Running Back Usage Report: Week 2

·24 min read



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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.

With one week under our belt, we now have some data to help clear some things up for us. 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

Red-Zone Carries: Conner (3)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Conner (1)

Pass Routes: Conner (27), Benjamin (12)

Notes: Arizona was getting its doors blown off by the Chiefs much of the afternoon in Week 1. Therefore, lead back Conner saw just 10 carries but was able to punch in a goal-line score from two yards out in the second quarter. Benjamin didn't see any real action until late in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand. Conner's role is about as secure as any back in the league.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Red-Zone Carries: Patterson (3), Marcus Mariota (3)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Patterson (19)

Notes: Rookie RB Tyler Allgeier was a healthy Week 1 scratch, and Damien Williams left in the first half with a rib injury. That left CB-turned-RB Avery Williams as Patterson's only backup. It allowed Patterson to truly dominate touches with the Falcons playing most of the day with a lead, only to finally blow it late in the fourth. Patterson's 120 yards on the ground were a new career best, and he capitalized on a goal-line run for a touchdown. The Falcons don't want to run Patterson into the ground at 31 years old, and it would be shocking to see this type of workload consistently, considering the Falcons are unlikely to play with many leads this season. Patterson makes sense as a sell-high candidate coming off a top-five fantasy week.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Red-Zone Carries: Drake (2), Lamar Jackson (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Drake (15), Hill (9)

Notes: Dobbins still wasn't ready for game action in his return from ACL surgery. Drake out-carried Hill and Davis 11-2-2, with Hill holding the narrow edge in targets 2-1, though Drake ran 15 routes to Hill's nine. Dobbins is still the only one worth rostering in fantasy.

BUFFALO BILLS

Red-Zone Carries: Josh Allen (2)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Allen (1)

Pass Routes: Singletary (18), Moss (14)

Notes: Singletary out-carried Moss 8-6 while rookie Cook's only carry resulted in a lost fumble. He was benched for the rest of the night. Moss had the target edge over Singletary 6-2, but Singletary ran 18 routes to Moss's 14 against the Rams. Josh Allen handled five carries and led the Bills in rushing with 56 yards and the lone touchdown on the ground. Allen was the ball carrier on the Bills' only two red-zone rushing attempts. He's both the Bills' QB1 and RB1.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Red-Zone Carries: McCaffrey (4), Baker Mayfield (2)

Inside-The-Five Carries: McCaffrey (1)

Pass Routes: McCaffrey (24)

Notes: The Panthers ran just 53 offensive plays in the Week 1 loss to the Browns. Foreman and Chuba Hubbard were non-factors. CMC ran 24 routes on 33 Baker Mayfield drop-backs but saw just four targets, tying for second on the team with D.J. Moore behind Robbie Anderson's seven. McCaffrey did handle four red-zone carries and converted his lone goal-line look for a one-yard score. The counting stats weren't great, but the elite usage is still there for McCaffrey.

CHICAGO BEARS

Red-Zone Carries: Herbert (3), Justin Fields (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Herbert (2)

Pass Routes: Montgomery (14), Herbert (4)

Notes: Montgomery out-carried Herbert 17-9 but averaged just 1.5 YPC to Herbert's efficient 5.0 mark while Herbert also received the money looks at the goal line, converting a three-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Montgomery actually led the Bears in receiving with three catches on a team-high four targets and was the only Chicago player to catch more than one pass on eight Justin Fields completions. Montgomery's lead-back role already looked a bit worrisome during the summer, and Herbert closed the gap even more in Week 1. Herbert needs to be added in all leagues where he's available.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Red-Zone Carries: Mixon (4), Joe Burrow (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Mixon (3), Burrow (1)

Pass Routes: Mixon (38), Perine (21)

Notes: The Bengals ran a Week 1-high 100 offensive plays in their overtime thriller against the Steelers. With Tee Higgins concussed early, Mixon's nine targets were good for second on the team to Ja'Marr Chase's 16. Mixon has an elite RB1 workload, and it's evident Perine is still his direct backup, as Chris Evans didn't see the field against Pittsburgh.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Red-Zone Carries: Hunt (4), Chubb (2)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Hunt (22), Chubb (10)

