Week 4 Fantasy Football Backfield Report
Welcome Back! Week 4 brought us the official beginning of bye week season.
Now is time for another review of the different backfields across the NFL that do not heavily favor one back as the bellcow.
There have been a few changes made to this week's piece, as we removed all the backfields that had a bye last week which included the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins. Also, the Arizona Cardinals have been removed as David Johnson has now been moved into the workhorse role we all expected.
The Houston Texans backfield has been added this week as well, due to Alfred Blue seeing more work behind a banged up Lamar Miller. With each week, we will adjust the date to ensure that the correct backfield are being monitored.
There are officially four weeks of data now, and some running back situations continue to become more clear, while other get harder and harder to predict.
It remains the goal of this weekly piece to help fantasy owners see how coaches are deploying their backs.
Let's dive into the Week 4 data, with all snap and red zone data coming from Pro Football Reference.
This table is sorted by total season touches for each backfield.
|Running Back||Team||W4 Snap %||W4 Touches||Season Snap %||Season Touches||Season RB Touch Share %|
|Tevin Coleman||ATL||40/70 (57.1%)||17||170/271 (62.7%)||64||65.3%|
|Ito Smith||ATL||30/70 (42.9%)||10||58/271 (21.4%)||25||25.5%|
|Devonta Freeman||ATL||DNP||DNP||39/271 (14.4%)||9||9.2%|
|Alex Collins||BAL||37/77 (48.1%)||12||141/314 (44.9%)||53||49.1%|
|Javorius Allen||BAL||34/77 (44.2%)||12||145/314 (46.2%)||41||38.0%|
|Kenneth Dixon||BAL||DNP||DNP||22/237 (9.3%)||13||12.0%|
|LeSean McCoy||BUF||35/58 (60.3%)||8||99/251 (39.4%)||39||41.9%|
|Chris Ivory||BUF||22/58 (37.9%)||6||92/251 (36.7%)||35||37.6%|
|Marcus Murphy||BUF||DNP||DNP||62/251 (24.7%)||19||20.4%|
|Jordan Howard||CHI||33/61 (54.1%)||11||177/271(65.3%)||74||63.2%|
|Tarik Cohen||CHI||29/61 (47.5%)||20||108/271 (39.9%)||41||35.0%|
|Giovani Bernard||CIN||44/73 (60.3%)||19||152/270 (56.3%)||48||48.5%|
|Mark Walton||CIN||28/73 (38.4%)||7||35/270 (13.0%)||7||7.1%|
|Joe Mixon||CIN||DNP||DNP||83/270 (30.7%)||44||44.4%|
|Carlos Hyde||CLE||50/82 (58.4%)||22||178/310 (57.4%)||87||73.7%|
|Duke Johnson||CLE||29/82 (37.7%)||6||122/310 (39.4%)||21||17.8%|
|Phillip Lindsay||DEN||24/60 (40.0%)||14||89/268 (33.2%)||50||43.9%|
|Royce Freeman||DEN||16/60 (25.9%)||8||90/268 (33.6%)||45||39.5%|
|Devontae Booker||DEN||20/60 (33.3%)||2||87/268 (32.5%)||19||16.7%|
|Kerryon Johnson||DET||20/54 (37.0%)||10||105/275 (38.2%)||49||43.4%|
|LeGarrette Blount||DET||14/54 (35.1%)||7||70/275 (25.5%)||38||33.6%|
|Theo Riddick||DET||25/54 (46.3%)||5||115/275(41.8%)||26||23.0%|
|Jamaal Williams||GB||28/76 (36.8%)||11||142/282 (50.4%)||52||53.1%|
|Ty Montgomery||GB||20/76 (26.3%)||7||89/282 (31.6%)||27||27.6%|
|Aaron Jones||GB||29/76 (38.2%)||12||46/282 (16.3%)||19||19.4%|
