Fantasy Football Week 7 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterOctober 19, 2017

Fantasy Football Week 7 Workload Watch

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    The Titans seem intent on using Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray.
    The Titans seem intent on using Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The disconnect between what we think coaches should do and what they actually do is a major cause of frustration among fantasy owners. 

    Marlon Mack has flashed some special talent in the little the Indianapolis Colts have used him this season, so it would make sense to feature him more, especially with Frank Gore averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. Instead, Mack had just two carries for 18 yards in a loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 6. When you can't trust the team to use their best players, it's hard to feel good about Mack's fantasy value.

    The New York Jets have overachieved with a 3-3 record this season, so they've had every reason to play to win, as opposed to openly tanking to improve their draft pick in 2018. Head coach Todd Bowles and his staff aren't worried about next year, so they'll do everything in their power to win now. That means we don't get an extended look at Elijah McGuire if Matt Forte and/or Bilal Powell are healthy enough to play and contribute.

    DeMarco Murray's lingering hamstring issues have left the door open for Derrick Henry to carve out a consistent role in the Titans offense. Predicting the weekly workload in Tennessee's backfield has been difficult, as both Murray and Henry have posted nearly identical rushing statistics.

    To learn more about what's going on in the backfields for the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, check out the Week 7 BS Meter. This Workload Watch covers eight other RB situations that have the most fantasy implications.

Baltimore Ravens

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    The Ravens continue to increase Alex Collins' role.
    The Ravens continue to increase Alex Collins' role.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Week 6 Workload Distribution

    • Buck Allen: 64.4% snaps, 10 carries, 49 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 17 yards, 0 TD
    • Alex Collins: 30.1% snaps, 15 carries, 74 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    It's pretty simple in Baltimore's backfield. As long as Alex Collins holds onto the ball, he earns more trust and therefore earns more carries. While that hasn't turned into great fantasy production, it's still a positive sign for his value as we move into the second half of the fantasy regular season. 

    Collins set season highs in carries and snaps in Week 6 with another strong effort. He now has 52 carries for 335 yards (6.4 yards per carry) on the season, which is impressive. However, he's still way behind Buck Allen in snaps, so the opportunities are somewhat limited. That's a problem because Collins has no role in the passing game (two targets, zero receptions), and he's yet to register a red-zone carry. 

    The presence of Allen is enough to limit Collins from breaking out as a reliable fantasy option, as are the lack of scoring chances as a whole in the boring Ravens offense. Right now, Collins has much more value to the Ravens than he does in fantasy football. After six weeks, he has just 29.5 fantasy points in five games, which makes him the No. 56 RB in PPR formats.

Denver Broncos

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    C.J. Anderson's fantasy value is in flux in a shifting Broncos backfield.
    C.J. Anderson's fantasy value is in flux in a shifting Broncos backfield.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Week 6 Workload Distribution

    • C.J. Anderson: 46.9% snaps, 9 carries, 17 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Devontae Booker: 28.4% snaps, 1 carry, 2 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 4 receptions, 78 yards, 0 TD
    • Jamaal Charles: 24.7% snaps, 5 carries, 19 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 1 reception, 2 yards, 0 TD

    If you've been concerned about C.J. Anderson because of another threat in the backfield, Week 6 may have justified those concerns. However, the threat to Anderson is no longer limited to Jamaal Charles, as Devontae Booker saw a jump in touches as a receiver while Anderson had his worst game of the season. 

    Before the overreaction gets out of control, understand that game flow was a surprise, as the Broncos fell behind early against the visiting Giants. They trailed 17-3 at the half and ended up losing 23-10. While Anderson is a proven receiver, the Broncos decided to feature Booker in the passing game, which limited Anderson's opportunities to make up for the lack of carries. 

    Even though Anderson has led the team in snaps and touches in every game this season, both his Week 6 snap total and touch total were the lowest of the season. That's somewhat alarming, but in the previous game, Anderson had 20 carries and four receptions, so it's not like a pattern is developing. He still leads the backfield in red-zone carries (13) and red-zone targets (five), as well as total touches, total yards and total TDs. 

    Three of Anderson's five games include at least 20 carries, so more often than not, he's busy and productive. The presence of Charles and Booker has to be acknowledged and is what takes Anderson down to a decent RB2 at 12.7 fantasy points per game instead of a low RB1/high RB2. This is a situation that should be monitored to see if any patterns develop.

Houston Texans

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    Lamar Miller has been busy, but his production hasn't been consistent.
    Lamar Miller has been busy, but his production hasn't been consistent.Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Week 6 Workload Distribution

    • Lamar Miller: 66.7% snaps, 15 carries 41 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 40 yards, 0 TD
    • D'Onta Foreman: 34.8% snaps, 12 carries, 59 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    Much like in Denver, there's a clear lead back in Houston, although the presence of other(s) in the backfield must be addressed. Unlike in Denver, the lead back in Houston has survived more on volume than reliable production.

