*Welcome to "Committee Meetings," the running back portion of our weekly Targets/Touches column! Every Monday we'll recap the week that was among running backs and preview the outlook for the upcoming slate. *
If you're looking for wide receiver target distribution for Week 3, click the tab above to access Matt Harmon's wideout breakdown, or CLICK HERE.
With Week 3 nearly over, it's time to dive into some backfield breakdowns. Fortunately, we escaped Sunday without any major injuries (save for Jeremy Langford's ankle injury on Sunday night) which is welcome news following Week 2's running back apocalypse. We did get to see how some backfields shaped up after a big week of waiver wire speculation in Minnesota, Carolina and Miami. The results weren't great, but we have some clarity on what to expect going forward. That's enough small talk, let's get to it.
*Below, you'll find statistics on total touches and percentage shares. These percentages relate to non-quarterback/wide receiver backfield touches. In other words, the percentages are drawn only from running back and fullback touches. *
Even in a blowout, David Johnson was able to shine. The Cardinals fell behind 17-0 early against the Bills but Johnson still logged 22 touches for 111 total yards and two touchdowns. As far as running backs who were taken in the first round of fantasy drafts go, Johnson is the only one who has returned on his value thus far. He remains an elite RB1 with an unlimited ceiling on a weekly basis. No matter the matchup, leave Johnson in your lineup each and every week.
The Falcons used both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman heavily on Monday night, and both produced huge numbers. The running back tandem, quite possibly the most lethal in the NFL, combined for four total touchdowns and nearly 300 yards from scrimmage. Fantasy owners who have been scared off of Freeman don't have much to worry about, he was running like one of the most hungry, determined backs we've seen this season. And Tevin Coleman, who is now fantasy's fifth-highest scoring running back through three weeks, hung three touchdowns on the Saints awful defense. It was a cake matchup and the Atlanta backfield capitalized. For the season, Freeman has out-touched Coleman but both backs have 10 rush attempts in the red zone and it seems like they'll be used in an even, and effective split going forward. Both will be low-end flex plays against the Panthers in Week 4.
For the third week in a row, the Ravens backfield was atrocious. Justin Forsett and Terrance West split the workload again, and neither managed more than 53 total yards. Neither running back has posted a double-digit fantasy outing yet this season, nor has either made a real case to deserve a bigger workload going forward. Avoid them at all costs for fantasy purposes.
LeSean McCoy continues to dominate the Buffalo backfield, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Even in what seemed like a bad matchup for him on paper against the Cardinals, Shady scored twice and logged over 100 scrimmage yards on his 20 total touches. For a running back who stirred concerns about age, career workload and durability issues, McCoy has proven an extremely valuable asset to his fantasy owners thus far, even in a Bills offense that has seemed to struggle. Perhaps the offensive coordinator change will boost McCoy's value going forward. McCoy will face the Patriots in Week 4.
In a similar fashion to the Vikings backfield, with Jonathan Stewart out the backup options were hot waiver-wire adds heading into Week 3. Cameron Artis-Payne out-touched Fozzy Whittaker but wasn't much more productive than his teammate in the end. And when the Panthers got close to the end zone, Cam Newton ran a touchdown in himself which has always been a reason that running backs in Carolina have a capped ceiling. Next week, they get a nice matchup against the Falcons, but it's tough to advocate using either Artis-Payne or Whittaker in fantasy as this will likely continue to be a split backfield for as long as Stewart is out.
The major takeaway from the Chicago backfield is an injury to Jeremy Langford that caused him to leave the game early and never return. We're still waiting on information regarding the severity of his injury, but his absence opened the door for rookie Jordan Howard to make an impact, and he did. In a game that was basically a lost cause for the Bears, Howard displayed power and pass-catching ability that Langford has seemed to lack thus far. The rookie's role has been increasing each week and now that Langford could miss time, Howard's fantasy value has seen a solid bump up. He'll be a hot commodity on the waiver wire this week and brings flex value at worst to fantasy lineups in Week 4 when the Bears take on the Lions.
It definitely feels like Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are alternating weeks in terms of which guy is the best option in fantasy. Week 1 was a Hill game, Week 2 Bernard dominated, and Week 3 was another Hill game. Hill came out hot with a 50-yard scamper and a score in the first quarter against Denver and was the primary back from that point on. He found the end zone again in the second quarter for his third score of the season. But in the fourth quarter with the Bengals trailing, Hill didn't get a single carry and Bernard racked up 20 receiving yards in garbage time. Bernard's usage seems like it will rely on game script going forward -- in games that the Bengals are trailing he will see more work. Cincinnati will face the Dolphins at home on Thursday night and both backs will be flex plays at worst.
