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Anytime I start a new project, I’m filled with so much excitement it’s hard not to start just dumping data on Twitter and sharing it with the world. That is how I have felt with this project for several weeks now. One thing I have always loved is collecting data on running backs. I truly believe it is the most important position to have locked down on your roster in fantasy football. The data I find myself most often entrenched in has to do with touches (receptions + carries). It was finally time to put that data down and use it to help you determine potential trends in backfields.

This article is all about watching how a backfield is being used for every team. Snap counts are very useful, but I want to know what a player is doing when he has the ball in his hands. Anytime a running back gets a touch, what is being done with that opportunity?

Finding trends for RB touches will not only let us know their usage for any given week or period, but how effective they are with the ball. High volume plus high effectiveness is always the best outcome. High volume with low effectiveness can be great and low volume with high efficiency can be streaky at times. Let’s dive into the Week 1 data to look for RB risers and fallers.

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Running Back Touch Breakdown

Carries Receptions Touches Yards Yards Per Touch % of Touches Week 1 WK1 %
Atlanta
Tevin Coleman 9 1 10 62 6.2 52% 10 52%
Devonta Freeman 6 3 9 50 5.55 47% 9 47%
Arizona
Chase Edmonds 4 4 8 48 6 36% 8 36%
David Johnson 9 5 14 67 4.78 64% 14 64%
Buffalo
Chris Ivory 3 0 3 3 1 18% 3 18%
LeSean McCoy 7 1 8 21 2.62 47% 8 47%
Marcus Murphy 6 0 6 31 5.16 35% 6 35%
Baltimore
Kenneth Dixon 13 0 13 44 3.38 43% 13 43%
Javorius Allen 4 5 9 32 3.55 30% 9 30%
Alex Collins 7 1 8 19 2.37 27% 8 27%
Carolina
C.J. Anderson 7 0 7 35 5 30% 7 30%
Christian McCaffrey 10 6 16 95 5.93 70% 16 70%
Chicago
Tarik Cohen 5 3 8 41 5.12 29% 8 29%
Jordan Howard 15 5 20 107 5.35 71% 20 71%
Cincinnati
Giovani Bernard 1 1 2 9 4.5 8% 2 8%
Joe Mixon 17 5 22 149 6.77 91% 22 91%
Cleveland
Nick Chubb 3 0 3 21 7 9% 3 9%
Carlos Hyde 22 1 23 65 2.82 71% 23 71%
Duke Johnson 5 1 6 25 4.1 18% 6 18%
Dallas
Tavon Austin 1 0 1 1 1 5% 1 5%
Ezekiel Elliott 15 3 18 86 4.77 90% 18 90%
Rod Smith 1 0 1 5 5 5% 1 5%
Denver
Royce Freeman 15 0 15 71 4.7 47% 15 47%
Phillip Lindsay 15 2 17 102 6 53% 17 53%
Detroit
LeGarrette Blount 4 0 4 -3 -1.3 19% 4 19%
Kerryon Johnson 5 3 8 37 4.26 38% 8 38%
Theo Riddick 4 5 9 35 3.88 43% 9 43%
Green Bay
Ty Montgomery 2 2 4 28 7 21% 4 21%
Jamaal Williams 15 0 15 47 3.1 79% 15 79%
Houston
Alfred Blue 5 0 5 36 7.2 19% 5 19%
Lamar Miller 20 1 21 109 5.19 81% 21 81%
Indianapolis
Nyheim Hines 5 7 12 52 4.3 38% 12 38%
Christine Michael 2 0 2 9 4.5 6% 2 6%
Jordan Wilkins 14 3 17 61 3.5 54% 17 54%
Jacksonville
Leonard Fournette 9 3 12 55 4.48 40% 12 40%
Corey Grant 1 0 1 3 3 3% 1 3%
T.J. Yeldon 14 3 17 68 4 56% 17 56%
Los Angeles (A)
Austin Ekeler 5 5 10 126 12.6 29% 10 29%
Melvin Gordon 15 9 24 166 6.91 71% 24 71%
Los Angeles (N)
Malcolm Brown 1 2 3 23 7.6 12% 3 12%
Todd Gurley 20 3 23 195 8.48 88% 23 88%
Miami
Kenyan Drake 14 3 17 66 3.88 65% 17 65%
Frank Gore 9 0 9 61 6.7 34% 9 34%
Minnesota
Dalvin Cook 16 6 22 95 4.31 66% 22 66%
Latavius Murray 11 0 11 42 3.81 33% 11 33%
New England
Rex Burkhead 18 1 19 69 3.63 58% 19 58%
Jeremy Hill 4 1 5 31 6.2 15% 5 15%
James White 5 4 9 56 6.2 27% 9 27%
New Orleans
Mike Gillislee 3 0 3 9 3 14% 3 14%
Alvin Kamara 8 9 17 141 8.29 81% 17 81%
Jonathan Williams 1 0 1 0 0 5% 1 5%
New York Jets
Trenton Cannon 6 1 7 21 3 23% 7 23%
Isaiah Crowell 10 0 10 102 10.2 33% 10 33%
Bilal Powell 12 1 13 65 5 43% 13 43%
New York Giants
Saquon Barkley 18 2 20 128 6.4 80% 20 80%
Wayne Gallman 1 2 3 8 2.6 12% 3 12%
Jonathan Stewart 2 0 2 8 4 8% 2 8%
Kansas City
Kareem Hunt 16 0 16 49 3.06 80% 16 80%
Spencer Ware 3 1 4 40 10 15% 4 15%
Damien Williams 1 0 1 0 0 5% 1 5%
Oakland
Marshawn Lynch 11 2 13 49 3.77 39% 13 39%
Doug Martin 4 2 6 17 2.83 18% 6 18%
Jalen Richard 5 9 14 79 5.64 42% 14 42%
Philidelphia
Jay Ajayi 15 0 15 62 4.13 51% 15 51%
Corey Clement 5 0 5 26 5.2 17% 5 17%
Darren Sproles 5 4 9 32 3.5 31% 9 31%
Pittsburgh
James Conner 31 5 36 192 5.3 100% 36 100%
San Francisco
Matt Breida 11 1 12 51 4.25 50% 12 50%
Alfred Morris 12 0 12 38 3.16 50% 12 50%
Seattle
Chris Carson 7 3 10 79 7.9 48% 10 48%
Rashaad Penny 7 4 11 43 3.9 52% 11 52%
Tampa Bay
Peyton Barber 19 0 19 69 3.63 86% 19 86%
Jacquizz Rodgers 2 1 3 3 1 14% 3 14%
Tennessee
Derrick Henry 10 1 11 31 2.81 34% 11 34%
Dion Lewis 16 5 21 110 5.23 65% 21 65%
Washington
Robert Kelley 3 0 3 7 2.3 7% 3 7%
Adrian Peterson 26 2 28 166 5.92 67% 28 67%
Chris Thompson 5 6 11 128 11.63 26% 11 26%

