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Week 16 Running Back Snap Count Analysis (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Michael Moore | @DLF_Moore | Featured Writer
Dec 29, 2021
Cordarrelle Patterson

Even with the majority of the snaps in the Falcons’ backfield, it’s hard to trust Cordarrelle Patterson in your championship lineup this week.

Well, we made it. This will be the final edition of the Running Back Snap Count Analysis of the season. If you’re still reading, it means you’re probably in your league championship. And if you’re still reading but not in your league championship, you’re a fantasy football degenerate and I salute you. Either way, the situations below will be important to monitor for Week 17.

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Atlanta Falcons 

Cordarrelle Patterson couldn’t have picked a worse time to tank his fantasy managers’ seasons. With the playoffs in full swing, Patterson’s hot start to the season seems like a lifetime ago, rushing for just 18 and 14 yards in each of the last two weeks. He also hasn’t caught more than three balls in a game since week nine, which was six weeks ago. At least he scored which salvaged some of his (and his fantasy managers’) Week 16.

Heading into next week, Patterson appears to still be the first choice in the Atlanta backfield, at least. He drew the 4th down play which he ultimately punched in while Mike Davis remains an afterthought. It’s risky to play Patterson in your championship next week but he’s got a better chance to score a touchdown than most. 

Next week: Falcons at Bills 

Buffalo Bills

It only took four months but we appear to have a winner in the Bills backfield competition and his name is Devin Singletary. Not only has Singletary seen at least 54 snaps in each of the last three weeks but he’s turned in performances that look like RB1 games. He’s scored in each of the last two games and he caught six balls for 37 yards in the game before that. 

The emergence of Singletary as a quasi-workhorse back is excellent timing. Fantasy playoffs are happening all over and it’s hard to find a running back to rely on for touches, let alone production right now. But Singletary is one of them, even as an RB2, and will be counted on by plenty of fantasy teams next week. 

Next week: Bills vs. Falcons 

Denver Broncos 

We’ve reached the end of the season and the Broncos STILL are splitting carries between Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams right down the middle. And while that strategy has mostly been productive, both Gordon and Williams had their worst games of the season in Week 16. They each had seven carries but ran for a combined eight yards with Williams punching in a score. They also had just three targets between them. 

For managers of either Gordon III or Williams, the 2021 season will be remembered as one with so much potential. Both of them proved to be highly effective in spurts but neither pulled ahead or even saw more than 60% of the backfield snaps (Williams did on the one week Gordon III was inactive). That’s how it will be next week too which means neither can be trusted for your championship. 

Next week: Broncos at Chargers

Los Angeles Rams 

Whether the injury to Darrell Henderson played a part in Sony Michel seeing 90% of the backfield carries or not, it’s clear Michel is the most trusted Ram back right now. He turned a season-high 27 carries into a season-high 131 yards and a touchdown and even tied a season-high with four targets. Michel, for his part, has been a legitimate workhorse back over the last month, averaging 20-plus carries a game and 100-rushing yards to go with it. He’ll be a popular pick for fantasy championship week. 

As for Henderson, he just doesn’t seem to be in Sean McVay’s plans. Case in point, Henderson has exactly one game of 20 or more carries while Michel has four, with three of those over the last four weeks. He can’t be trusted like he could to start the season, and between usage and injuries hasn’t rushed for more than 55 yards since Week Nine. The smart money will be on Michel the rest of the way.

Next week: Rams at Ravens

Miami Dolphins

Whatever the Dolphins are doing with their offense, and subsequently their backfield, seems to be working. They’ve reeled off seven straight wins including Week 16’s game at the Saints. In that one, they used a three-person committee with veteran no-names Duke Johnson, Myles Gaskin, and Phillip Lindsay splitting the snaps three even ways. They then split the carries down the middle with 13 each going to Johnson and Lindsay, while Gaskin was the only back to see any targets, totaling three. 

The starting running back job in Miami was never a productive one when it came to fantasy this season, but the addition of veterans and the muddy timeshare makes it even worse. Avoid all of them in Championship Week. 

Next week: Dolphins at Titans 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

It’s too bad we couldn’t finish the season with Leonard Fournette as the Bucs’ workhorse back. After seeing more than 80% of the snaps for a month, Fournette went down with an injury that landed him on IR and pushed Ronald Jones II back into the starting lineup. And after his first start, we know why the Bucs have gone with Fournette as Jones was extremely average in Week 16. He only saw half the snaps and turned a promising 20 carries into just 65 yards, and his three targets into two catches for 16 yards. The workhorse load was all Ronald Jones II could have asked for but he simply didn’t deliver. 

If anything, Ke’Shawn Vaughn may have made a case to see more than just a third of the snaps like he did in Week 16. He ripped off a 55-yard touchdown and finished with 70 yards on just seven carries. Le’Veon Bell was used as just a warm body, rushing twice for a loss of a yard.

In the end, it won’t matter who ends up leading this backfield in Week 16. Tampa is throwing backups out there to end the season. 

Next week: Buccaneers at Jets

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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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