PPR points) and D’Andre Swift (15.2) have turned in even somewhat solid fantasy performances against this defense; neither Gordon nor Lindsay should be treated as more than TD-dependent RB3s in this rough spot.
Notes: Swift (concussion) remains sidelined. He’s a legit top-12 option at the position if the rookie manages to somehow clear the concussion protocol by Thursday.
The Lions decided to free D'Andre Swift in Week 10 and it was awesome pic.twitter.com/ywwCngpAyV
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 16, 2020
The Lions embraced a two-RB backfield in Week 11 with Swift sidelined. Johnson essentially had his usual role while also taking on Swift’s pass-down work. Peterson continued to see the majority of the offense’s early-down work.
Matthew Stafford (thumb) is playing through the pain and has been far less aggressive with Kenny Golladay (hip) sidelined this season. Their home matchup against the Texans’ 30th-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing RBs is certainly a winnable matchup, although it’s tough to have any level of faith in this Lions offense at the moment. Ultimately, I’d rather throw a DFS dart at Johnson in the hopes that he receives the most touches in a matchup projected to feature a negative game script for the Lions, but neither Lions RB is a recommended start this week in season-long formats.
Notes: Both Jones and Williams found the end zone during the Packers’ disappointing Week 11 loss to the Colts. This has been a split backfield when both backs have been healthy for the better part of the last four seasons. Williams isn’t awful by any means, but Jones’ status as one of the league’s best talents at the position has made his middling usage annoying for fantasy managers to deal with.
- PFF rush grade: 88.8 (No. 6 among 50 players with 300-plus carries 2017-2020)
- Missed tackles forced per attempt: 0.18 (tied for No. 16)
- Yards per carry: 5 (tied for No. 4)
- Yards after contact per attempt: 3.1 (tied for No. 12)
Ultimately, Jones has at least 14 combined carries and targets in every game this season; the Packers usually find a way to get their stud RB the ball plenty of times despite the relatively mundane snap share. Continue to fire him up as a top-eight fantasy option in this week’s matchup against Khalil Mack and company. Williams is basically like Chase Edmonds: fantastic handcuff that is a TD-dependent RB3 at best while their team’s starter is healthy.
Notes: These past two weeks have been tough on this “Duke is a three-down RB” truther. Yes, Duke (real name Randy!) has been nothing short of awful on a per-touch basis over the past two weeks. Also yes, this doesn’t mean he’s always sucked. Quite literally nobody has averaged more missed forced tackles per carry than Johnson (0.25) among 71 players with at least 150 rush attempts since 2018.
Of course, fantasy football is a what have you done for me lately business. Things have been anything but smooth for Johnson, but Prosise didn’t do anything with his slightly increased opportunity to suggest this starting job is going anywhere. This week’s matchup against the Lions’ league-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing RBs is the best possible get-right spot we could ask for.
Deshaun Watson is a threat to keep the ball himself at any point and has proven to not be the most fantasy-friendly QB for his RBs. Overall, Texans RBs as a whole rank 32nd and 22nd in carries and targets, respectively, this season. The matchup keeps Johnson as a borderline RB2 for another week, but he’s not the sort of must-start option that his workload suggests. This point is just as true for Duke as it was for David Johnson (concussion, IR) during his underwhelming eight games as the offense’s lead back.
- RB1: Jonathan Taylor (53% snaps, 22 carries, 4 targets)
- RB2: Nyheim Hines (35%, 6, 3)
- RB3: Jordan Wilkins (12%, 4, 1)
Notes: Pregame reports indicating Hines would be the featured back moving forward were true for at least a drive, as the Colts gave their primary pass-down back his first start of the season. After that the Colts went back to deploying a hot-hand approach that ultimately featured more Taylor than we’d seen all season.
I wrote the following in this column last week:
“Credit to Hines for working as the lead back in a matchup that actually featured the Colts play with a positive game script, but clearly the only clarity we’ve found from this backfield at this point is that all three backs will continue to remain involved. Hines has largely 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.”
