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Oh, Henry!

All Out Blitz: Volume 188

By Doug Orth | 11/4/21 |

It is almost as if we dance the same dance every year, somehow hoping this one will be better than the last one. It starts around the NFL Draft in late April. Optimism is high. Opinions and hot taeks come with more ferocity than Darius Leonard. By the midpoint of every NFL season, however, most fantasy managers feel almost as beat up as the workhorse running backs they dreamed of drafting a few months earlier.

Derrick Henry

Speaking of running backs, the position has long been the most prone to injury of all the fantasy positions. This year seems to be dishing out more injuries than usual. And, in Week 8, the position lost its king. Derrick Henry suffered a foot injury early in the overtime win over the Colts. He is expected to miss at least six weeks, but the reality is he could be out for the rest of the regular season.

By my count, 12 teams have already lost one or more starters or key contributors at running back for at least one game (Ravens, Panthers, Bears, Browns, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Giants, Eagles, 49ers, Seahawks and Titans). The Titans are the only one of those 11 teams that have yet to show how they would handle a multiple-game absence from their starting running back. With all the injuries at running back this season, perhaps it would be helpful to speculate on the backfields of the Titans as well as the other 21 "unaffected" teams should they lose their lead back(s) or featured runner.


Backs on the roster: Chase Edmonds, James Conner, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin

What if Edmonds misses time? It is reasonable to assume that Conner would operate as the bell-cow, especially now since Ward is working through a neck injury and possible concussion in Week 8. As we know from his days in Pittsburgh, it may not be the best thing for Conner if he is forced to handle much more work. In this particular case, I would expect Rondale Moore to become much more involved. While he would not be a direct replacement for Edmonds by any stretch, he could see 3-4 carries and 5-6 targets per game.

Likely result: Conner would be a likely low-end RB2.

What if Conner misses time? Conner is the one power back Arizona has on the roster, so the most likely outcome is that Edmonds would go from the 9.5 carry-per-game back he is now to 11-12. He might see slightly more usage in the red zone, but the odds are that Kyler Murray would have his number called more often near the goal line.

Likely result: Edmonds would be a likely high-end RB2.


Backs on the roster: Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Wayne Gallman

What if Davis misses time? While Patterson would likely see a bit of a bump in his rushing attempts, Gallman would be expected to handle the bulk of Davis' work and split carries almost down the middle with Patterson.

Likely result: Patterson's value would increase slightly, but he is already performing like an RB1. Gallman would likely be a middling RB3/flex option.

What if Patterson misses time?
Gallman should be expected to serve as a breather back or change-of-pace, but Davis would likely be cast in the same kind of role he had last year in Carolina.

Likely result: Davis would likely be a high-end RB2.


Backs on the roster: Zack Moss, Devin Singletary, Matt Breida

What if Moss misses time? I think we saw an example of this in Week 1 when Moss was held out for unknown reasons. Singletary handled 14 touches, while Breida ended up with four. Singletary has not reached double figures in carries in three straight weeks and Moss has failed to do so in two, so it would not be much of a stretch for Singletary to absorb Moss' role. Josh Allen would likely take the bulk of work at the goal line.

Likely result: Singletary would likely be a low-end RB2.

What if Singletary misses time? This backfield is the rare situation in which the two backs are very different, but their roles without the other would be somewhat similar if the other missed time. The one difference with a Singletary injury is that Moss would have enough work in between the 20s without Singletary around to go along with this goal-line work to be a clear every-week starter in fantasy.

Likely result: Moss would likely be a high-end RB2.


Backs on the roster: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans

What if Mixon misses time? Evans appeared to be angling for a regular pass-catching role before suffering a hamstring injury and missing the last two games. Perine has more cache built up with this coaching staff and would seem to be the choice on early downs and at the goal line for the time being, but Evans is the more talented player. It is reasonable to believe both players would end up splitting work almost down the middle, although Perine would be the favorite at the goal line and Evans would be the favorite on passing downs.

Likely result: Perine would likely be a low-end RB2 in games the Bengals should enjoy positive game script and a middling RB3/flex option in games they experience positive game script. Evans would be just the opposite.


