Fantasy Football Week 12 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterNovember 23, 2017

Fantasy Football Week 12 Workload Watch

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    Change is happening in Denver.
    Change is happening in Denver.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Even after 11 weeks, some NFL backfields remain fluid situations. 

    Of course, that tends to happen when you don't have a top talent. Kenyan Drake looked like the safer option in the Miami Dolphins backfield, but he barely did anything in Week 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Damien Williams had more carries and a more productive game. It's an annoying split on a bad team. That's a recipe for disaster.

    The three-headed backfield in Denver might be down to two. Devontae Booker has seen his role increase with positive results, while Jamaal Charles is fading away after just barely hanging on for most of the season. The Broncos might not be a good team, but if they decide to feature Booker, he could be a valuable fantasy asset down the stretch.

    A good team, like the Minnesota Vikings, has it figured out this late in the season. The Vikes continue to use both Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon with lots of success. While that might lower the ceilings for Murray and McKinnon, it also raises their floors. 

    To learn more about what's going on in the backfields for the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens, check out the Week 12 B.S. Meter. This Workload Watch covers eight other RB situations that have the most fantasy implications.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Tevin Coleman was predictably busy without Devonta Freeman.
    Tevin Coleman was predictably busy without Devonta Freeman.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Week 11 Workload Distribution

    • Tevin Coleman: 67.7% snaps, 20 carries, 43 yards, 1 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 15 yards, 0 TD
    • Terron Ward: 29% snaps, 6 carries, 31 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards, 0 TD
    • Devonta Freeman: inactive

    Freeman wasn't cleared from his concussion for Week 11, so Coleman predictably saw a heavy workload against the Seattle Seahawks. However, he needed a touchdown to make up for what was an otherwise disappointing outing.

    Surprisingly, neither Coleman nor Ward played much of a role in the passing game, but that's been a problem for fantasy all season in this backfield. Freeman and Coleman have a combined 37 receptions for 355 yards and two touchdowns on 51 targets. 

    According to Vaughn McClure of, head coach Dan Quinn said Freeman is still in the concussion protocol and added, "Hopefully, we'll get another shift in it this week."

    Of course, you can never assume a timeline with concussions, so you should treat Coleman as the lead back until further notice.

    Freeman was the No. 14 points-per-reception (PPR) running back over the first nine weeks of the season before suffering his concussion in Week 10. Coleman was the No. 23 PPR running back over that span, so while it hasn't been as dominant as last year, this backfield can churn out strong fantasy production.

    If Ward remains in a backup/change-of-pace role and Freeman is out, Coleman should be a good play in a favorable matchup with the Buccaneers on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.    

Chicago Bears

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    Without Jordan Howard, the Bears wouldn't have an offense.
    Without Jordan Howard, the Bears wouldn't have an offense.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Week 11 Workload Distribution

    • Jordan Howard: 49.2% snaps, 15 carries, 125 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets
    • Tarik Cohen: 49.2% snaps, 9 carries, 44 yards, 1 TD, 6 targets, 4 receptions, 15 yards, 0 TD
    • Benny Cunningham: 27.0% snaps, 0 carries, 2 targets, 1 reception, 18 yards, 0 TD

    Even though Howard's snap count dipped below 50 percent for the second straight week, he bounced back from an underwhelming performance against the Green Bay Packers to have arguably his best game of the season against the Detroit Lions.

    Howard's margin of error has been small for most of the season because he's needed volume to produce. That's because he doesn't get a lot of scoring opportunities in a weak offense and has a minimal role in the passing game (14 receptions on 21 targets).

    Howard notched his fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the season, which was more impressive since it was the first time he didn't need at least 23 carries to hit the century mark. Week 11 marked only the fourth time he failed to register more than 15 carries. 

    Cohen hasn't had any real fantasy value since the first month of the season, and he was outsnapped by Cunningham in Week 10 because of some issues in pass protection. Just when it appeared Cohen was completely off the fantasy radar, he drew even with Howard in snaps, scored his second rushing touchdown of the season and had his busiest game as a receiver since Week 4.

    Because Cohen has been quiet for so long, it's hard to get excited about one decent game, especially this late in the season. He'll need to do more to re-establish legitimate fantasy value.

Cleveland Browns

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    Duke Johnson came through with a touchdown in Week 11.
    Duke Johnson came through with a touchdown in Week 11.Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Week 11 Workload Distribution

    • Isaiah Crowell: 43.6% snaps, 11 carries, 18 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Duke Johnson: 49.1% snaps, 2 carries, 10 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 4 receptions, 56 yards, 1 TD        

    If you bought into Crowell's resurgence heading into Week 11, he pulled a typical Cleveland Browns move by letting you down against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    After racking up 118 total yards and a touchdown on 15 touches against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8 and 95 total yards and a score on 17 touches against the Detroit Lions in Week 10 (Cleveland had a Week 9 bye), Crowell couldn't even muster two fantasy points in last week's 19-7 loss to the Jags.