The Titans hardly present a much tougher challenge, and the Colts’ 10th-ranked scoring offense has proven capable of putting up points throughout the season. Still, none of Taylor, Hines or Wilkins and be trusted as top-24 options at the position as long as each continues to not see anything resembling a consistently fantasy-friendly workload.
- RB1: James Robinson (71% snaps, 17 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Dare Ogunbowale (21%, 0, 3)
- RB3: Devine Ozigbo (7%, 0, 3)
Notes: Robinson continues to flirt with 20-plus touches on a weekly basis regardless of who is under center. The biggest issue has been pass-game usage: J-Rob caught at least three passes in all but one game in Weeks 1-7, but he’s tallied just four total receptions in three games with Jake Luton under center.
Ultimately, RB1son can continue to be fired up as a weekly top-12 option at the position despite reduced target share and scoring opportunity as long as Luton remains under center. There simply aren’t many players in the league that have been entrusted with this sort of high-end workload:
- Derrick Henry (241 touches)
- Dalvin Cook (226)
- Josh Jacobs (223)
- Ezekiel Elliott (209)
- James Robinson (203)
Robinson would be especially well off this week if Myles Garrett (covid) remains sidelined. Ogunbowale remains nothing more than an obvious pass-down back. Ozigbo played his first four offensive snaps of the season and received three targets on the Jaguars’ final drive; he’s not really a functioning part of this two-back committee.
- RB1: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (51% snaps, 14 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Le’Veon Bell (26%, 7, 1)
- RB3: Darrel Williams (26%, 0, 3)
Notes: The Chiefs have played four games with Bell. Their RBs have posted the following usage:
- Edwards-Helaire: 122 snaps, 33 carries, 14 targets
- Bell: 71 snaps, 23 carries, 5 targets
- Williams: 43 snaps, 3 carries, 5 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 with Williams remaining involved in two-minute situations. For meow Edwards-Helaire should be considered more of a middling RB2 than borderline RB1 moving forward despite his multi-score Week 11. 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.
The Buccaneers boast anyone’s idea of an elite run defense and could force the Chiefs into even more of a pass-first approach than usual. Still, CEH has enough of a pass-game ceiling himself to warrant top-16 treatment at the position. Bell isn’t a recommended start in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.
Notes: Jalen Richard (chest) was sidelined in Week 11. Jacobs didn’t see significantly more pass-game work, but we can see a difference in his workload by digging under the hood a little bit. Overall, Jacobs was featured as a pass blocker on a season-high 10 snaps, while Booker was used to protect Derek Carr on just one occasion.
The Raiders managed to play with a positive game script for most of their Week 11 loss to the Chiefs; we could see Jacobs truly rack up targets if this offense is forced to play from behind in a future matchup as long as Richard remains sidelined.
Either way, Jacobs 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. The ceiling is the roof in this game considering the Raiders-Falcons’ matchup features the highest over/under of the week.
- RB1: Kalen Ballage (65% snaps, 16 carries, 8 targets)
- RB2: Troymaine Pope (19%, 3, 2)
- RB3: Joshua Kelley (14%, 4, 2)
Notes: Ballage continues to absolutely rack up opportunity with Austin Ekeler (ankle, IR) sidelined. High-end efficiency has been tough to come by, but clearly the Chargers are comfortable featuring Ballage as their lead back for however long their true starter remains sidelined.
It’s scary to think what a healthy Ekeler could do in the current version of this offense.
Austin Ekeler with Justin Herbert under center is going to be borderline eroticpic.twitter.com/hvsSeMei9j
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 24, 2020
Alas, we’re still likely at least one more week away from the Chargers’ stud RB returning to action.
This Chargers-Bills’ matchup features the third-highest game total of Week 11; Ballage should continue to see plenty of fantasy-friendly targets and scoring opportunities. Still, he’s a lower-end RB2 for the time being, whereas Ekeler would be a top-five option at the position in this spot. Soon, people. Soon.
