All season long, I’ll be looking back at the week to see how we can best leverage what took place on the field at the running back position to our advantage. This weekly article will hone in on weekly snap shares and highlight a few players who could benefit from their team putting them on the field more in the coming weeks.
Week 1 brought us a lot of surprises, which yielded high-end fantasy results the following week. If you put in a claim on Kyren Williams, you likely felt good about the 28.0 PPR points he provided you in Week 2 against the 49ers while playing on 96.2 percent of his team's snaps. The wheels for Williams truly went up after it was announced Cam Akers would be a healthy scratch, leaving him to share a backfield with Ronnie Rivers and Royce Freeman. Rivers and Freeman could be replaced by a guy off the street at any point in the season.
More players gave us a lot to believe in throughout the weekend and a lot to consider heading into Week 3.
Below are some players whose performances and situations stood out this past week, and at the end of the article is a table of every player to see 30 percent or more of their team’s snaps in Week 2.
D'Andre Swift (PHI)
The Eagles once again rolled out a true lead back in their Week 2 win over the Vikings, but with Kenneth Gainwell sidelined, it was D'Andre Swift's turn to take the reins.
Swift rewarded the faith of the Eagles and his fantasy managers when he took 28 carries for 175 yards and one score while adding another three receptions for six yards through the air. His 76 percent snap share (57-of-75) was well ahead of Boston Scott 13.3 percent, while Rashaad Penny continued to be an afterthought, playing on just 8-of-75 snaps.
Swift's highly successful night could complicate the Eagles' backfield situation heading into Week 3's Monday night matchup against the Buccaneers. You may remember that in Week 1, it was Gainwell who handled 62.3 percent of the Eagles' snaps, while Swift was relegated to mere backup duties. In that game, Gainwell saw 18 of the 23 running back opportunities but totaled just 74 yards from scrimmage and failed to find the end zone.
The kind of efficiency Swift displayed on Thursday night (5.8 yards per touch, 3.32 YCO/ATT) can't be left on the sideline moving forward. However, I also think the Eagles would prefer to keep Gainwell involved.
The beliefs throughout much of the offseason were that the Eagles would want to deploy Swift as their early-down back while Gainwell handles third-down snaps and pass-catching duties. I suspect it could move in that direction on Monday if Swift and Gainwell are active.
Zack Moss (IND)
The man who earned his name in the headline of this week's article undoubtedly deserves it. Not to be outdone by Christian McCaffrey's absurd 100 percent snap rate against the Rams, Zack Moss returned from a multi-week absence and one missed game to serve as the Colts' lead back. His 98.2 percent snap share reflects only the handful of snaps he took off in his matchup against the Texans, as Moss was literally the only Colts running back to take the field in Week 2.
The heavy usage of Deon Jackson in Week 1 (72.5 percent) and his dismal 13 carries for 14 yards somewhat signaled a potentially busy day for Moss, but nobody could've expected what we saw last week.
Moss made the most of his opportunities in his 2023 debut, turning 23 touches into 107 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown while finishing as the overall RB9 with 20.7 fantasy points.
Another week where Moss is the only Colts running back on the field seems unlikely. Still, with Jonathan Taylor and Evan Hull on injured reserve and Deon Jackson being a below-replacement-level back, Moss should be in line for another heavy workload in Week 3 against a stout Ravens defense. His volume alone will have him in the conversation as a top-24 back this week.
Jerome Ford (CLE)
The Browns lost Nick Chubb for the season during their Week 2 loss to the Steelers after suffering a devastating knee injury. My thoughts and prayers go out to the best pure runner in the game as he begins his road to recovery.
Following Chubbs' departure from the game, second-year back Jerome Ford took over as the Browns' lead ball carrier. Ford rushed 16 times for 106 yards and just missed scoring on a long touchdown run, but did find the end zone through the air, totaling three receptions for 25 yards and a score on four targets.