    While it wasn't an easy matchup, the game stayed close throughout, yet Crowell had a much lighter workload than expected. It was the fifth time Crowell failed to rush for at least 50 yards.

    Johnson also had a quiet day on the ground, which is normal, although his two carries marked only the third time this season he didn't have at least four carries in a game. Luckily, he stayed active as a receiver and caught just his second touchdown of the year to finish the day with 16.6 fantasy points.

    Matchups shouldn't matter too much for Johnson, as his role as a receiver is a consistent one that allowed him to stay involved regardless of the score. He remains a fine RB2. Crowell hasn't been productive enough to call him anything more than an RB3/flex, as evidenced by his standing as the No. 26 running back through 11 weeks.

Denver Broncos

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    Devontae Booker is on the rise.
    Devontae Booker is on the rise.Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Week 11 Workload Distribution

    • C.J. Anderson: 35.8% snaps, 13 carries, 37 yards, 1 TD, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards, 0 TD
    • Devontae Booker: 59.3% snaps, 14 carries, 44 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 5 receptions, 54 yards, 0 TD
    • Jamaal Charles: 4.9% snaps, 3 carries, 7 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    The Broncos have annoyed fantasy owners by refusing to commit to the run and by using a three-headed backfield, which is tough enough to deal with on good teams but nearly impossible to trust on bad teams. Even though it suffered its sixth straight loss in Week 11, Denver might be clearing up the backfield.

    For the first time in 2017, Anderson didn't lead the team in snaps, although he's been trending down in that category for the last month.

    It was the third straight game Anderson failed to register 40 percent of the snaps. After playing at least 68 percent of the snaps in each of the first four games, he hasn't played 60 percent of the snaps in the last six. While you can blame some of that on the Broncos' poor game-planning, the recent trend seems to indicate a move to Booker. 

    It was he who led the team in carries and targets. Booker leads Anderson in targets 23-8 over the last six games. His snaps have risen in each of the last three games, so he's trending up at the right time, especially with the Broncos making the move to Paxton Lynch at quarterback. New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is a run-friendly play-caller, so Booker might be taking over the backfield at the perfect time.

Miami Dolphins

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    The split continues in the Dolphins backfield.
    The split continues in the Dolphins backfield.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Week 11 Workload Distribution

    • Kenyan Drake: 59.4% snaps, 7 carries, 4 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception, 10 yards, 0 TD
    • Damien Williams: 42.2% snaps, 10 carries, 78 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 24 yards, 0 TD

    Three games without Jay Ajayi have resulted in a pretty even split between Drake and Williams. Drake led the backfield in snaps twice, while neither player has been on the field for more than 59.4 percent of the snaps or less than 42.2 percent of the snaps. Of course, the biggest difference in snaps over the three games was in favor of Drake, but Williams had a better fantasy performance in Week 11. 

    A 69-yard run helped Williams post his best rushing numbers of the season. It was also the first time he rushed for more than 20 yards in a game. Neither Drake nor Williams had double-digit carries at any point this season until Williams finally hit that mark in last week's loss to the Buccaneers.

    The two players are dead even with 10 targets apiece in the last three games. Williams has nine receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown, while Drake has nine receptions for 55 yards. Over that same span, Drake has 23 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown. Williams has 26 carries for 111 yards and no scores. So that gives Williams a three-touch advantage and Drake an eight-yard advantage.

    You're completely guessing on who will be the better fantasy option between the two, and barring an injury, that's not likely to change anytime soon. You can consider both players RB3/flex options with RB2 upside.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Latavius Murray has a consistent role on a good team, which goes a long way for his fantasy value.
    Latavius Murray has a consistent role on a good team, which goes a long way for his fantasy value.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Week 11 Workload Distribution

    • Latavius Murray: 42.3% snaps, 15 carries, 95 yards, 2 TDs, 2 targets, 1 reception, 1 yard, 0 TD
    • Jerick McKinnon: 57.7% snaps, 14 carries, 48 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 5 receptions, 12 yards, 0 TD

    The hot streak has continued for the Minnesota Vikings, which means no drastic changes in how they are operating in the backfield. That might not be what fantasy owners want to hear, but at least the Vikings are giving Murray and McKinnon plenty of touches.

