RBs Week 1 Analysis Pt. 2 – Phong Ta

by Phong Ta

Find Pt. 1 here

Cleveland Browns

Well. there’s good news and bad news here, folks. The good news is that Isaiah Crowell scored despite seeing just 14 touches (12 carries for 62 yards, 2 catches for 16 yards). The bad news is that he saw only 14 touches. Even more bad news, Duke Johnson saw just 6 touches (3 carries and 3 catches for 50 Total Yards).

Hue Jackson loves to run the football, we know that much. However, with Josh McCown now taking over, who knows what will happen. Jackson knows a good run game can help out a QB, but when you’re playing catch-up on a consistent basis, you kind of need to pass the ball. I wouldn’t give up on either Isaiah Crowell or Duke Johnson after just one game, but the outlook at the moment is somewhat bleak, as they did combine for just 20 touches.

I think both still hold overall Flex player appeal for the season as McCown actually played pretty well last year despite the ineptitude of the Browns’ offense (he had a 12:4 TD:Int ratio and a 93.3 Passer Rating in 8 games), which is certainly far better than what RG3 showed against the Eagles, meaning both players should find bigger holes in the coming weeks. However, against a Ravens’ team that limited LeSean McCoy to just 3.5 yards per touch, I’d say both are better left off on the bench this week.

Philadelphia Eagles

To the surprise of no one, Ryan Mathews saw the lion’s share of the RB touches this week. He finished with 77 yards and a score on 22 carries, easily outpacing fellow RBs Darren Sproles (5 carries, 2 catches, 36 Total yards) and Kenjon Barner (4 carries, 42 yards). Mathews also saw 7 red zone carries this week as well, a clear indication of who the preferred choice is when they get in the area, so while he failed to score, it doesn’t seem like he has any TD vultures for now.

Mathews is always an injury-risk, so his workload and injury status will always be a concern for his owners, so stashing Kenjon Barner if you have the spot on your bench is a good idea, as he’s the most logical candidate to take over lead back roles should he get hurt;  Sproles is more of a change of pace/3rd down kind of RB.

Mathews gets solid match-up this week against Chicago, who just gave up 106 rushing yards to Lamar Miller. Look for Mathews to get a second straight week with a significant workload, with Barner and Sproles fighting for the leftover scraps.

Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Peterson may be as ageless as Tom Brady, but even he needs help to produce, as we saw this week. With little fear of weak-armed backup-turned-starter Shaun Hill, the Titans loaded up the box with 8 and 9 man fronts, leaving Peterson absolutely no room to run. He was completely smothered from start to finish, gaining just 31 yards on 19 carries, with a long of just 9 yards.

Sadly, it looks to be more of the same this week against a solid Packers’ defense that won’t have any problem taking away the pass, regardless of whether it’s Shaun Hill or Sam Bradford behind center. While Peterson’s season long output should be fine – he’s been on bad teams before – this is a week where if you have a loaded backfield, it may not be the worst decision to bench him. In a game where the Packers will aim to neutralize Peterson with similar 8 and 9 man fronts and Aaron Rodgers who could go for 30 points against any defense at anytime, Peterson’s outlook this week is bleak.

Tennessee Titans

So much for “exotic smashmouth”, eh guys? The Titans’ ground attack, so dominant in the preseason, got shut down big time when it ran into the brick wall known as the Vikings’ defense. Not much of a surprise though, considering the Vikings have relatively quietly put together one of the best defenses in all of football.

There is good news however. While both DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry were stone walled on the ground, Murray found success in the air and was the more heavily utilized back in the red zone, catching a pair of passes for TDs. With a young QB in tow, Murray could see a lot of work as the top check-down option for Marcus Mariota in the passing game, which along with his expected workload as a runner should keep him in the low-end RB1, high-end RB2 conversation.

Sadly, Derrick Henry was not so lucky, seeing a meager 7 touches to Murray’s 18, though he did turn his 2 catches into 41 yards, a good sign that his big play ability didn’t all of sudden vanish.

Going up against the Lions’ stout D-Line is far from a good match-up for the thunder-and-thunder duo, but Murray’s workload makes him a clear must-start in a game that could produce fireworks on the scoreboard. As for Henry, until we see him get a larger, more viable workload, he’s best left on your bench.

Miami Dolphins

Arian Foster still has it, everybody. While the Miami O-Line didn’t do him many favors opening up holes against Seattle – he had just 38 yards on 13 carries – Foster showed that his big-play ability as a receiver out of the backfield is still in 2010-12 form, taking 1 of his 3 catches 50 yards. Foster finished with 100 Total yards and a fumble, showcasing that, if given the chance, he can still indeed be a productive workhorse back.

