As fantasy owners settle into the new season, running back opportunity continues to fluctuate, as backs are injured, return from suspension, and find their roles. Opportunity does not always immediately manifest itself as production but remains a strong indicator of it. Adjusting for weekly variance and preseason misconceptions set mediocre players apart from yearly powerhouses.
|Total Opportunity Rank||Name||Team||Rush Attempts||Targets||Total Opportunity||Team Total Backfield Opportunity||% of Backfield Opportunity|
Top 10 Opportunity Hogs
Saquon Barkley – 27 Opportunities 11 Rush Attempts, 16 Targets
Saquon struggled mightily on the ground in week two against what might be a formidable Dallas front seven. The offensive line consistently failed to open holes for Saquon to make use of. Barkley’s elusiveness flashes often, but he frequently uses this to merely gain positive yardage. While finishing well below 3.0 yards per carry surly disappointed owners, Eli Manning’s insistence on checking down to Barkley quelled any concerns. Regardless of Barkley’s effectiveness on the ground, he should still remain a high RB1, especially in PPR leagues, which he demonstrated the flaws with Sunday. Barkley may struggle again next week against the Houston Texans sporting one of the most fearsome fronts in the NFL.
Ezekiel Elliot – 23 Opportunities, 17 Rush Attempts, 6 Targets
Zeke took a while to warm up in this game, but delivered once again, on his high billing, with a second-half touchdown. The downgraded offensive line or offense as a whole could be the true culprit behind Elliot’s lack of big-play ability thus far. Elliot’s touchdowns each week so far have propped up his end of week ranking. Dak Prescott turned to Elliot numerous times in this matchup, though they only turned into nine receiving yards. If this usage continues it would raise both Elliot’s high floor and ceiling. After a game against hog mollies like “Snacks” Harrison, Elliot, and the Cowboys travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks, who gave up only 2.4 yards per carry to the Bears in week two.
Christian McCaffrey – 23 Opportunities, 8 Rush Attempts, 15 Targets
Succeeding another summer of hype for Christian McCaffrey, he has averaged 21 opportunities through two weeks. After matchups like this weeks, a debate of whether fantasy sites should designate McCaffrey receiver or running back should ensue, similar to Ty Montgomery two years ago. McCaffrey saw one-third of Cam Newton’s attempts this week. The loss of Greg Olsen could prove to benefit McCaffrey markedly more than any other Panther. Last year in games without Olsen, McCaffrey received similar bumps in work. As of now, McCaffrey showed he lives up to the excitement from the summer and game-flow will not affect his production. Cincinnati at home should allow McCaffrey more opportunity to add to his success in week two.
Joe Mixon – 22 Opportunities, 21 Rush Attempts, 1 Target
Week two for Joe Mixon is a bittersweet one, his usage talks for itself but his impending absence counteracts that. Mixon left the game twice in week two, only to return. After the game doctors discovered a particle in Mixon’s knee that could result in his absence for up to a month. Sony Michel underwent a similar procedure to what Mixon will, and Michel finally returned after the early August surgery in week two. Giovani Bernard should hold high short-term value while Mixon recovers (for a look at waiver wire targets check out Matt Lo’s article). In the past, Gio excelled, especially in the passing game. Carolina poses a difficult matchup in week three, but opportunity overcomes all, fire up Gio in week three.
Todd Gurley – 22 Opportunities, 19 Rush Attempts, 3 Targets
Gurley saw ample usage in week two, despite sitting out most of the second half with an upper-body injury. The injury should not concern fantasy owners if cardinals kept the game even relatively close Gurley surly would have played. Through two weeks, Gurley and the Rams look even more impressive than last season. Positive game scripts will be plentiful for the Rams, as Gurley looks primed to repeat as the overall RB1. Looking towards the Rams matchup against the Chargers, Gurley should once again be a top option for the week.
Jamaal Williams – 20 Opportunities, 16 Rush Attempts, 4 Targets
Say hello and goodbye to Jamaal Williams, who got the 6th most opportunity in week two. Williams’s opportunity total benefited greatly from the game going for a full five quarters and ending in a tie. Williams, who admittedly opened with brutal slates against the Bears and Vikings, continues to summate the term JAG, just a guy, averaging a mere 3.4 yards per carry. Aaron Rodgers, while primarily great for the passing, opens up room on the ground for the Packers. Evident by the less than 10% of the time eight-plus defenders occupied the box on Williams’s runs.
