Fantasy Football: What we've learned from the RB position for Week 3

·11 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 some key backfields 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.

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CHICAGO BEARS

  • David Montgomery (Week 1: 66 percent snaps, 21 opportunities; Week 2: 80% snaps, 17 opportunities)

  • Khalil Herbert (Week 1: 29% snaps, 10 opportunities; Week 2: 20% snaps, 5 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Justin Fields (5), Montgomery (4), Herbert (3)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Fields (2), Herbert (2)

Pass Routes: Montgomery (25), Herbert (8)

Notes: Chicago is by far the NFL's most run-heavy team through two weeks. The Week 1 monsoon played a part in that, but Justin Fields then only attempted 11 passes at Green Bay in Week 2 despite playing from behind all night. Montgomery was written off a bit over the summer, but he's averaging 16 carries and three targets per game as a rock-solid volume-based RB2, even if Herbert and Fields have the goal-line touchdowns after two contests. Herbert remains one of the premier handcuffs as a must-stash on fantasy benches.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

  • Kareem Hunt (Week 1: 56% snaps, 15 opportunities; Week 2: 46% snaps, 15 opportunities)

  • Nick Chubb (Week 1: 52% snaps, 23 opportunities; Week 2: 54% snaps, 20 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Chubb (8), Hunt (6)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Chubb (2)

Pass Routes: Hunt (34), Chubb (25)

Notes: Hunt had the multi-touchdown performance in Week 1, but Week 2 was Chubb's turn, finishing with three scores on the ground. Both backs are capable of RB1 outputs every week in the Browns' extreme run-centric offense with Jacoby Brissett under center through Week 12. Chubb is currently fantasy's overall RB1, and Hunt is RB8. Both are every-week starters.

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DALLAS COWBOYS

  • Ezekiel Elliott (Week 1: 58% snaps, 12 opportunities; Week 2: 67% snaps, 17 opportunities)

  • Tony Pollard (Week 1: 55% snaps, 8 opportunities; Week 2: 39% snaps, 16 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Pollard (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Pollard (1)

Pass Routes: Elliott (37), Pollard (28)

Notes: The Cowboys pulled off the upset of the Bengals in Week 2 with Cooper Rush under center, but even playing with a lead all day couldn't propel Elliott to fantasy usefulness. Despite running more routes than Pollard through two weeks, Elliott has two catches for -7 yards. Pollard got the goal-line look against Cincinnati and punched it in for a touchdown. Pollard is fantasy's RB21, and Elliott is all the way down at RB47. Zeke players should be very concerned.

Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys hasn't done much on the fantasy end
It's been a slow start to the fantasy season for Ezekiel Elliott in 2022. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

DENVER BRONCOS

  • Javonte Williams (Week 1: 58% snaps, 19 opportunities; Week 2: 65% snaps, 19 opportunities)

  • Melvin Gordon (Week 1: 41% snaps, 14 opportunities; Week 2: 32% snaps, 11 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Gordon (2), Williams (2)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Gordon (2), Williams (1)

Pass Routes: Williams (48), Gordon (22)

Notes: Williams continues to distance himself as the clear No. 1 back in Denver, leading the duo in carries and targets while also seeing the majority of the snaps in goal-line, short-yardage and passing situations. Williams has yet to find the end zone with the Broncos struggling badly in the red zone as a whole, but the RB1 usage is certainly there.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

  • Aaron Jones (Week 1: 61% snaps, 10 opportunities; Week 2: 59% snaps, 18 opportunities)

  • AJ Dillon (Week 1: 51% snaps, 16 opportunities; Week 2: 57% snaps, 21 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Dillon (4), Jones (3)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Dillon (2)

Pass Routes: Jones (46), Dillon (31)

Notes: Following his Week 1 dud, Jones was the centerpiece of the Week 2 win over the Bears, turning in the overall RB2 week. He actually leads the team in pass routes through two weeks, and the Packers are doing a great job of getting both Jones and Dillon on the field together. Dillon was actually lead-blocking on one of Jones' two scores in Week 2. Both are top-15 fantasy backs through two games and will continue to be the focal points on offense.