 

What We Know

With Le’veon Bell out, we knew James Conner was going to get a heavy workload, but those Jaylen Samuel truthers made it be known that he was there to take touches away. That didn’t even come close to be true in Week 1 with Conner handling every touch available to running backs.

Conner had 36 touches in Week 1 and averaged 5.3 yards per touch, which was more than David Johnson or Ezekiel Elliott. The volume is going to be there and for the time being, it appears the efficiency will also be there. The biggest worry will be if when Bell returns that move Conner to a backup role and let Bell handle the workload. The Chiefs gave up 37.30 fantasy points to Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler in Week 1, so expect another big week from Conner.

What’s Going on In Arizona?

During an episode of the RotoRevolution that was all about busts this season, I detailed why I thought David Johnson would not return on his ADP of fourth overall. I like Johnson, I think he is extremely talented, but there were other factors that caused me to believe he just may not see such a high workload as we anticipated. Some of those fears came true in Week 1.

Johnson had 14 touches in Week 1 for 64% of the backfield touches against Washington. With the Cardinals down, you would have thought Johnson would continue to see work in the passing game, but Chase Edmunds was also getting his work in.

Late in the fourth quarter, down 24-0, Chase Edmunds handled five straight touches in the backfield. If the Cardinals thought they were out of it and didn’t want to punish Johnson anymore, then that could happen often this season. The Cardinals don’t figure to be good this season. If Edmunds can continue to be effective (eight touches at six yards per touch in Week 1) the Cardinals could decide to give Johnson some extra rest and look towards the future with their star running back.

Carlos Hyde is the Guy

The Browns fought hard against the Steelers and couldn’t quite put the game away. Even though Duke Johnson was the RB11 in PPR leagues last year and Nick Chubb was drafted atop the second round, the Browns showed us that free agent signee Carlos Hyde was the man they trusted with the ball out of the backfield.

Hyde had 71% of the backfield touches in Week 1 but only 2.82 yards per touch. Only nine total touches went to Chubb and Johnson against the Steelers who combined for 5.1 yards per touch. I expect we are going to see a much different scenario play out against the Saints in Week 2. The Browns will be on the road against a high-powered offense in one of the most difficult stadiums to play in. Johnson is going to need to be ready to roll in the passing game to keep up. Expect a big game in PPR formats.

Nyheim Hines Just Won’t Go Away

After a sloppy pre-season, we thought Nyheim Hines was going to disappear on the depth chart but that did not happen in Week 1. Hines walked away with 38% of the backfield touches against the Bengals while Jordan Wilkins lead the charge with 54% of the touches. Hines was more productive averaging 4.3 yards on 12 touches while Wilkins averaged 3.5 yards on 17 touches.

It appears Marlon Mack is trying to make his way back for Week 2, but I think that Mack will take more touches away from Wilkins than Hines. Overall for fantasy owners, I suggest you steer clear of the Colts backfield for now. This may take some time to work itself out.

Jalen Richard Breakout?

What in the world was going on in the Oakland backfield Week 1? Not only did Jalen Richard grab nine receptions but he led the backfield with 42% of the backfield touches. The volume was there for him in the passing game and considering Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch don’t present the same threat catching passes, I could see some of this continuing.

Richard averaged 5.64 yards per touch compared to 3.77 for Lynch and 2.83 for Martin. Considering the Raiders are going to be bad this year (really bad) Richard could see a huge amount of garbage time points for fantasy owners this season. If you are in a PPR league and you can still get him, I would recommend doing so. Richard will outscore Lynch the rest of the season in PPR leagues at this pace.

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