    Murray has at least 15 touches in the last five games despite just three receptions on four targets during that span. McKinnon has at least 15 touches in all but one of the last five games. He has just one game with 15 carries over that time but has at least three receptions in four of those five games. His role as a receiver is the true key to his fantasy value. 

    Murray's value has been boosted by four touchdowns in the last four games. In those contests, he converted six carries inside the 10-yard line into three scores. Meanwhile, McKinnon has just three carries inside the 10 with one touchdown over the last four games. While McKinnon may be busier as a receiver, Murray is getting more chances to score.

    In the last five weeks (four games), Murray is the No. 10 fantasy running back and McKinnon is the No. 16 fantasy running back. Besides Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram of the New Orleans Saints (Nos. 1 and 2, respectively), Minnesota is the only other team with two players in the top 16 over the same span. Consider Murray and McKinnon solid RB2s with reliable roles on one of the best teams in the league.

New England Patriots

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    Dion Lewis is as close to trustworthy as it gets in New England.
    Dion Lewis is as close to trustworthy as it gets in New England.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Week 11 Workload Distribution

    • Rex Burkhead: 31.7% snaps, 5 carries, 16 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 4 receptions, 21 yards, 0 TD
    • James White: 28.3% snaps, 5 carries, 13 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 0 receptions
    • Dion Lewis: 43.3% snaps, 10 carries, 60 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 28 yards, 1 TD
    • Mike Gillislee: inactive

    In most instances, if you do your job in New England, you get to keep your job. The Patriots backfield has always been a good example of this, which is why ball security is so important. 

    Gillislee lost a fumble in Week 6 and hasn't been the same since, as evidenced by his 19 carries in the two games after the fumble followed by two healthy scratches.

    That's put Lewis in front as the main ball-carrier, which elevated him from off the fantasy radar to the No. 23 PPR running back in the last five weeks. He has at least 14 touches in the last four games, which is pretty reliable in a backfield that doesn't produce a lot of that for fantasy owners. 

    Burkhead looked like the Patriots running back with the most upside because of his versatility. He returned to action in Week 7, and, including that game, totaled 20 carries for 82 yards and 11 receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets over the next three contests. That drummed up some excitement for his fantasy value heading into Week 11 with a favorable matchup against the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City.

    On New England's opening drive, Burkhead caught his first two receptions but fumbled his first carry. Luckily, the Patriots recovered it and went on to score. So no damage was done.

    Later, Burkhead dropped an easy target with room to run. Those two mistakes didn't cost the Patriots, but it may have limited his touches. While Burkhead can rebound, it does hurt the confidence he was gaining in the fantasy world.

    Unfortunately, any faith in using White is quickly disappearing. He had five carries for only the third time in a game and didn't register a reception for the first time all season. Because White doesn't play an active role in the rushing attack, he needs to produce as a receiver. Even with a touchdown in Week 10, he has just three receptions for 11 yards on four targets in the last two games, which isn't ideal.

    Lewis remains the safest option in this backfield if such a thing exists when head coach Bill Belichick is in control.

Tennessee Titans

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    Derrick Henry is useless for fantasy as long as DeMarco Murray is healthy.
    Derrick Henry is useless for fantasy as long as DeMarco Murray is healthy.Don Wright/Associated Press

    Week 11 Workload Distribution

    • DeMarco Murray: 80.0% snaps, 8 carries, 10 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 5 receptions, 37 yards, 0 TD
    • Derrick Henry: 24.6% snaps, 7 carries, 32 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    The second-biggest gap in snaps between Murray and Henry came in Week 11, which should be telling. If you haven't learned by now, Henry has no fantasy value other than being a handcuff to Murray. You cannot confidently play him in any week as long as Murray is active, which has been proved on multiple occasions this season. Yes, Henry has flashed at times, but none of his usage has been predictable. That's empty depth if you're trying to make a playoff push. 

    As you can see, the Titans stuck with Murray over Henry despite horrible production on the ground. He continues to be much busier than Henry as a receiver, with 28 receptions for 192 yards and a touchdown on 33 targets to Henry's six receptions for 45 yards on 10 targets. The trust in Murray as a receiver is another reason he plays more than Henry. 

    While Murray is the preferred back in Tennessee, it doesn't mean he's doing much for fantasy, especially compared to last season, when he was a clear RB1. His three-touchdown game in Week 10 skews his numbers a bit, but it doesn't hide the fact he hasn't rushed for more than 59 yards since Week 3, which is his only 100-yard effort of the season.

    Murray is averaging just 12 fantasy points per game, which makes him an RB2, although his consistency leaves a lot to be desired.