As we head into Week 12 of the NFL season fantasy football managers will once again be scrambling as they attempt to set lineups featuring fantasy relevant running backs (RBs) whose potential snap counts, receiving targets, and carries give them the best chance to win their weekly matchups.

A couple of NFL teams cut RBs who had played a significant role in their respective teams’ offense. We’ll analyze what their backfields will look like moving forward. We also witnessed some interesting shifts in RB usage across a few backfields last week and have adjusted our RB handcuff grid to reflect those changes. Also, as we usually do in this column, we’ll examine some backfields that are in flux and analyze their recent and potential future RB usage in an attempt to project how their RBs will be utilized moving forward.



NFL Week 11 Running Back Usage Report

Los Angeles Rams

In somewhat of a surprise move the Rams released Darrell Henderson on Tuesday. Henderson only played four snaps on Sunday, but head coach Sean McVay said his lack of playing time was due to knee discomfort. McVay then waited a day, and then cut him. With the Rams also cutting Malcolm Brown last week, Kyren Williams and Cam Akers are the only two RBs on the teams’ active roster as this article is being written. We’ve been talking about Williams in this column for a while and while he led Rams RBs in snaps played, Akers’ 14 carries were twice as many as Williams’. Williams ran three times more routes than Akers (24-8) and for now we’ll pencil him in as the teams’ passing down back. Akers, who averaged 4.4 YPC in Week 11, is at least temporarily out of McVay’s doghouse. It appears that he’s sitting precariously at the top the teams’ RB depth chart, for now. Don’t be surprised if the Rams add a new RB into the mix before their matchup against the Chiefs this weekend.

Denver Broncos

The Rams weren’t the only team who cut a well-known RB this week. Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett finally cut ties with Melvin Gordon. Gordon will likely find a new home before long, but he has averaged a disappointing 3.5 YPC and committed five fumbles so far this season. As this article is being written he is still a free agent. With newly acquired Chase Edmonds placed on short term IR after suffering a high ankle sprain, look for Latavius Murray to take over as the team’s lead back. Hackett told the media that Marlon Mack and Devine Ozigbowho will likely share the change of pace role, would also be active this week. Murray, who has 207 career receptions, would likely also be used in passing down situations. Hackett will probably be making additional changes to his backfield composition next week as Mike Boone (ankle) will be eligible to be activated from IR in time for Week 13.  

Washington Commanders

Melvin Gordon should ask Antonio Gibson for some advice on how to get rid of his fumblitis. Gibson, who committed six fumbles last season, hasn’t fumbled the ball yet this season. He lost his starting job to Brian Robinson earlier in the season, playing a season low 26% of the Commanders’ offensive snaps in Week 6 but it appears that he’s close to being back at the top of the Commanders’ RB depth chart. His 46 snaps played in Week 11 was twice as many as Robinson’s, and Gibson has played an average of 58% of teams’ offensive snaps over the past three weeks. With 37 receptions already on the season and J.D. McKissic on season ending IR, Gibson is also firmly entrenched as the Commanders’ passing down back. 

Detroit Lions

Jamaal Williams continues to have a nose for the end zone. For the season, he has the second most red zone carries and he leads all RBs with 11 red zone TDs. Of those red zone TDs, nine have been scored from inside the five-yard line, including three this past Sunday against the Giants. D’Andre Swift is averaging just 4.5 carries per game over his last four games and while he’s been a full participant in practices of late, he has admitted that he is still not playing at 100%. Justin Jackson had nine carries and played four more snaps than Swift against the Giants on Sunday. 

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have been running the ball more frequently this season, even when QB Dak Prescott has been healthy. Tony Pollard has enjoyed a breakout season and is clearly a more explosive runner than Ezekiel Elliotthowever both will continue to see substantial playing time. After missing three weeks due to a knee injury Elliott was obviously on a snap count in Week 11. With the Cowboys well ahead of the Vikings his last carry came with 8:18 left in the third quarter. He carried the ball 15 times against the Vikings, and while he only averaged 2.8 YPC, he still managed to score two rushing touchdowns. Pollard led all fantasy RBs with 36.9 PPR fantasy points in Week 11, but he also carried the ball 15 times. As his health improves, Elliott will almost certainly play a higher percentage of the teams’ snaps than the 29% he played in Week 11. His strong pass protection skills and the fact that Jerry Jones signed him to an expensive long-term contract with lots of guaranteed money will ensure that he continues to have a significant role in the Cowboys’ offense.

Cincinnati Bengals

As often happens as the long NFL season progresses injuries become more common place. Keep an eye on Joe Mixon’s status leading up to Week 12. He was removed from his Week 11 matchup and is in the league’s concussion protocol. If he’s inactive this week Samaje Perine is a very capable handcuff (3 receiving TDs last week). Trayveon Williams would also likely see more playing time if Mixon is inactive this week. 

Kansas City Chiefs

His role has been shrinking recently, but with Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s high ankle sprain keeping him out of action for some time, Ronald Jones could see some additional playing time in the weeks ahead. It won’t be enough to make him fantasy viable but you should keep him on your watch list.


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