News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Taking stock of every NFL backfield ahead of NFL Week 5

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.

Monkey Knife Fight. Official Fantasy Sponsor of PFF. Join to receive a free EDGE subscription.
Sponsor

What follows is a breakdown of each team's backfield ahead of Week 5 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 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 5 matchups with some DraftKings notes.

Each back’s Week 4 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.

Arizona Cardinals

Notes: Sheesh. Through four weeks Drake is the PPR RB32. Workload has hardly been an issue; the Cardinals’ RB1 is on pace for 288 touches. The bigger worry is the Cardinals’ general lack of offense aside from when Kyler Murray 1) takes off himself, or 2) targets DeAndre Hopkins.

It remains to be seen if Edmonds will start to really eat into Drake’s workload anytime soon. Drake has been the better back in just about every rushing metric, although Edmonds has a stranglehold on the backfield’s receiving work.

Again: it’s the Kyler show in Arizona at the moment.

Drake’s inability to get the job done in last week’s flowchart matchup against the Panthers was disappointing, but he’s got two more winnable spots coming up against the Jets and Cowboys. Obviously RB1 treatment is out the window at this point, but please don’t rage cut the Cardinals’ starting RB. The value will never be lower here; treat Drake as a borderline RB2 that has the volume of a borderline RB1. Edmonds remains one of the better handcuffs in fantasy.

DFS notes: Drake ($5,700) figures to fly under the radar this week, but his lack of a pass-game floor makes him a risky play on full point-per-reception formats like DraftKings. Stacking Drake with the Cardinals defense is certainly in play as a contrarian-GPP stack; just realize this offense is hardly humming at the moment.

Atlanta Falcons

Notes: Gurley has been anyone’s idea of a bad high-usage back this season:

  • PFF rushing grade: 63.9 (No. 34 among 41 qualified RBs)
  • Yards per carry: 3.9 (tied for No. 30)
  • Yards after contact per attempt: 2.7 (tied for No. 24)
  • Missed tackles forced per attempt: 0.17 (tied for No. 25)

Throw in the reality that Gurley has converted eight targets into a pedestrian 4-9-0 receiving line and it’s clear that the Falcons’ RB1 has a low floor.

And yet, Gurley is probably deserving of RB2 treatment ahead of Week 5’s prime matchup against the Panthers. Only the Raiders have allowed more PPR per game to opposing RBs. It might feel icky, but Gurley has the volume of a true RB2 in this best-case spot. His demise has also probably been just a bit overstated by the public; his eight broken tackles in Week 4 trailed only Dalvin Cook among all RBs.

An injury to Gurley would likely result in at least a two-back committee between Smith and Hill; neither are priority bench stashes in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.

DFS notes: Gurley ($5,700) comes in at the same price as Drake. I’d rather take my chances on the Cardinals’ RB1; Gurley truly looks to be running in mud this season. Both are in great matchups, but there’s a bit less general dysfunction surrounding the Arizona offense at the moment. Perhaps the smarter thing to do is simply avoid this range all together.

Baltimore Ravens

Notes: The Ravens have three great real-life RBs:

  • Ingram hasn’t started out on fire this season, but he hardly seems washed and continues to provide stability and plenty of physicality as the team’s starting RB.
  • Dobbins’ average of 0.27 forced missed tackles per attempt ranks ninth among 76 qualified RBs.
  • Edwards’ average of 4.4 yards after contact per attempt leads all RBs.

Dobbins should probably get more touches at some point; good things happen every time the rookie touches the ball.

Still, the present state of the Ravens’ backfield features three backs with minimal pass-game work and a low rush-attempt ceiling. Ingram is a TD-dependent RB3 at this point, while neither Dobbins nor Edwards see enough usage to warrant Week 5 fantasy consideration. Shrinking this backfield to a two-back committee would help; the problem is that Lamar Jackson steals away plenty of rushing usage and isn’t all that fond of checking down.

DFS notes: Ingram ($5,400) would need to fall into the end zone on multiple occasions to provide enough production to meet his not-cheap price. The best Ravens stack is Jackson, Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews; don’t mess around with these RBs until we see some sort of clarity.

Buffalo Bills

Notes: Zack Moss (toe) remains sidelined. Singletary has functioned as a near every-down back during his absence, racking up a combined 31 carries and 11 targets over the past two weeks.

