Fantasy News  

 

Opportunity Report: Week 9 backfield touches leaders

Print


Opportunity is the name of the game in fantasy football. Talent matters, of course, but we want players who see a healthy volume of targets and touches to anchor our lineups, especially in daily fantasy. Every week in the revamped Opportunity Report, we'll look all the backfield touches for every NFL team. See Part two (link above) for passing game targets.

Atlanta Falcons

Falcons backfield touches Week 9
Falcons backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Devonta Freeman's rushing stats were abysmal yesterday (12 carries for 12 yards) but his massive volume of touches bailed him out once again. After producing at a Le'Veon Bell/Jamaal Charles level for his dominant stretch, Freeman's numbers are in the process of coming back to Earth. He's not on par with those mentioned players in terms of talent, and the offense around him (outside of Julio Jones) is crumbling.

Most running backs off the transcendent tier struggle to produce monster numbers when their quarterback plays at a subpar level, and the ancillary pieces don't pull their weight. However, volume is often the cure all for the running back position, and as long as Freeman pushes 20 touches per game, you're playing him every week in fantasy.

Buffalo Bills

Bills backfield touches Week 9
Bills backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Pro Bowl ballot

With Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins and their duo of running backs returning to the lineup, the Bills looked formidable again. LeSean McCoy looked tremendous, and was the clear starter, but left the game with an injury. One of the two constants in this backfield are McCoy's injuries, and Karlos Williams' hyper-efficiency in a complimentary role. This was his third game, out of five played, with less than 13 touches but double digit fantasy points. Averaging 7.895 yards per touch, we know Williams is one of the most valuable handcuffs in the league.

If McCoy misses the Bills Thursday night road tilt with the Jets, Williams will see all the work. He'll have RB2 value with his playmaking ability, and locked-in volume.

Carolina Panthers

Panthers backfield touches Week 9
Panthers backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

This is Jonathan Stewart's backfield, as he absorbed 80.8 percent of the backfield touches. Of course, we know that living and dying with Stewart is a dangerous proposition if a run defense holds him to under four yards per carry. The red zone touchdown chances are just so limited with Cam Newton in tow that he is always capable of a single digit scoring game. Nevertheless, he's one of the better volume backs around in the current state of the running back position.

Chicago Bears

Bears backfield touches Week 9
Bears backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Despite some early work for Kadeem Carey, this game was all about Jeremy Langford. Now, bear in mind that the Chargers may well have one of the four or five worst defenses in the NFL. However, Langford 100 percent looked like he belonged on the stage during the Monday night game. He saw 20-plus touches, and made a dazzling long reception downfield. If you're a Langford dynasty owner, you're thrilled with what was likely a fourth round pick or waiver add. Matt Forte is a free agent this offseason, and has little reason to return to a rebuilding Bears team. It's still too early to crown him, but a few more strong outings may be all Chicago needs to believe Langford is their running back of the future.

Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals backfield touches Week 9
Bengals backfield touches Week 9

We knew Giovani Bernard would bounce back from a three touches game last week, and he delivered on Thursday night. As for Jeremy Hill, his usage continues to be inconsistent, as does his play on the field. After an encouraging showing against the Steelers, Hill was back to running with tiptoes and hesitation. One look at the game film makes it clear that Bernard is the better back right now. Even if the Bengals plan on ramping up Hill's usage as the weather worsens, it's hard to have faith he'll deliver. If you're starting Hill, at this point, you're just hoping he finds the end zone. With Bernard and a host of passing game weapons to compete with, he's just not going to churn out consistent yardage.

