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Week 5 Running Back Snap Count Analysis (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Oct 9, 2019

The two NFC West teams that squared off in last week’s Thursday Night Football game both had backfield snap count situations worth mentioning, and they’re both included in this week’s piece. They’re joined by the other two teams from the NFC West as well as by a team from the NFC North with a running back who went nuts in Week 5 and an AFC West club that reincorporated their early-season holdout bell-cow into the backfield mix.

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Seahawks last week vs. Rams, this week at Browns

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Chris Carson 62 (84%)
Rashaad Penny 12 (16%)
C.J. Prosise 0 (0%)

In Week 4, Carson was treated as a workhorse and played 76% of Seattle’s offensive snaps. The real test was if he’d maintain his stranglehold on feature-back duties when Penny returned, as he did in Week 5. Test passed with flying colors, and Carson was a beast toting the rock 27 times for 118 rushing yards and securing one of his two targets for a five-yard touchdown. Comparatively, Penny carried the ball six times for 18 rushing yards and added a pair of receptions on his two targets for 31 receiving yards. Carson is a high-end RB2 with RB1 upside, and Penny’s a premium handcuff but falls short of flex viability with Carson dominating touches.

Rams last week at Seahawks, this week vs. 49ers

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Todd Gurley 67 (93%)
Malcolm Brown 3 (4%)
Darrell Henderson 0 (0%)

Remember when Brown scored a pair of rushing touchdowns on carries in the red zone in Week 1? It feels like a distant memory now. Gurley rushed 15 times for 51 yards and a pair of scores — both in the red zone. Gurley also added three receptions on five targets for six receiving yards, and he lost a fumble. The good news for Gurley is that he’s scored five touchdowns this year, has contributed in the passing game with 2.8 receptions per game (down from 4.2 receptions per game last year), per Pro-Football-Reference, and has touched the ball at least 12 times in all five games. The bad news is that he’s averaged under 3.5 yards per carry in four straight games and hasn’t bested 4.o yards per carry since Week 1. He’s in the RB2 range with weekly RB1 upside primarily fueled by his nose for the endzone.

Cardinals last week at Bengals, this week vs. Falcons

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
David Johnson 54 (70%)
Chase Edmonds 27 (35%)

Johnson failed to score a touchdown for the second week in a row after opening with three straight games reaching pay dirt. He set a new single-game high this year with 156 yards from scrimmage, though, and it was his third game this year reaching triple-digit yardage from scrimmage. His 70% share of offensive snaps was his second-lowest mark of the year and just his second time under 85%. The reason for the slight downturn in his offensive snap percentage was a back issue that will require monitoring.

Edmonds was sharp carrying the ball eight times for 68 yards and a score as well as adding three receptions on four targets for 18 receiving yards. He’s a premium waiver claim this week who would be a solid RB2 in Arizona’s up-tempo offense if Johnson were to miss time. Additionally, in theory, Johnson’s receiving prowess could open the door to Edmonds gaining standalone value as an emergency flex if head coach Kliff Kingsbury adds a wrinkle to the offense by using the two together more frequently as the year goes along.

Packers last week at Cowboys, this week vs. Lions (Monday Night Football)

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Aaron Jones 50 (68%)
Tra Carson 24 (32%)

Jamaal Williams was inactive while recovering from an injury suffered in Week 4. Rookie Dexter Williams hasn’t proven to the coaching staff he’s ready to help the team, so he was also inactive. The result was Carson serving as Jones’ backup, and Jones went nuts as the clear-cut feature-back. Jones rushed 19 times for 107 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and he added seven receptions on eight targets for 75 receiving yards. In order to preserve his health, he might not surpass roughly 65-70% of the team’s offensive snaps. But as he illustrated in this game, if Matt LaFleur wisely awards him 15-plus touches a game, he’s an RB1. Jones has league-winning player upside.

Chargers last week at Broncos, this week vs. Steelers

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Austin Ekeler 46 (66%)
Melvin Gordon 32 (46%)

Gordon was active as an emergency option in Week 4, but he didn’t play an offensive snap. In Week 5, however, he was active and led the team in rushes (12), rushing yards (31), and caught four of six targets for seven receiving yards in a loss in Denver. Ekeler led the backfield in offensive snap percentage, carried the ball only three times for seven yards, but led the team in targets (16), receptions (15), and receiving yards (86). He did lose a fumble, so it didn’t come up all roses for Ekeler, but those panicking after the return of Gordon can breathe a sigh of relief seeing his hefty usage in the passing attack.

His ceiling is reduced with Gordon likely slowly claiming a larger percentage of work. Having said that, Scott Barrett of Pro Football Focus tweeted out a reminder of how much more valuable a target is than a carry in PPR leagues.

Ekeler’s no longer an RB1 with Gordon back, but he’s an RB2 in most formats and a flex in shallower leagues.

49ers last week vs. Browns, this week at Rams

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Matt Breida 26 (34%)
Tevin Coleman 26 (34%)
Raheem Mostert 24 (32%)
Jeff Wilson Inactive

The 49ers squashed the Browns, and both Breida and Coleman posted big numbers and looked great. Breida totaled 114 rushing yards and a score on 11 carries and added three receptions for 15 receiving yards and a touchdown on three targets. Coleman rushed 16 times for 97 rushing yards and a touchdown, but he wasn’t targeted at all in the passing game. Breida’s the more desirable back of the two, and he showed off his home-run ability on the following 83-yard touchdown run.

Highlighted in the tweet is fullback Kyle Juszczyk making a beautiful block to help spring Breida for his long run. Unfortunately, it appears Juszczyk will miss the next 4-6 weeks with an MCL sprain. I wouldn’t advise overreacting to his absence, but it could potentially hurt the running game a bit. Still, the 49ers have been great on the ground and have piled up the third-most rushing yards this year.

Breida’s in the low-end RB2/high-end flex range who’s highly efficient but needs to be in order to hit that range with Coleman and Mostert getting work, too. Coleman’s more of a flex with RB2 upside.

Mostert carried the ball seven times for 34 rushing yards and had zero targets. Context is important, though, as the play-by-play data at Pro-Football-Reference indicates Mostert toted the rock just two times in the first half and didn’t touch the ball again until the middle of the fourth quarter. Mostert’s still a hold who becomes a flex if Breida or Coleman gets hurt. If both got banged up, he’d have major upside. Having said that, an injury to either of the club’s top-two backs could open the door to goal-line vulture Jeff Wilson being active again. Barring numerous injuries to the backfield, this appears to be a committee — albeit a highly successful one that can sustain the fantasy value of two backs.

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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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