Zeke Elliott Really Struggling Without Dak

Nick Mensio
·17 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 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: Drake injured his ankle in the Week 7 win over the Seahawks and is dealing with a ligament issue. He’s expected to head to injured reserve, which would cost him at least three weeks. Chase Edmonds has been the top RB stash all fantasy season and now gets the green light to the No. 1 job after outperforming Drake on a per-touch basis all year. Edmonds is averaging a robust 6.1 yards per carry and will be an RB1 moving forward. Rookie Eno Benjamin will presumably be the backup for however long Drake is out.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Notes: Gurley’s getting the volume and seeing RB2 usage as a featured runner. He’s coming off a season-high 71% of the snaps and 23 carries last week against the Lions. His targets have also ticked up a bit in recent weeks with 12 over the last three games. But he is no longer the “MVP”-level talent he was early in his Rams career. Gurley just doesn’t have the juice anymore on his bad knee. Hill has settled in as Gurley’s top backup.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Notes: The Ravens are coming off their bye. Ingram played just 12% of the Ravens’ Week 6 snaps due to an ankle injury. In his absence, Edwards led the Ravens with 14 carries, playing 44% of the snaps, and scored his first touchdown. Dobbins was in on 41% of the plays and handled a season-high nine carries. This rushing attack would be so much more attractive if it were a two-man RBBC rather than a three-man rotation. When all three are seeing snaps, none are more than RB4 plays. But if Ingram misses time with his ankle sprain, Edwards and Dobbins are very attractive RB2 adds, though Justice Hill could enter the mix as No. 3 back.

BUFFALO BILLS

Notes: In Moss’ second game back from his toe issue last week against the Jets, Singletary out-snapped Moss 54% to 47% and saw 13 combined carries and targets to Moss’ 10. That’s probably more indicative of how the split will be moving forward, and both players see shorter odds of scoring goal-line touchdowns because of Josh Allen’s presence near the end zone. Moving forward, Singletary is more of a back-end RB2 with Moss as an RB3/4.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Notes: Davis is the overall RB8 in half-PPR since taking over as the starter in Week 3 following Christian McCaffrey’s (ankle, IR) injury, and that includes his awful Week 7 against the Saints. He’s seen 22, 22, 26, 21, and 12 combined carries and targets in the five contests while playing 76%, 71%, 83%, 88%, and 72% of the snaps. This backfield is all his until McCaffrey returns. The Panthers have been noncommittal on CMC’s return date but did designate him from I.R. this week, suggesting he has a chance to suit up Thursday night against Atlanta. Davis is still expected to play early in CMC’s return, but eventually McCaffrey should take back workhorse duties.

CHICAGO BEARS

Notes: Montgomery has played 85%, 81%, 85%, and 83% of the snaps in the four games since Tarik Cohen tore his ACL, seeing 24 targets in that span. The bad news is Montgomery has failed to produce anything of note in the box score with a combined 53-162-1 (3.05 YPC) rushing line across three contests with 19-120-0 receiving. At this point, it’s hard to expect much more out of him; he’s shown time and again he can’t make defenders miss. Lamar Miller remains on the practice squad, and coach Matt Nagy suggested he’s getting close. Montgomery simply isn’t getting the job done. Miller deserves a shot. It can’t get any worse.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Notes: Mixon missed last week’s game against the Browns with a foot injury. In his absence, Bernard played 76% of the snaps and handled 18 combined carries and targets, totaling 96 yards and one touchdown as the overall RB7 for the week. Mixon didn’t practice Wednesday. Coach Zac Taylor has only said he’s day to day. Look for Bernard to get another start this week against the Titans, allowing Mixon to heal up through the Bengals’ Week 9 bye.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

  • Kareem Hunt (53%, 123 opportunities)

  • D’Ernest Johnson (16%, 28)

Notes: Hunt played a truly elite 90% of the Browns’ offensive snaps against the Bengals in Week 7, turning 22 carries and targets into 102 total yards and a touchdown as the week’s overall RB9 in half-PPR. The Browns have a Week 9 bye, so Hunt should get at least one more RB1 week against the Raiders before Nick Chubb (knee) eyes a potential return.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Notes: In two games without Dak Prescott, Elliott has played season-low 61% and 66% snap rates, posting empty 12-49 and 12-45 rushing lines in a pair of blowout losses. He saw 10 targets in Week 6, catching eight, but Zeke was targeted just twice last Sunday in Washington. Elliott is the overall RB41 across Weeks 6-7. He’s going to be very TD-dependent running behind an injury-ruined offensive line and facing stacked defensive fronts. Andy Dalton’s concussion may force rookie Ben DiNucci to start Week 8 against the Eagles. Yikes.

