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Zero RB Watch List: Week 8 AFC – Austin Ekeler and Josh Jacobs Dominate a Frustrating Week

Shawn Siegele examines the running back workloads for every AFC backfield ahead of Week 8.

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.

Baltimore Ravens

In one of my dynasty leagues this week, Mark Ingram was acquired by a contender for N’Keal Harry. The reloading owner described Ingram as a landmine, and his Week 7 line underlines that thesis. This was both his lowest point total (6.0), his lowest number of total expected points (7.6), and his lowest total in rushing EP (6.3). Since Ingram gets almost all of his value as a rusher, that’s a problem.

This also isn’t an isolated incident. Ingram now has recorded 10 or fewer ruEP in four of seven games, and he’s taken a clear back seat to Lamar Jackson.

As Jackson continues to pile up the yardage, Ingram slips to flex territory. It could get worse. The starter looked sluggish in this one, allowing Gus Edwards to siphon eight carries.

Justice Hill continues as a non-factor, but any increase in his role would drop Ingram’s value further. The Ravens rank dead last in reEP to the RB position, and their numbers are unlikely to jump significantly in this offense. However, any development in this area should come from an increased emphasis on Hill. This is the perfect time to trade for him in all formats.

Buffalo Bills

Devin Singletary’s return was disappointing in both volume and efficiency. Buffalo’s rookie had generated a whopping 14.0 fantasy points over expectation on only 10 carries heading into Week 7. Not surprisingly, he trailed only Reggie Bonnafon in ruFPOE per attempt.

The Bills brought him along slowly in this one. He was out-touched 12-7 by Frank Gore, and a poor Dolphins rush defense held their own.

This was the first time in over a month that Miami has held the top opposing runner to single digits, with Gore scoring less than half of their average allowed. The Dolphins have been the worst rush defense in terms of efficiency, but most of the positive ruFPOE in this one was created by Josh Allen.

Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon’s 2019 has been almost unfathomable. He’s logged negative FPOE in every game and his 10-carry, 2-yard performance against the Jaguars isn’t even his low point on the season. The Bengals have a historically bad offensive line, but Mixon continues to show little ability to do anything on his own. He’s now back in the negative for FPOE on his career.

As is the case for all RBs drafted in the first two rounds, much of Mixon’s value also depends on his receiving usage, and his volume numbers in that category are solid if disappointing for a team that leads the NFL in time-to-snap and pass percentage.

The NFL Pace tool allows you to explore the play profiles for all 32 NFL teams. You can even split the results out by score and time.

Mixon has declined from an average of 5.8 reEP to 5.0 this season, and he “bailed out” his owners in Week 7 – owners who have had to vastly recalibrate their expectations – with a 2-yard receiving score.

Gio Bernard has also been overmatched by the situation, and I’m hoping to see Trayveon Williams in some role before the season ends.

Denver Broncos

Royce Freeman earned five more targets against the Chiefs, numbers that allowed him to more than double Phillip Lindsay in total EP. As Blair Andrews mentioned in last week’s report, you want to do whatever it takes to buy Freeman after his next down game. The receiving emergence perfectly fits our thesis for his eventual breakout as a poor man’s David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell.

Houston Texans

Carlos Hyde entered the game on a three-week stretched where he’d averaged mid-range RB1 numbers with 16.2 total EP. It was a big disappointment for owners to see Houston start with Duke Johnson in the backfield. Things went downhill from there, as Hyde generated -4.0 FPOE, scoring only 3.5 points on 13 opportunities.

Since the beginning of 2017, no back is remotely Hyde’s equal in creating negative FPOE.

In fact, Hyde has more negative FPOE in both the rush and pass games than any other RB has total.1

Generate rankings in any advanced stat over any time period using the Weekly Stat Explorer.

Unfortunately, the -3.6 FPOE from Duke Johnson won’t help the case for those of us who’d like to see him in the starting role.

Indianapolis Colts

Since his 25-point outburst in Week 1, Marlon Mack has been channeling his inner Hyde.

Despite his struggles, Mack has recorded 3.5 reEP or better in four of his last five. Those are still RB2 numbers, but they give him a solid weekly floor. If you like where the Colts offense is going, now is the time to make a bid.

Meanwhile, the hypothetical battle between Nyheim Hines and Parris Campbell for line-of-scrimmage targets has turned into your quintessential contest between a stoppable force and a movable object.

Kansas City Chiefs

Chiefs RBs continue to languish behind a struggling line. The two Williams totaled 18.4 EP – not a bad workload – but turned it into only 5.2 points. LeSean McCoy earned the most touches in Week 7, and paid off, relatively speaking.2 It’s time to see what Darwin Thompson can do as a complement.

Los Angeles Chargers

Few Austin Ekeler owners are going to be happy with his 2.5 ruEP, but perhaps Melvin Gordon’s -13.2 ruFPOE will result in a more even carry split than the 16-5 gap from Sunday’s heartbreaking loss.

Ekeler continues to have no equal as a receiver. He ranks No. 1 among RBs in both expected points (83.4) and points over expectation (34.8). His 41-yard TD reception and 16-yard, game-winning TD-reception-that-wasn’t highlighted receiving talent that is Christian McCaffrey-esque.

With McCaffrey on the bye, Ekeler moves into first place in best ball win rate.

Miami Dolphins

Mark Walton got the carries, Kenyan Drake the targets, and Kalen Ballage the touchdown. Is it wrong that I mostly just want to see Myles Gaskin?

New York Jets

From 2014 to 2017, Le’Veon Bell averaged 10.0 reEP per game.

He was the unicorn with a four-year stretch where he averaged 21.2 total EP per game. That workload made him the most valuable player in fantasy. As Blair pointed out in this week’s EP Report, only McCaffrey is averaging a double-double this season (10-plus EP rushing and receiving). Bell did it for four years.

That’s why Monday night was so disappointing. Sure, his efficiency has cratered in this nightmare offense, but over the last four games his reEP has dropped to only 6.3. Against New England, Bell was only targeted four times even though they trailed by multiple scores almost from the opening kickoff.

Oakland Raiders

Over the last two contests, Josh Jacobs has posted a high-end RB1 workload.

Jacobs underperformed his workload on Sunday, but when you’re expected to score 22 points, even a mild disappointment gives you a strong result.

DeAndre Washington again separated from Jalen Richard with six carries in relief. He’s not rostered in as many deep leagues as I would expect, a potential mistake as the Kerryon/Ty Johnson situation sadly reminds us.

Tennessee Titans

By contrast, Derrick Henry is averaging low-end RB2 EP over the last two weeks, and his 2.5 reEP average puts a lot of pressure on him to score rushing TDs to save the week. I’d like to think his current RB12 status will solidify with Ryan Tannehill under center, but this profile generally requires a more potent scoring offense than the Titans possess.

Image Credit: Tom Walko/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Austin Ekeler.

  1. Although LeGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory both edge him as rushers.  (back)
  2. He still spends most of his energy running sideways and his comical attempts to fumble are increasingly hard to endure.  (back)

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