Fantasy football managers will have to contend with bye weeks, injuries and head coaches fine tuning their backfields as they try to set lineups including fantasy relevant running backs (RBs) whose potential snap counts, receiving targets, and carries give them the best chance to win their weekly matchups in Week 8.

As we usual, we’ll identify a few RBs who might see increased or decreased opportunities this week. We’ll also 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 7 Running Back Usage Report


Kansas City Chiefs

Fantasy managers who’d been stashing Isiah Pacheco had to be thrilled when they woke up Sunday morning and found out that he’d be the Chiefs’ starting RB in Week 7. Pacheco may have started the game, but he wasn’t the Chiefs’ primary back. He and Clyde Edwards-Helaire split the early down work. Jerick McKinnonactually led the backfield in snaps played (28) and was the Chiefs’ passing down back. McKinnon led Chiefs RBs with 16 routes run (Pacheco and Edwards-Helaire each had seven). Pacheco narrowly out snapped Edwards-Helaire (19-17) and had eight carries compared to Edwards-Helaire’s six. Edwards-Helaire had two red zone carries (Pacheco had none) and converted one of them into a TD. To further complicate matters, WR Mecole Hardman had two rushes for 38 yards, including a TD scoring red zone carry from the 49er three-yard line. We’ll have to watch how this situation plays out in the coming weeks, but for now both Pacheco and Edwards-Helaire should continue to be rostered in most fantasy football scoring formats. However, until one of these backs truly establishes themselves as the Chiefs’ primary early down and goal line option, they’re just going to cannibalize each other’s fantasy production on a week-to-week basis.  

San Francisco 49ers

In Christian McCaffrey’s debut as a 49er, he and Jeff Wilson Jr.  split the majority of early down carries by an eight to seven margin. McCaffrey was able to learn about 20 plays in the 49ers offense in his short time with the team and played 17 of the 49ers snaps by halftime. However, his inexperience with the 49ers come from behind offense used in the second half caused him to play just four more snaps the rest of the way. Wilson’s fantasy value already took a hit with the 49ers trade for McCaffrey, and he’ll fall further down the team’s depth chart once Elijah Mitchell returns to action by mid-November. The 49ers trimmed their crowded backfield by releasing Tevin Coleman on Tuesday.

Carolina Panthers

Leading up to Week 7 Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks suggested that he’d use a hot hand/running back by committee (RBBC) approach in managing his backfield. Chuba Hubbard got the start, and out snapped D’Onta Foreman 22 to 14 through the first three quarters but, Hubbard suffered an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter that ended his day. Post-game reports suggested that Hubbard could have returned to the game if he was needed, and that his ankle injury is relatively minor. Both Hubbard (15.3) and Foreman (16.5) posted double digit points in PPR scoring formats. Hubbard had nine carries for 63 yards (7.0 YPC), scored a TD, and ran more pass routes than Foreman (12 to 10). Foreman had an explosive 60 yard run and ran the ball 15 times for 118 rushing yards (7.9 YPC). Based on Hubbard’s usage through the first three quarters of his Week 7 matchup against the Bucs, he might be the Panthers RB you’ll want in your starting lineup moving forward, but if Wilks truly does use a hot hand approach, which could change on a weekly basis. Both are worth rostering for now. Keep an eye on Hubbard’s ankle injury this week. If it ends up being more serious than expected, Raheem Blackshear’s role could increase in Week 8. 

Baltimore Ravens

With J.K. Dobbins placed on IR after having arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday, the Ravens used a three RB rotation on Sunday. Gus Edwards (36%), Justice Hill (31%) and Kenyan Drake (27%) each played a significant percentage of the Ravens’ offensive snaps, but Edwards was the most productive of the three. He led the trio with 16 carries for 66 yards and  also had four red zone carries, converting two of them into TDs. Drake, who was looking to build upon his big Week 6 against the Giants, had 11 carries but only rushed for five yards. Hill lost a fumble late in the fourth quarter, and it will be interesting to note if that affects his playing time in Week 8. The Ravens ran the ball 44 times in Week 7, but QB Lamar Jackson had 10 of those carries. Look for the Ravens to continue rotating their RBs, but with Dobbins sidelined, Edwards will likely be the Ravens RB who’ll get the most carries per game and have the best shot at scoring a TD moving forward. Edwards was a limited participant in the Ravens’ early week practices but is expected to play on Thursday against the Bucs.

New York Jets

The Jets lost a huge piece of their offense for the rest of the season when Breece Hall suffered a torn ACL on Sunday. However, in quickly trading for former Jaguars RB James Robinson, they added an explosive power back who can grind out early down short yardage and move piles at the goal line. Robinson started the season splitting time with Travis Etienne in the Jaguars backfield, but his playing time slowly eroded over the last few weeks. He had zero carries and played just 17% of the team’s offensive snaps in Week 7. Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson explained that Robinson’s lack of playing time was due to lower body, (knee), soreness, but Robinson passed his physical prior to the official announcement of the trade. We’ll have to wait and see how much of the Jets’ playbook Robinson is able to learn before Week 8’s kickoff, but with his size and big play ability he should quickly become the Jets’ primary early down back. Expect Carter to function as the Jets’ change of pace back and also get some passing down work along with Ty Johnson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Robinson’s trade to the Jets leaves Travis Etienne as the main cog in the Jaguars backfield. Look for him to get the majority of both the early and passing down work, with JaMychal Hasty filling the change of pace role. Hasty will also be Etienne’s handcuff. Etienne has been on fire lately, with 34 carries for 271 yards (7.97 YPC) in his last three games. He’s fumbled the ball three times this season (losing one) and needs to do a better job of holding onto the football moving forward. Keep an eye on rookie Snoop Conner, who could be in line to make his season debut should Etienne or Hasty ever be inactive.

Denver Broncos

A week after his mid-game benching, Melvin Gordon led all Broncos backs in snaps played and routes run, but Latavius Murray still played a significant role in Denver’s offense. He outscored Gordon in PPR scoring formats by a 10.3 to 7 margin. The Broncos also utilized Mike Boone early on, but he suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter and was unavailable for the rest of the game. The Broncos placed Boone on short term IR and signed Marlon Mack from the 49ers’ practice squad. 

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