One big, lingering question looming over the running back position has been the status of Alvin Kamara. That question has been looming for more than a year, but it sounds like we're getting some resolution in the coming days (or, perhaps, weeks), and it sounds like Kamara probably isn't going to be available for the start of the season.
Kamara was excused from practice Wednesday to meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Kamara is expected to be hit with a suspension. That much was expected since Kamara's role in an incident at a Las Vegas nightclub in 2022, but with Kamara recently pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges – felony charges related to the incident were dropped – a resolution finally seems forthcoming.
At this point, that's pretty much all we know, and there isn't much point in speculating. I'd be surprised if it was a full-season ban, and I'd be almost equally surprised if it ended up just being a one-game suspension; anything in between seems possible. We've seen Kamara's price reflect the risk, as he's going off the board as RB31, but we haven't seen the Fantasy community move particularly aggressively toward the other options here; Jamaal Williams is RB39, while rookie Kendre Miller is RB48.
That might be at least in part because the Saints offense might not be one worth chasing anymore. They ranked 31st in total PPR scoring by running backs last season, after all, and were bottom-five in that metric in 2021, too. This offense has lost a lot of luster since Sean Payton and Drew Brees left, and it just might not be a situation worth chasing, even when there is ambiguity.
That's what today's newsletter is all about. While yesterday we took a player-centric tour around all 32 teams RB depth charts, today we're taking a more team-centric look at the position. I've got breakdowns of the five best and worst offenses for running backs in Fantasy here, along with some interesting notes from training camps around the NFL from the past few days.
Tomorrow, we'll be going through each spot in the draft order to show how the FFT team thinks you should approach building a team, no matter what pick you end up with. And next week, we'll take a look at the state of every position in Fantasy heading into 2023, including my updated rankings for each.
But, for now, let's get to know the best and worst offenses for running backs:
Best and Worst Offenses for RBs
Between 2019 and 2021, only the Vikings, Browns, Packers, and Patriots ranked in the top 10 in combined PPR points from their running backs; in 2022, the Packers and Browns did it again, while the Patriots just missed, finishing 11th. The Vikings were 18th, but that was with a coaching change that made them one of the most aggressive passing offenses in the league.
Which is to say, we can learn a little something from history, especially when there's stability on the coaching side of things. Trends are not prophecies, but they are evidence for what we might be able to expect in the future.
I like to look at which teams do a good and bad job of creating production for their running backs because so much of Fantasy success at that position comes down to the decisions the team makes. Do they run the ball consistently? Do they throw to their backs? Do they lean on the running game near the goal line? Those are the things we want to see from an offense.
Of course, a team doesn't have to create a ton of production for their running backs for an RB to be a great Fantasy option. The Eagles were just 25th in RB PPR points last season, but Miles Sanders had a very strong season because he dominated carries, especially near the goal line. On the other end of things, the Lions didn't have a top-15 RB in per-game scoring despite having the most points total, because they split touches so much.
Let's take a look at some of those offenses and the rest of the best and worst offenses from last season in total RB points and see what we can learn from them:
The five best
1. Lions – A lot of this, of course, stems from the Lions running backs scoring a frankly absurd 27 touchdowns last season. But it's not just that. Their running backs got the fifth-most carries last season and the 10th-most targets, in addition to a huge amount of volume near the goal line. I don't expect any of those trends to change much; in fact, with David Montgomery replacing Jamaal Williams, I think the Lions might throw to their backs even more this season. I think there is probably overall regression coming for this offense, but I still think there's room for both Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs to be starting-caliber Fantasy options.
2. Chargers – The Chargers are always here. In 2021, they ranked fourth in RB scoring, and their new offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, led a Cowboys offense that ranked third in Fantasy scoring for RBs in 2022. The shape of the Cowboys production was very different, as they led the league in RB carries and ranked 23rd in targets, while the Chargers unsurprisingly led the league with 178 targets to their backs. Of course, that's what you do when you have Austin Ekeler, and I fully expect the Chargers to continue throwing to their backs a ton. I expect this offense to be better than it was a year ago, so there might not be much regression from Ekeler's 18 touchdowns – remember, he had 20 the year before, in one fewer game.
