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Chris Carson
By the Numbers

Week 9: Taking Stock Of All 32 NFL Backfields

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: October 29, 2019, 1:53 pm ET

NFL depth charts are always in a constant state of flux due to injuries, performance and at-times questionable coaching decisions. The RB position in particular can be tough to stay on top of, as an overwhelming majority of offenses have replaced a single three-down back with committees of various shapes and sizes.

The good news is we now have eight weeks of regular season data to help clear up the ever-murky RB position.

Below is a Week 8 cheat sheet that denotes the snap rates as well as combined carries and targets for each team's top-two RBs from their last game.

Week 8 RBBC

What follows is a more specific breakdown of each team's backfield in order to better determine:

  • Offenses that are featuring a single workhorse
  • Fantasy-friendly committee backfields
  • Situations that fantasy football owners should avoid

Opportunities refer to a player's combined carries and targets. All snap count and touch data was compiled from Pro Football Reference and references each player's season-long production. More recent workload information is available in the notes section.

Arizona Cardinals

Notes: We'll start with the most murky backfield in the entire league.

Both David Johnson (ankle) and Chase Edmonds (hamstring) are reportedly not expected to suit up Thursday night, although coach Kliff Kingsbury calls Johnson "day to day" compared to "doubtful" for Edmonds. Be sure to monitor our Week 9 Injury Dashboard for daily practice participation along with estimated and official game statuses for every injured player.

Look for recently-acquired RB Kenyan Drake to work as the group's lead overall and pass-down back, while Zenner and Morris (inactive in Week 8) could each see some early-down work. The entire Cardinals run game will have its hands full with the 49ers' No. 2 ranked defense in fewest PPR per game allowed to the RB position this season.

Still, I'm cautiously optimistic about Drake's ability to handle a three-down workload. His average of 4.29 yards after contact per touch in 2017 is the second-highest single-season mark among all RB since 2010 (minimum 100 carries), according to PFF. Make no mistake about it: Drake is legit #good.

Atlanta Falcons

Notes: Ito Smith (concussion) has an entire bye to get cleared from the protocol before the Falcons take on the Saints in Week 10.

Freeman somewhat surprisingly worked as the offense's undisputed featured back in Smith's absence. Overall, Freeman (80% snaps, 13 carries, 8 targets) was utilized well ahead of Hill (14%, 3, 0), although extremely negative game script could've played a role in this, as the Falcons trailed the Seahawks 24-0 at halftime.

The Falcons have fed their starting RB an average of five targets per game this season -- the second-highest mark of Freeman's career. Most of the pass-game work has continued to occur in mop-up time, but it's not like this team appears particularly poised to suddenly become too competitive for the second half of the season.

Baltimore Ravens

Notes: Ingram boasted a 51% snap rate in Week 7 after dipping to 39% in Week 6. He only had 12 carries and a target, as Lamar Jackson (14-116-1 rushing) largely took over the game on the ground. Continue to treat Ingram as a middling RB2 as the lead back in the league's second-highest ranked scoring offense ahead of the Ravens' Week 9 matchup against the Patriots.

Edwards doesn't have 10 touches in a game since Week 1, while Hill hasn't reached even eight combined carries and targets in a game this season. They'd likely form a two-back committee if Ingram were forced to miss time.

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Buffalo Bills

Notes: The Bills fed their third-round rookie a hefty 68% snap rate in Week 8, although Singletary finished with a rather pedestrian seven touches compared to nine for Gore (29%).

Both Singletary and Gore can offer somewhat consistent fantasy value as long as Yeldon remains a healthy scratch. Still, the presence of Josh Allen under center will continue to limit the ceiling of any RB involved in this offense. Only Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray and Dak Prescott have more rushing yards than Allen on designed runs this season among all QBs, while Allen's 172 scramble yards trail just Jackson, Gardner Minshew and Deshaun Watson.

The Bills' status as 9.5-point home favorites for their Week 9 matchup against the Redskins sets up better for Gore than Singletary, although both RBs can be treated as upside RB3 options in this potential smash spot.

Carolina Panthers

Notes: Cam Newton (foot) will miss another week, so Kyle Allen will make his seventh career start on Sunday against the Titans.

The offense will continue to almost completely revolve around McCaffrey, who converted "just" 18 touches into 155 total yards and a score during last week's massacre against the 49ers.

The Panthers' featured offensive weapon has easily been the league's most-productive RB after eight weeks of action:

  • Rushing yards per game: 105 (No. 2 among all RBs)
  • Receiving yards per game: 49 (No. 3)
  • Total yards per game: 154 (No. 1)
  • Touchdowns: 10 (No. 2)
  • Yards per carry: 5.21 (No. 6)
  • Yards per route run: 1.66 (No. 11)
  • PPR: 208.8 (No. 1)

Chicago Bears

Notes: Montgomery got back to working as the offense's featured RB during his breakout Week 8 performance:

  • Week 1: 38%
  • Week 2: 45%
  • Week 3: 65%
  • Week 4: 69%:
  • Week 5: 54%
  • Week 6: Bye
  • Week 7: 46%
  • Week 8: 73%

Coach Matt Nagy held true to his promise to run the ball more often, feeding the Bears' third-round rookie a season-high 27 carries. Montgomery also had a season-high four receptions, making him one of just seven players to reach 30 touches in a game this season.

Fire up Montgomery as an upside RB2 with this type of usage, while Cohen (7 touches on season-low 21% snap rate) is off the fantasy radar as a true backup for the first time in his career. 

Davis hasn't played even 15% of the offense's snaps since Week 2 and remains a non-factor in this backfield.

Cincinnati Bengals

Notes: Last season Mixon played at least 65% of the offense's snaps in 11-of-14 games. He's reached that mark exactly zero times in 2019.

Both of Mixon's touchdowns over the past two weeks have come on well-designed pass plays near the goal line. Still, he nearly has as many games with fewer than four targets in 2019 (5) as he had in all of 2018 (6).

Fantasy owners could do worse than a talented back with the chance to rack up anywhere between 10-20 touches in most games, but don't expect a committee RB with minimal pass-game work behind the league's worst offensive line in adjusted line yards per rush to serve as anything more than an upside RB3 more weeks than not.

Bernard has yet to reach double-digit touches in a game this season despite playing between 32-63% of the offense's snaps in every game. He's nothing more than a thin handcuff inside of the league's 29th-ranked scoring offense.

Cleveland Browns

Notes: Chubb had one fumble in his first 346 career touches before coughing up the ball on each of his first two chances against the Patriots last week. The Browns (rightfully) continued to feature their workhorse to the tune of 21 touches despite the turnovers.

Chubb is the overall PPR RB6 after eight weeks. Still, the Browns featured Chubb on at least 80% of the offense's snaps in Weeks 3-6 in non-blowouts ... but his 63% snap rate last week isn't a good sign of things to come in negative game script situations.

That's because Kareem Hunt is due back in Week 10. The former-Chiefs RB is in a different stratosphere than Hilliard and Johnson when it comes to receiving ability, as he was regularly utilized both in the screen game and as a legit downfield threat under Andy Reid's guidance in Kansas City. Hunt is also simply too talented to be completely relegated to the bench considering he led the league in broken tackles in 2017 and was on pace to do so again in 2018 (PFF).

Chubb has been the only consistent bright spot on the Browns this season and is one of just nine RBs averaging over 3.5 yards after contact per rush (PFF). It'd be shocking to see him average anything fewer than 15-20 touches per game once Hunt is back, but the consistent three-down role that fantasy owners have been hoping for is unlikely to come to fruition anytime soon.

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.