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Wide-Gap NFL Backfields: Which RB2s to Avoid Drafting for Fantasy Football

Samaje Perine - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

The gap between the top running back on an NFL team and the No. 2 running back on a team has shrunk significantly over the years, largely because teams aren't running their starters into the ground anymore. (Or, well...usually aren't.)

But while No. 2 backs have become relevant fantasy players across the league, there are still some backfields where there's a sizable gap in usage between the top guy and the No. 2 guy.

Below, you'll find the No. 2 running backs whose projected roles make them players to avoid in fantasy football.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy football rankings for 2024 fantasy football drafts:

 

Benny Snell Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers

Before we get started, let's just get the biggest citation out of the way. Snap rates and attempt rates in this article come from Add More Funds, which is a great resource for this kind of thing.

There was a pretty big disparity in this backfield last year when it came to who was getting the ball. Najee Harris had an 83.6% snap rate, while Snell was at 9.4%. Harris had 85.5% of the running back rushing attempts, while Snell had just 10% of them.

And while sometimes you can afford to roster someone with a low rate of touches because he does some productive things, Snell had just one red zone attempt all year, losing one yard. He had no carries inside the 10. He had just 2.72 yards per carry.

As for the passing game, Snell was targeted four times. This is Najee Harris' backfield.

 

Samaje Perine, Cincinnati Bengals

Unlike the Steelers backfield, there's at least some value with Perine. He—or someone in Cincinnati, as he could definitely be leaped on the depth chart—will get touches.

But "getting touches" isn't going to matter too much. Perine had 55 carries last year in 16 games. 3.4 carries per game is a nice little breather for Joe Mixon, but it isn't going to lead to production.

And even those 55 carries are misleading. 11 of them came in a 41-17 win over the Ravens, with eight of those carries coming with the Bengals up 34-17 or more. Seven of those carries were of the "okay, take the football and let's get out of here" variety.

There will probably be a game or two where Perine (or Chris Evans) gets some usage and finishes with good numbers, but Mixon will mostly control this backfield.

 

Dontrell Hilliard, Tennessee Titans

Derrick Henry only played in eight games last year, but for the purposes of this piece, we're assuming health in 2022 for the lead backs on teams. Still, the Henry injury last year plus his heavy workload throughout his career are things worth noting. There's definitely an injury-related path to value for the No. 2 back here, with a better chance of that happening than there is for other players.

But if Henry is healthy, there are just not many carries available for other players.

Henry played the first eight weeks of the season last year. During that span, he had 95.2% of the positional attempts for the Titans. That was, unsurprisingly, the highest rate in the NFL over that span.

 

Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears

David Montgomery has been Chicago's lead back for a few years now. He's not exciting, but he keeps going out there and dominating the backfield. Last year, he had 83.6% of Chicago's running back carries. In 2020, he had 65.9% of them. In 2019, he had 61.2% of them. Each year, Montgomery's dominance over this backfield has grown.

There's a chance that changes in 2022, as the Bears went through a coaching change. Maybe a Luke Getsy offense will look significantly different than a Matt Nagy offense, though the fact that he hasn't been an NFL OC before makes it tough to project. Could I use his 2018 season as the Mississippi State OC when his No. 2 running back, Kylin Hill, had 117 carries as evidence that Montgomery will see a reduced role in this backfield? I mean...I guess I could, but I'm not going to.

Especially when factoring in who the backup is here. Khalil Herbert ranked 41st in true yards per carry and 36th in yards per touch last season, per PlayerProfiler. Nothing about Herbert last season suggested that he'll challenge Montgomery for control of this backfield. Things could change if the Bears bring in a different backup RB before the season, but if Herbert remains the backup, he'll be a good chunk behind Montgomery when it comes to usage.

 

Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers

In 2019 when Christian McCaffrey played the full season, he had a 93.4% snap rate and 91.1% positional attempt rate. In 2020, he played just three games, but in those three games, he had 93.6% of the running back carries for the Panthers. And then in 2021, McCaffrey played seven games and saw his positional attempt rate in those games drop to 66%.

That drop last year is notable, but I wonder how much of that was that McCaffrey came back midseason from a hamstring injury and the Panthers took it easy with him.

McCaffrey's usage in the two games where he was actually healthy looks like this:

Week 1: 21 carries, nine targets
Week 2: 24 carries, six targets

More importantly, McCaffrey was the only RB with a carry in Week 1. In Week 2, Chuba Hubbard got eight carries, but that's still a third of what McCaffrey had, and three of Hubbard's carries were on the final drive when the game was out of reach.

And when Hubbard got a chance with McCaffrey out, he was...meh. His 3.4 true yards per carry ranked 70th at the position and his 2.11 yards created per touch were 41st.

Hubbard could be a decent backup on some team, but a healthy McCaffrey will have complete control of this backfield.



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