Fantasy Football Week 11 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterNovember 16, 2017

Fantasy Football Week 11 Workload Watch

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    Rex Burkhead can do it all.
    Rex Burkhead can do it all.Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    For those looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs, you may be trying to make some roster tweaks heading down the stretch. Owners are making plenty of trades, but unless you're getting a clear upgrade, hanging on to running back depth is still wise. 

    Losing Devonta Freeman to a concussion isn't ideal, especially since Atlanta Falcons teammate Tevin Coleman is likely on another roster because he's had fantasy value independent outside of being the obvious handcuff for Freeman. Hopefully, Freeman doesn't miss much time, but you can't assume anything when it comes to concussions. Keeping some solid depth at running back can give you peace of mind if you are without Freeman for an indefinite period of time.

    Rex Burkhead was a popular add off the waiver wire just days after he, James White and Dion Lewis all had productive fantasy outings in the same game. It would be nice to say that you can have complete confidence in Burkhead for the rest of the season, but can that ever be said about a New England Patriots running back?

    To learn more about what's going on in the backfields for the New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, check out the Week 11 B.S. Meter. This Workload Watch covers eight other running back situations that have the most fantasy implications.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Tevin Coleman is the man in Atlanta until further notice.
    Tevin Coleman is the man in Atlanta until further notice.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Week 10 Workload Distribution

    • Devonta Freeman: 3.1% snaps, 2 carries, 3 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Tevin Coleman: 67.7% snaps, 20 carries, 83 yards, 1 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD
    • Terron Ward: 26.2% snaps, 9 carries, 23 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    The Atlanta Falcons were able to overcome the loss of Devonta Freeman to a concussion in Week 10 because they have arguably the best No. 2 running back in football, Tevin Coleman. According to Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com, Freeman isn't expected to play in Week 11 against the Seattle Seahawks, as it is his second concussion of the season. 

    While Coleman missed three games last season, Freeman didn't miss any, so we have to go back to Week 12 of 2015 for the only instance of Coleman playing without Freeman. In that game, Coleman carried 18 times for 110 yards and didn't have a catch on two targets while playing 67.2 percent of the snaps.

    Coleman has four career games with at least 15 carries, and in those games, he averaged 4.3 yards per carry. So in a small sample size, he's been able to handle a heavier workload.

    Ward did find his way into the mix with his first carries of the season last week, so he could have a similar role until Freeman is back. That would allow Coleman to have a role in the passing game, although that hasn't happened much recently. He has just four receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown on six receptions in the last five games.

    Coleman should be considered a top-12 RB going forward until Freeman is cleared to return to action.

Chicago Bears

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    Jordan Howard doesn't have a big margin of error in Chicago.
    Jordan Howard doesn't have a big margin of error in Chicago.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Week 10 Workload Distribution

    • Jordan Howard: 48.3% snaps, 15 carries, 54 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Tarik Cohen: 21.7% snaps, 1 carry, 1 yard, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 10 yards, 0 TD
    • Benny Cunningham: 46.7% snaps, 1 carry, 0 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 32 yards, 0 TD

    Surprisingly, a decent amount of questions on Cohen continue to come even though he's been a fantasy ghost since the first month of the 2017 season. If there was a game for him to get back into the action, it would have been last week, when the Chicago Bears trailed the Green Bay Packers throughout the second half at Soldier Field. 

    Instead, Cohen had a single catch for the fifth straight game. Over the last five games, he has just five receptions for 94 yards on 12 targets, including a 70-yard reception in Week 7. He hasn't had more than one reception in a game since September. He's never had much of a role on the ground with just 55 carries for 229 yards and a touchdown on the season, including just five carries for three yards in the last three games. Cohen is dead weight on your fantasy roster, especially with Cunningham stealing targets.

    Based on what looked like a good matchup by the numbers, with the Bears having a chance to keep the game close, Howard should have been a great play in Week 10.

    Instead, he had his third-lowest carry total of the season and his lightest workload since Week 2. He also failed to score for the fifth straight game. As always, Howard needs volume to be productive for fantasy because he doesn't get an abundance of scoring chances (17 red-zone carries, five carries inside the 5-yard line), and he doesn't do much as a receiver (14 receptions, 78 yards, 21 targets).

    Over the last four weeks, Howard is averaging just nine fantasy points per game in points-per-reception (PPR) formats. Don't let his volume trick you into thinking he's anything more than a decent RB2.

Cleveland Browns

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    Isaiah Crowell is heating up after a slow start.
    Isaiah Crowell is heating up after a slow start.Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Week 10 Workload Distribution

    • Isaiah Crowell: 44.4% snaps, 16 carries, 90 yards, 1 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD
    • Duke Johnson: 59.3% snaps, 10 carries, 54 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 6 receptions, 34 yards, 0 TD

    The Cleveland Browns are still winless, yet their backfield is starting to put it together at the same time to give fantasy owners two top-27 running backs over the last month.

