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 6 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 6 matchups to see who is best set up for success.
Each back’s Week 5 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.
Notes: Kyler Murray took pity on Drake and gave him a goal-line carry in Week 5, but the 18-60-1 line still was hardly what first- and second-round investors had in mind. The fifth-year back is averaging career-low marks in PFF grade (61.5), yards per carry (3.7), yards after contact per attempt (2.4) and missed forced tackles per attempt (0.12) alike.
At this point we need to treat Drake as a borderline RB2 at best. Fifteen-plus touches in nearly any situation can be useful (see: Freeman, Devonta), but the reality that Drake is now working behind Edmonds in terms of receiving usage makes him a true early-down grinder.
Edmonds showed some burst in Week 5 and has received the additional work that he’s earned. However, this is still a fluid situation, and it seems unlikely either back gets a true featured role in the near future without one of them suffering an injury.
- RB1: Todd Gurley (57% snaps, 14 carries, 5 targets)
- RB2: Brian Hill (30%, 6, 2)
- RB3: Ito Smith (13%, 2, 0)
Notes: Gurley is averaging a career-high 0.2 missed forced tackles per attempt and 3.5 yards after contact per carry. His average of 4.8 yards per carry is much more in line with what we saw in 2018 (4.9), 2017 (4.7) and 2015 (4.8) compared to down years in 2019 (4.0) and 2016 (3.2).
The sixth-year back has undoubtedly benefited from a soft opening stretch, but things don’t exactly get brutal in a hurry with upcoming dates against the Vikings, Lions and Panthers. Ultimately, Gurley has a similar role as Drake: lead early-down option with minimal pass-game work. This will continue to yield consistent RB2-or-better production when Gurley finds the end zone, but realize this 0-5 Falcons team isn’t exactly trending in a positive direction.
Gurley deserves to receive top-15 treatment this week; he’s still someone that I’d be looking to sell high on if possible. Hill and Smith would likely form a fairly evenly split two-back committee if Gurley is forced to miss any time.
- RB1: Gus Edwards (39% snaps, 7 carries, 1 target)
- RB2: Mark Ingram (31%, 11, 0)
- RB3: J.K. Dobbins (29%, 1, 3)
Notes: This backfield continues to be a mess. The reality that nobody cleared 12 touches in a game that featured just two rush attempts from Lamar Jackson is especially concerning.
Don’t be angry with Edwards; he’s one of just five backs in the league averaging over four yards after contact per attempt. Dobbins has been excellent as well; he’s second in forced missed tackles per rush attempt among 107 qualified players.
The worst back in Baltimore this season has been Ingram. He’s averaging a career-low 0.07 missed forced tackles per attempt and hasn’t looked like the same sort of YAC-beast in 2020. With that said: Don’t expect Ingram to be relegated to the bench anytime soon due to a mix of leadership intangibles and pass-blocking ability (boring).
I remain high on Dobbins’ chances at high-end 2021 success, but for now we can’t treat any of these backs as top-30 options due to their respective minuscule workloads.
Buffalo Bills (Week 4 numbers)
Notes: Zack Moss (toe) remained sidelined in Week 4. Singletary functioned as a near every-down back during his absence, racking up a combined 31 carries and 11 targets in Weeks 3-4.
Most impressive was the manner in which Singletary went 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 forced more missed tackles than Singletary in Weeks 1-4:
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 his 200-carry and 64-reception pace after four weeks of action is a perfectly solid RB2 workload. He should be treated as such ahead of this week’s winnable spot against the Chiefs’ league-worst defense in yards before contact allowed per attempt.
Notes: Make no mistake about it: Davis has been playing great football in the absence of Christian McCaffrey (ankle).
71 seconds of Mike Davis making dudes miss pic.twitter.com/eOve3sRj8R
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 13, 2020
Obviously CMC is the better real-life talent. We all know this. Still, the Panthers are 3-0 without their stud RB, and Davis has looked fantastic along the way.
