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Week 13 Running Back Snap Count Analysis (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Michael Moore | @DLF_Moore | Featured Writer
Dec 8, 2021
Devonta Freeman

Devonta Freeman has assumed control of the Ravens backfield.

Running back friends, old and new, are looking more like workhorses as the season winds down. It’s just in time for the fantasy playoffs where there might be a league-winner or two in the situations below.

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Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens backfield shifting towards Devonta Freeman being a workhorse is one of the bigger developments in fantasy leagues as we head into the fantasy playoffs. After recording no running back with over 62% of the snaps this season, Freeman blew that out of the water in Week 13, seeing a team-high 69% of the snaps, totaling 14 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. He was also very involved in the passing game, seeing the second-most targets on the team with eight, catching five of them for 45 yards. 

It’s also quite the downfall for veteran Latvius Murray who saw double-digit carries multiple times this season but has averaged barely more than three yards per carry on his nearly 80 carries this season. The Ravens cannot trust Murray as they make a playoff push and are primed to roll with Freeman and Lamar Jackson as the primary ball carriers. 

Next week: Ravens at Browns 

Denver Broncos

All season long, the Broncos have had a 1A and 1B when it came to the backfield pecking order. Veteran Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams had been splitting everything – snaps, carries, and were even within three targets of each other for the season. But all that changed in Week 13 when Gordon missed his first game of the year. And instead of promoting veteran Mike Boone to be the new 1B, the Broncos gave the full load to Williams. The 60 snaps were a career-high as were the 23 carries, and nine targets he saw. In other words: true Workhorse stuff. 

This will be a situation to watch as we head into the fantasy playoffs. If Denver were eliminated from playoff contention, there is a good chance they’d sit Gordon so as not to risk further injury. But with the expanded playoffs, Denver sits just one full game out of a playoff spot which means it’ll be all hands on deck down the stretch. 

Next week: Broncos vs. Detroit 

Houston Texans

Another week, another Texans backfield situation that won’t be replicated next week. This week it was Rex Burkhead who led the way with 24 snaps with the newly-signed Royce Freeman not far behind with 22 snaps. The appearance of Freeman is both a surprise and not expected since veteran David Johnson was deactivated due to illness and Phillip Lindsay was cut just two weeks ago. 

The fact that the Texans fell way behind in this (or any) game isn’t surprising so there won’t be many carries to split. But the fact that there isn’t a running back benefitting from the passing game either is just pathetic. Burkhead and Freeman totaled just two receptions on three targets between them despite seeing 90% of the backfield snaps. So even though the Texans backfield has been a war of attrition, there still isn’t a viable option when it comes to fantasy production. 

Next week: Texas vs. Seahawks 

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars backfield hasn’t been one to watch this season because A) Travis Etienne suffered a season-ending injury before the season even started and B) the offense just hasn’t produced. But with the season winding down and only veterans Carlos Hyde and James Robinson vying for touches, it’s anyone’s guess which one will win out. 

This week it appeared Carlos Hyde was the lead back, leading the team with nine carries for 24 yards and a touchdown compared to Robinson’s eight carries for 24 yards and no touchdowns. Of course, both of them lost fumbles in the game which almost made Urban Meyer’s head explode. Nonetheless, unless Jacksonville is willing to convert Laviska Shenault to a running back full-time, one of Hyde or Robinson will be the lead back down the stretch. Of course, you can also avoid both. 

Next week: Jaguars at Titans 

Los Angeles Rams

Not many would have pegged Sony Michel for seeing the highest share of snaps in the Rams backfield this season but that’s what happened in Week 13. He handled every snap except for two in a route against the Jaguars. It took a quad injury to incumbent Darrell Henderson – himself a fill-in for pre-season starter Cam Akers – for Michel to see that many carries and he didn’t disappoint. The 24 carries for 121 yards were both season-highs while the 5.0 yards-per-carry was tied for a season-best. Granted, it came against one of the worst teams in the league but it’s still an encouraging sign that the Rams have two running backs capable of carrying the load. It won’t be helpful for the fantasy playoffs but should an injury strike one of them down – something both Henderson and Michel have had happened – it automatically makes the survivor an RB1. 

Next week: Rams at Cardinals 

Philadelphia Eagles

After an injury had knocked Miles Sanders’ production down a peg for the last six weeks, his Week 13 usage appeared to return to his early-season levels. Not only was the 58% his highest share of backfield snaps since Week Six but his 24 carries for 120 rushing yards were season highs. And that wasn’t even a full game’s worth of carries as Sanders was knocked out before the end due to injury and the Eagles blowing out the Jets. 

Perhaps the bigger development was rookie Kenneth Gainwell performing well in the absence of veteran Boston Scott. Gainwell’s 54 rushing yards were a career-high and his five targets were second-most on the team this week. 

The Sanders-Gainwell split is a return to what the Eagles’ offense threw out through the first 1/3 of the season and, now that both are healthy, could finish the last 1/3 of the season. If so, it makes Sanders a top running back down the stretch and Gainwell a decent flex option in PPR leagues. 

Next week: Bye

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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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