News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Taking stock of every NFL backfield ahead of NFL Week 8

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) carries the ball during the fourth quarter of a Week 7 NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The Cleveland Browns won 37-34. Cincinnati Bengals At Cleveland Browns Oct 25

NFL depth charts are always in a constant state of flux due to transactions, injuries, performance and at-times questionable coaching decisions. The RB position in particular can be tough to stay on top of, as an overwhelming majority of offenses have replaced a single three-down back with committees of various shapes and sizes.

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What follows is a breakdown of each team's backfield ahead of Week 8 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 8 matchups with some DraftKings notes.

Each back’s Week 7 snap rate, carries and targets is listed next to his name in parenthesis. Note that the snap rates denote total snaps, so teams that 1) have a dual-threat RB/WR type like Austin Ekeler, or 2) simply run plenty of plays consisting of two-RB backfields, will have a total percentage higher than 100%.

Arizona Cardinals

Notes: It’s happening people. Drake is expected to miss a few weeks with a slight tear of a ligament in his ankle. This means that Edmonds should work as the undisputed lead back for the league’s ninth-ranked scoring offense. Drake has actually been the superior rusher this season in forced missed tackles per rush and yards after contact per attempt, but Edmonds has far and away been better at creating big plays as well as in the passing game.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Cardinals get back to their 2019 ways of featuring a single back to the tune of 80%-plus snaps after their Week 7 bye. Eno Benjamin is the favorite to serve as the offense’s No. 2 back while Drake is sidelined, but make no mistake about it: This is Edmonds’ backfield. Don’t be afraid to empty the FAAB for his services if he’s somehow still available on your waiver wire.

Atlanta Falcons

Notes: Gurley is the PPR RB8 through seven weeks primarily thanks to his status as the offense’s undisputed early-down back. The ex-Rams talent has yet to surpass even 30 receiving yards in a game this season, but he has a league-high seven scores on the ground. PFF’s No. 56 graded rusher in 2020, Gurley hasn’t exactly experienced a true return to form. Still, all we care about in fantasy land is production; it doesn’t matter if the player doesn’t have the world’s most-explosive highlight reel.

The Falcons are 1-6 and Brian Hill (4.4 YPC) has been more-efficient than Gurley (4.0) on a per-carry basis. I don’t hate the idea of attempting to sell high on the 26-year-old back; Gurley has averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry in just two of seven games this season and has barely reached the 50%-snap mark in games that the Falcons have fallen behind in. Still, he’ll remain a weekly borderline RB1 with this sort of role ahead of matchups like this week’s spot against the Panthers.

Baltimore Ravens (from Week 6)

Notes: Perhaps the Ravens used their Week 7 bye to better integrate Dobbins as their featured back. It’d be warranted; the rookie is a straight baller.

Alas, the more likely scenario is that the Ravens continue to utilize a three-headed committee. Edwards had 14 touches in Week 6; that’s the only time all season that any RB had more than 12 touches in a game. There simply isn’t enough volume for any of these backs to post consistent fantasy production if the snap distribution doesn’t change.

Ingram (ankle) should be considered questionable for the Ravens’ huge Week 8 matchup against the Steelers. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if Justice Hill entered into the equation if Ingram is ultimately sidelined. Edwards would probably lead the way and flirt with 15 carries, while Dobbins with even 10-12 weekly opportunities could be dangerous, but again, there just aren’t many touches to go around here.

Add in the reality that the Steelers boast anyone’s idea of an elite front-seven, and it’ll be tough to treat anybody involved in this backfield as a top-24 option at the position regardless of Ingram’s game status.

Buffalo Bills

Notes: This is basically an evenly split committee at the moment with Singletary seeing more pass-down work and Moss being featured more in short-yardage situations.