Most impressive has been the manner in which Singletary has gone about picking up yards. The second-year back has been one of the NFL’s most-slippery ball carriers this season, regularly making the first man miss on the majority of his touches. Overall, nobody has forced more missed tackles than Singletary through four weeks:

  • Singletary: 22 broken tackles
  • Josh Jacobs: 22
  • Dalvin Cook: 21
  • Alvin Kamara 19

The Bills’ RB1 even scored a goal-line TD in Week 4. Josh Allen’s penchant for taking off for the end zone around the goal line and general disdain for checking down won’t help Singletary’s weekly floor, but he’s on pace for 200 carries and 64 receptions. That’s a perfectly solid RB2 workload, and he should be treated as such ahead of this week’s winnable matchup against the Titans.

DFS notes: Singletary ($5,900) is a viable cash-game option if Moss remains out. Expect more of a 60/40 split in favor of the second-year back if the rookie returns to action. I’d look elsewhere for tournament options with higher ceilings, but don’t underrate what Singletary is capable of producing with 15-plus touches.

Carolina Panthers

Notes: Davis has racked up 18 forced missed tackles this season — the fifth-highest mark in the league. A career journeyman, Davis wasn’t expected to come in and provide more than replacement-level value, but the Panthers’ current starting RB has largely exceeded expectations with his opportunity.

The pass-game volume in particular has been wild. Few backs around the league have been as involved as Davis through the air:

  • Alvin Kamara: 34 targets
  • Ezekiel Elliott: 28
  • Davis: 23

Most of Bonnafon’s (ankle, IR) usage was in mop-up time anyway. Davis is the man in Carolina with Christian McCaffrey (ankle) sidelined for another week; treat him as a legit RB1 ahead of this week’s tantalizing matchup against the Falcons.

DFS notes: I won’t pretend to know why the Panthers feel the need to get Davis so involved in their passing game, but it’s the reality of the situation. Because of this, Davis ($6,400) should probably have a price tag that begins with a seven. He deserves to carry sky-high ownership ahead of this smash spot, and is worthy of rostering in cash-game formats.

Chicago Bears

Notes: Montgomery completely took over this backfield with Tarik Cohen (ACL, IR) sidelined. The Bears’ second-year back didn’t have one of his better games in Week 4 against the Colts’ studly defense, but this sort of usage should yield at least RB2 production with a more positive game script. That won’t necessarily be on the way against the Buccaneers in Week 5, although we can still somewhat confidently project Montgomery for top-24 production even if the Bears find themselves in comeback mode thanks to his newfound pass-game role.

Montgomery has broken tackles at the same rate as Josh Jacobs and Nick Chubb this season. I understand that things didn’t go his way during the first half of 2019, but this has largely been a different RB over his past 10 games. Treat the Bears’ undisputed RB1 as an upside RB2 ahead of this Thursday night. It seems unlikely Patterson ever gets a role consisting of double-digit touches per game.

DFS notes: Stacking Montgomery with the Bears defense could be a good way of cashing in on the potential for TB12 and company to struggle with so many injuries on offense. The Buccaneers certainly seem to be a better team than the Bears, and this is why the majority of ownership will likely be on the Tampa Bay side.

Cincinnati Bengals

Notes: Mixon was a Saturday addition to the injury report with a chest injury, but his Week 4 usage painted the picture of a perfectly healthy back. The six receptions were the second-highest mark of his career and most since 2018. Meanwhile, Gio’s 13 total snaps were his second-fewest in a game over the past two years.

The million dollar (or at least like, $20) question: Will this high-end receiving usage continue? We know that Mixon is capable of handling himself as a receiver, but we probably shouldn’t expect this level of weekly pass-game usage.

The concern over Mixon was always a bit unwarranted; the man is on pace for 360 touches. Things aren’t always pretty behind this offensive line; credit to Mixon for racking up more yards after contact than everyone except Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones, Nick Chubb, Josh Jacobs and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Continue to treat Mixon as the borderline RB1 he’s been for the better part of the last three seasons despite this week’s brutal matchup against the Ravens. I wouldn’t expect Gio to necessarily inherit a featured role if Mixon misses time. The instances in which this happened in the past were under a different coaching staff, and Trayveon Williams could very well see the majority of early-down work in the event that Mixon misses time. Neither backup RB should be considered a priority bench stash.

