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Running Back Opportunity Share Report: Week Nine

Which running backs are seeing the most opportunities? Who is in line for more? We take a closer look.

James Robinson

Welcome back to the Running Back Opportunity Share Report, the fifth article in this weekly series examining how teams are deploying their running backs. Volume is king for running backs in fantasy football. Please refer to week five’s article for a review on the importance of volume for running backs.

What is RB Opportunity Share?

RB opportunity share is calculated by combining a player’s carries and targets and dividing them by the team’s total non-quarterback carries and running back targets.* This provides a single metric to illustrate the percentage of the team running back opportunities a player is receiving.

Bellcow Report

For this series, bellcow running backs will be defined as running backs with an opportunity share greater than or equal to 70 percent.

Blue Chips: James Robinson, Derrick Henry, and Christian McCaffrey.

Committee Backfields: Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, and Seattle Seahawks.

Next Man Up: Chase Edmonds, Duke Johnson, and Jerick McKinnon.

Medical Tent: Miles Sanders, Nick Chubb, Devonta Freeman, Joe Mixon, and Mark Ingram.

James Robinson, RB JAC

Robinson is arguably fantasy football’s most valuable player half-way through the season. The August waiver wire pickup across most dynasty leagues is now the fantasy football RB4 on the season. Robinson leads the league in opportunity share at 79.8 percent and he continued to carry the load in Jacksonville in week nine.

Coming off the bye week Robinson had an 84.4 percent opportunity share (third) on 25 carries for 99 yards and a score. He failed to convert on his two targets from Jake Luton but managed to finish as the fantasy RB6 on the week.

Robinson appears to be bulletproof. Whether it’s a new quarterback, a tough matchup, or a poor game-script, Robinson is proving to be a fantasy powerhouse. His 1.43 scrimmage yards per play was fourth in the NFL among running backs in week nine. It’s becoming harder to doubt him after he keeps piling up impressive performances each week.

Christian McCaffrey, RB CAR

All hail the once and future king, Christian McCaffrey. He was a welcomed sight to fantasy lineups everywhere rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts. McCaffrey secured all ten of his targets for 82 yards and another score. McCaffrey finished as the fantasy RB2 on a 73.7 percent opportunity share (sixth).

Not only did McCaffrey receive significant volume in his return, but it was extremely valuable as well. He led all running backs in weighted opportunities with 26.3 in part because of a robust 22.7 percent target share (second). McCaffrey was extremely efficient with his opportunity scoring 9.1 fantasy points over expected (per Rotoviz’s Expected Points Model) and had 1.82 scrimmage yards per play (second).

Adam Schefter reported on Wednesday McCaffrey isn’t expected to play week ten and he’s seeking a second opinion on his injured shoulder. Mike Davis only had one carry for three yards in McCaffrey’s return but did catch five of six targets for 34 yards. Davis is a plug-and-play running back if McCaffrey misses any time.

Derrick Henry, RB TEN

Before week nine, I and many other analysts had cautioned Henry’s fantasy managers about his dependency on touchdowns for fantasy scoring. Week nine was his first game since week two in which he failed to score a touchdown. Additionally, Henry wasn’t targeted by Ryan Tannehill and is averaging 2.3 targets per game on the season. As a result, fantasy managers witnessed how scary Henry’s floor can be for fantasy purposes.

Henry finished as the fantasy RB35 on 21 carries for 68 yards despite a 75.0 percent opportunity share (fifth). This shouldn’t be too concerning for fantasy managers because of Henry’s volume and he’s been resilient despite poor game-scripts or tough opponents this season. Henry’s poor fantasy performance is another example of why targets provide such a safe floor and are so important in fantasy football.

David Montgomery, RB CHI

Montgomery continued to receive the majority of running back volume in Chicago with an 81.0 percent opportunity share (fourth) in week nine. The good news ends there. Montgomery gained 30 yards on 14 attempts and caught all three of his targets for 12 additional yards. He finished as the fantasy RB44 ending four consecutive weeks with top-24 performances.

Montgomery has been underperforming his volume on the season averaging an NFL-worst negative 3.1 fantasy points over expected. He had been relying on a relatively safe receiving floor averaging 4.6 targets per game (eleventh) but it didn’t save fantasy managers in week nine. His target share (6.4 percent) dropped below ten percent for the first time since Tarik Cohen was lost for the season back in week three. Montgomery’s efficiency dropped substantially gaining 0.55 scrimmage yards per play (tied for fourth-worst) which was well below his 1.23 scrimmage yards per play through the first eight weeks.