Unfortunately, Josh Allen hasn’t ever been all that great at enabling fantasy-friendly RBs. There are two main reasons why:

  1. Allen has checked the ball down on just seven of 285 dropbacks — the fourth-lowest mark among 38 qualified QBs.
  2. The only players with more rushing scores than Allen (20) since he entered the league in 2018 are: Todd Gurley (36), Derrick Henry (35), Aaron Jones (29), Christian McCaffrey (26), Ezekiel Elliott (23), Alvin Kamara (23), Dalvin Cook (22) and Melvin Gordon (22).

The 49ers might’ve gashed the Patriots in Week 7, but don’t count on the Bills’ 30th-ranked offensive line in yards before contact per rush to have the same sort of consistent success. I’ll probably be picking the other option in most start/sit questions featuring either Singletary or Moss this week.

Carolina Panthers

Notes: McCaffrey reportedly has a chance to suit up Thursday night after managing to return to practice. It’d make sense if the Panthers play it safe until Week 9 due to the quick turnaround, but don’t expect CMC to see anything other than his usual workhorse role once active. The Panthers have 64 million reasons why they should continue to feed McCaffrey all the snaps he can handle; let’s just hope they continue to build the passing game around Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore instead of their stud RB.

Obviously, getting McCaffrey the ball is good for the scoring points business, but the manner in which they relentlessly fed him targets in 2019 was a bit much. Both the 2019 (No. 3 in targets to RBs) and 2020 (No. 5) editions of the Panthers offense have heavily featured the position in the passing game. However, Kyle Allen targeted the back as his first read on an asinine 54% of his targets to the position; Teddy Bridgewater has a much more reasonable 36% rate through seven weeks.

Maybe the Panthers utilize more of a 1.A/1.B situation if McCaffrey isn’t at 100% for Thursday night, but don’t expect anything other than his typical three-down role afterwards. Excluding Week 17s and injury-shortened contests, McCaffrey hasn’t played fewer than 85% of the offense’s snaps since 2017. The only RB that will potentially be ranked ahead of McCaffrey once healthy is Alvin Kamara.

Chicago Bears

Notes: Montgomery has dominated usage with Tarik Cohen (ACL, IR) sidelined. The problem is that he’s seemingly incapable of creating any sort of explosiveness on the ground. The Bears’ RB1 finds himself as one of just seven backs without multiple gains of at least 15 yards on the ground among 36 RBs with at least 50 carries this season:

Not great! The definition of a volume-based RB2, Montgomery has his work cut out for him in Week 8 against the Saints’ sixth-ranked defense in fewest yards before contact allowed per rush. It’s tough to fade any RB that’s capable of pushing for 20-plus touches on a weekly basis; just realize there’s a low floor for anybody involved in the Bears’ 27th-ranked scoring offense. Credit to Montgomery for making the most out of nothing on a number of occasions during the Bears’ Monday night loss to the Rams, but this isn’t the spot to expect anything resembling a blowup performance.

Cincinnati Bengals

Notes: Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Joe Mixon (foot) is day-to-day, which doesn’t exactly clear anything up. Mixon was leading the league in touches prior to missing the Bengals’ Week 7 loss to the Browns; he’s an every-week RB1 when healthy.

Bernard somewhat surprisingly dominated usage with Mixon sidelined. Perine was an afterthought, and Trayveon Williams was used on special teams only. Credit to the Bengals for not attempting to fit a round peg in a square hole and feed Gio 20-plus carries; their willingness to continue to embrace a pass-happy offense better suits their new starting RB’s talents anyway.

Only the Steelers (18) have allowed fewer receptions to opposing RBs than the Titans (21), but Bernard can be fired up as a rock-solid RB2 if Mixon remains sidelined, thanks to this true three-down role. Is it somewhat strange the Bengals insist on using Bernard on early downs despite him averaging just 3.2 yards per carry since the beginning of 2019? Yes. Also yes, this is the reality that we live in, and volume will always trump talent in fantasy football land.

