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 9 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 9 matchups.
Each back’s Week 8 snap rate, carries and targets is 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 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 (from Week 7)
Notes: Call your kids, call your neighbors, call your wife: It’s Chase Edmonds szn everybody.
OK, maybe not totally. Coach Kliff Kingsbury said Drake’s ankle injury isn’t as severe as first believed and called him day to day. Week 9 might be asking a bit much, but it appears Drake isn’t expected to miss too much time.
Assuming Drake is sidelined against the Dolphins: Edmonds is a legit top-12 option at the position. The Cardinals have usually featured a two-RB committee of sorts this season with Drake handling the majority of the rushing workload, and Edmonds functioning as the primary pass-down back. No. 3 RB Eno Benjamin will likely have some sort of role, but I expect Kingsbury to give Edmonds the sort of near every-down workload that we saw the Cardinals dish out with regularity in 2019.
Edmonds has averaged 7.2 yards per touch this season; Drake is at 4.3. The Cardinals’ third-year back has been more-explosive and better in the passing game; there’s a chance we see Edmonds truly put up huge numbers with a large enough workload. Facing a Dolphins defense that is one of just 10 units to allow more than 26 PPR points per game to opposing backfields, Edmonds is a locked-in RB1 as long as Drake remains sidelined.
- RB1: Todd Gurley (54% snaps, 18 carries, 0 targets)
- RB2: Brian Hill (37%, 11, 3)
- RB3: Qadree Ollison (9%, 1, 0)
Notes: The Falcons seemed to nearly bench Gurley for a portion of their Thursday night victory over the Panthers. He’s made late-game boneheaded plays in consecutive weeks and has converted his last 61 carries into just 156 yards (2.6 yards per carry). The Falcons have pretty much given up on attempting to get their starting RB involved as a receiver, while Hill (4.6 yards per carry) has looked more explosive with the ball in his hands throughout the season compared to Gurley (3.8).
And yet, Gurley remains firmly in play as a fantasy RB2 thanks to the Falcons’ relentless desire to feed him touches near the goal line. Overall, only Ezekiel Elliott (13) and Derrick Henry (11) have more rushes inside the 5-yard line than Gurley (9) through eight weeks.
The Broncos are an above-average defense in PPR points per game and yards before contact per attempt allowed to the RB position, but the likelihood of 15-plus carries in an offense that carries a fairly solid weekly-scoring floor is good enough to earn Gurley a top-20 spot in the RB ranks for at least another week. Hill would likely form a committee of sorts with both Ollison and Ito Smith if Gurley is forced to miss any action.
- RB1: J.K. Dobbins (65% snaps, 15 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Gus Edwards (33%, 16, 1)
- RB3: Justice Hill (3%, 0, 0)
Notes: Mark Ingram (high-ankle sprain) remains sidelined and coach John Harbaugh said that he’s “hopeful” Ingram could return to practice this week. Hardly a ringing endorsement; don’t be surprised if the Ravens are cautious with Dobbins and Edwards proving more than capable of picking up the slack in his absence.
The Ravens’ “backup” RBs have been out-playing Ingram all season:
- Ingram: 58.1 PFF Rushing Grade, 0.06 forced missed tackles per rush, 4.5 yards per carry, 2.4 yards after contact per attempt
- Edwards: 70.9 PFF Rushing Grade, 0.09 forced missed tackles per rush, 4.8 yards per carry, 3.1 yards after contact per attempt
- Dobbins: 76.6 PFF Rushing Grade, 0.3 forced missed tackles per rush, 6.7 yards per carry, 4.2 yards after contact per attempt
Dobbins has truly resembled one of the league’s better backs on a per-touch basis this season.
J.K. Dobbins 2021 RB1 pic.twitter.com/IJsviTEnrZ
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 6, 2020
The problem has been consistent touches, but we can live with a two-RB backfield if Ingram remains sidelined. Both Dobbins *and* Edwards can be fired up as low-end RB2s thanks to their respective status as a talented back looking at 15-plus touches inside of one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses. The matchup is hardly ideal; the Colts have been a top-four defense in rushing yards before contact per attempt, explosive run-rate allowed and yards per rush. Still, this sort of volume is tough to come by at the position these days, particularly when it happens to be paired with backs that know how to make the most out of the enhanced opportunity.
