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Zero RB Watch List: NFC Week 7 – Excitement and Red Flags for Rookies Miles Sanders and Darrell Henderson

The Zero RB Watch List provides analysis for Zero RB and RB-heavy owners alike. Shawn Siegele examines the running back workloads for every NFC backfield from Week 6.

I’m filling in for Ryan Collinsworth this week and immediately get to discuss hot button players like Miles Sanders and Darrell Henderson. We’ll use the RotoViz Screener and NFL Stats Explorer to dive into the advanced stats for every team.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott led the RB position in expected points (EP) in Week 6, and we’re now three weeks removed from the big game from Tony Pollard.

The Cowboys star averaged 20.1 EP over the two previous seasons. Although he’s well below that level currently, the numbers are trending in the right direction.

Pollard has been reduced to pure handcuff, but he’s likely the best handcuff in all of football.

New York Giants

Even on low volume, Jonathan Hilliman and Elijhaa Penny managed negative scores in every FPOE category. The former was then waived to make room for Javorius Allen. Multiple outlets are reporting that Saquon Barkley could return this week, a development that can’t come soon enough for Giants fans and fantasy owners.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jordan Howard was the surprise RB19 through five weeks, mostly due to a 32.5-point performance in Week 4. Unfortunately, that performance didn’t look sustainable, and his numbers have deteriorated since.

Howard is averaging 10.1 EP, and almost all of that comes as a runner (7.9). That allows for the occasional TD-fueled explosion, but it’s difficult to rely on from a floor perspective.

Even as the preferred goal-line back in an intriguing offense, Howard has underperformed expectation half the time this season.

By contrast, Miles Sanders has averaged 9.7 EP this season, 4.2 of which has been as a receiver. It’s frustrating to see his Week 6 EP drop to only 5.9, although the receiving volume remained. The 32-yard TD reception illustrated his athletic upside and made the case for more immediate work.

Although the Eagles are unlikely to clear the deck for Sanders as definitively as the Browns did for Chubb last year, this is the time when our rookie pick from 2018 exploded.

Washington

It’s a difficult path to fantasy relevance for a run-oriented back in a moribund offense, but you’ll definitely take Adrian Peterson’s 15.6 EP.

Chris Thompson averaged 11.0 reEP through the first five weeks, but he earned a season-low three targets in this one. It’s tempting to suggest the coaching change could ding his value, but the Screener tells us 27 of his 38 targets have occurred with Washington trailing by at least a TD. They won’t play Miami every week.1

NFC North

Detroit Lions

Johnson turned 17 touches into -6.1 FPOE, including a backbreaking catch/drop that was overturned on a dubious replay decision late in the game.2

Using the Weekly Stats Explorer, we see that Johnson ranks No. 12 at the RB position with 16.0 total EP per game. Unfortunately, he’s not looked like a star on those touches. Among the RBs ahead of him in the rankings, Leonard Fournette and Le’Veon Bell are the only others with negative FPOE on the season. On the big stage Monday night, Johnson disappointed in both his explosiveness as a runner and his fluidity as a receiver.

Green Bay Packers

What a difference a week makes. Aaron Jones failed to build on his 49-point performance from Week 5, dropping an easy TD and fumbling away an early possession.

Jamaal Williams returned from his concussion to shockingly lead the backfield in rushing attempts (14) and turn his five targets into 13.2 fantasy points. Williams’ runs have a dream-sequence quality next to the video game moves from Jones, but his solid, dual-threat ability is a great fit for this offense.

The two backs combined for almost 30 total EP. While that won’t happen every week, both backs have upside with such a large pie.

Minnesota Vikings

Cook lost 14 carries worth 9.4 potential fantasy points to Alexander Mattison in what was his PPR low-point of the season. Cook ranks third in scoring but drops to sixth in EP, in part because of a mildly disappointing 6.1 reEP.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

This was the type of game Freeman owners were expecting when they drafted him. He parlayed 22 touches and 15 EP into his first RB1 performance of the season.

The correspondingly poor performance from Ito Smith reduces the committee element in Atlanta and returns Freeman to must-start status.

Carolina Panthers

McCaffrey’s rare hiccup as a runner was balanced by a highlight-reel TD in the passing game. After cramps led to a Reggie Bonnafon appearance in Week 5, the backfield was all McCaffrey against the Bucs.

New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara popped up with an ankle injury mid-week, and that may have contributed to his 4.9 ruEP. Fortunately for Kamara owners, it takes him a relatively limited number of snaps to generate double-digit reEP.

Kamara’s total EP per game has dropped from 20.1 in 2018 to 17.0 this season, but he’s weathered the Drew Brees injury better than might have been expected.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is the second consecutive coaching staff in Tampa that apparently doesn’t want to win.

I’m obviously invested in Ronald Jones – emotionally and otherwise – and he’s been impressive in limited touches. But if you don’t want to commit to Jones, then just deploy Dare Ogunbowale and take advantage of his pass-catching prowess.

Barber probably isn’t as bad as his numbers suggest and would probably be capable of what Carlos Hyde is doing if you plopped him down in Houston, but the Bucs situation demands either a star or more coaching creativity.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Blair Andrews breaks down the Cardinals backfield in another must-read edition of the EP Report.

Los Angeles Rams

Malcolm Brown looked big and quick when spelling Todd Gurley in Week 1. Those weren’t the adjectives you’d use to describe 11 trudging carries against San Francisco, and the contrast with Darrell Henderson only highlighted his weaknesses. For three fleeting plays, the rookie was everything we were promised this summer. He slashed through the vaunted 49ers defense for 22 and 14 yards, before a three-yard carry set up Brown at the 1-yard-line.

Unfortunately, Brown was stuffed twice, and the game swiftly deteriorated. Henderson later dropped a pitch and was stopped on his own fourth-and-1 attempt.

Of course, this wasn’t a great week for Brown and Henderson owners to take advantage of Gurley’s absence.

San Francisco has given up the fewest points in the NFL to the RB position, and they’ve done it by both forcing the opponent entirely away from the position (29th in EP) and by completely shutting down the runners (32nd FPOE).

It’s important not to read too much into one week, but for a team that is now struggling on offense, this game could be a dagger for Brown’s handcuff upside. It revealed L.A.’s need for a dual-threat option with plus-athleticism to take pressure off of a flailing Jared Goff.

San Francisco 49ers

Both Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida finished with negative FPOE, but we got our wish as the touches flowed through the Big 2.

Look for a more detailed discussion of the 49ers backfield in this week’s RotoViz Overtime.

Seattle Seahawks

With Rashaad Penny’s injury, C.J. Prosise has bounced around the edges of deep rosters the last couple of weeks. This performance won’t help his relevance. Chris Carson posted 20-plus EP and even registered 1.0 FPOE on four targets.

I’m still not finding the returns you might desire when trying to trade him in dynasty, but this weeks’ win-rate jump emphasizes his 2019 value.

Image Credit: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Miles Sanders.

  1. Washington’s Week 7 matchup against San Francisco would likely provide more favorable game script, but Thompson is dealing with turf toe and may not play.  (back)
  2. Johnson never put the ball away, but this would have been “on the transfer” in baseball. I would have ruled it incomplete in a vacuum, but it certainly didn’t meet the standard for an overturn.  (back)

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