Fantasy Football Week 3 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterSeptember 21, 2017

Fantasy Football Week 3 Workload Watch

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    Will the Titans stick with Derrick Henry?
    Will the Titans stick with Derrick Henry?Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

     After just two games, we're already seeing major changes in backfields across the league.

    Some are being forced by injuries, like Derrick Henry putting up big numbers in relief of DeMarco Murray (hamstring) in Tennessee or the Bears turning to Tarik Cohen because of Jordan Howard's lingering shoulder issues.

    Other situations are fluid based on performance. The Eagles have yet to commit to any RB other than Darren Sproles and have no rushing attack to speak of after their first two games. Joe Mixon leads the Bengals' backfield in touches, yet still finds himself in a three-headed nightmare with Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill.

    Amazingly, we actually have clarity in New England, although who knows how long that will last? Plus, the Seahawks seem to know Chris Carson is the man for the job instead of veterans like Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy

    If you want to know more about what's going on in the backfields for New Orleans, Houston, Buffalo and Baltimore, check out this week's BS Meter. This Workload Watch covers nine other RB situations that have the most fantasy implications.

Carolina Panthers

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    Jonathan Stewart saw his snaps drop in Week 2.
    Jonathan Stewart saw his snaps drop in Week 2.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Week 2 Workload Distribution

    • Christian McCaffrey: 64% snaps, 8 carries, 10 yards, 0 TD, 5 targets, 4 receptions, 34 yards, 0 TD
    • Jonathan Stewart: 38% snaps, 15 carries, 40 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 0 receptions

    Both McCaffrey and Stewart saw a small drop in their respective workloads across the board during an ugly Week 2 victory over the Buffalo Bills. However, both continued to lead the same categories as they did in Week 1, as McCaffrey had more snaps and production as a receiver while Stewart was busier on the ground. Of course, neither player produced much for fantasy, so despite the win, they were disappointing. 

    With Greg Olsen (broken foot) on the injured reserve, McCaffrey could see a small uptick in targets, as Olsen's backup, Ed Dickson, must be considered a big downgrade in talent.

    We should learn a lot about the state of the Panthers offense in this weekend's prime matchup with a terrible Saints defense. Will the Panthers continue to lean heavily on the backfield, or will Cam Newton and the passing attack open things up to take advantage of such a beatable defense? If that's the case, McCaffrey could be a much better option than Stewart. 

Chicago Bears

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    Jordan Howard's fantasy stock continues to fall at an alarming rate.
    Jordan Howard's fantasy stock continues to fall at an alarming rate.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Week 2 Workload Distribution

    • Tarik Cohen: 63% snaps, 7 carries, 13 yards, 0 TD, 9 targets, 8 receptions, 55 yards, 0 TD
    • Jordan Howard: 48% snaps, 9 carries, 7 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 0 receptions

    The shoulder injury that limited Howard in practice last week also limited him in Chicago’s game against the Buccaneers. After the game, Howard was seen with his arm in a sling, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. With Howard unable to do much, Cohen stepped in to out-snap and out-touch him, although most of that came as a receiver.

    Howard was once again limited in Wednesday’s practice, per NBC Chicago's James Neveau. If Howard remains limited or has to miss time, this could turn into a similar situation the Lions went through last season with Theo Riddick as their lead back while Ameer Abdullah missed nearly all of 2016. Cohen isn't an effective runner, but he’s more than a capable pass-catcher, so as a receiver out of the backfield he could act as an extension of the team’s ground game.

    As for Howard’s fantasy status, you should not consider him a weekly starter if he is able to play through his shoulder injury and might consider shopping him in potential trades based on the name value he has from his great rookie season. Nothing has gone right for him, which has torpedoed his value. 

Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Bengals would be wise to feature Joe Mixon.
    The Bengals would be wise to feature Joe Mixon.Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 2 Workload Distribution

    • Joe Mixon: 25% snaps, 9 carries, 36 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD
    • Giovani Bernard: 52% snaps, 5 carries, 10 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards, 0 TD
    • Jeremy Hill: 23% snaps, 6 carries, 17 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 2 yards, 0 TD

    Is it time for the Bengals to make sweeping changes? After firing offensive coordinator Ken Zampese to promote QB coach Bill Lazor, the process may have already begun. After two weeks, Mixon leads the backfield with 21 touches, yet you could make the argument that number should be higher.

    Should Hill be getting six carries each game like he has over the first two weeks? Between Bernard, Mixon and Hill, the Bengals ran the ball 21 times in Week 1 and 20 times in Week 2. Mixon led the team in carries each week but topped out at nine carries in last week's loss to the Texans. Instead of keeping all three backs involved, the Bengals would be better off feeding Mixon as the lead back with Bernard as the change-of-pace and third-down back. 

    Committing to the run with the team's best back would take some of the pressure off Andy Dalton, which is a good idea considering how poorly he's played to open the season. While you can't ignore the Bengals' offensive line issue, working Mixon into the passing game to get him in space would be a good way to get the most out of his talent. That approach has worked for Todd Gurley this season, so hopefully Lazor shows a little more creativity. Mixon remains a good buy-low candidate.

