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Running Back Opportunity Share Report: Championship Edition

Which players have been receiving the most volume in the backfield ahead of championship Sunday?

David Montgomery

Welcome back to the Running Back Opportunity Share Report, a weekly series examining how teams are utilizing 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.

This week is a Championship Edition. Instead of looking at all of the running backs across the NFL, this article will only look at running backs who have a guaranteed volume heading into their championship week or are stepping in for an injured running back.

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: David Montgomery, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones, JD McKissic, Josh Jacobs, Jonathan Taylor, David Johnson, and Derrick Henry

Next Man Up: Benny Snell, Giovani Bernard, Leonard Fournette, Tony Pollard, Le’Veon Bell, and Wayne Gallman.

David Montgomery, RB CHI

In the three games since returning from injury, Montgomery is averaging 25.6 fantasy PPG. He’s been incredibly consistent finishing no lower than the RB6 and his lowest output was 24.5 fantasy points in week 14. His volume hasn’t dramatically increased either. He’s averaged 14.2 expected points and 15.0 weighed opportunities. His involvement in the offense had decreased slightly and in weeks 13 and 14 his opportunity share had fallen to 65.4 percent.

The key in the previous three weeks has been Montgomery’s efficiency. He’s scored four touchdowns in his last three games and while averaging 11.4 fantasy points over expected (FPOE). He’s also been efficient within the offense averaging 2.11 scrimmage yards per play since his injury.

His volume changed drastically in week 15. He had an opportunity share of 94.4 percent (first) on 32 attempts for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He caught one of two targets for an additional 16 yards in the receiving game. He had season-highs in weighted opportunities (21.7) and expected points (26.3). His 26.3 expected points were the fifth-most by a running back in 2020. He remained efficient as well scoring 2.9 FPOE and gained 2.53 scrimmage yards per team play.

It’s worth noting he has had a dream schedule the last month but it continues during championship week against the Jaguars. Jacksonville gives up the third-most fantasy points to running backs. If Montgomery capitalizes on his opportunity this week, he should be a finalist for fantasy-MVP.

Dalvin Cook, RB MIN

In week 15 Cook faced the Bears who had given up the sixth-fewest points to running backs heading into the game. The Bears’ defense couldn’t slow him down as went on to score 26.3 fantasy points and finished as the fantasy RB3. He had a 93.5 percent opportunity share (second) on 24 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown. He caught all five of his targets for 27 receiving yards. After his 26.3 expected points in week 15, he now leads all running backs on the season with 276.3 expected points. He also leads the NFL in weighted opportunities per game with 19.6.

Even up against a challenging defense in week 15 Cook was able to maintain his efficiency. He scored 0.6 FPOE and had 2.34 scrimmage yards per play (third).

Miles Sanders, RB PHI

The good news for Sanders’ fantasy managers is he appears to have regained his bellcow workload after averaging an 84.2 percent opportunity share the last two weeks. Unfortunately, he was unable to follow up his 29.6 fantasy points from week 15 this week against the Cardinals. He finished as the RB29 on 17 carries for 64 yards and caught one of two targets for 26 yards.

His 13.0 weighted opportunities and 14.4 expected points were in-line with his season average but he was unable to score or be featured in the passing game. As a result, he scored -4.4 FPOE and disappointed in his semifinal matchups.

Next up are the Dallas Cowboys for Sanders and the Eagles. Dallas allows the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs and presents a solid lineup option for fantasy managers in their championship matchups.

Aaron Jones, RB GB

Jamaal Williams left early with an injury in week 15 and Jones’ managers were finally able to enjoy a game in which Jones had a worthy opportunity share. Jones had an an85.7 percent opportunity share (fourth) on 20 attempts for 145 yards and a touchdown. He caught three of four targets for 13 yards. Not only was his opportunity share a season-high but it was well above his 59.3 percent opportunity share he was averaging heading into the week. His 20 attempts were also his highest carry total this season.

Jones’ 18.0 weighted opportunities were the most he’s had since week two and slightly above his season average of 15.8 weighted opportunities per game. Jones had 15.3 expected fantasy points which were surprisingly slightly below his season average of 16.0 expected points per game.

Jones is eighth this season in FPOE and his 9.5 FPOE trailed only Melvin Gordon’s 10.6 in week 15. He led all running backs this week with 2.55 scrimmage yards per play on his way to 24.8 fantasy points and an RB6 finish.

