Nov 06

Touches and Targets Week 9: Running Backs

The final numbers tell one part of the story, but fantasy football is a game of volume. Knowing any given week who is going to get the looks, and in what situations those looks are coming, can help you make important lineup decisions – touches and targets on a weekly basis play as big a role as the name on the back of the jersey. With that in mind let’s take a look back at workloads from this past weekend and start thinking forward to who may find themselves in a more favorable situation in Week 8. This post takes a look at Running Backs; we addressed the touches and targets for Wide Receivers and Tight Ends in a previous article.

Running Back Touches Week 9

  • Chris Johnson was in vintage form this weekend – his quick, short strides looked great on tape, particularly getting to the outside for his 19 yard score late. Johnson had 27 touches while Shonn Greene was worked into the game plan. Some of those 27 were likely the result of a hot hand situation and you may see more than 10 (think 12-13) on a typical week for Greene but this remains CJ’s backfield. Greene was productive in 15 snaps (that brought with them 10 touches and 66 yards) in his first full workload back from injury.
Rams tailback Zac Stacy has the build of someone who can take a beating. It's a good thing, because that seems to be the plan in St. Louis (Photo: Reuters).

Rams tailback Zac Stacy has the build of someone who can take a beating. It’s a good thing, because that seems to be the plan in St. Louis (Photo: Reuters).