|Lamar Miller||HOU||46/86 (53.5%)||14||206/295 (69.8%)||66||68.0%|
|Alfred Blue||HOU||40/86 (46.5%)||13||83/295 (28.1%)||30||30.9%|
|Jordan Wilkins||IND||31/90 (34.4%)||8||118/292 (40.4%)||45||45.0%|
|Nyheim Hines||IND||62/90 (68.9%)||13||166/292 (56.8%)||40||40.0%|
|Marlon Mack||IND||DNP||DNP||18/292 (6.2%)||11||11.0%|
|T.J. Yeldon||JAC||48/77 (62.3%)||21||166/268 (61.9%)||63||56.3%|
|Leonard Fournette||JAC||24/77 (31.2%)||12||45/268 (16.8%)||24||21.4%|
|Corey Grant||JAC||7/77 (9.1%)||3||63/268 (23.5%)||21||18.8%|
|Kareem Hunt||KC||45/78 (57.7%)||22||171/267 (64.0%)||75||84.3%|
|Spencer Ware||KC||24/78 (30.8%)||2||57/267(21.3%)||10||11.2%|
|Damien Williams||KC||3/78 (3.8%)||0||26/267 (9.7%)||4||4.5%|
|Melvin Gordon||LAC||49/68 (72.1%)||22||187/259 (72.2%)||78||65.5%|
|Austin Ekeler||LAC||23/68 (33.8%)||10||87/259 (33.6%)||41||34.5%|
|Kenyan Drake||MIA||22/49 (44.9%)||4||133/215 (61.9%)||44||53.0%|
|Frank Gore||MIA||25/49 (51.0%)||13||83/215 (38.6%)||38||45.8%|
|Dalvin Cook||MIN||18/74 (24.3%)||10||125/284 (44.0%)||45||58.3%|
|Latavius Murray||MIN||41/74 (55.4%)||4||116/284 (40.8%)||26||29.8%|
|Sony Michel||NE||33/81 (40.7%)||25||69/265 (26.0%)||51||39.5%|
|James White||NE||40/81 (49.4%)||16||135/265 (50.9%)||43||33.3%|
|Rex Burkhead||NE||DNP||DNP||59/265 (22.3%)||27||20.9%|
|Bilal Powell||NYJ||35/55 (63.6%)||12||127/243 (52.3%)||49||47.8%|
|Isaiah Crowell||NYJ||20/55 (36.4%)||5||104/243 (42.8%)||47||45.6%|
|Marshawn Lynch||OAK||50/92 (54.3%)||23||160/307 (52.1%)||78||59.1%|
|Doug Martin||OAK||6/92 (6.5%)||5||46/307(15.0%)||28||21.2%|
|Jalen Richard||OAK||34/92 (36.9%)||4||99/307 (32.2%)||26||19.7%|
|Jay Ajayi||PHI||41/78 (52.6%)||18||91/311 (29.3%)||41||34.2%|
|Wendell Smallwood||PHI||36/78 (46.2%)||8||90/311 (28.9%)||29||24.2%|
|Corey Clement||PHI||DNP||DNP||91/311 (29.3%)||35||29.2%|
|Darren Sproles||PHI||DNP||DNP||29/311 (9.3%)||9||7.5%|
|Rashad Penny||SEA||16/66 (24.2%)||9||71/258 (27.5%)||33||28.2%|
|Mike Davis||SEA||47/66 (71.2%)||26||64/258 (24.8%)||31||26.5%|
|CJ Prosise||SEA||3/66 (4.5%)||0||28/258 (10.9%)||3||2.7%|
|Matt Breida||SF||38/60 (63.3%)||12||123/259 (47.5%)||51||51.0%|
|Alfred Morris||SF||14/60 (23.3%)||5||103/259 (39.8%)||47||47.0%|
|Peyton Barber||TB||31/63 (49.2%)||8||159/260 (61.2%)||44||59.5%|
|Jacquizz Rodgers||TB||11/63 (17.5%)||0||69/260 (26.5%)||15||20.3%|
|Ronald Jones||TB||20/63 (31.7%)||11||20/260 (7.7%)||11||14.9%|
|Dion Lewis||TEN||48/71 (67.6%)||13||160/261(61.3%)||61||51.7%|
|Derrick Henry||TEN||28/71 (39.4%)||10||106/261(40.6%)||57||48.3%|
|Running Back||Team||W4 RZ Touches||W4 RZ Targets||W4 Total Targets||Season RZ Touches||Season RZ Targets||Season Total Targets|
Bears Get Cohen Going at Howard’s Expense
The Chicago Bears backfield completely flipped against the Buccaneers, as Tarik Cohen had nearly double the amount of touches as Jordan Howard handled. This was a bit of a surprise because the Bears scored the first 14 points and played with a massive lead throughout.
