With Week 1 in our rearview mirror we have a better understanding of how some teams will manage their backfields this season. We got to watch rookie sensation Clyde Edwards-Helaire work his magic last Thursday night. We also got to see what Rams head coach Sean McVay meant when he said he planned on using “more than one workhorse” at RB this season back in April. Of course, not all of our questions have been answered. Injuries and player performance are responsible for constantly evolving back field and running back usage on a weekly basis. 

The following is an observation of how several teams managed their running backs in Week 1 as well as an attempt to project how they will configure their backfields for Week 2 and beyond.  We hope that the following will help you to better manage your fantasy football team(s).

Atlanta Falcons

In last week’s column we pointed out that Todd Gurley ’s average carries per game dropped to 14.9 last season from 18.3 in 2018.  He carried the ball 14 times in Week 1 for 56 yards, (4.0 YPC) and scored a TD. He played 46% or 36, of the Falcons’ offensive snaps, Brian Hill played 21 offensive snaps and Ito Smith played 20 offensive snaps. With the Falcons continuing to be a pass first team and them wanting to preserve Gurley’s arthritic knee, perhaps this is the type of volume that we should expect from him this season.

Buffalo Bills

Many were concerned that Zack Moss would vulture TD scoring opportunities away from Devin Singletary this season. While each scored a TD in Week 1, (Allen on the ground and Moss through the air), those could end up being legitimate concerns. Each RB had nine carries but Moss had seven red zone carries, compared to only one for Singletary. Neither RB scored on any of those eight red zone carries.

Denver Broncos

Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon basically split carries during the early going of the Broncos’ Monday night matchup against the Titans. Lindsay left the game due to a mild turf toe injury. If Lindsay is sidelined in Week 2 Gordon will obviously get a big boost in playing time with Royce Freeman seeing more action as well. You’ll probably want to avoid using any Broncos RB this week against the Steelers run D that held Saquon Barkley to just six yards rushing on Monday night. 

Detroit Lions

D’Andre Swift led the Lions’ backfield with 34 snaps played, but it was the ageless Adrian Peterson who showed Swift and Kerryon Johnson what a real NFL RB looks like. Peterson played 10 fewer snaps than Swift, but carried the ball 14 times for 96 yards (6.6 YPC). Swift had three carries for eight yards, but scored a one yard TD. Peterson and Swift each caught three passes. Unfortunately, Swift dropped what would have been a game winning TD reception with six seconds left in Week 1. Kerryon Johnson , who played 20 snaps, had 14 rushing yards off of seven carries. Look for Swift, who had been bothered by a leg injury this preseason, to continue to dominate the offensive snaps played among the Lions’ RBs and for that to eventually translate into increased on the field fantasy productivity. Despite the brutal drop heard around the world, Swift is the best RB on the Lions roster.

Houston Texans

The Texans had to be encouraged by what they saw from David Johnson in Week 1 as he rushed for 77 yards on 11 carries (7.0 YPC) and caught three passes for an additional 32 yards. Unfortunately Duke Johnson suffered an ankle injury and his availability for Week 2 is uncertain as this article is being written. C.J. Prosise , who was protected on the Texans’ practice squad prior to their Week 1 matchup against the Chiefs, could potentially be added to their 53 man roster. Once a practice player is labeled as “protected” for a given week he can’t sign with another team until that week’s games have concluded. Scottie Phillips is another RB signed to the Texans practice squad who could potentially be available should Duke Johnson miss Week 2’s game. 

Indianapolis Colts

It’s time for Jonathan Taylor to put his big boy pants on! With Marlon Mack ’s season over due to a torn Achilles, Taylor will assume the starting role in the Colts’ backfield. Taylor rushed for just 22 yards off of his first nine NFL carries but had a big day catching six passes for 67 yards. Nyheim Hines will likely serve as both of a bit of a change of pace and passing catching back this week. He’s earned a larger workload after rushing for 28 yards on seven carries (4.00 YPC) and hauling in eight catches for 45 yards. He also scored a rushing and receiving TD in Week 1. Jordan Wilkins who has had modest success in limited NFL action over the past three seasons (111 carries, 5.8 YPC and 23 receptions) will likely have a role in the Colts’ backfield this week as well.

Kansas City Chiefs

We finally got to see Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH) in action and for the most part he didn’t disappoint. CEH was just as explosive as advertised. He was patient enough to wait for plays to develop and he easily took advantage of openings created by his blockers. He turned small opportunities into big gains. However, and we’re obviously only talking about one game, his six rushes inside the 10 yard line for negative two yards is a bit concerning. Maybe Edwards-Helaire is just better at breaking away in the open field than moving piles. Perhaps we might eventually see 224 pound Darrell Williams getting more of the Chiefs’ goal line carries. All in all Edwards-Helaire does look like he was worth your first round selection in season long leagues.  

Los Angeles Chargers

Austin Ekeler played well as the Chargers’ lead back. He rushed for 84 yards on 19 carries (4.4 YPC). However, rookie Joshua Kelley showed that he was worthy of some of the preseason hype he was receiving late in the preseason. He only played 24% of the Chargers’ offensive snaps, but he turned in a 12 carry, 60 rushing yard performance (5.0 YPC), and he scored a TD. Kelley received and took advantage of the additional playing time available when Justin Jackson , who many presumed would have a fairly significant role in the Chargers’ run game, had to leave Sunday’s game due to a quad injury. Jackson carried the ball twice for four yards and was only able to play in 15% of the Chargers’ offensive snaps. 

