Fantasy Football: Week 4 Backfield Report

·21 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.

With three weeks 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

  • Chase Edmonds (Week 1: 58% snap rate, 16 opportunities, Week 2: 64%, 13, Week 3: 66%, 19)

  • James Conner (Week 1: 49%, 16, Week 2: 39%, 8, Week 3: 37%, 12)

Notes: Conner scored his first two touchdowns as a member of the Cardinals in the Week 3 win over the Jaguars and also saw his first target of the season. He’s averaging a mediocre 3.5 YPC on 35 rushing attempts, but Conner paces Arizona with eight red-zone carries and four inside the 10-yard line. We have a clear picture of this backfield. Edmonds is the guy between the 20-yard lines and in the passing game with 17 targets (16 catches), and Conner is the preferred back in the red zone, at the goal line, and in clock-killing mode. Kyler Murray has five red-zone carries of his own and two touchdowns inside the five-yard line. Edmonds is the current RB26 in half-PPR points per game. Conner is at RB36, hanging on as an RB3/FLEX option.

ATLANTA FALCONS

  • Mike Davis (Week 1: 75% snap rate, 21 opportunities, Week 2: 64%, 16, Week 3: 60%, 16)

  • Cordarrelle Patterson (Week 1: 33%, 9, Week 2: 33%, 13, Week 3: 42%, 14)

Notes: Davis is third among running backs with his 17 targets, but that is the lone thing keeping him afloat as a usable fantasy option. He’s currently the RB33 in half-PPR points per game and has yet to turn any of his four red-zone carries into a touchdown. The Falcons are fielding arguably the league’s least exciting offense. The one bright spot is Patterson, who has seen 14 targets over the last two weeks and led Atlanta in receiving in Week 3. He also has a red-zone rushing score on three carries inside the 20-yard line this year. Patterson is a high-ceiling FLEX.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

  • Ty’Son Williams (Week 1: 51% snap rate, 13 opportunities, Week 2: 49%, 15, Week 3: 50%, 6)

  • Latavius Murray (Week 1: 31%, 10, Week 2: 36%, 9, Week 3: 33%, 7)

  • Devonta Freeman (Week 1: DNP, Week 2: 13%, 2, Week 3: 16%, 3)

Notes: Williams’ Week 3 snap count was right on par with his Weeks 1-2 rates, but he only handled five carries. The Ravens aren’t committing to Williams, even if he clearly looks like the team’s best running back. Baltimore is committed to giving carries and snaps to crusty veterans, Murray and Freeman. Lamar Jackson actually leads the team with three inside-the-10 carries while Williams and Murray each have two. Williams looks like a borderline RB2/3 in a three-man RBBC where the quarterback is the team’s best runner. Williams is the current RB29.

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BUFFALO BILLS

  • Devin Singletary (Week 1: 75% snap rate, 16 opportunities, Week 2: 66%, 16, Week 3: 43%, 13)

  • Zack Moss (Week 1: DNP, Week 2: 28%, 10, Week 3: 56%, 16)

Notes: Singletary continues to handle the snaps inside the 20-yard lines, giving way to Allen and Moss in the scoring area. Allen leads the team with nine red-zone carries, followed by Moss with eight. Singletary is an RB3/FLEX with no TD upside. Moss is a TD-dependent RB3 who will see more work in games the Bills dominate like they have the last two weeks.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

  • Christian McCaffrey (Week 1: 89% snap rate, 30 opportunities, Week 2: 71%, 30, Week 3: 30%, 9)

  • Chuba Hubbard (Week 1: 11%, 2, Week 2: 25%, 8, Week 3: 55%, 16) 

Notes: McCaffrey went down in the first half last Thursday night in Houston with a strained hamstring. The Panthers aren’t going to place him on injured reserve, suggesting he’s likely to miss just 1-2 games. In his absence, Hubbard out-snapped Royce Freeman 40-11 last week. Hubbard is the No. 1 waiver priority this week and immediately becomes a high-upside RB2 with RB1 potential. As we saw last season with CMC out, Mike Davis was a legit league-winning pickup. McCaffrey’s absence is expected to be much shorter this time, of course.