Backs on the roster: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Corey Clement

What if Elliott misses time? Pollard is considered the most valuable handcuff in fantasy football for a reason, and it has a lot to do with his Week 15 showing last year in which he filled in for an injured Elliott. In that game, he lit up a beat-up 49ers defense for 132 total yards and two scores on 18 touches. Clement would mix in to give him a rest and is the capable third running back Dallas lacked last year, but this would still be Pollard's show.

Likely result: Pollard would likely be a solid top 10 option most weeks.


Backs on the roster: Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Mike Boone

What if Gordon/Williams misses time? There is no reason to complicate things here. If one of the two backs goes down for any length of time, it is fair to assume the other will be the workhorse. Considering this backfield is averaging 22.9 fantasy points, the healthy one of the bunch could easily be a league-winning kind of player. Boone is no slouch and would see occasional work - most likely on passing downs - but not enough to change the fortunes of the healthy back too much.

Likely result: Gordon/Williams would likely be a solid top 10 option most weeks.


Backs on the roster: D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Jermar Jefferson

What if Swift misses time? Swift's work in the passing game - he is just shy of a 100-catch pace - should remain a constant, but it does not appear as if OC Anthony Lynn wants to feature anyone in this backfield right now. (Then again, Detroit hasnít had many chances to ground-and-pound.) Williams would probably take one or two of Swift's 12 carries per game, but the coaching staff likes Jefferson enough that he would probably handle the rest. I imagine the case would be the same for Swift's six targets per game.

Likely result: Williams would likely be a low-end RB2. Jefferson would likely be a middling RB3/flex option.

What if Williams misses (more) time? It seems as though Lynn has settled into a 20-opportunity groove with Swift, as the second-year back's ceiling is usually around 12 carries and eight targets. Even with Williams out last week in a blowout loss to the Eagles, that did not change. It is dangerous to make many assumptions based on one blowout, but Jefferson is more of a one-for-one replacement for Williams than he is Swift. Given half of a season's worth of data on Swift, his workload or usage would likely not change all that much.

Likely result: Swift would remain a top-10 option at running back. Jefferson would likely be a middling RB3/flex option.

Green Bay

Backs on the roster: Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, Ryquell Armstead (practice squad), Patrick Taylor (practice squad)

What if Jones misses time? Tony Pollard and Alexander Mattison may be two of the most sought-after handcuffs in fantasy football, but Dillon isn't far behind. Regardless of how much attention Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams attract, the Packers are very committed to the running game. Much like Pollard and Mattison, Dillon possesses league-winning upside if he is the only show in town. With only Armstead and Taylor behind him, the Packers would have little choice but to make him a workhorse.

Likely result: Dillon would likely be a top-10 option at running back.


Backs on the roster: David Johnson, Rex Burkhead, Phillip Lindsay, Scottie Phillips

What if Johnson misses time? I don't think it matters with this team. It certainly doesn't for as long as Davis Mills is running the offense. Even if Tyrod Taylor returns this week, I'm still not sure it matters all that much.


Backs on the roster: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Deon Jackson

What if Taylor misses time? Over the last month or so, Taylor has started to take on the bulk of the receiving work from Hines and added that to his heavy rushing share (121 of the backfield's 184 carries). It is fair to assume a Taylor absence would result in a bit of a repeat of last season during the time Taylor was struggling to find his way. Hines would probably command at least 75 percent of the work in the passing game, while Mack would probably handle about 50 percent of the team's rushing attempts. Hines would probably get a third of the rushing share.

Likely result: Hines would likely be a middling RB3/flex option with RB2 upside in potential negative game-script games. Mack would likely be a middling RB3/flex option regardless.


Backs on the roster: James Robinson, Carlos Hyde, Devine Ozigbo, Dare Ogunbowale

What if Robinson misses time? We saw this play out for three quarters last week after Robinson did not return from a first-quarter heel injury. Hyde operated mostly as the clear lead back, logging 50 snaps for the game versus Ogunbowale's 15. Robinson reportedly avoided a serious injury and could play in Week 9, but the big takeaway from the Week 8 usage - besides the overall snap count - was that Hyde was on the field for 36 pass snaps versus 12 for Ogunbowale. This kind of usage is not a guarantee that Hyde would be productive with his touches, but it does suggest he would be utilized much like Robinson has been recently.

