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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Watch Your Back
All Out Blitz: Volume 144

In today's NFL, constant attention must be paid to the backfields of all 32 teams if owners hope to get the production they want and expect from what can be a highly volatile fantasy position. With so many committees and so much potential production hinging on game script, it is rarely ever a bad idea to see what trends are developing and/or if we can identify why they are occurring.

As I have referenced in previous articles, I consider one player receiving at least 60 percent of the backfield touches to be a featured back. I consider 70 percent to be a workhorse back. For the sake of time and space, let's identify those players now. The names below should not come as a shock to any serious fantasy owner. I am going to cut "featured backs" some slack below since game script and/or an injury are legitimate reasons why they may not be able to hit the aforementioned marks in every game. (Players are listed in alphabetical order and workload "exceptions" are highlighted in red.)

For the purposes of this article, the classifications are merely related to the percentage of touches each player has received thus far and not how the back is viewed by the team or fantasy owners. For example, Todd Gurley is a workhorse in the real game and can't really help it if the offense he plays on is so good that it occasionally allows him to catch a break at the end of games.

 Workhorses (at least 70 percent of touches in every game)
Player Tm 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 94.7% 100.0% 100.0% 80.6% 90.0% 83.3% 100.0% bye 95.5%
Saquon Barkley NYG 80.0% 86.2% 73.3% 76.2% 100.0% 78.6% 95.8% 95.7% bye
James Conner PIT 100.0% 81.3% 87.0% 100.0% 83.3% 95.8% bye 93.5% 100.0%

 Featured backs (at least 60 percent of touches in all but two games)
Player Tm 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
David Johnson ARI 63.6% 70.0% 76.2% 89.3% 95.2% 95.2% 68.0% 87.0% bye
Christian McCaffrey CAR 66.7% 84.6% 88.2% bye 81.5% 100.0% 100.0% 78.3% 91.7%
Joe Mixon CIN 91.7% 68.8% INJ INJ 92.6% 88.2% 80.0% 88.9% bye
Kareem Hunt KC 76.2% 90.5% 78.3% 91.7% 88.5% 75.0% 64.5% 100.0% 75.0%
Melvin Gordon LAC 70.6% 50.0% 70.8% 68.8% 76.7% 64.5% INJ bye 81.0%
Todd Gurley LAR 88.5% 64.7% 84.8% 100.0% 100.0% 85.7% 57.6% 96.9% 95.0%
Adrian Peterson WAS 66.7% 43.8% 67.9% bye 25.0% 77.3% 75.8% 84.4% 60.0%

Regardless of what each player's current situation may be now, the first half of the season suggests these 10 players will not see their roles change dramatically over the final two months of the season, barring injury. Owners also don’t need me to convince them why they need to be in lineups either, so this will be the extent to which I talk about them this week. It's the other 22 teams (and situations) that need more clarity, which is exactly why I wanted to make them my focus for this week.

For the sake of relevancy, players with fewer than 10 touches for the season were removed unless they can be realistically expected to have some kind of impact in the second half of the season. (Because I chose to remove some of those players, some of the totals will not equal the sum of the "relevant" players.) The bolded number at the bottom of each table is the total number of touches for that backfield for that week. To be clear, all the numbers you see below are for running backs only; it does not take rush attempts from quarterbacks, fullbacks or receivers into account.

Atlanta Falcons

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Tevin Coleman 52.6% 66.7% 77.3% 63.0% 39.1% 45.8% 59.1% bye 62.1% 115
Ito Smith 33.3% 22.7% 37.0% 17.4% 54.2% 40.9% bye 37.9% 62
Devonta Freeman 47.4% INJ INJ INJ 43.5% INJ INJ bye INJ 19
19 30 22 27 23 24 22 0 29 196

Given the fact Freeman cannot return until Week 15 at the earliest (and may not return at all this season), the Falcons are almost certain to use Coleman and Smith in tandem for the rest of the fantasy regular season. Coleman has essentially moved into Freeman's lead role (at least from a touch percentage perspective) while Smith appears to have taken over as the new Coleman, although the splits from Week 6 and Week 7 suggest OC Steve Sarkisian is willing to ride the "hot hand" if one develops during the game. Coleman is overall RB13 in PPR at the moment and is benefiting from some luck as a receiver (one touchdown every five receptions this season after scoring six times as a receiver on 60 catches over his first three seasons), so he's probably going to need to pick it up as a rusher (he has back-to-back games with 4.5 yards per carry or more after five of his first six games were well under that mark). To this point, Smith has been a volatile flex option that needs to find the end zone (which he has done in four of the last five weeks, from distances of 2, 7, 12 and 14 yards). After a Week 10 tilt with the Browns, expect both players' production to slow down a bit with the stout run defenses of the Cowboys, Saints and Ravens next on the schedule.