Carolina Panthers running back Chuba Hubbard
Chuba Hubbard is the most popular waiver add of Week 4 by virtue of being CMC's replacement. (AP Photo/Justin Rex)

CHICAGO BEARS

  • David Montgomery (Week 1: 59% snap rate, 17 opportunities, Week 2: 80%, 24, Week 3: 82%, 14)

  • Damien Williams (Week 1: 43%, 11, Week 2: 23%, 5, Week 3: 16%, 0)

Notes: After Williams’ Week 1 usage looked like he’d take pass-game work, he’s completely faded away the last two weeks. Montgomery has back-to-back four-target games and is a rock-solid RB2 based on volume playing in what looks like one of the league’s worst offenses. Montgomery has six red-zone carries and is the current RB24 in half-PPR points per game.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

  • Joe Mixon (Week 1: 78% snap rate, 33 opportunities, Week 2: 84%, 22, Week 3: 74%, 19)

  • Samaje Perine (Week 1: 22%, 6, Week 2: 5%, 1, Week 3: 21%, 2)

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. However, he needs the coaches to take the reins off the offense. They’re playing so slow and conservatively. Joe Burrow is averaging just 25 attempts per game. Mixon is only coming off the field when he needs a breather. Perine and rookie Chris Evans are his backups. Mixon is a buy-low as the overall RB18 in half-PPR points per game.

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CLEVELAND BROWNS

  • Nick Chubb (Week 1: 53% snap rate, 17 opportunities, Week 2: 57%, 12, Week 3: 49%, 22)

  • Kareem Hunt (Week 1: 47%, 9, Week 2: 38%, 14, Week 3: 41%, 17)

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. Chubb has out-carried Hunt 11-6 in the red zone and 5-2 inside the 10-yard line. Hunt out-targeted Chubb 7-0 in Week 3, catching six passes.

DALLAS COWBOYS

  • Ezekiel Elliott (Week 1: 83% snap rate, 13 opportunities, Week 2: 71%, 18, Week 3: 70%, 20)

  • Tony Pollard (Week 1: 24%, 7, Week 2: 34%, 15, Week 3: 38%, 12)

Notes: Elliott has looked better every week, and we shouldn’t have been so down on him after a subpar opener against the Bucs’ elite run defense. After a two-touchdown drubbing of the Eagles this past Monday night, Elliott is the overall RB9. Pollard is getting a few series to himself each week so Zeke can stay fresh. He’s the No. 1 insurance RB in fantasy football right now.

DENVER BRONCOS

  • Melvin Gordon (Week 1: 50% snap rate, 14 opportunities, Week 2: 59%, 15, Week 3: 54%, 20)

  • Javonte Williams (Week 1: 50%, 15, Week 2: 41%, 14, Week 3: 40%, 16)

Notes: Gordon has been a top-15 fantasy running back for the 3-0 Broncos, but the schedule stiffens up the next three weeks against the Ravens, Steelers, and Raiders. It might be a good time to try and sell high on Gordon, though he does still hold the snaps-edge over rookie Williams, who is getting the vast majority of his work in clock-killing mode. Gordon is out-carrying Williams 10-7 in the red zone, but Williams has the 4-3 edge inside the 10-yard line. 

DETROIT LIONS 

  • D’Andre Swift (Week 1: 68% snap rate, 22 opportunities, Week 2: 63%, 13, Week 3: 56%, 21)

  • Jamaal Williams (Week 1: 35%, 18, Week 2: 39%, 10, Week 3: 49%, 14)

Notes: Swift is second to only Najee Harris in targets among running backs with 23, and he’s also tied for 11th with eight red-zone carries. Even with splitting the work at the goal line and in the red zone, Swift is fantasy’s overall RB3 seeing 18.7 opportunities per game. Williams is the overall RB19 with a touchdown in 2-of-3 games while averaging 4.3 YPC. He’s also tied for 13th among RBs with 14 targets. The Lions are bad, but they operate through their backfield duo. 

Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32)
D'Andre Swift has been extremely productive this year even while sharing work with Jamaal Williams. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

GREEN BAY PACKERS

  • Aaron Jones (Week 1: 49% snap rate, 7 opportunities, Week 2: 69%, 23, Week 3: 73%, 21)

  • AJ Dillon (Week 1: 28%, 5, Week 2: 29%, 6, Week 3: 29%, 8)

Notes: 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 with five over the last two weeks, averaging 22 opportunities per game in that span. Jones also leads the league in red-zone carries and has converted both of his inside-the-five looks for touchdowns. Jones is fantasy’s overall RB2 behind only Derrick Henry. Dillon is purely a bench stash.

HOUSTON TEXANS

  • Mark Ingram (Week 1: 46% snap rate, 26 opportunities, Week 2: 31%, 16, Week 3: 35%, 7)

  • David Johnson (Week 1: 28%, 7, Week 2: 43%, 8, Week 3: 38%, 2)

  • Phillip Lindsay (Week 1: 26%, 8, Week 2: 23%, 6, Week 3: 16%, 7)

Notes: A three-man RBBC in a bottom-five offense leaves none of these backs playable in fantasy. Ingram’s two catches this season have both lost one yard. Johnson needs a trade out of town. And Lindsay’s averaging a pitiful 1.6 YPC on 20 attempts.

