Fantasy Football Week 5 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterOctober 5, 2017

Fantasy Football Week 5 Workload Watch

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    Bilal Powell busted out in Week 4.
    Bilal Powell busted out in Week 4.Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Running back depth will always be tested in fantasy football. Just ask those who've lost David Johnson, Dalvin Cook and Chris Carson over the first month of the 2017 season. While it's never easy to replace your top players, working the waiver wire can provide a wide array of solutions, some short-term and some long-term. 

    What if you avoided the big injuries in the first four weeks of the season and have someone like Doug Martin returning to action in Week 5? Should you hang on to the running back depth you have or immediately trade it away to improve your roster elsewhere?

    If you have a major need at another position and can afford to move a RB because you're deep at the position, then go ahead and do it. If you're comfortable with your roster for the most part, it might be wise to stick with the RB depth you have because you could be the next to lose one of your best players. That makes it a lot easier to replace a big loss, as opposed to talking yourself into the messes in Seattle and Minnesota as potential solutions. 

    Plus, look at how quickly perceptions and values can change around the league. Last week at this time, Bilal Powell had been a major disappointment to fantasy owners, but with a bigger role in the absence of Matt Forte, he destroyed the Jacksonville Jaguars with one of the best fantasy performances of the season. If you kept him around, his presence might soften the blow if you lost Cook or Carson.

    To learn more about what's going on in the backfields for the Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings, check out the Week 5 BS Meter. This Workload Watch covers eight other RB situations that have the most fantasy implications.

Buffalo Bills

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    LeSean McCoy has been solid but far from spectacular.
    LeSean McCoy has been solid but far from spectacular.Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Week 4 Workload Distribution

                                        

    If you drafted LeSean McCoy, are you happy with his output?

    After rushing for just 30 yards on 26 carries in Weeks 2 and 3, McCoy posted 76 yards on 20 carries in Week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons. Since rushing for 110 yards on 22 carries in Week 1, McCoy has just 106 yards on 46 carries in the last three games. He’s been able to salvage his fantasy value with an active role in the passing game. McCoy’s 21 receptions (23 targets) lead the Buffalo Bills, and his 163 receiving yards are second only to Charles Clay's 227.

    Scoring has been a problem for McCoy. He’s yet to find the end zone this season despite leading the team in red-zone carries (10), although he doesn’t have a red-zone target. To be fair, the only Bills with multiple touchdowns are Clay and Andre Holmes—each has two—so it's not like Buffalo is lighting up the scoreboard.

    If you drafted McCoy to be an RB1 and a foundation piece of your team, he's falling short of expectations. With a quarter of the season already gone, McCoy is the No. 15 fantasy running back in points-per-reception formats with 58.9 fantasy points (14.7 per game). While that's not bad, he hasn't been the type of player you could rely on for big performances in the past. 

    Obviously, McCoy is the best player in Buffalo's offense, so the touches should continue to come. It's fair to wonder, though, if the wrist and groin injuries that occurred in Week 1 are still bothering him.      

Carolina Panthers

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    Christian McCaffrey's early returns have been somewhat underwhelming.
    Christian McCaffrey's early returns have been somewhat underwhelming.Associated Press

    Week 4 Workload Distribution

    • Christian McCaffrey: 76.2% snaps, 6 carries, 16 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 4 receptions, 33 yards, 0 TD
    • Jonathan Stewart: 44.4% snaps, 14 carries, 68 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 0 receptions

                                                              

    The Carolina Panthers finally had an offensive explosion in their Week 4 victory over the New England Patriots, yet not everyone got in on the action. Christian McCaffrey's struggles on the ground continued, and while he had his fourth game with at least five targets, it wasn't enough to push him into RB1 territory. That's the second time that's happened this season, which is unfortunate since the matchup was good. 

    If you were worried Jonathan Stewart would take away snaps from McCaffrey, that hasn't been a concern. The rookie has played at least 63 percent of snaps in each game and is ninth in total offensive snaps for the season. Stewart is averaging 42 percent of snaps, so the two continue to play at the same time.

    Not surprisingly, Stewart remains the leader with 59 carries to McCaffrey's 31, although neither player has been very productive on the ground. Stewart has 230 yards and 3.9 yards per carry without a rushing touchdown, while McCaffrey has just 89 yards and also hasn't found the end zone. In fact, a nine-yard TD catch in the opener against the San Francisco 49ers is the only score between the two.

    McCaffrey remains the team leader in targets (29) and receptions (22), so there's been no issue with his role as a receiver. He's struggled to break tackles and can't see to get anything going on the ground, which is the biggest concern. After four games, the rookie is 20th in fantasy points per game among running backs. For now, it may be best to downgrade McCaffrey into a mid-range RB2 classification until he proves he can be more than that. Stewart is just RB depth with little fantasy value.             