Alex Collins

Baltimore Ravens

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Alex Collins 27.0% 52.0% 70.0% 46.0% 46.0% 58.0% 64.0% 68.0% 59.0% 122
Javorius Allen 30.0% 48.0% 30.0% 46.0% 50.0% 12.0% 27.0% 16.0% 35.0% 74
Gus Edwards 30.0% 9.0% 16.0% 6.0% 16
Kenneth Dixon 43% INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ 13
30 23 30 26 28 33 22 19 17  228

Although it may seem hard for owners of Collins to believe, Baltimore has become more of his backfield over the last four weeks. In what seems to be more than just a coincidence, Allen's workload began to decline in Week 6 when he fumbled in a loss one week earlier to the Browns. The biggest difference has come with his rush attempts, as he has a total of five over last four weeks after averaging 6.8 over the first five games. Collins hasn't benefited quite as much as owners might have hoped, however, as Baltimore is throwing more now than it has in recent memory (Joe Flacco has no fewer than 37 pass attempts since the opener after failing to hit that mark in half of his games last year). Unfortunately, it appears the Ravens have either settled on (or in the process of) making Collins the positive and neutral game script runner as opposed to the featured runner many of us believed he would be based on his strong finish last year. The addition of Ty Montgomery is more of a threat to Allen, although it's not out of the realm of possibility he could end up splitting snaps with Collins if the latter has any more ball security issues moving forward.

Buffalo Bills

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
LeSean McCoy 47.1% 65.0% INJ 57.1% 65.0% 73.1% 6.7% 72.0% 50.0% 108
Chris Ivory 17.6% 15.0% 71.9% 42.9% 35.0% 26.9% 63.3% 28.0% 35.7% 92
Marcus Murphy 35.3% 20.0% 28.1% 30.0% 14.3% 32
17 20 32 14 40 26 30 25 28 232

Buffalo has scored one offensive touchdown in the last three games and eight for the season. It's hard to believe in this day and age that an offense can be this bad. There's not really much else that needs to be said. For whatever it is worth, McCoy has been mostly usable at home and mostly awful on the road so far, but he has only 23 yards on 22 carries over the past two weeks. Play any Bill at your own risk.

Chicago Bears

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Jordan Howard 71.4% 77.3% 74.3% 34.4% bye 48.3% 48.1% 78.6% 63.6% 137
Tarik Cohen 28.6% 22.7% 22.9% 62.5% bye 41.4% 51.9% 21.4% 31.8% 80
28 22 35 32 bye 29 27 28 22  223

A quick glance above would suggest Howard is a borderline workhorse. While he has been a productive RB2 over the last three weeks, he has become dangerously reliant on rushing touchdowns. His early-season contributions in the passing game have almost disappeared, meaning this backfield has evolved into predicting whether the Bears will play with the lead enough each week in order to get Howard 15 carries at his career-low 3.5 yards per carry or if HC Matt Nagy will turn to Cohen to spark the offense because Chicago is trailing. Cohen has a team-high 34 targets over the last five games and was a primary figure during Mitch Trubisky's three-game explosion from Weeks 4-6, although matchups against the offensively challenged Jets and Bills have led to much less work overall. Moving forward, this backfield should be fairly easy to project as long as owners do a good job of guessing whether Chicago will win or not. Positive game script or any game against an opponent with a lackluster offense will favor Howard; negative game script and/or any shootout should mean Cohen will be the better play.

