Shawn Siegele looks at a breakout performance from Devin Singletary and bounceback performances from Melvin Gordon and Damien Williams as he details the running back workloads for every AFC backfield ahead of Week 10.
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.
Mark Ingram weathered a difficult matchup against the Patriots with his highest scoring output since Week 3. He still lost 10 carries to the combination of Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, yet finished No. 11 at the position in EP after recording only his third game of the season with at least 4.0 EP as a receiver. The Ravens simply do not pass the ball to the RBs – they rank No. 32 with only 6.0 reEP per game – but Ingram turned his three targets into the 4.9 points necessary to juice his score.
Bashed for drafting an unathletic RB with the 74th overall pick, the Bills are getting the last laugh and that guffaw is coming earlier than anticipated.
A big-play generator in college, Devin Singletary has brought that game to the NFL. He currently ranks No. 2 in yards per carry and No. 3 in FPOE/G. Held to 10 opportunities or less in previous action, the rookie responded to a career-high 24 touches with more plus efficiency (3.9 FPOE). This was a stark contrast to Frank Gore, who turned 11 carries into -12.2 FPOE. No back was worse in Week 9.
Nick Chubb posted a dud in his final game without Kareem Hunt. The volume was there. He earned another 25 opportunities in a season where he’s averaging 23.2 and has crested 20 in every game but one. Unfortunately, the dazzling start has lost some of its luster as the Browns fall further into disarray.
These are Chubb’s final numbers before the introduction of Hunt. He’s a clear RB1 in every non-receiving category and held his own in those areas as well. Even if he’s not a clear league winner, it’s been a strong sophomore campaign to this point.
The Broncos got the win against Cleveland with only 16 total touches for the RBs.
Phillip Lindsay rescued a low-touch day with two explosive runs, including a 30-yard TD. It offered a reminder of the highlights from his rookie year and got him back on pace from a ruFPOE perspective.
Those big runs may help him separate from Royce Freeman. Lindsay’s committee mate had begun to steal most of the high-value touches, but Freeman’s shoulder injury may be enough to limit his touches in the short term. The tandem is averaging over 7.0 combined targets per game, and Freeman was establishing himself as a key part of the passing attack before the injury and quarterback change.
The Jaguars didn’t stop any element of the Texans backfield in this one. Carlos Hyde has now recorded 19 or more carries in four of his last five games and is up to RB10 on the season in this category. After a couple of down weeks from an efficiency perspective, he bounced back with 16 points, his second-best game of the year.
Despite being out-carried 19-7, Duke Johnson finished with the more valuable workload (12.3 EP) and turned it into a season-high 19.1 points. This was his third game in the last four with 13 or more points, and fantasy owners are getting what they want in terms of early-game involvement. Johnson out-touched Hyde 10-9 in the first half. He’ll be an easy start when they come out of the bye in Week 11.
The Colts had the opposite experience, as all of their backs were stopped in every facet. Marlon Mack is a personal favorite as a runner, but our warnings about his workload have come to fruition. His 21 carries against the Steelers were of the low-value variety and resulted in fewer than 10 fantasy points. He also lost all five targets to the pair of Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines. This is his third game with a goose egg in the target department.
Mack now ranks No. 6 in attempts but only No. 55 in targets. A far more explosive player than Wilkins, you’d certainly prefer to see Mack lose a few of the grinding carries and gain a few of the space touches.
Blair Andrews has an excellent look at Leonard Fournette in this week’s EP Report, including a couple of stats that are hard to believe. Ryquell Armstead remains a must-stash, as evidenced by the 4.7 reFPOE on five receptions he recorded in relief.
Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid defended LeSean McCoy’s fumbles after Week 8, but it’s clear that he’d like to go back to 2018 sensation Damien Williams if at all possible. Williams had been running in quicksand and into brick walls all season before his breaking a 91-yard TD run against the Vikings.
Remove that play, and Williams’ 3.8 yards per carry plummets further, but fortunately for fantasy owners and Chiefs fans, the long runs are also the important ones.
Los Angeles Chargers
After the departure of Ken Whisenhunt, Chargers backs combined for 32 touches against the Packers. Melvin Gordon capitalized on Austin Ekeler’s goal-line struggles for his first dominant fantasy performance of the season.
Prior to Week 9, the Chargers had averaged fewer ruEP since Gordon’s return (10.5) than they had during his absence (13.5). Part of that could be attributed to his 2.5 yards per carry. It’s difficult to sustain a rushing attack when your RB is creating down-and-distance situations that require passing and lead to three-and-outs.
If this is what a Dolphins win looks like … With Mark Walton suspended, Blair is looking for a breakout from Patrick Laird, while the rest of the RotoViz staff is excited to get a glimpse of Myles Gaskin.
New England Patriots
We’ve long been fans of James White and Rex Burkhead and skeptics when it came to Sony Michel and Damien Harris. These results still go beyond what I would have considered a realistic worst-case scenario for a healthy Michel.
If I’d been presented these numbers for Michel prior to the season, I would have assumed the Patriots were struggling in a post-Rob Gronkowski world or that Harris had taken over the early-down workload.
New York Jets
After a three-week stretch where he wasn’t heavily involved in the passing game, Le’Veon Bell used trade-deadline theatrics to wrangle more targets through the media.
Bell sits at RB8 in EP/G, but no one in the high-touch cohort has been as inefficient as a runner (-2.2 ruFPOE/G).
Josh Jacobs continues to impress, turning 28 carries into 24 points. He now sits top 10 in carries, rushing yards, total TDs, and fantasy points. The 23-point performance against the Lions gives him four RB1 performances in his first eight NFL games.
If you were able to stash Jaylen Samuels through the injuries, it paid off against the Colts. Samuels was out-carried 12-8 by Trey Edmunds, but still finished with the second-highest EP among non-QBs. His 13 targets were worth 21.2 EP, a number he only slightly underperformed. Even if James Conner is healthy enough to re-take Edmunds’ workload next week, he and Samuels should be able to co-exist.
Derrick Henry managed only two carries and 0.4 fantasy points as the Titans fell behind at halftime, but he got going in the second stanza, even splitting the six targets with Dion Lewis after intermission. His 23-yard receiving score allowed him to post impressive reFPOE for the first time since Week 1 and for only the third time in his career.
I’m constantly impressed at the depth and breadth of the information in tools built by Mike Beers, Dave Caban, and Anthony Shook. If you enjoyed some of the visualizations used in this piece, make sure to check out the NFL Stat Explorer, the Strength of Schedule Streaming tool, the Game Splits app, the RotoViz Screener, and the Weekly Stats tool.