Notes: Hunt narrowly out-snapped Chubb against the Panthers and actually caught 1- and 24-yard touchdowns to stake the Browns to a 14-0 lead. Coming into the season, we knew Cleveland was going to want to lean on its RB duo with Jacoby Brissett under center for the first 11 games. Both Hunt and Chubb are rock-solid top-20 fantasy running backs every week.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Red-Zone Carries: N/A

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Elliott (18), Pollard (15)

Notes: The Cowboys didn't even sniff the red zone in their 19-3 loss to the Bucs Sunday night, and now Dak Prescott is out 4-8 weeks with a broken thumb. Cooper Rush will take over under center. In theory, the Cowboys will want to lean even more on Elliott, but the scoreboard could change those plans quickly each week. Elliott needs to be downgraded to a TD-dependent RB2 in the Josh Jacobs mold, and Pollard is a shaky FLEX. All Cowboys should be downgraded.

DENVER BRONCOS

Red-Zone Carries: Gordon (2), Williams (1)

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

Pass Routes: Williams (28), Gordon (13)

Notes: Gordon out-carriEd Williams 12-7 in Week 1, and Gordon was the first one up for goal-line work. Gordon fumbled on the play, and Williams got the next look from the one-yard line and fumbled it away, too. Just brutal, untimely fumbles from both backs. Williams was able to save his fantasy night with a team-high and career-best 12 targets, turning them into an 11-65 receiving line. From the early looks of things, Williams is first-time coach Nathaniel Hackett's new Aaron Jones, and Gordon is the AJ Dillon complement. Williams has the RB1 upside, but Gordon is going to get work and will be a usable RB3/FLEX most weeks.

DETROIT LIONS

Red-Zone Carries: Williams (6), Swift (2)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Williams (2)

Pass Routes: Swift (25), Williams (10)

Notes: Swift broke off a number of long runs against the Eagles in Week 1, averaging an astronomical 9.6 YPC, but he was stopped short of the goal line on a couple of those and came off the field in favor of Williams. The veteran actually tied Jonathan Taylor for the NFL lead with six red-zone carries in Week 1, and Williams was able to punch in both of his inside-the-five looks for touchdowns. Swift was able to score from seven yards out, finishing with a 15-144-1 rushing line and 3-31 through the air. We got a look at the upside that made Swift a first-round fantasy pick. Williams should also be rostered in 12-team leagues as a weekly RB3/FLEX.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Red-Zone Carries: Dillon (2), Jones (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Dillon (2)

Pass Routes: Jones (28), Dillon (16)

Notes: In their first game following the offseason trade of alpha WR1 Davante Adams, the Packers were also without new default WR1 Allen Lazard due to an ankle injury. We knew coming into the year that Green Bay was going to want to lean on its RB duo, but it was Dillon who actually out-carried Jones 10-5 and had the slight edge in targets 6-5 while also receiving both rushing chances at the goal line, converting a two-yard touchdown. Jones' fantasy players can at least hang their hat on Jones having the edge in routes. He should see five-plus targets most weeks, but the gap between Jones and Dillon is narrower than we previously thought.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Red-Zone Carries: N/A

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Burkhead (25), Pierce (5)

Notes: Pierce got the start Week 1 against the Colts and played the first few snaps, but the coaching staff quickly dove into the Burkhead section of the playbook and mostly abandoned Pierce for some reason. This game ended in a 20-20 tie, and Houston actually played most of the game with a substantial lead, so we can't blame it on the Texans chasing points. Head coach Lovie Smith said he intended for Pierce to play more, but it's telling just how much they trust Burkhead to do all the little things better. Burkhead out-targeted Pierce 8-1 and now needs to be added and rostered in all formats. This was the fear for Pierce players coming into Week 1 despite the Texans releasing Marlon Mack at 53-man roster cuts.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Red-Zone Carries: Taylor (6), Hines (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Taylor (1), Hines (1)

