Week 2 Fantasy Football Backfield Report
The build up to the NFL season is always so long, and then the season finally comes and the weeks go by with the snap of a finger. Week 2 brought us some interesting games, and a lot of injury situations that played out how we would typically expect.
We are back for a review of the different backfields across the NFL that do not heavily favor one back as the workhorse. In addition to the backfields that were left off last week, we have eliminated the Carolina Panthers backfield because it is the Christian McCaffrey show, as well as the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants because they are all dominated by one back (Lamar Miller, Kareem Hunt and Saquon Barkley).
The Arizona Cardinals backfield situation still hasn't been removed from this list because Chase Edmonds continues to see usage behind David Johnson that needs to be mentioned. We will see what happens if the Cardinals finally play a game with a lead.
Some situations that needed to be monitored from last week, only got muddier, while other situations got made a little bit clearer, and that is the goal of this weekly piece to help fantasy owners see how coaches are deploying their backs.
Let's dive into the Week 2 data, with all snap and red zone data coming from Pro Football Reference.
|David Johnson||ARI||35/45 (77.8%)||14||71/98 (72.4%)||28||66.7%|
|Chase Edmonds||ARI||10/45 (22.2%)||6||27/98 (27.6%)||14||33.3%|
|Tevin Coleman||ATL||41/63 (65.1%)||20||77/133 (57.9%)||30||61.2%|
|Ito Smith||ATL||18/63 (28.6%)||10||18/133 (13.5%)||10||20.4%|
|Devonta Freeman||ATL||DNP||DNP||39/133 (29.3%)||9||18.4%|
|Alex Collins||BAL||42/85 (49.4%)||12||27/80 (37.5%)||20||37.7%|
|Javorius Allen||BAL||42/85 (49.4%)||11||30/80 (33.8%)||20||37.7%|
|Kenneth Dixon||BAL||DNP||DNP||22/80 (27.5%)||13||24.5%|
|LeSean McCoy||BUF||30/62 (48.4%)||13||64/126 (50.8%)||31||65.9%|
|Marcus Murphy||BUF||23/62 (37.1%)||4||46/126 (36.5%)||10||21.3%|
|Chris Ivory||BUF||9/62 (14.5%)||3||16/126 (12.7%)||6||12.8%|
|Jordan Howard||CHI||48/66 (72.7%)||17||50/70 (71.4%)||37||74.0%|
|Tarik Cohen||CHI||21/66 (31.8%)||5||28/70 (40%)||13||26.0%|
|Joe Mixon||CIN||39/76 (51.3%)||22||83/132(62.9%)||44||78.6%|
|Giovani Bernard||CIN||39/76 (51.3%)||10||51/132 (38.6%)||12||21.4%|
|Carlos Hyde||CLE||36/62 (58.1%)||17||83/151 (55.0%)||40||66.7%|
|Duke Johnson||CLE||23/62 (37.1%)||5||64/151 (42.4%)||11||18.3%|
|Phillip Lindsay||DEN||28/66 (42.4%)||15||54/140 (38.6%)||32||51.6%|
|Royce Freeman||DEN||16/66 (24.2%)||8||45/140 (32.1%)||23||37.1%|
|Devontae Booker||DEN||22/66 (33.3%)||3||41/140 (29.3%)||7||11.3%|
|Kerryon Johnson||DET||36/77 (46.8%)||13||52/147(35.4%)||21||40.4%|
|Theo Riddick||DET||28/77 (36.4%)||9||69/147 (46.9%)||18||34.6%|
|LeGarrette Blount||DET||17/77 (22.1%)||9||30/147 (20.4%)||13||25.0%|
|Jamaal Williams||GB||47/77 (61.0%)||19||84/137 (61.3%)||34||77.3%|
|Ty Montgomery||GB||26/77 (33.8%)||6||49/137 (35.8%)||10||22.7%|
|Jordan Wilkins||IND||24/61 (39.3%)||12||70/143 (49.0%)||29||50.9%|
|Nyheim Hines||IND||24/61 (39.3%)||5||61/143 (42.3%)||17||29.8%|
|Marlon Mack||IND||18/61 (29.5%)||11||18/143 (12.3%)||11||19.3%|
|T.J. Yeldon||JAC||41/71 (57.7%)||12||80/134 (59.7%)||29||52.7%|
|Corey Grant||JAC||30/71 (42.3%)||10||36/134 (26.9%)||11||20.0%|
|Leonard Fournette||JAC||DNP||DNP||21/134 (15.7%)||12||21.8%|