HOUSTON TEXANS

  • Rex Burkhead (Week 1: 71% snaps, 22 opportunities; Week 2: 37% snaps, 3 opportunities)

  • Dameon Pierce (Week 1: 29% snaps, 12 opportunities; Week 2: 62% snaps, 16 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Pierce (3)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Pierce (1)

Pass Routes: Burkhead (45), Pierce (20)

Notes: After a head-scratching Week 1 backfield split that heavily favored Burkhead, the coaches corrected their mistake and let Pierce carry the mail against the Broncos. He out-carried Burkhead 15-0 as the early-down grinder. Burkhead is still the favorite on third downs and in two-minute situations. Pierce is going to be a weekly TD-or-bust RB2 type.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

  • Travis Etienne (Week 1: 51% snaps, 8 opportunities; Week 2: 37% snaps, 12 opportunities)

  • James Robinson (Week 1: 49% snaps, 13 opportunities; Week 2: 63% snaps, 25 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Robinson (5), Trevor Lawrence (3), Etienne (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Robinson (1)

Pass Routes: Etienne (36), Robinson (31)

Notes: The Jaguars steamrolling the Colts 24-0 in Week 2 certainly paved the way for game script to swing heavily in Robinson's favor. He didn't look explosive and wasn't efficient, averaging 2.78 YPC, but Robinson did find the end zone and is clearly the favorite for the money carries at the goal line in Jacksonville. Etienne will have better days when the Jaguars are projected to play from behind, but it's not a fun week-to-week fantasy situation. Robinson is the current RB6, and Etienne is pretty far behind at RB36. Things might be different if Etienne hadn't dropped an easy touchdown in Week 1.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Week 1: 39% snaps, 10 opportunities; Week 2: 44% snaps, 12 opportunities)

  • Jerick McKinnon (Week 1: 39% snaps, 8 opportunities; Week 2: 47% snaps, 6 opportunities)

  • Isiah Pacheco (Week 1: 23% snaps, 12 opportunities; Week 2: 9% snaps, 2 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: McKinnon (2), Pacheco (2)

Inside-The-Five Carries: McKinnon (1), Pacheco (1)

Pass Routes: McKinnon (31), Edwards-Helaire (27)

Notes: Pacheco's Week 1 box score was obviously inflated by his garbage-time carries, and I personally saw fantasy normies starting him in Week 2 lineups. It clearly didn't work out. CEH is the man on early downs in Kansas City with McKinnon the preferred pass-game and two-minute option. McKinnon caught a short touchdown in Week 2, and CEH went over 100 total yards after his two-TD opener. He's fantasy's overall RB5 in one of the league's premier offenses. Pacheco is nothing more than a bench stash. I dropped him in one league for 49ers RB Jordan Mason (more on him later).

Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25)
CEH has had a great start to the fantasy season thus far. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES RAMS

  • Darrell Henderson (Week 1: 82% snaps, 18 opportunities; Week 2: 56% snaps, 10 opportunities)

  • Cam Akers (Week 1: 18% snaps, 3 opportunities; Week 2: 43% snaps, 18 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Henderson (5), Akers (3)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Henderson (59), Akers (18)

Notes: Henderson dominated the snaps in Week 1, but the Rams got Akers back involved in Week 2, going back to their two-man committee approach. Akers edged out Henderson on early downs against the Falcons, but Henderson was the preferred pass-game option, though Akers saw the targets' edge in the box score while Henderson scored the short touchdown on the ground. The Rams know Henderson's body can't handle workhorse duties. Akers looks toast since his Achilles' injury, but this timeshare leaves both as back-end RB2 options.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

  • Chase Edmonds (Week 1: 63% snaps, 16 opportunities; Week 2: 51% snaps, 8 opportunities)

  • Raheem Mostert (Week 1: 42% snaps, 6 opportunities; Week 2: 55% snaps, 14 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Tua Tagovailoa (2), Mostert (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Edmonds (45), Mostert (37)