Notes: Moss found the end zone twice last week and usually is the preferred option when the offense gets close to the goal line. Still, Singletary gets the pass-down work more times than not. It’s truly a 50/50 split and both guys have an even touch projection pretty much regardless of the matchup.
The issue for both is the reality that Josh Allen is far from a great QB when it comes to enabling fantasy-friendly RBs:
- Allen has checked the ball down on just seven of 277 throws (0.025%). That’s the single-lowest mark among 29 QBs with at least 150 pass attempts this season.
- Only Todd Gurley (32), Derrick Henry (26), Aaron Jones (20), Christian McCaffrey (20), Dalvin Cook (19), Alvin Kamara (18) and Ezekiel Elliott (18) have more rushing scores from inside the 10-yard line than Allen (17) over the past three seasons.
Being the Bills’ primary pass-down back or goal-line back just isn’t as useful in fantasy land than it is in most other situations around the league. This is a good offense that is plenty capable of putting up points against the Seahawks, but I’ll have a hard time treating either back as a top-24 option at the position while usage remains split and not of the fantasy-friendly variety.
Notes: The honeymoon phase with Davis has worn off a bit over the past three weeks, as he gained just 168 total yards and scored one TD against the Bears, Saints and Falcons. Most concerning was the lack of pass-game usage: Davis averaged 7.5 receptions per game in Weeks 2-5 before catching just eight passes total in Weeks 6-8.
Don’t expect Christian McCaffrey (ankle) 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. 8) 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 eight weeks.
Maybe the Panthers utilize more of a 1.A/1.B situation if McCaffrey isn’t at 100% for Sunday, 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. Davis will remain a top-tier handcuff option thanks to his proven near every-down role when CMC misses time.
Notes: Yes, Montgomery lacks high-end burst that results in a lot of churning to pick up usually minimal amounts of yards. Also yes, the NFL’s leader in total broken tackles has often made the most out of usually porous circumstances, and the league’s 31st-ranked offensive line in yards before contact per attempt has rarely made life easy.
Nobody has forced more missed tackles than David Montgomery (39) this season. Only the Jets have averaged fewer yards before contact per rush than the Bears (PFF). pic.twitter.com/VT5fDJB4Kl
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 3, 2020
Montgomery has received one of the position’s largest roles since Tarik Cohen (ACL, IR) was lost for the season, consistently returning volume-based RB2 production:
- Week 4: 10-27-0 rushing, 3-30-0 receiving, 85% snaps, PPR RB27
- Week 5: 10-29-1 rushing, 7-30-0 receiving, 81% snaps, PPR RB13
- Week 6: 19-58-0 rushing, 4-39-0 receiving, 85% snaps, PPR RB14
- Week 7: 14-48-0 rushing, 5-21-0 receiving, 83% snaps, PPR RB24
- Week 8: 21-89-0 rushing, 2-16-0 receiving, 88% snaps, PPR RB19
Up next is a winnable matchup against a Titans defense that has allowed the 10th-most PPR points per game to the position. Continue to treat Montgomery as a top-20 option at the position thanks to volume and volume alone.
Notes: The Bengals utilized more of a two-RB committee in Week 8 than they did in Week 7, but Gio remains locked in as the starting back and will continue to see the lion's share of the pass-game work. Still, this sort of usage is more of the RB2 than RB1 variety. It’s all dependent on whether or not Joe Mixon (foot) will be ready to go in Week 10 against the Steelers following the team’s Week 9 bye.
Notes: Hunt has played a near every-down role when not impacted by fourth-quarter cramps or extremely negative game-script. It’s unclear exactly when Nick Chubb (knee, IR) will be ready to go, but Week 10 against the Texans following the team’s Week 9 bye seems to be within reach. Both backs could post top-20 production at the position inside of this run-first offense; just realize their respective ceilings are limited when both are healthy.
Notes: The Cowboys are either starting Ben DiNucci or Cooper Rush at QB this week against the Steelers’ league-best pass rush. The offense has scored 10, 3 and 9 points in three games since Dak Prescott (ankle, IR) was lost for the season.
The main allure of Zeke over the years has been elite scoring upside and plenty of rushing volume. The former is completely gone, and the latter has been hard to come by with the Cowboys trailing for the vast majority of the 2020 season.
