Fantasy Football Week 4 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterSeptember 28, 2017

Fantasy Football Week 4 Workload Watch

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    Is Jamaal Charles a true threat to C.J. Anderson?
    Is Jamaal Charles a true threat to C.J. Anderson?Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Navigating through injuries is not an exact science.

    Last week, you may have brushed off the knee injury that kept Jay Ajayi out of practice. He ended up being a huge disappointment in a great matchup against the New York Jets, and the knee issues continue to linger into Week 4.

    Other situations went in the opposite direction, like DeMarco Murray shaking off a hamstring injury to make it clear he's still the top dog in Tennessee's backfield over Derrick Henry. Jordan Howard was able to play through his shoulder issue and do so at a very high level in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    A couple of AFC West backfields have drummed up concern, as C.J. Anderson found himself splitting touches with Jamaal Charles, while Marshawn Lynch saw his snaps and touches drop yet again. Should you be worried? The overreactions seem to be running rampant just three weeks into a long 2017 season.

    If you want to know more about what's going on in the backfields for the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and Jets, check out this week's BS Meter. This Workload Watch covers nine other RB situations that have the most fantasy implications.

Buffalo Bills

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    LeSean McCoy has salvaged some fantasy production as a receiver.
    LeSean McCoy has salvaged some fantasy production as a receiver.Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    • LeSean McCoy: 66.2% snaps, 14 carries, 21 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 7 receptions, 48 yards, 0 TD
    • Mike Tolbert: 32.3% snaps, 11 carries, 41 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 0 receptions

                                                  

    Are you worried about LeSean McCoy yet? You probably should be after yet another bad rushing performance in Week 3. After posting 110 yards on 22 carries in Week 1, McCoy has just 26 carries for 30 yards in the last two games. His only saving grace has been an active role as a receiver, where he has 18 receptions for 131 yards on 20 targets. 

    The snap split between McCoy and Mike Tolbert has been pretty consistent with McCoy never dipping below 66 percent and Tolbert never reaching 33 percent. Tolbert hasn't been a threat as a receiver (three targets, two receptions, 14 yards), and last week was the first time he didn't trail McCoy by at least nine carries.

    Tolbert is threatening McCoy near the goal line. McCoy leads Tolbert 8-4 in red-zone carries, but both have three carries inside the 10, with Tolbert taking a 3-1 lead in carries inside the five. Tolbert has the only red-zone target between the two in the first three weeks.

    Based on the matchup, you'd think McCoy is set for a bounce-back performance in Week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons since they've allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs this season, but it shouldn't be assumed that will happen with McCoy after the struggles of the last two weeks.

Carolina Panthers

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    You might be seeing a lot more of Christian McCaffrey.
    You might be seeing a lot more of Christian McCaffrey.Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    • Christian McCaffrey: 69.5% snaps, 4 carries, 16 yards, 0 TD, 11 targets, 9 receptions, 101 yards, 0 TD
    • Jonathan Stewart: 44.1% snaps, 12 carries, 57 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards, 0 TD

                               

    The only thing that went right for the Panthers in Week 3 was featuring McCaffrey in a great matchup against the Saints. If you own McCaffrey, the featured role shouldn't be ending anytime soon if Carolina wants to generate any kind of offense going forward.

    On a day when the Panthers came into the game without Greg Olsen (broken foot), they watched Kelvin Benjamin exit with a knee injury and Cam Newton look awful on his way to just 167 yards and three interceptions in an ugly 34-13 loss to the visiting Saints. Luckily, he was able to find McCaffrey for the rookie's best performance of his young career. 

    McCaffrey has played at least 63 percent of the snaps in each game, while Stewart's 44.1 percent in Week 3 was a season high. Stewart has a clear lead in carries (45-25), but he's rushed for just 3.6 yards per tote. McCaffrey, however, is worse at 2.9 YPC. The biggest difference comes in the passing game, where McCaffrey leads the team in targets (23), receptions (18) and yards (173). 