- RB1: Darrell Henderson (46% snaps, 8 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Malcolm Brown (38%, 3, 1)
- RB3: Cam Akers (15%, 5, 1)
Notes: The Rams have utilized a three-headed committee since returning from their Week 9 bye. We’ve also seen more of a commitment to the passing game. The results have been just fine in real life, but these developments have largely tanked the fantasy value of everyone involved in this backfield. TDs will be scored, but no single back has been prioritized inside the 5-yard line throughout the season. None of Henderson, Brown or Akers are ranked inside my top-24 options at the position this week, even in a winnable matchup against the 49ers’ banged-up defense. Don’t expect too much of a change in usage moving forward unless an injury occurs; none of these RBs have to be on re-draft fantasy football rosters.
- RB1: Salvon Ahmed (67% snaps, 12 carries, 6 targets)
- RB2: Patrick Laird (25%, 0, 2)
- RB3: Matt Breida (11%, 2, 0)
Notes: Myles Gaskin (knee, IR) is eligible to return this week, but there hasn’t been an update on his status at the time of this writing. It’d be tough to assume that he’d walk back into a true three-down role in his first game back, but the return of the offense’s starting RB would certainly relegate each of Ahmed, Laird and Breida as non-viable fantasy options.
Ahmed can be fired up as a legit RB2 in Week 12 if Gaskin remains sidelined. His sudden involvement in the passing game with Breida back in action was surprising to see; just don’t expect the undrafted rookie to run away with the job. Ahmed has played perfectly fine, but it’s hard to call him anything more than an average talent at the position based on what we’ve seen in three games:
- PFF rush grade: 72.7 (No. 33 among 79 RBs with 25-plus carries)
- Missed forced tackles per attempt: 0.08 (tied for No. 71)
- Yards per carry: 4.2 (tied for No. 38)
- Yards after contact per attempt: 2.5 (tied for No. 53)
Ahmed is a top-20 option at the position thanks to volume alone against the Jets if Gaskin remains sidelined. I’d try to wait a week on starting Gaskin if you can help it if he manages to return to action.
Notes: The Vikings’ stud RB has been nothing short of remarkable during his last six 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
- Week 11: 27-115-1, 5-45-0, PPR RB1
Next victim: Panthers. Continue to fire up Cook as the league’s No. 1 fantasy option regardless of position.
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.
- RB1: James White (58% snaps, 5 carries, 7 targets)
- RB2: Damien Harris (38%, 11, 2)
- RB3: Rex Burkhead (17%, 4, 2)
Notes: Burkhead (knee) is expected to miss the remainder of the season. We should expect Sony Michel (quad) to be active in Week 12 if healthy enough to do so.
This is problematic for Harris, who functioned as the lead early-down back in Week 11 despite Michel being activated from injured reserve. It’s not like Harris has vastly out-played Michel this season:
- Harris: 85 PFF rushing grade, 0.15 missed tackles forced per attempt, 5.3 yards per carry, 3.1 yards after contact per attempt
- Michel: 72 PFF rushing grade, 0.12 missed tackles forced per attempt, 6.7 yards per carry, 4.1 yards after contact per attempt
Further complicating matters is the reality that the Cardinals boast the sort of offense that could have this Patriots offense in comeback mode sooner rather than later. I’d try to avoid playing either Harris or Michel with any level of confidence until we see what their post-Rex split looks like.
Meanwhile, White is a recommended start in any fantasy format that rewards even half of a point per reception. His splits with and without Burkhead on the field since 2017 have been rather staggering:
- White per game with Burkhead (38 games): 11.3 PPR points, 5.3 targets
- White per game without Burkhead (15 games): 16.6 PPR points, 8.6 targets
I realize the above numbers largely came with Tom Brady under center, but White did set or tie season-high marks in targets, carries and snaps in Week 11. He’s a low-ceiling RB2 that is due to find the end zone after failing to do so in eight consecutive games to start the season.
Notes: Don’t overly freak out about Taysom Hill’s winning effort against the Falcons; the 24-9 win marked just the second time all season that the Saints finished with fewer than 27 points. Still, we saw Hill display a fantasy-friendly skill-set featuring 1) plenty of throws downfield, and 2) rush attempts galore.
It’s clear Hill is capable of playing winning football as a true QB. This is great! However, his debut performance coincided with Kamara not catching a single pass for the first time in his career. The 13 carries were also fairly concerning given the extremely positive game script. Ultimately, Hill is going to continue to siphon away close to double-digit carries per week and steal goal-line touches; both of his rushing scores in Week 11 were from the 10-yard line or closer. Having Hill under center instead of Drew Brees is objectively bad for Kamara’s fantasy value.
