Backfield Touches Report: Week One

Anthony Knox

Week One is in the books for Fantasy Football owners, and overall, you’re probably sad about how your team performed. Sure, you may have walked away with a victory, but it may have come with a price. That price could have been one of your running backs underperforming from where you drafted them. It was clear that all the backfields for NFL teams may not have been ready for Week One.

There are some silver linings, but there are more questions than we’re likely going to have answers for the backfields of all 32 teams. There are several stats that all Fantasy Football owners should be aware of from Week One:

Total Running Backs that Touched the Ball: 82

Percentage of Running Backs that Had Over 20 Touches: 13%

Percentage of Running Backs with 15-19 Touches: 13%

Percentage of Running Backs with 10-14 Touches: 22%

Percentage of Running Backs with Under 10 Touches: 55%

For me, I want a running back who is going to combine for at least 20 touches a game. Those touches can come from rushing or catching the ball. I’m not picky, I just want the ball in my running back’s hands. There were 11 running backs that touched the ball at least 20 times this past weekend. Below are those running backs and their point totals:

Name Carries Receptions Total Yards Touchdowns Points
Ezekiel Elliott 24 5 140 0 19
Leonard Fournette 26 3 124 1 21.4
LeSean McCoy 22 5 155 0 20.5
Dalvin Cook 22 3 137 0 16.7
Todd Gurley 19 5 96 1 18.6
Ty Montgomery 19 4 93 1 19.3
Melvin Gordon 18 5 79 1 18.9
Kareem Hunt 17 5 246 3 45.6
Javorius Allen 21 0 71 0 7.1
C.J. Anderson 20 1 88 0 9.8
Jonathan Stewart 18 2 83 1 16.2

As you can clearly see, not necessarily the running backs you would have expected on a Top 10 touches list. Only three players that had an average draft position in the first round are featured in the list. The majority of the players on the list were second and third round picks, but Javorius Allen doesn’t even have an ADP average for me to look at!

What should be make of the rest of the running backs moving forward? Aside from the “studs” that were drafted in the first couple of rounds, how should we be looking at backfields that have more than one option for Fantasy Football owners? There are going to be a lot more questions than I will be able to answer, but let’s see what we can figure out!

Your First-Round Draft Pick Didn’t Touch the Ball Much

Based on ADP, LeSean McCoy, Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon were the only running backs that were drafted in the first round that got 20 or more touches in week one. David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman all had sub-par days and greatly underperformed their ADP.

Not only did David Johnson disappoint owners in week one, he is going to be disappointing the Fantasy Football community for the next two or three months as he hurt his wrist in the game versus the Lions and needed surgery to repair the damage. For what action he did see, he managed 13.7 points for owners, which may likely be the only points he scores all year.

The hold out for Le’Veon Bell may very well be the reason for his slow start to the season. It didn’t help that every time Bell had a decent play there was a penalty flag thrown for holding by the offense, but he didn’t do owners many favors when there wasn’t a flag on the play. He averaged 3.8 yards a carry and 5 yards a reception on his way to 7.7 points.

Coming into the season, a lot of people were worried that Tevin Coleman was going to steal more touches from Devonta Freeman, and I think the worries were accurate. Freeman had 14 total touches to Coleman’s 12 total touches. What helped owners was that Freeman made it into the end zone, but that only gave him 11.9 points for the day.

Backfields That Gave Us More Questions

Aside from the obvious team, the Atlanta Falcons, Fantasy Football owners were left scratching their heads on what they should do with six backfields, in particular, moving forward. These teams are going to have a running back controversy, or the dreaded Running Back by Committee (RBBC).

Chicago Bears

Jordan Howard became a stud for owners when the running backs in his way were hurt last season. If you were luckily enough to get Howard on waivers, he probably helped you win a championship last season. On Sunday, without any injury to Howard that we are aware of, Tarik Cohen exploded onto the scene and took a lot of the spotlight away from Howard.

Howard had 16 total touches to Cohen’s 13, but Cohen made more out of his touches, outscoring Howard by almost 10 points this week. Each player had a touchdown for the Bears, but Cohen had more rushing and receiving yard totals than Howard.

Wth the loss of Kevin White for likely the whole season, Tarik Cohen is going to see a lot more action, and I imagine both he and Jordan Howard will be on the field together in a lot of situations.

