*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. *
With Week 9 nearly in the books, it's time to dive into some backfield breakdowns. We saw some familiar names among the top running back performers including Matt Forte and Ezekiel Elliott while guys like T.J. Yeldon and Ryan Mathews surprisingly made their way into the top 20 for the week. Some of the bigger disappointments of the week include Le'Veon Bell and Terrance West, and below we'll try to figure out how to value these running backs going forward. That's enough small talk for now ... more on those backs and every other team's backfield below.
Note: The Opportunity Report is a living document and will be updated with the results of every game until after the Monday night game concludes. If you're looking for backfield touches data on a team and they aren't here yet, check back later.
Tevin Coleman missed his second-straight game leaving Devonta Freeman as the feature back for Atlanta. Freeman, despite dealing with a hip pointer, still looks like one of the best running backs in the NFL. He didn't manage to score, but still posted 97 total yards on his 19 touches. As the lead back in a high-flying offense, Freeman should continue to have top-five upside at his position even when Coleman gets back healthy. The Falcons head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in Week 10.
Everything lined up for Terrance West to produce big numbers heading into Week 9, but things just didn't pan out. The whispers of rookie Kenneth Dixon being more involved were more than just whispers too, as he had a season-high nine carries on the day although he was not very effective. He also left the game early with what was reported as a chest contusion, which is a situation to keep an eye on going forward. West and the rest of the Ravens backfield should have an easier time scoring fantasy points in Week 10 as they take on a porous Browns defense on Thursday night in Baltimore.
Jonathan Stewart's hot streak came to a screeching halt on Sunday against the Rams. Stewart was on the field for 71 percent of the Panthers' offensive snaps and did see 15 rush attempts but couldn't find room to run against a stout Los Angeles front seven and averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. It was a low-scoring game that didn't provide much fantasy production on either side, so we'll chalk this up to being somewhat of an outlier in terms of Stewart's lackluster performance. He'll be a high-end RB2 next week when Kansas City heads to Carolina for Week 10.
Isaiah Crowell started the game with a 44-yard reception on the first play. He collected just 23 total yards the rest of the game in a script that did not favor the Browns running backs. He only had six rush attempts in the game and just 10 total touches which is not conducive to fantasy points. Duke Johnson's role as a low-volume third-down back continues to be irrelevant for fantasy purposes. Both Cleveland backs will be tough to trust on a short week against a Ravens stout run defense in Week 10.
Ezekiel Elliott did what Ezekiel Elliott does and dominated a bad Cleveland defense, finding the end zone twice in the game. He was pulled early because it was a blowout, so Alfred Morris' 17 totes shouldn't raise any red flags. Heck, even Mark Sanchez got a few snaps under center to spell Dak Prescott. Zeke will look to continue his stellar rookie campaign next week against Pittsburgh.
Denver found itself in a hole early in this game, which didn't allow for many opportunities for the running backs. Devontae Booker, who came into Sunday night dealing with a sore shoulder, was completely ineffective as a runner with just 22 yards on 10 totes. The Broncos will have to ride the rookie with C.J. Anderson on injured reserve, but game script dictated Booker's workload in this one. Second-year Colorado native Kapri Bibbs shocked the nation with a 69-yard touchdown catch-and-run late in the game, and seemingly has earned himself some more playing time especially considering Booker's lackluster outing.
In a tough matchup in Minnesota, Theo Riddick averaged a solid 5.0 yards per carry, running for 70 yards (including a 42-yard scamper) on his 14 attempts. He was less of a factor as a receiver with just one reception on three targets, and failed to get into the end zone, but 7.6 standard points against the Vikings is respectable. Rookie Dwayne Washington notched double-digit carries too but was virtually useless with just 26 yards. This is Riddick's backfield and his all-purpose skill set gives him an extremely safe floor on a weekly basis. Riddick's owners will have to find another running back to start in Week 10 as the Lions are on a bye.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers pieced together a backfield with Ty Montgomery, Don Jackson and Aaron Ripkowski once again. Montgomery proved to be a solid play yet again as he racked up 91 total yards on 10 touches. With James' Starks healthy return on the horizon, this backfield will likely have a different look, and the curtain may fall on Montgomery's 15 minutes of fame as a "running back." The Packers will look to get back on track next week against the Titans.