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DENVER BRONCOS

Notes: Gordon missed Week 6 against the Patriots with strep throat after getting arrested for DUI. In his absence, Lindsay played 62% of the snaps and handled 23 carries, turning them into 101 yards in his first game back from turf toe. He’s now out again after suffering a concussion in Week 7. Gordon should go back to volume-based RB2 status as a 60%-plus player for however long Lindsay is out. When both are healthy, it’s more of a two-man tandem.

DETROIT LIONS

Notes: Swift handled a season-high 14 carries against Jacksonville in Week 6, more than doubling his previous high, and looked explosive with 116 yards and two scores on the ground. Following that performance, Swift played a season-high 45% of the snaps last week in Atlanta and punched in a three-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Peterson was in on 31% of the downs. Swift has evolved into an every-week RB3 with upside, and Peterson is an extremely TD-dependent FLEX. Swift has the most upside here and has earned even more playing time. Whether or not the Lions give it to him is a whole different story.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Notes: Jones is one of the most efficient running backs in the league. While he splits snaps with Williams, he still gets insane usage and scores at an incredible clip. With Jones out last week, Williams played 89% of the snaps and handled 23 touches. Jones missed practice Wednesday, and coach Matt LaFleur hinted the Packers will remain cautious with him. If Jones misses Week 8 against the Vikings, Williams will again be an RB1 dominating the backfield playing time.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Notes: David is seeing RB2 usage but isn’t quite seeing workhorse action with Duke cutting into his pass-game work. Interim coach Romeo Crennel suggested Duke could play even more moving forward, but that hasn’t been the case at all two weeks into Crennel’s tenure. Houston is now headed into its bye.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Notes: The Colts are coming off their bye. After touching the ball 28 times in Week 2, the first game without Marlon Mack (Achilles’), Taylor has averaged just 15.5 touches over the last four weeks. However, he did play a four week-high 55% of the snaps in Week 6 against the Bengals and posted 105 total yards on 16 touches. Hines has steadily played roughly a third of the downs. At least Wilkins (4% and 6% of the snaps Weeks 5 and 6) has been removed from the game plan and is only an insurance option should Taylor ever get injured.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Notes: With Chris Thompson going to the COVID list ahead of Week 7, Robinson played a season-high 90% of the snaps and handled a season-best 26 touches, scoring on the ground and via the air. Dominating the playing time, Robinson is a weekly RB1, even on a bad team.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Notes: In Bell’s first game with the Chiefs, CEH played a season-low 53% of the snaps and handled just eight carries. The good news is he did find the end zone after horrible touchdown luck the first month-and-a-half of the year. Bell played 33% of the downs, eliminating Darrel Williams (one snap) from the offense. Expect CEH to remain the lead back, but Bell is going to make the gap closer than Williams did. CEH is more of an RB2 now moving forward.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Notes: In the Raiders’ blowout Week 7 loss to the Bucs, Jacobs set season-lows in snap rate (49%) and carries (10), and that’s the concern with his week-to-week consistency. When the Raiders are losing, Jacobs doesn’t see the field as much. Vegas has road dates with the Browns and Chargers the next two weeks. Jacobs’ floor is really low if the Raiders don’t compete.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Notes: In the first game without Austin Ekeler (hamstring, IR) in Week 5, it was Jackson who played 59% of the snaps to Kelley’s 35% clip and out-touched the rookie 20-12 while seeing six targets to Kelley’s one. Jackson looked like the far superior player against the Saints. After the Chargers’ bye, it was Kelley who played 47% of the snaps against Jacksonville in Week 7. Jackson was in on 38% of the plays. Kelley projects as the carries leader and Jackson the preferred pass-game back while Ekeler is out. Kelley has the slight fantasy edge.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Notes: Henderson played a season-high 53% and 56% of the snaps over the last two weeks, and Cam Akers has been totally eliminated from the offense. If we’re to read into it, that sounds like the Rams have settled on a one-two combo of Henderson and Brown with second-rounder Akers merely insurance. It would definitely raise the floor and make Henderson a much safer week-to-week proposition as a high-end RB2 in the NFC’s run-heaviest offense. Brown is the steady veteran who scored his first touchdown since Week 1 last week.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Notes: Miami is coming off its bye. Gaskin has played at least 63% of the Dolphins’ snaps in all six games and handled at least 21 touches for the third time in four weeks last time out against the Jets with Jordan Howard healthy-scratched in back-to-back games. The Dolphins appear to have settled on Gaskin-Breida as their one-two tandem, and Gaskin punched in a short score against San Francisco two weeks after Howard was the guy stealing all of the goal-line looks previously. And he’s now coming off his first 100-yard game. Gaskin is an RB2 in a streaky offense.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Notes: The Vikings are coming off their bye. Cook is making the most of his limited inside-the-10 looks and was leading the league in rushing touchdowns and yards on the ground through Week 5. His previously heavy pass-game usage has dried up a bit with just 3.2 targets per game. A groin injury suffered in Week 5 left Mattison as the No. 1 back in Week 6 against Atlanta. But Mattison played just 48% of the snaps and handled only 10 opportunities in the Vikings’ blowout loss. Ameer Abdullah was in on 29% of the snaps. Cook practiced Wednesday and looks to be on track for Week 8 against the Packers.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Notes: Sony Michel remains on I.R. In the Week 7 blowout loss, Harris led the team with 10 carries on 40% of the snaps while Burkhead saw eight combined carries and targets on 48% of the playing time. White saw 19% of the snaps after being in on over 50% of the downs the previous two weeks. This backfield is one to pretty much avoid for fantasy lineup decisions.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Notes: Kamara is averaging just 12.5 carries per game but is on pace for a career-high 141 targets and 123 catches. He’s seen at least eight targets in all but one game. Murray is seeing enough (10.5 carries per game) to eat into Kamara’s rushing work. Kamara remains an elite RB1 with at least 100 yards in five straight contests. Murray is a top-end RB4 with RB1 upside if Kamara goes down.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Notes: After playing 73% of the snaps in a 20-19 win over Washington in a game the Giants controlled, Freeman was hurt early last Thursday night against the Eagles. He was averaging 20 combined carries and targets in his three weeks since taking over as the lead back. Freeman is averaging a disgusting 3.2 YPC, but the usage was there as an RB2. Freeman didn’t practice Wednesday. In his absence last week, Gallman recorded 15 touches on 53% of the snaps.

