Arrows Up on Henderson, Swift, Down on Elliott

Nick Mensio
·18 min read



NFL depth charts are always changing, whether it’s due to injuries, coaching decisions, or performance-related issues. The running back position, in particular, can be tough to stay on top of throughout the season, as the vast majority of teams have gone with some sort of committee approach, featuring two and sometimes even three backs.

Below is a breakdown of each team’s backfield to help us determine offenses that are using a single workhorse, committees, and situations to avoid for fantasy. I’ll use this space each week to track the numbers and provide some thoughts.

All snap counts and touches are compiled from Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference. Opportunities refers to the running back’s combined carries and targets.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Notes: Drake hasn’t looked like the same player he did after the trade over from Miami the second half of last season, but he did finally break out this past Monday night against a left-for-dead Dallas defense, turning a season-high 20 carries into 164 yards and a pair of scores. Drake still can’t buy any pass-game action, averaging 1.3 targets per contest. It severely lowers his floor and caps his upside. But Drake is a solid RB2 as long as he keeps out-snapping Edmonds 2:1. Edmonds has RB1 upside if given more work or Drake gets hurt. But averaging eight combined carries and targets per game makes him an extremely low-floor FLEX play.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Notes: Gurley’s getting the volume and seeing RB2 usage as a featured runner. His targets have also ticked up a bit in recent weeks with seven over the last two games. But he is no longer the “MVP”-level talent he was early in his Rams career. Gurley just doesn’t have the juice anymore on his bad knee. His 20 carries against the Vikings in Week 6 were the second-most he’s seen through six weeks, but Gurley averaged a pitiful 2.35 YPC. Hill has settled in as Gurley’s top backup. Gurley gets tasty dates with the Lions and Panthers up next.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Notes: Ingram played just 12% of the Ravens’ Week 6 snaps due to an ankle injury. The good news for him is the Ravens now have their bye, giving Ingram a chance to not miss any games. In his absence, Edwards led the Ravens with 14 carries, playing 44% of the snaps, and scored his first touchdown. Dobbins was in on 41% of the plays and handled a season-high nine carries. This rushing attack would be so much more attractive if it were a two-man RBBC rather than a three-man rotation. When all three are seeing snaps, none are more than RB4 plays. But if Ingram misses time with his ankle sprain, Edwards and Dobbins are very attractive RB2 adds.

BUFFALO BILLS

Notes: Moss returned from his toe issue Monday night against the Chiefs, but Singletary still out-snapped him 75% to 25% and handled 12 combined carries and targets to Moss’ five. Perhaps the Bills were easing Moss back in, but Singletary played so well in the three weeks without Moss that he might have earned more of the snap share over the rookie moving forward. Still, Singletary doesn’t have a high touchdown floor thanks to Josh Allen operating as the Bills’ true goal-line runner. Singletary is a volume-based RB2. Moss is an RB3/FLEX.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Notes: Davis is the overall RB4 in half-PPR behind Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, and Dalvin Cook since taking over as the starter in Week 3 following Christian McCaffrey’s (ankle, IR) injury. He’s seen 22, 22, 26, and 21 combined carries and targets in the four contests while playing 76%, 71%, 83%, and a season-high 88% of the snaps last week. This backfield is all his until McCaffrey returns. The Panthers have been noncommittal on CMC’s return date, but he’s eligible to return as soon as this week. Davis has just been so good in his absence.

CHICAGO BEARS

Notes: Montgomery has played 85%, 81%, and 85% of the snaps in the three games since Tarik Cohen tore his ACL, seeing 19 targets in that span. The bad news is Montgomery has failed to produce anything of note in the box score with a combined 39-114-1 (2.92 YPC) rushing line across three contests with 14-99-0 receiving. Montgomery is still someone I’d actively be looking to buy in fantasy, seeing RB1 usage in a run-first offense.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Notes: Mixon’s snaps are way up over the last month, and he’s seen a total of 84 combined carries and targets over the Bengals’ last three. He’s seeing extreme RB1 usage and is a top-10 back to own alone on that. Mixon did leave Week 6 for a bit with an injury, allowing Bernard to play a season-high 48% of the snaps and score a touchdown, but Mixon did return for the second half. Mixon gets the Browns, Titans, and Steelers over his next three games.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

  • Kareem Hunt (48%, 101 opportunities)

  • D’Ernest Johnson (16%, 28)

Notes: After playing 70% of the snaps in Week 5 in the first game sans Nick Chubb (knee, I.R.), Hunt was in on just 53% of the downs this past Sunday against the Steelers. The Browns getting destroyed by 31 points is the main reason for that. He’s handled 40 combined carries and targets over the last two weeks and is an RB1 for however long Chubb is out. Johnson got in on 30% of the downs each of the last two games but doesn’t have standalone fantasy value.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Notes: Zeke had a brutal Week 6 on Monday night against Arizona, losing two more fumbles, upping his season total to four. He entered 2020 with five lost fumbles in his career. Elliott’s 61% snap rate was also by far his lowest of the season, though the blowout loss likely had a lot to do with it, though it’s worth noting the Cowboys did give Zeke a series off after his second fumble. It helped Pollard see a season-high 10 carries and four targets. Zeke remains an RB1, but this offensive line has been totally ravaged by injuries, and the offense is so stale without Dak Prescott (ankle) under center. This is going to be a trying final 10 weeks for Elliott.

