Fantasy Football Week 14 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterDecember 7, 2017

Fantasy Football Week 14 Workload Watch

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    The Vikings never gave up on Jerick McKinnon, even if you did.
    The Vikings never gave up on Jerick McKinnon, even if you did.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    With four weeks left in the NFL regular season, we have a good idea of what teams will remain contenders and what teams are out of contention. Consider that when setting your lineup for the fantasy playoffs, as it's a smart tiebreaker to determine who should play and who should sit.  

    The Minnesota Vikings have kept both Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon involved throughout the season after losing Dalvin Cook to a torn ACL. Even though Murray had more fantasy value for a few weeks in a row, McKinnon didn't disappear, and he returned to the end zone in Week 13. He continued to get opportunities on a good team, and eventually that paid off with a TD. 

    On the flip side, the Denver Broncos have shown no rhyme or reason to how they treat their backfield. Following their eighth straight loss, there's no reason to believe they'll clear it up anytime soon. That's a bad team you can't trust.

    To learn more about what's going on in the backfields for the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins, check out the Week 14 BS Meter. For more information on the New England Patriots backfield, read the Week 14 Big Board.

    This Workload Watch covers eight other RB situations that have the most fantasy implications.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Devonta Freeman was the lead back in Week 13.
    Devonta Freeman was the lead back in Week 13.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Week 13 Workload Distribution

    • Tevin Coleman: 37.7% snaps, 8 carries, 22 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 3 receptions, 27 yards, 0 TD
    • Devonta Freeman: 73.6% snaps, 12 carries, 74 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards, 0 TD

    Coleman's performance in the absence of Freeman brought a nice boost to fantasy teams that rode with him for two weeks while Freeman recovered from a concussion. However, Freeman's return meant a big drop in Coleman's fantasy value, as we saw in Week 13.

    Even though Coleman and Freeman had a pretty even split in touches, the snap count wasn't even close. In fact, the near-36 percent disparity in Week 13 was the biggest Since Week 7 and third-largest of the season. It was only the fourth time this season Coleman played fewer than 40 percent of the snaps. The only time Freeman played a higher snap percentage was Week 5, at 73.7 percent.

    Did the Falcons make a mistake getting away from Coleman? After three straight wins with at least 27 points in each victory and Coleman leading the way in a big role, the Falcons failed to find the end zone and scored just nine points in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings. That's not to say Freeman should have been riding the bench to stay with the hot hand, but it was odd to see such a big difference in snaps favoring Freeman in his first game back.

    From a fantasy perspective, this could be ugly. While the Falcons are contending for a playoff spot with only division games remaining, including two against the New Orleans Saints, they can't afford the offense to go in the wrong direction. If they go with more of even split of snaps, Coleman and Freeman will be tough to trust as anything more than low-end RB2s.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Alex Collins doesn't have serious competition for carries.
    Alex Collins doesn't have serious competition for carries.Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Week 13 Workload Distribution

    • Alex Collins: 51.6% snaps, 15 carries, 75 yards, 2 TDs, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 23 yards, 0 TD
    • Danny Woodhead: 31.3% snaps, 3 carries, 9 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards, 0 TD
    • Javorius Allen: 20.3% snaps, 7 carries, 22 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards, 0 TD

    The return of Woodhead has been a quiet one, much to chagrin of those who grabbed him in the weeks before he came back from a hamstring injury. 

    Woodhead's snap percentage dipped about 2 percent, but so did Allen's. Yet the mere presence of Allen has been a thorn in the side of Woodhead owners who expect Allen to disappear. Woodhead has just eight carries for 33 yards since returning, which isn't a surprise. However, just 11 receptions for 58 yards on 12 targets is a surprise, and not a good one.

    Considering the Ravens don't have much in their receiving corps, it's a bit of a mystery as to why Woodhead isn't playing a bigger role. He's just a depth player on fantasy and is only worth owning in PPR formats.

    Meanwhile, Collins continues to produce at a consistent level. He has at least 15 carries in four of his last five games, and his rushing yards have increased in each of the last three games. Early-season concerns about his ball security have disappeared.

    After not receiving a red-zone carry in the first seven games of the season, Collins has 12 in the last five games. That includes six carries inside the 10-yard line, four of which he converted into TDs over the last three games. 

    According to Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com, Collins wasn't on the injury report for Wednesday's practice after battling migraines following Week 13. He's a strong RB2 heading down the stretch.

Chicago Bears

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    A weak offense is costing Jordan Howard fantasy points.
    A weak offense is costing Jordan Howard fantasy points.Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Week 13 Workload Distribution

    • Jordan Howard: 59.5% snaps, 13 carries, 38 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 receptions, -5 yards, 0 TD
    • Tarik Cohen: 43.2% snaps, 2 carries, 5 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 39 yards, 0 TD
    • Benny Cunningham: 18.9% snaps, 0 carries, 0 targets

    You can only overcome so much when playing on a bad team. That's been a lesson learned by Howard owners over the last two weeks and a warning that's been in previous editions of the Workload Watch. 

    Even though Howard's snap percentage was up after three straight weeks at sub-50 percent, he's still not back to the 60-plus range he was at before the team's Week 9 bye. In the last two games, Howard has just 20 carries for 44 yards and no TDs.

    Getting just seven carries against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12 made sense because the Bears were blown out in 31-3 loss. His low touch count in Week 13 didn't make much sense because the matchup was good and the game was close throughout.

    If you're still holding onto Cohen, he's nothing more than empty depth. While he scored on a punt return, he didn't do much else. Cohen has 10 receptions for 62 yards on 12 targets in the last three weeks and 13 carries for 28 yards and a TD. His role is far from significant, so if you're already worried about using Howard with confidence, there's no reason to roster Cohen.

    Trusting Howard isn't easy. The Bears should be able to keep things interesting against the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns in the next three weeks, which should allow for Howard to get back into the 15-carry range. However, the last two games were discouraging, so expectations shouldn't be higher than an RB2 with a low ceiling and low floor.

Cleveland Browns

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    It's hard to have full trust in Isaiah Crowell on a bad team.
    It's hard to have full trust in Isaiah Crowell on a bad team.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Week 13 Workload Distribution

    • Isaiah Crowell: 50.8% snaps, 10 carries, 41 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 3 yards, 0 TD
    • Duke Johnson: 54% snaps, 7 carries, 2 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards, 0 TD

    Much like Howard in Chicago, you have to tread lightly with Crowell and Johnson on the winless Browns. Both players are talented, but disappointments in fantasy production are to be expected, as we saw in Week 13.

    The Browns kept it close with the Los Angeles Chargers, which should have allowed for Crowell to have a busy day on the ground. Instead, his 10 carries tied for the second-fewest he's had all season. Without much in the passing game and no red-zone carries, he was a major buzzkill in what should have been a beatable matchup. 

    Johnson also busted in the good matchup despite a healthy snap count. He went nowhere with his carries and tied a season low with just two receptions. Johnson can usually stay in the mix regardless of the score because of his role as a receiver, but the return of Josh Gordon (11 targets) may have been the cause for his drop in touches.

    Crowell and Johnson have a chance to bounce back when they face the Green Bay Packers in Week 14. Green Bay's defense is vulnerable, and the game should be close enough to keep both Crowell and Johnson busy. However, you know what you're getting into when you use players from a winless team, so expectations can't be higher than just decent RB2 numbers for either player.

Denver Broncos

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    C.J. Anderson was back in front for the Broncos in Week 13.
    C.J. Anderson was back in front for the Broncos in Week 13.Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Week 13 Workload Distribution

    • C.J. Anderson: 55.6% snaps, 15 carries, 67 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 4 receptions, 43 yards, 0 TD
    • Devontae Booker: 15.3% snaps, 2 carries, 8 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 0 yards, 0 TD
    • Jamaal Charles: 31.9% snaps, 3 carries, 12 yards, 0 TD, 5 targets, 5 receptions, 39 yards, 0 TD

    This may be the last time the Broncos appear in Workload Watch.

    Booker appeared to be taking over as the top fantasy option in Week 11. After two straight weeks of leading the backfield in touches and snaps, he completely fell out of fantasy relevance with his lowest snap percentage since Week 4 (13 percent). He snapped a five-game streak of playing at least 34 percent of the snaps. His three touches matched a season low set back in Week 4, which was also his season debut.

    Anderson's 15 carries marked the first time he hit that number since Week 8. He set a new season high in targets and receiving yards and matched his season high in receptions. Before Week 13, he totaled four receptions for 27 yards on six targets in five prior games. Even though he's been the best fantasy back in Denver this season, he's averaging just 9.6 fantasy points in PPR formats.

    Charles hasn't been worth anything for fantasy all year, and his presence has been more of an annoyance than anything. His snap percentage in Week 13 was his highest of the season, which doesn't make a lot of sense this late in the year on a team going nowhere. 

    This backfield has no direction with no clear leader as part of an offense that doesn't have an identity. There's no reason to acknowledge the existence of any Broncos RB for fantasy because you can't trust them in the playoffs. Don't bother rostering any of them.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Jerick McKinnon proved he still has fantasy value.
    Jerick McKinnon proved he still has fantasy value.John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Week 13 Workload Distribution

    • Latavius Murray: 45.5% snaps, 16 carries, 76 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 21 yards, 0 TD
    • Jerick McKinnon: 53% snaps, 9 carries, 24 yards, 0 TD, 5 targets, 5 receptions, 28 yards, 1 TD

    The Week 13 Edition of the BS Meter gave plenty of props to Murray for leading the way in Minnesota's backfield while acknowledging that McKinnon was still busy as the de facto No. 2 back. At the time, Murray appeared to have more fantasy value, but that didn't mean McKinnon was useless. 