My hypothesis: Davis is being used as a piece of the system while McCaffrey was the entire engine. Last season 54% of CMC’s targets came on the QB’s first read; Davis is at just 34% in 2020. Repeatedly forcing check-downs isn’t the most efficient strategy; hopefully the Panthers continue to feature Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore first before getting their RB involved in the passing game when the situation calls for it.
This is a one-back offense. Today and Sunday, Davis is that one-back. Afterwards, McCaffrey will be that one back. Don’t count on any standalone value from Davis once CMC is healthy, but continue to fire him up as a top-10 option at the position in this week’s #RevengeGame against the Bears.
Notes: Montgomery has racked up 14 targets over the past two weeks. It took him until Week 7 last season to reach that mark. The general lack of burst here hurts the potential for monster performances, although the Bears’ featured back does deserve credit for breaking more tackles per attempt (0.22 vs. 0.19) and averaging more yards after contact per carry (2.8 vs. 2.3) than he did during his disappointing rookie campaign.
This sort of high-end workload should yield even better production moving forward with tough matchups against the Colts and Buccaneers in the rear-view mirror. He’s a prime buy-low candidate at the moment; pretty much everybody (looking at you, Kenyan Drake) has balled out against the Panthers’ run defense this season.
- Josh Jacobs: 25 rushes-93 yards-3 TD
- Todd Gurley: 14-121-1
- Austin Ekeler: 12-59-1
- Leonard Fournette: 12-103-2
- Joshua Kelley: 8-43-0
- Ronald Jones: 7-23-1
- Brian Hill: 6-39-0
- Drake: 13-35-0
Patterson continues to not see more than a handful of touches per game. The Bears would almost certainly add another back to the equation if Montgomery is ever forced to miss any game time.
Notes: Last week’s usage for Mixon was incredibly encouraging considering the Bengals were never a threat during their 27-3 loss to the Ravens. No, Mixon didn’t score three times like he did in Week 5, but that previous masterpiece featured overwhelming positive game-script that won’t be a staple for this Bengals team very often in 2020. Week 6 was a situation that we should expect the Bengals to see again, and the reality that Mixon worked as the offense’s true three-down back and primary pass-game option gives him a true top-five ceiling at the position moving forward.
The Bengals’ undisputed RB1 is on pace for 384 touches. Having a better offensive line would certainly be ideal, but this sort of workload is all that we can ask for from a true fantasy RB1. Treat him as such ahead of a tough matchup against the Colts. Mixon fantasy managers should keep their fingers crossed that stud LB Darius Leonard (groin) misses another week of action.
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. Look at what happened with the Giants after Saquon Barkley went down; scat backs aren’t guaranteed to step into featured roles just because they’re on the active gameday roster and another player is not. Neither backup RB should be considered a priority bench stash.
Notes: Hunt worked as clear-cut lead back in Week 6. Not listed on the injury report entering the game, the only reason why Hunt didn’t post even more dominant snap and touch share numbers was due to cramping that began in the fourth quarter.
This was truly closer to a 90-10 split in terms of touches during the first 45 minutes of action; six of Johnson’s eight carries came in the fourth quarter. Hunt is anybody’s idea of a top-five option at the position with this sort of workload. Treat him as such ahead of a tough, but winnable, matchup against the Steelers’ aggressive front-seven.
As I cautioned with Johnson last week: “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.” The good news is that Dontrell Hilliard wasn’t involved, but the AAF-HOF RB doesn’t have any standalone value as the clear No. 2 RB behind Hunt. Don’t be afraid to release Johnson as early as right now.
Notes: Zeke joins Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara as the only backs with triple-digit fantasy points through five weeks of action. The Cowboys’ banged-up offensive line and change at QB certainly doesn’t help Elliott’s scoring ceiling, but his monstrous three-down workload remains a borderline cheat code in fantasy. Continue to treat Zeke as an every-week top-three option at the position regardless of the matchup.
Nobody has averaged more yards after contact per attempt than Pollard (minimum 50 carries) since Week 1 of last season. The Cowboys’ overqualified No. 2 RB has been getting some work in pass-first situations, but the coaching staff has 90 million reasons why they should continue to feature Elliott as the bell-cow back. Please keep Pollard on the bench; look at how valuable Mattison is this week. A true top-12 fantasy lottery ticket, Pollard has sky-high upside in the event of Zeke-catastrophe, but there’s no standalone value here.