Given the sad state of the Browns quarterback situation, the team's backfield produced respectable numbers. Isaiah Crowell owners can't really complain about 79 total yards and a 5.3 yards per carry average here. He's the clear-cut lead back despite some offseason whispers that Duke Johnson had a chance at taking over. Crowell is a locked-in RB2 going forward and is providing excellent value for a guy drafted in the late rounds. This was Johnson's best game of the season with 81 yards on 15 touches but he remains a stash for now. Crowell will have a nice matchup in Week 4 against the Redskins who just gave up 157 total yards and two rushing touchdowns to Giants running backs on Sunday.
Ezekiel Elliott had the best game of his short career on Sunday night against the Bears. He rushed for 140 yards - more than any other running back in Week 3 -- marking his first 100-yard rushing game and salted away a Cowboys' win with 13 touches in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, Zeke was vultured on three different occasions as Dak Prescott, Lance Dunbar and Alfred Morris each scored rushing touchdowns. His fantasy owners will take the 16 points he generated but a touchdown would have been a nice icing on the cake. Still, Zeke continues to be the keystone of the Cowboys' offense and is going to have a massive workload each and every week. He'll enjoy a soft matchup against the 49ers in Week 4 and will be a locked in RB1 yet again.
C.J. Anderson remains the Broncos' workhorse, but a bad matchup on paper against the Bengals played out on the field as Anderson averaged a mere 2.6 yards per carry and had a tough time getting anything going. Since the Broncos' passing game seemed to be working, they didn't need Anderson to be the hero. Anderson remains an RB1 heading into Week 4 against the Buccaneers.
The Lions fell behind early to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, which made for tough sledding in terms of the run game. Theo Riddick struggled to get anything going on the ground with just nine rushing yards on 10 carries. Rookie Dwayne Washington led Detroit with 38 rushing yards and could see his role increase going forward with Ameer Abdullah on IR, especially if Riddick continues to struggle as a runner. If Washington is still a free agent in your league, go pick him up this week. Riddick will be an upside flex play in Week 4 against the Bears.
Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy had his best game of the season thus far against a banged-up Lions defense. He had a handful of impressive runs, rumbling his way to 105 total yards and 6.1 yards per carry. But in a game where the Packers put up 34 points, Lacy failed to reach the end zone. Until he starts scoring touchdowns, he can't be considered more than a flex play in fantasy leagues. Lacy's owners will have to find another option in Week 4 as the Packers have an early-season bye.
Good news and bad news here. Bad news first: Lamar Miller didn't find the end zone for the third straight game. Good news: Miller was force-fed the ball in a game script that wasn't going his way and managed over 100 scrimmage yards on 25 total touches. It's clear that he's Houston's workhorse and we don't see that changing anytime soon. Despite his lack of scoring, his volume upside makes him an every-week RB1.
Frank Gore cannot be stopped. The aging veteran racked up 22 touches and a score against the Chargers on Sunday and was present for 66 percent of the Colts offensive snaps. It's Gore's second straight outing with double digit fantasy points. He'll continue to be a consistent flex option going forward given his workload and report with Andrew Luck. Robert Turbin fell into the end zone for the second straight week, but we're not buying him yet as a fantasy asset as anything more than a Gore handcuff. The Colts get Jacksonville in Week 4, so Gore can be started yet again as he looks to make it three straight games with a touchdown.
Chris Ivory returned to the field on Sunday, but his presence didn't matter much as he totaled just 23 yards on 12 touches. T.J. Yeldon didn't do much either. It was an all-around horrible day for the Jacksonville backfield. We can't trust either Ivory or Yeldon after a performance like this. They're both worth stashing but until Jacksonville finds an identity on offense, both backs are nothing more than benchwarmers. Jacksonville might be able to get on track against the Colts' Swiss cheese defense in Week 4 but until we see some real production we're not advocating anyone in this offense save for Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas.
Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles was sidelined once again, so Spencer Ware served as the Chiefs workhorse. Ware found it to be tough sledding against a stout Jets defensive front but his 21 total touches prove that Kansas City believes in him enough to keep feeding him the rock. With Charles' return still a mystery, Ware will continue to be a volume-based must-start on a weekly basis. Ware will face a Steelers defense in Week 4 that was unable to stop the Philadelphia run game on Sunday.
Los Angeles Rams
If you just look at his 20 fantasy points, sure, Todd Gurley had a nice Week 3. But when you consider that it took him 28 touches to gain 80 yards and he averaged fewer than 3.2 yards per carry for the third straight game, you might begin to understand why Matt Harmon warned against taking Gurley with an early first-round fantasy draft pick. For the season, he's averaging 2.8 yards per carry and has yet to gain over 85 rush yards in a game. Gurley remains one of the most talented backs in the NFL, but this is a case where situation trumps talent. As long as the Rams offense is inconsistent in the passing game, Gurley is going to struggle to put up the elite fantasy numbers he was drafted for. Enjoy this two-touchdown game as the Rams head to Arizona to face the Cardinals in Week 4.