DFS notes: Mixon ($6,300) is pretty much in the same position as Jacobs ($6,300): talented, three-down back that doesn’t always get a three-down role. Perhaps Mixon makes the most of his opportunities again, but I’ll largely be fading the Bengals offense ahead of his brutal matchup. Only the Eagles and Football Team are presently implied to score fewer points than the Bengals this week.

Cleveland Browns

Notes: Nick Chubb (sprained MCL) is expected to miss up to six weeks of action. This makes Hunt the lead back of the NFL’s second-most run-heavy offense. We saw what Hunt was capable of achieving with this role with the Chiefs during the 2017-2018 seasons, and the fourth-year back certainly still seems to be operating at a high level in the year 2020:

  • 2020 Elusive Rating: 98.5 (No. 3 among all qualified RBs)
  • 2019: 119.2 (No. 3)
  • 2018: 85.7 (No. 7)
  • 2017: 73.1 (No. 7)

The only backs I’d confidently rank ahead of Hunt (assuming healthy) are Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook. Obviously the lack of clarity surrounding his Week 5 role adds a bit of uncertainty to the equation, but he’s anyone’s idea of a RB1 as long as Chubb remains sidelined.

And then we have Johnson, who is this week’s waiver-claim darling after converting his 13 touches into 95 yards against the Cowboys. Please don’t spend any sort of significant amount of fantasy football capital to acquire Johnson.

  1. Johnson was only as involved as he was because Hunt (groin) was questionable going into the game.
  2. Hilliard was nearly as involved as Johnson on a per-snap basis.
  3. Johnson likely won’t see more than a handful of touches in games that either Hunt or Chubb are even somewhat close to 100%.
  4. Even if another disastrous injury strikes this backfield, Johnson would at best be the lead back of a two-RB committee, and at worst enter a further muddled situation that would likely include an additional back not on the active roster at the moment.

We’re shooting for best-case scenario upside on the waiver wire; Johnson isn’t expected to provide any sort of standalone value, and his ceiling seems as a potential low-end RB2 even if he’s forced into a featured role.

DFS notes: Hunt ($6,500) would likely be $1,000 more expensive if pricing hadn’t come out prior to the extent of Chubb’s injury being known. Be sure to monitor the Browns’ injury report ahead of Sunday to see if Hunt’s health has improved; feel free to carry heavy exposure to Cleveland’s featured RB if near full strength.

Dallas Cowboys

Notes: Zeke has more targets than any RB other than Kamara. Continuous negative game script doesn’t figure to persist all season; at some point we’ll see Zeke get back to flirting with 30 touches. That is certainly on the table ahead of Week 5’s matchup against a Giants defense that hasn’t exactly shut down opposing RBs this season:

  • Benny Snell: 19 carries-113 yards-0 TD
  • David Montgomery: 16-82-0
  • Jerick McKinnon: 14-38-1
  • Jeff Wilson: 12-15-1
  • Malcolm Brown: 9-37-0
  • Darrell Henderson: 8-22-0

Continue to fire up Zeke as a weekly top-three option at the position.

Pollard might be a bit in over his head as a kick returner, but the man remains electric with the ball in his hands.

Pollard would instantly be a fantasy RB1 if Elliott is ever forced to miss any time.

DFS notes: Zeke ($7,800) deserves to be the chalkiest RB on the main slate with Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara playing on Sunday and Monday night, respectively. It’s fair to simply hit the lock button on Elliott; he’s set up brilliantly and could flirt with 30 touches inside of one of the league’s most high-powered offenses.

Denver Broncos

Notes: Gordon seems to have a featured role all to himself for however long Phillip Lindsay (toe) remains sidelined. Still, the Broncos’ No. 2 RB seems to be nearing a return, and this week’s matchup against the Patriots’ never-bad defense isn’t exactly the spot to target MGIII.

There’s enough volume here to continue to warrant RB2 treatment for Gordon; just don’t expect the type of splash game we saw last Thursday night against the Jets. The Broncos are painfully thin on play-makers and have the look of a true bottom-five team. These sorts of situations can still provide fantasy-friendly volume, but there’s a low floor for anybody involved in this Broncos offense.

DFS notes: Gordon ($6,400) is a reasonable tournament pivot off of Hunt ($6,500) and Davis ($6,300). Still, I’d rather spend down to Mixon ($6,300) or Jacobs ($6,300) to avoid eating the chalk. The return of Lindsay would firmly remove Gordon from this conversation.