Playing a Patriots’ defense in Week 2 that missed a lot of tackles and is playing with the inexperienced Garoppolo, Miami will likely continue to use Foster as their lead back and load him up with plenty of touches, and hope he can break a couple tackles for big gains. With Jay Ajayi in the doghouse for essentially sulking away his preseason once Foster was brought on-board, Foster is looking like a solid RB2 this week.

Seattle Seahawks

So much for the Christine Michael hype train. While he saw plenty of touches, 17 to be exact, his RBBC buddy Thomas Rawls saw far more touches than anyone was expecting, receiving 12 carries and 3 catches.

Neither RB was particularly great in the Miami game, though Michael was much more efficient, sporting  a solid 4.4 YPC on 15 carries to Rawls’ 2.7 on 12, though Rawls was the more effective receiver.

This looks like a situation where both RBs could be at around the 15 touches area weekly unless one of them pulls ahead of the other, making it hard to suggest either player as more than a Flex, especially as they play the Rams this week, a team they have been struggling against of late.

New York Giants

Good news for owners of Rashad Jennings, he is indeed being used as a workhorse, an unsurprising development with the lack of quality between-the-tackles runners for the Giants after him. While Shane Vereen did siphon off 6 carries, Jennings still saw a healthy 18 attempts, and this seems like it will be the case for the season.

Vereen meanwhile saw 9 touches, 6 carries and 3 catches, and was very efficient with them, finishing with 61 total yards. While it’s hard to suggest Vereen outside of PPR Leagues as a Flex option, he could push for a bigger role as the year wears on.

Speaking of Vereen’s pass-catching though, we could see a lot of that this week against the Saints, whose defense is still who we thought they were. Don’t count out Jennings though, who is a solid pass-catcher in his own right. Vereen looks to be a solid Flex play in PPR Leagues this week while Rashad Jennings should make for a strong RB2.

Dallas Cowboys

Certainly not what owners of Ezekiel Elliott were hoping for, he and the Cowboys’ O-Line got pretty much shut down against a surprisingly strong Giants’ defense. While Elliott saw plenty of carries – he finished with 20 to Alfred Morris‘ 7 – he only managed to churn out 51 yards off of them, though he did hit pay dirt as well.

While it was discouraging to know that Elliott’s YPC was a mere 2.6 to Morris’ solid 5.0 YPC, Elliott is incredibly talented and plays behind a great O-Line. He also gets a much easier week against the Redskins who just let the seemingly ageless DeAngelo Williams run roughshod over them for 143 yards at a 5.5 YPC clip. He’s still a must-start in pretty much all formats, even if he is dealing with a little bit of the normal rookie hesitancy a lot of running backs display.

Detroit Lions

No big surprises with the Lions, it was mostly a combination of Ameer Abdullah leading the way, Theo Riddick also eating a solid amount, and presumable “big back” Dwayne Washington vulturing the only 2 goal line carries from both.

With all the talented skill position players Detroit has to offer, it’s fair to wonder if both Abdullah and Riddick can continue to do well on a weekly basis, especially against defenses not named the Colts. Still, this week is solid proof that when things go well in Detroit, both can do well for you in Fantasy, with Abdullah finishing with 17 touches (12 carries, 5 catches) for 120 Total yards and a receiving TD, while Riddick had 12 touches (7 carries, 5 catches) for 108 Total yards and a receiving TD as well.

With that in mind, the snap count clearly favored Abdullah to the surprise of no one, out snapping Riddick by a count of 40 to 24. It’s clear who the lead back is in Detroit, which could potentially spell trouble for Riddick from a Fantasy perspective as the two players are very similar in their skill-set. It’s also discouraging to know that Washington, their new Joique Bell, vultured both goal line carries, even if we were all expecting the Lions to do so.

This week they play a Titans team that bottled up the run, but was also willing to give up shorter passes, meaning both Abdullah and Riddick should be able to pickup easy yardage through the air. Both represent solid Flex plays, with Abdullah’s higher usage making him the more logical candidate to use if you have both on your squad.

Indianapolis Colts

As expected, Frank Gore continues his lead back duties for Indy, finishing with 14 carries and 4 catches for 78 Total yards. While disappointing to know he was unable to score in a game the Colts score 35 points, it was a very encouraging sign that he saw 18 of Indy’s 24 RB touches, with no other RB finishing with more than just 3.

With little competition behind him, Gore will continue to be solid Flex play every week, even in weeks where the Colts would presumably pass the ball a ton due to his prowess as a receiver out of the backfield. Until someone else in the Colts’ backfield steps up, Gore is in good shape this season to break 1,000 Yards on the ground and add another few hundred yards through the air.

New England Patriots

In a surprising twist, New England opted to run LeGarrette Blount into a brick wall over and over in their game against the Cardinals. For a team known for its shape-shifting to attack an opponent’s weakness, his finishing with 22 carries for an ineffective 70 yards and a score was a pleasant surprise. It was nice to see the Patriots stick to trying to grind it out on the ground, though the tactic is unlikely to continue once Brady returns from suspension.

