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Running Back Opportunity Report: Week 5

The first part of the fantasy season evaporated as quickly as it appeared. Fantasy players now look to make moves on the trade block and round out playoff bound rosters. Finding the players seeing the most opportunity remains the number one concern for fantasy players because they hold the most upside. Looking more closely at usage from previous weeks gives fantasy players the advantage over their competition.

Total Opportunity Rank Name Team Rush Attempts Targets Total Opportunity Team Total Backfield Opportunity % of Backfield Opportunity
1 Alfred Blue Hou 20 8 28 29 96.55
2 LeSean McCoy Buf 24 3 27 42 64.29
2 Ezekiel Elliott Dal 20 7 27 30 90.00
2 Todd Gurley LAR 22 5 27 27 100.00
5 Joe Mixon Cin 22 4 26 29 89.66
6 James Conner Pit 21 4 25 30 83.33
7 Nyheim Hines Ind 15 9 24 33 72.73
7 Kareem Hunt KC 22 2 24 27 88.89
9 Christian McCaffrey Car 17 6 23 28 82.14
9 Melvin Gordon LAC 19 4 23 32 71.88
9 Alfred Morris SF 18 5 23 40 57.50
12 David Johnson Ari 18 3 21 23 91.30
13 Carlos Hyde Cle 17 3 20 30 66.67
13 TJ Yeldon Jax 10 10 20 24 83.33
13 Bilal Powell NYJ 20 0 20 36 55.56
13 Chris Carson Sea 19 1 20 35 57.14
17 Saquon Barkley NYG 15 4 19 19 100.00
17 Sony Michel NE 18 1 19 35 54.29
17 Mark Ingram NO 16 3 19 29 65.52
20 Kenyan Drake Mia 6 11 17 30 56.67

Image result for alfred blue cowboys

Top 10 Opportunity Hogs

Alfred Blue – 28 Opportunities, 20 Rush Attempts, 8 Targets

A surprise opportunity leader Alfred Blue saw the most usage of any running back in week 5. With Lamar Miller on the self, Blue parlayed his 28 looks 119 yards. Most of his production came through the air, as he averaged 9.1 yards per reception but only 2.2 yards per carry. D’Onta Foreman remains the most interesting running back, regardless of his status on the PUP, for the Texans. Both Blue and Miller have proved ineffective on the ground, sporting a -11.0% and -12.9% rushing DVOA on the year. If Miller remains out again, Blue should be a strong volume play week 6 against the Bills.

LeSean McCoy – 27 Opportunities, 24 Rush Attempts, 3 Targets

Investments on McCoy were finally validated against the Titans.  His heavy volume made him a decent play for once, but with week 5 being the only week McCoy saw double-digit carries this appears to be an anomaly thus far in the season. Other running backs saw substantial usage as well because of the positive game script the Bills developed. This situation may prove difficult to come by, as experts consider one of the many teams with a real possibility of next year’s first pick. These scripts would hopefully increase McCoy’s deployment in the aerial attack, creating more valuable looks. The Bills’ week 6 opponent, the Houston Texans, should stifle the ground attack but more avenues through the air should be available this week.

Ezekiel Elliott – 27 Opportunities, 20 Rush Attempts, 7 Targets

Elliott continues to demand heavy workloads and no sign of change has emerged. Seeing workloads of 19, 23, 24, 29, and 27 opportunities Elliott’s workloads have ranked him 15th, 2nd, 7th, 1st, and 2nd in opportunity rank weekly this year. The guarantee of nearly 20 carries a week and seeing an increased workload in the passing game makes Elliott one of the strongest plays on a weekly basis, regardless of matchup. Week 6 against Jacksonville provides that test to see how a strong defense can affect Elliott, his production, and usage.

Todd Gurley – 27 Opportunities, 22 Rush Attempts, 5 Targets

The unquestionable king of the running back position crushed the competition on the field, both real and fantasy. Gurley single-handedly won fantasy matchups this previous week punching through the goal line on three occasions for the second time this year. This touchdown upside, high volume, and strong offensive line play cement Gurley as the top RB on a weekly basis. The Rams scored the least points of the season last week, 33. That alone would make any running back a must own and must start, combine that with Gurley and fantasy royalty is made. The Jets backfield duo gashed the Broncos repeatedly last week, so Gurley should have no problem living up to his status.

Image result for Joe Mixon miami

Joe Mixon – 26 Opportunities, 22 Rush Attempts, 4 Targets

After missing a couple weeks, Joe Mixon returned to the gridiron in week 5. While rumors of limited use spread, Mixon nixed seeing 26 opportunities, around 90% of the snaps, and 90% of the opportunity share. Mixon’s usage in the slot should encourage fantasy players because these create noticeable mismatches Dalton and Mixon can exploit. As Mixon gets more acclimated to practice again, his production should only increase. Mixon looks to build on his post-injury success against Pittsburgh’s middle of the road run defense.