Cleveland Browns

Notes: Last week’s breakdown noted that the only reason why Hunt had not received an every-down role with Nick Chubb sidelined was because 1) he experienced cramps in the fourth quarter of Week 5, and 2) the Browns got badly blown out and pulled their starters early in Week 7.

Fast forward to Week 8 and it’s more clear than ever that Hunt is the man in Cleveland for however long Chubb remains out. This sort of every-down role is incredibly rare: Nobody played a higher percentage of their offense’s snaps than Hunt in Week 7. Add in the reality that Hunt remains one of the league’s better talents at the position, and it’s tough to treat the man as anything other than top-five back regardless of the matchup.

This notion holds especially true ahead of this week’s matchup against the Raiders’ 30th-ranked defense in PPR per game allowed to the position. It’s not unreasonable to treat Hunt as the week’s single-highest projected RB in this smash spot. His price tag on DraftKings ($6,900) is at least $1,000 too cheap.

Dallas Cowboys

Notes: The Cowboys offensive line is presently dealing with the following injuries:

This offense has largely enabled a fantasy-friendly RB for the better part of the last decade thanks to their consistently dominant offensive line; this is no longer a luxury the Cowboys enjoy.

The Eagles have plenty of monsters across their defensive front, although they do rank a fairly brutal 27th in yards before contact allowed per rush. Zeke is the PPR RB2 this season. Only Derrick Henry (153) has more touches than Elliott (146) through seven weeks of action. Scoring chances figure to be more rare than ever with Andy Dalton (concussion) potentially sidelined, but Elliott will continue to be a weekly RB1 thanks to this massive workload.

Pollard is a fantastic talent and ranks third in PFF’s elusive rating metric; just don’t expect any consistent standalone value inside of this presently atrocious offense that has 90 million reasons to continue to feed Zeke all the touches he can handle.

Denver Broncos

Notes: Lindsay (concussion) should be considered questionable for the Broncos’ Week 8 matchup against the Chargers. His absence would result in Gordon receiving a near every-down role ahead of this #RevengeGame.

Gordon’s demise has been a bit overstated. He’s presently averaging a career-high 3.1 yards after contact per attempt, and his average of 0.23 missed forced tackles per rush is barely worse than his career-best 0.24 mark set in 2018.

The Chargers have allowed the league’s fifth-most receptions to the RB position and rank 23rd in yards before contact allowed per rush. There are worse fantasy options than a home RB projected to rack up ~20 touches; treat Gordon as a volume-based RB2 ahead of this AFC West matchup. Neither he nor Lindsay would be ranked among fantasy’s top-24 options at the position if the latter back is ultimately able to suit up.

Detroit Lions

Notes: Swift continues to work behind Peterson as the offense’s early-down threat, and Johnson isn’t expected to be removed from the equation anytime soon.

Still, Swift has racked up 17 and 13 touches over the past two weeks after failing to clear even 10 combined carries and receptions in a game during the Lions’ first four games of the season. Matthew Stafford and company have engineered the league’s most efficient passing game in EPA/play since Kenny Golladay returned in Week 3. This offense is moving in a positive direction at the moment.

Don’t get too carried away; Swift remains a member of a three-RB committee playing behind an offensive line that has been more meh than not in matchups not featuring the Jaguars. Still, flirting with 15 touches per week in an ascending offense is useful, and Swift’s consistent pass-down volume gives him an enhanced role in full point-per-reception formats.

Hopefully the Lions continue to increase Swift’s work; he’s looked like their best RB all season. For now, treat him as a borderline RB2 with room for upside if stud Colts LB Darius Leonard (groin) remains sidelined. Peterson is a TD-dependent RB3 at best based on pure volume. We don’t have much reason to believe that his early-down work will dissipate anytime soon despite the reality that his heavy involvement in the offense hasn’t made much sense all season.