Likely result: Hyde would likely be a middling RB3/flex option with low-end RB2 upside.

LA Chargers

Backs on the roster: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree III, Joshua Kelley

What if Ekeler misses time? The Chargers' coaching staff doesn't know the answer to this question either, so don't sweat it. From a skill-set perspective, the easy answer is Jackson. His problem is that he has not been able to hold up for any length of time in the NFL after handling 1,142 carries in four years at Northwestern. Rountree was active last week and saw work for the first time since Week 4. Kelley was inactive last week despite Ekeler being questionable, so one has to wonder if either would have much of a role even if Ekeler were sidelined. The more likely outcome is that the Chargers would just throw more often. The shorter answer to the question is that Jackson would inherit Ekeler's passing-game work and probably split the rushing work in a 40/30/30 manner with Rountree and Kelley.

Likely result: Jackson would likely be a middling RB3/flex option with occasional RB2 upside.

LA Rams

Backs on the roster: Darrell Henderson, Sony Michel, Buddy Howell

What if Henderson misses time? We got a peek at this backfield without Henderson when he did not play in Week 3. Michel assumed a heavy workload in that game (23 touches versus the Bucs). He would be expected to do the same if Henderson is unable to go in any game moving forward.

Likely result: Michel would likely be a high-end RB2.


Backs on the roster: Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Duke Johnson, Patrick Laird

What if Gaskin misses time? We might finally have some clarity in this backfield for the first time this season if this happened, especially now with Malcolm Brown already on IR. Ahmed filled in well for an injured Gaskin last year and would be expected to do the same if the same scenario played out again. Laird would probably be the primary option on passing downs and have a slighter higher upside on one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league.

Likely result: Ahmed would likely be a middling RB3/flex option. Laird would likely be a middling RB3/flex option as well with a decent ceiling and very low floor.

New England

Backs on the roster: Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor

What if Harris misses time? In my opinion, this is the one backfield that has a potential league-winning option - a high-end RB2 option at worst - who is not rostered in nearly enough leagues if the starter goes down. While Stevenson remains a weekly question mark due to the Patriots' supposed desire to "play the matchups" based on their opponent, the third-round rookie is the one player on this roster - outside of Harris - that can handle a heavy workload. At the very least, he would be a near one-for-one replacement for Harris. Bolden would likely see a few more snaps than he usually does (25-30 percent) and Taylor would almost certainly spell Stevenson every third series.

Likely result: Stevenson would likely be a high-end RB2. Bolden would likely be a low-end RB3/flex option with some upside in potential negative game-script games. Taylor would likely be a middling RB3/flex option.

New Orleans

Backs on the roster: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Tony Jones, Dwayne Washington

What if Kamara misses time? It would not be what anyone wants, but Ingram would take over as the featured back if the injury happened in the next week or so. Jones (ankle) is already past the 3-4 week timetable he was given early last month, but he is going to need some time to get back in football shape. Once Jones is up to speed physically, Ingram would likely handle the bulk of the early-down work. Jones would likely be a lite version of Kamara, handling more of the work in the passing game and roughly 10 carries per week.

Likely result: Ingram would likely be a high-end RB3/flex option with occasional RB2 upside. Jones would likely be a high-end RB3/flex option.

NY Jets

Backs on the roster: Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, Tevin Coleman, La'Mical Perine

What if Carter misses time? Carter is just now starting to take over the backfield, logging at least 70 percent of the snaps in each of the last two games. Johnson has been on the field for just about every snap Carter hasn't lately, making this a two-man backfield with a clear lead back. It seems reasonable that if Carter were to go down, Johnson would assume the role the rookie has established in the passing game while sharing carries with Coleman (assuming Coleman can return from the hamstring injury that has cost him the last three games shortly) or Perine.

Likely result: Johnson would likely be a middling RB3/flex option with occasional RB2 upside. Coleman (or Perine) would be a TD-dependent flex at best.