Denver Broncos (from Week 4)
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 two Thursday nights ago 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.
Gordon is the lead back, and an injury would just lead to a familiar two-back committee between Lindsay and Freeman. Neither backup RB is a recommended bench stash at the moment due to their lack of standalone value and limited best-case scenario upside.
Detroit Lions (from Week 4)
- RB1: Adrian Peterson (43% snaps, 11 carries, 1 target)
- RB2: D’Andre Swift (38%, 4, 4)
- RB3: Kerryon Johnson (20%, 3, 1)
- RB4: Jamal Agnew (20%, 1, 2)
Notes: Hopefully the Lions put together a plan over their Week 5 bye to better feature their second-round pick moving forward. Alas, Swift remains nothing except a hopeful bench stash at the moment in the middle of this four-back committee from hell. Only J.K. Dobbins (1.46) is averaging more fantasy points per touch than Swift (1.4) among 57 backs with at least 25 touches; this is just too muddled of a situation to expect double-digit touches on a weekly basis.
Peterson has had 14, seven, 22 and 11 carries this season. He’s the definition of a game-script dependent back in this offense. Somehow on the fantasy radar at 35 years of age, Peterson actually is set up quite well this week against the Jaguars’ porous run defense.
- Derrick Henry: 25 rushes-84 yards-0 TD
- Joe Mixon: 25-151-2
- Myles Gaskin: 22-66-0
- David Johnson: 17-96-0
- Jonathan Taylor: 9-22-0
- Nyheim Hines: 7-28-1
- Marlon Mack: 4-26-0
It makes some sense to start Peterson against the Jaguars and Falcons over the next two weeks, while the Panthers in Week 11 are also intriguing. Otherwise don’t touch this backfield with a 10-foot pole until we see some sort of clarity. Almost every backfield is a committee of some shape or size, but attempting to deal with the dreaded four-headed monster isn’t recommended.
Green Bay Packers (from Week 4)
- RB1: Aaron Jones (55% snaps, 15 carries, 5 targets)
- RB2: Jamaal Williams (55%, 8, 8)
- RB3: A.J. Dillon (5%, 1, 0)
- Notes: It remains confusing as to why the Packers insist on keeping Williams nearly as involved as A-aron in the game plan. It’s pretty much the only thing separating Jones from functioning as fantasy’s overall RB1. Only Alvin Kamara (1.3) and Jerick McKinnon (1.23) are averaging more fantasy points per touch than Jones (1.18) through five weeks; continue to fire up the Packers’ stud back as a top-five option at the position despite the Buccaneers’ beastly run defense.
Williams probably won’t be as involved in the passing game moving forward with Davante Adams (hamstring) expected back soon. This would likely turn into a similar two-back committee between Williams and Dillon if Jones is forced to miss anytime. There are worse bench options than the No. 2 RB inside of the league’s No. 1 scoring offense; just realize Williams doesn’t boast the same sort of three-down workhorse ceiling that other backups around the league possess.
Notes: David continued to dominate snaps and touches alike without Bill O’Brien calling plays. His disappointing start to the season could’ve been much more prolific with a few more accurate passes from his QB.
Certainly not easy throws here considering the pressure, but David Johnson sheesh pic.twitter.com/banxtmjw52
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 13, 2020
Johnson is the PPR RB21 after five weeks of action. Week 5’s potential smash spot against the Jaguars didn’t return the type of high-end production managers were hoping for, but DJ’s average of 5.7 yards per carry was a positive. He’s continued to function as a superior talent with the ball in his hands compared to what we saw over his final two seasons with the Cardinals:
- 2020: 0.16 forced missed tackles per rush attempt
- 2019: 0.06
- 2018: 0.09
- 2017: 0.18
- 2016: 0.15
- 2015: 0.14
RB1 pipe dreams don’t seem to be in the fold with Duke staying involved, but continue to fire up David as a top-20 back at the position with better days almost certainly ahead. I’m more bullish than before on Duke’s chances of gaining a three-down role in the event of injury. The likes of Latavius Murray, Tony Pollard, Alexander Mattison and Chase Edmonds remain better handcuff options, although Duke has the sort of three-down ability and high-end elusiveness to warrant a bench stash in deeper leagues.
