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Running Back Opportunity Report: Week 6

Back again and now bye weeks are starting to effect lineup outlooks on a weekly basis. Finding strong bye week fill-ins often makes the difference between a playoff bound team and a mediocre season. Paying attention to trends and backfield outlook before others can allow one to accumulate this much-needed advantage. Opportunity begets production, so be proactive and seek it out before others.

Image result for todd gurley broncos

Total Opportunity Rank Name Team Rush Attempts Targets Total Opportunity Team Total Backfield Opportunity % of Backfield Opportunity
1 Todd Gurley LAR 28 5 33 38 96.55
2 Latavius Murray Min 24 2 26 30 64.29
2 James Conner Pit 19 7 26 28 90.00
4 Ezekiel Elliott Dal 24 1 25 31 100.00
4 Saquon Barkley NYG 13 12 25 34 89.66
4 Sony Michel NE 24 1 25 43 83.33
7 David Johnson Ari 18 5 23 25 72.73
8 Melvin Gordon LAC 18 4 22 33 88.89
9 LeSean McCoy Buf 16 5 21 28 82.14
10 Wendell Smallwood Phi 18 2 20 34 71.88
11 Alex Collins Bal 19 0 19 33 57.50
11 Kenyon Drake Mia 13 6 19 35 91.30
13 Joe Mixon Cin 11 7 18 20 66.67
13 Lamar Miller Hou 15 3 18 28 83.33
13 Marshawn Lynch Oak 13 5 18 29 55.56
13 Adrian Peterson Was 17 1 18 24 57.14
17 Bilal Powell NYJ 16 1 17 32 100.00
17 Payton Barber TB 13 4 17 21 54.29
19 Christian McCaffrey Car 8 8 16 16 65.52
19 Kareem Hunt KC 10 6 16 23 56.67

Top 10 Opportunity Hogs

Todd Gurley – 33 Opportunities, 28 Rush Attempts, 5 Targets

While for once the Rams failed to score more than 30 points, Gurley’s production did anything but falter. Gurley tore apart the decrepit Broncos run defense to the tune of 208 yards, a career high, and two touchdowns. On a weekly basis Gurley presents the highest floor and ceiling of any running back in the league, only Melvin Gordon can truly compare. In week seven the Rams take on 49ers, another unimpressive team. Gurley’s transcendent season should continue and he will continue to carry mediocre teams to victory.

Latavius Murray – 26 Opportunities, 24 Rush Attempts, 2 Targets

With the continuing injury struggles of Dalvin Cook, the Vikings choose to implement Murray as their featured back. The opportunity has not directly translated to production for Murray until week six though, not surpassing 50 yards till this week. Murray made the most of a prime matchup against the abysmal Cardinals. The Vikings struggling offensive line may falter once again on the road in week seven against a more formidable Jets defense.

Image result for james conner bengals

James Conner – 26 Opportunities, 19 Rush Attempts, 7 Targets

Conner finds himself more in limbo than any other time this year now. After reportedly planning to come back this week, LeVeon Bell recanted on this promise. If Conner gets more featured time in this backfield, he could prove the difference between a win sending one to the playoffs and a lose relegating one to the consolation bracket. Owners have a long wait before they can use Conner again as the Steelers have a week seven bye. Conner’s ceiling flashed again in week six, potentially solidifying a role for himself even in a LeVeon-Steelers team.

Ezekiel Elliott – 25 Opportunities, 24 Rush Attempts, 1 Target

In a surprising blowout, Elliott delivered around his weekly expected production. Totaling a little over 100 yards and a touchdown against the nasty Jacksonville front, owners cannot fault Elliott and should be happy to leave week six with a positive result. The Dallas offensive line and unit as a whole may not be what it once was, but undeniably it all runs through Elliott. Opportunity in the mid to high twenties should be expected on a weekly basis for this fantasy stud. Washington represents a more exploitable matchup that fantasy owners should be excited to deploy Elliott into.

Saquon Barkley – 25 Opportunities, 13 Rush Attempts, 12 Targets

Every touch the Giants afford Barkley looks explosive. While the game script favored the passing game, this failed to hinder Barkley, who delivered three 40 plus yard plays. Games like this make redraft owners wish their league was a dynasty league, the ability is there but the surrounding pieces are lacking. Barkley thrives both in the air and on the ground, he is on pace for 360 opportunities, 136 of which would be targets. Despite playing for a team battling for a top pick, Barkley may be in the RB1 conversation for the week playing Atlanta on Monday night.