|Melvin Gordon||LAC||36/57 (63.2%)||15||98/139 (70.5%)||39||61.9%|
|Austin Ekeler||LAC||24/57 (42.1%)||14||46/139 (33.1%)||24||38.1%|
|Kenyan Drake||MIA||36/60 (60.0%)||15||82/122 (67.2%)||32||62.7%|
|Frank Gore||MIA||24/60 (40.0%)||10||42/122 (34.3%)||19||37.3%|
|Dalvin Cook||MIN||50/73 (68.5%)||13||57/71 (80.3%)||35||70.0%|
|Latavius Murray||MIN||23/73 (31.5%)||4||14/71 (19.7%)||15||30.0%|
|Rex Burkhead||NE||15/61 (24.7)||6||52/136 (38.2%)||25||44.6%|
|James White||NE||34/61 (55.7%)||11||70/136 (51.5%)||20||35.7%|
|Sony Michel||NE||13/61 (21.3%)||11||13/136 (9.6%)||11||19.6%|
|Bilal Powell||NYJ||34/65 (52.3%)||10||58/125 (46.4%)||23||42.6%|
|Isaiah Crowell||NYJ||31/65 (47.7%)||14||55/125 (44.0%)||24||44.4%|
|Marshawn Lynch||OAK||41/65 (63.1%)||20||68/139 (48.9%)||33||52.4%|
|Jalen Richard||OAK||8/65 (12.3%)||2||45/139 (32.4%)||16||25.4%|
|Doug Martin||OAK||17/65 (26.2%)||8||27/139 (19.4%)||14||22.2%|
|Jay Ajayi||PHI||22/79 (27.8%)||8||50/151 (33.1%)||23||41.1%|
|Corey Clement||PHI||33/79 (41.8%)||11||46/151 (30.5%)||16||28.6%|
|Wendell Smallwood||PHI||24/79 (30.4%)||8||25/151 (16.6%)||8||14.3%|
|Darren Sproles||PHI||DNP||DNP||29/151 (19.2%)||9||16.1%|
|Chris Carson||SEA||19/66 (28.8%)||6||44/123 (35.8%)||16||36.4%|
|Rashad Penny||SEA||20/66 (30.3%)||10||45/123 (36.6%)||21||47.7%|
|CJ Prosise||SEA||18/66 (27.3%)||3||25/123 (20.3%)||3||6.8%|
|Mike Davis||SEA||9/66 (13.6%)||4||9/123 (7.3%)||4||9.1%|
|Alfred Morris||SF||31/64 (48.4%)||16||66/131 (50.4%)||28||51.9%|
|Matt Breida||SF||26/64 (40.6%)||14||56/131 (42.7%)||26||48.1%|
|Peyton Barber||TB||36/58 (62.1%)||17||84/124 (67.7%)||36||73.5%|
|Jacquizz Rodgers||TB||18/58 (31.0%)||8||33/124 (26.6%)||11||22.4%|
|Dion Lewis||TEN||33/59 (55.9%)||15||82/128 (64.1%)||36||55.4%|
|Derrick Henry||TEN||26/59 (44.1%)||18||46/128 (35.9%)||29||44.6%|
|Adrian Peterson||WSH||25/74 (33.8%)||14||67/153 (43.8%)||42||56.8%|
|Chris Thompson||WSH||50/74 (67.6%)||17||83/153 (54.2%)||28||37.8%|
With Devonta Freeman out due to injury, Week 2 set up to be the Tevin Coleman show. In his three previous games where Freeman was inactive, Coleman had averaged 19.3 touches, 88.3 total yards and 1 touchdown per game. Those numbers basically held to form against the Panthers where he saw 20 touches for 125 yards. The only thing missing this week was the touchdown.
Coming into the season Alex Collins was being treated as an RB1 or 2, consistently being drafted in the third and fourth rounds of fantasy drafts, and after two weeks fantasy owners might be regretting that decision.
Javorius Allen continues to see an even snap count and touch count, as this is shaping up to be a pretty even split. Last season, Allen had a total of 199 touches while playing on 42.8% of the offensive snaps, compared to Collins who had 235 touches on 34.9% of the Ravens offensive snaps.
It does not seem like the Ravens are going to go away from Allen anytime soon, making Collins workload more in line with a RB2-RB3 type.
Not one person considered Phillip Lindsay to be fantasy relevant heading into this season, and yet here he is, an undersized, undrafted rookie, who is pacing the Denver Broncos running backs in both snaps and touches.
He has absolutely impressed, and has slowed down the Royce Freeman hype train. Freeman continues to be second in line, but saw 15 fewer touches this week compared to Week 1 which is a bit concerning.