He has another juicy matchup this week against the Tennessee Titans who give up the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs. Williams missed practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Jones has an excellent opportunity to smash during championship week.

JD McKissic, RB WAS

The 2020 NFL season has been full of surprises but a week 15 JD McKissic opportunity share of 82.1 percent might take the cake. McKissic rushed 14 times for 51 yards and had a target share of 19.2 percent catching nine of ten targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. He’s now tied with Alvin Kamara for the most double-digit target games this season with four.

McKissic’s 23.4 weighted opportunities marked the third time this season he’s had at least 20 weighted opportunities and his 24.7 expected points was the fourth time he’s had at least 20 expected points.

Not only was the volume there for him this week but he was efficient with it as well. He scored 1.0 FPOE and it’s only the second time this season he’s had positive FPOE. On the season he’s second to last in FPOE and his -39.6 FPOE are more than only Ezekiel Elliott’s -42.1 FPOE. McKissic’s 0.87 scrimmage yards per play is another efficiency red flag. His inability to gain yards despite his substantial opportunities is a clear signal McKissic’s play has been at or below replacement level this season.

None of this should matter this week as he’s home against the Panthers. The Panthers give up the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs and present an opportunity for McKissic to follow up his RB4 performance from week 15. However, Antonio Gibson did get in a limited practice on Wednesday which could drastically change things in the Washington backfield. Fantasy managers need to monitor this situation as the week progresses.

Josh Jacobs, RB LV

Jacobs had the most volume he’s seen since all the way back in week two and he still wasn’t able to finish as a top-12 running back. Jacobs had a 78.4 percent opportunity share on 26 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown. He did have his most productive day in the receiving game since week one catching all three of his targets for 38 yards.

Week 15 was the week fantasy managers expected from Jacobs heading into the season. His 19.9 weighted opportunities were well above his 15.8 average this season and his 27.8 expected points were well above his 15.9 average as well. Even with his three reception, he was still relatively efficient given his volume scoring -7.4 FPOE. He was more efficient within the context of the Raiders’ offense as whole gaining 1.50 scrimmage yards per play.

Cam Akers, RB LAR

Akers sustained an ankle injury in the first half of his week 15 matchup against the Jets and has already been ruled out for week 16 by head coach Sean McVay. Akers had averaged a 78.6 percent opportunity share, 16.3 weighted opportunities, 17.4 expected points, and 15.0 PPG over his last three games. Fantasy managers counting on him for their championship matchups will be disappointed but Akers has established himself as a top-15 dynasty running back heading into the off-season.

James Robinson, RB JAC

One of the red flags for James Robinson in 2020 has always been that he’s played for the Jaguars. He’s overcome negative game script continuously on a one-wine team. Sadly, he’s been unable to do so in the fantasy playoffs. In week 15 he had a 76.0 percent opportunity share (eleventh) and managed 35 yards on 16 attempts. He did catch all of his targets for 18 yards and a touchdown to save his fantasy day.

Despite his poor team situation, Robinson has only finished outside the top-24 twice and has scored double-digit fantasy points every week this season. Dalvin Cook is the only other running back to have double-digit fantasy points in every game this season.

Due to the negative game script, he was well below his season averages of 17.0 weighted opportunities and 15.8 expected points. He finished the week with 14.1 weighted opportunities and 12.9 expected points. Despite an uphill battle he still remained efficient scoring 1.4 FPOE and ranks seventh overall in FPOE in 2020.

Week 16 isn’t any easier as the Jaguars play the Bears but unfortunately, Robinson was injured in week 15 and will miss the game.

Frank Gore, NYJ

Gore had his second-highest opportunity share of the season at 72.7 percent (12th). He rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown on 23 attempts against a stingy Rams defense. He reeled in his lone target for six yards through the air as well.

Gore’s 14.9 weighted opportunities and 20.2 expected points epitomize the limited upside his two-down grinder role on the Jets has been this season. He underperformed his opportunity scoring -6.7 FPOE.

Gore faces Cleveland and their solid run defense in week 16. The Browns allow the tenth-fewest points to running backs this season and should limit his upside. Fantasy managers looking for a championship trophy should look for running back help elsewhere unless they need a safe, five fantasy point floor in their lineups.

Jonathan Taylor, RB IND

Taylor had his highest opportunity share this season in week 15 at 72.4 percent. He had 16 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown while securing four of five targets for a 17.2 percent target share and 12 receiving yards. His 19.5 fantasy points propelled him to an RB15 finish this week.