Earlier in the week, the Colts offensive coordinator said that he wanted to give his veteran back more carries after he had just nine rush attempts in Week 8. Well Gore's workload more than doubled in this game and it paid off for fantasy owners as he scored twice and received 21 touches in a win over the Packers. He only averaged 3.2 yards per carry which makes sense given Green Bay's top-ranked run defense but fantasy owners really only care about the touchdowns. Gore now has four straight games with double-digit fantasy points and ranks as the RB7 for the season with his consistent totals each and every week. The Colts have a bye in Week 10, so Gore's fantasy owners will have to find running back help elsewhere.
Surprisingly, the Jaguars produced two top-10 fantasy backs heading into the late Sunday games. T.J. Yeldon's late receiving touchdown boosted his total into the double-digits, but he had also lost a fumble earlier in the game. Chris Ivory, who collected 107 rushing yards on his 18 totes came inches away from a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but he fumbled the ball on the goal line instead resulting in an eight-point swing on the play. That's pretty much the Jaguars, in a nutshell, although it may be a sign of what we can expect going forward as Ivory ran hard and his 19 touches marked a season-high. Jacksonville's back may have a tough time finding room to run against the Texans in Week 10, though.
Kansas City Chiefs
With Spencer Ware (head) ruled out, Charcandrick West got the start at running back for Kansas City. He had a decent amount of volume with 16 total touches but was not able to do much as a runner, totaling just 39 yards on the ground on his 13 rush attempts. For fantasy purposes, West's 7.4 points in standard leagues were viable as a low-end flex play, and owners struggling for running back production with six teams on bye can't scoff at that total, but would have liked to see a bigger number. When Ware is healthy, there should be no controversy as to who the primary back is in Kansas City. The team heads to Carolina next week to face the Panthers' tough run defense.
Los Angeles Rams
Hopefully you knew heading into this game that Todd Gurley was a risky play against Carolina's third-ranked run defense. And hopefully you prepared accordingly and found another running back to use because Gurley didn't produce a ton of fantasy value. But in a week where only 11 backs scored rushing touchdowns, Gurley's 7.4 standard points was enough for him to finish Sunday as the RB17 for Week 9. Gurley hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 5 and has just three total scores on the season. Fortunately, he's been more involved as a pass-catcher which keeps his floor at a reasonable level, but his playing time is down too. After playing 77 percent of the Rams' offensive snaps through the first six weeks, he's played just 66 percent of snaps in the last two games. His Week 9 could have been worse, and it probably will be worse next week when the Rams travel east to play the Jets who are allowing the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL.
Jay Ajayi, fresh off a bye, dominated out of the Dolphins backfield for the third-straight game. He racked up 27 total touches for 130 total yards and a touchdown against a stout Jets run defense. Ajayi also had three receptions in the game, which tied him with a few other pass-catchers for the most on the team. He's going to end up being a league-winning pickup this season if he continues running the way he has been recently. His back-to-back 200-yard games were no fluke, and it is worth mentioning that the Dolphins offensive line looks like a completely different unit than it did in the early weeks of the season. Ajayi will be an RB1 once again in Week 10 when the Dolphins travel west to play in San Diego.
The Vikings offensive struggles continued on Sunday. Not a single running back notched greater than nine carries, and freaking Ronnie Hillman led the backfield with 30 rush yards. Jerick McKinnon was a major disappointment coming off an injury and may not be playing at 100 percent. It showed with just eight yards on seven attempts and zero receptions, all of which equated to fewer than a single fantasy point. Nobody in this backfield is an attractive fantasy play, but McKinnon will be difficult to bench when the Vikings play the Redskins in Week 10.
New Orleans Saints
Yeah, so that whole thing about Mark Ingram being in the dog house ... WELP. Most of Ingram's 29.10 standard fantasy points came on a single 75-yard touchdown run, but the Saints loaded him up with touches because he was playing well, which if you haven't heard, is pretty easy to do against San Francisco. For those who started Tim Hightower, his 87 rushing yards and a touchdown helped boost him into top-10 territory among backs in standard leagues, so Ingram's solid game didn't negatively affect his teammate. The Saints will likely continue to employ this same kind of 1-2 punch backfield going forward, but don't expect this kind of volume and production every week from both Ingram and Hightower -- this was against the worst run defense in the league. The Saints have a tough matchup against the Broncos next week, but at least it will be in the Superdome.