As for passing-back James White, it was a surprise to see him used so relatively little in this game. He had just 1 carry and caught 5 passes for 41 Total yards. Considering that the inexperienced Jimmy Garoppolo played this game, I was expecting a heavy dose of White to get the ball out of his hands quickly and decisively. Shame on me for thinking that though, considering the Patriots have not 1, not 2, but 3 separate WRs (Edelman, Amendola, Hogan) who specialize in short catches followed up with solid run-after-the-catch ability.

For as long as Garoppolo is in for the Pats, it’s safe to say that Blount will feast. Once Brady is back however, this will likely not be the case, as the Patriots should return to their pass-heavy game plan with one of the best QBs in the league back at the helm. While that would be good for owners of White, particularly in PPR Leagues, it’s horrible news for Blount.

I’d suggest trading Blount now, while his usage is still high and you can perhaps fetch a solid Flex player for him.

Arizona Cardinals

For those of you who thought that David Johnson was not gonna see the majority of playing time and touches in the Cardinals’ backfield, shame on you. He’s far more talented, physical and reliable than a 30 year old Chris Johnson or scatback Andre Ellington.

Against an underrated Patriots’ front seven, Johnson still went off for 132 Total yards (89 rush, 43 receiving) and scored on the ground, while seeing 95% of the backfield snaps for the Cardinals. Playing for Bruce Arians, a coach who loves to employ a bell-cow at RB, this is a trend that is likely to continue, especially with Johnson being the only real threat they have to run between-the-tackles.

Bottom line, David Johnson is a true workhorse RB and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. Thanks to playing in an offense loaded with a very good trio of WRs (Fitzgerald, Floyd, Brown), David Johnson will continue to produce week in and week out for you. I don’t think too many people would be shocked if he finished the year as the top scoring RB and ends up being the first running back since Jamaal Charles in 2013 to break the 300 point barrier in Standard Leagues.

Pittsburgh Steelers

No Le’Veon Bell, no problem for the Steelers’ offense this week, as DeAngelo Williams ran like a man 10 years younger than he is against the Redskins’ over-matched defense. He finished with 26 totes for 143 rushing yards and 2 rushing scores, while also adding 6 catches for 28 yards as a receiver. For the next two weeks, Williams offers you RB1 value playing in a high octane offense willing to feature him on all 3 downs.

Once Bell returns come Week 4 however, expect him to take over the starting role. While Williams has certainly earned a role in this offense, at 33 years old and with his injury-history, the Steelers are smart enough to know he shouldn’t be their lead back for long stretches of time when they have Bell’s services.

This week, Williams will get to play the Bengals, who just gave up 155 Total yards to Matt Forte. Williams figures to be in good shape for this week as your RB1, and could finish as the top overall running back for the 2nd week in a row.

Washington Redskins

With Matt Jones playing while still hurt in a game the Redskins fell behind in, it was unsurprising to find that he saw just 7 carries for 24 yards in this contest. He was also severely outplayed by 3rd down back Chris Thompson, who gained 23 yards and a score on 4 carries and added a pair of catches for 16 yards.

Right now the RB to own in Washington is for sure Thompson. He’s simply shown himself to be a better runner, not to mention he was afforded the lone goal line carry for the Redskins.

While Matt Jones will likely see more carries this week in a game where the Skins don’t find themselves down 24-6, he simply hasn’t shown us much as a runner. Look for Chris Thompson to take on a bigger role sooner rather than later, especially with Jones hurt.

Los Angeles Rams

It seems our worst fears have come to light; Todd Gurley was indeed bottled up as the Niners aimed to contain him, and dare QB Case Keenum to beat them through the air. He didn’t.

While Gurley saw plenty of use in this contest, 17 carries, he couldn’t find any room at all to operate behind an O-Line that was simply overmatched in the run game, finishing with just 47 rushing yards on the night.

Sadly, against a loaded Seattle front seven, this is a trend that is likely to continue this week. While it’s hard to bench a player of Gurley’s calibur, especially considering he was a Round 1 pick, it would be wise to do so this week if you have a RB on your bench with a more favorable match-up.

San Francisco 49ers

Chip Kelly breathes life into a lot of offenses, and did just that this week for the Niners. While the passing game didn’t seem to have been improved much if at all, the run game was better by a large margin.

Carlos Hyde finished with 25 total touches (23 carries, 2 catches) for 93 Total yards and 2 scores on the ground. While he still hasn’t shown much as a receiver, his running ability should continue to make him a fine starter for you week in and week out. It’s especially encouraging that he did this well against a Rams’ Defense known for its run defense.

While it’s unlikely he’ll score 2 TDs every week, his workload alone makes him worthy of being an every week must-start. While playing the Panthers would be a worrying prospect for some, the Panthers were not as great as we expected against the Broncos. Hyde could be in for another big game in Week 2.


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