Cleveland Browns

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Nick Chubb 9.4% 8.3% 6.5% 9.7% 10.7% 13.0% 75.0% 83.3% 69.7% 77
Duke Johnson 18.8% 20.8% 12.9% 19.4% 21.4% 26.1% 20.8% 16.7% 30.3% 52
Carlos Hyde 1 1 1 1 1 1 120
32 24 31 31 28 23 23 24 33  249

Cleveland actually should be one of easier backfields for owners to project week in and week out. Between the two, either Hyde or Chubb has reached 18 touches in seven of nine games this season, including all three straight since Hyde was traded. Chubb has essentially absorbed all of the work Hyde accepted over the first six weeks, while the promotion of RB coach Freddie Kitchens (following the dismissal of HC Hue Jackson and OC Todd Haley) may have been just what the doctor ordered for Johnson. If I was a Johnson owner (which I am not), I would contemplate selling high after this week if possible, however. His ability is not in question; he should be seeing at least 10 to 12 touches every week. I do question whether or not the Browns will commit to him - especially with a first-time play-caller - and not occasionally forget about him. It should be noted he has produced like an RB2 (or even RB1) in the two games he has seen at least a quarter of the touches in the Cleveland backfield.

Denver Broncos

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Phillip Lindsay 47.2% 57.7% 14.3% 58.3% 53.6% 43.5% 51.7% 61.8% 79.2% 130
Devontae Booker 11.1% 11.5% 35.7% 8.3% 17.9% 17.4% 3.4% 38.2% 20.8% 47
Royce Freeman 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 INJ INJ 75
36 26 28 24 28 23 29 34 24  252

Denver made its decision about the backfield after Week 1 and it is hard to argue with the results thus far, as Lindsay has been everything the Broncos and fantasy owners could have hoped for from an undrafted free agent. The one problem for any Denver running back moving forward will be the absence of C Matt Paradis, who had emerged as one of the top pivots in the league prior to suffering a season-ending leg injury in Week 9. Lindsay was making a living on running up the middle throughout the first eight weeks of the season, and it's probably not a coincidence his first sub-4.5 YPC game came in the same contest Paradis got hurt. Freeman will probably return to the same 1B role he had prior to his ankle injury, but the Broncos have given Lindsay a bigger piece of the pie in every game (aside from the one in which Lindsay was ejected in Week 3).

Detroit Lions

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Kerryon Johnson 38.0% 42.0% 45.0% 45.0% 45.0% bye 64.0% 74.0% 54.0% 113
Theo Riddick 43.0% 29.0% 8.0% 23.0% 16.0% bye INJ INJ 25.0% 38
LeGarrette Blount 0 0 0 0 0 bye 0 0 0 70
21 31 40 22 31 bye 33 19 28  225

Much to the chagrin of fantasy owners, Riddick's return dramatically cut into Johnson's workload in Week 9 - just like in every other week Riddick has been healthy enough to play. Johnson's owners can take some solace in the fact the rookie has started to steal more work from Blount, but it's hard to imagine Johnson taking over this backfield before the end of the season - despite the fact it's hard to understand why OC Jim Bob Cooter feels as if Riddick and Blount bring something special to this offense. The trade of Golden Tate to the Eagles should lock Riddick into a fairly stable role as Matthew Stafford's favorite short-area target. Johnson will be another in a long line of running backs we'll discuss this week who will likely need positive game script moving forward - assuming Riddick stays healthy - to reach his ceiling for however long he is stuck in this committee.

Green Bay Packers

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Aaron Jones SUS SUS 29.2% 40.0% 40.9% 38.1% bye 66.7% 64.0% 66
Jamaal Williams 78.9% 76.0% 29.2% 36.7% 36.4% 33.3% bye 19.0% 36.0% 80
Ty Montgomery 0 0 0 0 0 0 bye 0 41
19 25 24 30 22 21 bye 21 25  187

HC Mike McCarthy's running back usage this season has been curious at best and deplorable at worst. At least the Packers did themselves a favor by removing Montgomery from the mix, as they were not using his best asset (as a mismatch out of the backfield in the passing game). Jones' playing time and workload has spiked as expected following the bye, but his owners must now wonder if his costly fumble in Week 9 will make McCarthy reconsider things. (Williams has yet to fumble in 258 career touches.) McCarthy continues to stand by the notion each of his backs gives his offense something different and has long suggested he wants to run the ball more often, but it needs to be pointed out that Todd Gurley has 32 more touches himself than the 187 that Green Bay backs have. It would be one thing if the Packers weren't having success running the ball, but Jones' 6.0 YPC is a half-yard better than last year and Williams' 3.8 YPC is two-tenths of a point better. While Jones is the common-sense choice moving forward, it is just as likely McCarthy decides to put him in the doghouse in the near future.

