Fantasy Football Week 4 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterSeptember 27, 2018

Fantasy Football Week 4 Workload Watch

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    It's hard to tell if the Dolphins fully trust Kenyan Drake.
    It's hard to tell if the Dolphins fully trust Kenyan Drake.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Even though the main objective of this article is to predict the future of unsettled backfields to get a jump on potential waiver-wire superstars, we must also assess situations that haven't turned out as planned.

    The Miami Dolphins are riding high at 3-0, but if you have Kenyan Drake on your fantasy roster, the feeling of frustration continues to build. He saw just five carries in Week 3 and hasn't been nearly as busy as you might expect, especially on an undefeated team. 

    In one week, Matt Breida went from leading the NFL in rushing to hyperextending his knee in a game that also saw his starting quarterback go down with a torn ACL. After Week 2, Breida looked like an ascending player in a fantasy-friendly offense. Even though he's still tied for the rushing lead, his situation looks much worse, and if you have him on your roster, expectations should be adjusted. 

    The running back position is the most volatile in fantasy football, which is why it's always smart to hang on to your depth early in the season. Injuries will cut into that depth throughout the year, so it's better to have it now instead of scrambling to find help when you need it the most. 

    To learn more about what's going on in the backfields for the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints, check out the Week 4 B.S. Meter. The Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders were covered in the Week 4 Big Board. Workload Watch covers eight other running back situations that have the most fantasy implications.

         

Baltimore Ravens

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    Alex Collins saw his biggest workload of the year in Week 3.
    Alex Collins saw his biggest workload of the year in Week 3.Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    Alex Collins: 48.6% snaps, 18 carries, 68 yards, 1 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 6 yards, 0 TD

    Javorius Allen: 54.2% snaps, 6 carries, 7 yards, 1 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 19 yards, 1 TD

    Week 3 might be the closest we come to getting the most out of both Collins and Allen. Collins doubled his previous high of nine carries and found the end zone for the second time this season en route to 16.4 fantasy points and a tie for 13th among running backs. Allen's two touchdowns vaulted him into the top 12 at 17.6 fantasy points. If you used either player, the results were better than expected.

    Allen's 47.2 fantasy points on the season make him the No. 11 fantasy running back. He's been touchdown-reliant, as evidenced by three rushing touchdowns on just 16 carries for 32 yards. All of Allen's rushing scores have come inside the 5-yard line, and his four attempts in that area of the field trail only Carlos Hyde (six), Todd Gurley (five) and Adrian Peterson (five). So he's making the most of scoring chances. Allen has another score through the air with 13 receptions for 70 yards on 17 targets. 

    The perception of Collins is that he's having a disappointing season, but he's performing just slightly below his RB17 average draft position (ADP). He's the No. 22 running back at 35.3 fantasy points with 34 carries for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns in addition to seven receptions for 67 yards on nine targets.

    Even though Collins scored on two of his four carries inside the 10-yard line, he has just one inside the 5, so he's not getting the same scoring opportunities as Allen. 

    Collins has more than doubled Allen's carries thus far, which should continue as they move through the season. Allen's role as a receiver and at the goal line will keep him on the fantasy radar, although he'll likely disappoint if he doesn't score. Consider Collins a low-end RB2 and Allen more of an RB3/flex with upside.

Chicago Bears

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    Tarik Cohen hasn't been busy enough to warrant lineup consideration.
    Tarik Cohen hasn't been busy enough to warrant lineup consideration.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    Jordan Howard: 62.2% snaps, 24 carries, 61 yards, 1 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards, 0 TD

    Tarik Cohen: 40.5% snaps, 5 carries, 53 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 15 yards, 0 TD

    Coming into Week 3, it was becoming hard to justify keeping Cohen on fantasy rosters. He had just nine carries for 33 yards, which wasn't that surprising, but his four receptions for 33 yards on five targets had to be considered a letdown. That's especially true when Howard had already racked up eight receptions for 58 yards on nine targets. 

    No one expected Cohen to challenge Howard for carries, but it was odd for him to be trailing Howard in receiving numbers. 

    We saw more of the same in Week 3's game against the Arizona Cardinals. Cohen had his best rushing performance of the season with five carries for 53 yards. He caught all three of his targets for 15 yards, but Howard outgained him through the air for the third straight week. Howard's stats as a receiver after two weeks are better than what Cohen has for the season.

    Howard deserves credit for handling himself well as a receiver, and that role coupled with an average of nearly 18 carries per game has him in the RB1 conversation. Cohen's total of 20.4 fantasy points doesn't even crack the top 40. Other than Howard, it's hard to feel great about any member of the Chicago Bears offense since quarterback Mitchell Trubisky remains a work in progress.

    If you need the room and immediate help, Cohen can be released.