Sometimes the Steelers’ elite pass-rushers get a bit too giddy and leave themselves susceptible to big plays on draws or screens. Still, they’ve been the league’s fourth-stingiest defense in yards before contact allowed per rush, and only the 49ers have allowed fewer PPR points per game to the position.
It’s wild that we’ve reached this point, but Elliott isn’t a top-12 option at the position this week. He should still be in starting lineups in most fantasy leagues, but this is an offense presently implied to score just 14 points (FantasyLabs). Even that seems ambitious.
Pollard remains a worthy bench hold, but holding on to him at all costs is no longer a real necessity considering the reality that the Cowboys offense has become overwhelmingly blah and doesn’t seem to have anything resembling an answer in the immediate future.
Notes: This is a true 50/50 committee at the moment despite the reality that Lindsay has functioned as the better rusher for pretty much the entire season:
- Gordon: 73.3 PFF Rushing Grade, 4.2 yards per carry, 3 yards after contact per rush
- Lindsay: 84.5 PFF Rushing Grade, 6.4 yards per carry, 4 yards after contact per rush
Gordon is considered the better receiver, but he’s ultimately caught just 19 of 26 targets for 78 yards this season. That average of three yards per target is the single-worst mark in the league among 135 players with at least 25 targets.
The Broncos invested somewhat heavily in Gordon this offseason; perhaps that’s their rationale for continuing to play him ahead of Lindsay. This week’s matchup against the Falcons is certainly winnable, but neither back should be treated as anything resembling a locked-in RB2 considering the 1) lack of a touch floor, and 2) volatility of this Broncos offense.
- RB1: D’Andre Swift (63% snaps, 6 carries, 4 targets)
- RB2: Adrian Peterson (20%, 5, 1)
- RB3: Kerryon Johnson (19%, 0, 2)
Notes: This remains a three-back situation that will likely lean back toward Peterson in terms of snaps whenever the Lions are able to play with positive or neutral game-script; the only reason why Swift played so much in Week 8 was because the Lions trailed by multiple scores for most of their 41-21 loss to the Colts.
I wrote the following in this column after Swift’s breakout performance against the Jaguars in Week 6:
“Swift has posted similar or better snap rates in Week 1 (44%), Week 2 (34%) and Week 4 (34%); there’s a decent chance the increase in touches and production had more to do with 1) the cozy matchup against the Jaguars’ dreadful and banged-up front-seven, 2) extremely positive game-script stemming from a 24-3 lead, and 3) Peterson’s aforementioned injury. This remains a three-back committee. Negative game-script isn’t necessarily a concern for Swift considering his pass-game prowess, but it seems unlikely Peterson is completely phased out anytime soon without further injury.”
This has held true in back-to-back weeks: Swift is a solid candidate for 10-15 touches per game, but a true RB1 ceiling remains well out of reach as long as Peterson continues to see just as much work on the ground, and Johnson siphons away a handful of snaps per week.
Perhaps the absence of Kenny Golladay (hip) causes Matthew Stafford to lean more on Swift in the passing game. I’d still caution in treating the Lions’ rookie back as more than a borderline RB2 in more spots than not while this three-back committee persists.
Notes: We have some news to go over in Green Bay:
- Both Williams and Dillon have been ruled out for Thursday night due to COVID protocols.
- Green Bay remains unsure if Aaron Jones (calf) will return this week. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports there is pessimism that he’ll be able to play against the 49ers.
This leaves Dexter Williams and Tyler Ervin as the primary backs. Williams has five career carries for 11 yards, while Ervin (wrist) isn’t operating at 100% and has lined up in the slot or out wide far more often than in the backfield throughout his five-year career.
Anyone with a full-time role in an offense led by Aaron Rodgers is worthy of fantasy consideration; just realize the offense’s best path to success at the moment is probably to throw the ball as much as humanly possible. Williams caught just 22 passes during his four seasons at Notre Dame; Ervin is the likely pass-down back and could very well lead the way in total snaps considering the Packers have made a consistent effort to get him involved in the offense over the past two years.
This is an uneven situation, but I’m tentatively treating Ervin as a top-24 option at the position this week and leaving Williams as more of a borderline RB3. I’d lean toward the other option in most start/sit questions regarding the duo unless we get more clarity on what this split could look like come Thursday night.
Houston Texans (from Week 7)
Notes: Only Ezekiel Elliott (8) and Derrick Henry (7) had 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.
