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 at all the backfield touches for every NFL team. See Part two (to be linked soon) for passing game targets.
David Johnson was a clear breath of fresh air for an offense that had not seen their feature back top 3.63 yards per carry since Week 7. The rookie back did most of his work in the ground game, despite his acumen as a passing-down threat. Bruce Arians indicated prior to this game that Johnson was his new starter, and would see a bulk of the work. The coach was true to his word, as Johnson handled 68.6 percent of the running back touches in Week 13. Johnson must remain a key figure in this offense, as his explosive ability infused with one of the best passing games in the NFL makes Arizona a nightmare to defend.
With Devonta Freeman back in the fold, Tevin Coleman went right back to his spot as a non-factor on this offense. Freeman's ceiling is depressed since last we saw him on the field. The decline of the Atlanta offense, and the passing game, is hard to overcome for a running back who is several notches below the transcendent level. However, his volume appears secure, and he essentially functions as their No. 2 receiver.
Matt Schaub does not mind dumping the ball off over and over again to a running back, especially at this stage of his career. With Buck Allen's strength of as a pass catcher, and size in the open field, the rookie rusher can mortgage that volume into low-end RB1 numbers for the rest of the season. However, the matchups do get tougher down the stretch with Seattle, Kansas City and Pittsburgh traveling to Baltimore for the remainder of the fantasy season.
Terrance West looks every bit the primary handcuff to Allen in Baltimore, and has eight carries in each of the last two weeks. If you have Allen on your roster, insuring him with a West addition is a necessity.
With Karlos Williams on the shelf, Mike Gillislee took some change of pace work behind LeSean McCoy. The Bills also deployed him in some wild cat looks, as well. Gillislee just came up from the practice squad last week, making his heavy involvement curious, and perhaps a misnomer. However, with the way McCoy keeps bouncing off and on the field this year, and he was evaluated for a concussion in this game, his backups are worth monitoring.
We know the drill with the Panthers backfield, and this is about the same picture presented from the last three weeks. One interesting development to note: Jonathan Stewart has just 15 catches on the season, but six of them came in the last two weeks. If the Panthers ticket Stewart for more passing game work, that raises his floor a few notches and makes him much less reliant on converting red zone looks into touchdowns.
A split that was near 50/50 in Matt Forte's first week back sharply shifted back to favor the veteran in Week 13. Forte nearly doubled Jeremy Langford's workload, and played 56 percent of the snaps compared to 36 percent from his primary understudy. In watching the game, Forte got hot early and the coaching staff seemed content to ride that. Langford looked great in a change-of-pace type of deployment, but perhaps he goes off early next week. For now, we can assume John Fox will defer to the veteran back for the rest of this season.
All the while a healthy Ka'Deem Carey still held onto a role in the split. With Forte all but locked in to walk in free agency this offseason, Carey could emerge as a high-value handcuff and more traditional running complement to Jeremy Langford next season. If you play in a dynasty league, it's worth exploring whether Carey is available on waiver wires, or available in a cheap trade if you own Langford.
The Bengals thoroughly outclassed the Browns in this contest, as expected, so it's difficult to know what we should take away from this box score. A blowout in winter weather against a team that can't stop the power run is the perfect type of game script for Jeremy Hill, and he responded with another strong fantasy game. He also played deep into the game with backups when the blowout was in full-swing. You can certainly interpret that as the team wanting to get him going and full of confidence as they push towards the playoffs.
C.J. Anderson was on his way to another fine outing, but left in the first half after rolling his ankle. Ronnie Hillman was largely ineffective -- in a great matchup -- in his efforts to assume the workhorse role. The Broncos offense suffers a great deal without Anderson, as Hillman is incapable as a receiver. We'll have to monitor Anderson's status throughout the week. Juwan Thompson ran with tremendous power yesterday, and may be worth an add in deeper leagues.
This was the third week in a row that Ameer Abdullah led the Lions in carries. However, it just won't amount to much in what is a frustrating Saints-like three-way split, even with Joe Lombardi out of the picture. For the rest of this season, we're putting Abdullah under the eye test for his prospects as a sleeper next year, which he's passing with flying colors right now, and using Theo Riddick sparingly in PPR formats.
Reports surfaced after the game that the Packers are concerned about Eddie Lacy off the field, and he compounded those worries by missing curfew prior to the Lions game. The coaching staff essentially benched Lacy, and gave playing time to James Starks, which led to John Crockett's ascension after a Starks fumble. At this point, Lacy is such a headache we don't know what to advise with him. Green Bay has a favorable matchup with Dallas in Week 14, but you know what you might be getting into here. Track the news and proceed with caution.
