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Week 1 Running Back Snap Count Analysis (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Michael Moore | @DLF_Moore | Featured Writer
Sep 16, 2020

J.K. Dobbins led the Ravens in snaps and scored twice in his NFL debut.

With no preseason games to help determine which running backs would see the most work, exactly who to start was a guessing game for most fantasy players. But now that Week 1 has come and gone, we have real-life data to glean and inform our decisions going forward. Below are a few observations from kickoff weekend. 

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Baltimore Ravens

Player Snap Count
J.K. Dobbins 23
Mark Ingram 21
Gus Edwards 15

If there was any question if J.K. Dobbins would see work early in the season, Week 1 put it to rest. He saw multiple goal-line carries and punched in two of them. And with none of these three backs seeing a single target, it’s a sign that they’ll all be touchdown-dependent which, so far, favors Dobbins. 

And while Dobbins’ ADP was all over the board, as rookies usually are, Week 1 doesn’t bode well for Mark Ingram. Drafted as an RB2 all offseason, he turned 10 carries into just 29 yards and no touchdowns. That production obviously will not justify Ingram’s ADP. And let’s not forget Gus Edwards, who could vulture some work too. He actually had the top YPC (4.3) of the three by over a yard and saw four carries, just three behind Dobbins and six behind Ingram. 

Week 2 Matchup: Ravens at Texans 

Buffalo Bills

Player Snap Count
Devin Singletary 51
Zack Moss 39

Whether you view this as bad news for Devin Singletary or good news for Zack Moss, the bottom line is we have a full-blown timeshare in Buffalo. And if the snap count wasn’t enough to prove that, they tied for the team lead with nine carries, as the Bills surprisingly threw it 46 times.

For Singletary, this is especially disappointing considering where most people took him in drafts. If there is a silver lining, Singletary led Moss in targets, 7-4. But even that was negated by the fact that only Moss scored. The Bills should return to the run game more next week (it’s highly unlikely they want Josh Allen to throw 40-plus times) but when they do, it’s a crapshoot on which running back will lead the way. 

Week 2 Matchup: Bills at Dolphins 

Cleveland Browns 

Player Snap Count
Nick Chubb 36
Kareem Hunt 35

Before we take these numbers at face value, let’s remember that the Browns got blown out by one of the Super Bowl favorites. It won’t be every week that the Browns fall behind early. Yes, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt nearly split the carries, with Hunt actually out-touching Chubb 17-11. But Chubb ran well on the handoffs he saw, totaling 60 yards on just 10 carries. 

Now the bad news. While the Browns won’t face the Ravens every week, they could play from behind more often than not if they perform below expectations yet again. That’s not the game script Chubb’s managers want. He also didn’t do himself any favors by losing a fumble on one of his few touches. There’s no need to hit the panic button yet, but it’s worth monitoring. 

Week 2 Matchup: Browns vs. Bengals 

Los Angeles Rams 

Player Snap Count
Malcolm Brown 44
Cam Akers 24
Darrell Henderson 5

So much for the timeshare Sean McVay promised before Week 1. Malcolm Brown didn’t get the start, but he led the way, seeing nearly double the snaps of rookie Cam Akers. Brown also managed to punch in two touchdowns from short yardage and receive four targets — compared to just one for Aker — on his way to being one of Week 1’s most productive fantasy backs.

Yet it’s still too early to anoint Brown as the Rams running back to roster going forward. Brown was more efficient on his rushes (4.4 yards per carry compared to 2.8 for Akers), but they actually weren’t far off when it came to actual touches. Brown saw 21 total touches to Akers’ 15. Let’s not forget the wild card in all this: Darrell Henderson. He was coming off an injury suffered in training camp and wasn’t 100%. This is still a situation to avoid until we get some more definitive answers.

Week 2 Matchup: Rams at Eagles 

Miami Dolphins 

Player Snap Count
Myles Gaskin 39
Matt Breida 14
Jordan Howard 9

If RB snap counts were March Madness, the Dolphins situation would be considered one of the biggest upsets from Week 1. All offseason, Jordan Howard was expected to would handle first- and second-down duties while recently acquired Matt Breida would handle passing downs. The first part of that prediction initially came true; Howard started and had eight carries, including a short rushing touchdown. Breida, however, disappeared and was replaced by 2019 seventh-rounder Myles Gaskin. Not only did Gaskin out-snap Breida and Howard combined thanks to the Dolphins falling behind early, but he had the most carries of the three and was the only one to record a target, catching all four thrown his way. The Dolphins are not expected to be a good team in 2020, but with the amount of run Gaskin saw in Week 1, he could still have some value as an end-of-bench option. 

Week 2 Matchup: Dolphins vs. Bills 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Player Snap Count
Ronald Jones 33
LeSean McCoy 25
Leonard Fournette 9

After Twitter had a collective meltdown following the signing of Leonard Fournette, it was all for naught in Week 1. Ronald Jones, the incumbent, led the way in snaps and touches after totaling 19, compared to just six for Fournette and one for LeSean McCoy. However, none of them particularly stood out. Besides a 21-yard run for Jones, he averaged under three yards per carry. Fournette was worse, gaining just five yards on his five carries. McCoy didn’t even register a carry, instead seeing just one catch.

All of this to say it’s much too early to anoint any of them as the back to roster. Jones is the veteran of this group, but it certainly doesn’t mean he’s irreplaceable. Likewise with McCoy and Fournette, whom the Bucs both signed for cheap. Everyone is in a holding pattern until we know more. 

Week 2 Matchup: Buccaneers vs. Panthers 

Washington Football Team 

Player Snap Count
Peyton Barber 29
J.D. McKissic 29
Antonio Gibson 20

Another backfield with uncertainty heading into Week 1 and uncertainty coming out of it. With the deactivation of Bryce Love, there was some hope that it would be the Antonio Gibson show. It wasn’t meant to be, as Gibson finished well behind Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic in snaps. However, we can glean some trends, such as the fact that Barber was strictly used on running plays, with all 17 of his touches coming on the ground for just 29 yards. Meanwhile, McKissic ran it just three times but saw five targets, good for third on the team.

Barber, for now, is the lead back on first and second down while McKissic is in on passing play. The good news for Gibson investors is he was actually the most efficient back of the three, gaining 36 yards on nine carries and eight more on two receptions. Make no mistake, Gibson’s time is coming. The fact he saw this much work is a positive sign, and the fact that he outperformed both veterans is even better. 

Week 2 Matchup: Washington at Cardinals 

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Michael Moore is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @DLF_Moore.

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