- RB1: Jonathan Taylor (56% snaps, 12 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Nyheim Hines (38%, 3, 4)
- RB3: Jordan Wilkins (4%, 1, 0)
Notes: The Colts didn’t find themselves up by multiple scores in the fourth quarter for the first time in weeks during their Week 5 loss to the Browns, leading to Wilkins taking a true backseat in this committee.
Taylor is going to flirt with 15-25 touches on a near-weekly basis; the problem is that his performance has been lacking.
- PFF Rushing Grade: 64.1 (tied No. 40 among 52 players with at least 25 rush attempts)
- Missed forced tackles per attempt: 0.09 (tied for No. 46)
- Yards after contact per attempt: 2.2 (tied for No. 45)
- Yards per carry: 4 (tied for No. 35)
Hines is still siphoning away the majority of the backfield’s pass-down work. Wilkins is a threat for a handful of carries in less negative game script.
Don’t give up on Taylor; we’ve seen rookie RBs like Miles Sanders and Ezekiel Elliott improve as their rookie season has gone on. The man is still the lead back behind one of the league’s best offensive lines and should be treated as a RB1. He is the PPR RB13 after five weeks of action after all. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a breakout performance come this week against the Bengals’ 31st-ranked defense in explosive run plays allowed.
Wilkins is an underrated bench stash considering Hines’ role likely wouldn’t change all that much if Taylor suffers an injury. Note that we’re looking at potential RB2 fantasy upside for Wilkins as opposed to RB1 in the event of disaster.
Notes: Robinson lost a fumble in Week 5 and failed to find the end zone. Still, a 5-22-0 receiving line prevented the performance from being a complete disaster. There isn’t much weekly upside for 20-plus carries like there was for Leonard Fournette in 2019, but Robinson is still capable of providing RB1 production more weeks than not with this sort of pass-game role. Fire him up as a top-12 option at the position ahead of this week’s smash spot against the Lions’ 25th-ranked defense in yards before contact allowed per rush.
Thompson likely wouldn’t see a noticeable increase in his role if Robinson misses time. There’s been little word on the status of Ryquell Armstead (covid, IR) and Devine Ozigbo (hamstring, IR), but I’d bet on the Jaguars bringing someone in off the street before they give Thompson double-digit carries per game. The veteran scat back remains far off the fantasy radar.
Notes: Okay CEH fantasy managers: chill out. The rookie is the PPR RB12 after five weeks of action and has been one of the league’s better talents with the ball in his hands:
- Forced missed tackles per rush: 0.2 (tied for No. 15 among 52 players with at least 25 carries)
- Yards after contact per attempt: 3.1 (tied for No. 18)
- Yards per reception: 9.9 (No. 4 among 44 RBs with at least 10 targets)
- Yards after the catch per reception: 8.9 (No. 12)
There are some solid candidates as the best buy-low fantasy footballer at the moment, but I think I’d take CEH over the likes of Jonathan Taylor and Joe Mixon. We have more than a month’s worth of evidence that Edwards-Helaire is the undisputed featured back in this offense. Patrick Mahomes and company have been functioning closer to their floor than ceiling for most of this season; don’t count out CEH’s potential to put up top-five production once this unit really gets humming.
I’m continuing to treat Edwards-Helaire as a weekly RB1 regardless of the matchup, while Williams would in all likelihood form a three-RB committee with Darwin Thompson and DeAndre Washington if CEH ever misses any time.
- RB1: Josh Jacobs (64% snaps, 23 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Jalen Richard (21%, 1, 5)
- RB3: Devontae Booker (21%, 7, 1)
Notes: Jacobs found the end zone twice in Week 5 and enters the Raiders’ bye as the overall PPR RB6. Upcoming matchups against the Buccaneers, Browns and Chargers aren’t ideal, but continue to fire up the Raiders’ bell-cow back as a weekly RB1 regardless of the matchup.