Montgomery is a top-24 running back moving forward but it’s difficult for fantasy managers to get excited about staring him in their lineups. However, based on his volume, Montgomery should be scoring more touchdowns. He is last among all running backs with 472 rush yards per touchdown and the league average is around 143 rush yards per touchdown in 2020. Fantasy managers can take some solace knowing Montgomery should score at a higher rate if he has a similar volume in the second half of the season.

Todd Gurley, RB ATL

Week nine was more of the same for Gurley as he scored his ninth rushing touchdown (second) on 19 carries for 53 yards. His 65.6 percent opportunity share (eighth) was padded by two additional targets Gurley converted for two yards. He finished as the fantasy RB11 on the week.

He’s averaging a touchdown per game or a touchdown every 64.9 yards (12th). Gurley’s remarkable touchdown efficiency has propelled him to RB6 on the season. He should remain a touchdown-dependent, low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 for the rest of the season.

Dalvin Cook, RB MIN

Cook followed up week eight’s historic 48.6 fantasy points with an encore performance finishing with 39.2 fantasy points in week nine. He had a 64.9 percent opportunity share (tenth) on 22 attempts for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Cook also caught both of his targets for 46 yards making him the fantasy RB1 in back to back weeks.

Minnesota won’t be able to run the ball on 63 percent of their plays every week but Cook has been dominant when healthy. The volume on the ground has been there with 20.6 attempts per game (second) but he also has a solid 12.6 percent target share (14th) as well. Additionally, Cook has been extremely efficient with his volume by gaining 2.38 scrimmage yards per play (first) and has 73.1 fantasy points over expected (first) on the season.

JD McKissic, RB WAS

In the two games Alex Smith has played this season, McKissic has averaged 11 targets and a 32.3 percent target share. After Kyle Allen sustained a season-ending injury in week nine, Smith and his 4.2 aDOT will be the starting quarterback for the Washington Football Team.

In week nine, McKissic had a season-high 65.4 percent opportunity share on three carries for 17 yards and nine catches on 14 targets for 65 yards. He was the fantasy RB3 on the week and has the attractive receiving floor fantasy managers covet in their lineups.

Rookie Antonio Gibson fumbled the ball after a nice play in week nine and as a result, only had a 34.6 percent opportunity share. Despite having an appealing receiving profile coming into the NFL, Gibson has been relegated to mostly a first and second-down back by McKissic. McKissic projects to be a valuable PPR running back moving forward.

Zack Moss, RB BUF

In the four games since returning from injury, Moss has outscored Devin Singletary 44.1 to 28.8 fantasy points. Week nine marked the first game Moss had the majority of the opportunity paired with his superior production. Moss had a 64.7 percent opportunity share compared to Singletary’s 29.4 percent opportunity share. Moss’ opportunities have been more valuable than Singletary’s because he continues to split the receiving work and is dominating touches in the redzone.

Week nine wasn’t overly exciting from a production standpoint for Moss as he carried the ball nine times for 18 yards and a touchdown. Plus, he caught both of his targets for another 30 yards. He finished as the fantasy RB14 on the week and appears to be the running back to roster in Buffalo.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB DAL

Elliott limped into Dallas’ bye week with a 63.6 percent opportunity share (12th) in week nine. Elliott came into the game with a hamstring injury that initially put his status in doubt but still carried the ball 18 times for 51 yards. He added 18 yards through the air by catching two of his three targets. He managed to outgain Tony Pollard by only eleven yards on the day. Fantasy managers can only hope Zeke’s poor performance was injury-related.

After a promising start to the season, averaging an 81.5 percent opportunity share, Elliott has averaged a 60.2 percent opportunity share over the past four weeks. Whether it’s been a fumbling issue, the three different quarterbacks since Dak Prescott left with an injury, or his hamstring injury, Zeke’s season has taken a turn for the worse. Hopefully, Andy Dalton returns following their bye week and Elliott can regain his elite fantasy production.

Committee Backfields

Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Jackson injured his knee on the first play of the game. He returned briefly but was pulled for the remainder of the game soon after reentering.