Detroit Lions

Notes: The Lions have a Week 5 bye. This remains a mess that is changing by the week. Perhaps Swift’s involvement increases moving forward; he’s the only back worthy rostering at the moment.

DFS notes: N/A.

Green Bay Packers

Notes: The Packers have a Week 5 bye. Jones is still anybody’s idea of a fantasy RB1, but the ceiling is truly absurd to think about if the coaching staff would ever decide to fully unleash his dual-threat skill-set. Williams would likely split snaps with Dillon to some extent if Jones misses time and is a good-not-great depth piece to have on the fantasy bench.

DFS notes: N/A.

Houston Texans

Notes: David is plenty capable of putting up solid numbers with 15-plus touches per game inside of an offense destined for improvement with two matchups against the Jaguars in their next four games. It’s fair to say he’s no longer the same man that took over fantasy football for large portions of the 2015-2016 seasons, but David has still flashed improved tackle-breaking ability compared to what we saw over the past two years.

  • 2015: 0.2 missed forced tackles per rush
  • 2016: 0.15
  • 2017: 0.18
  • 2018: 0.09
  • 2019: 0.06
  • 2020: 0.16

Joe Mixon’s long-awaited breakout performance came last week against the Jaguars; don’t be shocked if the same happens for David this Sunday.

Duke could feasibly see the first three-down workload of his career if David misses time. Miss me with the idea that The U’s all-time leading rusher and yearly top finisher among the NFL’s most-efficient ball-carriers isn’t capable of handling a featured workload. I’m cautiously optimistic in Duke’s chances of providing RB2 value without David in the picture now that his head coach isn’t named Hue Jackson or Bill O’Brien.

DFS notes: David ($5,200) is rather inexplicably priced as the RB23 ahead of this potential smash spot. There’s some enticing “new-coach that the team doesn’t hate” narrative to this spot, and I’m inclined to chase David’s first big blowup game of the season in cash and tournament games alike.

Indianapolis Colts

Notes: Yes, we all want Taylor to play more snaps. Also yes, he’s racked up 15, 28, 14 and 18 touches over the first four weeks of the season, good for PPR RB17 honors.

R-e-l-a-x. The Colts haven’t had to push their foot on the gas for four quarters in three consecutive games, meaning that Wilkins’ usage has been a bit more fruitful than we might otherwise see in a more neutral game script. Not to take anything away from Wilkins; he’s PFF’s No. 1 RB in most missed forced tackles per rush this season.

Still, this is Taylor’s backfield. The Colts know it; that’s why they aren’t overburdening him with a massive workload in September. The reality that this reduced role is still producing 15-plus touches per game behind one of the league’s best offensive lines should ease concerns about Taylor’s relatively mundane production over the past three weeks. Crowning him as a weekly top-five option at the position was premature, but continue to treat Taylor as a weekly RB1.

Perhaps the Browns are able to build a lead and force Philip Rivers and company into comeback mode, but the Colts' status as 2.5-point favorites would indicate otherwise. Hines’s post-week projection was built under the assumption this would be a two-RB backfield moving forward; Wilkins’ workload is arguably more of a burden to Hines than Taylor. Neither are recommended fantasy plays as long as this trio stays healthy.

DFS notes: Taylor ($6,200) isn’t going to be this cheap after inevitably posting a multi-TD game, while Mike Davis ($6,400) and Kareem Hunt ($6,500) figure to draw most of the ownership in that range. I love stacking Taylor with the underrated Colts defense in tournaments this week.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Notes: Robinson continues to dominate this backfield and is the PPR RB6 after four weeks of action. He finished with six receptions in Week 3 when the Jaguars fell behind by multiple scores to the Dolphins; there’s a high floor here independent of game script.

The question is if this sort of high-end production is sustainable. I’d be willing to trade J-Rob at the peak of his value if someone is willing to buy him as the top-10 talent that he’s been thus far; realize there’s a scary floor for anybody involved with one of the league’s single-worst teams.

Still, Robinson is equipped with anyone’s idea of a fantasy-friendly role at the moment. He deserves top-10 treatment at the position ahead of a matchup against the Texans’ 30th-ranked defense in yards before contact allowed per rush.

DFS notes: Robinson ($6,700) figures to go a bit under the radar with Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($6,800) just a bit more expensive at home against the Raiders’ dreadful defense. J-Rob is a solid tournament play; I’ll probably be pairing Zeke with some of the slate’s cheaper values in cash games.