Detroit Lions

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    The Lions got a strong contribution from Ameer Abdullah in Week 2.
    The Lions got a strong contribution from Ameer Abdullah in Week 2.Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Week 2 Workload Distribution

    • Ameer Abdullah: 45% snaps, 17 carries, 86 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Theo Riddick: 44% snaps, 9 carries, 20 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 17 yards, 0 TD
    • Dwayne Washington: 11% snaps, 3 carries, 9 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

                                                   

    In Week 1, the Detroit Lions got their first look at Abdullah in regular-season action since Week 2 of the 2016 season. Unfortunately, he was a big disappointment with 15 carries for 30 yards and three receptions for 11 yards on four targets. In that same game, Riddick carried just once for a loss of a yard, but he added six receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown on seven targets.

    In Week 2, Abdullah responded by seeing an increase in carries from 15 to 17 and his overall production by racking up 86 yards on the ground, although he didn't have a target. Riddick had a quiet night on the ground and in the air. The combination of Abdullah and Riddick should provide the Lions with a somewhat reliable rushing attack and two weapons for the passing game, although Riddick should continue to lead the backfield in targets. 

    That may work out better for the Lions than fantasy players. The attraction for Abdullah has always been his skill set as a dual threat out of the backfield. The Lions are clearly featuring him as their lead back, but will he get enough targets to provide that additional value? Riddick is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league, so they shouldn’t sacrifice too many of his targets in favor of Abdullah. 

    Riddick has RB2 upside in points-per-reception formats, but his value takes a big hit if he's not getting the PPR credit. Abdullah is probably a more reliable option regardless of the format since he should get more touches for the season, although his ceiling isn't quite so high with Riddick staying active in the passing game. Both players are probably better to put in the RB3 category with the hope for the occasional big performance.

New England Patriots

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    James White may actually have a clear role.
    James White may actually have a clear role.Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 2 Workload Distribution

    • Mike Gillislee: 40% snaps, 18 carries, 69 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets
    • James White: 40% snaps, 2 carries, 11 yards, 0 TD, 8 targets, 8 receptions, 85 yards, 0 TD
    • Rex Burkhead: 11% snaps, 2 carries, 3 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 41 yards, 1 TD
    • Dion Lewis: 18% snaps, 4 carries, 14 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards, 0 TD

                                          

    Are we actually getting a clear picture of what to expect from the New England Patriots backfield? In each of the first two games, the same player has led the team in carries and rushing yards (Gillislee) and targets, receptions and receiving yards (White). Burkhead has just nine touches so far with 67 yards, but he did score in Week 2 before exiting with a rib injury.

    There's no doubt Gillislee is the top fantasy back in New England, although his value is completely tied to scoring, whereas White’s value is almost completely tied to a busy role in the passing game. That means you shouldn't let expectations get too high for either player. Gillislee is a fine RB2, while White is more of an RB3/flex with increased value in PPR formats. 

    Burkhead might be hanging on to the last spot of your fantasy roster, which is fine, although he doesn't have to stay there if you need the space for someone else. His rib injury kept him out of practice Wednesday, so his status remains in question for Sunday's game with the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. After two weeks, his role isn't nearly as clear Gillislee's and White's, so it's harder to play Burkhead with confidence. Lewis could have fantasy value if the Patriots traded him elsewhere.       

Philadelphia Eagles

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    LeGarrette Blount didn't get a carry in Week 2.
    LeGarrette Blount didn't get a carry in Week 2.Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 2 Workload Distribution

    • Darren Sproles: 69% snaps, 10 carries, 48 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 2 receptions, 30 yards, 0 TD
    • Wendell Smallwood: 19% snaps, 3 carries, 4 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, -3 yards, 0 TD
    • LeGarrette Blount: 8% snaps, 0 carries, 1 target, 1 reception, 0 yards, 0 TD

                                   

    Seeing Blount catch a TD in Week 1 was almost as rare as the eclipse everyone made such a big deal out of a month ago. Amazingly, that was topped by Blount's stat line in Week 2. He didn’t have a carry, but he did record a reception on his only target in the limited time he played against the Chiefs. Has Blount really fallen out of favor that quickly? 

    For one week, he may have, but it's not like the Philadelphia Eagles established the run with anyone else. Sproles was solid, as always, yet 10 carries for 48 yards should be part of the rushing attack, not the leader. Smallwood outsnapped Blount yet saw just three carries. Not only did the Eagles go away from Blount, they went away from any commitment to the run. 

    We saw the same issue last year, and it put way too much on the arm of Carson Wentz. Of course, Wentz and the Eagles have better weapons in the receiving corps to help cover for a nonexistent rushing attack. So far, Wentz has attempted 85 passing attempts to the team's 41 rushing attempts, eight of which belong to the second-year signal-caller. That ratio is not a recipe for success. 