Green Bay Packers

Notes: Aaron Jones (calf) was a late-week addition to the injury report and ultimately wasn’t able to suit up. This led to Williams working as the offense’s every-down back

The Packers are reportedly in the market for a receiver. Credit to Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur for their excellent start to the season, but the decision to use their second-round pick on Dillon grows more puzzling by the day. The reality that he was a complete afterthought in the game plan despite Jones being active brings into question what the thought process was behind the selection in the first place.

The likes of Bryan Edwards, Devin Duvernay, Gabriel Davis, Tyler Johnson and Darnell Mooney were still on the board when the Packers selected Dillon with the No. 62 overall pick in the 2020 draft: Sure, none of those options have exactly soared as rookies, but at least they’d likely be at a minimum competing for consistent snaps inside of this banged-up WR room.

Williams will be a borderline RB1 for however long Jones is sidelined, although the calf injury doesn’t seem to be a long-term issue. A-aron will be a top-eight option at the position once healthy enough to suit up, regardless of the matchup.

Houston Texans

Notes: Only Ezekiel Elliott (8) and Derrick Henry (7) have more rush attempts that ended at the 1-yard line than Johnson (5) through seven weeks. The Texans’ undisputed RB1 managed to find the end zone as a receiver in Week 7, but the lack of high-end production has been disappointing given the consistently large workload.

Don’t get me wrong; Johnson remains an every-week RB2 regardless of the matchup. He is the PPR RB16 on the season, after all. He’ll be a top-15 option at the position following the Texans’ Week 7 bye in a cake matchup against the Jaguars.

Indianapolis Colts (from Week 6)

Notes: Taylor remains probably my favorite buy-low/even candidate after the Colts’ Week 7 bye because 1) Wilkins (calf) has clearly worked as the No. 3 back in this committee, 2) Hines is no threat to early-down work, and 3) the Colts’ second-round rookie has had far more pass-game work than anticipated.

Taylor was 11th among all RBs in touches and 15th in PPR points entering Week 7, essentially already working as a borderline RB1. Expect better days ahead during this cozy second-half schedule:

  • Week 8: Lions (No. 27 in PPR per game allowed to opposing RBs)
  • Week 9: Ravens (No. 7)
  • Week 10: Titans (No. 18)
  • Week 11: Packers (No. 32)
  • Week 12: Titans (No. 18)
  • Week 13: Texans (No. 29)
  • Week 14: Raiders (No. 30)
  • Week 15: Texans (No. 29)
  • Week 16: Steelers (No. 1)

Top-five dreams aren’t out of the question moving forward. Get Taylor into starting lineups of all shapes and sizes for this week’s potential blow up spot and beyond.

Hines’ five receptions in Week 6 were the first time he caught more than four passes in a game since Week 1, and he continues to boast a weekly goose-egg floor as a rusher. I’d probably rather devote a roster spot to Wilkins at this point, as he’d be the favorite to lead the way in total touches if Taylor was forced to miss any game action.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Notes: Robinson is more cemented as the Jaguars’ workhorse back than ever with Chris Thompson (covid, IR), Ryquell Armstead (covid, IR) and Devine Ozigbo (hamstring) all banged up. Ogunbowale is basically a lesser-used version of Thompson; he’s not a realistic threat to Robinson’s early-down work.

Only Derrick Henry (153), Ezekiel Elliott (146), Joe Mixon (140), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (137) and Todd Gurley (135) have more touches than Robinson (134) through seven weeks. The list shrinks to only Zeke and Alvin Kamara when we look at who has scored more PPR points than the artist known as J-Rob.

The biggest factor potentially working against Robinson following the Jaguars’ Week 8 bye would be the decision to bench Gardner Minshew in favor of Mike Glennon, who has produced 7, 14, 17 and 23 points in four starts since 2016. Either way, Robinson will be a weekly volume-based RB1 in Week 9 against the Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Notes: The revenge game of all revenge games is happening this week, as Bell gets his chance to stick it to Adam Gase and the Jets just weeks after the organization cut ties with him.