Notes: Last week’s blurb ended with the following note: “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 didn’t expect Jackson to work as the outright RB1, but that seemed to develop over the course of the game as he continued to function as the superior back. Kelley remains a solid rookie; he just hasn’t been dominant enough to earn the majority of the backfield’s workload.
Jackson served as the lead back that hardly left the field on passing downs, while Kelley took plenty of early-down work and was on the field near the goal line. Basically, treat Jackson as a middle class man’s Austin Ekeler, while Kelley’s role as a TD-dependent RB3 really hasn’t changed all that much. Both backs might just flirt with top-30 production in Week 7 against the Jets.
- RB1: Darrell Henderson (44% snaps, 15 carries, 4 targets)
- RB2: Malcolm Brown (38%, 8, 2)
- RB3: Cam Akers (18%, 9, 0)
Notes: Akers busted off a 46-yard run in Week 5 that showed off why many thought the Florida State product could be one of the top backs in the 2020 rookie RB class.
Great run by Cam Akers …
… but holy hell Montez Sweat is a monster pic.twitter.com/Pn8EItUTfL
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 13, 2020
The performance was good enough for coach Sean McVay to say, “You can expect his workload to increase.”
Credit to McVay for being truthful about his RB rotation throughout the offseason, but this still seems like anyone’s backfield on a week-to-week basis. So far Henderson has put together big performances in Weeks 2, 3 and 5, while Brown has been the guy in Weeks 1 and 4.
At some point Akers will get his rub, and that very well could be against the 49ers’ banged-up front-seven in Week 6. Still, this backfield is nearing the dreaded 33-33-33 split. Each back carries a low-floor and limited ceiling as long as all three remain so involved. None should be fired up as confident plays, but there are certainly worse fantasy assets out there than a RB looking at double-digit touches per game inside of the league’s 12th-ranked scoring offense.
Notes: The Dolphins also gave a handful of snaps to Patrick Laird, but he didn’t receive a touch. The real change in usage was the decision to make noted dark-visor vulture Jordan Howard a healthy scratch. The only two true vultures in the league are Howard, Josh Allen and Taysom Hill; every other RB pretty much gets their goal line touches whenever they happen to be on the field when the offense gets inside the 5-yard line.
Removing Howard from the equation is thus huge for Gaskin’s fantasy stock moving forward. We don’t know for sure if this will continue into future weeks, but the only thing missing from Gaskin’s workload has been fantasy-friendly touches near the goal line. He’s 11th overall in touches and finds himself in elite company when it comes to targets.
- Alvin Kamara (45 targets)
- Mike Davis (33)
- Ezekiel Elliott (32)
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire (27)
- J.D. McKissic (25)
- Gaskin (25)
Breida could perhaps continue to see more usage as the season wears on, but as it stands Gaskin is the undisputed lead back possessing lead 1) early-down, 2) pass-down, and 3) goal-line duties. This is rare to find in fantasy land; treat him as a top-15 option at the position ahead of this week’s potential smash spot against the Jets.
- RB1: Alexander Mattison (48% snaps, 20 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Dalvin Cook (43%, 17, 5)
- RB3: Mike Boone (5%, 2, 0)
Notes: I’ve been preaching the existence of four true backup RBs (so not including Kareem Hunt) that possess immediate fantasy RB1 value with an injury to their starter all offseason on The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast: Latavius Murray, Tony Pollard, Chase Edmonds and Mattison.
The time has come. Cook (groin) is expected to stay on the bench this week with a Week 7 bye right around the corner. Obviously the Vikings would prefer to have their starter available, but Mattison is plenty worthy of this week’s hype.
Happy Alexander Mattison week everybody pic.twitter.com/xZD0hqKIro
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 13, 2020
There hasn’t been a discernible difference in performance on the ground between the two backs over the past two seasons:
- Yards per carry: Cook (4.8); Mattison (4.7)
- Missed forced tackles per attempt: Cook (0.19); Mattison (0.17)
- Yards after contact per attempt: Cook (3.2); Mattison (3.1)
Yes, Cook is the better player (particularly as a receiver). Also yes, OC Gary Kubiak’s starting RB has been a fantasy football cheat code for the better part of the last three decades. Treat Mattison as a top-12 option at the position for however long Cook remains sidelined.
