Ultimate Zero RB Watch List: AFC Week 5

Through the first four weeks of the season, the focus of the Zero RB Watch List has been on keeping close tabs on every AFC backfield and ensuring all depth charts are thoroughly examined. This week, we’ll switch formats slightly by honing in on some of the more interesting backfields, once again using Expected Points as our guide. 

What is expected points (EP)? As defined by the RotoViz glossary:

EP is calculated using the average fantasy point value of a target/rush with the same line of scrimmage.

It’s another valuable perspective in examining RB workloads. Rather than focusing on raw fantasy points or snap counts,1 EP takes noisy efficiency out of the equation and provides a clear picture of opportunity.

Here is full table with every back in the AFC, sortable by EP. This will give you an overall idea of how backs are being used and how that usage is trending. You can still sort by individual backfield.

We’ll get into some of the significant shifts we witnessed in the AFC in Week 4 following the table.

PlayerTeamWeek 1 ruEPWeek 2 ru EPWeek 3 ruEPWeek 4 ruEPWeek 1 reEPWeek 2 reEPWeek 3 reEPWeek 4 reEP2017 Total EP
Alex CollinsBAL03.24.44.40002.714.7
Austin EkelerLAC0000.83.401.32.78.2
Bilal PowellNYJ3.22.611.310.29.52.506.245.5
Branden OliverLAC1.
C.J. AndersonDEN14.414.34.810.
Charcandrick WestKC0.500.90.51.403.206.5
Chris IvoryJAX4.
D'Onta ForemanHOU0.563.96.40.404.2021.4
Damien WilliamsMIA000.90.4001.42.45.1
DeAndre WashingtonOAK1.
DeMarco MurrayTEN6.14.463.
Derrick HenryTEN2.
Dion LewisNE0.
Duke JohnsonCLE02.
Elijah McGuireNYJ02.93.74.702.602.816.7
Frank GoreIND4.98.313.
Giovani BernardCIN3.
Isaiah CrowellCLE10.
Jalen RichardOAK2.
Jamaal CharlesDEN8.554.
James ConnerPIT1.90.502.100004.5
James WhiteNE6.
Javorius AllenBAL97.
Jay AjayiMIA014.25.15.403.34.41.634
Jeremy HillCIN32.
Joe MixonCIN3.
Kareem HuntKC9.28.97.5218.73.91.411.772.3
Kenyan DrakeMIA00.50.50.5002.92.77.1
Lamar MillerHOU7.98.36.812.
Le'Veon BellPIT6.213.411.823.68.16.810.29.489.5
Leonard FournetteJAX19.59.412.211.345.75.67.775.4
LeSean McCoyBUF11.75.77.811.
Marlon MackIND10.72.6001.11.40015.8
Marshawn LynchOAK10.810.
Matt DayesCLE1.5000.82.80005.1
Matt ForteNYJ2.94.4406.84.90023
Melvin GordonLAC97.
Mike GillisleeNE18.810.65.68.7000043.7
Mike TolbertBUF10.
Rex BurkheadNE1.40.8003.55.50011.2
Robert TurbinIND1.
Terrance WestBAL115.
Tommy BohanonJAX3.50004.404.33.415.6
Tyler ErvinHOU1.400.506.87.41.5017.6

Buck And Baltimore

Are we seeing something resembling stability in Baltimore?

For the first time, the same back running back led Baltimore in carries and rushing production for two straight weeks. Alex Collins had 83 yards on nine carries and has now holds a 164 – 22 rushing yards edge over Javorius Allen over the past two weeks. Despite that, on the strength of six receptions, Allen paced the Ravens backs in PPR scoring in Week 4.

Allen was a priority waiver acquisition after two weeks, but that was based on the fact that, in addition to the passing-game work, he had 35 carries over the first two weeks, but he’s since been trending in the wrong direction. In the last two weeks, Allen has just ten carries — eight in Week 3 and a mere two against the Steelers on Sunday.

Allen remarkably is has the seventh-most overall Expected Points among AFC RBs, but again, most of that came in a the two early-season blowouts. While his passing EP is extremely consistent, his rushing EP is in a nosedive, bottoming out with just 0.8 ruEP this week from a high of 7.1 in Week 1.

Collins has clearly taken over as the early-down back from Terrance West, who lost seven yards on his two carries Sunday. Last year, Shawn Siegele likened Collins to Mark Ingram, and looking at him purely as a runner, he has some nice comparables. Roster him, but temper your expectations with a Baltimore offense that may not see a lot of goal line looks.