A popular narrative involving Taylor has been the Colts have finally handed the backfield reigns over to him over his last four games. However, this isn’t necessarily true. He had a two-game dip in weeks nine and ten with under 10 weighted opportunities. Outside of those two games, week three was his only other week with under ten weighted opportunities. He averaged 11.5 weighted opportunities through week ten with those two down games included. Since then his weighted opportunities have increased to an average of 15.9 weighted opportunities per game. The narrative Taylor just started getting volume the last month is inaccurate and focuses too closely on his two-game, mid-season dip.

His late-season surge has also been closely tied to his touchdown production. He scored four touchdowns over his first nine games. In his last four games, he’s averaging a touchdown per game. This has contributed to his 25.7 FPOE over his previous four games.

Up next for Taylor are the Steelers. Pittsburgh gives up the fewest fantasy points to running backs and presents a true test. He’s faced the Texans twice and the Raiders in his last three games. If he still puts up top-12 numbers in week 16, Taylor will probably be a consensus top-five dynasty running back this off-season.

David Johnson, RB HOU

It’s disappointing the Texans needed until week 15 to realize Johnson is at his best catching the ball out of the backfield. This week he almost tripled his season-high in targets, more than doubled his best single-game target share, and almost tripled his season-high in receiving yards. He had a 70.4 percent opportunity share while rushing for 27 yards on eight attempts. He was finally featured in the passing game catching all eleven of his targets for 106 yards and a 28.9 percent target share.

Johnson’s 22.1 weighted opportunities and 20.0 expected points were significant increases from his season averages of 12.4 weighted opportunities and 12.6 expected points. Johnson was efficient with his targets scoring 4.3 FPOE and gaining 9.6 yards per reception.

His 24.3 fantasy points were the first time he eclipsed the 20 fantasy points threshold and gave him his best weekly finish as the RB7.

He has an opportunity to provide fantasy managers with an encore performance against the Bengals in week 16. Regrettably, Cincinnati allows the second-fewest targets to running backs and the 12th-fewest points to running backs this season. The opportunity should be there for fantasy managers, however, if Johnson isn’t targeted heavily in the passing game his upside is extremely low.

Derrick Henry, RB TEN

Henry’s drive to win fantasy championships continued in week 15. He had a 70.3 percent opportunity share on 24 carries for 147 yards and a touchdown. He secured both of his targets for five additional receiving yards. His 25.2 fantasy points were the sixth time this season he’s eclipsed 20 fantasy points and his fantasy RB5 performance was his eighth top-12 finish this season.

The 26 touches he commanded in week 15 mirror the 24.2 touches he’s averaged this season. His 17.1 weighted opportunities and 17.9 expected points mimic his season averages of 16.8 weighted opportunities and 17.5 expected points. He remained efficient even with his heavy workload scoring 7.3 FPOE which was well above his weekly average of 2.9 FPOE.

Henry meets the Packers in week 16. Green Bay allows the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. Fantasy managers up against Henry this week need to hope Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams can stake the Packers to a big lead early forcing the Titans to abandon their run-heavy gameplan. A lot of fantasy championships will be decided by Henry’s performance in week 16.

Chris Carson, RB SEA

Outside of injury, Carson underperformed for the first time in 2020 in week 15. He had a 69.2 percent opportunity share well above his average 60.6 opportunity share this season in games he’s been healthy. He rushed for 63 yards on 15 attempts and had his most disappointing game receiving this season catching two of three targets for only six yards. His 8.9 fantasy points were a season-low in games he didn’t leave with an injury and his RB34 finish was a low-point as well.

His 13.5 weighted opportunities were slightly below his weekly average of 14.0 but his 11.4 expected were well below his 14.1 expected points per game. This was because his 3.9 receiving expected points were almost half of his season average of 6.5 receiving expected points per game. His -2.5 FPOE was only the third time he’s had a negative FPOE this season. All three games were the only games this season he’s failed to score a touchdown.

In week 15 Carson had a difficult matchup against Washington who give up the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs. This week he faces the Rams who allow the sixth-fewest points to running backs. Carson is a risky, low-end RB2 option for fantasy managers in their championship contests.