Boone is a damn good back in his own right, but Week 5 indicates that he’ll likely be nothing more than a true backup behind Mattison. Offseason reports praising Mattison’s improvement in pass blocking also leads me to believe Ameer Abdullah won’t be overly involved. I wouldn’t go out of my way to roster either Boone or Abdullah with Cook only expected to miss a single game.
New England Patriots (from Week 4)
- RB1: James White (54% snaps, 3 carries, 7 targets)
- RB2: Rex Burkhead (35%, 11, 1)
- RB3: Damien Harris (30%, 17, 0)
Notes: Harris has been a popular waiver wire addition 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.
Notes: Kamara is an every-week top-three option at the position regardless of when Michael Thomas (ankle) returns to action. Murray remains one of the most-valuable handcuffs in the league and has standalone value when the Saints are able to play with a positive game script. Both could provide plenty of production against the Panthers’ shoddy (to put it nicely) run defense in Week 7.
- RB1: Devonta Freeman (53% snaps, 17 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Dion Lewis (29%, 0, 4)
- RB3: Wayne Gallman (19%, 5, 2)
Notes: Freeman has a long run of 10 yards this season and is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. He did look a bit more spry in Week 5, but I’d bet that had more to do with the matchup against the Cowboys’ generally-horrific defense. Freeman doesn’t have Saquon Barkley’s role, and isn’t in the same stratosphere when it comes to talent at this stage of his career.
The Washington Football Team’s stout front-seven has the potential to wreck one of the league’s single-worst offensive lines. The Giants are one of just seven teams averaging one or less yards before contact per rush; Freeman is a TD-dependent RB3 that could certainly lose work to Gallman if the team’s incumbent backup continues to function as the best back in this backfield.
Notes: The Jets have released Bell. They’re averaging a horrific 0.6 yards before contact per attempt. This backfield hasn’t come close to resembling a fantasy-friendly situation for the last two seasons. Even a somewhat promising Week 6 matchup against the Dolphins isn’t enough to warrant fantasy consideration for anybody involved. Expect Gore to lead the way while giving way plenty to the likes of La’Mical Perine and Ty Johnson.
- RB1: Miles Sanders (86% snaps, 11 carries, 4 targets)
- RB2: Boston Scott (12%, 1, 0)
- RB3: Corey Clement (4%, 0, 0)
Notes: Sanders had a 74-yard TD in Week 5, making up for the fact that his other 10 carries amounted to just six yards. But guess what: I don’t care. One of my single biggest pet peeves in the industry is when analysts try to take away credit from a player by removing their big plays. It’s not fair; the players made those big plays happen. Exception: that time Bilal Powell fell down untouched before racing 60 yards to the end zone while the defense stood around looking at each other. Otherwise: Stop with the “if you remove X play” arguments.
Anyways, Sanders is a baller.
Give Miles Sanders the ball and good things happenpic.twitter.com/mPRrQZ9Ky4
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 11, 2020
Continue to treat him as a matchup-proof RB1 that has best-case scenario usage at the moment. Neither Scott nor Clement are worthy of bench stash due to the reality that they’d form a split two-back committee if Sanders misses time.
- RB1: James Conner (60% snaps, 15 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Benny Snell (21%, 7, 0)
- RB3: Anthony McFarland (7%, 3, 0)
- RB4: Jaylen Samuels (3%, 0, 0)
Notes: Week 1 was a disaster for Conner’s fantasy football investors. However, the Steelers’ RB1 bounced back with consecutive top-10 finishes in Week 2 (PPR RB10) and Week 3 (RB8) alike before turning in another top-20 performance in Week 5.
Conner is averaging career-best marks in missed forced tackles per attempt (0.21), yards per carry (4.8) and yards after contact per attempt (3.2). Even with Snell and McFarland a bit more involved than anticipated, the Steelers’ undisputed lead back continues to warrant weekly borderline RB1 treatment as long as the wheels stay on the wagon. This is especially true ahead of a matchup against the Browns’ 26th-ranked defense in rush yards before contact allowed per attempt.