Of course, Johnson warrants strong RB2 treatment thanks to a cake matchup against the Jaguars’ porous run defense. We’ve seen a number of more-than-solid performances against this group from the position:
- Joe Mixon: 42.1 PPR points
- Nyheim Hines: 27.3
- D’Andre Swift: 27.3
- Jonathan Taylor: 14.9
- Myles Gaskin: 14.5
- Adrian Peterson: 12.8
- Johnson: 12.2
Johnson is the RB23 in PPR points per game. RB1 pipe dreams are dead, but don’t be afraid to keep starting someone basically guaranteed 15-plus touches per game with Deshaun Watson under center.
Duke, The U’s all-time leading rusher, remains criminally underused and miscast as a scatback. We’ll need to see it to believe it in regards to an increased role anytime in 2020.
- RB1: Jordan Wilkins (51% snaps, 20 carries, 1 target)
- RB2: Jonathan Taylor (33%, 11, 2)
- RB3: Nyheim Hines (21%, 5, 5)
Notes: Taylor (ankle) is apparently operating at less than 100%. Either way, don’t let Week 9’s blowout-induced game script lead you to the conclusion that this is now Wilkins’ backfield. He’s been the offense’s primary RB in mop-up duty during fourth quarters throughout the season, while Hines has gotten most of the work on pass downs.
The Colts have played six games since losing Marlon Mack (knee, IR) in Week 1. They held multi-TD leads in the beginning of the fourth quarter in four of those contests, and fell behind by at least 14 points during the first three quarters of the other two games.
Basically, we truly haven’t seen the Colts play with the sort of neutral game-script that would theoretically lead to bunches of touches for Taylor. This was certainly the case in Week 8; Taylor (23 snaps) played ahead of Wilkins (21) and Hines (11) during the first 45 minutes of action before Wilkins soaked up 17 of the backfield’s 24 fourth-quarter reps.
Obviously having Wilkins so involved badly hurts Taylor’s chances at capturing the sort of RB1 value that fantasy managers have been hoping for. Still, the most-likely outcome is that these three backs continue to trade production and reps on a week-to-week basis; neither Taylor, nor Wilkins, nor Hines can be confidently fired up as a top-24 option at the position at the moment.
I still lean toward Taylor as the preferred option moving forward. Credit to Wilkins for leading the league in forced missed tackles per rush, but Taylor has been the more efficient back in terms of raw yards per carry. Throw in the reality that Hines will continue to be the lead pass-down back, and there simply isn’t enough of a volume floor for anybody involved to warrant consistent high-end fantasy consideration. This is particularly true this week against a Ravens defense that is one of just six units to allow fewer than 20 PPR points per game to the position this season.
Jacksonville Jaguars (from Week 7)
Notes: There’s truly only been one consistent bright spot for the 2020 Jaguars: Robinson. I’m contractually obligated to state that “running backs don’t matter” before any discussion surrounding the position, but either way Robinson has certainly outperformed most of his peers both in terms of total numbers as well as per-touch efficiency.
- PFF Rushing Grade: 79.1 (No. 7 among 69 qualified RBs)
- Rushing yards: 481 (No. 7)
- Rushing TDs: 4 (tied for No. 7)
- Yards per carry: 4.5 (tied for No. 25)
- Yards after contact per carry: 3.1 (tied for No. 21)
- PFF Receiving Grade: 60.8 (No. 30 among 55 qualified RBs)
- Yards per route run: 1.73 (No. 10)
- Yards after the catch per reception: 9.4 (No. 10)
- Total forced missed tackles: 24 (tied for No. 11)
- Forced missed tackles per rush: 0.18 (No. 35 among 75 qualified backs)
Rushing, receiving, picking up extra yards: Robinson has been at worst an above-average back in every facet of the game, and at-best a true top-10 player at the position. The Jaguars have treated Robinson as a true workhorse back all year and he’s managed to exceed anybody’s expectations despite working behind PFF’s 21st-ranked offensive line in yards before contact per rush. The man has truly been fun to watch.
90 seconds of international superstar James Robinson making plays pic.twitter.com/Y8JVtESVS1
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 29, 2020
Switching from Gardner Minshew to Jake Luton is far from ideal, but don’t expect J-Rob’s workload to go anywhere. He remains a top-10 option at the position ahead of this potential smash spot: Only the Cowboys (2.3) and Dolphins (1.9) have been as bad or worse than the Texans (1.9) in terms of yards before contact per rush.