Denver Broncos

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    When the Broncos needed Royce Freeman, he handled himself well.
    When the Broncos needed Royce Freeman, he handled himself well.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    Phillip Lindsay: 16.2% snaps, 4 carries, 20 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 0 receptions

    Royce Freeman: 42.6% snaps, 13 carries, 53 yards, 1 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD

    Devontae Booker: 38.2% snaps, 5 carries, 10 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 5 receptions, 34 yards, 0 TD

    Lindsay was the top fantasy producer in the Denver Broncos backfield after two weeks, so if you played him in Week 3 with confidence, your thought process seemed justified. Unfortunately, Lindsay's actions killed that confidence before the first half came to a close.

    The rookie was ejected for throwing punches at the bottom of a pile and ruined any chance of a third straight top-20 performance. However, it did put Freeman back into the lead role he was expected to play when the season began. He scored for the second straight game and wound up as the No. 21 fantasy back for the week. Freeman leads this backfield with six red-zone carries, including five inside the 10-yard line and two inside the 5-yard line, so his touches are coming in point-scoring areas. 

    Lindsay's mistake shouldn't cost him significant snaps or touches. He's averaging six yards per carry on 33 rushing attempts to Freeman's 4.2 on 36 touches. Both players should remain fantasy-relevant, although they will limit each other's ceilings. The presence of Booker remains annoying for both players, especially since he's not doing enough to justify a fantasy roster spot but is stealing valuable touches from both.

Green Bay Packers

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    Aaron Jones made his 2018 debut in a limited role.
    Aaron Jones made his 2018 debut in a limited role.Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    Jamaal Williams: 43.5% snaps, 5 carries, 29 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards, 0 TD

    Aaron Jones: 24.6% snaps, 6 carries, 42 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD

    Ty Montgomery: 29.0% snaps, 4 carries, 16 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 6 receptions, 48 yards, 0 TD

    Jones made his 2018 debut following a two-game suspension to open the season. So did we see a dramatic shift in the Green Bay Packers backfield? 

    The snap counts were pretty predictable. Jones didn't get thrown into a big role, but he performed well with the chances he received. If you were expecting him to leap over Williams, that may not happen right away, although the touches could begin to shift in the coming weeks. 

    Williams carried 31 times for 106 yards in the first two games, so his workload took a big hit. The return of Jones was part of that, although it wasn't the biggest reason. The Packers were down 14-0 to the Washington Redskins by the end of the first quarter and 28-10 by the conclusion of the first half. They cut the lead to 28-17 halfway through the third quarter but didn't score the rest of the way.

    Montgomery's usage on the ground seems unnecessary when the team has Williams and Jones to handle that role, but Montgomery is clearly the best receiver in this backfield. Surprisingly, he has just 12 targets on the season even though the team played from behind by significant deficits in the first and third games. His fantasy value is limited to emergency RB3/flex status and only in points-per-reception formats.

    We should get a better idea about Williams and Jones this week in what should be a game the Packers can control against the visiting Buffalo Bills. If Jones continues to handle himself well in pass protection, he has a chance to wrestle away the lead job from Williams. If all three backs stay involved, it's a fantasy mess.

Miami Dolphins

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    This was a rare sight in Week 3.
    This was a rare sight in Week 3.Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    Kenyan Drake: 65.9% snaps, 5 carries, 3 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 2 receptions, 7 yards, 0 TD

    Frank Gore: 36.4% snaps, 6 carries, 12 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    If an offense is struggling, you don't have to justify sweeping changes. An area of weakness will be adjusted via changes in personnel, roles and/or touches. In Week 3, the Dolphins got 15 yards on 11 carries out of Drake and Gore. They came back from a 17-14 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Oakland Raiders 28-20. Miami remained undefeated with the win, but is it willing to make changes in the backfield?

    Coming into the game, Drake had 25 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown compared to Gore's 18 carries for 86 yards. Even though Drake played nearly 30 percent more snaps than Gore in Week 3, he had fewer carries and just one more touch. For the season, Drake's 12 targets, nine receptions and 42 receiving yards give him a big advantage over Gore's one reception on his only target for 19 yards, but that was expected.

    The lack of touches for Drake coupled with Gore's presence in the backfield is making this an annoying situation for fantasy. Gore isn't doing enough to consider adding to rosters, while Drake is falling well short of expectations as the No. 32 fantasy running back through three weeks at just 29.6 fantasy points. Because the Dolphins are 3-0, they may not see a reason to make sweeping changes.

    For the time being, expectations for Drake should be in the low RB2 range until he shows improvement.

New England Patriots

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    Sony Michel had a busy but disappointing performance in Detroit.
    Sony Michel had a busy but disappointing performance in Detroit.Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    James White: 52.1% snaps, 4 carries, 37 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 14 yards, 1 TD

    Sony Michel: 47.9% snaps, 14 carries, 50 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 1 reception, -1 yard, 0 TD

    Rex Burkhead: 14.6% snaps, 0 carries, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 26 yards, 0 TD

    Last week's Workload Watch detailed why it made sense for the New England Patriots to feature Michel against the Detroit Lions' league-worst rushing defense. That prediction wound up being correct. Michel didn't come through in the bigger role, and much like the entire Patriots offense, he was a big disappointment in the 26-10 loss. 