Pass Routes: Taylor (34), Hines (22)

Notes: This is why Taylor was a top-two fantasy pick. He dominated snaps, touches, and even ran more pass routes than Hines in Week 1, with each seeing six targets. Taylor also converted his goal-line look for a touchdown while Hines was blown up for a two-yard loss on his attempt. Even with the Colts chasing points most of the day, Taylor was the backbone of the offense.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Red-Zone Carries: Robinson (2), Trevor Lawrence (2)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Robinson (1)

Pass Routes: Etienne (22), Robinson (15)

Notes: Etienne out-targeted Robinson 4-2 and really could've had a couple of touchdown catches on his stat line if not for Trevor Lawrence overthrowing him early in the game. Robinson is only nine months removed from a torn Achilles' but averaged a healthy 6.0 YPC on 11 totes and pounded in a three-yard touchdown. While we knew Robinson was going to have a role alongside Etienne, we didn't realize it was going to be this much of a 50-50 snap split. Etienne may not be able to hit that RB1 upside and is probably more of a back-end RB2 at this point. Robinson has stand-alone RB2 value of his own on a more competitive Jaguars team.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Red-Zone Carries: Pacheco (2)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Pacheco (1)

Pass Routes: McKinnon (17), Edwards-Helaire (13)

Notes: Box-score fantasy players will look at Pacheco and see he led the team with 12 carries and punched in a late three-yard touchdown, but Pacheco saw all of his work in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs were obliterating the Cardinals. It was CEH getting the money looks with the Patrick Mahomes group that helped build the big lead. Edwards-Helaire caught all three of his targets, and turned two of them into three- and four-yard touchdown catches. Edwards-Helaire was one of the biggest winners of Week 1 as the unquestioned RB1 in one of the league's best offenses. Pacheco is merely an end-of-bench fantasy stash still.

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LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Red-Zone Carries: Jacobs (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Jacobs (1)

Pass Routes: Jacobs (17), Bolden (11), Abdullah (6)

Notes: Zamir White was active but didn't see the field in Week 1, and fellow rookie RB Brittain Brown was inactive. Jacobs losing his job was probably overblown during the offseason, but he's still very TD-dependent and was slammed for a one-yard loss on his lone goal-line look against the Chargers. It was Bolden who was the preferred pass-down back, but he exited early with a hamstring injury. Abdullah was hyped as a “James White role” type during the summer but saw just one target, failing to catch it. Jacobs looks like a reliable, if uninspiring, RB2.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Red-Zone Carries: Michel (1), Justin Herbert (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Ekeler (13), Kelley (10)

Notes: Ekeler played 65% of the snaps last season, but the Chargers have long been searching for a capable RB2 to take some of the load off Ekeler. They used three backs pretty prominently in Week 1, and Ekeler only saw four targets while averaging 2.57 YPC on the ground. It's a bit of a concern after Ekeler was a first-round fantasy pick over the summer. We don't like seeing our running backs involved in three-man committees. Hopefully one of Michel or Kelley will get weeded out in the near future, but Ekeler still has immense upside in one of the league's best offenses. Ekeler drafters are likely wishing they picked D'Andre Swift over him right now.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Red-Zone Carries: Henderson (2)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Henderson (39)

Notes: Zero-RB drafters got their first win of the season on opening night with Henderson opening as the Rams' clear lead back over Akers. Henderson out-carried Akers 13-3 and out-targeted him 3-0, as Akers didn't run a single pass route against the Bills and gained zero yards on his three rushing attempts. Akers just hasn't looked any good since tearing his Achilles' in August 2021. Henderson has always played reasonably well when healthy, but staying healthy has been his downfall. For now, Henderson looks like an RB2 with RB1 upside, and Akers is little more than a bench stash. Coach Sean McVay said after the Week 1 loss that Akers needs to start playing with more urgency. This is Henderson's job to lose.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

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

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Edmonds (21), Mostert (13)

