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Week 1 Running Back Snap Count Analysis (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Sep 11, 2019

Ronald Jones is the most interesting running back to own in the Tampa Bay RBBC.

Week 1 is now in the books, and that means there’s backfield playing time in meaningful NFL games to analyze. Below, eight teams running back playing time situations are highlighted with analysis related to the future outlook for the backs involved.

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Bears last week vs. Packers, this week at Broncos

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Tarik Cohen (CHI) 51 (70%)
Mike Davis (CHI) 41 (56%)
David Montgomery (CHI) 28 (38%)

There was eye-catching backfield usage with fantasy implications right out of the gates in the Thursday Night Football game. Rookie fantasy darling David Montgomery flew up fantasy draft boards and entered the year as a popular option at running back. He played the fewest offensive snaps and the lowest percentage of offensive snaps at the position. He led the backfield in carries, but with only six for 18 yards, he left a lot to be desired. He did add one reception for 27 receiving yards on his only target, but the overall performance was thoroughly underwhelming. His stock is down with Mike Davis heavily involved in the offense (five carries for 19 rushing yards and six receptions on seven targets for 17 receiving yards).

Speaking of Davis, he’s a more interesting deep-league option after Week 1. Although, his ceiling isn’t particularly exciting. Tarik Cohen played the most offensive snaps and the highest percentage of offensive snaps of Chicago’s running backs, but that’s a bit deceptive. He was primarily used as a receiver. NFL Next Gen Stats tweeted the following breakdown of where Cohen lined up.

Cohen remains a strong bet to have an integral role in Chicago’s offense, but his usage and where he’s used could be fluid. Eventually, Anthony Miller could reclaim the bulk of the slot snaps, allowing Cohen to be used more out of the backfield. This is a situation that needs to continue to be monitored.

Rams last week at Panthers, this week vs. Saints

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Todd Gurley (LAR) 54 (70%)
Malcolm Brown (LAR) 21 (27%)
Darrell Henderson (LAR) 2 (3%)

Todd Gurley reached triple-digit yardage from scrimmage with 97 rushing yards on 14 carries and four receiving yards on a reception, but his 15 touches were disappointing. More disappointing for gamers who took the draft-day plunge on Gurley was Malcolm Brown scoring a pair of short touchdown runs.

Brown’s first score came on a five-yard rushing score and his second was on a one-yard carry. In all, he rushed for 53 rushing yards and a pair of scores while posting bagels in the receiving categories. He’s a fringe flex play, and he’s clearly the top handcuff for Gurley. Darrell Henderson played only two offensive snaps and carried the ball one time for zero yards. He can be cut in shallow leagues with standard-size benches. His home-run ability makes him a bench stash in leagues with deeper benches, but his short-term outlook isn’t exciting, and he’ll likely need an injury in front of him to even have fringe flex appeal.

Lions last week at Cardinals, this week vs. Chargers

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Kerryon Johnson (DET) 50 (57%)
C.J. Anderson (DET) 26 (30%)
Ty Johnson (DET) 8 (9%)
J.D. McKissic (DET) 5 (6%)

Kerryon Johnson’s an explosive back, but Week 1 usage doesn’t bode well for him being used as a bellcow. The Lions were in a neutral or positive game script most of Week 1, yet Johnson touched the ball just 18 times (16 carries for 49 rushing yards and two receptions for 13 receiving yards). C.J. Anderson carried the ball 11 times for 35 rushing yards, and Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic even managed to get involved a bit. For complete disclosure, McKissic’s not just a straight running back and is more of a hybrid running back and receiver. PFF Detroit Lions tweeted the following regarding where McKissic lined up.

McKissic’s presence adds a threat to Johnson’s workload on passing downs or in negative game script situations.

Buccaneers last week vs. 49ers, this week at Panthers (Thursday Night Football)

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Dare Ogunbowale (TB) 27 (39%)
Peyton Barber (TB) 25 (36%)
Ronald Jones (TB) 22 (31%)

This is what an RBBC looks like, folks. Peyton Barber’s a veteran of 48 games, and he has an uninspiring 1,550 rushing yards at 3.8 yards per carry in his career while adding 43 receptions for 246 receiving yards on 58 targets. He’s merely a deep-league roster-filler with little to no upside, and he was his typical unexciting self in the opener with 33 rushing yards on eight carries and two receptions for 12 receiving yards on four targets.

Dare Ogunbowale led the backfield in offensive snaps and percentage of offensive snaps, but he failed to record a carry. He’s a pass-catching option, though, with four receptions for 33 receiving yards on five targets after one game this season.