The threat of a veteran back looms (Kareem Hunt, yawn), but for now, this backfield looks like Ford's to lose. He out-snapped backup running back Pierre Strong 43-13 on the evening and ran 18 routes to Strong's nine.
As Kyle Dvorchak mentions in his latest waiver wire column, Ford brings to the NFL a strong receiving profile from his days with the Cincinnati Bearcats despite playing just one year as a starter. He is also a former four-star recruit from the 2018 class who originally committed to Alabama — if you care about those kinds of things.
Even if the Browns do bring in a veteran back, head coach Kevin Stefanski has already said the plan is for Ford to be the lead back moving forward. Those looking to add Ford this week should consider his inflated rushing line. His 142 yards on 31 carries (4.6 YPC) looks great on the surface. However, removing his 69-yard scamper against the Steelers knocks that total down to 30 carries for 73 yards (2.4 YPC).
Ford ranks top-three in the league in stuff rate per the FantasyPoints.com Data Suite — which is very bad.
It's possible the best Browns running back is the one who will be slept on throughout the week. Keep an eye on Pierre Strong, my preferred dart throw in this backfield.
Raheem Mostert (MIA)
Raheem Mostert has handled 56 percent of the Dolphins' team rush attempts through two games and has a 28-158-3 line to show for it. While most of those yards came in his 121-yard outburst against the Patriots last week, Mostert has been far-and-away the Dolphins lead rusher. His 28 carries are well ahead of the seven Salvon Ahmed and De'Von Achane have combined for, and his 73 percent snap share more than doubles that of Ahmed (24.6 percent).
There's a chance Salvon Ahmed (groin) will miss Week 3 against the Broncos, which could elevate De'Von Achane into RB2 status. But more importantly, it could mean another double-digit touch day is in store for Mostert.
Even if Ahmed does play, he's been of little threat to Mostert early on. I like Mostert as a fringe RB2 play against a Broncos defense that fresh off getting run over by the Commanders and Brian Robinson.
Rhamondre Stevenson (NE)
A little over a month ago, the Patriots announced the signing of Ezekiel Elliott, and fantasy managers began panicking about how his arrival could impact Rhamondre Stevenson.
Stevenson was one of the league's true bellcow backs last season after he ranked in the top-10 in opportunity share (32 percent) and snap share (67 percent), on his way to an overall RB7 finish in PPR leagues. Zeke was feared not only to eat into Stevenson's overall touches but also to vulture easy goal-line scores from the Pats' RB1.
Well, through two weeks, Stevenson has out-snapped Elliott 109-49 and has seen 36 opportunities to Zeke's 18. Stevenson also has five red zone opportunities to Elliott's one.
There's still a chance Elliott pops up with the occasional short-yardage touchdown to annoy fantasy managers, but a Week 1 fumble against the Eagles probably didn't work in his favor with Bill Belichick. Nor did his 5-12-0 rushing line in Week 2.
One thing that appears abundantly clear is this is still Stevenson's backfield. His underwhelming rushing line of 27-75-1 (2.8 YPC) needs to be improved quickly, but Stevenson does have nine receptions on nine targets and is the unquestioned leader in the backfield. Elliott, who has now rushed for 55-144-2 (2.6 YPC) in his last five regular season contests, is droppable.
NOTE: Ezekiel Elliott was droppable the moment you drafted him.
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Jaylen Warren (PIT)
Jaylen Warren's Week 2 snap share (41.5 percent) was a slight increase from last week's, but the Steelers' second-year back has been every bit the more impressive player with his opportunities.
Najee Harris' 4.6 yards per carry through two games looks great on the surface, but the Steelers' lead back has been stuffed on 62.5 percent of his runs, ranking as the fourth-worst stuff rate among qualified backs (min. 15 carries). Warren has been stuffed at a 55.6 percent clip but has some redeeming pass-catching upside, as I pointed out in this article last week.