After several weeks of less than stellar play, the Texans finally saw fit to remove Alfred Blue from his volume inflated role as the lead back. Chris Polk responded with a strong outing, including a touchdown catch. He and Jonathan Grimes are superior talents and pass catchers to Blue, and should lead this backfield in touches going forward.
The Colts were knocked off their game script early against the clearly superior Steelers, which prevented Frank Gore from topping 100 total yards. However, he posted his first efficient outing since mid-October, and didn't cede many touches to Dan Herron. After coming into this game on shaky fantasy status, Gore looks much safer as an RB2 for fantasy.
This was the type of game we were waiting for with T.J. Yeldon. He looked dynamic in the passing game, racking up 79 yards, and punched in his goal-line chance. The Jaguars experienced an offensive explosion against the Titans, so we may not see another line like this from Yeldon again this season. However, as the workhorse back in an ascending scoring unit, he's right at the top of the list for breakout 2016 running backs.
The Chiefs have no true allegiance to Charcandrick West, and there was no reason for them to return to a game plan where he handled nearly 100 percent of the touches after seeing what Spencer Ware could do. Of course, this was West's first game back from a hamstring injury, which is particularly detrimental to his style of running back. Going forward, we should expect a near even split, with West as the primary pass catcher and Ware serving as the finisher and goal-line back. Next week with San Diego coming to town feels like a Ware game.
It looks like the firing of Bill Lazor was in direct connection to Lamar Miller's evaporated workload during the final weeks of the month of November. Under a new coach, the Miami offense handed Miller 80 percent of the running back carries. We spent this entire season telling ourselves the story of how one thing or another would lead to a consistent workload for Miller for the duration of the season. We know firsthand this is a tenuous endeavor. Theoretically, if this distribution holds up, Miller is a tremendous play on Monday night against the Giants.
James White exploded in a 2013-2014 Shane Vereen fashion, and for the moment, looks clearly ahead of Brandon Bolden as the pass-catching back in this offense. In shootout game scripts with high expected point totals, we can use White as a flex option in PPR leagues. The Patriots will need some outlet receivers when they square off with the Texans next Sunday, which should provide some chances for White.
With two combined touches for C.J. Spiller and Tim Hightower, we know this backfield is all about Mark Ingram. This was a pass-heavy game script, with New Orleans taking to the air against a tough secondary. Even still, Ingram maintained his safe floor, which is one of the highest in the league among running backs.
I can't honestly give you any real analysis on this backfield. So naturally, I took to Twitter for assistance. As always, you all delivered:
It's time to give Bilal Powell credit for serving as a valuable role player for this offense, especially as a pass catcher. There's legitimate concern that he could out-snap Chris Ivory (as he did in Week 13) in games where the Jets get into a shootout. With the Jets looking to keep the tone-setting Ivory on a pitch count and not overwork him, we may be in the territory of projecting game flow for this team to know what to do with the backfield. For Week 14, at least, their match with the Titans in the Meadowlands looks like a strong Ivory game.
Latavius Murray checked in with his best game since Week 9. He ran with power through a strong front, and popped in a goal line carry. With the passing game ruling supreme in Oakland, they've mostly asked Murray to be a sustaining runner, and seemed unconcerned with his inefficient tendencies. It's hard to project that changing, especially next week in Denver.
Chip Kelly the coach is finally overriding Chip Kelly the GM, with DeMarco Murray falling by the wayside. The coach doubled-down by saying that running back playing time would be divvied up by performance alone. Murray had a strong stretch where he continually finished in the 17-touch, 90-yard range, but those days look long over.
No matter the game script or the matchup, DeAngelo Williams is an RB1, and looking like the most valuable back in fantasy.
At this stage of the season, it's hard to deny that Shaun Draughn is an every-week fantasy starter. He played 79 percent of the snaps, scored on the goal line and finished second on the team in targets for Week 13. That sort of usage, mixed with Draughn's solid play, is undeniable in fantasy. The 49ers play the Browns in Week 14, which should make him a tremendous value in DFS once again.
Some of the other backs got work with this game in blowout territory, but this backfield belongs to Thomas Rawls alone.
The Jeff Fisher experience has essentially vanquished the once amazing efforts of rookie Todd Gurley. At this point, it's difficult to endorse starting Gurley; we have to live in the present. With the Rams offense sinking so far that they've fired their second offensive coordinator of the calendar year, you can't expect anything from this group. Sadly, that includes the all-world talents of Todd Gurley.
David Cobb split touches with the starter, Antonio Andrews, but didn't perform well in the role. The coaching staff may shy away from using Cobb more after this slip up, and there's no reason for you to consider him against the Jets. Andrews is playing well and deserves the bulk of the work. At this point, we're only watching Cobb for 2016 purposes.