Ronald Jones is the most interesting of the bunch. The second-year back had a completely forgettable rookie season, but he carried the ball 13 times for 75 rushing yards and added a reception for 18 receiving yards. His longest rush was 16 yards, so it’s not as if one long gainer skews his total against the 49ers. He passed the eyeball test carrying the ball, too. I wasn’t Jones’ biggest fan entering the year, but his stock’s up as the best bet to tilt the RBBC in his favor.

Chiefs last week at Jaguars, this week at Raiders

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Damien Williams (KC) 45 (66%)
LeSean McCoy (KC) 20 (29%)
Darwin Thompson (KC) 2 (3%)

Darwin Thompson joins fellow aforementioned rookie Henderson in the same tier of being rosterable only as a stash in leagues with large benches and deeper formats. The playing time suggests Damien Williams is the back to own in Kansas City’s backfield, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Williams had the most carries with 13, and he also produced as a receiver with six receptions for 39 receiving yards on six targets. Williams only rushed for 26 yards, though, and LeSean McCoy parlayed his 10 carries into 81 rushing yards while adding a grab on his only target for 12 yards. Williams made up for rushing inefficiency with a rushing touchdown, and the initial returns indicate he’s the primary goal-line option with seven touches in the red zone compared to just one for Shady, per Lineups.

Shady’s promising showing in the opener threatens Williams’ value going forward, but both backs need to be universally owned. Both are more like flex options than reliable RB2 choices. If picking between the two, I’d lean toward Shady based on his efficiency, as he could siphon goal-line looks if he continues to show out as the better back.

Patriots last week vs. Steelers, this week at Dolphins

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
James White (NE) 33 (47%)
Rex Burkhead (NE) 32 (46%)
Sony Michel (NE) 23 (33%)
Damien Harris (NE) Healthy Inactive

Damien Harris is listed in the table despite being a healthy scratch. He’s still likely the two-down banger if Sony Michel misses time, but the Patriots didn’t need him active with Michel healthy, James White and Rex Burkhead pitching in, and Brandon Bolden (not included in the table) contributing on special teams.

White’s the best fantasy back in this backfield, but the addition of Antonio Brown to the pass-catching corps hurts the receiving back’s value. Burkhead was impressive in the opener with eight carries for 44 rushing yards and five receptions for 41 receiving yards on eight targets. Burkhead displayed his shiftiness, and that was on full display on the play in the following tweet.

Michel was inefficient with 14 rushing yards on 15 carries, and he was a total non-factor (per usual) in the passing game with zero targets. Making matters worse, Burkhead appears to be a legitimate threat to Michel’s value in blowouts. The Patriots might opt to scale back the second-year back’s touches when they’re stomping squads like they did against Pittsburgh in Week 1. Touchdowns will be integral to Michel’s fantasy value going forward, but he’s not quite a touchdown-or-bust option just yet.

Texans last week at Saints, this week vs. Jaguars

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Duke Johnson (HOU) 42 (63%)
Carlos Hyde (HOU) 25 (37%)

Duke Johnson was his typically efficient self with nine carries for 57 rushing yards and four receptions for 33 receiving yards on five targets. His 90 yards from scrimmage is nothing to sneeze at, but Carlos Hyde’s a greater threat to his carry outlook after looking good rumbling for 83 rushing yards on 10 carries. I’ve long been a critic of Hyde, but Deshaun Watson’s rushing ability could open up rushing lanes for the plodder and help him look better than his true skill level. Johnson’s a clear-cut RB2 in PPR formats (with RB1 upside when Houston’s in a negative game script), and Hyde played well enough to warrant rostering in 12-team leagues and larger.

Broncos last week at Raiders, this week vs. Bears

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Phillip Lindsay (DEN) 34 (53%)
Royce Freeman (DEN) 30 (47%)

Phillip Lindsay had a jaw-dropping rookie season as an undrafted free-agent signing. Royce Freeman was selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and he had a disappointing yet not bad rookie season. Both backs have different running styles and skill-sets that can complement one another. Freeman was the more effective runner in the opener with 56 rushing yards on 10 carries compared to 43 rushing yards on 11 carries for Lindsay. The former caught his only target for five receiving yards while the latter reeled in four of six targets for 23 receiving yards. Denver’s offense struggled Monday night against a Raiders defense with low expectations, causing concern for the value of both Lindsay and Freeman. With each eating into the other’s workload, both are merely flex options or low-end RB2 choices with Lindsay getting a boost in games that Denver projects to play catch up in.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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