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Zero RB Watch List: AFC Week 11 – Patrick Laird SZN! (Oh, and Kareem Hunt Is Back, Austin Ekeler Is Still Good, and Derrick Henry Did Some Stuff)

Blair Andrews examines the running back workloads for every AFC backfield ahead of Week 11.

Almost every fantasy team can use a breakout RB, whether they were drafted as a Zero-RB squad or not. The Zero RB Watch List helps to find these breakout stars before they hit. But it also helps you understand which of the high-profile backs you should be buying and selling based on workload shifts.

We’ll use the RotoViz Screener and the NFL Stat Explorer to dive into the Week 10 advanced stats for every backfield, focusing on expected points (EP), fantasy points over expectations (FPOE), and opportunity (targets and carries).

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens ran 46 offensive plays in their blowout of the Bengals, of which 22 were pass attempts. Not a single one of those attempts was aimed at an RB.

Lamar Jackson once again led the team in rushing yards, but Mark Ingram was the leader in rushing EP. He underperformed expectations despite scoring a TD, but on the season he’s benefiting from the Alfred Morris Effect, where a running quarterback boosts RB efficiency. On the season he’s No. 8 in FPOE per game.

Buffalo Bills

As long as Devin Singletary is the receiving back in this timeshare, he’s the only Buffalo RB I want near my team. Although he underperformed in Week 10, his efficiency on the season is a huge positive signal for his long-term outlook.

Cincinnati Bengals

If it wasn’t already painfully clear, the fact that Joe Mixon got 30 carries (the exact number of targets for every Bengals pass-catcher combined) in a game the Bengals were never winning and ended up losing by 36 tells you all you need to know about whether Cincinnati has given up on 2019.

Cleveland Browns

Kareem Hunt returned to NFL action and immediately showed why he’s the best backup in the league, commanding nine targets and 12.5 receiving EP — a top-five RB receiving workload in Week 10. Perhaps even more telling is that he was able to meet expectations, while Nick Chubb was the least efficient player in the league. Given Hunt’s skill set, it would probably surprise few people if he forced a workload split similar to what we’ve seen in New Orleans, only with Hunt playing the Alvin Kamara role, relegating Chubb to the Latavius Murray role.

Indianapolis Colts

Nyheim Hines didn’t have the breakout game we’ve been waiting for, but he did finally have a game with double-digit EP — his first of the season.

The latest news is that Jacoby Brissett has a good chance to start in Week 11 against Jacksonville, meaning this might also be the last opportunity for Hines to be relevant. He’s been considerably less useful in games with Brissett.

Kansas City Chiefs

With LeSean McCoy’s fumbling issues (probably) rendering him a healthy scratch, Damien Williams was the clear lead back. But following Williams’ own second-quarter fumble that Tennessee returned for a touchdown, Kansas City might make good on their claim that they held McCoy out only to keep him “fresh down the stretch.” However, only Indianapolis RBs face a harder schedule in the three crucial weeks after the Chiefs return from their Week 12 bye.

Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers attempted only 31 passes in Thursday night’s game against Oakland, which meant there weren’t many receiving expected points to go around in the Chargers’ backfield. Austin Ekeler led the way with two targets, catching both and converting one into a touchdown. Melvin Gordon turned his single target into a 25-yard gain. Ekeler continues to be Rivers’ most efficient target on the season, and cannot be off the field for too long, even with Gordon back and playing well.

Miami Dolphins

In Miami’s first game without Kenyan Drake or Mark Walton, Kalen Ballage handled the bulk of the work, as expected. And as expected, he wan’t great. In fact, only one Miami RB surpassed his opportunity-based expectations. You know who it was.

New York Jets

Le’Veon Bell isn’t seeing the receiving workload he did in Pittsburgh, which is a big reason he’s having the worst season of his career on a per-game basis. But what might be even more problematic is the fact that his efficiency has cratered. He’s No. 135 among RBs in FPOE per game — the lowest rank since his rookie year.

2019 is the first time in Bell’s career that he’s been outside the top 10 in PPR per game. The one positive for Bell’s outlook is that his schedule is somewhat easier in the second half of the season.

Oakland Raiders

While Josh Jacobs still dominated backfield touches, Week 10 marked the highest EP total of the season for Jalen Richard.

It’s little comfort for his owners who still have yet to see him score double-digit fantasy points in a game, but he’s now had four targets two weeks in a row. Surprisingly, he still sports an above-average win rate in BestBall10s, which I guess speaks to how sharp everyone who drafted him is.

Pittsburgh Steelers

I like Jaylen Samuels as much as the next guy, but can the Steelers really be happy about targeting him nearly twice as often as JuJu Smith-Schuster over the last two weeks? We won’t get to find out how this split would have unfolded, as James Conner is slated to play and to regain lead back duties on Thursday night. Conner has been one of the few bright spots on the Steelers this season, ranking sixth in both FPOE per game and PPR per game.

Tennessee Titans

I predicted two weeks ago that Weeks 9 and 10 would be exploitable matchups for Derrick Henry. He delivered with 58 total points over the last two weeks. I also predicted he would struggle with Tennessee’s remaining schedule — take another look:

Technically, according to the SOS Streaming app, Houston has a tougher schedule to close out the fantasy season, since they play Tampa Bay in Week 16. But Houston also plays six games in the next six weeks, while Tennessee only plays five. So it’s fair to say Henry gets the worst fantasy RB schedule from here. Cash in your gains now.

Image Credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Derrick Henry.

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