Kansas City Chiefs

Notes: Edwards-Helaire is the PPR RB13 after four weeks of action despite only having visited the end zone on one occasion. The lack of a true boom game has annoyed fantasy faithful, but make no mistake about it: CEH can ball.

  • Missed forced tackles per attempt: 0.23 (No. 9 among 45 qualified players)
  • Yards after contact per attempt: 3.1 (No. 14)
  • Yards per reception: 9.2 (No. 7)
  • Yards after the catch per reception: 8.6 (No. 11)
  • Total forced missed tackles: 18 (tied for No. 5)

As was the case with Taylor, we probably collectively jumped the gun on anointing Edwards-Helaire as a weekly top-five option. Still, better days are clearly ahead once the Chiefs’ featured RB starts finding the promised land a bit more often, and the rookie’s aforementioned success on a per-touch basis indicates we’re truly looking at a talented option inside of the league’s most-explosive offense. Keep firing up CEH as a matchup-proof RB1.

Darwin Thompson didn’t play a snap in Week 4, although he’d likely form a committee of sorts with Williams if CEH is forced out of action. Neither backup RB is worthy of a bench spot except in incredibly deep leagues.

DFS notes: CEH ($6,800) figures to carry fairly extreme ownership at home against the Raiders’ incredibly-meh defense. The Chiefs offense is pretty much always in play for tournaments and cash games alike; don’t expect their three-down RB to go much longer without some sort of blowup performance. 

Las Vegas Raiders

Notes: Jacobs is getting close to 20 combined carries and targets per week regardless of the game script. This is great and an improvement over what we saw in 2019; the man played fewer than 60% of the offense’s snaps in nine of 13 games last season.

Jacobs is essentially in the same position as Mixon — a talented, three-down back who unfortunately doesn’t usually get the sort of pass-game work that could turn him into a true top-five option at the position. Just realize Jacobs is on pace for 384 touches and remains the engine of this offense. Even if Jacobs’ peak ceiling as the overall RB1 likely won’t happen this season, he’s still reached matchup-proof top-12 treatment at the position.

Richard (ankle) is banged up. I’d expect Booker to see the lion's share of carries if Jacobs misses any time. 

DFS notes: Jacobs ($6,300) hasn’t scored since Week 1 and figures to be under-owned as a perceived two-down grinder that could be game scripted off the field. The likes of Kareem Hunt ($6,500) and Mike Davis ($6,400) should each receive far higher ownership. The Chiefs have allowed a league-worst 2.6 yards before contact per rush this season. Jacobs in cash isn’t unreasonable, and he’s probably my favorite tournament play of the week. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Notes: Ekeler (hamstring) is expected to miss four-to-six weeks. Ugh.

Kelley is the popular favorite to take over this backfield, but I’d wait before devoting significant fantasy football resources to acquire his services. The rookie has lost fumbles in back-to-back games, ranks 28th in yards after contact per attempt and 36th in percentage of carries to go for a first down or TD. I believe that Kelley’s #tape has looked better than the advanced metrics indicate, although it’s a joke to say the first-year back has easily emerged as the best back behind Ekeler.

Jackson was great in 2019. Sure, he only totaled 38 touches on the season, but the Chargers’ 2018 seventh-round pick emerged as one of the league’s most-efficient backs last season:

  • PFF Rushing Grade: 87.6 (No. 3 among 85 qualified RBs)
  • Missed forced tackles per attempt: 0.28 (tied for No. 5)
  • Yards after contact per attempt: 4.2 (tied for No. 3)

The snaps and touches from Week 4 indicate that Kelley will work ahead of Jackson, but don’t be surprised if the split is closer to 50/50 than 60/40. The potential for Kelley to hit the bench if ball-security issues persist has me favoring the team’s talented incumbent backup over the course of Ekeler’s absence. I don’t think any RB this week is worthy of Mike Davis-level FAAB investment, but Jackson would be my value-adjusted priority ahead of Kelley and Damien Harris.

DFS notes: Consider stacking both Kelley and Jackson in Monday night tournament showdown lineups to get SSX tricky and set yourself up for success in the off chance that their matchup against the Saints turns into a lower-scoring affair.

Los Angeles Rams

Notes: Cam Akers (ribs) is tentatively expected to return in Week 5. Either way, this is clearly a week-to-week situation after Henderson dominated snaps and touches alike in Weeks 3 and 4. Credit to Brown for making the most out of his opportunities throughout the season, and coach Sean McVay has consistently stuck to his vow to utilize every back at his disposal before identifying the preferred option on a weekly basis.