    With Olsen out for a while and Benjamin's status up in the air, Carolina may have no choice but to keep feeding McCaffrey. He's the only Panther with strong fantasy value right now.

Chicago Bears

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    Tarik Cohen might be a better option than Jordan Howard this week.
    Tarik Cohen might be a better option than Jordan Howard this week.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    • Jordan Howard: 63.1% snaps, 23 carries, 140 yards, 2 TDs, 5 targets, 5 receptions, 26 yards, 0 TD
    • Tarik Cohen: 43.1% snaps, 12 carries, 78 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 24 yards, 0 TD

                                

    Howard came off the injury report ahead of the Bears' matchup with the Steelers in Week 3 following a nine-carry, seven-yard rushing performance the week prior in a 29-7 loss to the Buccaneers. If you played Cohen over Howard against Pittsburgh, you missed out Howard's best performance of the season.

    With the Steelers offense underwhelming yet again, the game remained close, which kept Howard in the mix the entire time despite shots of him stretching his shoulder on the sideline. The second of his two scores was a walk-off winner in overtime to give the Bears an upset victory.

    Concern for Howard picked up before the game when Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported he was playing with a sprained AC joint. After his performance against the Steelers, any concerns about him may have disappeared, especially since he's not on the Week 4 injury report heading into Thursday night's matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

    Because the Bears are woefully short in their receiving corps, both Howard and Cohen should remain active parts of the offense going forward. Of course, Howard needs to stay healthy, and the Bears need to make sure games don't get out of hand, which is a possibility in Green Bay. Howard and Cohen are both in the RB2 conversation.         

Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Bengals finally featured Joe Mixon in Week 3.
    The Bengals finally featured Joe Mixon in Week 3.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    • Joe Mixon: 55.7% snaps, 18 carries, 62 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 39 yards, 0 TD
    • Giovani Bernard: 21.3% snaps, 3 carries, 27 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 12 yards, 1 TD
    • Jeremy Hill: 23% snaps, 7 carries, 23 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards, 0 TD

                   

    After seeing how Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor used Mixon in Week 3, it's obvious he read last week's Workload Watch for inspiration. Or maybe he has more of a clue than his predecessor, Ken Zampese, and realized that you should feature your best players. 

    Mixon's increased role made him the first Bengal running back to register more than nine carries in 2017 and gave him the highest snap percentage (55.7) for any Cincy RB this season. Even though Mixon was featured, Hill had his highest carry total of the year, but that resulted in just 3.3 yards per carry. Mixon didn't run much better at 3.4 YPC, so the rushing attack is still a work in progress. 

    If the Bengals are smart, they'll eliminate Hill's role, which doesn't seem necessary with Mixon and Bernard the better players. Mixon can be an every-down back, as he's clearly skilled enough to handle a role in the passing game, as evidenced by the successfully executed screens in last week's overtime loss to the Packers. 

    The offensive line issues will limit Mixon's ceiling, so he might not fully break out even if Cincinnati phases out Hill. However, the Bengals would be absurd not to pepper him with touches while keeping Bernard in the mix as a secondary option. Consider Mixon a reliable RB2 with Bernard as more of desperation play as an RB3/flex in points-per-reception formats.     

Denver Broncos

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    C.J. Anderson continues to dominate the snaps in Denver.
    C.J. Anderson continues to dominate the snaps in Denver.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    • C.J. Anderson: 70% snaps, 8 carries, 36 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 7 yards, 0 TD
    • Jamaal Charles: 30% snaps, 9 carries, 56 yards, 1 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 1 yard, 0 TD

                                             

    Charles has basically been the same player for his first three games as a Bronco, yet because he scored a TD in Week 3 and had a similar touch count to Anderson, there seems to be major concerns about Anderson's role. This was the first week the Broncos didn't feature Anderson, and they had their first loss. So maybe they should get back to what works instead of the split we saw in Buffalo.

