Imagine if, in one year in the near future, candy wasn't handed
out on Halloween, turkey wasn't served on Thanksgiving or gifts
weren't placed under the tree for Christmas. Pick one. Now imagine
thinking "this is the new normal" because of that one
singular incident in one year. In a nutshell, this is how owners
tend to react after Week 1.
Thankfully, my loyal readers either know better than to overreact
after Week 1 or simply don't bother to reach out to me to panic.
That's good. (Thank you.) As hard as it is for most people in
a compressed season, each week is little more than a series of
data points that we hope tell a more complete story by season's
end. Sometimes we know 30 minutes into a movie or a couple of
episodes into a TV series that it is time to bail. How many times
have you not bailed and glad you stuck it out? This is the fine
line owners walk sometimes in this hobby.
It is my intention to spend the first four weeks trying to lay
the foundation for this season. Snap counts and targets are a
nice starting point, but I want to go a bit deeper. In particular,
I think it will be helpful for owners to know how much of the
backfield pie their backs are getting, their receivers' target
shares and how often their tight end is getting the ball when
he is on the field, etc.
Snap % - The percentage of plays the player was
on the field
% RB Touches - The percentage of offensive touches
the back had relative to his teammates at the same position
Activity - How often the back touched the ball when he
was on the field
Note: Backs with fewer than five touches
were not included.
I consider running backs who see at least 60 percent of their
backfield's touches to be workhorse backs. Somewhat surprisingly,
19 backs hit that mark in Week 1. Two of the more surprising ones
were Peterson and Lewis. I tend to believe both were related to
game script (positive in the case of the former and negative in
the case of the latter). Although some owners of either one or
both backs are already rejoicing about how their guy(s) are in
charge of their backfield, take a step back and relax. In addition
to the likelihood neither player is going to become a workhorse
given what their backfield partner brings to the table, Peterson
and Lewis don't have a great track record for staying healthy.
The good news in Peterson's case is that he will continue to
run behind a very good offensive line, receive a lot of volume
for as long as he can hold up and/or the defense plays as well
as it did against Arizona. In the case of Lewis, he's going to
be a safer bet from week to week than Derrick Henry because he
should have a safe 10-carry floor to go along with the majority
of the work in the passing game. It's still quite possible - if
not likely - Henry will be the top scoring fantasy back in Tennessee
this season, but he is going to need Tennessee to play better
defensively to get the volume he needs to get there.
Backfields that were committees in Week 1 likely to stay
that way for at least a while moving forward: Devonta Freeman/Coleman (Atlanta), Hyde/Duke Johnson (Cleveland), Royce Freeman/Lindsay (Denver), Riddick/Kerryon Johnson (Detroit), Wilkins/Hines/Marlon Mack - when he returns (Indianapolis), Burkhead/White (New England),
Powell/Crowell (NY Jets), Morris/Breida (San Francisco), Henry/Lewis
(Tennessee), Peterson/Thompson (Washington)
Backfields that appeared to be committees in Week 1 but
unlikely to stay that way moving forward: Collins/Allen
(Baltimore), Fournette/Yeldon (Jacksonville), Carson/Penny (Seattle)
Regarding the first group, it's important to note Hyde had 23
touches compared to six for Duke Johnson and three for Nick Chubb.
In this case and others (Detroit and Indianapolis come immediately
to mind), the "committee" appears to be an early down
versus late down committee as opposed to backs rotating series
or even plays based on personnel grouping. Of course, none of
this comes as a huge surprise since that was the expectation going
into the season. The fact Denver is going with a committee should
not actually be all that surprising either, although the identity
of one of the backs is what caught most of us off guard. It would
not surprise me in the least if the Broncos slot Freeman and Lindsay
into the same roles the Chargers have set up for Gordon and Ekeler.
Freeman did nothing in Week 1 to lose work moving forward, so
owners need to sit tight with him. This figures to be his backfield
sooner than later (with Lindsay changing the pace).
As for the latter group, Collins was supposedly benched for his
first-half fumble and not needed once Baltimore really began to
pull away from Baltimore. (The Ravens also likely had in mind
to keep his workload in check for the short week.) Fournette suffered
a "minor" hamstring injury but was rolling prior to
going down. The Seahawks spent all offseason praising Carson before
predictably giving Penny one more touch in Week 1 even though
he missed a good chunk of training camp and mysteriously added
about 15 pounds since the NFL Combine. HC Pete Carroll told reporters
upon review of the tape that Carson "really took the lead
at that position" while Penny "looked a little rusty."
(Stunning.) The Seattle backfield has been a difficult one for
fantasy owners to trust since Marshawn Lynch was in his prime,
but one has to think Week 1 was yet another clear indication Carson
needs to be the unquestioned lead back for now.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.