Backs on the roster: Najee Harris, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr., Benny Snell

What if Harris misses time? Harris' workload has been Christian McCaffrey-like this season, so projecting how things would go down if the unthinkable happened is challenging. Ballage has been sprinkled into the game a bit more as the season has progressed, and it seems reasonable to assume he would be the clear lead back since Snell has had several opportunities to earn the backup job over the years and has yet to do so. We shouldn't expect Ballage to be a true workhorse, but 60 percent of the rush attempts and 60 percent of the routes are possible (Harris is at 76 and 74 percent, respectively) given HC Mike Tomlin's desire to ride one back.

Likely result: Ballage would likely be a middling RB3/flex option. McFarland might see enough work in the passing game to be a low-end RB3/flex option.

San Francisco

Backs on the roster: Elijah Mitchell, JaMycal Hasty, Jeff Wilson, Trey Sermon

What if Mitchell misses time? We have seen this play out already this season, but the circumstances were a bit different in Weeks 3-4. Hasty got hurt in the same game Mitchell did (Week 2) and Wilson was not anywhere close to practicing at that point. Entering Week 9, Hasty is healthy and serving as the primary back on passing downs. Wilson is expected to return to practice this week. If Mitchell were to miss a significant part of the season starting this week, Hasty would likely lead the backfield with Sermon mixing in over the next 2-3 weeks. Assuming Wilson is ready to go around Thanksgiving (and assuming Mitchell was still out), he would likely step into the same role Mitchell has right now and possibly split work on passing downs with Hasty.

Likely result: Wilson would likely be a high-end RB2 as soon as he is ready. Hasty would be a serviceable flex option if Wilson is not ready and a desperation flex play if he is.

Tampa Bay

Backs on the roster: Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Giovani Bernard, Ke'Shawn Vaughn

What if Fournette misses time? Jones would still find a way to earn a spot in HC Bruce Arians' doghouse yet again. In all seriousness, Jones would likely work more in tandem with Bernard than Fournette has recently in such a scenario, likely handling 45-50 percent of the rushing attempts and 35-40 percent of the routes (Fournette is at 59 and 52 right now, respectively). Vaughn would likely grab the 10-15 percent of rushing attempts and routes that Jones and Bernard do not take for themselves.

Likely result: Jones would likely be a high-end RB3/flex option with occasional RB2 upside. Bernard would likely be a high-end RB3/flex option.


Backs on the roster: Derrick Henry, Adrian Peterson, Jeremy McNichols, D'Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard

What happens now with Henry injured? This is the $100,000 question now, isn't it? Peterson was the only player the Titans worked out after Henry's injury. It seems clear the Titans view him as the most natural replacement for Henry, even if there is no one in the league - much less free agency - who is a realistic replacement. Peterson will not come close to matching Henry's snap share (71 percent) or carry share (85) for the season, although I would suspect both will settle in around 55 percent beginning in Week 10. McNichols' snap share (25 percent) and carry share (three) can each be expected to increase about 30 percent. Foreman and Hilliard could swap out being weekly inactives.

Likely result: Peterson will likely be a volume-based, low-end RB2 as early as Week 10. By the time December rolls around, he could be a top-20 option in an offense that wants to run the ball and rely on play-action to throw it. McNichols figures to be a middling RB3/flex option with occasional RB2 upside in potential negative game-script situations.


Backs on the roster: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Jaret Patterson

What if Gibson misses time? We have effectively seen this play out over the last month or so. It all came to a head in Week 8 when Gibson handled a season-low 11 touches. Patterson mixed in early and played in tandem with Gibson for most of the game. Did the coaching staff decide to take it easy on Gibson heading into a bye week? Or was this the first of several games in which Gibson and Patterson share early-down work? At 2-6 and with the defense underperforming to the degree it is, will Washington decide to shut Gibson down at some point? At any rate, Washington seems to like McKissic in long down-and-distance/two-minute situations, leaving the lead back to do the rest. Patterson is not only capable of handling the "Gibson role," but he is the only other back on the roster or practice squad worthy of doing it.

Likely result: Patterson may not perform like a fully healthy Gibson, but the latter hasn't been healthy for at least a month. As such, Patterson could easily be the same low-end RB2 option Gibson has been lately. Given how bad the defense has been, McKissic will likely continue to be the same inconsistent RB3/flex option with RB2 upside he has been most of the season.

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.