With that said: Kamara remains locked in as a high-end RB1. He leads the league in screen targets by a wide margin; there should still be plenty of fantasy-friendly targets in future weeks despite a lesser dose of check-downs and goal-line opportunities. I mean, c’mon. How do you not feed this guy at least five targets per game.
Alvin Kamara option routes are a damn cheat code pic.twitter.com/InltEth8b5
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 31, 2020
It’s unfortunate that Kamara likely won’t be the same world-beating talent that we saw for most of the first half of the season, but he’s still anyone’s idea of a top-half RB1 ahead of this week’s matchup against the Broncos’ middling run defense.
NEW YORK GIANTS (from Week 10)
- RB1: Wayne Gallman (58% snaps, 18 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Alfred Morris (22%, 8, 0)
- RB3: Dion Lewis (19%, 0, 2)
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 pass-down work to Morris and Lewis, respectively. Daniel Jones leads this offense in rushing through 10 weeks of action.
Gallman is a volume-based RB2 in this winnable spot, although expectations should be limited considering this remains a three-RB backfield, and 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. Still, volume is volume, and Gallman is projected for plenty of it and is favored against a Bengals team that is lacking motivation with Joe Burrow (knee, IR) done for the season.
- RB1: Frank Gore (56% snaps, 15 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Ty Johnson (24%, 0, 6)
- RB3: La’Mical Perine (20%, 8, 1)
Notes: Perine suffered a high-ankle sprain last week and isn’t expected to suit up on Sunday. This further cements Gore as the lead back, although Johnson should soak up most of the pass-down work. Gore hasn’t reached even 75 total yards in a game this season, and he scored his first TD of the year in Week 11. This Jets offense didn’t score a single point against the Dolphins in Week 6; they’re a good example of a “bad” run defense that is actually a great overall unit that wisely chooses to invest more of their resources in attempting to shut down the pass. Gore is a volume-driven RB3 that I’d rather let someone else sign off the waiver wire. Don’t play anybody from the league’s 32nd-ranked scoring offense if you don’t have to.
Notes: The Eagles feature Sanders well ahead of Scott on a week-to-week basis, but generally he’s not getting the sort of true workhorse role that we’d hope for given the overall brutality of this offense. Fifteen-plus carries and five targets per week is fine, but it warrants treatment as more of a low-end RB1 than top-five option at the position as long as this offense continues to stutter out of the starting block on a weekly basis.
Next up is a Seahawks defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest yards before contact per rush this season. It’d make sense if Carson Wentz is leaned on more than ever against this brutal secondary. Sanders remains a top-12 option in this spot thanks to his plenty solid usage and scoring upside; just realize he’d be a legit high-end play with more of a true three-down workload.
- RB1: James Conner (68% snaps, 13 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Benny Snell (14%, 7, 0)
- RB3: Anthony McFarland (7%, 3, 0)
Notes: Conner looked better running the ball than he has in weeks against the Jaguars, but ultimately received just 16 touches despite the Steelers coasting to an easy 27-3 victory.
We’ve seen this Steelers offense largely shift from a run-first attack that didn’t ask Big Ben to carry them, to a pass-first unit happy to attack defenses of all shapes and sizes with their trio of talented wide receivers. The result has been plenty of volume for Roethlisberger: He’s thrown 49, 32, 42, 46 and 46 times over the past five weeks, with the latter two performances coming in blowout wins.
Conner is a TD-dependent borderline RB1 without the sort of high-end target share that starting Steelers RBs are typically afforded. This is fine and dandy; Conner should be fired up as a starter with confidence in more leagues than not. Still, the lack of a true top-five ceiling at the position has been disappointing considering the only hurdle fantasy managers thought they were dealing with was health.