Unfortunately, this is a mess for fantasy managers to figure out; treat both Brown and Henderson as upside RB3s. I’d like to see a week’s worth of snaps from Akers before trusting that he’s healthy enough to get back in the rotation.

DFS notes: The Rams surprisingly struggled to move the ball in Week 4 against the Giants, potentially lowering ownership ahead of another pristine spot against the Football Team. Both Henderson ($5,300) and to a lesser extent Brown ($5,300) are worthwhile tournament darts due to their reduced price tags and proven wide range of outcomes.

Miami Dolphins

Notes: Gaskin is the PPR RB29 despite largely dominating snaps, carries and targets alike. This is because Howard (18-14-3 rushing this season) has served as a true vulture near the goal line, and Breida has continued to shave off a handful of touches per game. Not helping matters is the reality that this offense’s 2019 FitzMagic is nowhere to be found; the Dolphins rank 24th and 25th in points per game and yards per play, respectively.

Gaskin racked up 22 carries in Week 3 when the Dolphins were able to build a multi-score lead; don’t expect this to happen against the 49ers in Week 5. He’s a low-ceiling RB3, and none of the Dolphins other RBs are worthy of fantasy consideration.

DFS notes: I struggle to find a reason to play Gaskin ($4,800) over Antonio Gibson ($5,000), Le’Veon Bell ($5,100) or David Johnson ($5,200). 

Minnesota Vikings

Notes: Cook is PFF’s No. 2 graded rusher through four weeks behind only Austin Ekeler. The Vikings’ featured RB is averaging an absurd 0.28 missed forced tackles per carry and truly seems to be operating at a different level than other ball carriers around the league.

Continue to fire up Cook as anyone’s idea of a top-three option at the position. Mattison remains one of fantasy’s top-handcuff options despite not possessing any standalone value.

DFS notes: Fading Cook in showdown slates is pretty much hoping for an injury considering his consistently-monstrous role in this run-first offense.

New England Patriots

Notes: Harris is a popular waiver wire addition this week after converting his 17 carries into 100-scoreless yards during the Patriots’ Week 4 loss to the Chiefs. He’ll continue to work as the team’s early-down grinder while Sony Michel (quad, IR) is sidelined.

Here’s the problem: That role yielded Michel 10, seven and nine carries in Weeks 1-3, respectively. Cam Newton (covid) is going to siphon off plenty of goal-line carries once healthy, and the eventual return of Michel could turn this into a four-headed mess of a backfield.

White remains the preferred fantasy option, although his ceiling and floor alike are lower when Burkhead is healthy. None of these backs are ranked inside of my top-24 options of the week despite a winnable matchup against a Broncos defense that will be without elite DT Jurrell Casey (bicep, IR). Harris is a TD-dependent RB3 option if Cam remains sidelined, but let’s not crown the second-year back just yet after one strong performance against the league’s single-worst defense in yards before contact allowed per carry.

DFS notes: Harris ($4,300) is a much more intriguing play in DFS, as salaries were out before MNF. Both Harris and White ($4,900) are strong options across the industry at their affordable price tags with or without Newton, although he presence of the Patriots’ QB1 would certainly help boost the entire offense’s chances of finding the end zone.

New Orleans Saints

Notes: Kamara made up for a pedestrian (for him) 3-36-0 receiving line with a 19-83-1 rushing performance during the Saints’ Week 4 win over the Lions. The overall PPR RB1 after a month of action by a full 18.3 points, Kamara earned matchup-proof RB1 treatment a long time ago.

Murray has racked up 15, five, 13 and most-recently 15 touches this season. Expect this offense to get back to their pass-first ways once Michael Thomas (ankle) returns to action, but this current role gives Murray consideration in the flex spot. Just note that the Chargers defense (No. 13 in rush DVOA) shouldn’t be confused with the Lions (No. 32).

DFS notes: Fading Kamara on the Monday night showdown slate seems at best reckless and at worse borderline insane. Stacking Kamara with Murray is the move if Thomas remains sidelined.

New York Giants

Notes: One moment excited me from the Giants during their Week 4 loss to the Rams.