New York Giants
Don't say we didn't warn you. The Giants backfield continues to be absolutely abysmal both from a real-life and fantasy perspective. Rashad Jennings split touches evenly with rookie Paul Perkins but neither back did much of anything. This is officially a trend that fantasy owners should avoid at all costs. If you'd like to lose your fantasy matchup next week, go ahead and start Rashad Jennings against the Bengals on Monday night.
New York Jets
Old Man Time is all like "Hey Matt Forte, you're pretty old and should probably quit playing football." And Matt Forte is all like "Nah, son!" Forte did it again against the Dolphins with 92 rush yards and his sixth touchdown of the year. Despite the Jets backfield becoming more of a timeshare between Forte and Bilal Powell than it was at the beginning of the season, Forte keeps producing and should continue to be a high-end RB2 at worst on a weekly basis. The Jets face the Rams in New Jersey in Week 10.
Latavius Murray likely won some fantasy owners' matchups single-handedly with his three touchdowns and 127 total yards against the Broncos on Sunday night. He played on just 51 percent of the Raiders' offensive snaps but made the most of his opportunities, punching in three short-yardage scores in the process. As a team, Oakland averaged 5.5 yards per carry, with DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard each seeing double-digit touches as well. It just happened to be Murray's night, to the delight of fantasy owners who have stuck with him through a bumpy season. The Raiders will enjoy a Week 10 bye before they face Houston in Week 11.
Once again, Ryan Mathews' was able to produce more fantasy points than Darren Sproles on a shockingly low number of touches. Mathews is still apparently the team's red zone back and that's basically the only thing keeping his fantasy value afloat for the time being. Mathews played just eight snaps in this game compared to Sproles 59, similar to last week. If this continues, which it probably will, fantasy owners will be playing with fire when considering any member of this committee. The Eagles face the Falcons in Philadelphia in Week 10.
Le'Veon Bell got the volume with 20 touches on the day but was not able to do much with his opportunities against a solid Ravens run defense. The Steelers entire offense struggled to move the ball in this game, and it was by far Bell's worst outing of the season efficiency-wise. He still has yet to get into the end zone on his 119 touches for the season. Bell and the Steelers will look to bounce-back at home against a hot Dallas Cowboys squad who held the Browns to 45 rushing yards on Sunday.
San Francisco 49ers
Carlos Hyde was ruled out, and DuJuan Harris drew the start. He produced mainly through the air with his 83 receiving yards on his way to 142 total yards and a score against a soft Saints defense that has given up loads of fantasy points to running backs all season long. For as long as Hyde is out, Harris should be the guy. The 49ers head to Arizona next week in what could be an ugly game.
San Diego Chargers
The storyline of the week in terms of fantasy running backs has to be Melvin Gordon. The Chargers ran him into the ground in this game, racking up a ridiculous 36 total touches against the Titans. On the ground, he averaged 6.1 yards per carry. As a receiver, his 65 yards on four catches only padded his stats. When Gordon was done toying with the Titans defense he had racked up 261 total yards, a touchdown, and 32.10 fantasy points in standard scoring. He's now posted 30 fantasy points in two of his last three games and is proving to be a league-winning pick that most fantasy owners probably drafted in the middle rounds back in August. Expect more of the same next week when the Chargers play Miami.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coming into Thursday night, even Tampa Bay's beat reporters couldn't figure out how the Bucs' backfield would play out. With third and fourth stringers Antone Smith and rookie Peyton Barber in line to split carries, but their respective performances were uninspiring, to say the least. Smith suffered a season-ending injury, leaving the Bucs running back stable even thinner. Hopefully, Jaquizz Rodgers is healthy enough to get back in Week 10 against the Bears, but if not, it looks like this is Barber's backfield until Doug Martin can get healthy.
Derrick Henry apparently pulled a muscle in pre-game warmups and wasn't available out of the Titans backfield. That's OK, though because DeMarco Murray was perfectly capable of handling a full workload again. It was one of Murray's less impressive performances efficiency-wise, but he scored a late touchdown to save face for his fantasy owners. Murray is a guy you're starting each and every week no matter what the matchup is. He may have a tougher go against the Packers next week, who have been stingy against running backs (but let Frank Gore score twice in Week 9).
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