    Speaking of that split, it's not close in regard to snaps, which was the case once again in Week 3. In each game, Anderson has played at least 69 percent of the snaps, while Charles topped out at 30.4 percent. Anderson has been on the field for 153 snaps compared to Charles' 62 after three weeks. Through the first two games, Anderson rushed for 199 yards and a TD on 45 carries, while Charles had 19 carries for 86 yards and a fumble.

    Neither player has done much as a receiver, but even that split favors Anderson with six receptions for 50 yards on eight targets compared to two receptions for seven yards on three targets for Charles. Anderson also has more red-zone carries (10-7) and red-zone targets (3-0). 

    It's easy to get excited about a once-great fantasy player like Charles, but he's not even close to the guy who won you fantasy championships in the past. He's a depth player on your bench who remains far behind Anderson until the snap count gets much closer. Anderson is a very good RB2.

Oakland Raiders

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    Marshawn Lynch's snaps continue to decrease.
    Marshawn Lynch's snaps continue to decrease.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    • Marshawn Lynch: 31.4% snaps, 6 carries, 18 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards, 0 TD
    • DeAndre Washington: 31.4% snaps, 1 carry, 0 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 5 receptions, 24 yards, 0 TD
    • Jalen Richard: 11.8% snaps, 2 carries, 4 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards, 0 TD

                            

    The excitement for Lynch's return to football has cooled a bit, although should we really be surprised by how the Raiders have used him in what's typically an offense carried by Derek Carr and the passing attack?

    Lynch was never coming to the Raiders to be the workhorse he was in Seattle, where he had four seasons of at least 280 carries. In fact, 240 carries (15 per game) would have been a high expectation for a player entering his 11th season after a year off the NFL.

    Lynch carried 18 times in the opener, 12 times in a fairly easy win over the Jets and six times in an ugly loss to the Redskins. He's averaging 3.9 yards per carry with just 139 rushing yards and a single TD. 

    In those three games, Lynch's snap count has dropped each week, from 47.0 percent to 40.4 percent to 31.4 percent. To be fair, the Raiders had no reason to stick with him with the game well in hand in Week 2, and they were too far behind to use him a lot in Week 3, which probably won't be the case very often.

    What this comes down to is managing your expectations when it comes to Lynch. He's a decent RB2 who needs to score to help his fantasy value since he won't do much as a receiver (five targets, three receptions, 28 yards).

    This offense should bounce back and give him chances to score, but you might consider shopping him around based on his name value. Lynch shouldn't be counted on to be the focal point of the Oakland offense because the Raiders shouldn't need him to be that player.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Eagles may need more out of Wendell Smallwood.
    The Eagles may need more out of Wendell Smallwood.Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    • Wendell Smallwood: 56.6% snaps, 12 carries, 71 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 9 yards, 0 TD
    • LeGarrette Blount: 28.9% snaps, 12 carries, 67 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets
    • Corey Clement: 9.2% snaps, 6 carries, 22 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets
    • Darren Sproles: 6.6% snaps, 3 carries, 11 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

                                

    The Eagles struggled to establish the run in the first two games of the season and relied on Darren Sproles to be their best back. All of that changed in Week 3 when Sproles broke his arm and tore his ACL on the same play early in the game, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. After losing Sproles, the Eagles rebounded to have their best rushing performance of the season with Smallwood and Blount leading the way.

    Smallwood's performance was easily the best of season in Philadelphia's backfield and the second-most yards he's rushed since his debut last season. You can't replace such a unique weapon like Sproles, but it looks like Smallwood will get a chance to do that, according to offensive coordinator Frank Reich. 

    "There's no doubt Wendell Smallwood is going to have an increased role," Reich said Tuesday, per Aaron Kasinitz of PennLive.com. "All the guys have some third-down ability, but Wendell has really improved in the area. He showed natural aptitude for it early, both from a protection standpoint and from a route-running standpoint."

    Blount should stay in the mix, and Clement will be in it as well. So it's not like Smallwood will have a clear lead on the group, although he's better equipped to handle responsibilities as a runner and a receiver. That should give him the most fantasy value. The team brought back Kenjon Barner this week, but that's more about his familiarity with the offense and his ability to help as a returner.