Head Coach Matt Nagy may have been looking for things to get Mitchell Trubisky comfortable and getting Cohen out in space seemed to be a common theme. Cohen saw 8 targets and turned them into a huge receiving line of 7/121/1.
This could be a foreseeable path for the Bears as the offense gets more consistent, and they recognize they are more dangerous with Cohen running routes than Howard.
Howard still handled 11 carries, but the total reverse in his pass game usage is a concern moving forward.
Broncos Continue to Use a Three-Back Committee
No punishment was given to Lindsay after his Week 3 ejection for throwing a punch, as he led the backfield in snaps, touches and red zone touches.
He appears to be a key part of the Broncos offense as he has seen the most touches of the backs even including the fact he only played a half last week.
Freeman has now scored a rushing touchdown in three straight games while averaging just 10 touches over that span. He continues to be a touchdown or bust candidate as he is a complete zero in the passing game. He has only seen two targets in four games.
Booker’s snaps have increased the past two games, and the Broncos don’t seem to be going away from him any time soon. While he has not see a ton of touches, he has been their most reliable third down back. The fact that he continues to play 20-25 offensive snaps each week, means less time for both Lindsay and Freeman.
This backfield is not a comfortable situation for fantasy owners, as all three backs have played roughly the same amount of snaps through four games.
Right now, Lindsay is providing some flex value, and Freeman is in that conversation when the matchup is ripe for a touchdown.
Jones Emerges in Three-Headed RBBC for Packers
The Green Bay Packers' rushing attack has been quiet over the first four weeks, and the situation continues to be murky. They are using a three-back committee composed of Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery, and Aaron Jones.
Jones sat out the first two games, which allowed for Williams to handle the bulk of the work. Since Jones has returned, he has led the group in touches with 19 and has averaged 6.3 yards per carry. He even emerged as the snap leader amongst the backs this week. Jones seems to have the most momentum of the three going forward, as his role continues to expand weekly.
Montgomery continues to be utilized more so in the passing game than the running game. He has seen 15 targets through four games, 6 more than Williams and 13 more than Jones.
Williams had all the buzz coming into the season, and all the opportunity to run away with the lead back role, but he failed and now finds his role slowly decreasing. He still handled 11 touches against the Bills, but they aren’t as easy to come by with Jones back in the mix.
Jones' emergence and momentum is something that needs to be monitored, as he could potentially start seeing a bigger workload with Williams ineffectiveness. He’s the most intriguing back amongst this backfield.
Colts Have a New Weapon in Hines
The Indianapolis Colts offense has showcased the ability to consistently move the ball under Andrew Luck. The backfield situation has been unimpressive, but over the last couple of weeks Nyheim Hines has emerged a one of Luck’s favorite targets.
Hines is being used as more of a receiver than a running back. He has had five or more receptions in three out of the first four games. He seems to have found a niche in this offense, especially in games where they have been in shootouts against the Bengals and Texans.
Gore Eats Into Drake's Role
The Miami Dolphins have run the fewest offensive plays in the NFL through four games. The low amount of plays has hurt Kenyan Drake in terms of fantasy value, but now Frank Gore has hurt it even more.
For the first time this season, Gore out-snapped and out-touched Drake by a wide margin. He also handled all the red zone opportunities.
Drake has become a huge let down after such an amazing run towards the end of last season.
Patriots Backfield Now Has Clarity
With Rex Burkhead placed on the IR, the New England Patriots were realistically down to two bodies at the running back position in Sony Michel and James White. This made it easy to read through the tea leaves and project each one’s role.
As we touched on a few weeks ago, the Patriots' schedule softens up the rest of the season and there is a path for the lead back to emerge. Michel did so this week against the Dolphins, handling 25 touches including 6 in the red zone. While he only played on 40.7% of the offensive snaps, he handled a touch on 75.8% of the snaps he played. The rookie should continue to see a lot of chances in this improving offense and looks to become fantasy difference maker.
While all the talk will be around Michel, White just continues to chug along in this offense. He is consistently playing on half of the Patriots offensive snaps, while averaging 10.8 touches per game. Those touches are typically highly valuable as more than half of them have come as receptions.
White will always play a prominent role in the Patriots' passing game, and this season seems to be more consistent than others. He is averaging 19.1 PPR points per game.
Look for this backfield to continue to improve, now that the roles for each are defined.