Running Back Market Shares: Week 17 Report

Dec 30, 2021
Running Back Market Shares: Week 17 Report

In the modern NFL, the running back is no longer the focal point of an offense. Gone are the days where a 400-touch rusher is the norm, and now is the age of the running back-by-committee. With carries and targets being diluted between backs more than ever, it’s important for fantasy managers to know which backs are seeing usage and how they’re being utilized.

This column will explore the landscape of running back rushing and receiving through team market shares – the percent of a team’s running back rushes or the team’s passing targets. By looking at these rates of usage rather than raw totals, we help to strip away some of the noise of game script and pare our data down to the truer representation of how each offense thinks about its backfield.

Without any further ado, let’s ring the bell and open the markets: which running backs had a significant change in usage in Week 16?

Carries

Five Up, Five Down – RB Rush Share
Player Team Week 15 Week 16 Change
Damien Harris NE 0.0% 90.0% +90.0%
Dare Ogunbowale JAX 5.3% 81.0% +75.7%
Alexander Mattison MIN 0.0% 72.2% +72.2%
Jamaal Williams DET 0.0% 63.3% +63.3%
Chase Edmonds ARI 40.0% 94.1% +54.1%
Leonard Fournette TB 45.0% 0.0% -45.0%
James Conner ARI 53.3% 0.0% -53.3%
Rhamondre Stevenson NE 71.4% 0.0% -71.4%
James Robinson JAX 94.7% 14.3% -80.5%
Dalvin Cook MIN 90.3% 0.0% -90.3%

Dare Ogunbowale, Jacksonville Jaguars, +75.7% running back rushing share

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ backfield has been ravaged this season, with Travis Etienne, Carlos Hyde, and now James Robinson all down for the season with significant injuries. The latter went down in the first half of Week 16 with an Achilles’ tear, leaving usual pass-catching specialist Dare Ogunbowale to tote the load for the Jags. Ogunbowale – a former satellite back for Tampa Bay and brother to WNBA star Arike Ogunbowale – rocked 17 rushing attempts in this game for a whopping 81% share of the Jacksonville ground game. With only recent practice squad poacher Ryquell Armstead and diminutive return man Tavon Austin as real threats to his workload for the fantasy championship week, it seems obvious that Ogunbowale should be a fantasy must-add in Week 17.

Derrick Gore, Kansas City, +36.4%

The increasingly banged-up Clyde Edwards-Helaire left Kansas City’s Week 16 game with a painful (but ultimately unbroken) collarbone. That allowed Darrel Williams and Derrick Gore to split touches in this offense, and the latter soaked up more than a third of KC’s rushing attempts in the game. Gore has acquitted himself well as a fill-in option already this year, with 20 rushing attempts for 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns between Weeks 8 and 14. If CEH has to miss more time, Gore could provide a multi-purpose spark both for Kansas City and fantasy managers.

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, +29.0%

One week after Leonard Fournette’s injury forced sparsely-used backup Ronald Jones back into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back rotation, RJ2 dominated their backfield yet again. Jones drew a total of 23 opportunities to Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s eight: an expected, but extremely welcome, outcome. Though he only totaled 65 yards on the ground, Jones’ 20-carry outing should give fantasy managers confidence that he’ll be large and in charge for the fantasy finals in this coming game against the New York Jets – who are allowing the second-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points (aFPA) to running backs this year.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team, -41.7%

Fantasy managers might be panicking after Antonio Gibson’s poor statline in Week 16, but the Washington Football Team held him out of the second half as a precaution more than anything else. With the game wildly out of hand at that point, things were turned over to Gibson’s backups as he rested a turf toe that earned him a questionable tag coming into the week. Gibson should be all systems go for divisional contests in the next two weeks; don’t be concerned by this drastic workload change.

