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Week seven is in the books and as we grind through the meat of the fantasy season, we continue to find opportunities to find diamonds in the rough before everyone else sees their brilliant shine. Without further ado, let's take a look at the peripheral all-stars emerging through week seven in a running back heavy edition of Unexpected Observations.
Routes run and dropback data in this article is from Pro Football Focus. I prefer to focus on the percentage of routes run which is simply a player's routes divided by the team's total dropbacks. Terms: RMS = Rushing Market Share, TMS = Target Market Share, RR% = Routes Run percentage (of dropbacks)
Running Back Rotations
- Atlanta Falcons: Cordarelle Patterson is taking over this Atlanta offense. Coming off a bye week, the coaching staff prioritized Patterson (73% snaps, 64% RMS, 67% RR) over Mike Davis and used Patterson all over the field. Patterson continues to dominate the most valuable touches in this offense. Patterson could be a "buy high" option given how little respect the industry has shown for his talent.
- Chicago Bears: David Montgomery is on the mend and should return to action soon but Khalil Herbert (77% snaps) definitely distanced himself from Damien Williams (17% snaps) in week seven. Part of this had to do with Williams' inability to practice throughout the week due to COVID protocol. However, the Bears should like what they have seen from the rookie so far this season if Montgomery were to miss additional time.
- Houston Texans: You'd have to be desperate to fire up a Texans running back. However, David Johnson is finding more and more playing time as the Texans get accustomed to playing from behind. Johnson has out-snapped Mark Ingram II in three of the past four weeks as the locked-in passing-down back in a consistently trailing offense.
- Indianapolis Colts: Frank Reich, remembering where his bread is buttered, has really started to lean on Jonathan Taylor to captain the Colts backfield. Taylor played a season-high 69% of the snaps for the Colts as Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines go from key offensive features to simply workload relief for Taylor.
- Miami Dolphins: An injury to Malcolm Brown adds some much-needed clarity to the Dolphins backfield as Myles Gaskin will not operate as the lead back with Salvon Ahmed providing relief. The three-headed monster becoming a two-headed monster may still sound less than ideal, but this elevates Gaskin from a desperation option to a solid flex, tightening up his range of outcomes significantly.
- New England Patriots: Surprisingly, Bill Belichick went with Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor as the primary backups to Damien Harris in week seven, making Rhamondre Stevenson inactive. All three active running backs had amazing games as the Patriots trounced the Jets. However, this is mostly a reminder that the pass-catching RB2 behind Damien Harris will have value throughout the season. In games where Stevenson is inactive, Bolden should get all of the "James White role" to himself.
- New York Jets: Michael Carter II has finally emerged as the bona fide lead back for the Jets. The preseason darling was clearly the most talented running back on the roster but an injury to Tevin Coleman (plus an in-game injury to Ty Johnson) has provided an opportunity for Carter to run away with the job.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Miles Sanders suffered an ankle injury in week seven, allowing rookie Kenneth Gainwell and veteran Boston Scott to take on bigger roles. Gainwell out-snapped Scott 51% to 33% and should be the primary back in this offense for as long as Sanders is out. However, keep in mind that the true RB1 in this offense is actually the quarterback - Jalen Hurts.
- Seattle Seahawks: I've rarely felt as clueless as I felt heading into the Seahawks' Monday Night Football contest against the Saints regarding how the Seahawks backfield would shake out. With Chris Carson on IR, Rashaad Penny making his glorious return, and Alex Collins hardly practicing all week, the range of outcomes was VERY wide. However, Collins and Penny played nearly identical snaps. The workload, on the other hand, significantly tilted toward Collins (who also started the game and played the first two series before Penny began playing on the third series). The Seahawks' season is rapidly crumbling and they have little reason to press any player with a major injury issue. Look for them to continue to take it slow with Penny as they get him up to speed.
- San Francisco 49ers: The return of JaMycal Hasty introduced uncertainty to the 49ers backfield, but boy did we get a clear picture from Kyle Shanahan. Hasty immediately jumped in the RB2 role for the 49ers as Trey Sermon played exactly ZERO snaps behind Elijah Mitchell. Mitchell and Hasty immediately worked into very distinct roles, with Mitchell as the two-down thumper (75% RMS) and Hasty as the third-down receiver (22% TMS).
- Cleveland Browns: The Browns are falling apart before our very eyes. With Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry battling injuries, the door was opened for someone to step up as a third receiving option. However, a surprising pre-game injury for Donovan Peoples-Jones sidelined him. Enter Anthony Schwartz - the number three outside receiver for Cleveland. If Peoples-Jones were to miss additional time, Schwartz looks locked into a starting outside receiver role with Landry as the slot-man and Beckham on the other side of the field.
- New Orleans Saints: A retirement for Chris Hogan and the activation of Tre'Quan Smith meant additional uncertainty for where the playing time might go in New Orleans. In Smith's return, he played 55% of the snaps, behind only Marquez Callaway. With Kenny Stills falling to number three in the rotation, we are also seeing Adam Trautman play considerably ahead of red-zone specialist Juwan Johnson at tight end.