- RB1: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (51% snaps, 6 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Le’Veon Bell (26%, 6, 3)
- RB3: Darrel Williams (12%, 3, 1)
- RB4: Darwin Thompson (11%, 4, 1)
Notes: The national media largely chastised the Bills’ defensive approach against the Chiefs in Week 6, when they sold out to stop the pass and accordingly allowed gaping holes to Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the run game. The strategy ultimately didn’t work; the Chiefs defeated the Bills 26-17. Still, Mahomes attempted a season-low 26 pass attempts, and just 8% of his throws were against a box with at least seven defenders in it.
The Chiefs are a smart team; they run the ball against soft boxes and throw the ball when the defense loads up the box. Last week the Jets sold out to stop the run because: I don’t know. Forty-five percent of Mahomes’ pass attempts wound up being against loaded boxes with seven-or-more defenders, and the Chiefs’ first-team offense accordingly threw the ball 42 times in just over three quarters of work.
Neither strategy led to a victory, but it makes sense to try and limit the number of times that Mahomes has the ball in his hands. Just 32% of the Panthers defense’s dropbacks faced have come against boxes featuring seven or more defenders — the fifth-lowest mark in the league.
The Chiefs keep massacring their opponents and entering the fourth quarter with cozy enough leads to take their foot off the gas, but this game *should* feature a bit more of a devotion to the run than we saw last week. Through two games together, Edwards-Helaire has barely out-snapped Bell 43-to-34 during the first three quarters, although the rushing (14 carries vs. 12) as well as the receiving (7 targets vs. 3) usage has leaned a bit more heavily in the rookie’s favor.
CEH won’t be confused as a top-five fantasy option at the position again anytime soon, but better days will be ahead as the lead back of arguably the league’s single-best offense. He remains an auto-start upside RB2. Bell is better approached a low-ceiling RB3 as long as he’s not working as the offense’s clear No. 1 pass-down back.
- RB1: Josh Jacobs (68% snaps, 31 carries, 0 targets)
- RB2: Jalen Richard (20%, 1, 1)
- RB3: Devontae Booker (13%, 5, 1)
Notes: The Raiders leaned heavily on Jacobs in Week 8 with the rain pouring and the wind howling for the entire afternoon. His 33 broken tackles are tied with Dalvin Cook for the fourth-most in the league; the Raiders’ RB1 looks as good with the ball in his hands as ever.
However, Jacobs has been operating as much more of a boom-or-bust RB than his fantasy managers would prefer.
- Week 1: PPR RB1
- Week 2: RB21
- Week 3: RB26
- Week 4: RB28
- Week 5: RB5
- Week 7: RB35
- Week 8: RB18
The entire list of RBs with more touches than Jacobs this season: Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliott. There will never be a matchup that warrants putting Jacobs on the fantasy bench; not even as an early-week joke to give your opponent a false sense of security. This is particularly true against a Chargers defense that could be without all-world DE Joey Bosa (concussion). Jacobs is a top-five option at the position this week.
Neither Richard nor Booker are priority stashes considering the likelihood that they’d form a fairly evenly-split two-back committee if Jacobs is ever forced to miss any time.
- RB1: Justin Jackson (46% snaps, 17 carries, 5 targets)
- RB2: Troymaine Pope (30%, 10, 7)
- RB3: Joshua Kelley (24%, 7, 1)
Notes: Jackson now sits atop a *three* RB committee. The added presence of Pope isn’t good for either Jackson or Kelley, as this situation has essentially added a wild card that is capable of stealing targets and carries form the former and latter back, respectively.
Jackson has racked up 21, 11 and 22 combined carries and targets in three starts since Austin Ekeler (hamstring, IR) went down. This Chargers' offense is legit; they’ve scored 30, 39, 27 and 31 points in their last four games. The lead RB in this sort of high-scoring offense deserves to be locked in as a top-20 option at the position, but the potential for Jackson to gain true weekly RB1 value won’t be good as long as this backfield utilizes three backs.
Kelley is droppable in redraft leagues of all shapes and sizes. Pope was efficient with his touches and had a fun game, but expecting anything close to consistent production from the soon-to-be 27-year-old journeyman is wishful thinking as long as Jackson and Kelley are healthy.