Either way, this appears to be trending toward a fairly even two-back split between CEH and Bell. The Chiefs gave Edwards-Helaire (18 snaps) and Bell (17) nearly equal reps during the first three quarters of their Week 7 blowout win over the Broncos. Note that Washington didn’t touch the field until the fourth quarter, while Bell didn’t play at all during the game’s final 15 minutes.

Andy Reid truly seems like a cool guy. The Chiefs are 6-1 and opened as 21-point favorites over the lowly Jets. It wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see Reid actually feature Bell ahead of CEH for this matchup. Treat both backs as upside RB2s this week and potentially beyond, although I continue to expect Edwards-Helaire to put up superior fantasy production moving forward.

Las Vegas Raiders

Notes: Jacobs oddly has just a single rush of 15-plus yards this season. Of course, he’s still been a great talent with the ball in his hands and finds himself near the top of the leaderboard in total forced missed tackles through seven weeks:

Still, it’s a surprising step back in the explosive-play department after Jacobs finished third among all backs with 16 such rushes in 2019.

Ultimately, Jacbos’ sub-50% snap split was more a result of an extremely negative game script that led to him playing just two snaps in the fourth quarter. This shouldn’t be the case much moving forward, particularly not in Week 8 in a matchup that pits the Raiders as slight 2.5-point underdogs against the Browns.

Continue to fire up Jacobs as a fantasy RB1 in this potential shootout. Booker is probably a better deep bench stash than Richard considering the likelihood that he’d take most of the early-down work if Jacobs is ever forced to miss time, but neither should be treated as a priority by any stretch of the imagination. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Notes: Jackson and Kelley have flip-flopped featured roles in back-to-back weeks; this is a fluid situation at the moment without a clear lead back. The Chargers offense seems to be in better hands than ever with Justin Herbert looking a lot like the next big thing under center, but the league’s fourth-worst offensive line in yards before contact per rush hasn’t made life easy for these backs.

The Broncos defense might be all kinds of banged up, but they’ve been the third-stingiest unit in PPR points per game allowed to opposing RBs. Both backs seem capable of flirting with anywhere between 10-20 touches on a weekly basis; they’re each low-upside RB3s that hardly have the sort of floor that you want from somebody before starting them with confidence.

Los Angeles Rams

Notes: It’s unclear if coach Sean McVay hates Akers personally, or just professionally. Jokes aside, the rookie hasn’t registered a single touch in two weeks since McVay said that his role would be increasing.

Henderson has emerged as the lead back and has racked up at least 14 touches in all but one game since Week 2. Good things generally happen when the Rams hand him the ball; the second-year talent boasts PFF’s third-highest rushing grade among 69 qualified backs.

The Dolphins defense has been far better against the pass than the run through seven weeks; they’ve allowed the eighth-most PPR points per game to opposing RBs. It’d certainly be more optimal for Henderson to receive a true Gurley-esque workload, but he’s still a good bet to eclipse 15 touches on a weekly basis inside of one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses.

Henderson is starting to cement himself as a weekly RB2 option, Brown remains a TD-dependent RB3, and Akers appears to firmly be off the 2020 fantasy radar.

Miami Dolphins (from Week 6)

Notes: Jordan Howard hasn’t played since Week 4, gifting Gaskin the elusive goal-line role he’d been missing during the first month of the season.

Now the bigger potential problem is the reality that Tua Tagovailoa will be under center come Week 8 against the Rams. It remains to be seen if this will be an immediate net positive for Gaskin’s weekly scoring opportunities, but either way he remains one of the league’s few backs with their team’s 1) early-down, 2) pass-down, and 3) goal-line role.

Maybe Tua balls the hell out from day one. Still, this is presently the league’s 12th-ranked scoring offense, and we don’t really know if the rookie will target Gaskin as much as Fitzpatrick did. Treat Gaskin as a RB2 with a chance to ascend to RB1 territory; just realize there’s an underrated floor here in this post-Fitzpatrick offense.