NEW YORK JETS

Notes: The Jets released Le’Veon Bell last week after he played 67% of the snaps and handled 14 touches in his Week 5 return from hamstring pulls. This offense is putrid. But Perine did play a season-high 70% of the snaps last week in a competitive loss to the Bills, turning 13 touches into 55 yards and one touchdown. Gore played just 28% of the downs. The Jets appear to finally be moving away from Gore and toward Perine, who needs to be added in all formats.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Notes: Sanders played a season-best 85% of the Eagles’ snaps Week 5 against the Steelers, turning 13 touches into 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Not many running backs have the elite snap share of Sanders, but now he’s dealing with a knee issue that forced him to miss Week 7. In his absence, Scott played 69% of the snaps to Corey Clement’s 22% rate. Scott has RB2 upside while Sanders is sidelined. When healthy, Sanders is an every-week RB1.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Notes: The Steelers’ bellcow, Conner played a season-high 84% of the snaps last week against the Titans but had his four-game touchdown streak snapped despite going over 100 total yards. Snell played a season-low 8% of the snaps but did vulture a touchdown. Conner is an every-week RB1 on the lone remaining undefeated team left.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Notes: Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson are now both on I.R. with sprained ankles. Tevin Coleman (knee) is expected to come off I.R. this week. McKinnon played 92% of the snaps in Week 4 when both Mostert and Coleman were out, but he was “rested” against New England in the easy win, failing to record a first-half touch and playing 18% of the downs. Hasty should be added in fantasy, but if Coleman is activated this week, he’s the preferred back to have.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Notes: Carson’s catch numbers are way up, but his carry numbers are way down this season with the Seahawks shifting to more pass-happy tendencies. He’s still seeing RB1 usage as the clear No. 1 back, but he suffered a foot sprain in Week 7 and is in doubt for Week 8 against the Niners. Hyde handled 18 touches and scored a touchdown in Carson’s absence and is a top waiver add this week. Homer is the third-down and change-of-pace back.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Notes: Jones was outstanding Weeks 4-6 with Fournette out with an injury, turning in 20-111, 17-106, and 23-113-2 rushing lines with a combined 11-48 receiving line on 16 targets. He played 64%, 69%, and 57% of the snaps in those three games. With Fournette back last week, he ended up leading the backfield with 18 touches on 53% of the snaps. Jones played 43% of the downs and handled 14 touches, scoring again. McCoy and Ke’Shawn Vaughn didn’t see the field. Fournette looks like the guy to have right now, but Jones will remain heavily involved as long as he keeps playing well. Fournette is the favorite for catches among the two.

TENNESSEE TITANS

Notes: Henry has one of the safest workloads in football, dominating the Titans’ snaps and touches. He leads the league in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns. Henry has scored seven times on the ground over the last four weeks. He’s a top-three RB1 every week.

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

Notes: Gibson set a season-high with 20 carries for 128 yards and one touchdown in Washington’s blowout win over the Cowboys last week. McKissic is still leading the backfield in snap share and receiving production, but at least the WFT has eliminated Peyton Barber from the game plan and settled on a duo of Gibson and McKissic. Gibson is a solid upside RB2.