Targets

Five Up, Five Down – Team Target Share
Player Team Week 15 Week 16 Change
Justin Jackson LAC 2.9% 25.0% +22.1%
Chase Edmonds ARI 2.2% 23.1% +20.9%
Jordan Howard PHI 0.0% 12.5% +12.5%
Myles Gaskin MIA 0.0% 11.5% +11.5%
Aaron Jones GB 6.5% 17.6% +11.2%
Dontrell Hilliard TEN 18.8% 6.7% -12.1%
James Robinson JAX 12.1% 0.0% -12.1%
Nyheim Hines IND 16.7% 3.8% -12.8%
Leonard Fournette TB 15.2% 0.0% -15.2%
Saquon Barkley NYG 22.9% 2.6% -20.3%

Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers, +22.1% team target share

The most extreme target share increase in Week 16 went to Los Angeles Chargers running back Justin Jackson, who filled in for the absent Austin Ekeler (COVID-IR). Jackson totaled just 11 rushes in the game, but the Bolts were playing with a two-score deficit most of the game. That helped Jackson become the leading receiver for L.A. with nine targets, eight of which he caught for 98 yards on screen after screen. Ekeler has been re-activated from the COVID list, so Jackson will face a diminished opportunity share in Week 17. The question is, by how much? Many teams have given stars returning from the illness IR a week or two to get back up to full speed, so Jackson could still end up fantasy-relevant this week.

Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles, +12.5%

Though he typically finds himself getting goal-line touches much more often than passing-game targets, Jordan Howard was on the receiving end (literally) of four looks in Week 16. That amounted to an eighth of the Philadelphia Eagles’ targets in that extremely non-competitive contest. Still, with lead back Miles Sanders already ruled out for this coming week with a broken hand, Howard could be in a big spot to thrive for Week 17. He has averaged 12.5 rushes per game already this season (mostly with Sanders out), and if he could add passing-game work to his fantasy profile, that would be a major fantasy boon.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears, +9.1%

Sure, rookie Khalil Herbert snared a touchdown from the grasp of Chicago Bears backfield star David Montgomery, but Montgomery still out-touched his young teammate 28-3 in Week 16. That’s a great sign for his fantasy chances this coming week, especially considering he saw nine targets in the game, catching seven for 61 yards. Montgomery hasn’t been wildly efficient in the second half of the season, but the volume is there for him.

Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts, -12.8%

It’s hard to know how to treat Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines as we head into the fantasy championships. Star back Jonathan Taylor has been on the field for nearly every down over the past two weeks, and with a fully healthy wide receiver corps, there aren’t even slot snaps for Hines to fill into. Hines rarely gets used in the run game anyway, and his target share has completely cratered as the season wraps up. It will probably be prudent to keep Hines on your bench for Week 17.

Goal-Line Work

Three Up, Three Down – Goal-Line Opportunities
Player Team Week 15 Week 16 Change
Damien Harris NE 0.0% 100.0% +100.0%
Ameer Abdullah CAR 0.0% 75.0% +75.0%
Joe Mixon CIN 0.0% 75.0% +75.0%
Miles Sanders PHI 100.0% 25.0% -75.0%
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 100.0% 20.0% -80.0%
Dalvin Cook MIN 100.0% 14.3% -85.7%

Rex Burkhead, Houston Texans, +0.0% running back goal-line share

Why is it relevant for Houston Texans running back Rex Burkhead to have seen no increase and no decrease in his goal-line share? Well, you’d be forgiven for missing it, but the veteran Burkhead has absorbed every single opportunity in the gold zone for Houston over the past two weeks. The Texans have even begun to find their offensive mojo, to the point that Burkhead got five carries in close this past week. The sledding won’t be easy for a talent-poor Texans team, but Burkhead should be the back called upon for the highest-value opportunities.

Duke Johnson, Miami Dolphins, -50.0%

Well. The Duke Johnson sighting in Week 15 was apparently more mirage than material. Considering the differing level of competition from last week to this one, Johnson’s flash can easily be chalked up to playing a poor run defense. In addition, the Miami Dolphins appear committed to rolling a three-headed monster of a committee out rather than using a lead back, or even an “A/B” setup. That has reduced Duke Johnson to a middling and inconsistent share of the work, including at the goal line. A week after dominating the money touches, Johnson was reduced to a single carry for zero yards in Week 16.

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