Chicago Bears

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    Is it time to move Jordan Howard?
    Is it time to move Jordan Howard?Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Week 4 Workload Distribution

    • Jordan Howard: 51.5% snaps, 18 carries, 53 yards, 1 TD, 4 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards
    • Tarik Cohen: 26.5% snaps, 6 carries, 24 yards, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 24 yards, 0 TD

                                                    

    Last week's ugly loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field was probably a frustrating watch if you had Jordan Howard or Tarik Cohen in your lineup. After an early weather delay, the game pretty much went according to plan, with the Packers dominating the Bears en route to a 35-14 victory. With Green Bay up 21-7 at the half, it looked like a perfect setup for Cohen to get busy as a receiver. Chicago had other, poor plans. 

    It didn't help that Mike Glennon threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles, but for some reason, the Bears stuck with Howard on the ground despite his lack of success and the wide gap in the score. Even though Howard didn't play well, he salvaged his fantasy production with a three-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter with the game already well out of reach. 

    You should not be feeling any better about the second-year player because that score gave him a much-needed boost after a mostly poor performance. Chicago actually led the time of possession over three minutes, although the turnovers led to some great field position and quick scores for the Packers. 

    Now the Bears will turn to rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who is getting his first NFL start Monday night at home at Soldier Field against the Vikings.

    It's asking a lot of a rookie with arguably the worst WR group in the league to be an improvement over Glennon, so we should expect a lot more of Howard and Cohen going forward. Opposing defenses should continue to gear up to stop Howard and make Trubisky beat them. This might be a good time to shop Howard while his value is still somewhat high as the No. 11 fantasy RB.       

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Joe Mixon is getting the volume but isn't producing.
    Joe Mixon is getting the volume but isn't producing.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Week 4 Workload Distribution

    • Joe Mixon: 48.4% snaps, 17 carries, 29 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 19 yards, 0 TD
    • Giovani Bernard: 32.8% snaps, 3 carries, 12 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 67 yards, 1 TD
    • Jeremy Hill: 18.8% snaps, 6 carries, 16 yards, 1 target, 1 reception, 10 yards, 0 TD

                                           

    The good news is the Bengals are committing to Joe Mixon, giving him 42 touches in the last two weeks. The bad news is he's been unable to turn that into much production.

    In a plus matchup with the Browns that Cincinnati easily controlled, Mixon rushed for just 1.7 yards per carry, which is a bad sign. Even though the Bengals offensive line leaves a lot to be desired, some of the blame has to fall on the rookie for failing to produce when given a big opportunity. He's been reliable as a receiver with 11 targets and no drops, so that has been a positive sign.

    Giovani Bernard remains in a supporting role as a change-of-pace back, and he was able to turn a well-executed screen into a 61-yard touchdown. Bernard isn't a weekly fantasy starter, but he's not a bad bench player if you need to plug him in for an emergency situation.

    Luckily for Mixon, Jeremy Hill has done nothing of note with 25 carries for 82 yards on the season. While it's probably best for the Bengals to take those carries away from Hill and stick with Mixon and Bernard, it's not like any of these backs has been super impressive.

    From a volume standpoint, Mixon should be worth using on a weekly basis, although he's probably a low RB2/high RB3 until he starts performing at a higher level.      

Detroit Lions

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    Can you trust Theo Riddick?
    Can you trust Theo Riddick?Al Pereira/Getty Images

    Week 4 Workload Distribution

    • Ameer Abdullah: 47.1% snaps, 20 carries, 94 yards, 1 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 15 yards, 0 TD
    • Theo Riddick: 25.7% snaps, 4 carries, 4 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 8 yards, 0 TD
    • Zach Zenner: 27.1% snaps, 3 carries, 0 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

                                   

    The Lions seem to be fully committing to Ameer Abdullah, and that might be coming at the expense of Theo Riddick. 

    Abdullah hasn't played more than 51 percent of the snaps in a game this season, but he's outsnapped Riddick in three of four contests. Week 4 was the biggest gap in snaps between the two this season, and it also happened to be the first time this campaign Riddick was third in the backfield in snaps. That might be alarming to those who have Riddick on their fantasy rosters.

    In the 14-7 win over the Vikings in Week 4, Abdullah had his second game with at least 85 rushing yards and his third with at least 15 rushing attempts. Even though he's averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, his volume is making up for it with 75 touches on the season. He also leads the backfield with six red-zone carries.

    On the other hand, Riddick seems to be going in the wrong direction. He didn't have a carry in Week 3 but did have nine targets with four receptions for 38 yards. In Week 4, he carried four times for four yards and saw just two targets with a single catch for eight yards. For the season, Riddick has just 28 touches for 113 yards and one touchdown, which came back in Week 1.

