Running Back Market Shares: Week 8 Report

Oct 28, 2021
Running Back Market Shares: Week 8 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 7?

Carries

Five Up, Five Down – RB Rushing Share
Player Team Week 6 Week 7 Change
David Johnson HST 7.4% 46.7% +39.3%
Boston Scott PHI 0.0% 38.9% +38.9%
Kenyan Drake LV 19.0% 56.0% +37.0%
Chase Edmonds ARZ 16.7% 53.6% +36.9%
J.J. Taylor NE 0.0% 36.0% +36.0%
Sony Michel LA 30.0% 0.0% -30.0%
James Conner ARZ 66.7% 35.7% -31.0%
Leonard Fournette TB 81.5% 50.0% -31.5%
A.J. Dillon GB 45.8% 0.0% -45.8%
Josh Jacobs LV 76.2% 24.0% -52.2%

Boston Scott, Philadelphia Eagles, +38.9% running back rushing share

Just as Miles Sanders was looking like he would finally take over the Philadelphia Eagles’ backfield, an aberrant tackle in the first quarter of Week 7 knocked him out of the game. It appears Sanders will miss Week 8, but he is only week-to-week and seems to have avoided a major injury. While Sanders is on the mend, Boston Scott will operate as the Eagles’ primary rusher and goal-line back; Scott was given three rushing attempts inside the opposing 10-yard line, earning seven yards and a score. Even if a timeshare emerges with Scott, rookie Kenneth Gainwell, and practice-squad promotion Jordan Howard, Scott’s part should be no worse than half.

Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks, +26.1%

In his first week back off of injured reserve, Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny saw a decent six of his team's 23 running back carries – second-most in the backfield. The only problem is that he did basically nothing with them, compiling just nine yards (1.5 yards per rush) and saw no targets either. Penny appears to be a factor in this backfield going forward, but he is more of a disruption in the workload of Alex Collins and DeeJay Dallas than fantasy-viable in his own right at this point.

Jamaal Williams, Detroit Lions, +24.5%

Speaking of timeshares and disruptions, Jamaal Williams soaked up nearly 50% of the Detroit Lions running back rushing work this week. Williams toted the rock 12 times in the Lions’ latest losing effort, though he didn’t see a single target. It appears clear that in an ideal world for Detroit, Williams will be the primary rusher and D'Andre Swift will mainly be the receiving specialist. That harms Swift’s fantasy outlook more than it helps Williams, but the latter will still have a stable – if low-ceilinged – role in this offense, much to fantasy managers’ chagrin.

A.J. Dillon, Green Bay Packers, -20.8%

In a game that the Green Bay Packers comfortably won, it’s surprising that backup A.J. Dillon didn’t see more run as the Pack looked to control the ball and kill clock. Mostly, this odd usage seems to be a function of the perpetually short fields provided by the Washington Football Team’s turnovers, but Dillon still carried the ball half the times that lead rusher Aaron Jones did and equaled seventh-round rookie Kylin Hill. With just one catch for two yards on two targets in this game to boot, Dillon isn’t providing consistent enough work or production to be fantasy-viable unless Jones gets injured or you get desperate.

Others of Note: Kenyan Drake, LV (+37.0%); Elijhaa Penny, NYG (+19.1%); Damien Williams, CHI (+14.3%); Marlon Mack, IND (-11.4%); Javonte Williams, DEN (-19.0%); Rhamondre Stevenson, NE (-20.8%).

Targets

Five Up, Five Down – Team Target Share
Player Team Week 6 Week 7 Change
Javonte Williams DEN 6.5% 22.6% +16.1%
D'Andre Swift DET 16.2% 32.3% +16.0%
Kenneth Gainwell PHI 11.1% 25.0% +13.9%
Brandon Bolden NE 5.3% 18.4% +13.2%
David Johnson HST 4.9% 17.2% +12.4%
J.D. McKissic WAS 27.8% 17.1% -10.6%
Chris Evans CIN 11.1% 0.0% -11.1%
Rhamondre Stevenson NE 15.8% 0.0% -15.8%
DeeJay Dallas SEA 18.5% 0.0% -18.5%
Joe Mixon CIN 18.5% 0.0% -18.5%

Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos, +16.1% team target share

Denver Broncos second-round rookie runner Javonte Williams watched his rushing share nosedive this week, but he also found himself one of the team’s top targets in the passing game. With a total team target share of 22.6%, Williams’ seven targets led to six catches for 32 yards and a score. He’s not being used as a downfield receiver by any means, but volume in the passing game is good no matter what for a running back. It appears that Williams has the edge on aerial backfield work, while veteran Melvin Gordon still leads the way on the ground and in the red zone.

Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles, +13.9%

As briefly mentioned before, Kenneth Gainwell saw an increased role with the injury to Eagles’ lead rusher Miles Sanders – both on the ground and through the air. The fourth-round rookie saw more than a quarter of both Philly’s running back carries and their total team targets in Week 7. Despite Boston Scott outpacing Gainwell on the ground and in the scoring area, Gainwell seems likely to offer the most consistent value due to his 31 pass-game targets. He saw one goal-line opportunity as well, so it’s not like he’ll be completely phased out of that area of the game in favor of Scott.

Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears, +5.1%

Every week since he happened into the Chicago Bears’ starting job – and I say “happened into” because he was literally just the last man standing – sixth-round rookie running back Khalil Herbert has maintained his rushing workload, while improving his rushing efficiency and earning more receiving usage as well. Even with veteran receiving back Damien Williams back in the fold for Week 7, Herbert still captured a sixth of the Bears’ targets (five) and turned them into five catches for 33 yards. Unless lead-back David Montgomery returns with no restrictions, Herbert should retain a solid role in this backfield all season; he’s earned it.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals, -18.5%

As much as he has a stranglehold on the Cincinnati Bengals’ rushing, Joe Mixon has continued to hemorrhage passing-game work. There was only one target that went to a Cincinnati running back all game in the Bengals’ blowout win, so this isn’t anything to overreact to, but it fits a concerning pattern for Mixon of five of seven games this season with one or fewer catches. His massive rushing share and goal-line usage make him a stable low-end RB2 in any given week, but it’s hard to see a path to his potential ceiling when Samaje Perine and Chris Evans keep eating into Mixon’s receiving.

Others of Note: Darrynton Evans, TEN (+7.4%); Mark Ingram, HOU (+5.5%); Josh Jacobs, LV (+4.9%); Phillip Lindsay, HOU (-4.9%); Derrick Henry, TEN (-5.1%); Kareem Hunt, CLE (-10.0%).

Goal-Line Opportunities

Three Up, Three Down – Goal-Line Opportunity Share
Player Team Week 6 Week 7 Change
Boston Scott PHI 0.0% 75.0% +75.0%
Devonta Freeman BAL 33.3% 100.0% +66.7%
Myles Gaskin MIA 50.0% 100.0% +50.0%
Rhamondre Stevenson NE 25.0% 0.0% -25.0%
James Conner ARI 50.0% 0.0% -50.0%
Darrel Williams KC 100.0% 0.0% -100.0%

Kenyan Drake, Las Vegas Raiders, +50.0% goal-line opportunity share

With an injury to Josh Jacobs coming fairly early in Week 7’s match, Kenyan Drake saw a majority of the team’s running back rushes, maintained his team target share, and captured half of the Raiders’ goal-line opportunities – including one four-yard touchdown plunge. Drake remains the back to roster in this backfield if Jacobs is limited coming out of Las Vegas’ Week 8 bye.

Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots, -25.0%

Rhamondre Stevenson’s path through his rookie season has gone from training camp darling to a weekly coin flip on whether he’ll even be allowed to put pads on for the game. The New England Patriots’ ever-confusing running back carnival continued in Week 7 as Stevenson was declared inactive before the eventual blowout kicked off. Stevenson certainly would’ve gotten valuable experience as a change-of-pace and closer in the Pats’ nearly 40-point victory, but he seems to be more on the Ty’Son Williams path at the moment; that’s not a good sign for fantasy managers.

Others of Note: Antonio Gibson (+100.0%); D'Ernest Johnson, CLE (+100.0%); Devonta Freeman, BAL (+66.7%).

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