Houston Texans

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Alfred Blue 18.5% 30.4% 25.0% 48.1% 100.0% 34.6% 25.0% 44.1% 51.7% 105
Lamar Miller 77.8% 69.6% 75.0% 51.9% 65.4% 71.9% 52.9% 48.3% 138
27 23 20 27 28 26 32 34 29  246

HC Bill O'Brien has repeatedly said Miller is a feature back. The table above would seem to reinforce that, although it appears O'Brien doesn't mind splitting up the work if Miller isn't "hot" in a given game. It's been that way for the majority of time Miller has been in Houston, and it probably won't change in 2018 unless D'Onta Foreman can find the same form he had prior to last year's Achilles' injury. With a mobile quarterback (Deshaun Watson) in place and a commitment to running the ball (O'Brien's offenses have ranked sixth or higher in attempts in four of the last five seasons), Houston is ripe to serve as a home for an elite fantasy back if it can ever build an above-average offensive line. That is unlikely to happen again this year, and the upcoming schedule (Redskins and Titans immediately after the Week 10 bye, Eagles in Week 16) isn't going to help owners who are hoping a Texan running back can be a key cog in a fantasy-title run.

Indianapolis Colts

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Jordan Wilkins 55.0% 43.0% 44.0% 35.0% 27.0% 21.0% 5.0% bye 62
Marlon Mack INJ 39.0% INJ INJ INJ 57.0% 62.0% 64.0% bye 72
Nyheim Hines 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 bye 86
31 28 18 23 30 23 34 42 bye  229

Mack did not waste time making an impact once his hamstring healed, but now he appears to be dealing with a foot issue. It is also worth noting his "breakout" occurred against a trio of teams unable to take advantage of a questionable Colts' defense (Jets, Bills and Raiders) prior to their Week 9 bye. The second half of the schedule promises to be a little bit more challenging, highlighted by two games against the Jaguars as well as meetings with the Titans and Texans over the next five weeks. As such, it wouldn't come as a complete shock if Hines ends up being the most valuable back of the bunch for the remainder of the season, especially considering how much of a question mark Mack's durability appears to be.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Corey Grant 3.0% 40.0% 33.0% 8.0% 5.0% INJ INJ INJ bye 22
Leonard Fournette 40.0% INJ INJ 33.0% INJ INJ INJ INJ bye 24
T.J. Yeldon 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 bye 118
30 25 21 36 21 17 20 15 bye 185

Although he could probably care less about what his fantasy owners think, Fournette is already entering a critical time of his career in terms of his public perception. Remain healthy for the rest of the season and play like the fourth overall pick in 2017 and he can make a lot of people forget about what has been a rough start to his career from a durability perspective. On the other hand, he'll probably need three straight years of 16-game seasons beginning in 2019 to ditch the "injury-prone" tag if he succumbs to injury again this year. But there's little question Jacksonville sees him as the piece that makes everything go. While he will likely be eased into things in Week 10, it seems reasonable he'll be featured after that (getting occasional help in the passing game from Yeldon) if he can finish his first game of the season this weekend. If he does that, it would be a minor surprise if he doesn't see 70 percent of the backfield's touches moving forward.

Miami Dolphins

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Frank Gore 34.6% 40.0% 46.2% 72.2% 46.2% 48.5% 52.4% 46.4% 67.7% 111
Kenyan Drake 65.4% 60.0% 53.8% 22.2% 50.0% 51.5% 47.6% 50.0% 22.6% 104
26 25 13 18 26 33 21 28 31

Gore is in the relatively odd position of being a player who leads his backfield in touches but has virtually no chance of producing meaningful fantasy stats despite the fact his 4.2 YPC is his best mark since leaving San Francisco in 2014. HC Adam Gase appears to be convinced Drake is more effective in smaller doses. Whether Gase is still under the impression Drake lacks durability (he has been healthy for the better part of the last two seasons but struggled to stay on the field in college) is a question only he can answer, but that would be a semi-logical explanation. It seems pretty clear the Dolphins are committed to a split backfield regardless of the answer, so unless Gore misses a game for the first time since 2010, there's not much reason to expect the current usage of either back to change. Drake figures to be a risky flex play in games Miami should win (which are going to be few and far between with Brock Osweiler starting) and a good bet for RB2 production in neutral/negative game scripts.