- RB1: Raheem Mostert (53% snaps, 11 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Jerick McKinnon (24%, 1, 4)
- RB3: Jeff Wilson (20%, 4, 1)
Notes: Week 5 was bad news for McKinnon’s standalone value. The 49ers’ pass-down back commanded a dominant 91% snap share in Week 4 with Mostert sidelined, but puzzlingly split reps with Wilson in Week 6.
Mostert is the only fantasy-viable option in this backfield at the moment. Coach Kyle Shanahan provides a consistently-excellent scheme in the run game to take advantage of Mostert’s acceleration. Only Dalvin Cook (165) has more yards before contact than Mostert (150) through five weeks.
He’s worthy of top-20 treatment this week against Aaron Donald and company; there aren’t many backs that have been more explosive than the 49ers’ RB1 through five weeks. The Rams are hardly a pushover, but each of Miles Sanders (131 total yards), Ezekiel Elliott (127) and Devin Singletary (121) still managed to put up big performances.
Notes: Carson enters the Seahawks’ Week 6 bye as the PPR RB5. Most would’ve expected him to achieve this thanks to gaudy rushing numbers, but instead he’s simply benefited from being the lead pass-down and goal-line back in the league’s second-ranked scoring offense. More big days figure to be on the horizon, starting with the Cardinals in Week 7.
- RB1: Ronald Jones (66% snaps, 17 carries, 5 targets)
- RB2: Ke’Shawn Vaughn (28%, 0, 3)
- RB3: Leonard Fournette (2%, 0, 0)
Notes: Drops have been an issue all season, but there’s no denying that RoJo has made the most out of his rush attempts. He’s easily been the Buccaneers’ best RB this season.
Receiving issues aside: Ronald Jones has been making some plays this season pic.twitter.com/DhpsrvnzgT
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 13, 2020
Fournette (ankle) was active in an emergency-only role last week; expect more touches moving forward.
Still, Jones has been the backfield’s better option in four of five games this season and is coming off back-to-back 100-yard performances. Don’t expect the Buccaneers to stick him on the bench unless Fournette really proves to be healthy. It’d be nice to have more certainty, but for now continue to treat Jones as an every-week top-15 option with this sort of 20-plus touch workload.
Vaughn is simply soaking up the LeSean McCoy (ankle) role. Neither is worthy of a bench spot with Jones and Fournette commanding the lion's share of carries.
Tennessee Titans (from Week 4)
- RB1: Derrick Henry (74% snaps, 26 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Jeremy McNichols (12%, 0, 1)
- RB3: Darrynton Evans (11%, 3, 0)
Notes: Henry had a league-high 82 rush attempts through three weeks. This had 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 Texans’ struggle-bussing defense. Henry is due for a big run with a long of just 16 on the season, and nobody has allowed more yards before contact than the Texans after five weeks of action.
- RB1: Antonio Gibson (56% snaps, 11 carries, 5 targets)
- RB2: J.D. McKissic (50%, 1, 8)
- RB3: Peyton Barber (4%, 0, 0)
Notes: The Football Team seemed to have little interest in pushing the ball down the field in Week 5, as both Kyle Allen and (especially) Alex Smith didn’t waste any time in getting the ball out of their hands behind PFF’s 23rd-ranked offensive line in pass blocking grade.
Obviously targets are great for fantasy RBs; the problem is that anyone involved in this Washington offense at the moment is borderline unplayable if the type of QB play we saw in Week 5 persists. This week’s matchup against the Giants figures to be a good litmus test for what we can expect moving forward.
Gibson’s ceiling remains as the backfield’s undisputed workhorse with 15-plus carries and upwards of eight targets per week; the problem is the latter metric is a pipe dream for now with McKissic continuing to steal plenty of pass-down work. Treat Gibson as more of a low-ceiling RB3 for meow, while McKissic is a desperate PPR-only option thanks only to his nonsensical target share.