  • Daryl Richardson was declared inactive on gameday, so, that clearly led to a change in carry distribution for St. Louis but no one could have expected a 33 touch outing from Zac Stacy coming off a short week with a bum ankle. Still, that’s what we got… and the Titans got a world full of hurt. Stacy topped 130 yards rushing for the second straight week and has had 60 touches during that span. He’s a horse in a Kellen Clemens led offense. Take note though, that if you’re trying to cash a lottery ticket in the event of a potential Stacy injury (rookie rusher, big workload) it’s not going to be won on Isaiah Pead. He was inactive despite Richardson’s change in status.
  • Danny Woodhead was San Diego’s best weapon not named Keenan Allen this week, posting 98 total yards including a 9/11/77 receiving line so I understand why the team turned to him in a game they were trailing late. Also, as a very occasional Ryan Mathews owner (he’s a bench/flex player in my league of record) I can’t complain about his role in the offense – he did more than most of us expected in San Diego’s last two games (both while leading). I just don’t understand why the team went away from him so quickly, though. He had seven carries – most of them in the first quarter – and was a productive runner netting 34 yards. To my eyes, the team’s unwillingness to use Mathews (or Woodhead, even) late in the game on the goalline with a timeout in hand is what ultimately cost them the win this week.
  • Alfred Morris had 25 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown. If that was all I told you about his day, you’d think it was a very nice fantasy outing. However as a community fantasy owners are a greedy group and are disappointed that Darrel Young vultured three TDs. Indeed, Young scored three touchdowns from the goal line on five carries. If it helps, in this week’s Sunday Scene Andy Behrens shares the opinion that it was a result of San Diego’s inability to stop his straight forward plunges, rather than another man joining the pecking order. Don’t let those TDs scare you off – they take away from Morris’ ceiling but they do nothing to change his current value… he’s still getting plenty of work. 
  • Green Bay said they were going to try to bring Eddie Lacy‘s touches down a bit and they did so relative to his last few weeks, but he still posted 150 yards on 22 touches. He’ll have plenty of work to sustain top 12 fantasy RB numbers the rest of the way. He averaged 4.64 yards after contact this week, notable given that he was facing some heavily stacked boxes with Seneca Wallace in the game. James Starks only had six carries this week, but he’s nearing the top of the backup pile the way he’s running the ball and with guaranteed work coming his way. Rodgers’ injury will limit Starks’ potential more than Lacy’st though, given that the Packers may not have as many ‘close out’ opportunities with their starter on the shelf.
  • Mike James saw a workload no one expected (because no one expected Tampa to keep it close) and posted 166 total yards on a massive 30 touches. He’s going to continue to get work and is impressing since taking over for Doug Martin, but, the bigger concern may be the Seahawks run D. When you factor in the 68 yards they yielded to Brian Leonard on nine touches and last week’s outing against the Zac Stacy led Rams the Seahawks have actually been very generous to RBs in recent weeks.
  • Stevan Ridley stayed on the field despite losing a fumble and wound up with 29 touches for New England, topping 100 total yards and scoring twice. Brandon Bolden played in 16 snaps for New England and carried the ball three times, very effectively, but he didn’t see a pass target and was behind LeGarette Blount on the depth chart. With Shane Vereen on the way back, it might be telling that he was given the ball so infrequently.
  • Le’Veon Bell hit 20 touches (on the nose) for the first time since his debut. He’s always had healthy workloads, but it was impressive to see that Ben Roethlisberger targeted him nine times in a game where the Steelers were trailing.
  • Indianapolis didn’t get a chance to run much, given that the game was tilted heavily toward Houston early, but, it’s worth noting that Trent Richardson out-touched Donald Brown 10-6. He had a poor per carry average, as is becoming typical, but did have a nice catch and run on the way to 53 total yards on ten touches.
  • For the second straight game Arian Foster tricked his owners into thinking he was ready to roll. He participated in just two snaps before checking out, leaving Ben Tate to shoulder the load with four broken ribs. We can’t speak much to Foster, if he’s playing, you want him in the lineup. Of interest, in relief of Tate, Dennis Johnson picked up 13 snaps and eight effective carries for the Texans.
  • With seven carries, Michael Bush received his second biggest workload of the season, but it didn’t come at the expense of Matt Forte who had a huge game with 129 total yards on 29 touches.
  • Marshawn Lynch is one of the easiest ‘set it and forget it’ lineup plays you’ll find. So much for any injury concern, he picked up 25 touches for 141 total yards.
  • Ray Rice saw 70% of Baltimore’s snaps this week with Bernard Pierce being involved in the other 30 (they were never on the field together) and that split has been fairly consistent all season. Pierce hasn’t run very well either, behind an offensive line that Pro Football Focus grades as the 4th worst blocking for the run on the season, but if it was my team, I’d start to shift those numbers closer to 50/50. Whether it is wear and tear, or the line entirely, Rice’s lack production is tough to explain at this point. This week he had 14 touches for 38 yards, Vonta Leach picked up one carry for two yards and led the team in average.
  • Chris Ogbonnaya started for Cleveland at Fullback (where he played before the Richardson deal) with Fozzy Whittaker on the field at the HB position. Still, it was Willis McGahee who played the most snaps and carried the ball 21 times on his 31 plays… for 31 yards. Ogbonnaya is a PPR player of interest (6 targets, 5 catches), even if he continues to draw time at FB, but, the rest of the run game is avoidable.
  • A week after we’d all but buried Steven Jackson – which would have been fine, because he was running like a zombie – he put together a pretty good week, averaging 4.75 yards per touch (on 13 carries and three receptions) and having a 13.6 point fantasy day taken away via a holding penalty. With six receptions on six targets Jacquizz Rodgers maintains some flex appeal, particularly in PPR settings but Jason Snelling is off the radar, he played just two snaps after not getting on the field at all in Week 8.
  • In Jonathan Stewart‘s return to action for Carolina things played out just as you would expect. He participated in ten fewer snaps than Deangelo Williams (29-19) and had two fewer touches (15-13) but delivered the most total yards (65) of any of Carolina’s backs. His 12 touches seemed to impact Williams the most as Mike Tolbert came in with 10 of his own and played the most snaps of any of the trio. Knowing that Tolbert is going to be getting the goal line work (he scored again this week) he’s probably the most attractive of the bunch moving forward… which means that none of them are all that attractive as RB2 plays.
  • Adrian Peterson had as many carries this week (25) as he had the two games prior (26) and delivered the Adrian Peterson like result you’d expect when he’s a focal part of their attack. His owners are hopeful that the Vikings are going to be able to stick with the run moving forward, but, they aren’t in every game like they were with Dallas this week.
  • <rant> I know that DeMarco Murray was dinged up in this game and was in his first game back from injury but he played 40 of 66 snaps so it isn’t as if the Cowboys were keeping him on ice all game. His four carries are inexcusable, particularly when watching the game and seeing him have his way running through the Vikings defensive front.</rant>
  • Darren Sproles exited for the Saints after just two snaps so it’s hard to say what his use was going to look like a week after picking up just four touches. In his absence, it’s interesting to note that Pierre Thomas saw 10 targets catching seven balls. Meanwhile, Mark Ingram returned but played just 15 snaps. He doesn’t have any immediate value, but he’s killed any of Khiry Robinson‘s, who didn’t see the field this week.
  • Christopher Ivory started and doubled up Bilal Powell with 18 carries to nine, but, it’s worth noting that Powell actually played 33 snaps to Ivory’s 30 despite the score. Ivory is the back to own, moving forward, in my opinion but his upside is curtailed by the presence of Powell… particularly in games that get out of hand in favor of the opponent.
  • The Bills did a very good job defending Jamaal Charles as a receiver this week which is what a) kept the Chiefs offense in check and b) kept Charles under 100 total yards for the first time this year. He had 23 touches and was productive as a rusher, but, with just six yards on six catches (seven targets) he was barely a factor as a receiver. Charles has been held to 23 yards as a receiver once, and 37 twice, but this is by far his lowest mark on the season. Credit the Bills, and particularly standout rookie LB Kiko Alonso who made two tackles on Charles as a pass catcher, for -2 yards.
  • After a week off CJ Spiller participated in just 28% of Buffalo’s snaps this week, but, he looked like an entirely different runner. Fred Jackson continues to produce (99 yards on 18 touches) but Spiller’s 155 total yards is the story of the day. He came up limping a couple of times, part of the reason for his low snap count, so we still have to keep an eye on that ankle but he touched the ball on all but nine of his 23 snaps and was very effective as both a rusher and a receiver.
  • Oakland ran 97 plays on offense. 97! And scored 20 points. Early in the day, Darren McFadden pulled a typical DMC (like pulling a Bartman, or doing the Bart-man, not the actual muscle, that was a hamstring). After his departure, Rashad Jennings participated in 76.3% of Oakland’s snaps netting 22 touches and 176 total yards. That should tell you everything you need to know about who the back to own in Oakland is should McFadden miss any time – and, that seems somewhat likely given that this is the same hamstring that gave him problems earlier this year.
  • With runs like we saw from Giovani Bernard on Thursday night (specifically, of course, the 35 yard scamper that zig-zagged the field twice) it is a wonder that BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets any work at all but the vet started and played on 39 snaps to the rookie’s 45. With 21 carries BJGE saw 8 more touches than Bernard, too, but the junior back had enough volume to be relevant this week. As long as the game flow allows him to operate in the 12-15 touch range he’ll give startable RB2 numbers or better week in and out.
  • While he lost a fumble, Lamar Miller received 20 touches and went over 100 total yards for the second game in a row after failing to do either all season. It is welcome news to owners who invested an early pick in the second year back and is hopefully indicative of a commitment to get the talented back the ball – there was unrest in the media and inside the locker room on the subject this week, perhaps Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin are finally listening.

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