    There's no reason to go overboard with excitement for any of these backs, but Smallwood likely has the most value if he can work his way into the passing game (five targets, three receptions, 11 yards in three games), but he's an RB3/flex for now. Blount is more of a reach as an RB3/flex, and his value takes a hit in non-PPR leagues.

Tennessee Titans

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    This sight isn't going away anytime soon.
    This sight isn't going away anytime soon.Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    • DeMarco Murray: 65.8% snaps, 14 carries, 115 yards, 1 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD
    • Derrick Henry: 41.1% snaps, 13 carries, 54 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 10 yards, 0 TD

                                                                    

    If you read last week's Workload Watch, in assessing the Titans, the goal was to curb some of the pessimism surrounding Henry that said he wasn't talented as Murray and to acknowledge that if Henry is leading the way with Murray at less than 100 percent, he can be a valuable fantasy asset. 

    Though head coach Mike Mularkey praised the luxury of having great depth like Henry, per Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, Murray was active for Week 3 against the Seahawks despite barely practicing. Not only did he play, but he was also clearly the back in front of Henry, more than doubling Henry's output on the ground and seeing almost 25 percent more snaps.

    If you put the injury aside, this result shouldn't be a surprise. The Titans are in no rush to put Henry in front of Murray if the seventh-year player is healthy enough to play and perform at a high level. They're clearly happy to have a nice backup in Henry, but dating back to last season, Murray hasn't given the team a reason to significantly reduce his role. 

    It's one thing to get Henry on your fantasy team with the belief that Murray will eventually break down after six very busy seasons in Tennessee, Philadelphia and Dallas, but if this comes down to talent, Murray is a superior player in all aspects. He put that on display once again in a strong Week 3 performance against the Seahawks.

    According to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com, both Murray (hamstring) and Henry (thigh) went through full practice Wednesday, so barring a setback, Murray is the man for this week's matchup with the Texans at NRG Stadium. He's in the RB1 conversation, while Henry is an RB3/flex.

Washington Redskins

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    Is now the time to sell high on Chris Thompson?
    Is now the time to sell high on Chris Thompson?Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    • Chris Thompson: 41.2% snaps, 8 carries, 38 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 6 receptions, 150 yards, 1 TD
    • Samaje Perine: 44.1% snaps, 19 carries, 49 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards, 0 TD
    • Rob Kelley: Inactive

                                                 

    The Chris Thompson hype may have reached its peak with his huge game against the Raiders in prime time last Sunday night. He turned 14 touches into 188 yards and a TD to continue his white-hot start to the season, and his value may never be higher. This could be the perfect time to trade him if you're in the proper situation.

    Kelley had to sit out Week 3 because of sore ribs, and Perine did out-touch Thompson. But he suffered a bruised hand and wasn't very effective when he was in the game. Thompson has stood out in a backfield that hasn't been the model of health, yet his role won't be changing if you ask head coach Jay Gruden.

    According to John Keim of ESPN.com, Gruden was asked about Thompson getting more touches and said, "He's going to keep pushing me for them, but he's not going to get them."

    In Gruden's defense, giving Thompson more touches would be pushing the envelope. He's a change-of-pace back with big-play potential because he doesn't handle a heavy workload. There's no reason to mess with that kind of success. 

    After three games, Thompson is averaging 8.5 yards per carry and 17.8 yards per catch with two rushing touchdowns and two receiving scores. These are not sustainable numbers for any player. Thompson has a career 5.9 yards-per-carry average and 8.2 yards-per-catch average, both of which are excellent numbers, but those are clearly not at the level he's at after three games in 2017. 

    Thompson posted RB1-level fantasy numbers but shouldn't be considered anything more than a solid RB2 in PPR formats because his role won't be changing. If you're loaded at RB and can target a team that is in dire need of running back help, this would be a great time to move Thompson, as his value will never be stronger.

                                            

    Snap percentages and advanced stats are courtesy of Pro Football Reference.