Alvin Kamara, RB NO

Heading into week 15, fantasy managers were expecting 25+ plus targets for Kamara with Michael Thomas on IR and with the return of Drew Brees. He didn’t quite live up to those heights but he had a solid game. He had a healthy 68.0 opportunity share in a game where the Saints struggled for much of the first half. He rushed for 54 yards on eleven attempts while catching three of six targets for 40 yards and a touchdown. His 18.2 percent target share was well below his 26.1 percent average in games with Brees this season. Kamara finished the day with 18.4 fantasy points and as the fantasy RB16.

The volume wasn’t quite there for Kamara in week 15. His 15.9 weighted opportunities and 18.5 expected points were slightly below his 18.6 weighted opportunities and 18.5 expected points weekly averages. Even with a minor dip in volume, he was efficient with his opportunities scoring 5.0 FPOE.

D’Andre Swift, RB DET

Week 15 was a rocky start for Swift after he fumbled on a second-quarter goal-line carry. He quickly recovered and had a 66.7 percent opportunity share on 15 carries for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Swift hauled in four of five targets for a 13.5 percent target share and 15 receiving yards. He finished week 15 as the fantasy RB10 with 22.2 fantasy points.

Swift’s 16.7 weighted opportunities and 20.2 expected points were his second-highest total this season. Additionally, they were decidedly higher than his weekly average of 11.5 average weighted opportunities and 12.1 expected points. He was efficient with his opportunities scoring 4.0 FPOE.

Austin Ekeler, RB LAC

Ekeler had his lowest opportunity share of 58.6 percent since returning from his hamstring injury back in week 12. He rushed for 60 yards on 13 attempts while catching all four of his targets for 19 yards. His 12.5 percent target share was also his lowest percentage of team targets since returning from his injury. He finished as the fantasy RB27 with 11.9 fantasy points.

Against the Raiders and their fourth-friendliest defense to running backs Ekeler’s volume wasn’t what it has been this season. His 13.9 weighted opportunities and 12.8 expected points dropped off notably from his weekly seasonal averages of 21.4 weighted opportunities and 18.6 expected points. His lone touchdown this season after having a nose for the endzone in previous seasons has prevented him from reaching his fantasy ceiling.

Ekeler will suit up against the Broncos this week and their eleventh-friendliest defense to running backs. Fantasy managers will rely on his playmaking ability and 9.3 receiving expected points per game to help them take down their fantasy championships in week 16.

Nick Chubb, RB CLE

Chubb was held in check in week 15 by the Giants and he could only turn his 54.8 percent opportunity share into 50 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He did catch both of his targets for his 16 yards. He had his third-lowest fantasy point output this season of 14.6 to go along with his fantasy RB21 finish overall.

Usually with running backs of Chubb’s caliber fault to meet expectations because they didn’t have the volume they typically get each week. This wasn’t the case this week as his 11.9 weighted opportunities and 14.9 expected points were close to his normal workload. As a result, he had his first game this season in which he had negative FPOE with -0.3.

The Browns face the Jets this week. New York is an average opponent for fantasy running backs giving up the 17th-most fantasy points to the position. Fantasy managers will need one of Chubb’s better performances if are going to be able to compete with the other premium running backs who have great matchups in week 16.

JK Dobbins, RB BAL

Dobbins appears locked into his 50.0% opportunity share he had in week 15. Since the Ravens bye week in week seven, he’s averaged a 50.0% opportunity share. Much to the disappointment of fantasy managers, half of the running back opportunities in Baltimore translates to 9.1 weighted opportunities per week. Dobbins had 9.7 weighted opportunities and 11.2 expected points this week and that’s in line with his workload this season.

He has been one of the most efficient backs this season given his volume and role within the Ravens’ offense. He’s being targeted less than twice per game and averaging ten touches per game but he’s eighth among running backs in FPOE with 26.5. Dynasty managers looking ahead to next season should this as a sign of positive things to come in an expanded role next season.

In week 15, Dobbins was able to score a touchdown on 81 scrimmage yards to give him 15.1 fantasy points and an RB19 overall finish. Over his last four games, he’s finished as a top-24 fantasy back despite a lack of opportunities.

He gets a Giants team that held Cleveland’s dynamic backfield in check last week. Dobbins is a solid RB2 option for fantasy managers this week.

Melvin Gordon, RB DEN

Gordon has been the back to roster in Denver this season and it continued in week 15. He had a 50.0 percent opportunity share on eleven carries for 61 yards and two touchdowns. He’s eclipsed a ten percent target share in back to back games with a 12.5 percent share in week 15. He caught all four of his targets for 20 yards. He finished as a top-12 back for the third time this season and had 24.1 fantasy points.

