Backfield Touches Report: Week Six Edition

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We are almost at the midway point of the regular Fantasy Football season. In the last six weeks, we have seen a lot of changes and shifts to the backfields of NFL teams, and I can promise you we will see plenty more changes!

As we saw last week, the bye week teams are skewing the number of running backs that touched the ball this week. Below is a breakdown of how many touches running backs had:

Running Backs with Touches 71
Running Backs with 20+ Touches 12
Running Backs with 15-19 Touches 8
Running Backs with 10-14 Touches 20
Running Backs with Less than 10 Touches 31

What is not surprising are the names that sit atop the touches list. While you will see several of the “normal” names, you’re going to be surprised by a few!

Running Back Total Touches Fantasy Points
Jordan Howard 37 18.6
Le’Veon Bell 35 28.1
Melvin Gordon 34 36
Mark Ingram 30 32
Adrian Peterson 26 25.4
Jay Ajayi 26 13
Todd Gurley 24 13
Leonard Fournette 23 21.8
Orleans Darkwa 22 14
Jerick McKinnon 21 26.9
Derrick Henry 20 21.5
Chris Thompson 20 17.8

Names that you may be surprised to see that got at least 20 touches this week will be analyzed below as it’s important to start understanding which players you should be start to get yourself to the playoffs.

Adrian Peterson – Arizona Cardinals

If you were like me, you never believed that Adrian Peterson was going to be effective in New Orleans. You also didn’t understand why they would bring in Peterson when they already had Mark Ingram and then they drafted Alvin Kamara. A Sean Peyton offense likes to throw the ball to the running back, and Adrian Peterson’s hands are like stones.

No one should have been surprised when the news broke that Adrian Peterson had been traded. The only thing I was surprised about was that he went to the Arizona Cardinals. The only reason I was surprised was it means that David Johnson may not be ready to come back this season, and they needed a running back to actually be effective between the tackles.

And boy was he!

I figured the Cardinals would ease Peterson into their offense. The Cardinals clearly had different plans and gave him 26 rushing attempts that he turned into 25.4 points, which included two touchdowns. In one game with the Cardinals, Peterson had one less rushing attempt then he had in four games with the Saints.

Hopefully you didn’t listen to me and drop Adrian Peterson while he was with the Saints. Anyone that currently has Peterson on their team are going to be rewarded with a RB 2 for the remainder of the season. The Cardinals understand that Peterson needs a lot of carries to be productive, and they will give him all he can handle.

Orleans Darkwa – New York Giants

This one was particularly surprising, given it looked like Wayne Gallman was going to be given the keys to the backfield for the Giants. Gallman was only given 11 total touches, while Orleans Darkwa took over the backfield duties getting 22 total touches.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do with this backfield. Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman are both going to be involved in the running game. It is also completely possible that Paul Perkins can have a role once he returns from his rib injury.

What is more important is that the passing offense for the Giants is in such flux that teams don’t have to focus on the passing options, they can put eight in the box and stop the run. Plus, the offensive line for the Giants is not good. I honestly believe that Fantasy Football owners should stay away from this backfield at all costs.

Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans

20 to 16 and 21.5 and 18.7. Those are the total touches and fantasy points scored for Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray respectively. Both running backs tore apart the Indianapolis Colts defense this week. Murray owners were thankful since he had not been performing well, but those same owners are likely nervous that Henry could begin seeing more playing time.

In six weeks, here is a breakdown of Derrick Henry versus DeMarco Murray:

Derrick Henry DeMarco Murray
Rushing Attempts 62 68
Rushing Yards 318 313
Rushing Touchdowns 2 2
Targets 2 17
Receptions 2 14
Receiving Yards 24 86
Receiving Touchdowns 0 0
Touches Per Game 11 14
Total Fantasy Points 48.2 65.9
Points Per Game 8 11

On a per game average, there is not a lot of different between Henry and Murray, which should be concerning for owners of either. On one hand, you’ll be concerned every time that you start Murray because he will lose work to Henry. On the flip side, you won’t ever feel confident starting Henry because that could be the week he barely touches the ball.

We will likely see this type of split through the regular NFL season as the AFC South is a wide-open division to win at this point. If the Titan can make it to the playoffs, that’s where we will see them run DeMarco Murray into the ground as his contract is up at the end of the season. You still have to start Murray every single week, but you’re going to hate it every time.

Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins

Is Chris Thompson legit? Based on the amount of touches he has had this season I would say no.

In five games (he had a week five bye), he has only had more than 20 touches once. In three of the other games he had less than 10 touches a game, and in the fifth game he had 14 touches. For the season, he has averaged 10.8 touches a game. Without his 20-touch performance, he has averaged 8.5 touches a game.

I won’t deny that Thompson has been productive with limited touches. He leads the team in both rushing and receiving yards, and averages 103 yards from scrimmage a game. Thompson has also added four total touchdowns, which is double the amount any other player for the Redskins has scored this year.

While Chris Thompson is not legit based on his total touches, you can’t deny that he has been a valuable flex player for Fantasy Football owners this year. If you can trade Thompson for significant value, I would do so in a heartbeat!

There is only one other backfield that I want to discuss today, and it’s a fairly complicated one.

What Should You Do with the New England Patriots Backfield?

Anyone who asked me what they should do with the Patriots backfield prior to drafts was given the same answer, “RUN!” When the Patriots acquired Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead in the offseason, and did nothing to move Dion Lewis and James White, I knew the backfield was going to be a disaster.

As we have seen in the past, Bill Belichick treats running backs like underwear. He will change who the starter is every single game. One week Mike Gillislee will score three touchdowns, and then he won’t be productive for six weeks because Belichick will rotate the rest of running backs in. It’s almost like Belichick has a BINGO spinner, and whichever running back gets BINGO first gets to be the starter.

Below is the production for each running back so far this season:

Mike Gillislee James White Dion Lewis Rex Burkhead
Rush Attempts 79 23 30 5
Rush Yards 290 99 151 18
Targets 0 42 7 7
Receptions 0 33 7 4
Rec. Yards 0 252 42 49
Total TDs 4 0 2 1
Fantasy Points 53 68.1 38.3 16.7

Rex Burkhead has been out with a rib injury, so his production came in two games. Every other Patriot running back has been featured in all six games this season.

As a group, the Patriots’ running backs are averaging 30 touches a game. At the same time, they have scored 176.1 fantasy points, or almost 30 points a game. When Burkhead comes back, you should plan on each running back to score seven and a half points a game.

All of the running backs for the Patriots are not worth starting, and are borderline not worth owning. You’ll never guess correctly on which one will be the “starter” that week, so unless you are desperate I wouldn’t bother with any of them.

I wish you all good luck with your team this week!

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I have been writing about Fantasy Football for two years for various sites, and became a member of the Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) in 2017.

The primary focus of my writing will be reviewing backfield touches for all teams this season. I will also provide “trending topics” articles from time to time.