Minnesota Vikings

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Dalvin Cook 67.0% 72.0% INJ 56.0% INJ INJ INJ INJ 56.0% 59
Latavius Murray 33.0% 22.0% 47.0% 22.0% 65.0% 89.0% 77.0% 72.0% 44.0% 110
C.J. Ham 0 0 0 0 0 0 12
Mike Boone 20% 6% 5% 4% 18% 12% 13
Roc Thomas 6% 25% 4% 5% 8% 10
33 18 15 18 20 28 22 25 25  204

Cook saw 28 snaps to Murray's 22 in Week 9, suggesting the Vikings were pretty confident he was fully healthy and didn't need the bye to complete his recovery. When he's been healthy and able to play most of the game, it is clear Minnesota wants to feature him - as it should. The only question moving forward will be whether the Vikings want to reduce the chances of him getting hurt again and keep the workload split in the neighborhood of 14:11 like it was last week or if OC John DeFilippo is ready to unleash the beast. I think Minnesota will eventually opt for the latter, meaning the first two weeks of the season should be an accurate representation of what to expect moving forward.

New England Patriots

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
James White 24.0% 39.0% 29.0% 36.0% 39.0% 28.0% 56.0% 86.0% 90.0% 121
Kenjon Barner 7.0% 8.0% 29.0% 10.0% 5.0% 19
Rex Burkhead 1 0 0 INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ 27
Sony Michel INJ 39% 63% 57% 61% 60% 15% INJ INJ 99
37 28 24 44 31 40 34 21 20  279

As much as owners may want to believe White is on the verge of becoming a featured back, that is not the Patriot Way. Fortunately for his owners, his involvement in the passing game (four games of at least 10 targets and an average of 6.8 catches) is such where he doesn't need a heavy workload. And while many compared Michel to Alvin Kamara during the draft process, he has essentially assumed the Mark Ingram role in this offense with Burkhead sidelined. Michel is expected back this week, which means owners of White and/or Michel have games against the Titans and Jets sandwiching New England's Week 11 bye before they need to worry about Burkhead potentially wrecking their plans. That's a big if, although the Patriots' lack of moves at running back after Michel got hurt suggests they are confident about Burkhead's return. While that occurrence would ding Michel's slightly, it would have a major impact on White if the first three weeks of the season are any indication. That's not to say White is a sell-high (because there is no guarantee Burkhead comes back), but it is notable White's run of prodigious fantasy point totals didn't start until after Burkhead went on IR.

New Orleans Saints

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Alvin Kamara 81.0% 68.0% 86.0% 83.0% 33.0% bye 58.0% 56.0% 70.0% 162
Mark Ingram SUS SUS SUS SUS 67.0% bye 42.0% 44.0% 30.0% 58
Mike Gillislee 0 0 0 0 bye 17
21 28 36 29 27 bye 33 36 33  243

While Kamara's fantasy owners probably wouldn't mind another short-term absence from Ingram, Week 9 was a good reminder of how important HC Sean Payton thinks his second-year back is (touch advantage of 23:10). Such a large disparity should not be the expectation going forward, but I tend to believe Week 9 happened because Payton didn't want his most dynamic backfield playmaker off the field very often against an opponent with an offense as good as his. The Saints shouldn't need to use a heavy dose of Kamara in two of the next four weeks (Philadelphia in Week 11 and Atlanta in Week 12 being the exceptions), but his owners probably could not ask for a much better fantasy playoff slate than what he will have (Buccaneers, Panthers and Steelers), as he has already torn up one of the defenses (Tampa Bay in Week 1) and the other two are good enough offensively to promote a shootout.

