Welcome to the Week 3 edition of the RB Market Share Report. In this column, I report usage statistics and advanced metrics for all NFL running backs. I will also summarize RB workload statistics for all 32 NFL teams and highlight key trends as applicable.
I will publish updates to this column each week following the conclusion of Monday night’s games. As more games are played, our market share data becomes increasingly reliable — but at the expense of our foresighted edge on the public. Utilize this data to gain insight into play-calling trends and to target players with advantageous metrics before they break out.
To aid you in that effort, check out the Ultimate Zero RB Watchlist: AFC | NFC for more thorough analysis on RB depth charts and waiver wire adds. And for similar analysis on wide receivers, check out Neil Dutton’s Wide Receiver Target Report.
Team RB Stat Totals
Team Rush Att. Targets Opportunities Total Yards Total TD PPR Points
SFO 100 20 120 697 5 112.7
LAC 59 30 89 529 4 102.9
MIN 88 15 103 624 5 102.4
NWE 81 32 113 470 4 94.0
BAL 79 13 92 496 5 88.6
KAN 65 26 91 459 3 87.9
CAR 63 22 85 462 4 86.2
NOR 56 26 82 462 3 84.2
DEN 81 31 112 498 2 83.8
DAL 85 12 97 499 3 76.9
GNB 72 17 89 381 4 76.1
SEA 67 20 87 364 3 73.4
IND 77 17 94 469 2 71.9
CHI 61 37 98 402 1 71.2
BUF 63 16 79 409 3 70.9
CLE 63 23 86 418 2 70.8
TAM 75 18 93 477 1 68.7
TEN 60 13 73 346 4 67.6
WAS 45 33 78 353 1 65.3
NYG 46 23 69 368 2 62.8
NYJ 63 27 90 329 1 61.9
ARI 41 22 63 263 3 60.3
DET 77 14 91 363 2 60.3
PHI 70 22 92 380 1 58.0
OAK 61 11 72 358 2 55.8
LAR 65 8 73 318 3 54.8
HOU 57 10 67 339 1 46.9
PIT 43 16 59 235 1 42.5
JAX 44 21 65 280 0 42.0
ATL 46 17 63 279 0 40.9
CIN 48 18 66 227 1 40.7
MIA 43 26 69 226 0 36.6
Team RB Advanced Metrics
Below, I’ve provided definitions for some of the more obscure advanced metrics reported in this article. To learn more about these metrics and how to interpret them, check out my Passing Revolution series1 and my RB Game Script series.2
Team Opps% — The percentage of a team’s total offensive plays that ended in a RB opportunity (e.g. rush attempt or receiving target). This may be used to measure how frequently an offense utilizes its RBs in its offensive game plan.
Opps% (Tar) — The percentage of a backfield’s total opportunities that are receiving targets. This may be used to describe how an offense utilizes its RBs. For instance, pass-catching specialists like Theo Riddick report a career Opps% (Tar) of 70% or higher. Fantasy RB1s typically report an Opps% (Tar) between 25% and 30%.
Team PPR% — Similar to target share percentage (TS%) and rush share percentage (Rush%), this metric reports a backfield’s total PPR points as a percentage of the team’s total PPR points scored.
PPR% (Rec) — The percentage of a backfield’s total PPR points that derive from receiving statistics. Backfields with high PPR% (Rec) metrics provide ideal conditions for RBs to flourish.
|Team||Team Rush%||Team TS%||Team Opps%||Opps% (Tar)||Team PPR%||PPR% (Rec)|
Scouting Potential RB Breakouts
Over the last two seasons, we’ve witnessed the rise of a new fantasy RB1 paradigm. Modern fantasy RB1s derive about half of their PPR production from receiving statistics. Shawn Siegele elaborates on this trend in his Derrick Henry offseason breakdown:
This trend directly results from the fact that, from 2000-2015, NFL teams were not getting the necessary value from their stud RBs because they were using them in ways that didn’t add to drive success. Savvy coaches have shifted the way they use their star runners. If you have weapons like Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and David Johnson, it’s imperative to deploy them in the service of scoring points.