    Abdullah seems to be trending up, as the No. 22 fantasy RB, while Riddick is trending down at No. 35. For the first time in his career, it’s fair to call Abdullah a weekly starter. Riddick is barely an RB3/flex in PPR and has no value in standard scoring formats.     

New York Jets

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    Was Elijah McGuire's Week 4 performance just a fluke?
    Was Elijah McGuire's Week 4 performance just a fluke?Brad Penner/Associated Press

    Week 4 Workload Distribution

    • Bilal Powell: 65.7% snaps, 21 carries, 163 yards, 1 TD, 5 targets, 4 receptions, 27 yards, 0 TD
    • Elijah McGuire: 27.1% snaps, 10 carries, 93 yards, 1 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 38 yards, 0 TD
    • Matt Forte: inactive

                              

    It took four weeks and a toe injury to Matt Forte, but the Jets have finally figured out that Bilal Powell should be leading the way in this backfield with Elijah McGuire backing him up in a complementary role.

    In a tough matchup with Jacksonville, Powell lit up the Jags for his first 100-yard game since Week 17 of last season. He had his biggest snap share and his first reception since Week 1. McGuire's role continued to trend up, as the 2017 sixth-round pick's carries have increased in every game and he had his largest snap percentage of the year. 

    If Forte is unable to play once again this week, Powell should get another heavy workload with a nice matchup against the Browns. Even though the Jets aren't expected to be in playoff contention and are surprisingly sitting at 2-2, you'd hope they'd stick with the Powell-McGuire combination. It gives them their best chance to pose an offensive threat since their receiving corps is one of the worst in the league.

    As long as Powell is the man in this backfield, he's no worse than an RB3 with obvious upside to be more than that as a threat on the ground and through the air. McGuire doesn't have anything more than bench value, although it's fair to wonder if he'll be in line for more opportunities later in the season when the Jets fall out of contention.

Tennessee Titans

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    Don't blame DeMarco Murray for what happened in Houston.
    Don't blame DeMarco Murray for what happened in Houston.Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    Week 4 Workload Distribution

                                         

    Wiping Week 4 from your memory is a good idea if you are a fan of the Tennessee Titans or have DeMarco Murray on your fantasy team. The 57-14 loss to the Texans at NRG Stadium was no fault of Murray's, yet his fantasy numbers suffered in a big way because of the game flow. The Texans held a 21-0 lead just six seconds into the second quarter. 

    The biggest concern coming out of the game was the hamstring injury Marcus Mariota suffered, which made the Titans turn to Matt Cassel. He was awful in relief with two interceptions and a lost fumble. Even though Murray is a skilled receiver, his lack of production in the passing game was highlighted once again. After four weeks, he has just six receptions for 28 yards on eight targets.

    Still, Murray remains the lead back. If you're waiting for Henry to take over, Murray has to go on a serious cold streak or get injured because there's no reason to go away from the veteran other than to give him a breather. 

    Right now, the Titans need to get Mariota healthy to give this offense the best chance to perform at a peak level, and with no major weapons in the WR corps, they should look to get Murray more involved as a receiver. Even though he is 32nd in fantasy points at running back, he should be able to rebound in the coming weeks and might be a good buy-low candidate if you're hurting at the position.

Washington Redskins

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    Chris Thompson's white-hot start ended in Week 4.
    Chris Thompson's white-hot start ended in Week 4.Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Week 4 Workload Distribution

    • Chris Thompson: 52% snaps, 6 carries, 23 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards, 0 TD
    • Samaje Perine: 24% snaps, 6 carries, 27 yards, 0 targets
    • Rob Kelley: 24% snaps, 7 carries, 23 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 0 receptions

                                   

    The Redskins head into the bye with many wondering what to think about the backfield following a terrible performance against the Chiefs, especially after Chris Thompson was limited to just seven touches after the way he started the season. 

    There are two ways to look at Thompson after he cooled off in a big way. First, as detailed in last week's Workload Watch, there was no way he could keep such a torrid pace in reality or fantasy. The letdown game was bound to happen, and Thompson will likely settle in your fantasy lineups as a great RB3 or decent RB2, specifically in PPR formats. 

    The other way to look at what happened in Week 4 is to wonder why Washington didn't feature Thompson in a bigger role even though he had his highest snap percentage of the season. Was it because Rob Kelley was back from his rib injury? It's not like he stayed healthy, as an ankle injury took him out of action, forcing the team to turn back to Samaje Perine. 

    You could point to time of possession, which was nearly 15 minutes in favor of the Chiefs. Washington was limited to just 24 passing attempts and 26 carries, seven of which came from Kirk Cousins. 

    It's fair to chalk this up to just a bad fantasy performance from nearly all the Redskins, but also realize that Thompson won't match his super-efficient start to the season. Using Perine and Kelley could be a bit more difficult if both stay involved, as they'll likely cancel each other out, so Thompson is still the most reliable fantasy option of the group.