Notes: Edmonds looked like one of the big winners from Week 1. But the Dolphins flipped the script in Week 2, getting Mostert more involved both on early downs and in passing situations, and that was with Miami chasing points on the scoreboard most of the afternoon. Mostert is now someone who needs to be rostered in 12-team leagues. This backfield has the potential to be a weekly fantasy headache. Edmonds is the better talent, but talent doesn't always win out.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

  • Damien Harris (Week 1: 39% snaps, 12 opportunities; Week 2: 40% snaps, 17 opportunities)

  • Ty Montgomery (Week 1: 37% snaps, 6 opportunities; Week 2: DNP)

  • Rhamondre Stevenson (Week 1: 25% snaps, 10 opportunities; Week 2: 62% snaps, 11 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Mac Jones (3), Harris (2)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Harris (1)

Pass Routes: Stevenson (28), Harris (19), Montgomery (11)

Notes: Montgomery was placed on IR ahead of Week 2. In his absence, the Patriots simply rotated Harris and Stevenson on a drive-by-drive basis against the Steelers. Harris found the end zone but did injure his knee on the final offensive play of the game. It's a situation to monitor closely in practice this week. If Harris would ever have to miss time, Stevenson would be an easy RB1 play.

NEW YORK JETS

  • Michael Carter (Week 1: 60% snaps, 19 opportunities; Week 2: 61% snaps, 12 opportunities)

  • Breece Hall (Week 1: 45% snaps, 16 opportunities, Week 2: 27% snaps, 8 opportunities)

  • Ty Johnson (Week 1: DNP; Week 2: 19% snaps, 3 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Carter (1), Hall (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Carter (51), Hall (33), Johnson (10)

Notes: The Jets' two-man committee became a three-man one in Week 2 with Johnson entering the playing-time mix as the third-down specialist while also seeing work in two-minute situations. Carter held the targets' edge over Hall, 5-1, but Hall's one target resulted in a short touchdown, and both backs saw seven carries apiece. We don't like three-man backfield committees for fantasy, and we especially don't like them in bad offenses like this one.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

  • Miles Sanders (Week 1: 52% snaps, 15 opportunities; Week 2: 53% snaps, 20 opportunities)

  • Kenneth Gainwell (Week 1: 30% snaps, 9 opportunities; Week 2: 26% snaps, 4 opportunities)

  • Boston Scott (Week 1: 18% snaps, 4 opportunities; Week 2: 21% snaps, 5 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Jalen Hurts (5), Sanders (3), Gainwell (2), Scott (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Hurts (3), Sanders (2), Gainwell (1), Scott (1)

Pass Routes: Sanders (32), Gainwell (22), Scott (16)

Notes: The Eagles look like Super Bowl contenders through two weeks and have the NFL's easiest remaining schedule. Fantasy's overall RB11 after two games, Sanders is a locked-in RB2 as the lead back in Philly's hyper-efficient rushing attack. Even if Hurts is stealing a lot of the goal-line looks and 10 carries per game, Sanders' volume is valuable. Philly is favored in 13 of its remaining 15 contests. Sanders is a comfortable fantasy start every week.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

  • Eli Mitchell (Week 1: 25% snaps, 6 opportunities; Week 2: DNP)

  • Jeff Wilson (Week 1: 59% snaps, 11 opportunities; Week 2: 49% snaps, 20 opportunities)

  • Tyrion Davis-Price (Week 1: DNP; Week 2: 39% snaps, 14 opportunities)

Red-Zone Carries: Wilson (5), Jimmy Garoppolo (4), Deebo Samuel (3), Kyle Juszczyk (2), Davis-Price (2), Mitchell (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Garoppolo (3), Wilson (2), Juszczyk (2), Samuel (1), Davis-Price (1)

Pass Routes: Wilson (27)

Notes: Mitchell (knee) and Davis-Price (ankle) are already injured, and starting QB Trey Lance (ankle) is done for the year. The Niners have been rocked by injuries, leaving Wilson atop the backfield depth chart, Deebo Samuel as a change of pace, and rookie UDFA Jordan Mason as the next man up for carries behind them. Marlon Mack was elevated from the practice squad. Mason should be added everywhere he's available after his big preseason pushed Trey Sermon off the roster.

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