With Arian Foster out, Miami's starting running back was rookie Kenyan Drake. Drake led the backfield with 11 touches, but the Dolphins really spread the love with four different backs getting work against the Browns. Ironically, the one guy who had seemed to fall out of favor with the coaching staff, Jay Ajayi, scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime for Miami. Going forward, none of these backs are trustworthy fantasy options as we assume it will continue to be an unpredictable split. The Dolphins have a short week as they face the Bengals on Thursday night in Week 4 which presents an unfavorable matchup for the backfield. This just adds to the list of reasons to avoid these rushers.
With the news of Adrian Peterson's potentially season-ending knee injury earlier in the week, the Vikings running backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata were hot waiver-wire commodities. But if you had been paying attention, we were preaching a wait-and-see approach with both backs, especially against a tough Carolina defense. Fantasy owners were sent reeling when Asiata was announced as "the starter" on Sunday morning, but that didn't matter much as he had just six rush attempts in the game. McKinnon proved to be the volume play but had a tough time getting anything done against the Panthers. Both backs are stashes for now, but McKinnon is the guy you're going to want to flex in more favorable matchups going forward. The Vikings play the Giants on Monday night in Week 4, so neither back is an ideal option. But again, if you have to use either, McKinnon is the better play due to his volume and all-around better skill set and athleticism.
New England Patriots
For the third straight week, LeGarrette Blount toted the rock over 20 times and is averaging 25 rush attempts per game. He has now scored at least once in each of his first three contests, and while the Patriots piece together their quarterback situation until Tom Brady returns, it sure seems like they're intent on trusting Blount with a gigantic workload. Even in what seemed like a poor matchup against the Texans defense, Blount dominated. In Week 4, New England faces a Bills team that has been atrocious against opposing running backs, so Blount will be a must-start.
New Orleans Saints
Mark Ingram dominated the Saints backfield touches against Atlanta on Monday night, but as they've been known to do New Orleans spread the ball around to three other backs throughout the game. Travaris Cadet basically served as another wide receiver out of the backfield, hauling in six catches, while Tim Hightower spelled Ingram for a series in the first half. The one and only John Kuhn came in to vulture a score from Ingram in the third quarter much to the chagrin of Ingram owners everywhere. But the Saints primary back produced with over 100 scrimmage yards for the first time this season and scored a receiving touchdown. It was a cushy matchup, but still a great sign for Ingram going forward, who had been off to a slow start. He'll have another decent on-paper match up in Week 4 when the Saints head to San Diego. Ingram will be a high-end RB2 in that game.
New York Giants
With Rashad Jennings inactive, Shane Vereen drew the start and punched in an early rushing touchdown for the Giants. He totaled 95 yards on just 13 touches in the game so if you slotted him in for Jennings, you were happy with the result. Orleans Darkwa logged 11 touches and scored as well, which nobody really saw coming. It's a sign, though, that if Jennings has to miss any more time going forward, the Giants backfield will be a split committee between Vereen and Darkwa, the latter of whom is a better early-down option with touchdown-vulture possibilities.
New York Jets
The Jets offense was just plain bad on Sunday. But it wasn't on Matt Forte who shouldered another hefty workload against the Chiefs. But the big story here is that Bilal Powell out-gained Forte on seven fewer touches. Finally we saw the Jets use Powell, mainly as a pass-catcher out of the backfield since they were trailing nearly the entire game and kept turning the ball over. Forte had just two touches in the fourth quarter compared to Powell's five. Forte should continue to bring RB1 value for his fantasy owners but faces Seattle in Week 4 so expectations should be tempered, especially if Fitzpatrick continues to struggle. This could be a game that sets up nicely for Powell, but to bank on game flow is playing with fire. We suggest stashing Powell on the bench until we see his usage increase in a more consistent way.
With each passing week, Latavius Murray's share of backfield touches diminishes, but at least he keeps finding the end zone (three straight weeks now). But DeAndre Washington led the Raiders backfield with 62 yards from scrimmage and Jalen Richard was involved as well logging 27 percent of the backfield touches. Murray's usage is very concerning going forward and because of his decreased volume, he can't be considered anything more than a flex play at best on a weekly basis.
Literally every running back on the Eagles except for Ryan Mathews ate on Sunday. Mathews, who was pulled due to ankle stiffness, logged just two carries in the game. Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles combined for 248 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns against the Steelers. Sproles racked up 128 yards as a receiver while the big surprise was the rookie Smallwood's 17 carries. We'll take this as a sign that when/if Mathews has to miss playing time going forward that the Eagles trust Smallwood to carry a bell cow type of workload. Sproles, as we've known all along, is an elite pass-catching back and should continue to provide a solid floor from week to week. The Eagles have a Week 4 bye, so Mathews has some extra time to rest whatever may be ailing him ahead of Week 5.