We won't go deep into Warren's Week 2 outing against the Browns here. Still, he managed a respectable 12.6 fantasy points on 10 touches, and head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t seem opposed to giving Warren more touches in the future when speaking with the media on Tuesday:
“He’s a guy who did similar things as a rookie a year ago and done some really good things in the team development process,” Tomlin said. “So it’s probably a natural maturation process for it to transpire in stadium and it’s probably a natural maturation process for us to give [Warren] more opportunities for it to transpire in a stadium.”
Mike Tomlin on RB Jaylen Warren
Warren's high-value touches due to his receiving upside helped him finish as the RB19 in PPR leagues this week. A 6-20-0 rushing line was bailed out by a 4-66 receiving line on six targets, while Harris caught just 1-of-3 targets and finished as the RB45 with a 43-yard rushing performance.
The Steelers' Week 3 matchup against the Raiders could be a get-right game for Harris, but it also has a chance to be a breakout game for Warren. I still hesitate to start Warren as anything more than a deep flex play, but he has been the far more efficient back through two weeks and is getting rewarded for his effort.
Khalil Herbert (CHI)
I highlighted Bears running back Roschon Johnson in this article (and still love his long-term outlook this season), but I can't overlook Khalil Herbert's Week 1 snap share.
Regarding snaps, Herbert operated as the Bears' primary back, playing on 32-of-51 shots (62.7 percent). A wildly confused coaching staff led by head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy only managed to get their backfield a combined 14 touches on the day, with Herbert out-touching Johnson 8-6.
Almost every player on the Bears' offense feels unplayable, but Herbert was one of the most efficient backs in the league last season and is off to a strong start this year despite the small sample size. He's forced a missed tackle on 31.3 percent of his rush attempts and is averaging 2.88 YCO/ATT — not great, but not terrible.
If you're looking for something positive in this situation, consider Herbert and Johnson rank eighth and 13th in yards per touch among qualified running backs (min. 10 touches). They have, by all accounts, been good.
I don't want any part of this Bears backfield as they prepare to take on the Chiefs in Week 3, but I will continue to monitor their snaps in hopes of finding some light in the darkness.
Tyjae Spears (TEN)
Spears popping up in this article surprised me last week, but I wanted to touch on him again. In my post-Week 1 article, I mentioned that Spears' 61 percent snap share against the Saints was more than Henry's as the rookie out-snapped the Big Dog 36-28 in the defeat. I also said Spears would likely take a back seat to Henry in wins.
In the Titans' Week 2 win over the Chargers, Henry out-snapped Spears 46-22 and had 28 opportunities to Spears' 10.
Spears will remain difficult to trust until he carves out a more prominent role, which may not happen as long as Henry is upright. However, through two weeks, the wear-and-tear Henry has taken over his career may be showing up in the #analytics.
Henry has rushed 40 times for 143 yards and one touchdown on the season. His 3.6 yards per carry is well below his career YPC of 4.7, but he also ranks 20th in YCO/ATT (2.68) and has forced just two missed tackles on his 40 rush attempts per PFF. His five percent missed tackles forced rate ranks 34th among 37 running backs with 10 or more carries.
To get a sense of how some of the leagues' backs have performed thus far, I looked at running back yards per carry after extracting their breakaway runs (runs of 15+ yards) from their production totals. This isn't done to diminish what a player has done but to show what they are doing on most of their carries, as breakaway runs make up a tiny percentage of a running back's body of work.
When extracting those plays, there are a lot of interesting things we find.
To see Spears leading all qualified backs (min. 10 carries) in this group is truly something. Spears has just one breakaway run on the season but has rushed for 59 yards on his other 10 carries. Henry has totaled just 102 yards on his 38 non-breakaway carries.
It would not be surprising to see Mike Vrabel stubbornly run Henry into brick wall after brick wall, even if it's evident Spears is the faster, more explosive back. But the jury is officially out on Henry, who looks like a shell of his former self.
Week 2 Snap Shares