New York Jets

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Isaiah Crowell 33.3% 58.3% 56.3% 29.4% 44.4% 48.4% 50.0% 60.9% 56.0% 118
Elijah McGuire INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ 40.0% 10
Trenton Cannon 0 0 0 0 23
Bilal Powell 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 INJ INJ 91
30 24 32 17 36 31 24 23 25  242

For the most part, Crowell's workload has been pretty consistent (at least 14 touches in five straight games and seven of his last eight). He, however, has not been. Some of that falls on his shoulders, and some of it is a reflection of how much more work the Jets have to do on offense. While Crowell is technically the power back in this offense and will not completely fade away, Powell was seeing more snaps and touches prior to his injury. The coaching staff thought enough of McGuire during the preseason to contemplate cutting Powell, so it seems reasonable to believe McGuire will not only step into Powell's role in the offense but emerge as the unquestioned lead back. To that end, McGuire enjoyed a 36-23 advantage in snaps in Week 9 in his season debut after spending eight weeks on IR with a foot injury. With so little working on offense and plenty of difficult matchups awaiting (New England in Week 12, Tennessee in Week 13, Houston in Week 15 and Green Bay in Week 16), Crowell figures to fade into fantasy obscurity sooner than later and McGuire figures to see a lot of work as a receiver out of the backfield.

Oakland Raiders

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Doug Martin 18.2% 26.7% 24.3% 15.6% 10.0% 3.8% bye 57.7% 52.2% 58
Jalen Richard 42.4% 6.7% 16.2% 12.5% 35.0% 34.6% bye 38.5% 26.1% 58
DeAndre Washington bye 0 0 6
Marshawn Lynch 0 1 1 1 1 1 bye INJ INJ 105
33 30 37 32 20 26 bye 26 23  227

Outside of a one-game hiccup against the Colts in Week 8, the Raiders have scored one offensive touchdown over their last four outings. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Oakland's offense went into the tank right at the same time Lynch stopped being productive. Martin has more or less assumed Lynch's workload since the latter landed on IR and actually performed well from an efficiency perspective, but the offense can't sustain drives anymore and appeared to pack it in during a Week 9 rout against the 49ers. A Raiders' running back hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 3, so Martin owners can't feel good about the possibility he will be able to deliver more than one or two the rest of the way. HC Jon Gruden appears to like Martin too much to cut his playing time in favor of the more dynamic Richard, although the latter has proven himself to be one of Oakland's best offensive weapons out of the backfield (on pace for 86 catches). The Raiders will probably continue to live under the belief they can establish the run for the remainder of the season (keeping Martin in play as a flex option), but Richard will almost certainly be the better fantasy play almost every week.

Philadelphia Eagles

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Corey Clement 17.0% 41.0% 50.0% INJ INJ 42.0% 40.0% 20.0% bye 64
Darren Sproles 31.0% INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ INJ bye 9
Josh Adams 0 0 0 0 bye 21
Jay Ajayi 1 0 0 1 1 INJ INJ INJ bye 50
Wendell Smallwood 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 bye 75
29 27 38 26 16 33 25 25 bye 219

It takes only a quick glance to see how much adversity the Eagles have dealt with in the backfield this season, so we may not have seen an example of how this backfield is going to play out quite yet. It does appear Clement is on the verge of getting bumped from the committee (likely in favor of Sproles, who is expected to return from a hamstring injury in Week 10). Since Philadelphia seemed to embrace Ajayi as its lead back before his ACL tear and Adams is the only player on the roster remotely close to Ajayi, it makes sense that the undrafted free agent's Week 8 effort (61 yards on nine carries) could be a sign of things to come. Regardless, it's hard to imagine any scenario in which Smallwood isn't on the field and seeing 10-plus touches every game. One thing to keep in mind: the addition of Golden Tate and return of Sproles will almost certainly put an end to whatever limited volume Clement and Smallwood were seeing in the passing game.