    In the last four games (five weeks), Crowell rushed for 247 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 56 carries, which is good for 4.4 yards per attempt. He's been busier and more productive as a receiver too, with 11 receptions for 110 yards on 16 targets in that four-game stretch. During that span, Crowell is the No. 14 PPR RB with 56.7 fantasy points and 14.2 fantasy points per game. 

    Johnson remains one of the busiest pass-catching backs in the league with 19 receptions for 88 yards on 23 targets in the last five weeks. He leads all Browns in targets (54), receptions (42) and receiving yards (358) on the season. Even though he hasn't been busy as a runner, he's been efficient with 28 carries for 153 yards (5.5 yards per carry) over his last four games. He's the No. 27 RB in PPR formats in the last five weeks.

    Game flow will matter more to Crowell than Johnson because Johnson should stay involved regardless of the score because of his role in the passing game. However, the Browns clearly don't have a lot of faith in rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, so keeping Crowell and Johnson involved with big roles every week should continue down the stretch.

    Even on a winless team, these two backs are the best fantasy options, and it's not even close. Obviously, Crowell is more valuable in standard scoring formats, while Johnson is typically better in PPR leagues.

Detroit Lions

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    Touchdowns saved Ameer Abdullah's fantasy value in the last two weeks.
    Touchdowns saved Ameer Abdullah's fantasy value in the last two weeks.Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Week 10 Workload Distribution

    • Ameer Abdullah: 59.6% snaps, 11 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 3 yards, 0 TD
    • Theo Riddick: 32.7% snaps, 4 carries, 35 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 12 yards, 1 TD
    • Dwayne Washington: 7.7% snaps, 0 carries, 1 target, 1 reception, 10 yards, 0 TD

    Abdullah had just one touchdown over the first seven games, but TDs have salvaged his fantasy value in the last two weeks. He had one of his more efficient outings in Week 10 with 4.7 yards per carry, but it was only the third time this season he didn't register at least 14 carries in a game.

    Over the last four contests, he has just five receptions for 23 yards on eight targets. That puts him at 15 receptions for 91 yards and no scores on 20 targets for the season. His lack of production as a receiver has been disappointing. 

    Riddick's four carries in Week 10 marked just the fifth time this season he registered that many in a game. His fantasy value was also saved by a touchdown—his first since Week 1.

    With 32 receptions for 278 yards on 42 targets in nine games, Riddick is on pace to finish with about 57 receptions for 494 yards and four touchdowns on 75 targets. He had 53 receptions for 371 yards and five touchdowns on 67 targets in 10 games last year and 80 receptions for 697 yards and three touchdowns on 99 targets in 2015. 

    Neither Riddick nor Abdullah has been anything more than an RB3/flex in PPR formats over the last five weeks. During that time, Riddick averaged 10.5 fantasy points per game, and Abdullah had just 8.9 FPG. Neither player is a top-25 fantasy RB in PPR for the season. We know enough about this backfield to call both Riddick and Abdullah RB3/flex options you'll be making a decision on each week.

Houston Texans

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    Can Lamar Miller stay busy enough to be reliable down the stretch?
    Can Lamar Miller stay busy enough to be reliable down the stretch?Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Week 10 Workload Distribution

    • Lamar Miller: 58.6% snaps, 11 carries, 60 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 14 yards, 0 TD
    • D'Onta Foreman: 22.9% snaps, 7 carries, 18 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Alfred Blue: 18.6% snaps, 4 carries, 10 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    Miller is coming off two of his lightest yet most efficient workloads of the season in losses to the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts. He posted 117 yards on 21 carries, which marks two of only three games with fewer than 15 carries. However, those are also two of only four games he averaged at least four yards per carry.

    Miller continues to have a steady role as a receiver, and his one-catch performance in Week 10 was just the fourth time he had two or fewer receptions in a game. Miller finds himself right in the mix with Bruce Ellington (39), Will Fuller (33), Ryan Griffin (26) and Stephen Anderson (25) as it relates to targets, with the entire group far behind wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (106).

    Foreman's role has been inconsistent, as he's failed to register double-digit carries in back-to-back games all season. He also has three receptions on five targets for the year and hasn't had a catch in the last four games. Blue doesn't have much of a role either, but the combination of both him and Foreman is taking away just enough from Foreman to cut into his margin of error, especially as part of an offense that's going in the wrong direction.

    It's not a coincidence that Miller has been less busy with Tom Savage at quarterback. The Texans are struggling to compete at anywhere near the same level as they did with Deshaun Watson.

    After facing the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11 at NRG Stadium, the Texans have two games on the road in Baltimore and Tennessee before coming back home to host the San Francisco 49ers. They'll get a pair of tough matchups against the Jaguars (in Jacksonville) and Pittsburgh Steelers (in Houston) in the prime fantasy playoff weeks. 

    If Miller can stay in the RB2 range for the rest of the season, it should be considered a victory.