Notes: Edmonds was one of the bigger winners of Week 1, running the third-most pass routes on the team behind Tyreek Hill (31) and Jaylen Waddle (28) while also dominating the carries over Mostert 12-5. The only thing we need to see now is who gets the goal-line work for the Dolphins, but Miami didn't threaten the red zone much against New England. Waddle caught a long touchdown, and the Miami defense scored the team's other touchdown.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Red-Zone Carries: Cook (1), Mattison (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Cook (23)

Notes: Even with the new coaching staff, Cook maintained his workhorse role, out-carrying Mattison 20-8 and seeing five targets to Mattison's zero. The only thing missing for Cook was a touchdown, as he went over 100 total yards. We even got to see Cook split out wide a couple of times. First-year coach Kevin O'Connell is going to put Cook in position to get more catches. Mattison remains one of the premier true backup running backs and fantasy stashes.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Red-Zone Carries: N/A

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Montgomery (11), Harris (10), Stevenson (5)

Notes: Harris got the start and out-carried Stevenson 9-8 while Montgomery ran the most routes and had the 4-3-2 targets edge over Harris and Stevenson. Montgomery also caught a six-yard touchdown in the Patriots' lone trip to the red zone against the Dolphins. It's pretty evident Harris has the edge for early-down work over Stevenson. But three backs getting snaps and touches in what looks like a bad offense doesn't inspire any excitement for fantasy. Update: Montgomery was placed on I.R. Tuesday. Knocking this from a three-man RBBC to a Harris-Stevenson one is a big win for Stevenson, as he should now be the favorite for pass-game work in addition to seeing 8-12 carries.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Red-Zone Carries: Taysom Hill (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Kamara (17), Ingram (10)

Notes: Hybrid TE-QB Taysom Hill took his lone red-zone carry for an 11-yard touchdown and produced 4-81-1 on the ground in total against the Falcons with a long run of 57 yards. After the game, coach Dennis Allen said Kamara battled a bit of a rib issue in the opener, which hopefully partly explains his curious lack of usage. Hill looks like he's still going to be a nagging thorn in the side of Kamara when the Saints get into the scoring area.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Red-Zone Carries: Barkley (5), Daniel Jones (3), Breida (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Barkley (2)

Pass Routes: Barkley (21)

Notes: Barkley's 21 pass routes, seven targets, and six catches actually led the entire team, as the Giants rotated wide receivers in and out. Saquon looks all the way back from injuries that derailed his last couple of seasons, and he's now the unquestioned engine of new coach Brian Daboll's far more innovative offense. Barkley averaged a whopping 9.1 YPC against the Titans, punched in a four-yard touchdown run, and then willed his way to the end zone for the game-winning two-point conversion. Breida is only there to give him an occasional breather.

NEW YORK JETS

Red-Zone Carries: N/A

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Carter (26), Hall (26)

Notes: The “heartbeat of the offense,” according to OC Mike LaFleur, Carter got the start for the Jets and out-carried Hall 10-6 while averaging 6.0 YPC. Hall had the narrow targets edge 10-9, but both backs ran the same number of routes and led the team in targets. Hall notably did lose a fumble against the Ravens. Like we saw in the preseason, Carter and Hall look like they're going to be splitting things 50-50. The Jets didn't call any red-zone runs in Week 1. Hall could separate himself later in the year, but Carter was the better fantasy pick at a much cheaper cost.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Red-Zone Carries: Jalen Hurts (4), Sanders (3), Gainwell (2), Scott (1)

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

Pass Routes: Sanders (18), Gainwell (10)

Notes: The Eagles lived in the red zone in Week 1 against the Lions, and all four of Hurts, Sanders, Gainwell, and Scott punched in goal-line rushing touchdowns. It was particularly exciting to see Sanders get in after he went TD-less in 2021 despite being one of the league's most efficient runners between the 20s. Typically, we don't like to see so many ball carriers involved in a single offense, but the Eagles are so good at it and run it at a high clip, that we can live with it. Sanders is an every-week RB2, and Gainwell could find his way into FLEX status while Scott is a strong bench stash should something happen to either one of Sanders or Gainwell. And as we see above, Hurts is going to get plenty of scoring looks with his feet, too.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Red-Zone Carries: Harris (3), Chase Claypool (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Harris (2), Claypool (1)

