Blair Andrews examines the running back workloads for the most contentious NFC backfields ahead of Week 16.
Every fantasy team can use a breakout RB, whether their owners drafted them as Zero-RB squads 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 advanced stats for the NFC backfields where battles still rage, focusing on expected points (EP), fantasy points over expectations (FPOE), and opportunity (targets and carries).
With Bo Scarbrough dealing with a rib injury, the Lions called up Wes Hills from their practice squad. The undrafted free agent out of Division II Slippery Rock University led Detroit’s backfield with 10 carries and also caught both his targets. He turned those 10 carries into only 21 yards but scored two touchdowns.
Scarbrough was a game-time decision, suggesting he has a good chance to be available in Week 16. But after Hill’s two-TD performance, it’s unclear whether Scarbrough would return to the role he had before Week 15. If you find yourself relying on a Detroit RB in the Championship Round, the rest of your team must be amazing.
Dalvin Cook re-injured his shoulder in Week 15, and with Alexander Mattison already sidelined, Mike Boone took over in the second half. He rushed for 56 yards on 13 carries while scoring two TDs, nearly doubling his total expected output of 9.7.
Mike Zimmer expressed optimism about Cook’s status for Week 16. The Mike Boone era in Minnesota may have already ended.
Following his 35.2-point Week 15 game, Miles Sanders is the RB15 in PPR scoring. He’s had at least 15 total EP in each of his last four games, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Even with Boston Scott getting seven targets, Sanders still had over 21 total EP, falling just short of the EP double-double. Assuming he can retain that workload going into the 2020 season, Sanders immediately becomes one of the top dynasty RBs. He appears to be on about the trajectory Shawn Siegele predicted this offseason. He won’t be cheap to acquire after his last outing, but if you’re in a dynasty league that still allows trades, consider finding out if Sanders’ owner is willing to “sell high.”
San Francisco 49ers
Raheem Mostert once again led the San Francisco backfield in expected points, seeing a more valuable workload than Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida combined. Both of the latter trailed fullback Kyle Juszczyk in total EP. This episode is just the latest proof that Todd McShay may actually have some insight into the mind of Kyle Shanahan when he projects the 49ers to take J.K. Dobbins in the first round despite having arguably the deepest RB corps in the league.1 Cleveland is the only other team that can say all of their RBs are producing positive FPOE on the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and now Scotty Miller are all set to miss Week 16. In response, Bruce Arians said the Bucs would need to involve their RBs in the passing game more. Dare Ogunbowale leads the backfield in targets and receiving EP on the season. But it was Ronald Jones who held the edge in both categories in Week 15. Apart from the game against Jacksonville, in which he was benched for missing a blitz pickup, Jones has at least three targets in every game since Week 10.
Assuming Jones doesn’t get benched again, four targets is likely his floor in Week 16. Houston has been among the easiest RB matchups over the last five weeks, even when you include a strong showing against Tennessee.
Derrius Guice has been placed on IR for the third time in his two-year career — an unfortunate development for a player who has looked surprisingly good. I say it’s surprising because of the offense he plays in. He’s pacing Washington’s backfield in total FPOE despite appearing in only five games. In fact, he’s No. 8 in FPOE per game among all RBs. He’s No. 1 in yards per carry.
We need to be cautious about reading too much into these numbers. They’re based on a small sample and are notoriously volatile. But this is the sort of start one wants to see from a young RB, minus the injuries.
It’s no sure thing, but if this offense can improve in 2020 — and if Guice can finally stay healthy — we could be looking at a breakout next year.
Image Credit: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Miles Sanders.
- An RB corps made up, incidentally, of a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick, and three UDFAs. (back)