Image result for sony michel chiefs

Sony Michel – 25 Opportunities, 24 Rush Attempts, 1 Target

Entering the season as the third option in the backfield for the Patriots only held back Michel for so long. Now in the heart of the fantasy season, Michel has the look of a locked and loaded RB1 on a weekly basis. While not seeing over 60% of the opportunity share in the previous three weeks, Michel’s role is established for the Patriots as the between the tackles grinder and goal-line back. As the Patriots offense averages nearly 40 points over the last three weeks, this role should pay fantasy owners handsomely. The Bears could be trouble for the Patriots, but after the Dolphins lit them up, it is clear they can be had.

David Johnson – 23 Opportunities, 18 Rush Attempts, 5 Targets

Frustrating may best describe Johnson this year because he clearly possesses the talent but the utilization is uncreative and disappointing. To this point Johnson has salvaged multiple weeks with touchdowns, but if those stop DJ’s value will plummet. The slight improvement with Rosen at the helm should encourage owners’ optimism, but improving from anemic to deplorable does not mean much. A plus matchup in week seven could give Johnson owners a prime opportunity to shop him, if he does deliver against the Broncos try not to fall victim to recency bias.

Melvin Gordon – 22 Opportunities, 18 Rush Attempts, 4 Target

The only other running back worthy of being uttered in the same sentence as Gurley, Melvin Gordon stepped up again in week six with style. Parlaying 22 touches into 150 yards and three touchdowns, Gordon showed off his upside and beastly efficiency. The only other back that may touch Gordon in terms of efficiency is his teammate Austin Ekeler, who seems to deliver usable weeks every week. While Tennessee has tripped up many running backs to this point in the season, fantasy owners know they can trust Gordon in any matchup regardless of favorability.

LeSean McCoy – 21 Opportunities, 16 Rush Attempts, 5 Targets

Football Outsiders published an article this week highlighting in part that the Bills are the second worst team in DVOA through six weeks since 1986. Owners may not have anticipated the Bills sporting a strong offense, but it is fair to say this was also not expected. LeSean McCoy defines the term volume play. While McCoy should see the bulk of backfield opportunity, it is foreseeable against any defense that the Bills may not run even one play in the red zone on a weekly basis. Indianapolis should not strike fear into McCoy owners, but McCoy should only be used as a flex.

Wendell Smallwood – 20 Opportunities, 18 Rush Attempts, 2 Targets

Finding another time this year with a more painful top ten opportunity entry would be hard tried, Smallwoods managed only 52 yards on these looks. In the coming weeks, this backfield should only get more muddled after Sproles returns to the lineup.  Doug Peterman loves to utilize a true committee so using Smallwood as anything more than a spot play or bye week fill-in is ill-advised. The Panthers matchup, in week seven, should not treat the Philly backfield well.

Image result for ito smith tampa bay

Intriguing Opportunity Totals

Ito Smith – 13 Targets

The decision to designate Freeman to the IR, Ito Smith immediately became the top waiver wire priority. Coleman has disappointed to this stage in the season and in week six Ito Smith saw the majority of looks. Importantly, Smith saw red zone looks the past three weeks and converted.

Javorius Allen – 4 Opportunities

After finding nearly 50% of the opportunity share in week four and five, the Ravens relegated Allen to third in the pecking order in week six. Alex Collins once again gained favor in the Baltimore backfield, seeing the most opportunities regardless of field position.

Image result for marlon mack jets

Marlon Mack – 14 Opportunities

Return of the Mack! Marlon Mack returned to the field in week six seeing the majority of the work. Mack received 56% of the opportunity share immediately after returning. This shows the Colts view Mack as the primary ball carrier in their backfield.

Tarik Cohen – 14 Opportunities

Jordan Howard is the face of the Bears backfield and to this point has disappointed. Cohen, despite being the second option in the backfield, saw the second most targets of any running back in week six. The looks Cohen sees are consistently of higher value, and he looks better with them than his backfield counterpart.

Jalen Richard – 10 Opportunities

Mysteriously, Marshawn Lynch now carries an injury tag for a groin issue. This could be another misleading statement from Gruden. If it proves true, Richard could hold more value than he already does. Already averaging 6.5 targets per game, over the last four weeks, Richard could see more run in upcoming games pushing his value up even in non-PPR leagues.

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 week’s 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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