Los Angeles Rams

We got to see what Rams head coach Sean McVay meant when he said he was planning on using a three-running back rotation consisting of Malcolm Brown , Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. in Week 1. Snaps were distributed as following: Brown 60%, Akers 33%, and Henderson 7%. Brown is clearly the Rams’ best goal line option to start the season. Brown took two of his three carries from inside the five yard line and turned them into TDs. Brown’s four targets obviously show that he’ll also have a role in the Rams’ passing game. Akers will still get a steady diet of touches and has a chance of developing into the Rams’ lead back by season’s end, but Brown looks like he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the Rams’ backfield, at least for the short term. 

Miami Dolphins

Last week this column suggested that Myles Gaskin didn’t have any immediate fantasy value. Gaskin then proceeded to play 63% of the Dolphins’ offensive snaps and ended up as their leading rusher with 40 rushing yards in Week 1. He also caught four passes for 26 yards. Good, but not great, production for a guy who wasn’t supposed to have any immediate fantasy value. 

New York Jets

Le’Veon Bell (hamstring) was placed on the IR and will miss at least three weeks of the season. For the record, Jets head coach Adam Gase blames himself for not removing Bell from his Week 1 matchup against the Bills when he first suffered his hamstring injury late in the second quarter. Nevertheless, the Jets need to find a RB to run behind a bad offensive line in Week 2. Frank Gore is always ready and the Jets signed Kalen Ballage this week. La'Mical Perine, was inactive in Week 1 due to an ankle injury. As this article is being written it is not yet clear if he’ll be available in Week 2. The Jets’ running game is in trouble.

Washington Football Team

It was Peyton Barber all along!! Barber led Washington’s backfield with 29 yards rushing on 17 carries (can you really say led with those kind of stats), and added two TDs. Antonio Gibson chimed in with nine carries for 36 yards and added two catches for eight yards. Bryce Love, who when healthy, is probably the most talented player from among Washington’s stable of RBs was a healthy scratch. J.D. McKissic had three carries for negative two rushing yards and only caught one of his five targets. Give it time. If Love is healthy he’ll eventually take the lead role in the Washington backfield.


TeamPrimary RBChange of Pace3rd Down BackHandcuffIR/PUP/Susp.Note
Arizona CardinalsKenyan Drake Chase Edmonds  Chase Edmonds   
Atlanta FalconsTodd Gurley Brian Hill /Ito Smith  Brian Hill   
Baltimore RavensMark Ingram Gus Edwards /J.K. DobbinsJ.K. DobbinsJ.K. Dobbins  
Buffalo BillsDevin Singletary Zack Moss Zack Moss  
Carolina PanthersChristian McCaffrey   Mike Davis   
Chicago BearsDavid Montgomery Tarik Cohen Tarik Cohen Ryan Nall /Tarik Cohen   
Cincinnati BengalsJoe Mixon Giovani Bernard Giovani Bernard Giovani Bernard  Trayveon Williams was inactive Week 1 (foot)
Cleveland BrownsNick Chubb Kareem Hunt Kareem Hunt Kareem Hunt   
Dallas CowboysEzekiel Elliott Tony Pollard Tony Pollard  
Denver BroncosPhillip Lindsay /Melvin Gordon Royce Freeman  Royce Freeman  Phillip Lindsay is dealing with a mild turf toe injury
Detroit LionsAdrian Peterson   Kerryon Johnson Bo Scarbrough  
Green Bay PackersAaron Jones Jamaal Williams /A.J. DillonJamaal Williams Jamaal Williams   
Houston TexansDavid JohnsonDuke Johnson  Duke Johnson  If Duke Johnson (ankle injury) is out Week 2, C.J. Prosise or Scottie Mitchell could potentially be added to the 53 man roster.
Indianapolis ColtsJonathan TaylorNyheim Hines /Jordan Wilkins Nyheim Hines Nyheim Hines Marlon Mack  
Jacksonville JaguarsJames Robinson Chris Thompson James RobinsonRyquell Armstead /Devine Ozigbo 
Kansas City ChiefsClyde Edwards-HelaireDarrel Williams Darrel Williams Darrel Williams   
Las Vegas RaidersJosh Jacobs Devontae Booker /Jalen Richard Devontae Booker Devontae Booker   
Los Angeles ChargersAustin Ekeler Joshua Kelley/Justin Jackson  Joshua Kelley/Justin Jackson  Justin Jackson was injured in Week 1
Los Angeles RamsCam AkersDarrell Henderson Malcolm Brown   
Miami DolphinsMyles GaskinJordan Howard /Matt Breida Patrick LairdJordan Howard /Matt Breida  Jordan Howard dealt with hamstring inssues in Week 1
Minnesota VikingsDalvin Cook Alexander Mattison Alexander Mattison  
New England PatriotsSony Michel Rex Burkhead /J.J. TaylorJames White Rex Burkhead /James White Damien Harris 
New Orleans SaintsAlvin Kamara Latavius Murray Ty Montgomery Latavius Murray   
New York GiantsSaquon Barkley Dion Lewis  Wayne Gallman   
New York Jets Kalen Ballage  Frank Gore /Lamical Perine  
Philadelphia EaglesMiles SandersBoston Scott /Corey Clement  Boston Scott /Corey Clement   
Pittsburgh SteelersJames Conner Benny SnellJaylen Samuels Benny Snell  
San Francisco 49ersRaheem Mostert Tevin Coleman Jerick McKinnon Tevin Coleman   
Seattle SeahawksChris Carson Carlos Hyde Travis Homer/DeeJay DallasCarlos Hyde Rashaad Penny  
Tampa Bay BuccaneersRonald Jones  Leonard Fournette Leonard Fournette T.J. Logan  
Tennessee TitansDerrick Henry  Darrynton EvansDarrynton Evans Darrynton Evans was inactive Week 1 due to hamstring injury
Washington TeamPeyton Barber Antonio GibsonJ.D. McKissic Antonio Gibson Bryce Love was inactive for Week 1