An injury to Conner would likely lead to a three-back committee with Snell as the lead option. Still, it’s a murky situation; none of these backups are guys that should be prioritized as bench stashes.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (from Week 10)
- RB1: Jerick McKinnon (61% snaps, 18 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: JaMycal Hasty (23%, 3, 2)
- RB3: Austin Walter (17%, 1, 1)
Notes: Jamycal 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 is healthy. Obviously Mostert has demonstrated a higher overall ceiling; just realize Shanahan’s RB1 has largely been a cheat code in fantasy land for the better part of the last decade.
- RB1: Carlos Hyde (69% snaps, 14 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Bo Scarbrough (19%, 6, 0)
- RB3: DeeJay Dallas (10%, 1, 2)
Notes: Coach Pete Carroll said Chris Carson (foot) will return Monday night against the Eagles. Carroll can’t always be trusted to follow up on his press conference promises, but the timeline makes sense considering Carson appeared close to suiting up in Week 11.
The question is what type of role he’ll be returning to. Carson is clearly the Seahawks’ lead back when healthy, although he played fewer than 60% of the offense’s snaps in all but one of the team’s first five games. The potential for 15-20 touches per week cements Carson as a top-15 option at the position, but keep an eye on 1) Hyde’s Week 12 involvement, and 2) Rashaad Penny’s (knee, PUP) practice status.
Ultimately, anyone involved in an offense led by Russell Wilson deserves to be treated as a strong fantasy asset. Fire up Carson with confidence as a recommended start if active.
Notes: RoJo was largely an afterthought during the Buccaneers’ Monday night loss to the Rams. Fournette found his way into the end zone, but also dropped a pair of passes.
I wrote the following about this situation last week following Jones’ massive Week 10 performance:
“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.”
Clearly the Rams defense got the better of the Buccaneers offense, but there *should* be some high-scoring games out of this backfield before the end of the season:
- Week 12: Chiefs (No. 21 in fewest PPR points per game allowed to RBs)
- Week 13: Bye
- Week 14: Vikings (No. 20)
- Week 15: Falcons (No. 7)
- Week 16: Lions (No. 32)
Same story as last week: RoJo is a low-end RB2, Fournette more of a boom-or-bust RB3.
Notes: Henry is averaging more rushing yards per game in 2020 (107.9) than he did in 2019 (102.7). The NFL’s current leader in total rushing yards has totaled triple-digit total yards and/or found the end zone in all but one game this season.
The manner in which Henry has picked up this yardage is even more amazing. Overall, Henry has 814 rush yards after contact through 11 weeks. Only Dalvin Cook (1,069) has more total rushing yards. Madness.
Up next is the Colts’ beastly defense that “held” Henry to 109 total yards on 20 touches back in Week 10. Whatever. Continue to trust the big dog as a top-five option at the position regardless of the matchup. All it takes is one play for the man to win the week.
All 10 career 50+ yard TDs from Derrick Henry ???????????? pic.twitter.com/uip0pMREHs
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 20, 2020
- RB1: Antonio Gibson (54% snaps, 16 carries, 1 target)
- RB2: J.D. McKissic (52%, 6, 3)
- RB3: Peyton Barber (21%, 8, 0)
Notes: Gibson out-snapped McKissic! Yes, it was by just one snap. Also yes, the Football Team won’t be experiencing the same sort of positive game script they had against the Bengals all that often moving forward. Still, I’m happy that maybe, just maybe, the Football Team has realized that feeding McKissic the league’s single-largest target workload isn’t the best idea.
Then again, who knows with this team. On April 24 coach Ron Rivera said Gibson has a skill set similar to Christian McCaffrey. On November 19 Rivera called McKissic a “Christian McCaffrey-type player.” Imagine having two clones of anyone’s idea of a top-three RB in the same offense and still ranking 29th in scoring.
Ultimately, Gibson should see 15-plus touches more weeks than not, while McKissic’s average of 14.5 targets in Weeks 9-10 should settle somewhere closer to the high single-digit range. At the very least we can rank Gibson as the preferred fantasy option this week against a Cowboys defense he ran over to the tune of a 20-128-1 rushing line back in Week 7.
Fire up Gibson as a top-20 option at the position, while McKissic is better treated as a low-ceiling RB3. Gibson would be a legit top-six RB in fantasy land if his full skill-set was being utilized. Alas, this probably won’t be the case in 2020.