Fantasy Football: Week 3 Backfield Report

·20 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.

With another week under our belt, we now have some more 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

Notes: This is a 1A/1B backfield, with Edmonds remaining the preferred fantasy play of the duo thanks to his upside as a receiver. He’s seen all nine backfield targets through two weeks, securing all nine. But Kyler Murray is always going to be a threat close to the end zone, as we’ve seen with rushing scores in back-to-back games to open the year. Edmonds is unlikely to score many times as a runner, so catching passes is his pathway to fantasy points.

ATLANTA FALCONS

  • Mike Davis (Week 1: 75% snap rate, 21 opportunities, Week 2: 64%, 16)

  • Cordarrelle Patterson (Week 1: 33%, 9, Week 2: 33%, 13)

Notes: Davis’ snap rates are strong through two weeks, but it’s evident he’s not going to produce the numbers he did last season in Carolina as Christian McCaffrey’s one-for-one replacement. He’s still a solid back-end RB2 with 10 catches after two games. Patterson is the clear No. 2 and is making a push for more work after his two-TD effort in Week 2. Both occurred inside the 10-yard line, so the Falcons aren’t afraid to give Patterson the ball near the end zone. He should be added in all formats, but Davis is still the better fantasy bet right now.

The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

BALTIMORE RAVENS

  • Ty’Son Williams (Week 1: 51% snap rate, 13 opportunities, Week 2: 49%, 15)

  • Latavius Murray (Week 1: 31%, 10, Week 2: 36%, 9)

  • Devonta Freeman (Week 1: DNP, Week 2: 13%, 2)

Notes: Williams continues to get the starts in the Baltimore backfield and is producing with his opportunities, but he did fumble at the goal line last Sunday night, though teammate Devin Duvernay recovered it for a touchdown. Still, this is a four-headed rushing offense, and Lamar Jackson is third in the NFL in rushing following his 107 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2. Williams is a solid RB2 play, but the Ravens are giving snaps and touches to veterans Murray and Freeman. Jackson leads the team with four red-zone carries and two scores in that area while Murray has made both of his inside-the-10 totes count for touchdowns.

BUFFALO BILLS

Notes: Zack Moss was a healthy inactive for the opener against the Steelers but got back in the lineup against Miami, scoring a pair of late touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line. One of them came after Josh Allen was stripped of a touchdown due to a silly slide rule. Singletary continues to dominate the snaps inside the 20-yard lines, giving way to Allen and Moss in the scoring area. Allen leads the team with seven red-zone carries. Fantasy players should actively be trying to acquire Allen after a pair of down weeks. Singletary is an RB3, Moss an RB4.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Notes: The Panthers have long talked about wanting to ease McCaffrey’s snaps and touches, but that’s been all talk the last few years. He remains the premier PPR running back in a class of his own at the position. Sam Darnold vultured the Panthers’ lone inside-the-10 touchdown in Week 1, but CMC found pay dirt in Week 2. His 11 red-zone carries are second to Jonathan Taylor’s 12 after two weeks. McCaffrey’s 60 opportunities are second only to Derrick Henry.

[Week 3 Fantasy Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | FLEX | DST | Kickers]

CHICAGO BEARS

Notes: The Bears controlled Week 2 against the Bengals for much of the afternoon, allowing Montgomery to soak up a larger portion of the snaps and see five targets in the passing game after ceding those duties to Williams in the opener. Montgomery needs the Bears to be competitive. He loses playing time when they’re chasing points. The insertion of Justin Fields at quarterback should open up running lanes thanks to Fields’ dual-threat ability. Montgomery will be a mid-range RB2 moving forward, though his Week 2 playing time and usage was promising.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

  • Joe Mixon (Week 1: 78% snap rate, 33 opportunities, Week 2: 84%, 22)

  • Samaje Perine (Week 1: 22%, 6, Week 2: 5%, 1)

Notes: With Giovani Bernard gone, Mixon is getting the pass-game work and is being treated as a legit bell-cow back for the first time in his career. If he stays healthy, Mixon has top-five RB1 upside with this kind of volume in an offense that is trending upward. He’s only coming off the field when he needs a breather. Perine and rookie Chris Evans are Mixon’s backups.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

  • Nick Chubb (Week 1: 53% snap rate, 17 opportunities, Week 2: 57%, 12)

  • Kareem Hunt (Week 1: 47%, 9, Week 2: 38%, 14)