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DENVER BRONCOS

Notes: Gordon missed Week 6 against the Patriots with strep throat after getting arrested for DUI earlier in the week. In his absence, Lindsay played 62% of the snaps and handled 23 carries, turning them into 101 yards in his first game back from turf toe. At the very least, Lindsay has earned himself 1B status again alongside Gordon, though Gordon could face discipline for his arrest. Freeman will go back to the bench when both backs ahead of him are healthy. In a bad offense, Gordon and Lindsay are both RB3 options when both are active.

DETROIT LIONS

Notes: Peterson has emerged as the early-down starter and rushing attempts leader over the past few weeks, and Swift has settled in as the third-down back and pass-game specialist. Johnson is still seeing enough to be a thorn in the side of Peterson and Swift, but Swift actually led this backfield in playing time (38%) against the Jaguars while Peterson played a three week-low 35% of the downs. Swift handled a season-high 14 carries against Jacksonville, more than doubling his previous high, and looked explosive with 116 yards and two scores on the ground. Swift has evolved into an every-week RB3/FLEX, and Peterson is an extremely TD-dependent FLEX. Swift has the most upside here and has earned even more playing time. Whether or not the Lions give it to him is a whole different story. The Falcons are up next.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Notes: Jones is one of the most efficient running backs in the league. While he splits snaps with Williams, he still gets insane usage and scores at an incredible clip, again finding the end zone Week 6 against the Bucs despite the Packers getting blown out and Jones only handling 10 carries for 15 yards. Williams is an elite backup in the event Jones ever goes down.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Notes: David is seeing RB2 usage but isn’t quite seeing workhorse action with Duke cutting into his pass-game work, siphoning seven targets in the three games he’s been back from an ankle injury. Interim coach Romeo Crennel suggested Duke could play even more moving forward, but that wasn’t the case in Week 6 where Duke played just 26% of the downs and David handled a season-high 19 carries. David gets the Packers this week before the Texans’ bye.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Notes: After touching the ball 28 times in Week 2, the first game without Marlon Mack (Achilles’), Taylor has averaged just 15.5 touches over the last four weeks. However, he did play a four week-high 55% of the snaps in Week 6 against the Bengals and posted 105 total yards on 16 touches. Hines has steadily played roughly a third of the downs. At least Wilkins (4% and 6% of the snaps Weeks 5 and 6) has been removed from the game plan and is only an insurance option should Taylor ever get injured. Taylor has a bye before Week 8 against Detroit.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

  • James Robinson (61% snap rate, 111 opportunities)

  • Chris Thompson (35%, 25)

Notes: Despite the Jaguars getting blasted by the Lions in Week 6, Robinson’s 69% snap rate was his second-highest of the season. His 12 carries, however, were his second-fewest, but he made up for it by catching all four of his targets and scored a touchdown via the air. He’s a legitimate back-end RB1 seeing five targets per game over the last five weeks.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Notes: Edwards-Helaire simply can't buy a touchdown and had a short receiving score called back on a Travis Kelce penalty versus Vegas in Week 5 and then lost a rushing score on another penalty this last Monday night in Buffalo. CEH is due for major positive regression in the touchdown department, but the Chiefs signed Le’Veon Bell last week and will insert him into the lineup this week against Denver. Reports are the Chiefs still view CEH as their primary back, but it’s hard to spin the Bell signing as anything positive for Edwards-Helaire. He likely goes from RB1 to RB2 status, knocking him down a couple tiers. He still plays with Patrick Mahomes.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Notes: The Raiders are coming off their bye week. Jacobs is averaging 3.5 targets and 15.5 yards through the air over the last four contests. Booker and Richard are seeing just enough action to lower Jacobs’ floor and somewhat cap his upside. He’s still a top-10 fantasy back who sees the money touches at the goal line in the Raiders’ offense.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Notes: The Chargers are coming off their bye week. In the first game without Austin Ekeler (hamstring, IR) in Week 5, it was Jackson who played 59% of the snaps to Kelley’s 35% clip and out-touched the rookie 20-12 while seeing six targets to Kelley’s one. Jackson looked like the far superior player against the Saints. Health has just always been his question mark. Jackson is the back to own with the Bolts returning from their bye.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Notes: Henderson played a season-high 53% of the snaps last Sunday night against the 49ers, and Akers was in on just one snap. If we’re to read into it, that sounds like the Rams have settled on a one-two combo of Henderson and Brown with second-rounder Akers merely insurance. It would definitely raise the floor and make Henderson a much safer week-to-week proposition as a high-end RB2 in the NFC’s run-heaviest offense. Brown is the steady veteran.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Notes: Gaskin has played at least 63% of the Dolphins’ snaps in all six games and handled at least 21 touches for the third time in four weeks last Sunday against the Jets with Jordan Howard healthy-scratched in back-to-back games. The Dolphins appear to have (hopefully) settled on Gaskin-Breida as their one-two tandem, and Gaskin punched in a short score against San Francisco two weeks after Howard was the guy stealing all of the goal-line looks previously. And he’s now coming off his first 100-yard game. Gaskin is an RB2 in a streaky offense.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Notes: Cook is making the most of his limited inside-the-10 looks and was leading the league in rushing touchdowns and yards on the ground through Week 5. His previously heavy pass-game usage has dried up a bit with just 3.2 targets per game. A groin injury suffered Sunday night in Week 5 left Mattison as the No. 1 back in Week 6 against Atlanta. But Mattison played just 48% of the snaps and handled only 10 opportunities in the Vikings’ blowout loss. Ameer Abdullah was in on 29% of the snaps. Cook now gets the bye to get his groin right for Week 8.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Notes: Sony Michel has been sent to I.R., and Harris was activated from the list in time for Week 4 against the Chiefs. Over the last two games, White has played over 50% of the snaps with Burkhead dipping to roughly a third of the action and Harris below that. After handling 17 carries against K.C., he took the rock just six times versus Denver. This looks like a backfield to totally avoid for fantasy with Cam Newton operating as the true goal-line back.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Notes: The Saints are coming off their bye. Kamara is averaging just 12.2 carries per game but is on pace for a career-high 144 targets and 121 catches. Murray is seeing enough (10.4 carries per game) to eat into Kamara’s rushing work. Kamara remains an elite RB1 with at least 100 yards in four straight contests. Murray is a top-end RB4 with RB1 upside if Kamara goes down.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Notes: After Freeman played exactly 54% of the snaps in back-to-back games Weeks 4 and 5, he was in on 73% of the action in a 20-19 win over Washington in a game the Giants controlled. He’s averaging 20 combined carries and targets over the last three weeks since taking over as the lead back. Freeman is averaging a disgusting 3.2 YPC, but the usage is there as an RB2. The Giants will not be leading many games going forward, though.

