Welcome to the Ultimate Zero RB Watchlist where we follow usage patterns, advanced stats, and injuries to locate RB targets for your teams before anyone else even knows about them.
As the weather slowly turns, so too does the format of this report. There’s been a handful of shifts in the running back format across the NFL, so let’s get into it. Make sure you check out Mark Wemken’s accompanying AFC piece.
- In a post-Jay Ajayi world, the Eagles unleashed a full-blown committee. Wendell Smallwood led the team in rushing expected points, whereas Corey Clement led the backfield in receiving expected points. Note that Smallwood was among the bottom three RBs in total FPOE1 last week, so it’s possible the Eagles coaching staff gives Clement more run. This has all the makings of a messy committee, where neither player has more value than a low-end RB2 going forward.
- Adrian Peterson continues to impress in games where Washington is able to play with a lead. Peterson ranked 18th among all RBs in ruEP and ruFPOE last week, and is a perfectly cromulent RB2 for as long as he remains healthy. If you can spare the roster space, Samaje Perine should be on your roster. Perine should take over as the primary RB if Peterson is forced to miss time with injury.
- Find someone who loves you as much as Mike McCarthy loves ineffective running back committees. Aaron Jones led this committee in rush attempts, but failed to catch his only target. Jamaal Williams saw his rushing workload dialed back, and caught one of his three targets for a 10-yard gain. Ty Montgomery saw only four carries, but successfully converted a goal-line attempt into a touchdown.The touchdown gave Montgomery2 a slight edge over both Jones3 and Williams4 in terms of efficiency. Jones is worth holding over the other two RBs, but can’t be started unless he earns a larger role in this backfield.
- Latavius Murray stepped up after Dalvin Cook was a surprise inactive on Sunday. Murray outperformed his opportunity, and posted the fourth-highest ruFPOE among all RBs in Week 6. The Vikings appear to have bungled Cook’s hamstring rehab, and it’s possible Murray sees the bulk of the workload for the next three weeks. Vikings RBs face one of the best upcoming schedules per the Buy Low Machine, so hopefully you can pry him away from an unsuspecting owner.
- Devonta Freeman was placed on injured-reserve, which leaves Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith as the two fantasy viable RBs in the Falcons’ backfield. The rushing and receiving work was evenly split between both Coleman and Smith in Week 6, and both players posted positive FPOE. Smith leads the backfield in red zone opportunity, but Coleman is close behind. Over in the forums, Shawn Siegele makes an excellent case for both Falcons RBs going forward. Note that Freeman is eligible to return after eight weeks, but I’d safely assume his season is over. Freeman is a good buy-low candidate in dynasty leagues for teams with an eye towards next season.
- Before the Buccaneers’ Week 5 bye, Peyton Barber was dead last among all NFL RBs in FPOE. You’d think Dirk Koetter would’ve opted to use the bye to make some changes, but playing your best players is for coaches interested in winning games. Ronald Jones took a clear backseat to Barber in Week 6. To Barber’s credit, he performed very well and posted 106 yard and a TD from scrimmage against the Falcons. If Barber is available on waivers, scoop him up. Jones remains a high-upside stash for now.
- Reports of Matt Breida’s ankle injury were greatly exaggerated. Breida led the 49ers’ backfield in ruEP and ruFPOE, whereas Raheem Mostert saw work ahead of Alfred Morris. Neither Breida nor Mostert saw any targets in Week 6, and Kyle Juszczyk worked as the primary receiving RB. Breida should return RB2 value over the next few weeks, and makes for an intriguing buy candidate.
- David Johnson posted the worst Total FPOE for an NFL RB in Week 6, and still finished as the RB17. Despite the offensive dysfunction around him, Johnson’s unique skillset allows him to flirt with high-end RB2 value. Cardinals RBs face the eighth-best schedule over the next four weeks per the Buy Low Machine. Johnson makes for a great buy candidate, provided you can find an owner who’s panicking over his disappointing start.
- Tarik Cohen continues to carve out a larger role for himself, much to the chagrin of Jordan Howard’s fantasy owners. Cohen has seen a significant uptick in his receiving workload, which has allowed him to post back-to-back RB1 finishes. Although Howard continues to receive the bulk of the rushing workload, his lack of receiving work leaves him with a very low floor. Howard is still seeing plenty of opportunity and will likely rebound in the coming weeks, but his usage appears to be heavily influenced by game-script.
- The Seattle Seahawks humiliated the Oakland Raiders on the other side of the pond, so there’s not much to glean from this game. Chris Carson continues to work as the primary RB for the Seahawks, and Mike Davis continues to function as the primary change-of-pace option. The bulk of Rashaad Penny’s workload came after the game was well out of hand.