Week 15 Fantasy Football Backfield Report
What an absolutely stunning Week 15 we had. It was this year's lowest-scoring week in the NFL, as pointed out by Scott Barrett of Pro Football Focus, and it was a fun to see a lot of teams finally get the monkeys off their backs and beat opponents that have absolutely owned them for a while. That includes the Chicago Bears' win over the Green Bay Packers, the Pittsburgh Steelers' victory over the New England Patriots, and the Los Angeles Chargers' triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs. I think we've learned that the championship is truly up for grabs.
As we've stressed over the last couple weeks, this is the time of the year where things get really messy across the league. Many teams have nothing to play for, and their players are disinterested. Also, many players are sitting out with injuries, and coaches want to get a look at the younger players on their rosters to see if they will be a part of the future. One of the things to emphasize when making lineup decisions, especially in DFS, is the team's motivational factors. For example, Leonard Fournette seemed like a smash play against the Washington Redskins, but the Jacksonville Jaguars packed it in, giving carries to some guy named David Williams because, for all intents and purposes, they don't care at this point.
As a reminder, this weekly piece is here to help fantasy players sort through all the NFL backfields to understand how coaches are using their backs. The data only breaks down the teams that do not heavily favor one back as a bell-cow.
Let's dive into the Week 15 data, and as always, snap counts and red zone data come from Pro Football Reference.
The table below is sorted by total season touches for each backfield.
|Running Back||Team||W13 Snap %||W13 Touches||Season Snap %||Season Touches||Season RB Touch Share %|
|Tevin Coleman||ATL||34/67 (50.7%)||11||524/932 (56.2%)||180||56.9%|
|Ito Smith||ATL||29/67 (43.3%)||11||311/932 (33.4%)||117||37.0%|
|Gus Edwards||BAL||33/77 (42.9%)||19||227/1051 (21.6%)||112||29.1%|
|Javorius Allen||BAL||3/77 (3.9%)||0||310/1051 (29.5%)||76||19.7%|
|Kenneth Dixon||BAL||40/77 (51.9%)||12||102/1051 (9.7%)||43||11.2%|
|Ty Montgomery||BAL||DNP||DNP||83/1051 (7.9%)||22||5.7%|
|Marcus Murphy||BUF||19/68 (27.9%)||11||196/934 (20.9%)||63||17.3%|
|Keith Ford||BUF||41/68 (60.3%)||15||41/934 (4.4%)||15||4.1%|
|LeSean McCoy||BUF||DNP||DNP||428/934 (45.8%)||174||47.7%|
|Chris Ivory||BUF||DNP||DNP||269/934 (28.8%)||113||30.9%|
|Jordan Howard||CHI||34/60 (56.7%)||20||543/943 (57.6%)||233||56.9%|
|Tarik Cohen||CHI||38/60 (63.3%)||10||443/943 (46.9%)||156||38.1%|
|Joe Mixon||CIN||52/80 (65.0%)||29||525/898 (58.5%)||247||70.6%|
|Giovani Bernard||CIN||30/80 (37.5%)||8||296/898 (32.9%)||84||24.0%|
|Nick Chubb||CLE||40/67 (59.7%)||20||334/963 (34.7%)||180||47.1%|
|Duke Johnson||CLE||26/67 (38.8%)||8||390/963 (40.5%)||74||19.4%|
|Phillip Lindsay||DEN||39/73 (53.4%)||18||432/927 (46.6%)||215||56.1%|
|Royce Freeman||DEN||18/73 (24.7%)||5||239/927 (25.8%)||112||29.2%|
|Devontae Booker||DEN||15/73 (20.5%)||2||257/927 (27.7%)||56||14.6%|
|LeGarrette Blount||DET||11/57 (19.3%)||7||241/927 (25.9%)||140||33.9%|
|Theo Riddick||DET||25/57 (43.9%)||10||363/927 (39.2%)||90||21.8%|
|Zach Zenner||DET||26/57 (45.6%)||13||54/927 (5.8%)||30||7.3%|
|Kerryon Johnson||DET||DNP||DNP||346/927 (37.3%)||150||36.3%|
|Aaron Jones||GB||7/68 (10.3%)||4||376/928 (40.5%)||159||50.3%|
|Jamaal Williams||GB||59/68 (86.8%)||16||398/928 (42.9%)||116||36.7%|
|Lamar Miller||HOU||11/53 (20.8%)||3||555/952 (58.3%)||216||57.4%|