Freeman has converted 16 rush attempts into 43 scoreless yards this season. His 4-35-0 receiving line is largely thanks to the Rams curiously refraining from guarding him on a number of dump offs. PFF’s No. 54 back in elusive rating through four weeks, Freeman is going to need even more volume to warrant fantasy consideration.

After much thought I truly believe the Giants offense is worse than the Cowboys’ horrendous defense. I’m continuing to fade this uneven committee despite the schedule taking a turn for the better.

DFS notes: Damien Harris ($4,300) is the preferred cost-saving option at the RB position this week.

New York Jets

Notes: Ballage has been released. Le’Veon Bell (hamstring) is eligible to return this week, but his role and overall health are each uncertain. The Jets are expected to turn to Joe Flacco at QB. Sheesh. 

DFS notes: Bell ($5,100) is certainly cheap; we just don’t have any idea as to how many snaps he’ll see inside of the league’s single-worst offense. Stay away for meow.

Philadelphia Eagles

Notes: Sanders continues to see a near every-down role and is poised for bigger days ahead. The Steelers certainly boast anyone’s idea of an elite defense, largely shutting down every RB they’ve faced through four weeks:

  • Melvin Gordon: 19 carries-70 yards-0 TD
  • Saquon Barkley: 15-6-0
  • David Johnson: 13-23-1

Sanders should see 20-plus touches more weeks than not, but this Eagles offense is in brutal shape at the moment with injured players all over the place. Treat the Eagles’ undisputed RB1 as more of a borderline RB1 in this worst-case matchup. Only the Football Team is presently implied to score fewer points than the Eagles this week.

DFS notes: Sanders ($6,500) should go under-owned with Kareem Hunt ($6,500) and Mike Davis ($6,400) sticking out like sore thumbs, but I still prefer going with Josh Jacobs ($6,300) thanks to his similarly projected volume in a far better offense against a far worse defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers (from Week 3)

Notes: Week 1 was a disaster for Conner’s fantasy football investors. However, the Steelers’ RB1 has bounced back with consecutive top-10 finishes in Week 2 (PPR RB10) and Week 3 (RB8) alike.

The Steelers oddly got Snell and McFarland more involved during their Week 3 win over the Texans, but Conner was still the man overall, particularly on passing downs. The 2020 Steelers don’t quite resemble some of the juggernaut offenses we’ve seen them have over the past decade. Still, Conner is plenty capable of continuing to post RB1 production with good health and this sort of workload. Treat him as such against an Eagles defense that could be on the field for the majority of the game if Carson Wentz and company don’t get it together quickly.

Snell would be the lead back if Conner was forced to miss any time, but McFarland would likely command a handful of touches himself, and Samuels remains more polished as a receiver than both. None are need-to-have bench stashes.

DFS notes: Conner ($6,900) is priced appropriately as the RB9. There are just better and cheaper cash-game options this week, and I do wonder if Conner still possesses true tournament-winning upside at this sort of high-end price tag.

San Francisco 49ers

Notes: Holy bell cow. McKinnon can be treated as a legit RB1 if Raheem Mostert (knee) remains sidelined. Even then, this backfield might just be a two-RB rotation as long as Tevin Coleman (knee, IR) is out, meaning both Mostert and McKinnon could serve as fantasy-viable options inside of an offense destined for better days now that its key pieces are returning to health.

This home smash spot against a Dolphins defense that ranks 31st in DVOA against the run couldn’t be better. Fire up both backs as upside RB2s with confidence.

DFS notes: McKinnon ($5,800) would be worthy of lock-button treatment without Mostert ($6,100) involved. The return of the 49ers’ starter wouldn’t be that big of an issue for McKinnon’s DFS-viability; it’d likely just lower the projected ownership. McKinnon probably shouldn’t be trusted in cash games with Mostert active, but this scenario would present an exploitable spot in tournaments.

Seattle Seahawks

Notes: Carson finished Week 4 with 100 total yards and two scores. His Week 3 performance could’ve been far bigger had Russell Wilson not thrown for *three* scores from the opponent’s one-yard line. The Seahawks’ featured back seemingly gets banged up every week due to his physical running style, but Carson is worthy of RB1 usage whenever healthy enough to suit up. He’s the PPR RB5 through four weeks and capable of maintaining this production inside of the league’s second-ranked scoring offense.