He’s consistently averaged 12.3 weighted opportunities the last three weeks along with 13.8 expected points. Gordon is getting the volume requisite for top-24 running back production. He faces the Chargers who give up the 12th-most fantasy points to running backs and should be a viable option this week.

Next Man Up

Benny Snell, RB PIT

Snell stepped in for James Conner against the Bengals last week and put up a fantasy RB14 performance on 19.7 fantasy points. He had an impressive 81.5 percent opportunity share on 18 attempts for 84 yards and a touchdown while catching three of four targets for 23 yards.

His 16.8 weighted opportunities and 16.2 expected points demonstrate how much faith the coaching staff in Pittsburgh has in Snell. Conner is questionable to play this week and is a solid flex-option against a solid Colts defense. His 10.5 target share in week 15 is an added dimension to his game that could provide dividends for fantasy managers.

Giovani Bernard, RB CIN

After fumbling and only having a 17.6 percent opportunity share, Bernard responded in a big way. He had an 81.3 percent opportunity share, his fourth game over 70%, on 25 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers. He also caught a 14-yard touchdown on his only target of the game. His RB9 finish and 22.7 fantasy points were unexpected against the toughest defense against fantasy running backs.

His 16.1 weighted opportunities were a season-best while his 14.3 expected points were only slightly higher than his weekly average since Joe Mixon’s foot injury.

After his impressive week 15, Bernard gets an ideal matchup in the Texans in week 16. The Texans allow the second-most fantasy points to running backs and should make him a very attractive option for fantasy lineups in week 16.

Leonard Fournette, RB TB

Ronald Jones is out again in week 16 making Fournette a must-start against the Lions. Detroit allows the most fantasy points to running backs this season. Last week he had a season-high opportunity share of 76.0 percent after being a healthy scratch in week 14. He rushed 14 times for 49 yards and two touchdowns. He caught three of five targets for an 11.6 percent target share and 16 additional yards through the air.

Tony Pollard, RB DAL

Pollard had the best running back performance in Dallas this season in week 15. He had a 72.4 percent opportunity share, 21.3 weighted opportunities, and 24.2 expected points. He delivered in both the running and receiving game. He rushed for 69 yards and two touchdowns on twelve attempts but caught six of nine targets for a 27.3 percent target share and 63 receiving yards.

Since Dak went down with an injury Pollard has looked like the better back but in a much smaller role than Elliott. Zeke should be back from his injury in week 16 and fantasy managers should expect at least a 50-50 timeshare in the Dallas backfield. They play the Eagles in week 16 who give up the tenth-fewest points to running backs. If fantasy managers need to play a running back this week Pollard has the highest ceiling, while Zeke might have a slightly higher-touch floor.

Le’Veon Bell, RB KC

Clyde Edwards-Helaire left week 15 with an injury and will be unavailable for fantasy championships. In week 13 when Edwards-Helaire didn’t register a snap Bell had a 60.9 percent opportunity share. Fantasy managers should expect a similar role in week 16 for Bell.

Kansas City plays the Falcons in week 16 and they give up the seventh-fewest points to fantasy running backs this season. They allow slightly more targets to running backs than the league average but fantasy managers should look for other options at running back this week.

Wayne Gallman, RB NYG

Gallman has cooled off the last three weeks after averaging 16.3 fantasy points from weeks 7-12. In week 15 his opportunity share fell to 40.9 percent after averaging a 60.9 percent opportunity share in his previous seven games. Additionally, his weighted opportunities and expected points fell to their lowest levels in week 15 since taking over the Giants’ backfield in week seven.

The Giants face the Ravens this week who give up the 14th-most points to fantasy running backs. Even with his average matchup, Gallman’s lack of volume last week makes him too risky for fantasy managers to trust him in week 16. They should look elsewhere for a flex option this week.

This concludes the RB Opportunity Share Report for week 16. The stats used in this article can be found in my free spreadsheet here. Thank you to ESPN, Rotoviz, Football Outsiders, NFLGSIS.com, Sharp Football Stats, and Player Profiler for the stats and information provided in this article. The Dynasty League Football Fantasy Points Against APP provided all of the fantasy points against data found in this article. Thank you for reading this week. I hope everyone enjoys the holidays with many league championship trophies sprinkled in.

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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: Championship Edition
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mike fredrickson
1 year ago

Next man up, Jeff Wilson BANG!!

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