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

  • Jonathan Taylor (Week 1: 55% snap rate, 24 opportunities, Week 2: 45%, 16, Week 3: 48%, 13)

  • Nyheim Hines (Week 1: 45%, 17, Week 2: 37%, 3, Week 3: 56%, 12) 

Notes: The Colts are trying to trade Marlon Mack, rolling with Taylor and Hines as their backfield duo. Taylor remains a high-end RB2 with touchdown upside in this Indy offense where he leads the league with 13 red-zone carries, but the offensive line is completely falling apart due to injuries after losing stud LG Quenton Nelson to a high-ankle sprain in Week 3. Hines is an extremely volatile RB3/4 with unpredictable week-to-week workloads. This team stinks.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

  • James Robinson (Week 1: 64% snap rate, 11 opportunities, Week 2: 73%, 14, Week 3: 59%, 21)

  • Carlos Hyde (Week 1: 34%, 11, Week 2: 25%, 4, Week 3: 34%, 8)

Notes: Hyde out-carried Robinson 9-5 in the Week 1 loss to the Texans, but Robinson holds the edge 26-10 in the two games since and has run 42 routes to Hyde’s 21 in the same span. Robinson is coming off 21 touches and a goal-line touchdown against the Cardinals. After the worrisome Week 1, Robinson has eased those concerns and is the overall RB21 in half-PPR points per game on the year. He’s settled in as a weekly RB2 in an offense that chases points.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Week 1: 72% snap rate, 17 opportunities, Week 2: 65%, 13, Week 3: 62%, 19)

  • Darrel Williams (Week 1: 22%, 1, Week 2: 27%, 3, Week 3: 34%, 10)

Notes: CEH has fumbled in back-to-back weeks, but the Chiefs haven’t wavered in their commitment to him as the team’s clear RB1, even if Williams is going to get some third-down, two-minute, and pass-protection work. Edwards-Helaire isn’t an RB1 but is firmly in the mid-range RB2 mix. He’s just not involved enough in the pass game to raise his ceiling.

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LAS VEGAS RAIDERS 

  • Josh Jacobs (Week 1: 52% snap rate, 12 opportunities, Week 2: DNP, Week 3: DNP)

  • Kenyan Drake (Week 1: 48%, 11, Week 2: 71%, 13, Week 3: 43%, 14)

  • Peyton Barber (Week 1: DNP, Week 2: 29%, 13, Week 3: 57%, 28)

Notes: Jacobs is one of the most overvalued fantasy backs and is purely TD-dependent as a heightened injury risk. He may even start losing work to Barber after his strong Week 3 when he went 23-111-1 on the ground and saw five targets to Drake’s six. Drake has no path to an every-down role and is a PPR-specific RB3/FLEX. Barber is Jacobs’ insurance plan. 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

  • Austin Ekeler (Week 1: 58% snap rate, 15 opportunities, Week 2: 63%, 18, Week 3: 74%, 17)

  • Larry Rountree (Week 1: 27%, 8, Week 2: 14%, 2, Week 3: 17%, 4)

  • Justin Jackson (Week 1: 14%, 2, Week 2: 23%, 5, Week 3: 11%, 2)

Notes: Ekeler’s snap rate has increased every week despite the hamstring scare, and he has 15 catches over the last two weeks after a zero-target Week 1. Ekeler is as safe of an RB1 as there is in one of the league’s best offenses. He’s the overall RB6 in half-PPR points per game. Ekeler leads the team with 10 red-zone carries, tied for sixth in the league.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

  • Darrell Henderson (Week 1: 94% snap rate, 17 opportunities, Week 2: 68%, 18, Week 3: DNP)

  • Sony Michel (Week 1: 6%, 1, Week 2: 27%, 10, Week 3: 74%, 24)

Notes: Henderson missed Week 3 with his ribs issue. Michel out-snapped rookie Jake Funk 48-14 and handled 20-of-21 carries between the two while also out-targeting Funk 4-0. Unfortunately for Michel, he drew Tampa Bay’s elite run defense and averaged 3.35 YPC. Henderson may be back for Week 4, but Michel has likely earned a bigger piece of the pie. Fantasy’s overall RB11 in half-PPR points per game, Henderson is a high-end RB2 in an elite offense. If Henderson misses again, Michel will be a strong RB2 against Arizona in Week 4.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