Carlos Hyde (shoulder) shouldn’t be expected to necessarily return to full health anytime soon; I typically refrain from chasing production from early-down grinders dealing with shoulder or rib injuries due to the physical nature of their style. This makes Dallas an intriguing waiver wire stash. An injury to Carson would leave this backfield without a clear No. 1 option, and the rookie seemed to provide more juice than Homer in Week 4 at least. It’s a long-shot option reserved for the deepest of leagues.

DFS notes: The Vikings defense has been far better against the pass (No. 9 in DVOA) than the run (No. 24) through four weeks. Only the Chiefs are implied to score more points than the Seahawks this week. Fade Carson in showdown slates at your own risk.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Notes: Leonard Fournette (ankle) is a game-time decision for Week 5, while Shady is expected to miss Thursday night’s matchup against the Bears due to a grade two ankle sprain. This should result in the Buccaneers utilizing a true two-back committee for the first time in recent memory.

Don’t let RoJo’s struggles in the passing game last week distract from the fact that he provided some serious juice on the ground. Treat Jones as a true high-end RB2 for however long Fournette remains sidelined.

Vaughn also warrants fantasy consideration as the projected lead pass-down back in an offense that with all sorts of injuries at the WR position. The Buccaneers have targeted the RB position at the second-highest rate in the league. You probably have better starting options, but Vaughn is looking at double-digit opportunities and should be treated as a low-ceiling RB3 if Fournette and McCoy are ultimately ruled out.

DFS notes: Brady-RoJo-Evans-Vaughn stacks should theoretically account for the majority of the Buccaneers’ offensive production if injuries to Chris Godwin (hamstring), Rob Gronkowski (shoulder), Scotty Miller (hip, groin) and Justin Watson (chest) influence their respective game-day usage.

Tennessee Titans (from Week 3)

Notes: Henry has a league-high 82 rush attempts through three weeks. This puts him on pace for an astronomical 437 carries across 16 games. Only 2006 Larry Johnson (416), 1998 Jamal Anders (410), 1984 James Wilder (407), 1986 Eric Dickerson (404) and 2000 Eddie George (403) have cleared that mark in the history of the NFL.

The return of Evans did nothing to stop giving Henry 70%-plus snaps and a few targets. Continue to treat the Big Dog as a top-five RB even ahead of a matchup against the Bills’ struggle-bussing defense. Henry is due for a big run with a long of just 16 on the season.

DFS notes: Henry ($7,400) possesses weekly overall RB1 upside and figures to carry lower ownership than usual against the Steelers’ beastly front-seven. I wouldn’t bet on this week being the one we get 200-plus yards and multiple scores, but obviously that’s always in Henry’s range of potential outcomes.

Washington Football Team

Notes: At some point Gibson is going to fully take over this backfield.

Gibson’s 13-46-1 rushing and 4-82-0 receiving lines against the Ravens showed off the rookie’s tantalizing dual-threat ability. He was truly the second-best player on the field for the Football Team aside from Terry McLaurin.

Preseason expectations for Gibson revolved around the idea that he’d serve as the lightning to Barber or Bryce Love’s thunder. However, the rookie has already taken over the majority of the offense’s early-down and goal-line work, and McKissic’s stranglehold on the starting and pass-down roles seems to be slipping by the week.

Gibson’s ceiling is as a near every-down back with 20-plus combined carries and targets per game. His buy-low window might not be closed just yet. Treat the Football Team’s talented first-year back as a legit top-24 option at the position ahead of Washington’s Week 5 matchup against the Rams.

DFS notes: Gibson ($5,000) is due for a steep price hike. The potential for David Johnson ($5,200) to turn into chalk makes the Football Team’s No. 1 RB worthy of treatment as a GPP-pivot. It’s still a bit too early to trust Gibson in cash, but take advantage of his sub-$6,000 salary while it lasts.

Monkey Knife Fight. Official Fantasy Sponsor of PFF. Join to receive a free EDGE subscription.
Sponsor

Fantasy Featured Tools

  • Sort projected player stats and fantasy points by position, week, and category.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Research past fantasy performance with sortable player stats including PFF-exclusives like aDOT and fantasy points per opportunity.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Available with

    Edge
  • PFF’s Fantasy Strength of Schedule (SoS) metric provides a league-wide, season-long view of opponent matchups for each fantasy position.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Create winning NFL Daily Fantasy Sports with PFF’s DFS Lineup Optimizer. Set custom exposures and team stacks to optimize lineups effectively before exporting and uploading the unique lineups to DraftKings, FanDuel or Yahoo DFS.

    Available with

    Elite
Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr