RBBC Breakdown: Week 12
Welcome to the party, Jonathan Taylor! If you missed it, the Colts back put up the best PPR outing of the 2021 season against what had been a stifling Bills defense. Austin Ekeler also put up great numbers in Week 11 while scoring four times. Unfortunately, most fantasy owners had to deal with the vast majority of disappointing rushers. These owners are who need to keep reading as we dive into how to find value in these ambiguous backfields.
Before we jump into the numbers a quick note about the data: The data that I use is populated by the Snap Counts page from FantasyData. I then take this raw data and calculate not just whether an RB was on the field but if they were being used and how many offensive plays they commanded. Looking back at the entire season of 2020 (you can find old RBBC Reviews on my profile page), the two stats that I include and lean on heavily, % of Offense and Plays Used, were more correlated with season-long PPR points than Snaps and Snap %. For example, 94% of end-of-year fantasy points can be explained by the number of plays that a player is used – when a player is actually used more it results in more fantasy points. So, if a player is being used on a lot of plays but isn’t producing fantasy points yet, there is a likelihood that he will regress to the mean in future games and produce more fantasy points.
The rushers highlighted in blue have made up over 30% of their teams’ offense, and those highlighted in green have over 25%. Only three backs made their way into the top-15 in PPR points scored without meeting this 25% of offense threshold. James Conner has split the backfield with Chase Edmonds until injury benched Edmonds. Since Edmonds left with injury in Week 9, James Conner has seen over 30% of the Cardinals offense. James Robinson barely misses the cut and would if you remove the week he was injured (Week 8) from the calculation. Cordarrell Patterson is the one true exception as he has been electric with the ball in his hands and has not needed the 25% of the offense to put up points. The only backs meeting the 25% offense mark not in the top-20 in PPR points scored have missed significant time due to injury.
Week 11 Rewind
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are a staple in the Running Back By Committee (RBBC) conversation and Week 12 will be no different. Last week’s article questioned what would happen to Rhamondre Stevenson’s usage with Damien Harris returning to the lineup. The answer was a near-even split in plays used and neither Stevenson nor Harris producing a worthwhile fantasy day. The most telling statistic from the Patriots Thursday night game was Harris out touching Stevenson seven to three in the first half when the game was only 13-0. Stevenson finished the game out touching Harris 13 to 11 with both backs looking good against a weak Falcons defense. Week 12 the Patriots take on the floundering Titans and another blowout could be on the agenda. That makes both Harris and Stevenson playable as flex options with the hope that one of them is able to punch in a touchdown. Neither can be started as RB2 or better if they continue to poach touches from each other.
The return of Latavius Murray led to some anxiety for Devonta Freeman owners. However, Freeman was the clear go-to back for the Ravens in Week 11. The easy matchup against the woeful Bears could have led to the Ravens easing Murray back a little more gently. Week 12 the Ravens will match up against the Cleveland Browns and Murray and Freeman can be expected to be used as more of a tandem. The Ravens are a run-heavy team that can support multiple runners for fantasy. It will be difficult for another 20 point outing from Freeman or Murray with both backs getting significant snaps. However, both backs have a 10-point floor making that them a relatively safe flex play.
The Browns have been bitten hard by the injury bug especially at the running back position. However, Kareem Hunt is targeting a Week 12 return. This could be the first time the top two backs for the Browns are healthy since Week 5 (when both RBs topped 24 PPR points). This news is great for Hunt managers but means that D’Ernest Johnson managers will most likely be dropping Johnson to the waiver wire. Johnson is worth a hold if roster limits allow it but with both Hunt and Nick Chubb healthy, there will be very little work left over for him. Whenever both Chubb and Hunt are healthy they should be on starting rosters. Week 12’s matchup against the Ravens should lend itself to both Chubb and Hunt having a decent outing in the RB2 to Flex range.
Kansas City Chiefs
First of all, the Chiefs are on bye Week 12. However, they are going into their bye with some decisions to make. Week 11 saw the return of Clyde Edwards-Helaire who immediately reclaimed the lead back duties from Darrel Williams who had been a reliable replacement. The Cowboys didn’t put up much of a fight offensively in Week 11 so there wasn’t the need to involve Williams in the passing game, where he had been most valuable. The Chiefs remaining schedule includes teams that have struggled to put up points consistently (like the Broncos who they play Week 13 when they come back from bye). Both Edwards-Helaire and Williams will be difficult to trust moving forward based on their history of up-and-down fantasy production yet both rushers can be worked into lineups as Flex plays and even reluctantly as RB2s depending on roster construction and matchup.
Other Backfields to Watch
- Philadelphia – Miles Sanders returned, but all rushers failed to score PPR points to satisfy fantasy managers. His over 20% of offense is inspiring as the Eagles have remembered how to run the ball. An injury to Jordan Howard could help Sanders finally return some of his draft value as fantasy teams make their push for the playoffs.
- Seattle – The Seahawks can be painful the watch but with the news that Chris Carson needs a disk fused in his neck, the door is still wide open. The issue is none of the running backs seem to be able or willing to meet the challenge in a way that is going to help fantasy managers. But we will keep watching to see if someone finally makes it click.
- San Fran – Jeff Wilson got the usage (30% of the team’s offense) but wasn’t able to turn it into fantasy goodness. The possible return of Elijah Mitchell adds more intrigue to a backfield that is typically difficult to prognosticate. I’ll be starting some of these backs simply because I need to not because I want to start them!
That is all for this edition of the RBBC Breakdown! Be sure to check back next week and follow me on Twitter for extra data on these backfields and much more. Till next time, catch you on the flip side…
When Seth was staying home to care for his newborn twin boys, he decided to take his passion for football and fifteen years of fantasy football experience to the next level. This was the birth of “the at-home dad”. For the past five years, Seth has been writing and podcasting about all aspects of football. He writes the weekly RBBC article as well as being a co-host of the Fantasy FAQs podcast.