Ultimate Zero RB Watch – NFC Week 13: Stars Collapse While a Super Weapon Emerges, Plus 4 Stash Options
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Image Credit: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Wayne Gallman.

Shawn Siegele explores the collapse of three stars, details the rise of a new RB super weapon, and locates four backups to watch as he breaks down the workload for NFC backfields ahead of Week 13.

It wasn’t a great week for NFC luminaries as Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and Miles Sanders combined for 17.3 points. By contrast, Zero RB squads ran roughshod, underlining the historical success of WRs during the key fantasy weeks.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the RB position. Starters returned, backups exploded, veterans flourished, and two young runners authored breakout performances. This is a key week for solidifying your playoff roster, and the Ultimate Zero RB Watch List is here to help, even if you drafted RB heavy.

The RotoViz Screener and Weekly Stat Explorer provide a smorgasbord of data as we dive into the advanced stats on a team-by-team basis. 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, targets, snaps, and red zone touches to better understand each player’s workload.

Want to know everything about the WR position instead? Zachary Krueger’s WR deep dive has all of the advanced stats and takes you behind the scenes of the trickiest depth charts.

Arizona Cardinals

How you view the latest Cardinals’ meltdown will largely depend on your player ownership. Kenyan Drake owners will see it as merely a close game lost because of an unlucky exchange of field goals. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins owners will see it as brutal malpractice and another major example of Kliff Kingsbury’s incompetence.

A few interesting stats emerge:

  • Drake now finds himself in a tie for the lead in rushing TDs scored from the 1- or 2-yard lines. He received four such touches on Sunday, scoring twice but failing as time expired in the first half. This stuff set the Cardinals up for their disturbing final act.
  • The NFL pace tool can do all kinds of crazy things, one of which is to show that Arizona is one of the most run-heavy teams when leading in the fourth quarter, but they’re also the most run-heavy team when trailing in the fourth quarter. As a result, only Baltimore and Cleveland run fewer passing plays in the final stanza.
  • It might be easy to chock this up to Murray scrambling with the ball, but his 25 fourth-quarter attempts are only one more than Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. The Seahawks and Texans are both middle of the pack in fourth-quarter pass attempts.

In the fourth quarter of their Week 12 loss, the Cardinals gave Drake 12 opportunities to only two for Hopkins. This would all make more sense if Arizona had a dominant rushing attack or a great defense, but neither is true.

For his part, Drake posted another negative efficiency game despite the multi-TD performance.

Drake has now been held under 4.0 yards per carry in six of his 10 appearances. Despite the struggles, he’s become more involved in the passing game as well. He has nine targets in the last two weeks to only 11 the rest of the season combined.

Murray’s shoulder injury could be the culprit. He averaged 8.1 air yards per attempt through Week 10, but that’s dropped to 6.8 over the last two.

Atlanta Falcons

What profiled as a Brian Hill coming out party with Todd Gurley inactive turned into an Ito Smith showcase. Hill was averaging twice as many snaps per game entering Week 12, and his opportunity edge over Smith was even larger.

Unfortunately for Hill owners, Smith earned five targets and punched in a carry from inside the 5. His 17.5 points represented a new career high and his first RB1 weekly finish.

Tony Brooks-James was flexed from the practice squad for the contest and earned his first touches of the season in clock-killing mode.

Chicago Bears

David Montgomery earned only 28% of the team opportunity share as Chicago attacked through the air, but he monopolized RB touches, corralling 17 of 18. After a ridiculously inefficient start to his career, Montgomery took advantage of the soft Green Bay defense to post a new high in FPOE.

Montgomery is still deep in the negative, but he could use this next stretch to climb out and even be a weapon during your fantasy playoffs. Several weeks ago, I recommended Montgomery as a playoff buy and offseason flip candidate in the Dynasty Workshop. His late-season schedule could fuel the sort of run that landed Drake a premium position in 2020 drafts.

Dallas Cowboys

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Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.

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