Opposite Williams, Aaron Jones displayed the explosiveness last year to make use of the openings Rodgers inadvertently makes. As Jones returns from suspension, Williams should fall by the wayside. Washington, even on the road, falls short of striking fear into any offense, besides Buffalo possibly, and Jones should expose them and Williams’s deficiencies.
Tevin Coleman – 20 Opportunities, 16 Rush Attempts, 4 Targets
Coleman always possessed the talent to explode, making him one of the first second fiddles in an offense. With opportunity knocking, Coleman answered, running for the second most yards of the week. Atlanta still owns one of the best offenses in the league, scoring 31 points in week two. As the newly minted primary running back, for the time being, Coleman should rank as an RB1 in Devonta Freeman’s absence. To those in deeper leagues, Ito Smith could be an interesting play in a pinch acting as the teams RB2.
Marshawn Lynch – 20 Opportunities, 18 Rush Attempts, 2 Targets
Oakland dialed up Lynch’s number early and often this week, winding up with 20 opportunities, tying for 6th most on the week. Lynch saw significantly more work in week two than in week one. The game script should be a concern of fantasy owners because of Lynch’s deficiencies in the passing game. Lynch looks to have a decent floor each week as he will receive heavy work as long as Oakland remains within reach of their opponent, but without a touchdown, his point totals will appear lackluster.
Kareem Hunt – 19 Opportunities, 18 Rush Attempts, 1 Target
Once again Kansas City set the field on fire. Hunt delivered a strong performance in week two. Hunt’s results should also get better as Mahomes naturally regresses from this historic rate. Mahomes’s success should result in more red zone opportunities and less stacked boxes. Looking to acquire Hunt now could pay dividends later in the season. Hunt saw the second highest percentage of running back touches for any team in week two. With the most explosive offense, to this point, Hunt should find even better results as the Chiefs host the 49ers in week three.
Alvin Kamara – 19 Opportunities, 13 Rush Attempts, 6 Targets
Alvin Kamara immerged from week two with a performance that reminds fantasy owners again that indeed Kamara is human. This week’s results for the Saints also could indicate that the Browns may be a defense to fear, after another formidable effort against the Steelers in week one. Even down weeks for Kamara best most other running backs. The calls of regression this preseason may hold slight truth, but they will not matter as Kamara continues as a top RB option. Owners should also note, Kamara ran against a stacked box with eight-plus men for nearly 70% of his rush attempts. Seeing the damage CMC dealt through the air, makes the anticipation unbearable to see Kamara feast against Atlanta next week.
Intriguing Opportunity Totals
Chris Thompson – 14 Targets
Alex Smith appears to hate the wide receivers in Washington, targeting them a meager 31 times through two weeks. Conversely, Alex Smith loves Chris Thompson peppering him with 21 targets through week two. Chris Thompson a PPR sweetheart officially entered RB2 playability in non-PPR leagues.
David Johnson – 2 Targets
David Johnson has the talent to lead the league in all-purpose yards, but with play-calling like week two, he will never come close. In a game where the Cardinals got shut out, Johnson saw a mere two targets resulting in one catch. Arizona needs to quickly and severely evaluate their usage of DJ, or DJ’s goal of a 1000 receiving yard and 1000 rushing yard season will only be a pipedream.
Rex Burkhead – 6 Rush Attempts
A backfield consistently masked and zigging where others zag, the Patriots running backs saw strange usage in week two. After playing early in the game, Rex Burkhead road the bench for nearly the entire second and third quarter. Monitoring Rex Burkhead’s deployment near the goal line will be important to monitor as New England averages 17.7 rushing touchdowns over the past six seasons.
Javorius Allen – 13 Opportunities
Javorius Allen once again returns to squash the upside of Alex Collins. Collins owners should be concerned as Allen saw the goal line work against Cincinnati. If Allen remains this involved, particularly at the goal line, fantasy players should pick up Allen and consider him as a bye week fill in.
Chris Carson – 7 Opportunities
Fantasy players discredited early reports of Chris Carson’s role as the top back in Seattle, before succumbing to the pressure. After week two, fantasy players’ originally assertions may prove correct as Carson saw only 7 opportunities. Carson’s percentage of the running back opportunity was over 21 lower than in week one. The Seattle offense looks weak, but Rashaad Penny could still prove a viable play. Penny’s price remains low, so fantasy owners buying into his talent should make the move now.
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 Hog article. Also, take a look back at last weeks Running Back Opportunity Report to look for trends.