- RB1: Malcolm Brown (59% snaps, 10 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Cam Akers (22%, 9, 1)
- RB3: Darrell Henderson (20%, 8, 2)
Notes: Good grief. Henderson (thigh) left early in Week 8 after continuing to look good with the ball in his hands, leading to Brown and Akers splitting reps the rest of the way.
Akers has truly flashed at points this season and deserves more touches moving forward.
Cam Akers making dudes miss pic.twitter.com/vqa42EYzhX
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 1, 2020
Perhaps we see a post-bye rookie bump; just don’t expect this committee to fully center around a single back without multiple injuries occurring.
- RB1: Myles Gaskin (88% snaps, 18 carries, 6 targets)
- RB2: Matt Breida (17%, 4, 0)
- RB3: Malcolm Perry (15%, 1, 1)
Notes: Gaskin suffered a sprained MCL and is expected to miss three games. That leaves the Dolphins with the following options:
- Breida, who is the most-likely candidate for both early-down and pass-down duties considering he’s been the No. 2 RB all season. He flashed a tantalizing ceiling as both a rusher and receiver at times with the 49ers over the years.
- Perry, who is the Dolphins’ 2020 seventh-round pick and has played seven career snaps.
- Jordan Howard, who has converted 18 carries into 14 yards and three scores this season as the offense’s goal-line back. I expect Howard to again play the short-yardage grinder role with the potential for more early-down work as well.
- Patrick Laird, who injured his ankle in Week 8 and hasn’t been trusted with a rush attempt since 2019.
- DeAndre Washington, who was acquired from the Chiefs in exchange for a conditional 2021 sixth-round pick. He possesses arguably the most three-down ready skill-set of the group, although he’ll need to learn the offense in a hurry to return any immediate value.
- Salvon Ahmed, who is an undrafted free agent that has never played a game.
The Dolphins offense struggled mightily to move the ball in Tua Tagovailoa’s first start, but it’s probably better to wait and see on the entire offense for meow due to 1) the low floor associated with everyone involved due to the projected general lack of scoring, and 2) uncertain workload for rushers and receivers alike with pecking orders all out of sorts.
Gun to my head, gimme Breida, but I don’t think any of these backs are worthy of a desperate FAAB bid and wouldn’t recommend starting any until Week 10 at the earliest.
Notes: Cook showed off all aspects of his game during the Vikings’ 28-22 victory over the Packers, posting 30-163-3 rushing and 2-63-1 receiving lines on his way to picking up overall fantasy RB1 honors on the week.
The Vikings’ stud RB is truly anyone’s idea of a top-five RB with the ball in his hands:
- PFF Rushing Grade: 83.4 (No. 4 among 38 RBs with at least 50 carries)
- Missed forced tackles per rush attempt: 0.24 (No. 4)
- Yards per carry: 5.9 (No. 4)
- Yards after contact per attempt: 3.6 (No. 2)
It’s impossible to rank five RBs ahead of Cook in Week 9 against the Lions’ 31st-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position. Mattison remains a priority handcuff option even if we were a bit overzealous on his projection during Cook’s absence back in Week 6.
- RB1: Rex Burkhead (48% snaps, 6 carries, 1 target)
- RB2: James White (44%, 2, 4)
- RB3: Damien Harris (33%, 16, 0)
Notes: The Patriots are facing off against a Jets defense that generally sells out to stop the run in a token football guy type of way. And yet, they haven’t been all that effective at shutting down backs that have gotten even double-digit carries:
- Melvin Gordon: 23 rushes-107 yards-2 TD
- Kenyan Drake: 18-60-1
- Myles Gaskin: 18-91-0
- Tevin Coleman: 13-12-0
- Jonathan Taylor: 13-59-1
Burkhead and White essentially cancel each other out when both are healthy. Harris is the preferred play this week with a projected game script that should yield 15-plus carries. The second-year back is PFF’s ninth-highest graded back and is averaging a smooth 5.7 yards per carry; just realize tougher matchups are going to produce less-ideal game-script in future weeks that will lead to Harris being more of a fantasy RB3 than RB2.
