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Nick Chubb
AP
By the Numbers

Week 15: Taking Stock Of All 32 NFL Backfields

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: December 12, 2019, 4:27 pm ET

NFL depth charts are always in a constant state of flux due to injuries, performance and at-times questionable coaching decisions. The RB position in particular can be tough to stay on top of, as an overwhelming majority of offenses have replaced a single three-down back with committees of various shapes and sizes.

 

The good news is we now have 14 weeks of regular season data to help clear up the ever-murky RB position. Below is a cheat sheet that denotes the snap rates as well as combined carries and targets for each team's top-two RBs from Week 14.

Week 14 RBBC

What follows is a more specific breakdown of each team's backfield in order to better determine:

  • Offenses that are featuring a single workhorse
  • Fantasy-friendly committee backfields
  • Situations that fantasy football owners should avoid

Opportunities refer to a player's combined carries and targets. All snap count and touch data was compiled from Pro Football Reference. I'm refraining from posting every team's season-long workload rates moving forward and instead choosing a more specific split for each backfield that is defined underneath their respective team name.


Arizona Cardinals

Workload splits: Weeks 13-14 with Kenyan DrakeDavid Johnson and Chase Edmonds all active

  • RB1: Drake (73% snap rate, 16 opportunities per game)
  • RB2: Johnson (30%, 5.5)
  • RB3: Edmonds (9%, 1.5)

Notes: Drake continues to dominate usage. He's racked up at least 14 touches in every game since joining the Cardinals in Week 9:

  • Week 9: 15 carries-110 rush yards-1 TD, 4 receptions-52 receiving yards-0 TD, 84% snap rate
  • Week 10: 10-35-0, 6-6-0, 64%
  • Week 11: 16-67-0, 6-13-0, 90%
  • Week 13: 13-31-0, 2-20-0, 80%
  • Week 14: 11-37-0, 3-30-0, 65%

Drake is the overall PPR RB21 over the last six weeks.

Johnson hasn't played even half of the offense's snaps in a game since early October, while Edmonds' only touch in Week 14 was off a fake punt. It'd be surprising if either offers anything resembling consistent fantasy production in 2019.

The Cardinals have scored just 24 combined points in back-to-back tough matchups against the Rams and Steelers. Up next is a cozier spot against the Browns' 25th-ranked defense in rush DVOA that was most recently gashed by Joe Mixon. Treat Drake as a borderline RB2 in this plus spot.



Atlanta Falcons

Workload splits: Weeks 13-14 with Devonta Freeman (foot) back

Notes: Freeman balled out against the Panthers in Week 14 and scored his first rushing touchdown since 2017.

The problem in expecting this production to continue is that the 49ers' beastly front-seven should certainly not be confused with the league's single-worst defense against the run. The 49ers have shut down the overwhelming majority of starting RBs they've faced this season:

Treat Freeman as more of an upside RB3 compared to a low-end RB2 against one of just three defenses that has allowed fewer than 20 PPR per game to opposing backfields this season.

Hill and Ollison would likely form a three-RB committee with Kenjon Barner if Freeman were to miss any additional game time. None of these backup RBs are worthy of a bench spot.


Baltimore Ravens

Workload splits: Weeks 1-14

Notes: The Ravens take on the Jets in Week 15. Sure, they're taking on a defense that has been much better against the run (No. 2 in DVOA) than the pass (No. 22) through 14 weeks, but this Lamar Jackson-led rushing attack has been historically good this season.

Overall, the 2019 Ravens are one of just six offenses over the past 50 years to average more than 5.4 yards per carry. Each rushing attack has been led by an elite difference-making player:

  • 1997 Lions (5.51 - Barry Sanders)
  • 2006 Falcons (5.47 - Mike Vick)
  • 2019 Ravens (5.46 - Jackson)
  • 2010 Eagles (5.43 - Vick)
  • 2012 Vikings (5.42 - Adrian Peterson)
  • 2011 Panthers (5.41 - Cam Newton)

The opponent doesn't really matter when they're facing literally one of the most-efficient rushing offenses the league has ever seen. Continue to treat Ingram, who is the overall PPR RB9, as a matchup-proof RB1.

Edwards and Hill would likely form a two-RB committee of sorts if Ingram were forced to miss game action.

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Buffalo Bills

Workload splits: Weeks 7-14 with both Devin Singletary and Frank Gore active

  • RB1: Singletary (69% snap rate, 17 opportunities per game) 
  • RB2: Gore (30%, 10)

Notes: Singletary has racked up at least 15 touches in five of his past six games. This usage is great, but two key factors are holding the rookie back from ascending to truly great fantasy football heights:

  • The Bills continue to feed Gore double-digit touches per game on a near-weekly basis despite his reduced snap count.
  • Josh Allen is a vulture disguised as a QB. Only Todd Gurley (26 rushing TDs), Derrick Henry (25), Aaron Jones (20) and Christian McCaffrey (19) have more scores on the ground than Allen (16) since Week 1 of last season.