    Lamar Miller leads the way for the Texans and hasn't had a game with fewer than 14 carries, but he's also yet to run for more than 75 yards in a single game. He has 18 targets on the season with at least three targets in four of six games. While the volume is there, Miller is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and has just two TDs (one rushing, one receiving) for the year. That's been good enough to make him the No. 13 RB in PPR formats at 81.7 fantasy points (13.6 fantasy points per game).

    His closest competition is D'Onta Foreman. Foreman hasn’t had a game with more than 13 carries and has just three games with double-digit carries. Unlike Miller, Foreman has almost no role as a receiver, with four targets on the season. He's been slightly more efficient on the ground with 4.1 yards per carry, but he has yet to find the end zone. Both Miller and Foreman have just one red-zone target, but Miller (nine) leads Foreman (seven) in red-zone carries.

    Houston's offense has been taken to another level by rookie QB Deshaun Watson, so it has been able to at the very least stay in games, if not control them, which allows Miller to keep his normal, consistent workload. Foreman doesn't appear to be a major threat to Miller, which is good since much of Miller's value is tied to his volume.

Indianapolis Colts

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    The Colts need to get Marlon Mack more involved.
    The Colts need to get Marlon Mack more involved.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Week 6 Workload Distribution

    • Frank Gore: 39.7% snaps, 10 carries, 49 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards, 0 TD
    • Robert Turbin: 36.2% snaps, 3 carries, 3 yards, 0 TD, 5 targets, 4 receptions, 37 yards, 0 TD
    • Marlon Mack24.1% snaps, 2 carries, 18 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    In last week's Workload Watch, we covered the potential rise of Marlon Mack with an indication from head coach Chuck Pagano that the team wanted to get the rookie more involved after he had 91 yards on nine carries in Week 5. The Colts decided to go in the opposite direction in Week 6.

    While Mack's snaps rose from 22.4 percent to 24.1 percent, he received just two carries in a loss to the Tennessee Titans. Even though it made sense to attack the Titans through the air, the Colts aren't exactly loaded with talent in their passing game outside of T.Y. Hilton, so dividing up 15 carries between Frank Gore, Robert Turbin and Mack was perplexing. The final score may have been 36-22, but it was tied with less than six minutes to go.

    The Colts may be forced to get Mack more involved after Turbin suffered an elbow injury that Pagano thinks will likely end the back's season, per Mike Chappell of Fox 59. No one should expect Gore to lose the starting job anytime soon, but the Colts would be wise to get a playmaker like Mack more involved, as the team needs to find ways to manufacture production. That might be even more important after GM Chris Ballard announced Andrew Luck won't practice this week because of soreness in his shoulder, according to Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star

    Unfortunately, trusting the Colts do anything right seems foolish with the way they've handled this season, so any hope of Mack becoming fantasy-relevant needs to be seen before it can be believed.

New England Patriots

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    Dion Lewis is no longer a fantasy ghost.
    Dion Lewis is no longer a fantasy ghost.Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Week 6 Workload Distribution

    • Dion Lewis: 42.6% snaps, 11 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets
    • James White: 42.6% snaps, 3 carries, 23 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 4 receptions, 22 yards, 0 TD
    • Mike Gillislee: 19.1% snaps, 10 carries, 44 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Rex Burkhead: inactive

    Just when you thought you had the New England Patriots backfield figured out, a shift takes place seemingly out of nowhere and a relevant player looks irrelevant while an afterthought looks like a fantasy asset.

    In Week 6, Mike Gillislee fumbled his fourth carry of the game in the first quarter and didn't touch the ball again until there was 4:08 left in the third quarter. While punishing RBs for lost fumbles seems like an overreaction, especially since it was the first fumble Gillislee lost as a Patriot, the team knows it is deep enough in the backfield to give someone else a chance, which is exactly what it did with Dion Lewis. 

    Lewis seemed like the odd man out of this backfield to open the season with just eight carries and four targets in the first three games. He had just five touches in Week 4, but he scored on an eight-yard TD run. In Week 5, he carried seven times for 53 yards and caught both of his targets for 10 yards. Lewis took over for Gillislee after his fumble in Week 6 and wound up leading the backfield in carries and was tied with James White in snaps. 

    In fact, Lewis' snap percentage has only risen since Week 1, which may coincide with the absence of Rex Burkhead (ribs) over the last four games, but could also indicate a bigger role may be coming for Lewis, as he's a more well-rounded player than Gillislee. Of course, you can't assume anything when it comes to Bill Belichick, so be prepared for his diabolical Belitricks to mess with the touches and snaps in this backfield all season. Lewis is worth picking up as a potential flex/RB3 option in any format.

New York Giants

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    The Giants are sticking with Orleans Darkwa.
    The Giants are sticking with Orleans Darkwa.Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Week 6 Workload Distribution

    • Orleans Darkwa: 50.0% snaps, 21 carries, 117 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 13 yards, 0 TD
    • Wayne Gallman: 27.8% snaps, 9 carries, 27 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 5 yards, 0 TD
    • Shane Vereen: 22.2% snaps, 1 carry, 4 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    Two weeks ago, the Giants gave Orleans Darkwa the start when it looked like Wayne Gallman would be the featured back following his performance in Week 4. Instead, Darkwa got off to a hot start that included a 23-yard TD before a calf issue popped up and limited him for the rest of the game. Gallman took advantage of increased opportunities to rush for 57 yards on 11 carries and add five receptions for 25 yards on five targets. The Giants went on to lose their fifth game and the majority of their receiving corps, leaving them hopeless and winless heading into Week 6. 