NEW YORK JETS

Notes: The Jets released Le’Veon Bell last week after he played 67% of the snaps and handled 14 touches in his Week 5 return from hamstring pulls. This offense is putrid. But in the first game without Bell, Perine played 58% of the snaps to Gore’s 35%, but Gore out-carried the rookie 11-7. Perine is expected to see more and more action moving forward in a lost season, but Gore is still just a pain in the butt. Perine needs to be added in 12-team leagues.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Notes: Sanders played a season-best 85% of the Eagles’ snaps Week 5 against the Steelers, turning 13 touches into 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Not many running backs have the elite snap share of Sanders, but now he’s dealing with a knee issue that is expected to sideline him this week against the Giants. Boston Scott and Corey Clement will likely split the duties. Scott out-snapped Clement 49% to 10% last week after Sanders was injured.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Notes: The Steelers’ bellcow, Conner has scored in four straight games after leaving Week 1 early with an injury. It genuinely looked like he might lose his job to Benny Snell, but the Steelers have leaned on Conner during their 5-0 start. He’s seeing RB1 usage. Snell, Jaylen Samuels, and Anthony McFarland follow Conner on the depth chart in that order.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Notes: Raheem Mostert is again injured and is expected to head to I.R. with a high-ankle sprain. If so, he’ll be out for at least three weeks. Tevin Coleman (knee) is also still on I.R. McKinnon played 92% of the snaps in Week 4 when both Mostert and Coleman were out. He’ll be on the RB2 map for however long both backs are out. Wilson and Hasty will fight for scraps and some early-down and/or goal-line work. Both should be added in fantasy, but we likely need a week to see how things shake out behind McKinnon before starting them.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Notes: Seattle is coming off its bye. Carson’s catch numbers are way up, but his carry numbers are way down this season with the Seahawks shifting to more pass-happy tendencies. He’s still seeing RB1 usage as the clear No. 1 back. Homer has taken over as the pass-game COP back. Hyde has missed two straight games to injury but is Carson’s direct backup.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Notes: Jones has been outstanding the last three games with Fournette out with an injury. Jones has turned in 20-111, 17-106, and 23-113-2 rushing lines with a combined 11-48 receiving line on 16 targets. He’s played 64%, 69%, and 57% of the snaps in those three games. Coach Bruce Arians has praised Jones’ play, suggesting he’ll continue to have a leg up on Fournette. But it’s very doubtful Jones’ leash will be long despite three straight 100-yard outings. Vaughn has surpassed LeSean McCoy as Tom Brady’s new James White.

TENNESSEE TITANS

Notes: Henry has one of the safest workloads in football, dominating the Titans’ snaps and touches and is coming off a truly dominant 22-212-2 performance against the Texans while also posting a season-best 52 receiving yards. He’s a top-three fantasy back moving forward after scoring six rushing touchdowns the last three weeks against the Vikings, Bills, and Texans.

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

Notes: Gibson out-carried McKissic just 9-8 this past week against the Giants while McKissic out-snapped him 53% to 37% and out-targeted the rookie 6-5. In a bad offense, it’s hard to really trust either back as anything more than an RB3. Barber stole five combined carries and targets on a three week-high 11% of the snaps in a close game.