Seattle Seahawks

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Mike Davis 17.0% 3.0% 74.0% 41.0% 22.0% bye 28.0% 59.0% 84
Chris Carson 45.0% 26.0% 87.0% INJ 59.0% 44.0% bye 68.0% 22.0% 119
Rashaad Penny 1 0 0 0 0 bye 0 51
22 23 39 34 34 32 bye 40 37  261

While not a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, the first thing that stands out in the table above is the massive volume the Seahawks running backs are seeing. Since taking two weeks to find their identity at the beginning of the season, the Seahawks' backfield has 32 or more touches in every game. Carson hasn't been a workhorse in terms of the percentage of his workload, but he has been one in terms of actual workload. Unfortunately, his take-no-prisoners running style has already cost him one game and part of another. Massive volume and Carson's durability are two reasons why I identified Davis as a potential league-winning option a couple of weeks ago. And given Davis' own track record when it comes to injuries, they are the same reasons why owners would be wise to find a spot on their bench for Penny in deeper leagues. Assuming Carson (groin, hip) can return from his most recent setback and stay healthy, Seattle has already shown how it wants to deploy its backfield resources. If Carson is dogged by his current ailment for the foreseeable future, I would expect Davis to slide into Carson's spot as a 20-touch back and Penny to move into Davis' current role.

San Francisco 49ers

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Matt Breida 50.0% 46.7% 44.8% 70.6% 25.0% 53.8% 20.0% 66.7% 48.1% 108
Alfred Morris 50.0% 53.3% 48.3% 29.4% 58.3% 0.0% 36.0% 25.0% 25.9% 90
Raheem Mostert 0 0 0 0 0 0 40
24 30 29 17 36 26 25 24 27  238

As a result of Mostert's season-ending arm injury in Week 9 and no other running back (outside of FB Kyle Juszczyk) on the roster behind Breida and Morris, San Francisco may have no choice but to see how much longer Breida can fight through his ankle injury (unless San Francisco decides to add another back before or during its Week 11 bye). Morris has shown next to nothing this season, but the situation almost dictates he will play at least a quarter of the snaps moving forward. Juszczyk should be in the mix for 10-15 percent, so owners should be looking for nearly 60 percent of the work in the backfield to go to Breida, meaning he can return to RB2 value if he can get even moderately healthy down the stretch.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Peyton Barber 82.6% 65.4% 57.1% 42.1% bye 81.0% 50.0% 70.4% 68.4% 112
Jacquizz Rodgers 13.0% 30.8% 28.6% bye 18.2% 18.5% 21.1% 28
Ronald Jones 1 bye 0 0 0 INJ 25
23 26 14 19 bye 21 22 27 19  171

In theory, Barber has been a feature back this season. His 69 rushing yards against what turned out to be a stout Saints' run defense in Week 1 looks pretty good now. Similar to what I said about Frank Gore above, however, the Tampa Bay backfield (Barber in particular) is the rare situation in which a back can average 14 touches and be considered the lead back, yet be nearly useless in fantasy. Besides poor line play, the biggest problems have been volume and game script, which often go hand-in-hand. While some teams can make up for a few of these issues by getting their backs involved in the passing game, Tampa Bay is in the rare position of having so many good pass-catchers (and are so often playing from behind) that making sure Barber and/or Jones are getting their touches isn't a high priority. Barbara figures to finish the season with 200-plus touches and remain the starter, but the combination of all the aforementioned problems and an unfavorable schedule should render this backfield almost useless for fantasy owners.

Tennessee Titans

Good teams typically use the bye to self-scout and reevaluate, and that is exactly what I saw from Tennessee on Monday night. After trying to pound a square peg into a round hole with Henry for half the season, the Titans featured Lewis and the result was a season-high team point total (28) against a good defense on the road. One game does not a trend make, but I can't imagine why Tennessee would go away from featuring Lewis after he has averaged 138.5 total yards over the last two games. The Titans undoubtedly want to keep Henry involved somehow - likely realizing they need different personnel (and possibly a different scheme) to accentuate what he does well - but owners should expect a strong finish for Lewis since he is not only the team's best receiving threat of the backfield but also the runner most capable of producing behind Tennessee's overrated offensive line.

Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Touches
Dion Lewis 65.6% 45.5% 40.0% 56.5% 57.7% 46.7% 55.9% bye 74.2% 125
Derrick Henry 34.4% 54.5% 60.0% 43.5% 42.3% 53.3% 41.2% bye 25.8% 98
32 33 30 23 26 15 34 bye 31  224

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.