Pass Routes: Harris (15), Warren (10)

Notes: Harris battled a Lisfranc foot injury over the summer and then had his foot trapped beneath him on a second-half carry in Week 1 that knocked him out of the game. All signs point to Harris being able to play Week 2, but his rookie-year workload coupled with the nagging injuries already piling up a bit this year make Warren a must-add off waiver wires. Harris averaged just 2.3 YPC against the Bengals. He's once again going to struggle for efficiency behind the league's worst offensive line. I wouldn't want to have Harris in fantasy. He's clearly not 100% healthy and showed no big-play ability as a rookie.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Red-Zone Carries: Wilson (3), Deebo Samuel (3), Trey Lance (3), Mitchell (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Wilson (1), Samuel (1)

Pass Routes: Wilson (17)

Notes: Mitchell missed most of camp with a hamstring injury and then injured his knee after six carries in the opener against the Bears. He's been placed on I.R. and is expected to miss eight weeks. Wilson was the next man up against Chicago, but looks for rookie RBs Tyrion Davis-Price and Jordan Mason to get some chances over the next couple of months. UDFA rookie Mason is worth grabbing off waiver wires as a stash; he was Pro Football Focus' No. 3-graded RB in the preseason. Lance (13-54-0) and Samuel (8-52-1) were Nos. 1 and 2 in carries and yards for the Niners in Week 1. Samuel figures to get plenty of carries with Mitchell out. Wilson is the top waiver-wire pickup of Week 2, but we shouldn't be surprised if a different RB emerges.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Red-Zone Carries: Penny (1), Geno Smith (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Penny (19)

Notes: Penny could've had a much bigger Week 1 box score if not for a couple of long runs getting called back for penalties. It was also encouraging to see him run all 19 pass routes out of the backfield over Homer. Only DK Metcalf (29) and Tyler Lockett (27) ran more routes than Penny. Ken Walker (hernia) is expected back at practice this week, but Penny has done enough over his last seven games or so to stay heavily involved and continue to lead this group.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Red-Zone Carries: Fournette (2), White (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Fournette (22), White (7)

Notes: There were reports out of Tampa Bay this summer that the Bucs wanted to reduce Fournette's snap share. That absolutely wasn't the case in Week 1, as Fournette was as close to an every-down player there was, and his 22 routes were second on the team to Cameron Brate's 23. White only really got in the game in the fourth quarter to kill the clock. However, it's worth monitoring Fournette's practice status this week after he appeared to wince on the sideline following his last run against Dallas. White has a clear grip on No. 2 duties after Giovani Bernard didn't see the field, and Ke'Shawn Vaughn was inactive. Fournette is a locked-in RB1.

TENNESSEE TITANS

Red-Zone Carries: Henry (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: N/A

Pass Routes: Henry (14), Hilliard (6)

Notes: Henry dominated carries 21-2 over third-down back Hilliard and even ran more routes, but Hilliard made the absolute most of his four targets, turning them into a 3-61-2 receiving line. He scored from seven and 23 yards out. Rookie Haskins played nine snaps but didn't touch the ball or see a target. Henry is a virtual lock for 20-plus carries every week.

WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

Red-Zone Carries: Gibson (1)

Inside-The-Five Carries: Gibson (1)

Pass Routes: Gibson (23), McKissic (17)

Notes: With Brian Robinson getting shot in an armed robbery attempt two weeks ago, Gibson reclaimed his grip on lead-back duties and made the most of it in Week 1, finishing second on the team in targets (8) and catches (7) en route to a 7-72 line while out-carrying McKissic 14-3. The only thing missing from Gibson's box score was a touchdown. He's back on the RB2 map in a Commanders offense that fired off 41 passes with Carson Wentz in the opener. If Gibson can fend off McKissic in the receiving department, he has RB1 upside.