Notes: Chubb and Hunt split work in the Browns’ run-heavy offense. Chubb handles the bulk of the red-zone and scoring looks whereas Hunt is the preferred option on passing downs. Both backs are startable assets in fantasy, but Chubb gets the edge as the favorite for touchdowns as an RB1. Hunt is more of a volatile RB2/3 who lost a couple touches to Demetric Felton in Week 2. Chubb has out-carried Hunt 8-5 in the red zone and 5-2 inside the 10-yard line.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Notes: Pollard has outplayed Elliott in both games this season, and the Cowboys showed more of a willingness to divvy up the backfield work last Sunday against the Chargers. Pollard’s share of the work is turning Elliott into more of an RB2 than the surefire RB1 fantasy drafters were anticipating over the summer. Pollard doesn’t yet have standalone RB3 value, but if he keeps playing the way he is right now, he’ll get there. We just need more of a sample size.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 22: Tyron Smith #77, Ezekiel Elliott #21, and Tony Pollard #20 of the Dallas Cowboys huddle against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 22, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
The Cowboys have showed more willingness to share carries between Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard this season. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

DENVER BRONCOS

Notes: Gordon earned a higher share of the snaps in the Week 2 win after his 70-yard touchdown run against the Giants sealed that win, but Gordon went out and turned 13 carries into 31 yards against the Jaguars, though he did out-target Williams 2-1. With both backs splitting things right down the middle, neither is much more than an RB3. Both will be playable against the Jets in Week 3.

DETROIT LIONS

  • D’Andre Swift (Week 1: 68% snap rate, 22 opportunities, Week 2: 63%, 13)

  • Jamaal Williams (Week 1: 35%, 18, Week 2: 39%, 10) 

Notes: Detroit will likely be playing from behind most weeks, giving Swift an edge as the Lions’ pass-game back. With Jared Goff loving to throw to his running backs and tight ends, Swift should remain an RB2 most weeks and Williams coming in as an RB3. The coaches want to use both backs. Both players’ Week 1 numbers were heavily inflated by the Lions running an astronomical 93 offensive plays. They ran just 57 plays Week 2 against the Packers.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

  • Aaron Jones (Week 1: 49% snap rate, 7 opportunities, Week 2: 69%, 23)

  • AJ Dillon (Week 1: 28%, 5, Week 2: 29%, 6)

Notes: The Packers got blasted by the Saints in Week 1. While Jones had a distinct advantage in snaps, he was never going to be fed carries with Green Bay losing by 35 points. Jones was a week-winner in the Week 2 clobbering of the Lions, handling 23-of-31 backfield touches and catching three red-zone touchdowns from Aaron Rodgers before scoring from one yard out on the ground in the fourth quarter. Dillon hasn’t been involved to the extent we expected him to be, paving the way for Jones to realize even more of his RB1 ceiling. He’s a pure touchdown-scorer. 

HOUSTON TEXANS

  • Mark Ingram (Week 1: 46% snap rate, 26 opportunities, Week 2: 31%, 16)

  • David Johnson (Week 1: 28%, 7, Week 2: 43%, 8)

  • Phillip Lindsay (Week 1: 26%, 8, Week 2: 23%, 6) 

Notes: With the Texans boat-racing the Jaguars in Week 1, Ingram dominated backfield work as coach David Culley’s preferred early-down grinder. Ingram averaged a pitiful 3.3 yards per carry. The Texans played from behind much of Week 2, leading to Johnson pacing this three-man backfield in snaps. A bad team combined with a crowded committee render none of these running backs overly useful for fantasy purposes. Ingram is third in the NFL with 10 red-zone carries.

[Play in Yahoo's Week 3 Million Dollar Baller DFS contest]

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Notes: After Taylor and Hines combined for 15 targets in Week 1, the duo saw just three against the Rams. And after Marlon Mack didn’t register a touch in the opener, he played 19% of the snaps against L.A. and handled five carries and one target. Taylor leads the NFL with 12 red-zone carries, including six inside the five-yard line, but he has zero yards to show for those six totes. He was stuffed on three straight carries from the one-yard line against the Rams. We should be buying those premier looks in fantasy. I’ve personally sent out some trade feelers for Taylor in leagues. He remains a high-end RB2 with touchdown upside in this Indy offense. Hines is an extremely volatile RB3/4 with unpredictable week-to-week workloads. 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

  • James Robinson (Week 1: 64% snap rate, 11 opportunities, Week 2: 73%, 14)

  • Carlos Hyde (Week 1: 34%, 11, Week 2: 25%, 4)

Notes: Hyde out-carried Robinson 9-5 in the Week 1 loss to the Texans, but it was Robinson out-touching Hyde 14-2 in Week 2. Robinson has a distinct advantage in playing time, but the Jaguars have only had one possession in the red zone to this point and don’t have a single rushing attempt inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Jaguars get an up-pace game against the Cardinals in Week 3, putting Robinson in position to put up RB2 numbers.