Notes: Kamara’s receiving production this season has been absolutely absurd:
- Week 1: 5 receptions-51 yards-1 TD (8 targets)
- Week 2: 9-95-0 (9)
- Week 3: 13-139-2 (14)
- Week 4: 3-36-0 (4)
- Week 5: 8-74-0 (10)
- Week 7: 6-85-0 (8)
- Week 8: 9-96-0 (13)
Take away all of Kamara’s rushing production and you would still have the PPR RB5 or WR10. Madness. The overall RB1 is truly a fantasy football cheat code. Overall, only 2000 Marshall Faulk (32.9 PPR points per game), 2002 Priest Holmes (31.5), 2006 LaDainian Tomlinson (30.1), 2001 Faulk (30) and 2019 Christian McCaffrey (29.5) have been more productive than Kamara (28) on a per-game basis at the RB position in the history of the NFL.
Kamara remains the overall RB1 regardless of the matchup. This includes against the Buccaneers’ juggernaut run defense; this sort of receiving role is truly absurd. However, this matchup makes rolling the dice on Latavius Murray a no-go for this week.
- RB1: Wayne Gallman (43% snaps, 12 carries, 1 target)
- RB2: Alfred Morris (29%, 8, 0)
- RB2: Dion Lewis (28%, 0, 2)
Notes: This is a mess with Devonta Freeman (ankle) sidelined. We can deal with two-RB backfields, but this is a three-headed monster in an offense that usually borders on terrible. The Giants actually rank quite favorably in yards before contact per rush, but this is only because of Daniel Jones randomly busting off a few massive runs. Only looking at RB production, the Giants’ average of 0.95 yards before contact per rush ranks 30th among all offenses.
The Football Team’s endless supply of monsters across the defensive front has helped them function as one of just six defenses to allow fewer than 20 PPR points per game to opposing backfields. If Freeman is active, limited snaps are a possibility. If he’s inactive, a three-headed committee awaits. I’m comfortable largely passing on both scenarios in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.
- RB1: La’Mical Perine (50% snaps, 8 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Frank Gore (41%, 10, 0)
- RB3: Ty Johnson (11%, 3, 1)
Notes: Perine is the Jets’ “pass-down” back, but this offense seldom makes a habit of targeting anybody other than whoever happens to be lined up in the slot. Gore isn’t going anywhere, and Johnson’s involvement lowers the ceiling and floor of everyone involved. Perine is a low-end RB3 that should be played behind most decent wide receivers and pretty much any other RB that we can comfortably project for double-digit weekly touches. Throw in a matchup against Bill Belichick and it’s clear this is a good week to stay even farther away from the Jets offense than usual.
- RB1: Boston Scott (66% snaps, 15 carries, 2 targets)
- RB2: Corey Clement (31%, 5, 2)
- RB3: Jason Huntley (3%, 0, 0)
Notes: Sanders (knee) is tentatively expected to be ready to go following the Eagles’ Week 9 bye. He played at least 75% of the offense’s snaps in all four of his non-injury shortened games and will be a top-10 option at the position if active in Week 10 against the Giants. Scott, arguably the league’s most-notable Giant-slayer at this point, would be a top-15 option at the position if Sanders remains sidelined. Sanders’ uncertain health makes dropping Scott during the bye week a gamble, but I wouldn’t put your team in too terrible of a position just to keep his services either.
- RB1: James Conner (94% snaps, 15 carries, 3 targets)
- RB2: Jaylen Samuels (25%, 0, 2)
- RB3: Anthony McFarland (3%, 1, 0)
Notes: Conner has gotten back to playing a true three-down role and is the engine of this less-explosive version of the Steelers offense. He’s set up absolutely brilliantly in Week 9 against the Cowboys’ league-worst defense in yards allowed before contact per rush.
Seriously, the Cowboys have been laughably bad against the run this season. The following backs have all managed to clear 50 yards on the ground against them already in 2020:
- Kenyan Drake: 20 carries-164 rush yards-2 TD
- Antonio Gibson: 20-128-1
- D’Ernest Johnson: 13-95-0
- Malcolm Brown: 18-79-2
- Kareem Hunt: 11-71-2
- Boston Scott: 15-70-0
- Chris Carson: 14-64-0
- Todd Gurley: 21-61-0
- Devonta Freeman: 17-60-1
An injury to Conner would likely result in a muddled three-back committee between Samuels, McFarland and Benny Snell. The latter back would probably be the recommended fantasy option, but none are worthy of a bench spot with this doomsday scenario being extremely volatile.
