Shawn Siegele looks at the monster performances from Aaron Jones, Tevin Coleman, and Christian McCaffrey, and breaks down the running back workloads for every NFC backfield ahead of Week 9.
Our goal with the Zero RB Watch List is to help you locate RB breakouts and waiver adds before they happen, but this column isn’t just for Zero RB owners. We’re just as focused on the high-profile backs. Understanding workloads is key to making tough redraft and dynasty trades.
The RotoViz Screener and NFL Stats Explorer provide a smorgasbord of data as we dive into the advanced stats for every team. Much of the focus is on how RBs score their points. We use expected points (EP) and fantasy points over expectation (FPOE) along with carries and targets to better understand each player’s workload.
Chase Edmonds was one of the biggest positive movers for Best Ball Win Rates after his demolition of the New York Giants. Unfortunately, Edmonds’ owners quickly went from ecstasy to despair. He picked up where he left off in the opportunity department but was stuffed for a total of -5.8 FPOE before exiting with a multi-week hamstring injury.
While Edmonds is a far superior runner to Kenyan Drake, the latter’s arrival will take a dent out of the receiving workload. Edmonds has thrived as a runner and struggled as a receiver, but even in a scenario where David Johnson’s injury lingers or is re-aggravated, it would be difficult to sustain RB2 value without the 5.7 reEP he’d racked up through three quarters.
Zach Zenner flashed his explosiveness on the single target and could earn the majority of the touches in a brutal Thursday night matchup with San Francisco. If it were any other matchup, this would be a good time to remind you of Zenner’s seven career games with 10-plus carries, and his three RB1 weekly finishes.
Devin McIntyre told you to trade for Devonta Freeman’s receiving workload in the absence of Mohamed Sanu. Brian Hill is likely a similar runner at this point in their respective careers, but Freeman earned all eight of the RB targets.
Freeman has been a mediocre RB2 in terms of PPG and EP/G. That could change if he sustains a larger role in the passing game.
Christian McCaffrey dominates in every facet, and it was impressive if not surprising to watch him shred a 49ers defense that otherwise humiliated the Panthers. He ranks in the top five of almost every important RB category, while earning the No. 1 spot in both expected points and points over expectation.
In the case of a McCaffrey injury, many owners would prefer turn to off the TV for the rest of the season rather than bother with his backups. For those harboring a plan for the apocalypse, it’s disconcerting to see Jordan Scarlett and Reggie Bonnafon splitting the carries and targets into completely separate roles.
Prior to his Week 8 breakout, everything that could go wrong had gone wrong for David Montgomery. Only eight RBs had generated more negative rushing FPOE than his -12.4, and he trailed teammate Tarik Cohen 59-19 in reEP.
Everything changed against the Chargers. Montgomery broke some long runs, but those are mostly beside the point. An RB with a forty time in the 4.6s and a sub-30-inch vertical isn’t going to be a big play threat against NFL defenders. The 32 touches are another story, especially the five targets. Montgomery’s thesis always depended on a whirling dervish approach to the position where he breaks tackles, scores touchdowns, and racks up big carry totals in an above-average offense. The kicker is an impressive three-down skill set.
Now if only Mitchell Trubisky can get them inside the 5-yard-line a little more frequently …
Before his injury, Kerryon Johnson (-20) ranked below every RB except Joe Mixon (-25) in ruFPOE. The Lions apparently wanted to answer the question of how to continue that trend with four RBs simultaneously.
Every single RB for the Lions posted negative efficiency in every category where he recorded a touch. Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic were the intriguing deep adds at this time last week, and they got the valuable touches with seven targets. Unfortunately, they were out-rushed 15-8 by the tandem of Tra Carson and Paul Perkins.
The gap between McCaffrey and the Detroit RBs is even greater than it appears at first glance. Consider their respective schedule strengths through eight weeks.
Green Bay Packers
Blair Andrews details the transcendent performance from Aaron Jones in this week’s EP Report.
Matt LaFleur has been extremely impressive in his debut season. He promised enough total volume to the RB position for Jones and Jamaal Williams to both be relevant, and he’s made good on that declaration.
Williams now has four games with double-digit EP, including three in a row. The highlight-reel TD catch against Kansas City was another reminder of his strong receiving ability despite limited athleticism. Jones and Williams now rank No. 3 and No. 10 respectively in FPOE/G.
Los Angeles Rams
This was the workload split we were promised over the summer, but Todd Gurley owners still have to be disappointed by the second-half touch split in a game the Rams controlled but never completely put away.
Henderson out-touched Gurley 14-11 overall and just missed a couple of breakaway chances. An Edmonds-like eruption is coming. Many redraft owners may need help over L.A.’s bye this week. He could be available for peanuts in many leagues.
Hasan Rahim was pounding the drum for Dalvin Cook all summer and owns him everywhere in best ball. That ownership is carrying him to victory at the half-way point. The Vikings star has such a high win rate that it actually dropped slightly following his most recent 28-point performance.
Alexander Mattison carved out 15 more touches in an offense that trails only the 49ers with 18.9 EP/G to the RB position. I’ve started him several times in the Apex Experts League and recommend sending trade offers in every format.
New Orleans Saints
You get the best Murray stats when you check out the EP Report.
Latavius Murray led all non-quarterbacks in total EP for the second straight week, en route to his second consecutive 30-plus-point game. His 28.8 EP not only set a new career high (which he previously set last week), but are also the third-highest single-game total any RB has achieved in 2019.
New York Giants
Saquon Barkley has been a mild disappointment even when healthy in 2019, but he set new season highs in PPR (28.3), EP (28.2), and targets (10) against the Lions. He needs to reprise that rookie receiving role to compete for his top spot in dynasty.
After five games with double-digit targets in 2018, he’s now broken the seal as a sophomore.
There have been 12 RB performances with more than 15.0 FPOE this season, and most of them belong to McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, or a 49er. Miles Sanders joined the cohort with a 65-yard TD run against the Bills. He’s now crested 10.0 FPOE twice in the last three weeks.
It would be difficult to pick against Josh Jacobs, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Sanders eventually ends up as the best back from this class. Hopefully the shoulder injury is as minor as reported and won’t stop his momentum. Jordan Howard impressed on his 25 touches, but Philadelphia doesn’t want him to rank sixth at the position in total opportunities or earn a 38% team opportunity share.
Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny combined to touch the ball 29 times against the hapless Falcons, but only one of those touches came through the air. After a solid start, the Seahawks have only averaged 6.1 reEP to the RB position over the last three weeks, a trend that requires Carson to earn a huge touchload and score TDs to continue as an RB1.
San Francisco 49ers
I profiled Mike Evans’ big day in the WR reFPOE Report, but Tevin Coleman led the weekend in FPOE with 25.1, the most explosive RB performance all season.
This was Raheem Mostert’s first double-digit scoring performance since a 24-point game in Week 2. His touch edge on Jeff Wilson makes him a must-stash for Matt Breida owners.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs ranked No. 5 with 30.5 total EP to the RB position in Week 8. Every other team with at least 30 EP scored 34-plus points. Somewhat humorously, the Bucs scored 11.1, and those points were spread across three players.1
If there’s a very, very tiny silver lining for Ronald Jones, it’s that he led the way in both carries and targets and was less abysmally awful than Peyton Barber and Dare Ogunbowale.2
Adrian Peterson couldn’t push across his goal-line carry, a failure that pushes him into the negative in ruFPOE, but otherwise looked invigorated in the lost cause, “revenge” game against his former employer.