Cleveland Browns

Browns backfield touches Week 9
Browns backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Isaiah Crowell actually ran well in this game early on, but didn't get to sustain momentum in the second half. He suffered through a toe injury for a few weeks, which is just brutal for a running back. Duke Johnson continues to make plays when he gets the ball, but they simply don't dial up enough designed touches in the passing game for him. Johnny Manziel takes the whole offense off schedule, so these numbers may look different with Josh McCown back under center at some point soon. Johnson is still worth a flex play in PPR leagues, but doesn't have the upside many hoped for him after that dynamic game against the Chargers. With the defense being one of the league's worst, neither of these backs have a chance to get into a rhythm. At least Cleveland took Robert Turbin out of the mix.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys backfield touches Week 9
Cowboys backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Darren McFadden was the only running back in Week 9 to handle 100 percent of his team's backfield touches. With La'el Collins now in the starting lineup, the Dallas offensive line is actually playing up to the greatest of all time standards they set for themselves this offseason. The Cowboys are far and away a better offense riding just one running back instead of cycling in and out of a hapless committee. They get great production out of McFadden, and a lot of NFL teams could learn from their approach. The only concern with McFadden going forward is, of course, injury. Yet, he did play all 16 games last year, and it would not be the first time a former injury risk shakes off that specter late in his career.

Denver Broncos

Broncos backfield touches Week 9
Broncos backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

In an effort to get Peyton Manning his passing yardage and wins record, the Broncos neglected the running game. Their insistence on doing so is a big reason why Manning didn't get that win record; this isn't 2013 anymore. Denver can't just bow to Manning and let him chuck the ball around in chasing of records. The offense isn't constructed that way, and he's not that player anymore. Two years ago, it was a video game-like guarantee, but here in 2015, it's a losing formula.

In fairness, Ronnie Hillman came into this game nursing an injury, but after his .14 yards per touch average we can put to bed the idea he is no doubt the better runner. Anderson looked good on his limited touches, but couldn't find a rhythm in this pass heavy game plan. Anderson is the guy to own going forward, but this backfield will split nearly right down the middle.

Green Bay Packers

Packers backfield touches Week 9
Packers backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Once again outplayed by James Starks, and coming out of this game with yet another injury (groin), we're nearing "shut it down" time on the Eddie Lacy hope watch. Of course, this match with Carolina, and last week's with Denver, aren't exactly cakewalks. The Packers get the Lions, Vikings and Bears over the next three weeks, and perhaps a healthy Lacy gets back on track in those games. But that feels like wistful longing of year's past at this point. The offense doesn't lose much with Starks on the field, even compared to what previous incarnations of Lacy brought, so they have no real reason to reverse the carry load.

Indianapolis Colts

Colts backfield touches Week 9
Colts backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

The Colts just keep feeding Frank Gore an eye-popping number of touches for a 32-year old back. Age is just a number, at least in this case. Of course he's not ripping off big plays, but he's keeping the offense on schedule. With Andrew Luck and the passing game clicking, that's a valuable asset for Indianapolis. Until he starts cutting into even just a 20 percent share of the backfield touches, Bradshaw remains nothing more than a longshot flex play.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars backfield touches Week 9
Jaguars backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

After seeing the volume early in the year, but not finding the running room, T.J. Yeldon's season reversed course in the last few weeks. The threat of a frightening passing game carried by Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns creates room for Yeldon, who averaged 5.94 yards per touch against a stifling Jets front. He didn't find the end zone, but you'll take the 13 PPR point outing. With a total domination of the Jacksonville backfield touches share, you won't find much safer than Yeldon as a RB2 going forward.

Miami Dolphins

Dolphins backfield touches Week 9
Dolphins backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

The Dan Campbell rational coaching show got back on track Sunday, with Lamar Miller seeing 19 total touches. He took seven receptions out of the backfield, where he can really utilize his breakaway speed and elusiveness. Per NextGen Stats, Miller averaged 18.69 MPH on his seven receptions. The Dolphins haven't assigned Miller fewer than the 14 touches he saw in their blowout loss to the Patriots in any game since Campbell took over. In the current landscape, Miller is an RB1 and the current third-highest scoring running back for the season.

