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Week 11 Running Back Snap Count Analysis (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Nov 20, 2019

Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage has played poorly despite his heavy workload.

A half-dozen backfields are tossed under the microscope this week. Among the backs included in this piece, a couple of second-year backs are the standouts after reaching paydirt. Additionally, a potential RBBC situation turned out to be a clear feature-back and change-of-pace situation instead.

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Dolphins last week at Bills, this week at Browns

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Kalen Ballage 53 (77%)
Patrick Laird 16 (23%)
Myles Gaskin 7 (10%)

Huge surprise, but Ballage was awful again. Gamers who rolled with him in a plus matchup against the Bills were somewhat saved from themselves by his rushing touchdown. He carried the ball nine times for nine yards and the aforementioned score, and he caught five of six targets for eight yards. Ballage is averaging 1.9 yards per carry on 64 attempts this year, and he’s averaging 3.8 yards per reception. The degree of his ineptitude is otherworldly.

Laird doubled his offensive snaps from the week before with 16 in Week 11 after eight in Week 10. The undrafted rookie carried the ball just one time for seven yards, but he was extremely efficient as a receiver reeling in all six of his targets for 51 receiving yards. Laird’s level of play has been better than Ballage’s, and that can’t be lost on the coaching staff. However, that doesn’t always lead a coaching staff to make seemingly obvious changes. Still, in point-per-reception (PPR) formats, Laird’s a defensible waiver claim. He’s also demonstrated pass-catching chops in college, as you can see on his Sports-Reference page.

Falcons last week at Panthers, this week vs. Buccaneers

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Brian Hill 39 (60%)
Kenjon Barner 14 (22%)
Qadree Ollison 12 (18%)

I was among the gamers who were excited to scoop up Hill off waivers last week. That excitement turned to disappointment as he squandered an opportunity against Carolina’s run defense that Football Outsiders (FO) ranks dead last in run defense Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). Hill rushed 15 times for 30 scoreless yards and secured one of three targets for eight yards.

Barner rushed for 15 yards on two carries and completed a three-yard pass. Rookie fifth-round pick Ollison punched in a short touchdown as part of four carries for 11 rushing yards and a score. Ollison’s scouting report from Lance Zierlein at NFL.com wasn’t particularly flattering, but he has the size to command a red-zone role and produced as a freshman and senior at Pitt. According to Lineups, Hill had four red-zone touches that failed to result in a score, and Ollison punched in a touchdown on one of his two red-zone touches. Head coach Dan Quinn says Devonta Freeman is trending in the right direction, but his status for this week is unknown. Even if he’s out, though, this is a situation best avoided.

Redskins last week vs. Jets, this week vs. Lions

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Wendell Smallwood 31 (46%)
Derrius Guice 20 (29%)
Adrian Peterson 17 (25%)

Smallwood benefited from an unfavorable game script. The team’s pass-catching back was on the field the most because Washington was playing from behind all day. His playing time didn’t result in fantasy production, however, with just one reception for 11 receiving yards on three targets. He didn’t rush the ball at all.

Peterson led the team in carries (nine) and rushing yards (25), and he caught both of his targets for five receiving yards. Sophomore back Guice was the lone bright spot in the backfield, though, rushing seven times for 24 rushing yards, but doing his best work scoring a 45-yard touchdown on a reception. Washington’s going nowhere, and Guice should steal work from both Peterson as a runner and Smallwood as a receiver. How much of his two backfield mates’ work he’s able to snag will be the difference between him being a risky flex or potentially an RB2. Guice is rostered in only 48% of Yahoo! leagues, and he’s worth scooping up in leagues as shallow as 12-teamers.

Lions last week vs. Cowboys, this week at Redskins

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Bo Scarbrough 32 (49%)
Ty Johnson 19 (29%)
J.D. McKissic 15 (23%)

The Lions promoted Scarbrough from the practice squad, and he immediately provided the backfield a jolt of life. He carried the ball 14 times for 55 rushing yards and a score. He wasn’t used in the passing game, though. Meanwhile, Johnson had another dud with two rushes for six yards and one reception for zero yards. McKissic retained a role in the offense with three carries for 13 rushing yards and three receptions on four targets for 40 receiving yards. Scarbrough’s value will largely be tied to the Lions being in favorable or neutral scripts as a burly, between-the-tackles banger, while McKissic has low-end desperation value in PPR leagues as the most qualified pass-catching back. The Lions are 3.5-point favorites, according to the BettingPros consensus, and FO ranks Washington’s run defense 21st. Scarbrough’s firmly in the RB2 mix this week.

Cardinals last week at 49ers, this week on a bye

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
Kenyan Drake 61 (88%)
David Johnson 9 (13%)

This probably won’t be the last time the Cardinals are featured in this space, but, entering their bye, this is Drake’s backfield. In addition to holding a commanding playing time lead over Johnson, he touched the ball 22 times (16 carries for 67 rushing yards and six receptions for 13 receiving yards) to DJ’s zero touches. Perhaps with a week without touches and a bye, Johnson can reclaim some of his explosiveness, but he’s simply not usable at the moment. Chase Edmonds could be back out of the bye to muddy the waters as well. However, Drake’s usage makes him an RB2 until or unless he cedes touches to Johnson or Edmonds.

Patriots last week at Eagles, this week vs. Cowboys

Player Snaps (Percentage of offensive snaps)
James White 32 (43%)
Sony Michel 22 (30%)
Rex Burkhead 21 (28%)
Brandon Bolden 10 (14%)

In New England’s Week 9 loss to the Ravens, Burkhead played 36% of the team’s offensive snaps, rushed four times for 18 yards, and caught one of two targets for 16 yards. That week, he was a limited participant in practices and entered the game with a questionable designation. The game was also a blowout, making it tough to take his usage and impact on the touch distribution at face value. He entered last week with no injury designation, and he took a bite out of the value of both White and Michel. Burkhead’s five rushes tied White’s for second on the team behind Michael’s team-leading 10, and he caught a pair of targets on three targets for 34 yards. In all, Burkhead amassed 48 yards from scrimmage on seven touches, and he hasn’t done enough to warrant fantasy usage. His versatility makes him a deep-league bench option, though, who could be a flex play or low-end RB2 in PPR leagues if Michael or White missed time and opened up some extra touches to him.

As for Michel and White, both have reduced ceilings and floors with Burkhead healthy. Ballage’s ineffectiveness is garnering lots of laughs, but he’s not the only AFC East back who’s putting up pitiful yards per carry numbers. Michel is averaging a paltry 3.3 yards per carry on 154 attempts, and he’s done little damage through the air with nine receptions on 15 targets. He’s almost completely touchdown-dependent for value, and he punched in three of his six rushing touchdowns against the Jets in Week 7. He’s been a colossal fantasy bust.

White has lacked any blowup weeks. He’s scored only one touchdown, and he’s bested 80 yards from scrimmage in only two of nine games. On the plus side, he’s averaging 5.3 receptions and 46.7 receiving yards per game, making him an unexciting option to use in PPR formats.

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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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