|Alfred Blue||HOU||41/53 (77.4%)||11||408/952 (42.9%)||157||41.8%|
|Marlon Mack||IND||44/72 (61.1%)||28||348/990 (35.2%)||171||43.8%|
|Nyheim Hines||IND||29/72 (40.3%)||10||462/990 (46.7%)||138||35.4%|
|Jordan Wilkins||IND||2/72 (2.8%)||0||185/990 (18.9%)||72||18.5%|
|T.J. Yeldon||JAC||18/52 (34.6%)||4||506/869 (58.2%)||159||42.2%|
|Leonard Fournette||JAC||27/52 (51.9%)||14||232/869 (26.7%)||134||35.5%|
|David Williams||JAC||8/52 (15.4%)||5||14/869 (1.6%)||6||1.6%|
|Carlos Hyde||JAC||DNP||DNP||89/869 (10.2%)||42||11.1%|
|Damien Williams||KC||44/60 (73.3%)||16||140/930 (15.1%)||41||12.7%|
|Darrel Williams||KC||15/60 (25.0%)||4||20/930 (2.2%)||5||1.5%|
|Spencer Ware||KC||DNP||DNP||247/930 (26.6%)||71||21.9%|
|Justin Jackson||LAC||56/74 (75.7%)||19||116/873 (13.3%)||51||12.8%|
|Detrez Newsome||LAC||18/74 (24.3%)||8||29/873 (3.3%)||13||3.3%|
|Melvin Gordon||LAC||DNP||DNP||450/799 (56.3%)||197||49.5%|
|Austin Ekeler||LAC||DNP||DNP||333/799 (41.7%)||137||34.4%|
|Frank Gore||MIA||7/53 (13.2%)||5||330/758 (43.5%)||168||49.3%|
|Kenyan Drake||MIA||28/53 (52.8%)||4||464/758 (61.2%)||147||43.1%|
|Kalen Ballage||MIA||26/53 (49.1%)||13||52/758 (6.9%)||26||7.6%|
|Latavius Murray||MIN||27/69 (39.1%)||15||442/933 (47.4%)||149||45.4%|
|Dalvin Cook||MIN||42/69 (60.9%)||20||392/933 (42.0%)||139||42.4%|
|Sony Michel||NE||23/62 (37.1%)||13||273/976 (27.9%)||184||38.6%|
|James White||NE||25/62 (40.3%)||7||543/976 (55.6%)||163||34.2%|
|Rex Burkhead||NE||16/62 (25.8%)||7||109/976 (11.2%)||48||10.1%|
|Alvin Kamara||NO||47/74 (63.5%)||21||617/932 (66.2%)||264||59.9%|
|Mark Ingram||NO||33/74 (44.6%)||14||299/932 (32.1%)||140||31.7%|
|Elijah McGuire||NYJ||56/75 (74.7%)||21||224/885 (25.3%)||73||19.3%|
|Trent Cannon||NYJ||23/75 (30.7%)||10||147/885 (16.6%)||50||13.2%|
|Doug Martin||OAK||27/59 (45.8%)||9||282/914 (30.9%)||146||37.7%|
|Jalen Richard||OAK||30/59 (50.8%)||9||374/914 (40.9%)||110||28.4%|
|Josh Adams||PHI||24/64 (37.5%)||15||209/934 (22.4%)||102||28.4%|
|Wendell Smallwood||PHI||20/64 (31.3%)||12||282/934 (30.2%)||94||26.2%|
|Darren Sproles||PHI||20/64 (31.3%)||6||81/934 (8.7%)||23||6.4%|
|Jaylen Samuels||PIT||39/64 (60.9%)||21||143/973 (14.7%)||58||17.1%|
|Stevan Ridley||PIT||6/64 (9.4%)||3||56/973 (5.8%)||29||8.5%|
|James Conner||PIT||DNP||DNP||686/973 (70.5%)||253||74.4%|
|Chris Carson||SEA||39/75 (52.0%)||28||379/926 (40.9%)||221||49.6%|
|Mike Davis||SEA||33/75 (44.0%)||12||331/926 (35.7%)||129||28.9%|
|Rashaad Penny||SEA||DNP||DNP||177/926 (19.1%)||90||20.2%|
|Matt Breida||SF||45/62 (72.6%)||22||355/940 (37.8%)||175||46.2%|
|Jeff Wilson Jr.||SF||12/62 (19.4%)||7||153/940 (16.3%)||62||16.4%|
|Peyton Barber||TB||32/50 (64.0%)||21||534/974 (54.8%)||218||69.2%|
|Jacquizz Rodgers||TB||13/50 (26.0%)||1||310/974 (31.8%)||58||18.4%|
|Ronald Jones||TB||4/50 (8.0%)||1||89/974 (9.1%)||30||9.5%|
|Dion Lewis||TEN||23/70 (32.9%)||10||554/881 (62.9%)||205||51.3%|
|Derrick Henry||TEN||49/70 (70.0%)||34||340/881 (38.6%)||191||47.8%|
|Adrian Peterson||WSH||37/68 (54.4%)||21||431/913 (47.2%)||240||65.9%|
|Chris Thompson||WSH||29/68 (42.6%)||6||257/913 (28.1%)||72||19.8%|
|Running Back||Team||W13 RZ Touches||W13 RZ Targets||W13 Total Targets||Season RZ Touches||Season RZ Targets||Season Total Targets|
|Jeff WIlson Jr.||SF||1||0||1||9||4||13|
Williams Takes Over for Jones
The Packers have been an utter disappointment this season, and one of their remaining pieces of excitement was Aaron Jones, who happened to suffer an MCL injury Sunday against the Bears. In his absence, Green Bay turned back to Jamaal Williams, who was able to handle 16 touches and find the end zone in Week 15.