It's more than a little interesting to note that rookie Jay Ajayi came right off IR Boomerang to getting touches over Damien Williams or Jonas Gray. And that comes despite mixed offseason reviews at best out of Miami's camps. Ajayi is an exceptionally talented player, who fell in the draft due to long-term concerns regarding his knees. He's worth a speculative add if you're a Miller owner.

Minnesota Vikings

Vikings passing targets Week 9
Vikings passing targets Week 9 (NFL.com)

Adrian Peterson pushes for the league leader in touches, and the highest scoring running back in fantasy, every week. There's not much to say about this backfield.

New England Patriots

Patriots backfield touches Week 9
Patriots backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

With reports surfacing that Dion Lewis is out for the season, this backfield gets a shakeup. LeGarrette Blount should get even more work as the hammer in favorable matchups and game flow, as he did after Lewis exited on Sunday. Brandon Bolden and James White will most likely pick up some of the passing down slack now, but neither is even in the same galaxy of Lewis in terms of player quality. Don't chase either unless they emerge with more playing time. Lewis' left behind targets will more than likely just get distributed to Danny Amendola and other ancillary passing game assets.

New Orleans Saints

Saints backfield touches Week 9
Saints backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Every game, all season

The loss of Khiry Robinson only spelled more work for the already full plate of Mark Ingram, who even overstepped his average of 25.7 touches when Robinson sits out. Ingram didn't explode in this contest with the passing game going off against a Titans secondary down three major contributors. However, he'll convert more of his red zone looks in other games, and is one of the safest bets for touches in the NFL. C.J. Spiller saw the field on a whopping six plays yesterday in a pass-heavy game script. He's nothing more than a desperation flex play in the hopes of a big play.

New York Giants

Giants backfield touches Week 9
Giants backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

We know the story with this backfield. Shane Vereen gets inconsistent usage in the passing game, where if you start him you need to hope he scores. Rashad Jennings is the best pure runner, but loses touches to the uninspiring Andre Williams and intriguing Orleans Darkwa. All four are nothing more than dart throws on a week-to-week basis unless something changes.

New York Jets

Jets backfield touches Week 9
Jets backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Chris Ivory continues thriving off his volume, but 1.56 yards per carry the last three weeks. While Ivory's durability is a back culprit, so has been the injuries to center Nick Mangold. The Jets longtime anchor left Week 7 with a neck injury, missed Week 8, and returned but left early with the same injury in Week 9. You're still starting Ivory as an every week RB2, but his ceiling comes down a bit as injuries mount and Mangold misses time.

Zac Stacy gets the touches in relief of Ivory, but his history shows he would need a near 100 percent share of the touches to be effective if Ivory went down. Stevan Ridley has been active each of the last two weeks, giving some credence to the idea he'd play a role in the event of an Ivory absence, even if he hasn't seen a snap.

Oakland Raiders

Raiders backfield touches Week 9
Raiders backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

With Latavius Murray's concussion suffered in the second half of this game, his second of the last two seasons, it's of upmost importance we know who the next man up is. We're picking through scraps here, as none of the three options saw a significant spike when Murray went down, albeit in a passing game script. Jamize Olawale's lone touch resulted in a touchdown, making that a tough sell for point chasing. Taiwan Jones is a boom or bust playmaker, but did pass Roy Helu for the backup running back job.

The dark horse here is fullback/H-back tight end, Marcel Reece. A longtime resident of the Oakland Raiders, Reece makes plays every time the team calls his number. Reece averaged 1.64 fantasy points on his 25 touches so far this season, and can fill a role in both the run and pass game this season. With a strong size/speed combination, he could be a bigtime sleeper if Murray sits out against the Vikings.

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles backfield touches Week 9
Eagles backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

A total of 42 touches for the running backs seems like a much more winning formula for the Eagles than Sam Bradford shouldering the weight of the offense. After an early season nightmare, DeMarco Murray has stabilized to the point where he's a set it and forget it RB1. He's not the dynamic player of his younger years, as age and workload have sapped him of the sterling athleticism he once had. But Murray is a smart and powerful runner, who can still make plays in the passing game. The hate went too far on him early in the year. Now that the Eagles call more downhill runs for him, he's making the most of his large slice of the pie.