    With little reason to believe the Giants can make any kind of miraculous run to the playoffs, assuming they'd take a look at younger players, like Gallman, to see if they had an RB solution for the future made sense. However, Darkwa was healthy enough to practice and play in Week 6, so the Giants went back to the same plan and featured him in a brutal matchup with the Denver Broncos.

    Surprisingly, Darkwa ran all over Denver en route to an upset victory for the Giants. With Darkwa running so well, there wasn't much room for Gallman to play anything more than a supporting role, which didn't translate to much for fantasy. This is Darkwa's backfield until further notice, and while getting a better look at Gallman in the second half or last quarter of the season could still happen, we're not there yet.

New York Jets

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    The Jets continue to use all of their running backs, including Matt Forte.
    The Jets continue to use all of their running backs, including Matt Forte.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Week 6 Workload Distribution

    • Matt Forte: 57.9% snaps, 9 carries, 22 yards, 0 TD, 8 targets, 8 receptions, 59 yards, 0 TD
    • Elijah McGuire: 32.9% snaps, 10 carries, 22 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Bilal Powell: inactive

    For the third straight week, the Jets were down one of their top two RBs, although it was Bilal Powell sitting down with a calf injury while Matt Forte returned to the lineup after a two-game absence due to a toe issue. The Jets entered the matchup with the Patriots with an identical 3-2 record, so while not predicted at the start of the season, this was actually a pivotal game for both teams in the AFC East.

    That was reason enough to use both Forte and Elijah McGuire, although Forte played a bigger role with more snaps and targets. The two had similar rushing production and limited each other's fantasy value by each staying in the mix. McGuire was a disappointment for the second straight week, which is making the 10-carry, 93-yard performance he had in Week 4 against the Jaguars look more and more like a fluke. 

    At 3-3, the Jets are still very much in the hunt in a wide-open AFC, although it could be a tough battle for them to stay in the playoff picture for the duration of the season. If you're hoping to see more of McGuire, it might take another injury or the Jets falling out of contention for that to happen. He's too tough to trust as anything more than a bench player on your fantasy roster. Forte is probably in the same boat, and the backfield as a whole will likely be miserable to deal with again once Powell is back from his injury.

Tennessee Titans

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    Is DeMarco Murray's lingering hamstring injury a major concern?
    Is DeMarco Murray's lingering hamstring injury a major concern?Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    Week 6 Workload Distribution

    • DeMarco Murray: 54.3% snaps, 12 carries, 40 yards, 1 TD, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 47 yards
    • Derrick Henry: 57.1% snaps, 19 carries, 131 yards, 1 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 14 yards

    The Tennessee Titans might be turning into a true two-headed backfield, which sounds great if you have Derrick Henry and annoying if you have DeMarco Murray. For the most part, Murray has had a stronghold on the lead role throughout the season, but his lingering hamstring problem may finally be putting an end to that. 

    Coming into Week 6, Henry had just 10 carries for 16 yards in the previous two games, while Murray had 21 carries for 89 yards over the same span. Henry finished Week 6 with more carries than Murray for only the second time this season. The first time was Week 2, when Murray's hamstring acted up. Henry was running well, so the Titans stuck with him, feeling he was their best option. Murray's hamstring acted up again in Week 6, so it was more of Henry.

    Before Henry finished off the Colts with a 72-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the game, he had 18 carries but had gained just 59 yards. So maybe we shouldn't be getting too excited about a garbage-time TD that covered up what was an otherwise forgettable effort. Henry caught just his second pass on his second target of the season, so in addition to working in a time-share, he doesn't have a role in the passing game to fall back on right now.

    To be fair, Murray's output would have been somewhat disappointing if he didn't score a short touchdown as part of a 12-carry, 40-yard effort in the 36-22 victory. However, he was able to supplement that with four receptions on four targets for 47 yards. While not a huge role, he does have 14 receptions for 86 yards on 17 targets this year. 

    The hamstring tightness kept Murray out of practice Wednesday, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com, so that's a situation to monitor throughout the week. However, be cautious of getting too excited about Henry. In Week 3, following a big game by Henry in Week 2, Murray was active despite a limited week of practice. He ended up being better than Henry against the Seattle Seahawks that week with 14 carries for 115 yards and a 75-yard TD run to Henry's 13 carries for 54 yards.

    If you want to believe head coach Mike Mularkey, he told Wolfe that the pair's near 50-50 split in touches in Week 6 was a good model for what the team wants to do and that Henry was the go-to back in the fourth quarter. 

    The bottom line is you can't count out either player if both are active. Some are expecting Henry to take away the lead role from Murray and leave him in the dust. Just like you can't ignore the presence of Henry when Murray is looking like the lead back, you can't forget about Murray if he's active with Henry appearing to be in front.

    The only way to go all in on one of them for fantasy is if the other is too hurt to play. That hasn't happened yet.