    Right now, Sproles is the only Eagles running back you can even think about playing. Either the team needs to figure out a way to get Blount and/or Smallwood going or it should consider a trade. Of course, it's hard to get anything going with an offensive line that's had issues, especially in the interior.

Seattle Seahawks

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    It's time for a big dose of Chris Carson in Seattle.
    It's time for a big dose of Chris Carson in Seattle.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Week 2 Workload Distribution

    • Chris Carson: 61% snaps, 20 carries, 93 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards, 0 TD
    • Thomas Rawls: 20% snaps, 5 carries, 4 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • C.J. Prosise: 21% snaps, 0 carries, 6 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards, 0 TD
    • Eddie Lacy: Inactive

                                    

    The writing's been on the wall for almost a month, and last week, the Seahawks made it official by committing to Carson. After another full week of practice for Rawls, he was active yet barely touched the ball against the 49ers, although that's more than Lacy can say. With Rawls back, the Seahawks had no need for Lacy, so they made him a healthy scratch, further cementing his complete lack of value in fantasy and reality.

    The Carson situation feels similar to a team committing to a rookie QB in that once you make the move, you aren't turning back to the veteran barring an injury or total failure on the rookie's part. Considering Carson was a seventh-round pick, that Seattle trusted him with such a big role in just his second game says a lot about his performance dating back to the preseason.

    The Seahawks have been searching for a reliable running back since last season, when injuries to Rawls and Prosise kept them off the field for extended periods. Carson is their man and should be considered a decent RB2 going forward. Prosise hasn't made much of an impact as a receiver, although that could change now that the team has figured out Carson can lead the way on the ground. With Jimmy Graham (ankle) injured, Prosise could see more targets in Week 3.

Tennessee Titans

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    Derrick Henry picked up the slack when DeMarco Murray was injured.
    Derrick Henry picked up the slack when DeMarco Murray was injured.Associated Press

    Week 2 Workload Distribution

    • DeMarco Murray: 54% snaps, 9 carries, 25 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 3 yards, 0 TD
    • Derrick Henry: 44% snaps, 14 carries, 92 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets
    • Jalston Fowler: 16% snaps, 1 carry, 3 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets

                                   

    If you bet on Henry to take away Murray’s role as the lead back in Tennessee, early returns are looking quite good. After Murray rushed for just 44 yards on 12 carries in Week 1, the hamstring injury that's been lingering since the preseason landed him on the sidelines for much of the second half of Week 2, while Henry picked up the slack.

    The second-year running back's big performance helped the Titans get out of the funk their offense had been in for the first six quarters of the season. It also opened the door to a bigger role for Henry with Murray sidelined at Wednesday's practice by his hamstring injury. It's no secret the Titans have one of the best backups in the league in Henry, which head coach Mike Mularkey acknowledged. 

    According to Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, Mularkey was asked about the depth in the backfield and said, "That's a position where if you can have the luxury of having, similar to Jacksonville, of having two guys that can run the ball like that, because that's a tough position, there's a lot of pounding that goes on their bodies, if you can have good depth at that position. We're fortunate that we have it. Yeah, that's part of the reason we drafted Derrick."

    If you take the two at their best, Henry isn't as talented as Murray and certainly not as well-rounded, but sometimes opportunity is all you need to be a great fantasy option. With Murray injured, Henry is easily a top-15 fantasy back if he's leading the way.

Washington Redskins

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    Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson could both have fantasy value.
    Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson could both have fantasy value.Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Week 2 Workload Distribution

    • Rob Kelley: 23% snaps, 12 carries, 78 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Chris Thompson: 41% snaps, 3 carries, 77 yards, 2 TD, 7 targets, 3 receptions, 29 yards, 0 TD
    • Samaje Perine: 37% snaps, 21 carries, 67 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 0 yards, 0 TD

                                             

    Kelley was awful in the season opener (10 carries, 30 yards), so it was a bummer to see him go down with a rib injury in Week 2 after posting 78 yards on 12 carries. With Kelley hurt, the Redskins turned to Perine to carry the load after not giving him a touch in Week 1. Was that a sign of faith in the rookie or an acknowledgment that Thompson isn't equipped to handle such a big role? 

    Funny you should ask, because according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, head coach Jay Gruden "reiterated Wednesday that he has no plans for Thompson to take over as the feature back." He'll keep his role as a change-of-pace back and as the top receiver out of the backfield. That shouldn't come as a surprise since Thompson is 5'8", 191 pounds. He excels in his specific role and would keep it regardless of who is leading the way.

    So will that be Kelley or Perine? Kelley was limited in Wednesday's practice but told Jones, "I anticipate playing Sunday." He also said it's up to Gruden and that he'd wear extra padding. If he remains limited throughout the week, you can almost guarantee Perine will have some kind of role even if Kelley is active. That splinters the touches in a way that could make either player difficult to use with confidence. Thompson remains a solid RB3/flex in PPR formats.        

    Snap percentages are courtesy of Pro Football Reference and rounded to the nearest whole number.