Minnesota Vikings (from Week 6)

Notes: Dalvin Cook (groin) is tentatively expected to be good to go for Week 8 after having two weeks to rest up. Let’s hope he’s back. It’s good for the soul to watch one of the game’s best backs with the ball in his hands.

Cook can obviously be fired up as a top-five option at the position if active against the Packers’ league-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing RBs. 

If not, Mattison will be on the RB2 radar despite the reality that he’s not looking at an every-down role in extremely negative game-script. To be fair, Cook posted a similarly disappointing 58% snap rate during the Vikings’ multi-score loss to the Packers in Week 1. Mattison’s Week 6 dud was likely toward the bottom of his range of outcomes if we could’ve simmed that game 1,000 times; he still should be in more starting lineups than not anytime Cook misses time.

New England Patriots

Notes: Cam Newton hasn’t been the same thrower since his Week 2 explosion against the Seahawks. Week 7 was a new low, with Cam completing just nine of 15 passes for 98 scoreless yards with three interceptions. The accompanying 5-19-0 rushing line was awfully disappointing; before the game Newton was on pace to rack up the second-most rush attempts from a QB in NFL history.

Perhaps we see the Patriots re-embrace a physical rushing attack spearheaded by Newton against the Bills’ below-average run defense in yards before contact per attempt (No. 19), yards per carry (No. 22) and explosive run-percentage allowed (No. 24) alike through seven weeks. 

Still, it’s tough to trust any of these backs at the moment due to the uncertainty of both the overall offense as well as their own respective usage. I’d try to avoid starting any Patriots RBs in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes until we see this offense 1) turn things around in the point-scoring department, and 2) demonstrate any sort of consistency with their backfield usage.

New Orleans Saints

Notes: Kamara has looked a lot like the single-best RB in the league this season.

Before the season I would’ve picked Saquon Barkley as planet Earth’s RB1 if the aliens invaded and forced us to play a football game in order to save ourselves. With all due respect to Derrick Henry, who might actually be an alien, I think under present conditions we’d have to give the nod to Kamara at this point.

The Saints’ RB1 is the overall fantasy RB1 ahead of this week’s tough matchup against the Bears’ stout front-seven thanks as always to the absurd pass-game floor on display here. Overall, only DeAndre Hopkins, Tyler Lockett, Calvin Ridley, Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Travis Kelce, Robby Anderson, Adam Thielen, Terry McLaurin, Tyler Boyd and Allen Robinson have more PPR points from purely receiving production than Kamara this season. Absolute madness.

Murray remains the league’s single-most valuable handcuff; he’d be an every-week RB1 if Kamara is forced to miss any game action. He’s continued to flirt with double-digit touches on a weekly basis with Michael Thomas sidelined, but this week’s trip to Chicago isn’t a good time to bet on the 30-year-old back to make the most out of those opportunities.

New York Giants

Notes: Freeman (ankle) left early in Week 6, leaving his availability for Sunday in question. Gallman would flirt with RB2 status more weeks than not if Freeman is sidelined for an extended period.

However, this week’s matchup against the Buccaneers falls firmly in the “not” category for Gallman and Freeman alike. They’ve shut down just about every RB they’ve faced on the ground this season:

Lewis doesn’t really demand much pass-game work despite being the pass-down back, so the offense’s lead early down back has a chance to flirt with 15-20 touches on a weekly basis. The problem is that scoring opportunities are few and far between inside of the league’s 31st-ranked scoring offense, and efficiency is expected to reach a low point against Devin White and company. Your fantasy roster better be looking bleak to rationalize starting either Freeman or Gallman this week.

New York Jets

Notes: This appears to be a two-RB backfield after Ty Johnson played strictly on special teams in Week 7. Perine is the primary pass-down back and looks set to lead the way from here on out, but Gore’s early-down work isn’t going anywhere, and neither back is looking at many fantasy-friendly opportunities inside of the league’s 32nd-ranked scoring offense.