Arizona Cardinals

We don’t know what the Cardinals are going to do with their running game now that David Johnson may not step back on the field until 2018. The two running backs that were on the team on Sunday, Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington, combined for 8 total touches, that netted 47 total yards and a touchdown.

Chris Johnson has re-signed with Cardinals, which is smart since he knows the system. In 2015, before David Johnson broke out last season, he had 202 total touches for 827 total yards and 4 touchdowns.

It’s likely the Cardinals will go with an RBBC approach for the season, so none of the options for the team will likely break the 20 touch per game mark.

Carolina Panthers

What came first, the chicken or the egg? That expression can be used to talk about the Panthers running back tandem. Jonathan Stewart out-touched the rookie Christian McCaffrey, but McCaffrey would have likely remained on the field longer if the Panthers had not built a sizeable lead and used Stewart to grind down the clock.

Stewart had 16.2 points to McCaffrey’s 11.5, and Stewart only touched the ball two more times than McCaffrey. It became very clear that McCaffrey is going to be a dual-threat running back for the Panthers, as he 21 more receiving yards than Stewart, and was only 18 yards behind him rushing the ball.

Jonathan Stewart did get the touchdown for the Panthers’ running back tandem, but it came on a one-yard pass, not a rushing touchdown. It’s going to be interesting to see how the touches breakdown between Stewart and Christian McCaffrey moving forward. I believe you could start both players on the same week, but you could also be really unhappy if you do.

Baltimore Ravens

The mere fact that Javorius Allen was on a list of the running backs who had the most touches, there are A LOT of questions in this backfield!

Terrance West was named the starter, but he had 2 fewer touches than Allen did. His touches did get him a touchdown during the game and he had 9 more rushing yards than West. Neither running back had any targets during the game, and it wasn’t expected they would since Danny Woodhead was going to be the passing downs back.

Unfortunately, Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury that is going to put him on the shelf for about two months. Prior to his injury, he had three catches for 33 yards, which clearly showed you that Allen and West would work first and second downs and then Woodhead would come in to catch short passes to help ensure a first down.

My best guess is that Javorius Allen will be given the Danny Woodhead role. In 2015, he had 61 targets that he turned into 45 receptions.

New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram is the incumbent running back, Alvin Kamara was drafted in the third round, and then the Saints signed future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson. On paper, the Saints had three running backs that could all start at any moment. In execution, the Saints have a headache on their hands.

The three running backs combined for 28 total touches, that became 127 total yards. The Saints had a tough time against the Vikings defense, but they didn’t manage their running backs well in my opinion. None of them had the ability to get any sort of rhythm going as they were shuffled in and out all game. It also didn’t help that Adrian Peterson looked like a child who doesn’t like to share every time they showed him on the sideline.

It’s going to take a few weeks for this backfield to become clear. The only running back you can start is Mark Ingram, but he can’t be anything more than your flex until further notice. Also, in my humble opinion, Adrian Peterson is going to be released from the Saints before week five. I think he is going to butt heads with the coaching staff too much and they don’t need the head ache when Alvin Kamara is waiting in the wings to take over his role.

Kareem Hunt is Legit…START HIM!

The highlight of the running backs this week was Kareem Hunt. The door opened with a great opportunity when Spencer Ware went on IR, and Hunt blasted his way through the door. He had the seventh highest touch total for week one, but he had the highest total points for any Fantasy Football player (not just running back) too.

I wouldn’t trade him if you have him. It’s completely reasonable for him to get at least 22 touches a game. Don’t expect that he is going to have three touchdowns every game, or almost 250 total yards though. His presence as your starting running back will help your team every week.

The Rookies are Here! The Rookies are Here!

Speaking of rookie Kareem Hunt, he wasn’t the only rookie running back to be great in week one. Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook also showed that their talent in college applies to an NFL workload.

Fournette and Cook were the second and fourth, respectively, ranked running backs based on touches in week one. There was only a five-point difference between the two, and Fournette only edged Cook because he scored a touchdown.

The high draft prices you had to pay for Hunt, Fournette and Cook are likely going to pay off for Fantasy Football owners this year!

I could go on about the touches the running backs received in week one and how it will impact your Fantasy Football team. We need to see another week of action before more conclusions can be determined.

Follow Me on Twitter @hardknoxffb

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