  • Myles Gaskin (Week 1: 54% snap rate, 14 opportunities, Week 2: 61%, 10, Week 3: 52%, 19)

  • Malcolm Brown (Week 1: 30%, 5, Week 2: 12%, 5, Week 3: 41%, 7)

  • Salvon Ahmed (Week 1: 20%, 6, Week 2: 31%, 9, Week 3: 6%, 0)

Notes: Ahmed was eliminated from the backfield rotation in Week 3, which is good news for Gaskin’s floor moving forward, but his six targets against the Raiders produced just nine yards. The Dolphins prefer Brown near the goal line, as he’s out-carried Gaskin 4-1 in the red zone and 3-0 inside the 10-yard line. Gaskin is a mere RB3 thanks to his 16 targets in the pass game. 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

  • Dalvin Cook (Week 1: 71% snap rate, 27 opportunities, Week 2: 77%, 25, Week 3: DNP)

  • Alexander Mattison (Week 1: 11%, 2, Week 2: 21%, 4, Week 3: 68%, 34)

Notes: With Cook out for Week 3 against Seattle, the Vikings simply plugged Mattison into the Cook role, feeding him 26 carries and eight targets in the passing game. The only thing missing was a touchdown in the win over the Seahawks. It reinforced Mattison being up there with Tony Pollard as the most valuable insurance running backs in fantasy football.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

  • Damien Harris (Week 1: 53% snap rate, 26 opportunities, Week 2: 41%, 17, Week 3: 31%, 8)

  • James White (Week 1: 37%, 11, Week 2: 50%, 11, Week 3: 8%, 2)

Notes: We saw Harris’ floor in the Week 3 blowout loss to the Saints. As a pure early-down runner and non-factor in the passing game, Harris’ playing time was cut significantly in the loss. That’s the danger with him. And now White is out indefinitely with a hip subluxation. Special-teamer Brandon Bolden played 46% of the offensive snaps against New Orleans. Look for Rhamondre Stevenson to be active again in Week 4. This is a tough backfield to trust for fantasy. Harris is a TD-dependent RB2, but the Patriots are looking for more at the position.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

  • Alvin Kamara (Week 1: 73% snap rate, 24 opportunities, Week 2: 84%, 11, Week 3: 84%, 28)

  • Tony Jones (Week 1: 35%, 12, Week 2: 27%, 3, Week 3: 21%, 4)

Notes: When the Saints play well, Kamara is the guy carrying the offense as a bankable RB1. But this offense plays so slow, and things turn sour fast when they fall behind. Kamara is the overall RB17 in half-PPR points per game. His two inside-the-five carries have produced -5 yards, and Kamara has gotten by with two receiving touchdowns on 14 targets. Kamara looks like someone who fantasy managers may want to sell high on to land a less-volatile RB1.

New Orleans Saints' Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara might've just entered sell-high territory. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

NEW YORK GIANTS

  • Saquon Barkley (Week 1: 48% snap rate, 13 opportunities, Week 2: 84%, 16, Week 3: 86%, 23)

  • Devontae Booker (Week 1: 39%, 5, Week 2: 14%, 3, Week 3: DNP)

Notes: Booker was a healthy scratch in Week 3. It means Barkley is all the way back after scoring a touchdown in Week 3 on a season-high snap rate and touch count. The Giants aren’t any good, but Saquon is back to set-and-forget RB1 status each and every week.

NEW YORK JETS

  • Tevin Coleman (Week 1: 26% snap rate, 9 opportunities, Week 2: 10%, 5, Week 3: DNP)

  • Ty Johnson (Week 1: 54%, 7, Week 2: 45%, 12, Week 3: 57%, 8)

  • Michael Carter (Week 1: 25%, 6, Week 2: 45%, 14, Week 3: 43%, 12)

Notes: Each running back has started a game through three weeks, but Coleman was a healthy scratch in Week 3. Carter is the best bet moving forward, though it’s hard to get behind anyone in this offense after the Jets have mustered together a total of 20 points through three games. Carter is worth stashing at the end of fantasy benches in 12- and 14-team leagues.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

  • Miles Sanders (Week 1: 66% snap rate, 20 opportunities, Week 2: 67%, 15, Week 3: 60%, 6)

  • Kenneth Gainwell (Week 1: 35%, 12, Week 2: 33%, 9, Week 3: 31%, 5)