Perine is set up similarly to D’Andre Swift in that 1) they’re their offense’s lead back in snaps and targets, and 2) a veteran early-down grinder figures to continue to lead the way in rush attempts. The difference is that the Lions offense actually carries upside into more matchups than not, while the Jets haven’t scored more than 10 points in a game since Week 4.

Treat Perine and Gore as a low-ceiling RB3 and RB4, respectively. Please try to avoid playing anyone from this offense other than a healthy Jamison Crowder if you can help it.

Philadelphia Eagles

Notes: I stated the following about this situation ahead of the Eagles’ Week 7 win over the Giants:

“Clement has been far less involved than Scott over the past few weeks. His lack of involvement in the passing game after Sanders was hurt in Week 6 makes it possible that Scott receives a role closer to the 74% snap rate he posted in Week 17 last season. The Giants aren’t a bad defense by any stretch, but the Eagles are once again hurting for playmakers at pretty much every position, and Scott should be fed something in the range of 15-20 touches by virtue of being one of the last men standing. Hardly a ringing endorsement for Scott as a football player, I know. Still: Chase volume in fantasy football. Scott is a top-20 RB ahead of this week’s date against the league’s 24th-ranked defense in fewest PPR per game allowed to the position.”

We ultimately saw this come to fruition, as Scott worked well ahead of both Clement and Huntley. Don’t expect this to change in Week 8 so long as Miles Sanders (knee) remains sidelined. Scott is a top-15 option at the position in this week’s dream matchup against the Cowboys’ awful defense. Sanders would flirt with top-10 status if we get some assurance that he’s ready to go by Sunday night.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Notes: Conner’s snaps and targets both moved in a positive direction last week after he spent Weeks 3-6 with more of a David Johnson/Kenyan Drake role as a featured early-down grinder with less than ideal pass-game opportunity. No, the 111 scoreless yards weren’t exactly what fantasy managers had in mind, but the performance could’ve been so much better had just one of the following occurrences gone Conner’s way:

  • Conner caught a one-yard TD, but it was nullified by an offensive facemask penalty. Diontae Johnson would finish the drive with a 11-yard score.
  • Conner dropped a potential one-yard TD. Snell ultimately got the ball in the end zone.
  • Conner was stopped at the three-yard line after a solid run, and then was downed at the one-yard line on the next attempt. Snell ultimately got the ball in the end zone.

Conner had previously scored in four consecutive games; he remains the most-likely man to find the end zone inside of the league’s sixth-ranked scoring offense. Seemingly healthier than ever, Conner remains a weekly RB1 for however long the wheels stay on. This week’s matchup against the Ravens’ generally spectacular defense isn’t ideal, but the likes of Miles Sanders (9 rushes-118 rush yards-0 TD), Nick Chubb (10-60-0), Kareem Hunt (13-72-0) and Antonio Gibson (13-46-1) proved that it’s not impossible to find some room on the ground against the AFC North’s reigning champion.

Snell is the backup to roster in Pittsburgh, although he’d likely have a lesser-version of Conner’s present role. He’s not somebody you should be dying to keep on the bench by any stretch of the imagination.

San Francisco 49ers

Notes: I broke down my thoughts on the 49ers’ backfield in the Tuesday edition of the PFF Fantasy Football podcast

Basically, expect Tevin Coleman (knee, IR) to command most of the early-down work if healthy enough to suit up while Raheem Mostert (ankle, IR) and Jeff Wilson (ankle, IR) remain sidelined. Jerick McKinnon should also see more reps moving forward due to both 1) Kyle Shanahan indicating his reduced workload in Week 7 was planned, and 2) the reality that losing Deebo Samuel (hamstring) means he’ll be needed more than ever in the passing game.

Hasty looks like a solid talent, but Shanahan and company don’t seem to trust him at this point to be anything resembling an every-down back. I’m not overly keen on investing significant fantasy resources in any of these backs, although both Hasty and McKinnon would be upside RB3s in Week 8 if Coleman remains sidelined. If the ex-Falcons RB returns to action, I’d recommend waiting a week before starting any of these guys with any sort of confidence.

