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The Jump Cut: Breaking Down Every NFL Backfield From Week 5

Welcome to The Jump Cut, my new Monday column where I offer immediate running back reactions following Sunday’s NFL action.

I’ll continue to publish my RB Market Share Report on Tuesdays and my Ultimate Zero RB Watchlist AFC | NFC on Wednesdays. Each of those columns offers rich data analysis and team-by-team backfield breakdowns to help guide your season-long RB strategy.

The Jump Cut will provide similar analysis without all the frills, in order to deliver you timely insight for your impending waiver wire claims. Consider this your Monday mid-day Reader’s Digest-style RB Report from the week that was in fantasy football.

Notable Week 5 Performances

Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

Jones converted 27 opportunities into 182 yards against the Cowboys, but his superb all-purpose production was overshadowed by his four rushing touchdowns. Since 2000, only 25 other RBs have put up a four-TD performance or better in a single game. Jones now boasts eight TDs through five games this season — a feat achieved by only seven other RBs since 2000:

  • Todd Gurley (2018)
  • Devonta Freeman (2015)
  • LaDainian Tomlinson (2005)
  • Shaun Alexander (2005)
  • Shaun Alexander (2004)
  • Priest Holmes (2002)
  • Marshall Faulk (2000)

He has now surpassed 18 EP in three of his five games, after failing to break 17.9 EP in any game last season. His 29 EP in Week 5 more than doubles his 17-game average over that span.

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

As I speculated in last week’s Zero RB Watch List, Ekeler maintained a lucrative fantasy role in the Chargers offense despite the return of Melvin Gordon. Ekeler only rushed three times for seven yards, but he hauled in 15 receptions for 86 yards on 16 targets. His 24.3-point fantasy total ranks sixth among RBs pending scores from Monday night.

The only other RB to ever register at least 15 receptions in a game is Alvin Kamara, who did so last season against Atlanta in Week 3. Ekeler now boasts the second-most receptions (39) and sixth-most receiving yards (356) by an RB through five games in NFL history.

Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

I’m sure it goes without saying, but Christian McCaffrey is pretty good at football. This week, he joined an elite group of RBs to achieve 150 fantasy points through the first five games of the season:

  • Priest Holmes (2002)
  • Marshall Faulk (2000)
  • Eric Dickerson (1983)
  • Jim Brown (1963)

Through five weeks, McCaffrey leads all RBs in touches (136) — the most since DeMarco Murray in 2014 — and yards from scrimmage (866). The only RBs to ever achieve 850 or more yards from scrimmage in five games were Jim Brown (1958, 1963) and O.J. Simpson (1973).

Oh right, I almost forgot, his Week 5 stat-line! McCaffrey casually rushed 19 times for 176 yards, caught six passes for 61 yards, scored three TDs, and amassed 47.7 fantasy points. No big deal.

Sony Michel, New England Patriots

Sony Michel finally caught a pass! Three of them, in fact!

Of course, I have to poke fun at Michel given his receiving-averse history, but he genuinely deserves commendation this week for catching all three of his receiving targets for 32 yards. He also added 16 rushes for 91 yards and a TD to pad his 21.3-point fantasy performance. Those three receptions made the difference between an RB18 outing and an RB8 outing this week, which underscores just how vital receiving work is to fantasy production.

Michel’s three-reception total in Week 5 is the highest of his career and accounts for 30% of his career reception total. No, I’m not making that up.

Given his track record, it’s doubtful that Michel will pick up receptions like this on a regular basis, but fantasy owners deserve to be enthused this week.

James White and Brandon Bolden also combined for 21 opportunities, 114 yards, one TD, and 24.4 points against Washington.

Honorable Mention: Frank Gore, Buffalo Bills

Frank Gore gained 69 total yards and earned 8.9 fantasy points in Week 5, but he also achieved a career milestone that bears mention. He logged his 200th career start on Sunday, joining Emmitt Smith as the only RBs with 200 or more starts in NFL history. Gore is years removed from his electric performance as a Miami Hurricane or his Pro Bowl seasons as a 49er, but his longevity alone testifies to his enduring legacy. So, while I may lambast him in fantasy from week to week, he deserves this special moment in recognition of his exceptional career.

Workhorse Workloads

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

Johnson logged another scoreless outing but made up for it with 156 total yards en route to 18.6 points. He also suffered a back injury that hampered him in the second-half. Monitor his availability leading up to Week 6 action.

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Elliott rushed 12 times for 62 yards and a TD while trailing most of the game against Green Bay. He only added two receptions for 29 yards, which is disappointing given his game script, but his TD salvaged a 17.1-point fantasy performance. Backup Tony Pollard resurfaced this week for four carries and 19 yards of his own, but he has failed to repeat his standout Week 3 performance against the Dolphins. Pollard is not a viable standalone producer and only offers value as a handcuff option.

Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts

Despite hamstring and ankle injuries in subsequent weeks, Mack still earned a whopping 29 carries against Kansas City this week. He rushed for 132 yards, caught three passes for 16 yards, but failed to reach the end zone. Mack’s opportunity share is excellent, but his low TD production and receiving acumen are somewhat concerning. Nonetheless, he delivered a valuable fantasy performance despite those shortcomings, so beggars can’t be choosers.