Singletary has three carries inside the 10-yard line this season; Gore and Allen have combined for 23.

The minimal scoring-area touches for Singletary makes it tough to trust him as more than an upside RB3 despite the ideal usage, particularly in a matchup against the Steelers' talented defense. Only the Buccaneers, 49ers and Patriots have allowed fewer PPR per game to opposing RBs than the Steelers this season.



Carolina Panthers

Workload splits: Weeks 1-14

Notes: CMC is one of four RBs in NFL history to average at least 29 PPR per game.

It's safe to say he's been the outlier of the group when it comes to his supporting cast.

  • Marshall Faulk in 2000 and 2001 played with Kurt Warner inside of the league's highest-scoring offense.
  • Priest Holmes in 2002 played with Trent Green inside of the league's highest-scoring offense.
  • LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 played with Philip Rivers inside of the league's highest-scoring offense.

Kyle Allen and the Panthers presently rank 14th in scoring. It's a minor miracle that McCaffrey has managed to be so productive and efficient despite working with the league's 29th-ranked QB in adjusted yards per attempt among 38 qualified signal callers.

The Panthers claimed former-Bears RB Mike Davis earlier in November, but he's yet to play a snap. I wouldn't expect a single RB to inherit CMC's monstrous workload if he were to miss any game action. We have oodles of evidence that no RB in the league is capable of providing the same rushing and receiving threat as McCaffrey, so it seems a bit silly to assume there's another back on the Panthers that would walk into this same workhorse role.

Also *places conspiracy hat on* Curtis Samuel (13 carries) actually has more rush attempts than Bonnafon (12) this season. The former stud Ohio State RB/WR even lined up in the backfield on multiple occasions in Week 14. What if Samuel is actually the handcuff? (He's not).


Chicago Bears

Workload splits: Weeks 7-14 since team's Week 6 bye

Notes: The Bears Offense turned in their best performance of the season during their Week 14 win over the Cowboys, largely thanks to their QB's newfound willingness to run the ball.

Mitchell Trubisky wasn't always adverse to running. In fact, he was one of the league's most-productive QBs on the ground up until injuring his shoulder in Week 11 of last season. Overall, Trubisky gained at least 25 rushing yards in 6-of-10 games prior to the injury, but then proceeded to finish below that threshold in 16 consecutive games from Week 14 of the 2018 season up until last Thursday night.

Trubisky's ability to keep edge defenders honest on read-option looks could be vital in enabling Montgomery to a big performance in Week 15. The Packers Defense has been stronger against the pass (No. 17 in DVOA) than the run (No. 26) this season. Treat the Bears' rookie RB as a borderline RB2 thanks to his consistent usage and plus matchup on an offense that is trending upwards.

Cohen has at least four receptions in five consecutive games, but has yet to reach even 75 total yards in a game this season. He's a low-ceiling RB4 in this spot.


Cincinnati Bengals

Workload splits: Weeks 1-14

Notes: Mixon has at least 15 touches in all five games since the Bengals' Week 9 bye. The backfield has also trended towards more of a 60/40 split in Mixon's favor compared to the 55/45 rotation that defined the first half of the season.

The return of Andy Dalton elevates the floor and ceiling alike of everyone involved in this Bengals Offense. Still, Mixon deserves credit for largely making things happen regardless of who has been under center in recent weeks:

  • Week 10: 30-114-0 rushing, 2-37-0 receiving, PPR RB9
  • Week 11: 15-86-1 rushing, 1-17-0 receiving, RB9
  • Week 12: 18-79-0 rushing, 0-0-0 receiving, RB27
  • Week 13: 19-44-1 rushing, 4-26-0 receiving, RB16
  • Week 14: 23-146-1 rushing, 3-40-0 receiving, RB3

Continue to treat Mixon as a low-end RB2 in Week 15 when the Bengals take on the Patriots in Cincinnati. Bernard isn't worthy of a bench spot due to the uncertainty surrounding whether or not he'd receive a three-down role if Mixon were forced to miss any game action.


Cleveland Browns

Workload splits: Weeks 10-14 with Kareem Hunt active

  • RB1: Nick Chubb (68% snap rate, 22 opportunities per game)
  • RB2: Hunt (58%, 12.4)

Notes: Christian McCaffrey (55 targets), Alvin Kamara (43), Leonard Fournette (36) and Tarik Cohen (29) are the only RBs with more targets than Hunt (28) since he returned from suspension.

Still, it's hard for Chubb's fantasy owners to complain too much. Both Browns RBs have functioned as borderline RB1s in their five games together:

  • Chubb: 99-478-1 rushing, 7-95-0 receiving, PPR RB13
  • Hunt: 34-153-2 rushing, 22-158-1 receiving, PPR RB12

Up next is a potential smash spot for both players against a Cardinals Defense that has allowed the 11th-most PPR per game to opposing RBs this season. Continue to treat both Chubb and Hunt as upside RB2s at worst.

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.