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Oct 02

Touches and Targets Week 4: 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 5. This post takes a look at Running Backs; we addressed the touches and targets for Wide Receivers and Tight Ends in a previous article.

Week 4 Running Back Touches

  • Heading into the weekend Arian Foster made it clear that he would take all the work that the Texans coaching staff would give him against the Seattle Seahawks – well, he got it. Ben Tate played just 11 snaps in the Week 4 game. It is worth noting that he touched the ball on a very high percentage of those snaps, getting his hands on the rock 8 times but this week the workload belonged to Foster who played in 65 snaps and posted 171 total yards on 33 touches, becoming the first back to top 100 total yards against Seattle this season. The distribution won’t look like this every week, Tate has fared well when involved this year but the numbers could skew more heavily in Foster’s favor than they did in Weeks 1-3 after this positive result.
  • Ok. I get it. There isn’t a lot of reason to be excited in New York, particularly about RB David Wilson, but… while Da’Rel Scott drew the start Wilson saw more snaps and was productive carrying the ball. He had 13 carries to Scott’s 5 and gained 55 yards on the ground. Things are looking up, he outcarried Scott and Brandon Jacobs 13-5-1.
  • Another 20+ touch workload for Jamaal Charles this week. The Chiefs’ RB went over 100 total yards (127 and a score) again, and has done so in every game this year.
Le'Veon Bell dominated the backfield for the Steelers and is in line for plenty of work coming out of the bye (Getty Images).

Le’Veon Bell dominated the backfield for the Steelers and is in line for plenty of work coming out of the bye (Getty Images).

  • Well, we have no doubts about the Steelers plans for Le’Veon Bell. In his first start, facing an uncertain workload given his return from injury, he played in 60 of 67 snaps and carried the ball 16 times, adding four catches. Felix Jones, the next closest Pittsburgh back, had two.
  • If I told you at the outset of the season that Doug Martin would have 27 carries in Week 4 against Arizona you’d have predicted a number 2-3 times the 45 yards he produced as his final output. Alas, things have changed in Tampa. The team is struggling to run block and with Mike Glennon commanding little respect from opposing coordinators moving forward (4.5 YPA this week) that is unlikely to change. The volume is great, though. Through 4 weeks Martin leads the league in carries (an even 100) but is averaging just 3.4 yards a pop. Chris Johnson is 3rd, for what its worth, and is averaging 3.3.
  • A silver lining in the Jets’ blowout loss: Bilal Powell posted 108 total yards on 17 touches despite the lopsided score.
  • Bryce Brown got into the mix for Philly, playing roughly half the snaps and picking up 10 touches to McCoy‘s 17. The increase in relative workload can be attributed to the altitude and the fact that McCoy missed a few series after having the wind knocked out of him, things should be similar to the first three weeks moving forward. While it wasn’t an awesome game from a running standpoint, Brown gave a serviceable total yardage output on those 10 chances and showed why he’s worth having on the roster in case of a McCoy injury.
  • Knowshon Moreno participated in equal snaps and had just one more carry than Ronnie Hillman but was by far the most effective back again this week – restoring order after the rock-paper-scissors TD of Week 3. Montee Ball finished a distant third but did have 8 carries on just 14 snaps.
  • Roy Helu notched 84 total yards and scored on 15 touches after Morris got hurt. Indications are that The Butler will return after the bye, but, similar to Brown’s situation it is reasonable to assume that Shannahan’s scheme will produce a strong fantasy back regardless of who it is, so, you’ll want him rostered as a handcuff. Plus, performances like this could net Helu more week in future weeks.
  • DeMarco Murray’s 14 carries were not enough as part of Dallas’ gameplan, particularly given that he saw just 5 in the second half. Fantasy owners can’t complain about his 19 touches, but the hope is that Dallas recognizes that they need to feed Murray the ball and those numbers rise. With a combined 22 missed tackles rushing and receiving so far, Murray is the leagues second most elusive back. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks off a few long ones and gives his team, and his owners, a performance to remember.
  • Another workload we can’t complain about: Ryan MathewsHe had 23 touches on just 35 snaps against the Cowboys, but as long as Danny Woodhead is getting swing passes inside the 20 Mathews has a limited ceiling. Woodhead’s is higher than most thought, though (10 touches, 86 yards, 2 TD).
  • LeGarrette Blount is making a case for additional work – and despite his own strong game it may come at the expense of Steven Ridley. Over the past two weeks Blount has gained 122 yards on 22 carries, while the same number of rushes for Ridley have netted just 88.
  • Jacquizz Rodgers played more snaps and had more touches (13 to 9) than Jason Snelling for the second straight week. This week he was far more productive. With at least one more Jackson-less game expected for Atlanta, he’s going to register as a solid flex play again next time out.
  • Daryl Richardson saw a tough matchup this week, but he played poorly (24 total yards on 13 touches) while Isaiah Pead sat out. No one is quite certain as to why Pead wasn’t active, but, you can expect him in the lineup this week given Richardson’s struggles and St. Louis’ general inability to run the football against San Francisco this week.
  • Injury played a role, but, Fred Jackson played 41 snaps to CJ Spiller’s 31 and outgained him by 10 yards on the ground despite fewer carries. Doug Marrone and the Bills’ staff will have to figure out the best way to deploy Spiller. Until they do, he’s not going to justify his draft cost. With a short week and injury questions on the table you may see Jackson ahead of Spiller when my ranks come out this week.
  • It was largely dictated by the fact that Cincinnati trailed for most of the game and wanted to take advantage of Giovani Bernard’s skills as a receiver, but while BenJarvus Green-Ellis started he played just 18 snaps. Bernard saw 50 and had 16 touches to Green-Ellis’ 6. The fantasy community has been calling for this for some time, and will have to hope that this signals a chance in philosophy – though it seems likely that things will work their way back toward even this week.
  • Chris Ogbonnoya started but Willis McGahee dominated the backfield. He played in just 26 snaps yet posted 15 carries to lead the team.
  • After carrying 8 times for 9 yards last week Michael Bush was a non-factor for Chicago this week (playing just 2 snaps). Much of that had to do with the fact that the Bears trailed for the entire game and Matt Forte suits the passing game much better but this is nowhere near a timeshare and the fantasy community should be pleased.
  • Lamar Miller has received more carries than Daniel Thomas in every game this season but Week 4 was the game in which the gap was the most significant, with 11 carries for Miller to 4 for Thomas. The production, as usual, was heavily tilted in Miller’s favor. He’s not getting enough work to be anything more than a low RB2 moving forward but performances like this week should keep the arrow pointing in the right direction moving forward.
  • He didn’t do a great deal with them, and the RB show was all Darren Sproles’ (compiling 114 total yards and a TD on 14 touches)  but Khiry Robinson, not Pierre Thomas led the Saints backfield in carries this week. After a strong performance in garbage time last week (4 carried for 38) he was given a longer look in Week 4. Players in deep leagues will want to do the same.

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