Nyheim Hines also logged four receptions for 46 yards and has finally begun to deliver meaningful fantasy production over the last two weeks.

Hines’ production still lags behind preseason expectations, but it’s encouraging to see him increasingly utilized within the offense. His receiving usage has surged during competitive game scripts over the last two weeks. The Colts draw a Week 6 bye before a challenging matchup against division rival Houston in Week 7.

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

Fournette rushed for 108 yards and a TD on 23 carries against the Panthers. He also maintained his excellent receiving workload, adding four receptions for 29 yards on seven targets. He now ranks second among RBs in opportunities (125) through five weeks and appears destined for end-of-season RB1 status barring injury.

Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

For the second straight week, Todd Gurley delivered a mediocre rushing performance (15 carries for 51 yards) but added two rushing TDs to bolster a solid fantasy performance. Gurley leads all RBs with 14 multi-TD games since 2017. Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey are tied for second with eight TDs apiece.

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

Cook’s breakout season continues unmitigated. He rushed for 132 yards and added 86 yards receiving, eclipsing 200 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his young career. He has now delivered an RB1-caliber fantasy performance in eight of his last 10 games dating back to last season, including all five weeks to begin 2019.

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Kamara logged an uncharacteristically placid performance against Tampa Bay, converting 23 total opportunities into 104 yards. Backup Latavius Murray saw an uptick in usage, rushing seven times for 28 yards and hauling in two passes for six more yards. Neither Saints RB found the end zone in Week 5.

Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets

Bell maintains a stranglehold on the Jets backfield, but his dominant opportunity share is still relatively unrewarding. Bell rushed 15 times for 43 yards and hauled in seven of his nine receiving targets for 45 yards through the air. For context on his woeful inefficiency, Jordan Howard reports 18 fewer rush attempts than Bell but has out-gained him by 42 yards on the ground. Bell reports exactly the same number of opportunities (103) as Ezekiel Elliott, but Bell has scored 14.6 fewer fantasy points despite doubling Elliott’s reception total.

Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders

Jacobs posted his best stat-line of the season with 153 total yards, two TDs, and 29.3 fantasy points against the Bears in London. This feat is even more impressive considering Oakland drew the worst overall RB matchup of the week.

Jacobs has totaled 507 yards from scrimmage and 80.7 points despite being limited by a groin injury in Weeks 2 and 3. Over the last 10 seasons, only four rookies have matched or exceeded Jacobs’ production through five games: Saquon Barkley (2018), Leonard Fournette (2017), Kareem Hunt (2017), and Ezekiel Elliott (2016).

DeAndre Washington also added nine touches for 36 yards and a TD. Washington’s usage has experienced a slight uptick in recent weeks, so he could be worth a waiver claim due in case Jacobs suffers an injury setback. Although, be advised that Oakland is on bye next week.

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

Carson defiantly held off Rashaad Penny’s bid for increased touches by rushing 27 times for 118 yards on his way to 19.3 points. Despite Penny’s return, Carson still earned 29 total opportunities, bringing his two-week total up to 55. Penny rushed six times for 18 yards and caught two passes for 31 yards but failed to score a TD.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Henry continues to receive around 20 touches per game, but he also continues to rush inefficiently. He turned 20 Week 5 carries into 78 yards and a TD and failed to record a receiving target. Since Week 3, Henry reports 7.5 points below expectation — despite finding the end zone twice. Dion Lewis is still an afterthought in Tennessee’s offense, averaging only six opportunities and 19.4 yards per game.

Disappointing Duos

Peyton Barber & Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Every time it feels like Ronald Jones is beginning to take over the backfield, our collective fantasy hopes are dashed by Bruce Arians’ fickle player rotations. This week, Jones logged 12 opportunities for 56 yards and 7.6 points. Peyton Barber added nine opportunities for 31 total yards but vultured Tampa Bay’s lone backfield TD. The Buccaneers duo combined for only 17.7 points against the Saints’ stout run defense.

Mark Ingram & Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens

Ingram and Edwards combined for 27 opportunities, but only gained 72 total yards. Ingram did manage to punch in a rush TD to salvage a mediocre 12.9-point fantasy performance, but fantasy owners undoubtedly expected more against an overmatched Steelers team. Justice Hill also resurfaced this week for two attempts and seven yards before summarily ducking his head back down into his metaphorical gopher hole.

James Conner & Jaylen Samuels, Pittsburgh Steelers

One week removed from an impressive 47.1-point combined performance, James Conner and Jaylen Samuels mustered only 15 combined points in Week 5. Conner rushed 14 times for 55 yards and a TD but surprisingly failed to earn a receiving target. Of course, that may be due — at least in part — to Mason Rudolph’s early exit with a concussion. Samuels logged another mediocre performance, rushing for only two yards and snaring three passes for 11 more. Yuck.