More than raw opportunity or PPR scoring, what we’re really looking for is evidence that a coaching staff gets it. Whether or not a player is the current lead-back in his offense, what’s most important is that his coach is utilizing RBs in the passing game. For context, here are metrical averages for PPR RBs over the last two years:
|Team Rush%||Team TS%||Team Opps%||Opps% (Tar)||Team PPR%||PPR% (Rec)|
A couple key takeaways to keep in mind from the chart above:
- The primary differentiator between RB1s and RB2s is receiving acumen. Fantasy RB1s average a 15.3% team target share, whereas RB2s average just 7.6%. This difference is mirrored in Opps% (Tar) and PPR% (Rec).
- The primary differentiator between RB2s and RB3s is rushing volume and/or total opportunity. Both groups report similar target shares, but RB2s average an 11.7% improvement in Team Rush% and a 5.3% improvement in Team Opps%.
- Fantasy RB3s are more similar to RB1s than to RB2s. Ideally, we want to target fantasy RBs with borderline starting value that would inherit grand opportunity contingent on depth chart disruption. Examples include Dion Lewis in 2017, James Conner in 2018, and Austin Ekeler this season.
Advanced Metrics for All NFL RBs*
* Qualifying RBs must have earned at least 10 opportunities through Week 3.
|Player||Team||PPR||Team Rush%||Team TS%||Team Opps%||Opps% (Tar)||Team PPR%||PPR% (Rec)|
|Jeff Wilson Jr.||SFO||29.2||15.8%||1.2%||9.5%||5.3%||10.2%||0.0%|
Notable Backfield Situations to Monitor
In this section, I highlight backfield competitions and key statistical trends to follow during next week’s NFL games.
Week 3 was one of those weeks where the advanced metrics reveal much stronger holistic trends than individual production numbers. Frankly, there’s a ton to unpack across the NFL — and I simply don’t have space for all of it in this single column. Instead, I’ll spread out that analysis among this article and each of my Zero RB Watchlist columns that publish on Wednesday.
To the best of my ability, I’ll spare you giant walls of text; after all, this particular column is more about metrics than player breakdowns. Instead, I’ll limit myself to around 100 words for each team, highlighting only the most important developments for each backfield. Check out the Zero RB Watchlist for more in-depth analysis on individual players.
David Johnson’s PPR% (Rec) and Opps% (Tar) remain at an RB1 level, but volume is becoming a major concern. He only rushed 11 times for 37 yards in Week 3, but he delivered an 18.5-point PPR performance despite that low touch volume. Johnson’s early-season PPR scoring efficiency is unsustainable, and he must command a greater opportunity share of the offense in order to secure his RB1 status.
Again, Johnson’s metrics confirm that he is receiving an optimistic rush vs. receiving distribution. But the Cardinals rank first in the NFL with 137 pass attempts, and QB Kyler Murray has finally began rushing the ball with greater earnest. Unless head coach Kliff Kingsbury meaningfully alters his play-calling philosophy, Johnson may be at risk of a low-end RB1 finish this season.
Ito Smith suffered a concussion in Week 3, only logging one rush attempt before making an early exit. Interestingly, Smith’s early departure did not result in increased playing time for either Qadree Ollison or Brian Hill. Instead, Devonta Freeman regained a true workhorse role, rushing 16 times for 88 yards and adding three receptions for seven yards. His 12.5 PPR points in Week 3 represents his highest scoring output of the season — which tells you everything you need to know about Atlanta’s RB situation.
Freeman’s reclamation of bell-cow status is an intriguing development. However, this could be more of an indictment against Ollison and Hill rather than a showing of faith in Freeman. Regardless, his fantasy outlook remains capped due to his poor scoring potential and limited overall workload. If you held on to Freeman through his early-season struggles, you may be rewarded with a more efficient version of Freeman moving forward. But still don’t expect anything beyond low-end RB2 production in Atlanta’s pass-happy offense.
I’m beginning to come around on Mark Ingram … but only slightly. I’d be a fool to ignore his ludicrous 67.9 PPR total through three weeks — or his five total rushing TDs. He now boasts two weeks with over 100 yards rushing, and he even added four receptions for 32 yards in Week 3. Nonetheless, he still operates in a mind-numbing rushing split with Gus Edwards, and both backs report target shares that are well below positional averages.
Last week, I advised you to sell high on Ingram if he managed another strong fantasy outing. Well, he did exactly that in Week 3 — complete with a low-probability three-TD output. My previous recommendation still holds: If you can find a suitor for Ingram to return strong WR2 value or better, I would still advise making that trade. His TD production is unsustainable, Lamar Jackson’s running ability caps Ingram’s week-to-week rushing upside, and he boasts low receiving opportunity.