    Michel dominated the snaps and carries over Burkhead. The veteran's only targets came in the first and last drive of the second quarter and the opening drive of the second half. He wound up leaving the game with a neck injury and didn't return. That issue landed Burkhead on injured reserve, so opportunities should remain prevalent for Michel even after he failed to impress in Week 3.

    If you're looking for excuses, it was only Michel's second NFL game, and he was out for the entire preseason after undergoing a procedure on his knee. He looked a little sluggish and somewhat shaky in the passing game. As he gets more comfortable, it's fair to think he'll improve, especially since the Patriots clearly need him.

    That doesn't mean you have to throw him right back in your lineup for this week's game with the Dolphins, but if you just want volume, he should get it.

    For now, White is the most reliable part of this backfield. His rushing numbers against the Lions were far better than expected, although that won't be the norm. White's total of 20 targets leads the Patriots over the first three weeks, and he's converted those into 14 receptions for 125 yards and a pair of scores.

    New England is clearly hurting at wide receiver, so Tom Brady's trust in the fifth-year running back has been more important. That role won't change for White, who is a great RB3/flex with RB2 potential in any week.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Corey Clement wasn't the only busy back in Philadelphia.
    Corey Clement wasn't the only busy back in Philadelphia.Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    Corey Clement: 54.9% snaps, 16 carries, 56 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 19 yards, 0 TD

    Wendell Smallwood: 35.4% snaps, 10 carries, 56 yards, 1 TD, 5 targets, 3 receptions, 35 yards, 0 TD

    Josh Adams: 9.8% snaps, 6 carries, 30 yards, 0 targets

    Jay Ajayi: inactive

    Darren Sproles: inactive

    The Philadelphia Eagles went into Week 3 without Ajayi (back) and Sproles (hamstring), so much of the fantasy attention went to Clement. While Clement deserved that from the fantasy community, he didn't warrant all of it, as head coach Doug Pederson stuck to his typical philosophy of using multiple backs with success. 

    Clement's snaps predictably rose more than 13 percent from Week 2, when he checked in at 41.8 percent with Ajayi in and out of the game because of his back issue. In Week 3, Clement became the first Eagles back to eclipse 15 carries in a game this season and the first one to do it since LeGarrette Blount had 16 carries in Week 8 of the 2017 season.

    The bigger role seemed to wear on him, as he wound up with just 3.5 yards per carry after coming into the game at 5.1 YPC.

    Smallwood ended up as the better fantasy performer. He matched Clement's rushing yards on six fewer touches and found his way into the end zone. He was also better as a receiver despite coming into the game with just one catch for two yards on his only target.

    Smallwood finished Week 3 as a top-10 fantasy back at 18.1 points, while Clement's RB26 finish (10.5 points) was likely considered a disappointment by those who were expecting strong RB2 numbers.

    Adams didn't play much but did well when Philadelphia asked him to carry the ball. At this point, you should know that the Eagles won't overload one back because they know they can get production out of this backfield by using multiple players. That philosophy doesn't translate to huge fantasy performances, so it makes this backfield annoying for fantasy yet reliable in reality.

    You'll have to monitor the statuses of Ajayi and Sproles since neither is a lock to play in Week 4 in Tennessee. Clement should have fantasy value regardless of Ajayi's status, but Smallwood would get a boost if Ajayi is out Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Hopefully, Matt Breida's knee injury doesn't linger.
    Hopefully, Matt Breida's knee injury doesn't linger.David Eulitt/Getty Images

    Week 3 Workload Distribution

    Matt Breida: 42.6% snaps, 10 carries, 90 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 27 yards, 0 TD        

    Alfred Morris: 33.8% snaps, 14 carries, 67 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets

    Both the fantasy and reality landscapes changed drastically for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3. Excitement for both disappeared when Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It leaves the team with C.J. Beathard as the starter, and as detailed in the Week 4 B.S. Meter, expectations have to be down for the 49ers across the board. 

    Breida had to leave Week 3 in the second quarter with what initially looked like a bad knee injury. He returned in the second half and looked fine on his way to what was nearly another 100-yard effort.

    Head coach Kyle Shanahan said Breida has a hyperextended knee and is questionable for Week 4, per Matt Barrows of The Athletic. Both Breida and Ezekiel Elliott are tied for the league lead with 274 rushing yards, but Breida has done it on just 32 attempts (8.6 yards per carry) compared to 48 for Elliott (5.7 YPC). 

    Even though Breida is running well, Morris remains in the mix. He leads the team with 40 carries but is nowhere near as efficient as Breida, with 153 yards (3.8 YPC). However, he's tied for sixth in the league with eight red-zone carries and is joint-fourth with four carries inside the 5-yard line. Losing Garoppolo will likely hurt Morris' chances of staying as active in the red zone and near the goal line.

    If Breida is able to play, expectations should be lowered somewhat until we see how the team adjusts to Beathard. While this backfield could be more important to the offense, opposing defenses will likely game-plan to stop Breida and Morris so that Beathard has to beat them with his arm. Beathard has a tendency to check down, so Breida could make up some of his lost value in the passing game. But that could also go to fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

    This has been an unlucky month for the 49ers.