Journeyman Kalen Ballage out-touched rookie Joshua Kelley after Jackson went down. Ballage rushed for 69 yards and a score on 15 attempts while catching two of three targets for another 15 yards. Kelley appears to fallen out of favor in Los Angeles rushing for 28 scoreless yards on nine attempts but did catch all five of his targets for 31 yards. On the day, Ballage had a 51.4 percent opportunity share to Kelley’s 40.0 percent opportunity share.

Austin Ekeler posted a video of him running on social media last week but still appears to be a few weeks away from returning from a serious hamstring injury. Ballage was sent back to the practice squad after week nine and Troymaine Pope remains in concussion protocol as of Wednesday morning. Fantasy managers will need to closely monitor the Chargers’ beat for more information on their clouded backfield heading into week ten.

New York Jets

Frank Gore led the way for the Jets in week nine with a 63.6 percent opportunity share (13th) with 46 yards on 12 attempts. Gore added two receptions for 13 yards through the air. Lamical Perine handled the remaining 36.4 percent of the Jet’s opportunity share but only had six rush attempts for 19 yards. Perine caught his two targets from Joe Flacco for another 19 yards.

According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, Lamical Perine “will be the featured back over the remainder of the season as the organization tries to determine if he can be a future RB1.” This should boost Perine’s opportunities moving forward but shouldn’t move the needle from a fantasy perspective as the Jets remain one of the worst offenses in football.

New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara is still the primary running back in New Orleans despite only a 44.1 percent opportunity share (29th) in a blowout week nine win over the Buccaneers. Kamara rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown on nine attempts and caught five of his six targets for nine yards. Kamara still finished as the fantasy RB5 on the week despite limited opportunities and remained the fantasy RB1 through eight games.

Latavius Murray had his standard 35.3 percent opportunity share in week nine and remains Kamara’s immediate backup.

Kansas City Chiefs

Week nine was the first competitive game since Le’Veon Bell’s arrival in Kansas City. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a 58.8 percent opportunity share to Bell’s 29.4 percent opportunity share. Edwards-Helaire rushed five times for 14 yards and a touchdown while Bell contributed four attempts and eight yards. Edwards-Helaire out-targeted Bell five to one and led the backfield with an 11.4 percent target share.

The Kansas City running game hasn’t impressed over the past four weeks but Edwards-Helaire appears to be establishing himself as the lead back going forward.

Las Vegas Raiders

Josh Jacobs remains the primary back in Las Vegas. In week nine, he had a 57.7 percent opportunity share (15th) on 14 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown. He caught his lone target for three yards. Jacobs finished as the fantasy RB10 but his opportunity share has fallen significantly from his 76.2 percent average over the first four weeks and he had a season-low 9.7 weighted opportunities. He’s still the RB10 in 2020 but week eight was Jacobs’ only game above a 70 percent opportunity share since week three.

Devontae Booker and Jalen Richard have been more involved since week five. They’ve combined for at least a 30 percent opportunity share in three of those four games. Booker and Richard had failed to eclipse a combined 30 percent opportunity share before week five. Fantasy managers would like to see their usage decrease to the 19.4 percent opportunity share they averaged over the first month of the season.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins had to patchwork their running back depth chart in week nine with Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida both out with injuries. Jordan Howard was the lead back after being a healthy scratch the previous three games. Howard had a 52.6 percent opportunity share rushing for only 19 yards on ten carries but did score his signature goal-line touchdown this week.

Newcomer and rookie Salvon Ahmed gained the most running back yards this week totaling 38 yards on seven touches. Ahmed is built like a receiving back at 5’11” and 197 pounds but only averaged 16.7 receptions per season in college while at Washington. He doesn’t project as a pass-catcher at the NFL level but did well running the ball for the Dolphins.

Patrick Laird had a nice gain on his only target of the day weaving his way for 17 yards but lost a yard on his lone rush attempt.

Most likely, the Dolphins backfield will remain a committee until Gaskin returns from his MCL injury with newly acquired DeAndre Washington possibly being added to the mix next week as well.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers’ backfield had been dominated by James Conner the previous two weeks after he averaged an 84.5 percent opportunity share the past two games. However, in a negative game-script in week nine, the Steelers abandoned the running game and had a season-low 21 running back opportunities. Conner’s lack of involvement in the passing game was odd because his week nine 4.4 percent target share was well below his season average of 9.3 percent.