If I’m wrong on this, I’m fine looking like a donkey a few weeks from now. But historical PPR analysis does not support Ingram’s profile as a fantasy RB1. I’m aligning myself on the side of historical precedent.
Devin Singletary missed Week 3 action due to an injured hamstring, enabling us to finally get a look at T.J. Yeldon in a Bills uniform. He rushed eight times for 30 yards and hauled in two of three receiving targets for 19 yards. Granted, that level of production still doesn’t place him on anyone’s RB radar, but his 56.5% Week 3 PPR (Rec) percentage is squarely in line with his career usage. If Frank Gore or Singletary suffers a long term injury this season, Yeldon still projects as a solid PPR flex play due to his above-average receiving usage.
But, for now, this is still Gore’s backfield. He rushed 14 times for 76 yards and a TD this week and boasts a dominant Team Rush% and Team Opps%. Against all odds, it appears that the veteran Gore has secured yet another lead-back role on his third team in as many years.
Christian McCaffrey still runs this backfield, and Reggie Bonnafon still boasts an edge over Jordan Scarlett for backup work. Business as usual in Carolina.
For the second straight week, the Chicago backfield reports exceptional metrics as a whole, but Matt Nagy’s play-calling and player rotations are crushing fantasy value across the board.
Tarik Cohen continues to deliver disappointing overall usage and below-average target volume relative to his career expectation. David Montgomery has finally begun to assert himself as the team’s clear lead-back, but Nagy has been fickle in delivering him a strong workload. Montgomery gained 67 yards on 13 rush attempts in Week 3 — but most of his rushing output game in the second half. Through the first two quarters of action, he and Cordarrelle Patterson tied for the team lead with only four rush attempts.
(Sighs heavily) Based on what we’ve seen so far, I cannot imagine that this backfield situation will become any clearer barring player injuries. Moreover, I remain pessimistic regarding Montgomery’s and Cohen’s probability to return appropriate value on their fantasy draft capital.
Cincinnati continues to depress me.
Joe Mixon finally broke through with a 17.5 PPR performance in Week 3 on 17 total opportunities. But, Mixon’s opportunity share and yardage total this week seem high relative to his median expectation in the Bengals’ pass-first and pass-second offense. Mixon has rushed for only 88 yards through three games, and Cincinnati’s offensive line is still one of the worst in the NFL and is dealing with devastating injuries already this season.
As frustrating as the Bears backfield may be, it has at least performed well as a unit. By contrast, the Bengals backfield more closely resembles a fantasy hell-scape of despair — and that indeed may be generous.
Finally, we drag ourselves out of the mire from our Bears and Bengals discussion and arrive in Cleveland with positive news to report. Nick Chubb dominated backfield work against the Rams, rushing 23 times for 96 yards and catching four passes for an additional 35 yards receiving. Neither D’Ernest Johnson nor Dontrell Hilliard recorded offensive statistics in this game — perhaps signaling Cleveland’s commitment to Chubb in more competitive game scripts. Chubb drew a season-high seven targets in Week 3, bringing his season total up to 15 targets.
All offseason, I consistently and ruthlessly maligned Chubb’s poor rookie receiving profile — and I leaned on that take in advocating to fade him this season. However, for the first time in several months, I am becoming far more optimistic about Chubb’s RB1 viability. His PPR% (Rec) and Opps% (Tar) have increased for three consecutive weeks, with his 39.5% PPR (Rec) tenuously approaching the ideal historical range for PPR RB1s. In fairness, his seven targets could be an aberration — but it’s hard not to be encouraged by this development.
Both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard rushed for over 100 yards against the Dolphins, which is relatively unsurprising considering Miami’s early-season ineptitude. What is surprising, however, is that Pollard’s opportunities did not come strictly from garbage time production. Instead, Dallas utilized a systematic RB rotation throughout the game, with Elliott as the clear lead-back and Pollard as the change-of-pace mid-drive replacement.
Granted, it bears repeating that this performance came against the Dolphins. Against stronger competition, I expect Elliott to dominate the Cowboys’ backfield opportunities. Nonetheless, Pollard’s Week 3 output is encouraging for fantasy owners and demonstrates Dallas’ faith in Pollard as an apt replacement if Elliott suffers injury down the line.