With Jones potentially being sat for the rest of the year, Williams is the only running back on the roster who has an understanding of the playbook and should handle all the volume he can in these last two weeks. We saw a similar situation last year, and Williams averaged 20.4 touches in the Packers' last eight games. While he's not typically an efficient player, as evidenced by his career 3.7 yards per attempt, he does have 8 touchdowns in 30 games.
Mack Emerges from Slump
The Indianapolis Colts have been one of this season's biggest surprises, and it starts with their dominant offensive line. Marlon Mack was able to take advantage of that strength on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys and rush for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns. His role for the Colts has been interesting though. Over the last two weeks he has played 60% of the offensive snaps, while handling 82% of the Colts' running back carries.
It seems as if the Colts have found their version of thunder and lightning in Mack and Nyheim Hines. Mack brings the thunder on the ground, and Hines makes those splash plays out in the pass game.
With the Colts still fighting for their playoff lives, they should continue to lean on that vicious offensive line and Mack down the stretch.
Williams Makes Strong Case as Chiefs' Top Back
With a quick turnaround from Week 14 to 15, the Kansas City Chiefs had to sit down Spencer Ware (hamstring) as they continue to find the right combination at running back with Kareem Hunt no longer in the picture. Against the Chargers, Damien Williams was able to showcase his explosiveness en route to 123 total yards and 2 touchdowns while playing on 73% of the Chiefs' offensive snaps.
It seemed like every time Williams touched the ball it was going to go for a score, as he averaged 7.7 yards per touch. His biggest strength is in the pass game, where he now has five or more receptions in two straight games and has averaged nine yards per reception.
It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs goes back to Ware -- who has been in the Andy Reid system for three straight years -- or if this performance by Williams moves him up the totem pole.
Dolphins Turn to Ballage in Blowout
We got very sad news out of Miami, as Frank Gore suffered a season-ending foot injury. Automatically, fantasy owners probably thought that Kenyan Drake would have seen the biggest role increase, but to everyone's surprise it was rookie Kalen Ballage. No one seems really sure what Drake did to be stuffed in Adam Gase's doghouse, but now Ballage looks poised for some solid run in the Miami Dolphins' last two games.
Ballage out-touched Drake 15 to 4 against the Minnesota Vikings, and on Monday, Dolphins beat writer Cameron Wolfe reported that we should see a lot of Kalen Ballage down the stretch. Ballage had an impressive 75-yard touchdown run in Week 15, where he was clocked at 21.87 mph -- the seventh-fastest speed recorded this season by NFL Next Gen Stats.
If we remember from last year, Adam Gase gave Drake a run to finish out the season as the feature back, in which he averaged 21.6 touches and was the PPR RB8 over the last five weeks. This year, it could be Ballage who sees that opportunity and reaps the rewards.
Titans Hand Henry Massive Workload
As the Tennessee Titans continue their push to make the playoffs, they have found a successful recipe in feeding Derrick Henry the rock as much as possible. Over the last two games, he has accumulated 46.3% of his rushing yards for the year while also accounting for six touchdowns. Over that same span, quarterback Marcus Mariota has attempted 44 passes (250 pass yards) while Henry has 50 carries (408 rushing yards).
Week 15 marked the first time all season that Henry out-snapped Dion Lewis, as he played on a season-high 49. The Titans have clearly made the switch to lean on Henry as defenses may be more worn out as the season comes to an end. Look for Tennessee to continue this trend the next two weeks against the Washington and Indianapolis.