Ryan Mathews continues on as one of fantasy's most efficient running backs. He's an every week flex play with a low floor if he doesn't get into the end zone. His 11 touches, as we just saw, is enough to matter in this scheme with the running game firing on all cylinders.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers backfield touches Week 9
Steelers backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

DeAngelo Williams is one of the most valuable running backs in fantasy football, with not a soul around to compete with him for touches out of this backfield. After flaming out in Carolina, Williams came to Pittsburgh motivated and got back to a better weight to play behind a far better offensive line. He's having a truly special season. Whenever someone tells you that a running back can't succeed because he's 32-years-old, remember 2015 DeAngelo Williams. Fantasy leagues are won by making smart plays for the outliers, not by playing the law of averages.

San Diego Chargers

Chargers backfield touches Week 9
Chargers backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Melvin Gordon; it's just not happening this year. With the offensive line injuries, and the team playing from behind constantly, San Diego doesn't have the setup Gordon needs to get going. He must have consistent volume, and plenty of holes in order to play his style of running back. Of course, that makes you wonder why the Chargers made him a first round pick. It's hard to endorse spending so much draft capital on a player at a low-value position who needs a ton to go right to get on script. With the passing game under more fire with injuries, expect Danny Woodhead's touches to stay steady. His low use game against Baltimore in Week 8 feels like a fluke.

San Francisco 49ers

49ers backfield touches Week 9
49ers backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Spinning the roulette wheel of 49ers running backs landed you on "Draughn, red" in Week 9. The longtime NFL journey man handled 20 touches and paced the team in their win over the Falcons. It wasn't a fluke either, as Draughn ran hot and aggressive all day. Whether that continues going forward, is anyone's guess. In an offense piloted by Blaine Gabbert, or even Colin Kaepernick, the ceiling for a San Francisco running back is too low to warrant chasing. Not to mention, the wheel could easily land on "Thomas, black" or "Gaskins, red" next week.

St. Louis Rams

Rams backfield touches Week 9
Rams backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

The Todd Gurley show continued, even though he had a mere mortal day in Week 9. His 4.04 yards per touch was his lowest output since his first career game. With a matchup against the Bears in Week 10, expect Gurley to "rebound" back to deity levels of performance.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers backfield touches Week 9
Buccaneers backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

Fantasy Perfect Challenge

In a game where Jameis Winston was the best player on the Buccaneers offense, the running game didn't provide much fantasy boom. This was the first game since Week 3 in which Doug Martin saw less than 20 touches. Charles Sims continue to nip at Martin's workload, which made the latter such an appealing fantasy play. However, much of Sims' production came on one touch, and he continues to put the ball on the turf. Next week, in a game with much less shootout potential, Martin could quite easily get back to being a workhorse against Dallas. Don't panic just yet.

Tennessee Titans

Titans backfield touches Week 9
Titans backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

The Titans were forthcoming with their intentions of using Antonio Andrews as the feature back, and they weren't kidding. Andrews handled 20 touches and topped 100 total yards, both of which were season-high marks. He's improved with each week, and keeps the offense on schedule, which is important for a team with a rookie passer. Expect him to dominate the touches going forward, and he has every week flex appeal as running backs continue dropping with each passing week. You can cut bait on David Cobb.

Washington

Washington backfield touches Week 9
Washington backfield touches Week 9 (NFL.com)

There just isn't fantasy value in the Washington backfield. You can see the appeal of Jones with how he carries so much power and energy in his runs, but fumbles and other mistakes keep him out of full-time role. Without a touchdown, 13 touches won't get it done. Alfred Morris is long off our radars, and belongs on waivers in redraft leagues. Even Chris Thompson saw just two receptions in a game where Washington trailed throughout.


Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB.

Print