Phillip Lindsay broke through for fantasy owners with an excellent 29-point showing this week. He rushed 21 times for 81 yards and two TDs while also snaring four passes for 49 yards. Royce Freeman also delivered 11.3 points of his own and matched Lindsay with five receiving targets.
Through three weeks of action, the Broncos’ RB workload has been sufficient to sustain fantasy relevance for both Lindsay and Freeman — and it should continue to do so indefinitely. Freeman has been the more efficient rusher, and Lindsay has been the more efficient receiver. Nonetheless, both players boast similar usage, total yardage, and PPR% (Rec) and Opps% (Tar) metrics. Both backs could realistically finish the season as fantasy RB2s — but Freeman affords ideal leverage at a lower opportunity cost.
Last week, Detroit waived C.J. Anderson and picked up Paul Perkins on waivers via the New York Giants. This move solidified Kerryon Johnson’s early-down usage and upgraded rookie Ty Johnson’s status as a complementary back. However, Kerryon Johnson did very little with his touches, rushing 20 times for 36 yards and a TD in Week 3. His target volume is also down relative to his rookie season averages, which is perhaps the most concerning detail in his player profile. He still reports an ideal PPR% (Rec), but his fantasy value hinges on Matt Patricia and Co. delivering him an elevated target share over the coming weeks.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Jones erupted with a phenomenal Week 2 fantasy performance, but I urged caution in chalking him up as a consistent RB1 or RB2 threat each week. Historically, Jones has been one of the more game script dependent backs in the league despite his exceptional efficiency. Moreover, Jamaal Williams is not going away any time soon. In fact, head coach Matt LaFleur emphasized his intention to achieve a more equitable backfield split between Jones and Williams this season.
He delivered on that proclamation in Week 3 — much to the chagrin of Jones’ fantasy owners. Williams rushed for 59 yards and added 27 yards receiving; Jones only managed 23 total yards. Williams out-touched Jones 14-to-11, thereby confirming the existence of a 50-50 committee in Green Bay. Accordingly, Williams should be a priority waiver add this week, especially for Zero-RB squads.
Ugh. Don’t even get me started on the Houston Texans. I’ll keep my comments brief in order to avoid an aneurism: Neither Carlos Hyde nor Duke Johnson offers meaningful PPR value this season. Hyde’s utter lack of receiving usage renders him largely irrelevant besides perhaps a weekly bye-week fill-in. Johnson’s skillset is more amenable to PPR formats, but it’s clear that the Texans have little intention to utilize him appropriately. His 26 opportunities is too low to sustain starting fantasy value, and he may even be droppable in shallow leagues.
Marlon Mack performed around his median expectation in Week 3 by rushing 16 times for 74 yards and a TD. His metrical profile still projects him as a high-end RB2, but Indianapolis has ramped-up its passing attack for two consecutive weeks. So far, Mack’s elite fantasy production has stemmed from his above-average rushing volume. If the Colts develop a more balanced attack as the season progresses, Mack could become more game script dependent than expected.
Nyheim Hines continues to be a profound disappointment, and there is little evidence to support a revival in his fantasy prospects. He is droppable in most leagues.
Leonard Fournette, David Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell share similar profiles this season. Each back reports elite receiving volume and above-average overall opportunity, but each player also suffers from poor efficiency in low-upside offenses. All three are holding on to fantasy RB1 status by the skin of their teeth. Nonetheless, none of them face any meaningful competition for touches in their respective backfields.
As we’ve already seen this season, the confluence of those factors has made Fournette a relatively stable fantasy producer but a wildly inefficient in-game performer. The eye test does not support Fournette’s bid for elite fantasy prowess, and his poor scoring potential further hampers his season-long outlook. But, as long as he continues to draw 6.7 targets per game — and so long as Ryquell Armstead remains anchored to the bench — Fournette should still deliver fantasy RB2 value conservatively.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs opted to rest Damien Williams this week as he nurses an injured knee. LeSean McCoy drew the start in his place, but he too made an early exit after reaggravating an ankle injury from Week 2. In their place, Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson rose to the occasion. Williams rushed nine times for 62 yards and added an eye-popping five receptions for 47 yards. Thompson disappointed yet again with four rush attempts for eight yards and zero receiving targets. This week offered ideal conditions for Thompson to claim a stronger share of the Chiefs’ workload, but he failed to deliver. I was optimistic regarding Thompson’s fantasy potential throughout the offseason, but that optimism has now been totally extinguished.
Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler only rushed for 36 yards this week and failed to find the end zone, but he still delivered a 15.1-point fantasy performance. He achieved yet another strong outing due to his elite receiving acumen, hauling in seven passes for 45 yards. Ekeler is a clear example of why receiving production is so important for fantasy RBs. Even on off days, RBs with strong team target shares still provide an elevated floor projection to offset droughts in rushing inefficiency or TD scoring.
Justin Jackson also added 30 total yards on nine opportunities. His week to week production has been somewhat disappointing, but he nonetheless possesses excellent value as the Chargers’ next man up. Stash him on your bench until Melvin Gordon makes his return.
Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley fantasy owners watched Sunday night’s matchup against the Browns in broken disbelief as Gurley managed only 4.3 PPR points in a competitive game script. Any RB occasionally posts an inefficient rushing performance, so we may be inclined to forgive Gurley this once. However, in previous seasons, he has managed to salvage such games due to his exceptional receiving volume and historical TD-rate.
This season, that has changed. Gurley has only earned six receiving targets and has converted those opportunities into four receptions for eight yards. Clearly, this is nowhere near the receiving production we have come to expect from one of the league’s most dynamic pass-catching RBs. Moreover, he only has one TD on the season — which, again, does not reflect his elite TD production from either of the past two seasons.
The Rams offense has not picked up where it left off last year. QB Jared Goff has been inconsistent (especially on downfield passes), Sean McVay has not rolled out his elaborate playbook of creative screen plays, and the offense has been underwhelming as a whole. Gurley’s production has suffered as a result — which synergizes with his 2019 workload reduction to further depress his fantasy outlook this year.
Kenyan Drake has boasted improved statistics for two consecutive games, but that still doesn’t necessarily make him a viable fantasy asset. In fairness, he did record 78 total yards this week on 19 opportunities, but he translated that usage into only 10.8 fantasy points. His PPR% (Rec) and Opps% (Tar) are off the charts for a lead-back, and he does report a strong Team Opps% to boot. Moreover, Kalen Ballage is averaging one — yes, literally one — yard per carry on the season, which further elevates Drake as the sole Dolphins RB with any fantasy relevance.
Drake’s biggest issue is not his skillset or his metrics; it’s his team. Miami is undoubtably the worst team in the NFL, and the Dolphins’ abysmal scoring potential offers little promise for Drake to break out of his fantasy purgatory this season. Here’s hoping he lands on the Patriots’ roster in 2020.
This team breakdown is short and sweet. Dalvin Cook once again eclipsed 100 yards rushing with a 24.3-point PPR performance. His receiving usage is steadily improving as the team introduces more passing concepts each week, but his rushing production has not fallen off. He remains the biggest draft-day steal of 2019.
Rookie backup Alexander Mattison also continues to impress — rushing 12 times for 58 yards and a TD in Week 3. Like many backups, Mattison does not offer viable standalone fantasy value, but his relatively high usage suggests strong potential as a replacement if Cook suffers injury. Mattison should be owned in all leagues.
New England Patriots
I’m going to be blunt with you. Sony Michel is no better than Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount, or any other rush-heavy RB from previous iterations of the Patriots offense. Michel fits a clear paradigm that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has utilized in the past as an early-down rusher and goal-line back with almost zero receiving contribution. Don’t buy the hype. Move on from Michel.
James White did not play in the Patriots’ Week 3 matchup against the Jets as he awaited the birth of his child. So, evaluate his metrical profile based on two games of action. He remains a strong Flex play even in a crowded backfield situation.
However, I’ve changed my tune on Rex Burkhead. I mean, honestly, after yet another strong performance (to the tune of 18.9 PPR points), it’s difficult for me to ignore him any longer. He rushed 11 times for 47 yards and a TD against the Jets, but he also added six receptions on seven targets with White inactive. Burkhead’s holistic usage should decline next week when White returns, but his role will not evaporate. He’s not an every-week starter, but he is a situational Flex play — especially when New England is at home against a beleaguered opponent.