Editor’s Note: Drafting is only half the battle! Get an edge on your competition with our NFL Season Tools - available in our EDGE+ Roto tier for $3.99/mo. (annually) or $9.99/mo. (monthly) - that are packed with rankings, projections, a trade evaluator, start/sit tools and much more. And don't forget to use promo code SAVE10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more! 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Notes: Maybe Edwards-Helaire just isn’t very good. We’ve long hyped him as an RB1/2 playing in the league’s best offense, but CEH just isn’t producing with the ball in his hands. After seeing Patrick Mahomes score a five-yard touchdown run in Week 1, Darrel Williams was given the Chiefs’ lone inside-the-five carry against the Ravens in Week 2, punching it in for a touchdown. CEH also wasn’t targeted in the pass game at Baltimore and committed the game-losing fumble at the end of the game. He simply has to play better. 

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Notes: With Jacobs (ankle) out for Week 2, Drake got the start but was out-carried 13-7 by Peyton Barber (29% of the snaps), though neither back did anything with their rushing attempts. Drake did out-target Barber 6-0 and has a stranglehold on the pass-game snaps in Vegas with 11 targets through two games. The Raiders are showing more aggressive offensive tendencies through two games. Jacobs is one of the most overvalued fantasy backs and is purely TD-dependent. Drake has no path to an every-down role and is a PPR-specific RB3/FLEX.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

  • Austin Ekeler (Week 1: 58% snap rate, 15 opportunities, Week 2: 63%, 18)

  • Larry Rountree (Week 1: 27%, 8, Week 2: 14%, 2)

  • Justin Jackson (Week 1: 14%, 2, Week 2: 23%, 5)

Notes: After not seeing a target in Week 1 at Washington, Ekeler’s nine targets in Week 2 were second on the team behind Mike Williams’ 10, and Ekeler caught all nine. With a tight grip on pass-game work and seeing more red-zone carries this year, Ekeler is a locked-in RB1. Rountree and Jackson flipped roles in Week 2. It’s unclear who’s the clear backup to Ekeler.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Notes: Henderson again found the end zone in Week 2 but had to leave early with a rib cartilage injury. Michel came on and handled 10 fourth-quarter carries and would be the early-down beneficiary if Henderson needs to miss any action. Coach Sean McVay sounded like Henderson wouldn’t miss much time, if any, with his injury. He’s a back-end RB1 in this potent offense. If Henderson needs to miss time, Michel will slide right into upside RB2 status. 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

  • Myles Gaskin (Week 1: 54% snap rate, 14 opportunities, Week 2: 61%, 10)

  • Malcolm Brown (Week 1: 30%, 5, Week 2: 12%, 5)

  • Salvon Ahmed (Week 1: 20%, 6, Week 2: 31%, 9) 

Notes: The Dolphins don’t seem to want to commit to Gaskin after he battled some injuries last season in an expanded role. But Gaskin at least appears to be the preferred option in the passing game, as he caught five balls against New England in Week 1 and saw another five targets in Week 2. Still, Brown and Ahmed are going to be thorns in Gaskin’s side. All three running backs are playing significant enough snaps to make this a backfield to avoid.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Notes: Outside of Christian McCaffrey, Cook is arguably the safest and most bankable running back in fantasy. Cook missed Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury and went down a couple times Week 2 against Arizona, but he should be fine for Sunday against Seattle.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Notes: Even with the costly Week 1 fumble, Harris handled 16-of-23 running back carries against the Jets and scored a beast-mode touchdown from 26 yards out where he ran through eight defenders to the end zone. James White scored a short touchdown, but Harris has a strong grip on early-down work after Rhamondre Stevenson was inactive for Week 2. Harris has settled in as a solid, if unspectacular, RB2 for fantasy purposes.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

  • Alvin Kamara (Week 1: 73% snap rate, 24 opportunities, Week 2: 84%, 11)

  • Tony Jones (Week 1: 35%, 12, Week 2: 27%, 3)