Damien Williams & LeSean McCoy, Kansas City Chiefs

In the list of Week 5 under-performers, Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy sit enthroned atop a golden toilet seat. Williams returned from a nagging knee injury to reclaim starting duties in Week 5, but he fell back into his inefficient ways, rushing nine times for 23 yards and failing to score. He did add three receptions for 15 yards, but even that is low relative to preseason expectation.

McCoy was even worse, catching two passes for 23 yards but failing to earn a single rush attempt for the game. McCoy coughed up a costly fumble, which may explain his poor usage. He has also nursed an injured ankle, which could be a contributor. But neither of those possibilities fully excuses zero rush attempts in the contest — especially considering that Darrel Williams didn’t earn a single touch either.

Waiver Wire Warriors

Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

Edmonds’ total opportunities have increased for three straight weeks, culminating in eight rushes for 68 yards and a TD in Week 5. He also added three receptions for 18 yards on four passing targets.

Lead-back David Johnson reportedly dealt with back issues during the second-half of the contest, which calls his Week 6 availability into question. Edmonds was already an excellent handcuff before his Week 5 outburst. But if Johnson misses any time — or even if he’s limited — due to his back injury, Edmonds could provide Flex value as a dynamic all-purpose contributor.

Reggie Bonnafon, Carolina Panthers

While McCaffrey has been off setting historic single-season records, Reggie Bonnafon has quietly solidified himself as the team’s No. 2 RB. He rushed five times for 80 yards and a TD this week and remains a high-priority handcuff in all formats. I’ve been begging you to stash Bonnafon since the preseason, but now the cat may be out of the bag. Bonnafon is a fantastic stash play, especially for Zero-RB teams for the leverage he affords over McCaffrey owners.

Jonathan Hilliman, New York Giants

Wayne Gallman rushed two times for 14 yards before leaving Sunday’s game with a concussion. Saquon Barkley is reportedly recovering from his ankle sprain far ahead of schedule, but he remains doubtful to play in Week 6. If both Barkley and Gallman are out next week, Jonathan Hilliman would slide in as the team’s starter. He rushed nine times for 20 yards and caught one of two targets for four yards in limited action this week. Elijhaa Penny also factored into backfield work, but Hilliman out-touched him 10-to-4, signaling the team’s faith in Hilliman moving forward.

Tra Carson, Green Bay Packers

With Jamaal Williams (head/neck) sidelined, Tra Carson earned No. 2 RB duties over rookie Dexter Williams. Carson rushed six times for 14 yards and caught all four of his receiving targets for 18 additional yards. His stat-line is underwhelming, but his receiving usage is nonetheless encouraging. Aaron Jones is clearly a workhorse in the offense so long as Jamaal Williams remains out, but Carson could be worth a flier in deeper leagues.

Other Notes from Sunday’s Games

  • Washington fired head coach Jay Gruden following the team’s fifth straight loss and named Bill Callahan interim head coach. Callahan has already gone on record criticizing Gruden’s failure to “establish the run,” which may hint at an increased Week 6 workload for Adrian Peterson — perhaps at the expense of PPR darling Chris Thompson.
  • The backfield split continues for Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders, who once again operated in a 50-50 committee this week. It was Howard who punched in the team’s lone backfield TD — bringing his season total to five — while Sanders has still yet to score. Sanders did, however, add four receptions for 49 yards and has established himself as the team’s top pass-receiving RB.
  • Melvin Gordon’s long-awaited return was lackluster, as he rushed 12 times for 31 yards and failed to score. He drew six additional passing targets, but Gordon only converted those receiving opportunities into four receptions for seven yards. Gordon will likely improve as the season progresses, but Ekeler has proven his standalone value regardless of Gordon’s rushing volume.
  • Receiving issues continue to plague Bengals RB Joe Mixon, who has only managed 68 total receiving yards on 12 receptions this season. He rushed 19 times for 93 yards against a weak Cardinals defense, but his poor receiving volume and lack of TD scoring resulted in only 11.9 fantasy points.
  • David Montgomery’s growing workload plummeted in Week 5, earning only 11 rush attempts for 25 yards and a score. His receiving usage also vanished as Tarik Cohen hoarded seven targets, six receptions, and 39 yards. Both Bears RBs broke 10 fantasy points for the contest, but neither has provided sufficient fantasy production to satisfy their owners.
  • Duke Johnson rushed for over 50 yards for the second straight week, but his receiving usage lags far behind any reasonable expectation. Carlos Hyde rushed 21 times for 60 yards and a TD and has now out-touched Johnson 78-to-41 for the season.
  • Despite my characterization of Denver’s backfield as a 50-50 split throughout the season, Phillip Lindsay continues to deliver the more lucrative fantasy performances. This week, he earned 19 opportunities (to Royce Freeman’s 15) for 147 yards and a TD. He outscored Freeman 24.7-to-8.7 in fantasy and now boasts a 30.6-point edge over his backfield mate for the season.
  • Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith combined for only 49 rushing yards, but the Falcons duo also caught all 11 of their receiving targets for 95 yards and a TD. Freeman delivered another solid 18-point fantasy performance, but Smith closed the gap from recent weeks with 12.4 points of his own.
Image Credit: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Christian McCaffrey.

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