New Orleans Saints
Alvin Kamara erupted for 161 total yards and 37.1 PPR points in his best game of the year against the Seahawks. Quarterback Drew Brees remains sidelined with an injured throwing hand, leaving Teddy Bridgewater as New Orleans’ starter for the bulk of the regular season. Preliminary results suggest that the Saints are going to deliver an elite bell-cow-style workload to Kamara, which has to be a relief for fantasy owners.
Meanwhile, Latavius Murray has failed to fill Mark Ingram’s shoes as the Saints’ RB2. Murray has rushed for 52 yards this season and only received two rush attempts in Week 3. He’s still intriguing as an elite replacement-level player if Kamara suffers injury, but he has demonstrated little, if any, value as a standalone player this year
New York Giants
Last week, I urged everyone to pick up Wayne Gallman off waivers in case Saquon Barkley suffered injury. And in Week 3, Barkley did just that: He suffered a high-ankle sprain that will keep him out for the next four to eight weeks. I would never call myself a prophet, but I can’t deny the evidence either.
In all seriousness, Gallman deserves a waiver claim this week. I’ve already heard and read some analysts and talking-heads dismissing Gallman as a viable fantasy producer, but they’re wrong. There, I said it. Below, I’ll reproduce some of my comments from last week’s NFC Zero RB Watchlist wherein I explain why Gallman will be a solid replacement for Barkley.
“Gallman is not a particularly sexy name on waivers this time of year, but he is a high-upside handcuff option nonetheless. He boasts an ideal 52.6% PPR (Rec) split for his career, along with a strong 31.1% Opps (Tar). Contrast those metrics with Barkley’s career 46.9% PPR (Rec) and 31.6% Opps (Tar). Both players have earned an eerily similar distribution of touches and PPR points in their careers, which makes Gallman a legitimate one-for-one schematic replacement if Barkley suffers injury.
Barkley owners should strongly consider adding Gallman as a security blanket, and everyone should flag him as a high priority on their watch lists in case Barkley misses time.”
New York Jets
I already touched on Le’Veon Bell in my discussion for Leonard Fournette, but I’ll rehash some of those sentiments here. Bell rushed 18 times for 35 yards against the Patriots’ vaunted defense, and he assuredly struggled with QB Luke Falk leading the offense. However, Bell’s 2.9 yards per carry average this season reveals that Week 3 is no aberration; he is struggling to produce on an elite level in the Jets’ below-average offense.
But, do not lose hope just yet. Though his yardage and scoring output has been low, his receiving volume is exceptional. Bell’s 23 targets, 20 receptions, and 121 receiving yards each rank top-three among RBs this season.
Josh Jacobs was hampered by a groin injury this week, and his workload suffered as a result. He rushed 10 times for 44 yards while DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard combined for 11 touches and 51 total yards.
This backfield split is likely just temporary — or even precautionary — as Jacobs rehabs his groin injury. Nonetheless, through three games, he has only managed a single reception for 28 yards, and his PPR% (Rec) is approaching Sony Michel’s historic 5.0% low from 2018. Continue to monitor Jacobs’ health and receiving usage over the next few weeks. If Oakland doesn’t start feeding him the ball as a receiver, he could be looking at a middling RB2 finish or worse by season’s end.
Miles Sanders has finally begun working into the Eagles receiving game. In addition to his 53 rushing yards, Sanders added two receptions for 73 yards on four targets in Week 3. He now boasts a comparable PPR% (Rec) with Darren Sproles and boasts by far the strongest PPR profile of any of Philadelphia’s RBs. However, he has been unable to shake Jordan Howard as a consistent threat to his rushing volume. Once again, the two players split carries, with Howard rushing for 37 yards and poaching the backfield’s lone TD in Week 3.
Sanders’ increased role as a receiver is promising, but his backfield competition is disconcerting. Conservatively, he projects as an RB3 for the rest of the season — but he would immediately enter the high-end RB2 conversation if Howard suffers injury or simply falls out of favor.
The Steelers should consider rebranding as the Pittsburgh Bengals-East. I mean, seriously; Pittsburgh and Cincinnati not only share a division but also boast eerily similar backfield metrics this season. My pessimistic commentary on Joe Mixon can easily be applied to James Conner — although in fairness, Conner does boast slightly improved receiving production.