Notes: One of the elite RB1’s in fantasy, Kamara was targeted on 20% of Jameis Winston’s throws in Week 1 and toted the rock 20 times as the focal point of the offense. Kamara handled four of the team’s six red-zone attempts. The Saints were then blown out in Week 2 by the Panthers. The Jameis Winston-led offense is going to have its ups and downs, but Kamara should remain the clear focal point every week as a set-and-forget RB1. 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Notes: Barkley’s playing time saw a sizable spike in Week 2. The buy-low trading window is open for Barkley but is very much about to slam shut if he’s already going back to his every-down duties. Barkley is now on 10 days of rest ahead of a Week 3 smash spot against the lowly Falcons. He should be one of the more popular daily fantasy plays of the weekend slate.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 12: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants looks on during the game against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium on September 12, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Is the week we start to see Saquon Barkley look like his old self? (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

NEW YORK JETS

  • Tevin Coleman (Week 1: 26% snap rate, 9 opportunities, Week 2: 10%, 5)

  • Ty Johnson (Week 1: 54%, 7, Week 2: 45%, 12)

  • Michael Carter (Week 1: 25%, 6, Week 2: 45%, 14)

Notes: Coleman started, but the Jets used a full-blown three-man committee in Week 1. Coleman was phased out in Week 2, as Johnson and Carter split the rest of the work down the middle. But playing in a bad offense, a timeshare isn’t very attractive for fantasy. Carter does, however, seem to be surging a bit. He was easily one of the best players on the field for the Jets against the Patriots. He should be added to the back end of benches in 12-team leagues. 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Notes: Sanders is an every-week RB2 in this Jalen Hurts-led offense. The two have played well together dating back to last season. The big takeaway early on is Gainwell surging past Boston Scott as Sanders’ running mate. Scott hasn’t registered a single offensive touch through two games. Gainwell should be picked up wherever he’s available.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

  • Najee Harris (Week 1: 100% snap rate, 19 opportunities, Week 2: 95%, 15) 

Notes: Seeing a running back play this kind of snap rate is very rare these days. While the results haven’t quite been there for Harris, better days are ahead, even if the Steelers’ offensive line is one of the worst in football. You just don’t see running backs get this kind of snap share. Benny Snell was in on just three Week 2 snaps after Harris played every snap in the opener.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

  • Elijah Mitchell (Week 1: 64% snap rate, 19 opportunities, Week 2: 61%, 19)

  • JaMycal Hasty (Week 1: 29%, 2, Week 2: 36%, 10)

Notes: Trey Sermon was a surprise healthy scratch for the opener and then suffered a concussion on his only Week 2 snap that went for a gain of eight yards on the ground. Raheem Mostert is already done for the season with his knee issue. The Niners have flirted with a handful of veteran free agent running backs with Sermon, Mitchell (shoulder), and Hasty (ankle) all banged up. Mitchell didn’t practice Wednesday, and Hasty is week-to-week with a high-ankle sprain. Mitchell was able to return to Week 2 after initially hurting his shoulder. He remains the preferred fantasy back for the Niners, but this backfield has already been ransacked by injuries. 

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Notes: Penny remains week-to-week with his calf strain. Carson has handled 29-of-33 backfield carries through two weeks and 3-of-6 RB targets. He punched in a pair of short touchdown runs last week against the Titans. Even when the yards aren’t there for Carson, his goal-line role in an elite offense makes him a safe-floor every-week RB2 with RB1 upside.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Notes: Fournette has out-touched Jones 29-11 through two weeks while Bernard has been a non-factor. Fournette just has more of a diverse skill set than Jones and is trusted more by the coaches. But there are still three running backs seeing snaps in an offense that doesn’t even like to run the ball. Fournette is the best fantasy bet of the trio, but he’s still a low-floor RB3/FLEX. It’s hard to make any sort of case for Jones in any fantasy format.

TENNESSEE TITANS

Notes: The Titans were punched in the mouth by the Cardinals in Week 1, leaving Henry to play in unfavorable game scripts. The first half of Week 2 at Seattle was pretty much the same, but then the Big Dog absolutely took over the game, bullying the Seahawks’ defense on his mammoth 41 touches. His six catches were a career high. If Henry adds that to his game, the ceiling is that much higher. Henry is a top three or four fantasy back every week.

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

Notes: Gibson out-targeted 2020 pass-game specialist McKissic 5-0 in the Week 1 opener against the Chargers and was the engine of the offense with 108 total yards. But McKissic resumed pass-game duties in Week 2, turning six targets into 5-83 receiving, and he also stole a two-yard touchdown run while Gibson battled a shoulder issue against the Giants. Gibson getting injured isn’t going to strengthen his case to be a workhorse. He’s likely settling back into high-end RB2 status with McKissic reclaiming the pass-game work in D.C.