James Conner – 25 Opportunities, 21 Rush Attempts, 4 Targets

Before James Conner leaves the spotlight, he wanted to give another taste of his full potential. Piling up nearly 190 yards and crossing the goal line twice, Conner made a case for his continued usage even after Bell’s return. Roethlisberger agrees with this sentiment saying he’d like to see Conner play a significant role after Bell comes back. This could make Conner a solid play into the future, or both players could eat away at the others upside.  For at least one more week Conner has the reins. Cincinnati performed poorly for three-quarters last week before finally stepping up.

Nyheim Hines – 24 Opportunities, 15 Rush Attempts, 9 Targets

Another surprise running back finds himself in the top 10 this week, Nyheim Hines, and a rookie none the less. Hines’s upside resides mainly in the passing game because of his prowess in this area and his shiftiness. Clearly arising as a trusted entity of Luck’s, Hines should continue to see usage even after Marlon Mack returns, possibly as soon as this week. Playing a tough young Jets defense on the road could prove difficult for Hines if he plans to continue the success.

Image result for Kareem Hunt Jacksonville

Kareem Hunt– 24 Opportunities, 22 Rush Attempts, 4 Target

After relying heavily on the passing game for the first four-game stint, the Chiefs turned to their second year back in week five. The emergence of the Kansas City’s defense as a force in this game created a highly positive game script for Hunt to make the most of. Most weeks the defense will likely not perform this well given the sample so far this year. In one of the most explosive games of the week against New England, Hunt holds immense value again.

Christian McCaffrey – 23 Opportunities, 17 Rush Attempts, 6 Targets

Preseason reports of heavy workloads were met with ample skepticism, but Carolina shows no signs of recanting on its word. McCaffrey may possess lower touchdown upside than most running backs but with high usage, particularly in the passing game, his ceiling stacks up well against nearly any other running back. If the game script gets out of hand, McCaffrey then transforms from the trusted running option to possibly the most trusted receiver, making him impervious to negative game scripts. Washington got lit up against the Saints last week and the Panthers look to do the same on the road in week 6.

Melvin Gordon – 23 Opportunities, 19 Rush Attempts, 4 Targets

The Chargers foster an environment able to nurture one of the top running backs as well as a high-value change of pace back. While receiving barely over 70% of the opportunity share, this should not concern fantasy owners because he regularly sees 20 plus opportunities, high usage in the red zone, and positive game scripts. Melvin Gordon and the Chargers face the revitalized Cleveland Browns in week 6.

Image result for TJ Yeldon kansas city

Intriguing Opportunity Totals

TJ Yeldon – 20 Opportunities

10 rushing attempts and 10 targets prove Yeldon to be one of the most trusted running back options in the NFL. One of the only healthy options in a backfield hampered with injury, Yeldon holds tons of value that could evaporate in any moment. With Fournette’s injury history, holding Yeldon the rest of the way could pay dividends.

James White – 14 Targets

The return of Julian Edelman failed to affect James White and his usage. A member of the New England circle of trust, White should continue to see work and targets making him a strong RB2 play on a weekly basis.  Sony Michel should see the work on the ground, but with his lack of passing usage and experience, no one should cut into White’s piece of the pie.

Mike Davis – 14 Opportunities

Appearing out of thin air, Mike Davis blasted onto the scene in week four. Even with the return of Chris Carson, Davis received 40% of the backfield workload and made the most of his carries. Working on the most running heavy team in the NFL, running near 60% of the time in recent weeks, Davis should hold value with Carson in the lineup. If another injury bugs Carson, his value should spike once again.

Royce Freeman – 9 Opportunities

Vance Joseph, coaching extraordinaire, called for Freeman to see more touches going forward after week four. Regardless of Joseph’s word Freeman remains a low volume committee back. Without an injury to Freeman or Lindsay, both will have significantly capped upside.

Image result for Nick Chubb baltimore

Nick Chubb – 4 Opportunities

Hue Jackson remains one of the most frustrating coaches in football. After Chubb eviscerated the Raiders for over 100 yards and two touchdowns on only three touches, Jackson called for Chubb to see increased opportunity. Subsequently, Chubb saw an increase to a whole four opportunities in week five! Chubb flashed, but without a coaching revelation, he will remain a flash in the pan.

Check out other redraft, DFS, and dynasty content at TheFantasyAuthority.com. For a look at receiver usage in week two, check out Katie Babino’s Target Hogs article. Also, take a look back at last weeks Running Back Opportunity Report to look for trends.

Neil Farley attends The College of William and Mary, where he is pursuing a B.S. in Psychology. Neil's fantasy days date back to the fifth grade when he participated in his first fantasy football league. Check him out on twitter @Neil_P_Farley.

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