Miami Dolphins

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    Kenyan Drake is leading the way in Miami.
    Kenyan Drake is leading the way in Miami.Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Week 10 Workload Distribution

    • Kenyan Drake: 43.9% snaps, 7 carries, 82 yards, 1 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards
    • Damien Williams: 56.1% snaps, 9 carries, 19 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards, 0 TD

    Miami has only played two games without Jay Ajayi, but so far, Drake has been the safer fantasy option for the Dolphins.

    The split in touches has been dead even. Drake has 16 carries for 151 yards and a touchdown, while Williams has 16 carries for 33 yards. So Drake has the clear advantage that has been helped by runs of 42 and 66 yards in the last two weeks. Williams has been a little better as a receiver with eight receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. Drake caught all eight of his targets for 45 yards.

    Drake has outscored Williams 33.6-24.0 in the two games without Ajayi. He seems to be a bit more trustworthy as the better runner since both are capable pass-catchers. Based on the fantasy output, both players are likely overachieving, so with such an even split, expectations should be lowered. Their efficiency will likely not continue on a team heading in the wrong direction at 4-5. Drake is a low-end RB2 at best, but both should have RB3/flex value for the rest of the season.

New England Patriots

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    Dion Lewis is still producing in a crowded Patriots backfield.
    Dion Lewis is still producing in a crowded Patriots backfield.Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Week 10 Workload Distribution

    • Rex Burkhead: 51.4% snaps, 10 carries, 36 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD
    • James White: 15.7% snaps, 2 carries, 7 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 11 yards, 1 TD
    • Dion Lewis: 30.0% snaps, 14 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets
    • Mike Gillislee: inactive

    Did a New England Patriots backfield actually give us three top-25 backs in the same week? Amazingly, that answer is yes, and it was nearly three top-20 backs. But White was 0.2 fantasy points the No. 20 running backs, Joe Mixon, T.J. Yeldon and Jonathan Stewart.    

    Knowing how tough it can be to deal with this backfield, we shouldn't take for granted how fantasy-friendly it was to see Burkhead, White and Lewis all come through in a tough matchup with the Denver Broncos. 

    The Patriots appeared to make their intentions clear by deactivating Gillislee in favor of the more well-rounded group of Burkhead, Lewis, White and key special teams contributor Brandon Bolden. Of course, Burkhead came through on special teams with a blocked punt, while Lewis had a kickoff return for a touchdown in addition to his rushing score.

    Assessing the backfield for the rest of the season based on Week 10 is somewhat foolish because the team is so matchup-based. 

    Gillislee hasn't led the team in carries since Week 5. In the team's last four games, he has 29 carries for 109 yards and no touchdowns, while Lewis has 53 carries for 227 and two scores. Gillislee also hasn't outsnapped Lewis since Week 5.

    Since Burkhead came back from injury, his snaps have risen from 17.6 percent to 31.4 percent to a team-high 51.4 percent in Week 10. Meanwhile, White's snaps have dropped every game since Week 4, from 61.4 percent that week to less than 16 percent in Week 10.

    Knowing how head coach Bill Belichick operates, this backfield could completely change next week, but if you're looking for a trend to follow, Burkhead and Lewis look like the best two options. It's hard to give either player a high ceiling, so hope for RB2-type weeks knowing that the Patriots aren't worried about being predictable enough to handicap for fantasy purposes.

Tennessee Titans

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    Three trips to the end zone shouldn't change the perception of DeMarco Murray.
    Three trips to the end zone shouldn't change the perception of DeMarco Murray.Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    Week 10 Workload Distribution

    • DeMarco Murray: 74.4% snaps, 14 carries, 42 yards, 2 TDs, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 30 yards, 1 TD
    • Derrick Henry: 31.1% snaps, 11 carries, 52 yards, 3 targets, 0 receptions, 0 TD

    There's been plenty written about this backfield in both previous editions of the Workload Watch and B.S. Meter. Until Murray is actually ruled out, he's the preferred back for the Titans. We saw that again in Week 10 despite his knee issue that popped up on the injury report following Week 9.

    For the second straight week, Murray played at least 70 percent of the snaps, while Henry failed to hit 40 percent. Henry has outsnapped Murray just one time (Week 6) and has been outsnapped by at least 20 percent in five games.

    That's not to say it's been the best decision by the Titans, as Henry is averaging 4.4 yards per carry (94 carries, 409 yards) to Murray's 4.0 yards per carry (109 carries, 433 yards). However, you must recognize that Murray is the go-to back in Tennessee and should be treated as such.

    That does not mean he's a great fantasy option, at least not compared to last year. Murray had another forgettable afternoon running the ball with just three yards per carry, but he was saved by a pair of rushing touchdowns and one through the air. For the season, he still holds a clear advantage over Henry in the passing game with 23 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown on 27 targets, while Henry has just six receptions for 45 yards on 10 targets. 

    Even with three touchdowns in Week 10, Murray is averaging just 12.2 fantasy points per game as the No. 18 running back in PPR formats with 109.8 fantasy points. Henry is far behind as the No. 37 PPR running back with 69.4 fantasy points and 7.7 fantasy points per game. If you're playing Henry when Murray is active, it's out of desperation.