Behind those two, Devontae Booker has a tiny role carved out, but is significant enough to eat into the others' workloads.
Head coach Vance Joseph came out on Monday and stated that the Broncos will continue to use a hot hand approach among the three backs, which will make this situation unpredictable on a weekly basis.
Marlon Mack returned from injury in Week 2 to make the Indianapolis Colts backfield situation murkier. Mack came right back and accounted for 11 touches, which was only one fewer than the leader Jordan Wilkins. While Mack didn't see a ton of offensive snaps (18), he received a touch on 61.1% of the snaps he played. He figures to improve on his snap count as he continues to heal fully from the hamstring injury.
Wilkins paced the Colts in snaps and touches for the second week in a row, but saw his touch count drop by 17 with Mack's arrival back on the field. It will be interesting to see if the workload shifts in favor of one of these two backs going forward, or if they continue to negate each others' upside.
Nyheim Hines continues to play a different role than the other two backs, and is being used more as a receiver. Hines will continue to be a threat into both Mack and Wilkins usage in the passing game.
This backfield is a complete mess with three viable options all eating into each others workloads.
New England Patriots
Another nightmare backfield situation is shaping up in New England. Rex Burkhead seemed to be the lead back after his 19 Week 1 touches, but after dealing with a concussion throughout the week heading into the game against the Jaguars, combined with the debut of rookie Sony Michel, this situation got muddy quickly.
Burkhead only saw 6 touches in Week 2 on 24.7% of the offensive snaps, while Michel saw 11 touches in his debut. The early down work could be decided by which of these two backs remains the healthiest throughout the season.
James White has been the only consistent back through the first two week for the New England Patriots, he leads the backfield in offensive snap rate (51.5%), and has averaged 10 touches per game. He has been so heavily involved because the Patriots first two opponents were probably the biggest challenges on their schedule, forcing them into a heavy amount of passing, where White's role is established.
Going forward New England's schedule gets very favorable, and games should be in hand. This should open up opportunities for either Burkhead or Michel to break out.
Marshawn Lynch was back to his Beast Mode form in Week 2 against the Broncos. The Oakland Raiders were in control of the game for three quarters which allowed for Lynch to dominate the backfield work. He doubled the touch count (20) of both Doug Martin (8) and Jalen Richard (2) combined and played on over 60% of the Raiders offensive snaps.
Richard's role came back down to earth after seeing high usage last week in a game the Raiders were forced to play catch-up. His season should be up and down in terms of usage totally dependent on the game script.
Martin is established as the direct backup to Lynch, and can be ignored unless anything were to happen to Lynch's health.
Going forward in games that the Raiders are favored look for Lynch to dominate the workload, and in games where they are playing from behind Richard's role increases due to his receiving abilities.
Volume will always be "King" in terms of fantasy football production, but two areas provide the most opportunities to accumulate the most points for running backs, in the red zone and through the air. The chart below demonstrates how coaches are using their backs in these high leverage situations.
|Running Back||Team||W2 RZ
Ito Smith Dominates Red Zone Touches
Coleman outpaced Smith heavily in terms of volume, but it was shocking to see that the Falcons gave Smith nearly all of the red zone work with six opportunities, while Coleman only saw one.
Smith was unable to find the end zone on any of his chances, which could potentially swing back the touches to Coleman next week with Freeman still out.
Smith is a small back (5'9 195 lbs.) when compared to Coleman (6'1 205 lbs.) which made these numbers jump off the page, especially when you consider that Coleman turned 23 red zone touches into 5 touchdowns in 2017.
Matt Breida's Role Increases
In Week 2, the San Francisco 49ers put more on the plate of Matt Breida. He saw four targets in the passing game, and over took the red zone work from Alfred Morris where he out-touched him 5 to 2. Breida was able to capitalize on one of those red zone carries for a touchdown, while Morris has yet to score on any of his 7 carries from within the opponents 20 yard line, 4 of which have come from within the 5 yard line.
If Morris continues to struggle with punching the ball into the end zone, he is basically useless in this offense and Breida's role could continue to expand.
Pass Game Backs Continue To Succeed
Running backs are being heavily utilized in the passing game through the first two weeks, as evidenced by six backs having 15 or more receptions. Chris Thompson, Austin Ekeler, and James White all currently are top 12 PPR running backs when they average just 5.6 rushing attempts per game. These backs are just dominating the pass game usage and putting up receiver type numbers.
It seems as though teams have realized how valuable it is to get the backs involved through the air as an extension of the run game, and we should look for the trend to continue.