The most frustrating thing about the Steelers is Jaylen Samuels’ almost non-existent workload this season. In Week 3 — with Pittsburgh starting QB Mason Rudolph for the first time without Ben Roethlisberger — Samuels only played 18 snaps and failed to record a single opportunity while on the field. It makes no sense that the Pittsburgh coaching staff is not using Samuels, especially considering Conner’s lingering knee injury. Benny Snell has seen limited action as well and has done little to warrant a speculative add in redraft leagues.
San Francisco 49ers
Good luck figuring out this backfield.
On a positive note, San Francisco ranks first in backfield PPR points and total opportunities through three games. However, it has achieved this feat through a cannabilistic deployment of multiple specialty backs. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert remain the core RB duo in the 49ers week-to-week game plan, but it appears they are being used almost interchangeably. Jeff Wilson Jr. has further complicated matters by vulturing four rushing TDs3 in the mold of Michael Bush with the Chicago Bears in seasons past.
Tevin Coleman is reportedly prepared to make his return in Week 4, which throws yet another monkey wrench into San Francisco’s workload distribution. Given the 49ers’ exceptional backfield production, it’s difficult to drop any of their RBs. But, my expectations have soured for Coleman, Breida, and Mostert, and I expect San Francisco to maintain the most robust RB-by-committee backfield for the remainder of the season.
Chris Carson delivered a disappointing 4.1 PPR points in Week 3 — of course right after I dubbed him a “fantasy darling” last week. His PPR% (Rec) and Team Opps% are both still phenomenal, and backup Rashaad Penny has yet to gain footing in the Seahawks offensive game plan. However, C.J. Prosise is beginning to factor more heavily into the offense, stealing eight receiving targets over the last two weeks. If Prosise’s usage continues, Carson’s Opps% (Tar) will surely fall as a result, likely pushing him back down into fantasy mid-RB2 status.
Pay close attention to this particular backfield situation in Week 4. Carson has already coughed up three costly fumbles this season, which may foster distrust from his coaching staff. Following Seattle’s Week 3 loss to the Saints, head coach Pete Carroll has publicly professed his enduring support for Carson — but that may just be coach-speak. If Carson can hold off Penny and Prosise in Week 4, then his 2019 season outlook remains strong.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Peyton Barber reclaimed the backfield in Week 2 only to lose it again this week. Barber and Ronald Jones evenly split work against the Giants, but Jones was by far the more explosive player. Meanwhile, Dare Ogunbowale regained relevance with a three-target, 23-yard showing of his own. Ogunbowale’s intermittent but persistent threat as a receiving back severely caps the overall upside for both Jones and Barber — neither of whom boast strong receiving profiles.
At this point, it looks like Jones and Barber could trade touches throughout the season, which adds volatility to an already suboptimal fantasy outlook. Tampa Bay remains one of the backfields for which I have the lowest interest this season. Even if one of Barber or Jones suffered injury, the offense still has not afforded an ideal distribution of backfield opportunities. As a result, neither Barber nor Jones projects as a fantastic Zero-RB-style replacement-level asset.
As is the case for many rush-heavy RBs, Derrick Henry finally put up a dud this season, rushing 17 times for 44 yards against the Jaguars. He did add a rushing TD, which salvaged his 11.6-point fantasy outing. Nonetheless, his PPR (Rec) profile still projects him as a high-end fantasy RB2. Henry’s prolific early-season production is encouraging, but it is also somewhat inflated by his 75-yard Week 1 receiving TD. I expect his fantasy value to regress over the remainder of the season, leaving him with a revised end-of-season projection as the RB13 in PPR formats.
Adrian Peterson only received 12 rush attempts for 37 yards on Monday night, translating those opportunities into 4.4 PPR points. Meanwhile, Chris Thompson caught four passes for 78 yards and added 29 yards rushing for another solid 14.7-point PPR week.
In Week 1, I framed Thompson as “Tarik Cohen arbitrage.” But now — after considering Thompson’s elevated rushing opportunities and Peterson’s inefficiency — I’m revising that assessment. Thompson is not merely Cohen arbitrage; rather, he is the true and better version of Cohen.
Among all RB2 receiving specialists this season, I believe Thompson boasts the strongest probability to sneak into the fantasy RB1 conversation by season’s end. He may never deliver an RB1-style explosion in a given week, but his consistency and receiving volume should keep his value afloat while more rush-heavy RBs sink to RB2 or RB3 status.