Conner still had a 52.4 percent opportunity share on 9 attempts for 22 yards while catching both of his targets for negative two yards. He only scored 4.0 fantasy points and was the RB48 overall.

Anthony McFarland outscored Conner with 4.7 fantasy points on his 23.8 percent opportunity share. Benny Snell was third on the team with a 14.3 percent opportunity share on three carries for one yard.

Conner remains the lead back in Pittsburgh and should be a fringe RB1 down the stretch for fantasy managers.

Denver Broncos

Denver trailed from the onset of their matchup against the Falcons and this led to a negative game-script for the Broncos running backs. I had mentioned in last week’s article how Denver’s running back usage should be monitored after Phillip Lindsay continued to separate himself from an efficiency standpoint. It’s impossible to tell will shake out for the rest of the season, but for one game Denver flipped the script at running back in week nine.

Lindsay had a 52.4 percent opportunity share and 9.4 weighted opportunities compared to Melvin Gordon’s 33.3 percent opportunity share and 5.1 weighted opportunities. Lindsay gained 23 yards on eight attempts while Gordon rushed six times for eighteen yards.

Gordon had a 14.9 percent target share entering week nine, but even in catch-up mode, he was out-targeted by Lindsay three to one. Neither running back did much when given the chance this week but it’s worth noting the shift in opportunities after Linsday’s efficient play leading up to week nine.

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Jones was officially a game-time decision heading into Thursday Night Football with AJ Dillon and Jamaal Williams on the COVID-19 list. However, Aaron Jones didn’t appear to be hampered by his calf injury rushing 15 times for 58 yards and caught all five of his targets for 21 yards. Jones failed to score but fantasy managers welcomed his healthy return and 51.3 percent opportunity share. Jones finished as the fantasy RB12 and is a lock-in top fantasy option for the rest of the season.

Tyler Ervin filled-in admirably for Williams with eight attempts for 24 yards while catching four of five targets for 48 yards. Ervin ended the week as the RB20 in a down week for running back scoring. Williams will be ready for game action in week ten relegating Ervin back to third-string on the Packers’ depth chart while Dillon remains out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week nine did not go as planned for the Buccaneers in their blowout loss to the Saints on Sunday Night Football. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones both had a 50.0 percent opportunity share on a low-volume night overall for the Tampa Bay running backs. Fournette was more active in the receiving game than Jones giving him 10.1 weighted opportunities to Jones’ 8.1.

Fournette had only one rush attempt for zero yards but caught all six of his targets for 41 yards. Jones rushed three times for nine yards and caught three of four targets for nine yards. Fournette was more efficient on his touches scoring 1.7 fantasy points over expected while Jones underwhelmed scoring negative 5.3 fantasy points over expected.

Fantasy managers can’t use much from week nine for fantasy purposes but it does seem Fournette is the more valuable back going forward.

Baltimore Ravens

Mark Ingram was absent for the second week in a row and JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards split the opportunities almost evenly. Dobbins had a 48.3 percent opportunity share to Edwards’ 44.8 percent. Dobbins rushed for 30 yards on 12 carries and Edwards gained 23 yards and scored a touchdown on eleven attempts. Both running backs reeled in their two targets. Dobbins had five receiving yards while Edwards had eleven.

It was a difficult matchup against the Colts this week but the Ravens’ running game disappointed. Dobbins scored negative 3.5 fantasy points over expected and Edwards had negative 6.3 fantasy points over expected. The only takeaway this week is John Harbaugh appears content using a committee approach this season.

New England Patriots

The Patriots continue to use a running back by committee approach. Rex Burkhead had a 36.4 percent opportunity share, Damien Harris a 34.1 percent opportunity share, and James White, a 17.1 percent opportunity share. Burkhead had 11.7 weighted opportunities to Harris’ 8.1 and White’s 9.1 weighted opportunities. Harris did leave early in the second half with an injury which allowed for more opportunities for Burkhead down the stretch.

Before his injury, Harris continued to produce on the ground rushing for 71 yards on 14 attempts. Burkhead rushed 12 times for 56 yards and James White had two rushes for zero yards.

Burkhead and White were active in the passing game while Harris didn’t see a target for the second consecutive week. White caught four of five targets for 24 yards while Burkhead caught all three of his targets for eleven yards.

