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Week 12 Running Back Snap Count Analysis (Fantasy Football 2020)

by Michael Moore | @DLF_Moore | Featured Writer
Dec 2, 2020

We’re nearing the end of the fantasy football season, and playoff rosters are rounding into form. Running backs that were taken early (in the first round, even!) are nowhere to be found, while undrafted (in real life and fantasy) free agents are leading the way. Below are a handful of the running back situations to monitor as you cross the finish line.

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Atlanta Falcons

Our first look at a Todd Gurley-less backfield for the Falcons went about as expected. Brian Hill moved up the depth chart to be the lead back, while Ito Smith took over Brian Hill’s role. It resulted in both of them seeing about the same number of carries (Hill with 13; Smith with 12), and both were productive on the ground (Hill had 55 yards; Smith had 65 and a touchdown). The biggest difference was actually in the passing game, where Smith, operating as the passing-down back, saw five targets and caught four of them. Meanwhile, Hill only saw one.

If Gurley is out again next week, expect this type of split to continue, as Hill will handle just rushing duties while Smith will be involved in both. However, the Falcons also draw a Saints defense currently third in DVOA, so both backs will be a poor play.

Next week: Falcons vs. Saints

Buffalo Bills

For the fourth week in a row, rookie Zack Moss has had the slight advantage in snaps over Devin Singletary. However, unlike the last couple of weeks, it didn’t necessarily equate to more touches. Singletary out-carried Moss 11-9 (with both running effectively — Singletary with 82 yards; Moss with 59) while Singletary also out targeted Moss, 3-2.

Of course, the see-sawing between the two for touches, while effective for the Bills offense, doesn’t help fantasy managers of either back. Despite the team being 8-3, neither Singletary nor Moss has a 100-yard rushing game this year, and they’ve combined to score just four total touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Josh Allen leads the time with six. It’s a situation to avoid for the rest of the season unless an injury changes things.

Next week: Bills at 49ers

Los Angeles Chargers

Charger fans and fantasy managers of Austin Ekeler alike were thrilled to see him back on the field and operating as a workhorse. Ekeler was one of the busiest running backs in Week 12, immediately upon his return from a nearly two-month absence. Not only did he carry the ball 14 times, but he saw an incredible 16 targets, hauling in 11 of them for 85 yards. It’s the second time Ekeler has seen 11-plus targets in a game with Justin Herbert despite them playing just four games together.

If Ekeler is healthy, there’s no other Chargers back that will provide any consistent value. Joshua Kelley did see seven carries this week, and he scored on one of them, but he did nothing in the passing game. If you held on to Ekeler this long, you deserve to reap the rewards.

Next week: Chargers vs. Patriots

Los Angeles Rams

Despite seeing the fewest snaps of any Rams running back, Cam Akers ran like the best one. He turned his nine carries into 84 yards and a score and was clearly the best Los Angeles running back on Sunday. Malcolm Brown, who technically saw the most snaps, managed just five touches on the day. But that was partly expected. More worrisome was Darrell Henderson, who seemed to be pulling ahead and got double-digit carries in five of the six games between Weeks 2-7. But he’s struggled recently, as he’s failed to top 10 carries or 50 rushing yards in any game since.

In fairness, the Rams backfield has been one of the most unpredictable situations all season, but Akers appears to have the hot hand. If you had to pick one to win your fantasy leagues right now, he’d be it. Henderson has gone cold, and Brown is a non-factor.

Next week: Rams at Cardinals

New York Giants

Like most things in 2020, Wayne Gallman being a workhorse back was not part of the plan. But a season-ending injury to Saquon Barkley — and with minor injuries to every other back the Giants have thrown out there — will do that. What’s more surprising than Gallman being a workhorse is that he’s looked good in the process. He’s seen 13-plus touches in his last five games, and he’s scored a touchdown in each of those contests. He is literally an RB1 in fantasy scoring through that span.

But for as good of a stretch as this has been for Gallman (and for those that picked him up off the waiver wire), he’s about to run into a brick wall. The Giants’ remaining schedule includes two defenses that are currently in the top-11 of DVOA. Even if Gallman continues to dominate the snaps and carries in New York, it won’t necessarily translate into fantasy production.

Next week: Giants at Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

With the 49ers getting healthier as a team, we can finally see what the running back room looks like when it’s (almost) healthy. Not surprisingly, Raheem Mostert was leading the charge with a team-leading 16 carries. He appeared to still be knocking the rust off after a six-week absence, as he totaled just 43 yards, but he did salvage his fantasy day with a touchdown. Also, it wasn’t surprising to see Jerick McKinnon leading in the passing game. He earned three targets, while Mostert got two and Wilson got none.

Speaking of Wilson, he also came back from a lengthy absence and saw a healthy 12 carries — four fewer than Mostert — but gained just as many yards. That’s enough to keep Wilson in the rotation while still clearly working behind Mostert. However, it also makes him the primary candidate to replace Mostert if (when?) the latter gets hurt again.

The 49ers’ backfield has been a fluid situation all year, but that’s more due to injury than game plan. If they can stay healthy, this is what it should look like the rest of the way.

Next week: 49ers vs. Bills

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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.