Running back committees are commonplace in the NFL nowadays and often cause frustration in fantasy football. Take a look at which backfield trends emerged in week one of the NFL.
Welcome to the first edition of this year's Running Back By Committee Report! In this weekly report, we will dive into some of the NFL's most polarizing backfields to identify which situations to exploit for fantasy football. I will point out a couple of notable trends that emerge from each week of NFL action while providing some context on how to approach these backfields in fantasy football.
With the majority of teams utilizing a committee approach to their running back position, it is vital to pay close attention to the usage and workload each running back earns. Each week I will be sharing information to help you understand how coaches are using their running backs -- in what type of capacity and with what size of a workload. Are they getting a ton of snaps, but few touches? Is the once-presumed starter now splitting more of the workload with a role player? Does a team have the ability to sustain multiple running backs on a weekly basis? All this and more will be covered on a weekly basis!
At the end of each article, there will also be a table outlining how each backfield split its workload among its primary running backs.
Just before Week 1, the Eagles explored a trade for holdout running back Melvin Gordon, indicating that they still might not be satisfied with the players in their backfield. While it didn't inspire a ton of confidence on Sunday, better days are ahead for this backfield. Darren Sproles and Miles Sanders paced the backfield with 12 touches each, but Jordan Howard wasn't far behind with 8 touches.
What's most telling is that Sanders took nearly half of the Eagles' snaps, whereas neither Sproles nor Howard eclipsed a third of the snaps. Furthermore, Sanders would have had a better day and could have changed his outlook drastically if not for a 21-yard touchdown being called back due to a penalty. Sanders could be a great buy-low candidate before they play a Falcons team, who just allowed 160-yards rushing (5.3 yards per carry) to the Vikings running backs.
Heading into the season opener, the 49ers turned some heads as they listed Matt Breida as the starting running back on their depth chart with Tevin Coleman as the backup. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see how this would play out for the entire game as Coleman missed the entire second half due to an ankle injury. But, in the first half, Coleman did out-touch Breida eight to five.
In fact, Raheem Mostert even got some work before Coleman left the game and finished with nine rushes for 40 yards. With Coleman out of the picture for a couple of weeks, Mostert is worth an add in most leagues, especially if Coleman ends up being out longer than expected, but Breida is expected to be the starter in his absence.
Tampa Bay's backfield was perhaps one of the more polarizing going into this season with the potential that Bruce Arians brought to the offense. Going late in drafts, there was some value in taking Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber, or even Dare Ogunbowale with the hopes that one of them separated themselves as the lead back in a high-powered offense. However, the Buccaneers' performance on Sunday may have owners looking in another direction.
Jones looked like the best overall running back as he tallied 13 carries for 75 yards. The concern is that Jones had fewer snaps than both Barber and Ogunbowale. However, Ogunbowale could prove to be the best fantasy asset. With the mistakes that Jameis Winston is prone to making, the Buccaneers will likely find themselves in several play-from-behind scenarios, putting Ogunbowale on the field more often in passing situations.
The Chiefs are a team I certainly wasn't expecting to write about this first week, but with LeSean McCoy joining this backfield just before the season started they showed just how they want to use their new weapon. Even though incumbent starter Damien Williams earned more rushing attempts and targets than McCoy, McCoy was much more efficient with his touches. Williams averaged a poultry 2.0 yards per carry on 13 rushes compared to McCoy's 8.1 yards per carry on 10 rushes.
The saving grace for Williams was his six receptions for 39 yards, making him a valuable asset in point per reception leagues. Not to mention, Williams also posted seven red zone opportunities (rushes plus targets), the most in the NFL on Sunday. Finally, Darwin Thompson was a non-factor as he only got one target in the two snaps that he played.
- The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers both showed us that committees are in full force in their backfields. While Matt LaFleur indicated this off-season that they would use a committee approach, the Bears' usage of David Montgomery was a bit disturbing for those that bought into him.
- With the aforementioned LeSean McCoy getting shipped out of Buffalo a couple of weeks ago, the expectation was that the Bills would form an RBBC among Devin Singletary, Frank Gore, and T.J. Yeldon. Somehow, Singletary was out-touched by Gore (10 to 11, respectively), despite playing nearly 30 more snaps than him. That said, Singletary is still the player to own, as all four of his rushes went for over ten yards yesterday.
- The Washington Redskins surprisingly made Adrian Peterson a healthy scratch on Sunday, giving Derrius Guice a handle on the backfield to start. Regrettably, he didn't do much to seize his opportunity and will now miss a couple of weeks due to a leg injury. Peterson slides back into the unattractive lead running back role in Washington.
- Duke Johnson owners weren't pleased to see Carlos Hyde get the first carry of the game on Monday night, but after that, it went much better. Johnson led the team in touches and was even second in targets (behind the godly DeAndre Hopkins). Bill O'Brien was never known for throwing to his running backs much, but it certainly looks like that will change with Johnson in town.