- RB1: Jerick McKinnon (50% snaps, 3 carries, 4 targets)
- RB2: JaMycal Hasty (41%, 12, 1)
- RB3: Tevin Coleman (9%, 3, 0)
Notes: Coleman (knee) will join Raheem Mostert (knee, IR) and Wilson (ankle, IR) on the sideline in Week 9. Additionally, Deebo Samuel (hamstring), George Kittle (foot) and Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle) are also sidelined. Goodness gracious.
I’ve been hesitant in expecting too much from Hasty, but three injuries later here we are. It’s still tough to expect too much out of the rookie considering the team’s general hesitation on keeping him involved on pass downs and in hurry-up situations. However, 15-plus carries designed by Kyle Shanahan is tough to ignore in fantasy. There’s a low floor here, but Hasty deserves top-30 treatment at the position against the Packers’ league-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing RBs.
McKinnon should probably be ranked in a similar range. Tired legs or not, he stole a goal-line TD from Hasty last week and continues to see the majority of the backfield’s target share. Gimme Hasty over McKinnon heads up; this offense is just incredibly murky at the moment and possesses a lower collective ceiling than we’re used to getting thanks to the plethora of injuries at hand.
Notes: It’s great that Dallas proved he’s capable of handling a three-down workload. Still, we should keep in mind that 1) each of Chris Carson (foot), Carlos Hyde (hamstring) and Homer (knee) were game-time decisions last week, and 2) Dallas failed to pick up even 10 yards on a single touch in 23 opportunities. This isn’t to say the rookie is awful; just don’t expect the Seahawks’ incumbent backups to stay on the bench once healthy.
The Bills have been willing to sell out to stop the pass this season and essentially ignore run-game responsibilities. Carson would be worthy of his usual top-10 treatment if active, while either Hyde or Dallas would be top-20 options if the Seahawks’ starting RB remains sidelined. It seemed like Homer was only active for emergency purposes in Week 8, but either way his lack of involvement is a red flag and we can’t trust him as a realistic fantasy option.
Notes: Jones has essentially been benched twice this season: 1) Week 2 against the Panthers after a botched handoff, and 2) Week 8 against the Giants after dropping/fumbling a deflected target. The third-year back has looked like the best back on the Buccaneers as a pure rusher throughout 2020, but clearly coach Bruce Arians isn’t remains skeptical.
Fournette earned the offense’s “nickel” job in Week 7 and continued to function as the lead pass-down back in Week 8. This sort of role is going to lead to top-15 treatment in the right matchup, although the Saints’ sixth-ranked defense in fewest PPR points per game allowed to opposing RBs might not be the exact sort of smash spot we’re looking for.
Don’t expect RoJo to be tossed aside, but this two-RB backfield is firmly trending in Fournette’s direction. Treat the former back as a boom-or-bust RB3, and the latter as more of a volume-based RB2.
- RB1: Derrick Henry (54% snaps, 18 carries, 0 targets)
- RB2: Jeremy McNichols (36%, 4, 1)
- RB3: D’Onta Foreman (10%, 5, 0)
Notes: It was fun to see Foreman back in action last week, and he made the most out of his limited touches. Still, the reality that Henry still struggles to see even 60% of the offense’s snaps in certain games is maddening. He’s not a game-script dependent back in the sense that the Titans will ever not find a way to feed him the ball; the fifth-year back has at least 15 touches in 29 consecutive games (including playoffs). Still, a positive game script does help matters for one of his token eruption games, something that should be afforded to some extent against the Bears with the Titans sitting pretty as 5.5-point favorites.
Henry only gets stronger as the season goes on; continue to lock him in an upside RB1, even if there’s a fire. Neither McNichols nor Foreman are worthy of bench stashes considering this would likely be a committee of sorts if The Big Dog is ever forced to miss any time.
Washington Football Team (from Week 7)
- RB1: Antonio Gibson (50% snaps, 20 carries, 1 target)
- RB2: J.D. McKissic (50%, 5, 2)
- RB3: Peyton Barber (32%, 10, 0)
Notes: Gibson’s Week 6 breakout 20-128-1 rushing performance didn’t separate him from the pack in Week 7, 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 Weeks 1-7)
- 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 PFF’s second-highest graded RB in rushing. 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. Either way, 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. A true workhorse role would result in a near-weekly RB1 rank.