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Week 1 Running Back Snap Count Analysis (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Michael Moore | @DLF_Moore | Featured Writer
Sep 15, 2021

Week one is in the books, and we finally have some actual data to glean when it comes to the running backs we drafted. No more hypotheticals or coaches’ comments. Now we’re dealing with actual snap counts, injuries, and more. Below are a few of the teams that are worth monitoring when it comes to how they used their running backs.

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Los Angeles Rams 

It remains to be seen just how much the Rams will rotate in Sony Michel after a trade with the Patriots, but it was reassuring to see them rely on Darrell Henderson after the game got out of hand. He didn’t disappoint either, totaling 70 yards on just 16 carries plus a reception for 17 yards for good measure. Michel didn’t see a target and had just one rush attempt. 

The downside, of course, is despite Henderson seeing nearly all the backfield snaps, he still saw just 16 carries. A touchdown saved his fantasy day, but I wouldn’t expect the carry tally to go up anytime soon. If 16 carries is all Henderson, or whomever the top back in Los Angeles will be, in a 20-point win, imagine what it might be when the Rams are in a competitive game. Chances are they turn it over to their new toy, Matthew Stafford

As long as Henderson is the starter in Los Angeles, he’ll be a solid RB2 with as many scoring opportunities as the Rams should see. But if Michel cuts into his workload anymore than he did in Week 1, watch out.

Next week: Rams at Colts 

Washington Football Team

Despite a split in snaps that looks very much like it did in 2020, Antonio Gibson looked like a workhorse to start 2021. Not only did he dominate the Washington running game with 20 carries, but he led the entire team with five targets, converting three of them for 18 yards. 

Now the question is whether this is going to start a trend or just a fluke. One development that might make it more of a trend for Gibson is who’s going to be throwing the ball. Most of Gibson’s targets came from backup Taylor Heinicke after he came in for starter Ryan Fitzpatrick who suffered a hip injury. Now comes word Fitzpatrick will be out 6-8 weeks which means more Heinicke. Week Two will see Heinicke get the start and will either confirm or deny if Antonio Gibson can be counted on for targets.

Next week: Giants at Football Team 

Los Angeles Chargers

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Austin Ekeler is still the starting running back for a very good Chargers offense. He dominated carries, leading the team in 15, ran for 57 yards, and even saw goal-line work, scoring from three yards out. Now, he didn’t see a target which would be a concern if any other running back saw targets. But no other back did. Justin Jackson saw one, while rookie Larry Rountree saw none. 

Speaking of Rountree, the more significant development here is his ascension as the clear backup in Los Angeles. Not only did he get the second-most snaps, but he got the second-most carries with eight. Rountree would be a decent waiver-wire pickup, especially if you have Ekeler on your team. 

Next week: Chargers vs. Cowboys 

Houston Texans 

With so many veteran running backs signed in the off-season, it was anyone’s guess who would be the ‘winner’ in the backfield. Mark Ingram, for Week One anyway, appeared to be it, leading the team with 35 snaps in a run-positive game script for Houston. He dominated carries for Houston with 26, totaling 85 yards and a score. He only saw one target compared to David Johnson’s four but still saw 15 more carries than any other running back combined. 

Granted, the Texans probably won’t be in many games where they’re up 27 points and running the ball 40-plus times, but if they do, Ingram seems to be the best bet. 

Next week: Texans at Browns 

Baltimore Ravens

The week one outcome for the Raven’s next running back up – Ty’Son Williams – was both good and bad. On the one hand, Williams led all Ravens running backs by a wide margin in snaps seeing 35 compared to 30 for all other backs. He also led the backfield with four targets, catching three of them for 29 yards. The bad part is he was in a virtual timeshare when it came to carries with veteran Lativus Murray with Williams running it nine times compared to Murray’s 10. 

Of course, next week could be a different story with the abundance of veteran running backs that Baltimore signed joining the active roster. Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman will join Latavius Murray in the running back room, and it’s anyone’s guess who will come out alive. For his part, Williams played well, averaging over seven yards-per-carry and punching in a score. But his blown pass protection was also a factor in Lamar Jackson fumbling the ball to give the Raiders the win. Another case of good and bad with Williams making this an unstable situation. 

Next week: Ravens vs. Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers

It wasn’t the snap count we expected before we found out rookie Trey Sermon was ruled inactive or after the injury to starter Raheem Mostert but here we are. Rookie Elijah Mitchell led by a huge margin on snaps and an even bigger margin on carries with 19, 16 more than all other 49er backs combined, and totaled more than 104 yards on the ground plus a score. He didn’t see any targets, but that’s not surprising since the 49ers had just 18 pass attempts all day. 

The injury to Mostert is fairly significant and will see him miss a couple of months, pushing Mitchell to the top of the depth chart. The fact that Sermon was a healthy scratch also bodes well for Mitchell’s prospects of remaining the starter in Mostert’s absence. Mitchell will and should be the top waiver pickup in your league this week. 

Next week: 49ers at Eagles 

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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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