For the first time in 2017, Duke Johnson had more expected rushing points than Isaiah Crowell, mostly on the strength of a goal line carry he converted for a score in garbage time. Meanwhile, with Crowell looking like he’s running in mud, Johnson has surpassed Crowell in total EP on the season, and he has scored more than twice as many points in PPR leagues.

Still, we can’t declare Johnson the back to own in Cleveland. As much as we may want to assume that the Browns will start giving Johnson more carries as Crowell’s struggles continue, there’s no sign of that happening so far. Johnson’s carry totals over the first four weeks — 0, 4, 2, 4. That’s not trending in the direction we’d like to see.

The Browns seem reluctant to use Johnson as a runner, and that has me concerned that he may not automatically assume that role if Crowell is hurt or benched.

Mixon’s Volume

Much has been made about how little Joe Mixon has been able to do with his increased usage over the past two weeks, but the focus should instead be on how significantly that usage has swung.

Through the first two weeks, Mixon had the 37th-highest rushing EP off all NFL RBs and the 44th-highest passing EP. In the two weeks since Bill Lazor took over as offensive coordinator, Mixon ranks 11th and 26th in those categories respectively. Mixon now has twice as many touches (42) in the past two weeks as his two teammates combined (Jeremy Hill – 15; Giovani Bernard – 11).

The fantasy points will follow if Mixon continues to get this kind of usage.

C.J. vs. J.C.

With every game, Jamaal Charles continues to look more like the Charles we remember. The lateral movement and burst are evident, but it’s also just as clear that the Broncos are intent on limiting his load. Charles still has yet to top 10 touches in a game, tallying his lowest total of the season in Week 4 with five rushes and one catch.

Perhaps that changes as Charles gains strength and health during the season, but for now C.J. Anderson is clearly the man, with more than double Charles expected points on the season so far.

Devontae Booker also made a return to action in Week 4. With three carries, Booker looks like he’s taking a backseat in this backfield for now.

Who’s Who in Houston?

Despite some flashes, D’Onta Foreman hasn’t been been able to cut into Lamar Miller’s rushing work as much as you may assume. Through the first two weeks, Foreman accounted for 29 percent of the Texans’ expected rushing points, and over the past two weeks, he’s accounted for only slightly more, with at 35 percent ruEP market share.

Foreman remains a hold, however. Not only does he stand to inherit a valuable rushing load from Miller, it’s possible he could see an increase in passing work with Tyler Ervin now out for the season. We’ll be monitoring this backfield very closely for any change in market share.

Powell Powers Jets

What a change in expectations it’s been for Bilal Powell — from 3.2 and 2.6 expected rushing points in Weeks 1  &  2, to 11.3 and 10.2 expected rushing points in the past two games. In that time period, Powell is 10th among all NFL RBs with 21.5 ruEP; that’s two less than Leonard Fournette and two more than Lamar Miller. Not coincidentally, Powell is also 10th in RB scoring (PPR) since Week 3.

The Jets may not stay atop the NFC East standings all season, but they’re much better than we thought, and Powell could be in line for more positive game scripts than anticipated. Though Matt Forte is week to week with turf toe, it’s possible that Powell may have worked his way into the lead back role even when Forte returns.

Sixth-round rookie Elijah McGuire made a nice splash with a 69-yard run. He could be worth a flier in deeper leagues, but keep in mind that, in reality, the value of his rushing workload on this week was down there with Eddie Lacy and Chris Ivory. The big difference last week may have been facing the Jaguars poor run defense.


Derrick Henry has been quiet since his 15.2-point Week 2 outing, scoring just 8.1 PPR points in the two weeks since. Despite that, there are positive indications that Henry’s Zero RB value is alive and well.

While DeMarco Murray dominates the passing-game work, the ground game is very much a time share. Henry has just three fewer rushing attempts on the season, and his ruEP seasonal total actually exceeds Murray’s — 20.2 to 19.9.

Henry’s fantasy points will come, even without an injury to Murray, and he remains one of the top Zero RB targets.

Other notes:

  • The New England backfield has been shockingly predictable so far, with clearly defined roles for Mike Gillislee and James WhiteRex Burkhead could throw a wrench in things once he gets back from a rib injury.
  • Melvin Gordon had his lightest workload of the season and watched Austin Ekeler score his first TD, but Gordon is merely battling a bruised knee and still owns this backfield.
  • Marshawn Lynch continues to do little with a mediocre workload. However, neither of the backups are getting any separation from one another from the perspective of Expected Points or raw production. Don’t expect things to improve with Derek Carr out for multiple weeks.


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By Cort Smith | @cortnall | Archive

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