In DeAngelo Williams' last game before Le'Veon Bell returns from suspension, the veteran back disappointed in what was a poor performance in just about every aspect for Pittsburgh's offense (save for Antonio Brown). The Steelers fell behind early and there was really no chance for Williams to have a big impact against a solid Philadelphia defense. He totaled just eight carries and four receptions - his lowest touch total of the season thus far. It was a disappointing outing for Williams who's been nothing but stellar early this season. We'll consider this a result of game flow more than anything since we know Williams still has some gas left in the tank and we've seen put up elite numbers in Weeks 1 and 2. But as mentioned earlier, Bell will be back in Week 4 when Pittsburgh faces Kansas City, so Williams owners will be better off leaving him on the fantasy bench until we see how a potential timeshare plays out.
San Francisco 49ers
Call him the king of garbage time in Week 3. Carlos Hyde scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Seattle, when the 49ers were already blown out. Can't say we saw this coming as, on paper, this was an extremely unfavorable matchup against the Legion of Boom in Seattle. Of Hyde's 103 rushing yards, 65 percent of them were added in the final frame when Seattle's defense was playing softer coverages. Its welcome news for Hyde owners but those who benched him due to the bad matchup are kicking themselves on Monday morning. Hyde should continue to be the engine that moves the 49ers offense as long as he keeps producing at a high level. San Francisco takes on the Dallas in Week 4 -- a matchup that Hyde should be considered an RB2 at worst in.
San Diego Chargers
So this wasn't the huge week-winning performance we thought we'd get out of Melvin Gordon this week in a great matchup against the Colts. But his production sufficed if you had plugged him in as your RB2, which was just fine. With Danny Woodhead on IR, Gordon will continue to shoulder a massive workload and as we saw Sunday, will get some added looks as a pass-catcher which only boosts his weekly floor. Dexter McCluster had two catches but his snap count (15%) compared to Gordon's (86%) proves that he isn't much of a threat to Gordon's workload. Gordon owners will be happy to see that their running back has another great matchup against the Saints next week.
With Thomas Rawls ruled out, Sunday, September 25th, 2016 will forever be remembered as Christine Michael Day. C-Mike enjoyed a featured role out of the Seahawks backfield, totaling 22 touches in a blowout against San Francisco. On his first carry of the game, he scored his first career touchdown on an explosive 41-yard run. By the time the first quarter ended, Michael had scored his second touchdown and had collected 71 rushing yards. When the Sunday night game commenced, Michael's 106 rush yards was enough to rank him third in rushing for Week 3 and he was one of four running backs to score two rushing touchdowns for the week. Following the best game of his career, it's hard to imagine the Seahawks going back to a timeshare if/when Rawls regains his health. The Awakening is real, and there's absolutely no denying that Michael ran like one of the most physically gifted running backs in the league on Sunday. He'll be an RB1 in Week 4 when Seattle heads to New Jersey to take on the Jets.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Doug Martin out, the Bucs' offense was mainly funneled through Charles Sims and Mike Evans on Sunday. As the feature back, Sims came through with 124 total yards and a score doing much of his damage with 69 yards through the air. As long as Martin is sidelined, Sims will present RB1 upside. Jacquizz Rodgers poses no real threat to Sims' workload as he played on just 21 snaps compared to 68 for Sims. The Buccaneers play the Broncos next week, so it's a matchup that doesn't sound favorable until you consider that Denver let Jeremy Hill run all over them in Week 3. And if the Bucs are struggling, Sims provides a safe floor with his role as a receiver.
As long as DeMarco Murray keeps lighting up the box score, there's really no reason for the Titans to decrease his role in the offense. To be honest, he's their most valuable offensive player right now. Murray is responsible for 300 yards from scrimmage over the last two games, adding 155 more in Week 3 against the Raiders. Derrick Henry owners will have to remain patient for now. Henry did not play poorly when given opportunities but the volume simply isn't there for him to be a fantasy asset just yet. Murray has seemingly returned to his 2014 form despite the Titans other offensive woes. He'll be a solid RB2 play against the Texans in Week 4.
Somehow, Matt Jones racked up 19 touches in Week 3 against the Giants. Despite his struggles, Jones still brings volume-based fantasy value to the table. Chris Thompson is too inconsistent to rely on and Rob Kelley likely won't have any value unless Jones or Thompson have to miss time. To put it simply, you're better off steering clear of this backfield altogether in fantasy, but if you have to start someone, Jones is still the guy you want to use. The Redskins will face the Browns in Week 4 so Jones could be a sneaky flex play.
You can rely on NFL.com's Touches and Targets column for great fantasy advice. Just like you can rely on FedEx Ground for fast and affordable shipping.