Welcome to the Ultimate Zero RB Watchlist. The goal of this piece is to help you find RB targets for your Zero-RB teams before anyone else even knows about them. We know that startable RB weeks can come from almost anywhere in the NFL. By being aware of depth charts that could yield surprising weekly starters, we put ourselves in position to grab the next breakout RB before he breaks out.
We’ll take a close look at depth charts around the league in order to find the next-man-up situations that nobody is talking about . . . yet. Throughout the season we’ll monitor playing time and usage to identify exploitable, under-the-radar trends that have the potential to pay off with league-winning upside.
Be sure to check out Cort Smith’s companion piece on the AFC.
We’re on to what for most of you will be the semifinals of your fantasy playoffs. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably got a pretty good running back or two on your roster already. If you need a one-week fill-in (maybe one of those RBs was Alvin Kamara, who despite expressing optimism about his availability is still no sure thing to play), then this is the article for you. We’ll go through some usage notes from last week, then take a close look at RB schedules across the league for the final two weeks.
- Not a single Falcons RB was targeted on Thursday against the Saints. We’ve seen low passing-game usage like this a few times in the past, particularly when Devonta Freeman was out and Tevin Coleman was the lead back. RBs have simply not consistently been a focal point of Atlanta’s passing offense this season. This hurts Coleman much more than Freeman, who still managed to have a good game in terms of total expected points, based solely on his rushing opportunity.
- Week 14 marks a rare occasion in which Jonathan Stewart had a more valuable workload than Christian McCaffrey. Stewart made the most of his opportunities as well, rushing for three touchdowns. McCaffrey still led in snaps and averages about four total expected points per game more than Stewart on the season. I would not be looking to chase Stewart’s points here.
- Alfred Morris barely edged Rod Smith in expected points, but Smith had a commanding lead in fantasy production with 33 PPR points. Although much of that came on a single 81-yard catch and run, Smith’s production might have earned him more opportunities going forward. If you played Smith last week, you’ve proven that you know more about what Dallas is doing than I do.
- Theo Riddick commanded the second-largest RB receiving workload in the NFL on Sunday, but what was most surprising about that game is that Riddick also led the Lions in rushing expected points. Tion Green and Zach Zenner each played less than 20 percent of snaps and were not targeted. Green carried the ball five times and Zenner, twice.
- Jamaal Williams has seemingly cemented his place at the top of the Packers’ RB depth chart. He led the NFL in total expected points, catching all seven of his targets while totaling 118 scrimmage yards and two TDs. Over the last three games he’s amassed 370 total yards and five TDs, with at least 20 touches in five straight games. If there is any red flag here, it’s that he only played on 66 percent of Green Bay’s offensive snaps. You’d like to see that number be a little higher for true workhorse back. Given the lower than expected snap share and the fact that Williams faces the toughest RB schedule over the next two weeks, and assuming you are in a league that allows trades during the playoffs, now might be the time to try to sell high if you’re making a title run.
- Kamara suffered a concussion on Thursday after playing only six snaps. It was shaping up to be a good day, as on those six snaps he had already caught three passes for 25 yards. It’s says something about how the Saints have been using Kamara lately that Mark Ingram outsnapped him by a 7 to 1 ratio, yet managed only 2.6 more receiving expected points. What’s perhaps even more telling is that this game was the Saints’ worst of the season in terms of points scored, total yards gained, and rushing yards, and their second worst in terms of first downs. It’s maybe not so crazy that Kamara tops the list of non-QB MVP candidates according to work done by Kevin Cole.
- Wayne Gallman surprisingly ended the week ranked third in receiving expected points. As with all Giants RBs who surprise us, he did it on less than 50 percent snap share. This is not a performance you should trust going forward. My longstanding advice regarding the Giants backfield remains unchanged.
- Jay Ajayi finally led the Eagles backfield in snaps and expected points. He’s still in a three-way committee, but he’s trending in the right direction. That said, I would not feel comfortable starting any RBs in Philadelphia. Although it’s possible they lean on the running game with Carson Wentz injured, it’s impossible to predict who will get most of the touches. It’s also possible the Eagles struggle to move the ball without Wentz at QB.
- Byron Marshall played three special-teams snaps before injuring his hamstring and ending up as the fourth Washington RB to go on IR in 2017. LeShun Daniels took over the backup work behind Samaje Perine, rushing for 12 yards on two carries. Perine faces a tough schedule over the next two weeks, but he might still be worth starting just because of the amount of work he is likely to get.
The Remaining Schedule
Week 14 Data
|Player||Team||Week 14 Snap Share||Week 14 ruEP||Week 14 reEP||Week 14 Total EP||Week 14 PPR||Season ruEP||Season reEP||Season Total EP||Season PPR|
|LeShun Daniels Jr.||WAS||20%||1||0||1||1.2||1||0||1||1.2|