Notes: Jalen Hurts led the Eagles in rushing with a 9-35 line this past Monday night in Dallas. The Eagles were playing catch-up most of the evening, which led to Miles Sanders seeing just two carries. That was one more than Gainwell. Sanders has the 2:1 playing-time edge over Gainwell and remains a strong RB2 for fantasy. Gainwell didn’t register a touch until late in the second half, racking up some garbage-time looks. The rookie should still be rostered in 12- and 14-team leagues as Sanders' insurance. Boston Scott still doesn’t have a touch this year.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

  • Najee Harris (Week 1: 100% snap rate, 19 opportunities, Week 2: 95%, 15, Week 3: 95%, 33)

Notes: Seeing a running back play this kind of snap rate is very rare these days. Harris is an every-week RB1 based on volume alone, even if he’s running behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. The Steelers fed Harris a whopping 19 targets — 14 catches for 102 yards — as a way to get him in space in the Week 3 loss to the Bengals. Harris leads all RBs in targets.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

  • Elijah Mitchell (Week 1: 64% snap rate, 19 opportunities, Week 2: 61%, 19, Week 3: DNP)

  • Trey Sermon (Week 1: DNP, Week 2: 1%, 1, Week 3: 59%, 13)

Notes: With Mitchell (shoulder) and JaMycal Hasty (ankle, I.R.) out for Week 3 against the Packers, Sermon handled 10 carries but didn’t look overly impressive or inspire any hope that he’ll be the guy moving forward. He was able to pound in a touchdown to save his fantasy night. But Kyle Juszczyk did handle five carries and four targets. Look for Mitchell to reclaim his role atop the depth chart when he returns. But overall, this backfield will be a season-long headache.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

  • Chris Carson (Week 1: 78% snap rate, 19 opportunities, Week 2: 63%, 13, Week 3: 43%, 14)

  • Rashaad Penny (Week 1: 13%, 2, Week 2: DNP, Week 3: DNP)

  • Travis Homer (Week 1: 4%, 0, Week 2: 26%, 2, Week 3: 30%, 3)

Notes: Penny remains week-to-week with his calf strain. Seattle is dead last in offensive plays through three weeks. The volume just isn’t there, and it’s affecting Carson some. While he’s handled 41-of-47 backfield carries through three weeks, he has just five targets in the pass game, the same amount as Homer. Carson is the overall RB16 in half-PPR points per game solely on his touchdown conversions, turning six red-zone carries into a pair of scores.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

  • Leonard Fournette (Week 1: 65% snap rate, 16 opportunities, Week 2: 49%, 15, Week 3: 36%, 7)

  • Ronald Jones (Week 1: 9%, 4, Week 2: 41%, 9, Week 3: 16%, 5)

  • Giovani Bernard (Week 1: 26%, 3, Week 2: 10%, 2, Week 3: 45%, 10) 

Notes: With the Bucs chasing the Rams all of Week 3, Bernard led the backfield in playing time and caught 9-of-10 targets, scoring a touchdown. But Bernard sprained his MCL on the score and is expected to miss some time. That would boost Fournette, who is the preferred pass-game back for Tom Brady over Jones. Fournette will be a usable RB2/3 for Week 4 in New England. Jones is falling out of favor fast with this coaching staff.

TENNESSEE TITANS

  • Derrick Henry (Week 1: 62% snap rate, 21 opportunities, Week 2: 76%, 41, Week 3: 72%, 31)

  • Jeremy McNichols (Week 1: 36%, 6, Week 2: 24%, 4, Week 3: 26%, 4) 

Notes: Henry has back-to-back 100-yard rushing games and has reeled in 12-of-13 targets on the season. He’s on pace to obliterate his previous career highs as a pass catcher. The best running back in the league with the ball in his hands, Henry is on pace to see 74 targets, and he already leads the league in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns after three contests. New OC Todd Downing has done a great job just getting Henry the rock. Henry leads the league in red-zone carries and inside-the-10 carries and is 17th among RBs in targets. It’s a recipe for yet another monster season, as long as the Big Dog can stay healthy. He has 13.5 more half-PPR points than the next-closest running back.

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

  • Antonio Gibson (Week 1: 65% snap rate, 25 opportunities, Week 2: 61%, 15, Week 3: 57%, 14)

  • J.D. McKissic (Week 1: 36%, 1, Week 2: 44%, 10, Week 3: 46%, 5)

Notes: Gibson is very much not Christian McCaffrey-lite as the coaches hyped over the summer, but he remains a strong RB2 as fantasy’s overall RB22 in half-PPR points per game. McKissic has out-targeted Gibson 8-4 the last two weeks. Gibson has big breakout potential for Week 4 against a soft Atlanta defense. McKissic is an RB4/FLEX in PPR-based leagues.

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