Seattle Seahawks

Notes: There are a number of moving parts in this backfield at the moment:

  • Carson is considered week-to-week with a midfoot sprain.
  • Hyde is experiencing hamstring tightness.
  • Homer has a knee bruise.
  • Rashaad Penny (knee, PUP) is still a week or two away from returning to action.

There’s a chance that Dallas is the only healthy back come Sunday, although it sounds like Hyde and (especially) Homer have a good chance to suit up against the 49ers.

Expect Russell Wilson to be cooking more than ever through the air in this spot regardless of who winds up being active at RB. Some reassurance that Hyde is healthy would make him a top-20 option at the position against the 49ers’ banged-up front-seven, although we shouldn’t expect the same sort of near three-down role that Carson usually gets when active.

Ultimately, this is a fluid situation with both Carson and Penny expected to join the fold before too long. Hyde is a solid Week 8 streaming option, but be careful about committing too many resources to acquire somebody that is already banged up himself and could be irrelevant in fantasy land as early as next week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Notes: The Buccaneers beat the Raiders 45-20 in Week 7. The biggest news to come out of the game was the reality that LeSean McCoy didn’t play a snap, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn was only used on special teams. Coach Bruce Arians confirmed afterwards that Fournette is the team’s new “nickel” RB.

Don’t be concerned RoJo fantasy managers: This is good news. We knew Jones wasn’t going to become the team’s featured three-down RB; the man has dropped four passes this season and has had previous issues with pass-protection. However, the reality that this is now a two-RB committee instead of one consisting of three or even four backs is great news for both Jones and Fournette.

The reality that touches figure to be fairly even more weeks than not means that we shouldn’t necessarily expect either Fournette or Jones to return consistent RB1 value. Still, something in the range of 15-20 opportunities per game inside of the league’s third-ranked scoring offense is certainly valuable enough to warrant every-week RB2 treatment.

The Giants defense ranks fifth in fewest yards before contact per rush, but the reality that the Buccaneers are 10.5-point favorites and implied to score a robust 28.25 points makes both backs top-20 options at the position this week.

Tennessee Titans

Notes: Winter is coming, which is a bad sign for defenses on the Titans’ second-half schedule. Henry has historically only gotten better as the season has gone on:

  • September: 3.88 yards per carry
  • October: 4.33
  • November: 5.87
  • December: 5.38
  • January: 5.2

All hail King Henry. Continue to fire up the Titans’ monstrous RB1 as a weekly top-five option at the position regardless of the matchup.

Washington Football Team

Notes: Sigh. Gibson’s breakout 20-128-1 rushing performance didn’t separate him from the pack, as McKissic continued to get the majority of the offense’s pass-down work, and Barber actually got the start and received his largest role since Week 1.

The fact that Barber even touches the field is rather mind-boggling. Pick a stat, any stat, and you’ll see that the ex-Buccaneers RB has been one of the single-worst players with the ball in his hands this season:

  • Forced missed tackles per rush: 0.05 (No. 68 among 69 qualified RBs)
  • Yards per carry: 2.1 (No. 69)
  • Yards after contact per carry: 1.4 (No. 69)
  • PFF Rushing Grade: 55 (No. 65)

Barber has been the Football Team’s lowest-graded RB in pass protection.

Gibson is tied for sixth among all players in total forced missed tackles. McKissic serves as a reliable check-down option, but Washington’s 2020 third-round pick has trailed only Terry McLaurin in terms of best play-makers in this offense all season.

Fingers crossed that the Football Team’s Week 8 bye causes them to reassess this shallow and pedantic three-RB committee. Regardless, Gibson will be on the low-end RB2 radar in Week 9 against the Giants; he’s averaging 15.3 combined carries and targets per game.

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