Week 1 was a full blown mess at the running back position. DJ hurt, Bell underwhelming, and multiple rookie outbursts. This is going to be a weekly piece to evaluate the distribution of touches in three to five potentially muddy backfields and see where clarity can be found. I’m not going to look at established backfields like Atlanta, where we KNOW how things will shake out. This is more an attempt to see if trends can be spotted, to land running backs with large or increasing touch shares. The RB Touches Breakdown will be a weekly piece that breaks down how touches were distributed and what it means moving forward.
Joe Mixon (11 touches), Giovani Bernard (8 touches), Jeremy Hill (7 touches)
With the Bengals getting shut out, and Andy Dalton giving away possessions left and right, we really didn’t get a good look at how this offense will flow. Bernard was the most successful of the three, with 79 combined yards compared to 24 for both Hill and Mixon. Many believe Mixon is the most talented in this backfield, and that it’s not close. I fall into that group, but even those of us who love the talent have to acknowledge that Mixon is not a startable asset right now. I’d be hesitant to start any of the three of these backs. The lone exception could be Bernard as a desperation PPR flex, or Hill in a standard league where you’re just praying for a touchdown.
Green Bay Packers
Ty Montgomery (23 touches), Jamaal Williams (2 touches)
If there was any doubt about who the workhorse is in this backfield, Week 1 quieted those questions. Montgomery was on the field for the most snaps of ANY RUNNING BACK in the NFL. He only came off briefly when he dinged his ankle. Jamaal Williams handled two carries in that brief absence, but besides that, it was all Montgomery. Montgomery was a three-down back, who saw and converted a goal-line carry. Barring injury, Montgomery is a high usage back, in an elite offense. The potential is sky high.
Ameer Abdullah (18 touches), Theo Riddick (7 touches), Dwayne Washington (6 touches)
Abdullah clearly led this backfield, but there were some potential alarms. Dwayne Washington took a handful of red zone touches, and Riddick scored the only touchdown between the three backs. I still think Abdullah will be a solid RB2, but his touchdown upside is capped. However, 18 touches for Ameer is still an excellent workload. The backfield has a rough Week 2 matchup with the Giants, but I think Abdullah will be a prime trade target after this week. Washington is nothing more than a potential touchdown vulture, and we all know Riddick is a primarily PPR flex-tier player.
Jonathan Stewart (20 touches), Christian McCaffrey (18 touches)
This backfield probably needs another week to really show us what it’s about. The Panthers were beating up on the 49ers, and Stewart in particular racked up clock-killing carries late in the game. Head coach Ron Rivera also mentioned a desire to not wear McCaffrey down, so perhaps the 18 touches were the higher end of his expected range. Unfortunately, the Panthers have another prime matchup against the Bills, so this backfield may take a while to figure out. McCaffrey was used in multiple ways as a receiver, something Carolina hasn’t done terribly well in the past. It was a promising debut for the Stanford product, but we still have a bit of learning to do about the Panthers. Stewart is going to be probably a 15-ish carry per game back, with a chance at touchdowns. Both are startable but don’t expect 15-20 touches per game from both players over the course of the season.
New Orleans Saints
Mark Ingram (11 touches), Alvin Kamara (11 touches), Adrian Peterson (6 touches)
This backfield is a full blown mess. Peterson was visibly disturbed by his involvement in the game. Ingram had several receptions on a garbage time final drive, so the touch leader in this one actually was probably Kamara if we adjust for garbage time. Either way, if I own Ingram or Kamara, I’m probably holding. If I own Peterson, I’d be willing to cut him for most mid to high-end waiver targets. Kamara is a promising rookie from a talent perspective, but expecting anything out of this backfield beyond a PPR flex may be asking too much. Ingram and Kamara can be low-end PPR flex plays for now, but we still have a lot to figure out with this backfield.