Burkhead’s rushing touchdown made him the fantasy RB8 on the week. The backfield will remain cloudy with Sony Michel set to return from the COVID-list and Harris returning to practice on Wednesday.

Seattle Seahawks

DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer split the running back opportunity in week nine. Both had a 45.0 percent opportunity share and performed well. Dallas rushed seven times for 31 yards and a score while catching two of three targets for eight yards. Homer gained 16 yards on the ground on six attempts but caught all three of his targets for 64 yards. Dallas finished as the fantasy RB18 and Homer as the fantasy RB21. Dallas scored 1.6 fantasy points over expected and Homer 3.9 fantasy points over expected. Solid performances for the Seahawks’ third and fourth-string running backs.

Pete Carroll said both Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde have resumed running and have a chance to suit up for week ten depending on how they handle ramping up their work in practice.

Next Man Up

Chase Edmonds, RB ARI

Fantasy managers didn’t quite get the Chase Edmonds Week they were promised but Edmonds had a 93.3 percent opportunity share and finished as the fantasy RB19. Edmonds rushed for 70 yards on 25 attempts and added three receptions for 18 yards through the air. Edmonds was third in the NFL this week in weighted opportunities with 19.3 but underperformed his volume by scoring negative 4.4 fantasy points over expected.

Kenyan Drake returned to practice on Wednesday and Edmonds could have missed his shot at taking over this backfield for the moment.

Duke Johnson, RB HOU

Duke Johnson was the next man up for the Texans after David Johnson suffered a concussion in week nine. Duke rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and caught all four of his targets for 32 yards. He had an 87.0 percent opportunity share (second) and finished as the fantasy RB9.

David Johnson remained in concussion protocol on Wednesday. Interim coach Romeo Crennel mentioned Johnson’s status is “up in the air” for week ten. Duke Johnson is a solid fantasy RB2 option if David Johnson misses week ten.

Jerick McKinnon, RB MIN

Kyle Shanahan flipped the running back usage script in week nine. After having a 28.0 percent opportunity share in week eight, McKinnon had a 69.6 percent opportunity share this week to finish as the fantasy RB7. McKinnon carried the ball 12 times for 52 yards and a touchdown while catching three of four targets for 16 yards.

JaMycal Hasty had a 52.0 percent opportunity share in week eight but took a back seat to McKinnon and had a 26.1 percent opportunity share this week. McKinnon most likely is the lead back in this backfield until Raheem Mostert returns from injury. Fantasy managers shouldn’t have a ton of confidence in this situation even though San Francisco running back touches have remained valuable despite all of their injuries on offense.

Medical Tent

Miles Sanders, RB PHI

Head coach Doug Pederson stated Sanders is on track to play week ten. Sanders has one of the better second-half schedules and could be an MVP-caliber running back for fantasy teams.

Nick Chubb, RB CLE

Chubb was designated to return from IR on activating his three-week window to return to game action. Head coach Kevin Stefanski said Chubb is progressing and will know his status for week ten on Friday according to Jake Trotter on Twitter.

Devonta Freeman, RB NYG

Freeman returned to practice last Thursday but was inactive for week nine. Fantasy managers will have to monitor injury reports this week to see if Freeman will be available as a fringe RB2 in week ten.

Joe Mixon, RB CIN

Mixon was officially limited in practice on Wednesday and working out on the side doing individual drills. This is another player fantasy managers will have to watch carefully on Friday to find out his status heading into a difficult matchup against the Steelers.

Mark Ingram, RB BAL

Head coach John Harbaugh indicated Ingram could potentially return this week according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

This wraps up the RB Opportunity Share Report for week nine. The stats used in this article can be found in my free spreadsheet here. Thank you to ESPN.com, Rotoviz.com, Football Outsiders, NFLGSIS.com, and Pro-Football-Reference.com for the stats and information provided in this article.

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*Some sites use only running back carries instead of non-quarterback carries. Due to an increased number of designed wide receiver and tight end runs in today’s NFL non-running back carries presents a more complete picture of a running back’s opportunity. If there was a better and more readily available stat for quarterback designed runs they would be included as well.

Running Back Opportunity Share Report: Week Nine
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Gregory Massa
1 year ago

No thoughts on Indy? Heheh…oy..

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