    He made that clear in Week 13 with his first TD since Week 8. McKinnon's nine carries snapped a streak of seven games with at least 10 carries, but he made up for it with his fifth five-catch game in the last nine weeks. He also outsnapped Murray for the seventh time in eight games. It wasn't a huge fantasy performance, but it was a reminder he's still very much in the mix for the Vikings. 

    Murray's streak of games with at least 15 carries rose to seven, but his three-game TD streak was snapped. However, he had his busiest day of the season as a receiver. Coming into Week 13, Murray had just seven receptions for 39 yards on nine targets, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him more involved in the passing game, which nearly made up for his TD streak coming to an end.

    This remains a productive and busy backfield on a contending team. Both are very good RB2 options for fantasy with high ceilings and safe floors. Things tend to work out that way when you play for one of the better teams in the league.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Leading the Eagles in carries didn't help Jay Ajayi's fantasy production.
    Leading the Eagles in carries didn't help Jay Ajayi's fantasy production.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Week 13 Workload Distribution

    • LeGarrette Blount: 18.7% snaps, 8 carries, 26 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Jay Ajayi: 41.3% snaps, 9 carries, 35 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 11 yards, 0 TD
    • Corey Clement: 37.3% snaps, 3 carries, 7 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 30 yards, 0 TD

    After talking up the fantasy value of two RBs from a contending team, we come to the exception to the rule. The Eagles have used a committee for the season with great success, but they have no players among the top-30 fantasy RBs in PPR formats. That's frustrating since you'd like to get a piece of a great offense, yet you don't know who to rely on in a given week.

    For the first time as an Eagle, Ajayi led the backfield in both snaps and carries, yet he scored only 7.5 fantasy points. In four games with the team, he's averaging just 9.2 fantasy points per game and would only be a useful starter in deeper leagues. He's yet to log 10 carries in any game and has just 61 yards in the last two weeks. If you're expecting him to break out, that may never come, barring an injury to one of the other Eagles RBs.

    Blount seemed to pick up his play when Ajayi arrived and was being rewarded for it with the most snaps and most carries. A week after rushing for 97 yards on 15 carries in a blowout win over the Chicago Bears, he was a non-factor in a game the Eagles trailed throughout and eventually lost to the Seattle Seahawks.

    Blount is typically a front-runner since he can pound tired defenses when the Eagles have the lead, but that wasn't the case in Week 13. He had his lowest snap percentage since Week 2 and only the fourth game at less than 30 percent.

    For as good as the Eagles are, neither Ajayi nor Blount have produced to the level of a reliable fantasy starter. At this point, they are nothing more than emergency starters, especially since we're into the fantasy playoffs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Will the Buccaneers stick with Peyton Barber?
    Will the Buccaneers stick with Peyton Barber?Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Week 13 Workload Distribution

    • Peyton Barber: 68.4% snaps, 23 carries, 102 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 41 yards, 0 TD
    • Charles Sims: 25% snaps, 3 carries, 16 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 35 yards, 0 TD
    • Jacquizz Rodgers: 6.6% snaps, 3 carries, 25 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Doug Martin: inactive

    The Buccaneers went into Week 13 without Martin due to a concussion he suffered in Week 12. When Martin went down, it was Barber who found the end zone twice, which made up for rushing for just seven yards on five carries on just 14.1 percent of the snaps.

    Rodgers, who was in the mix before Martin suffered the concussion against the Atlanta Falcons, played 35.2 percent of the snaps with eight carries for 31 yards and a reception for six yards on two targets. It left enough doubt about Martin's replacement for Week 13 that both Barber and Rodgers were viable waiver-wire adds.

    When Week 13 was over, Barber left no doubt who the best back in Tampa Bay was thanks to his monster performance against the Green Bay Packers. He led the backfield in carries, rushing yards, targets, receptions and receiving yards.

    Barber recorded the most carries, rushing yards and highest snap percentage of any Buccaneers RB this season. Martin's best rushing effort came in Week 5 when he carried 13 times for 74 yards. He hasn't run for more than 71 yards in any other game.

    Martin went through full practice Wednesday, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, so he's on track to return for Week 14 against the Detroit Lions. However, the Buccaneers are 4-8 and four games out of the final playoff spot in the NFC, so they could decide to stick with Barber after he gave them the backfield's best performance of the season.

    This is a situation to monitor closely throughout the week.