3. Cowboys – As long as Tony Pollard is backed up by the likes of Malik Davis and Deuce Vaughn, I'm fine with him as a top-10 RB. However, there are reasons to be concerned here. The Cowboys ranked sixth and third the past two seasons in RB points, but with Moore gone and Mike McCarthy taking over playcalling duties, we have to look a bit further back to get a sense for how this offense might operate. And things don't look so great when you do that. McCarthy's offenses ranked 20th on averaged in RB PPR points during his time in Green Bay, and 2006 was the only time before 2021 when an offense associated with McCarthy produced 400-plus PPR points for its RBs. A repeat of last season, when the Cowboys led the league in RB carries and Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 24 touchdowns isn't impossible, but I'd feel a lot better about Pollard if the Cowboys don't add another viable back.
4. 49ers – This one is an example of how personnel dictates usage as much as coaching preferences. The 49ers are always going to be a good offense for running the ball, but their running backs had just 61 targets in 2021, and that number is only slightly higher if you include Deebo Samuel's plays lined up as a running back. And in 2022 before the Christian McCaffrey trade, 49ers running backs had just 24 targets, or four per game. From Weeks 7 on, they had 86 targets in 11 games, or 7.8 per game, which would have been the fifth-most in the league. That's what you do when you have McCaffrey. That they are also consistently and incredibly efficient rushing offense only helps McCaffrey, whose only question mark is how much rushing work Elijah Mitchell might take away. Not enough to take him out of the No. 1 RB spot.
5. Chiefs – The Chiefs ranked 14th in targets to their running backs and 26th in carries. You can see the benefits of playing in the best offense in the NFL, huh? The Chiefs running backs combined for 10 touchdowns on the ground and 12 through the air, and while I'm not necessarily expecting Jerick McKinnon to score nine receiving touchdowns on his own again, it's within the range of possible when you're playing with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. I've been pretty low on Isiah Pacheco's upside throughout the draft process, but it's worth acknowledging that there is always going to be touchdown upside in an offense that led the NFL in offensive plays inside the 10 yard line.
The five worst
28. Texans – One of the things that made Dameon Pierce such a useful Fantasy option last season was because he got 77.5% of the RB touches before his season-ending injury, but even then, you saw the limitations in that offense. Despite dominating touches in a way only three backs bested, he ranked just 21st in Fantasy points per game. This offense should be better with C.J. Stroud at QB, and a new offensive coaching staff means we can't necessarily take last year's trends as gospel. But you also can't expect rookie quarterbacks to be huge difference makers right away. Add in the Devin Singletary addition and it's not hard to see how Pierce could struggle to be a viable Fantasy option in this offense.
29. Bears – No team threw to their running backs less than the Bears did last season, which isn't necessarily a surprise, seeing as no team threw less than the Bears period. This offense could take a big step forward and it still might not be a great offense for running backs, especially with what is expected to be a committee here. The best case scenario sees one of D'Onta Foreman, Khalil Herbert, or Roschon Johnson emerging as a clear lead option in a Bears offense that at least resembles last season's Eagles, leading to tons of short-yardage scoring opportunities. The good news is, nobody in this RB trio even costs a top-100 pick on average, so there's more upside here than there is risk to you.
30. Ravens – It's kind of hard to judge the Ravens because they've had so many RB injuries over the past couple of seasons, but even if you go back to 2020 when J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards were both healthy and this team still finished 15th in PPR points by running backs. This is a very run-heavy offense, obviously, but Lamar Jackson is a significant part of that; in 2020, they ranked 12th in RB carries, and they were 20th last season. They don't throw to their backs much, and Jackson is always a threat near the goal line, which means that this offense probably just isn't as good as you think for running backs in Fantasy. Especially when they've tended to split carries. The question here is whether, with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken in town, that might change. And, of course, whether Dobbins will play – he's on the PUP list and seems to be holding in for a new contract. He could have significant upside if the Ravens opt to use a clear lead back, but there's also significant uncertainty all the way around.
31. Saints – This is a gigantic change from how the Saints used to operate, and there are a few causes. Most importantly, this just hasn't been a good offense since Drew Brees' retirement. Then there's the simple fact that Alvin Kamara isn't the same kind of playmaker he once was, leading to a diminished role in the passing game last season. And then there's the Taysom Hill factor, as Hill has 12 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons and has become a huge part of the team's goal-line script. I'd expect this offense to take a step forward this season, but the Kamara situation looms over everything.
32. Rams – This really hasn't been a particularly good offense for running backs in a long time. The Rams throw to their backs less often than just about any team in the league, and with Matthew Stafford at QB, they haven't been as inclined to force feed their backs near the goal line the way they once did with Todd Gurley. Cam Akers had a nice stretch at the end of last season, but he still has just one game with more than three catches in 35 career games, including the postseason. That makes him a volume-based rusher who probably needs a lot of touchdowns to be much more than a boring low-end RB2. He might get them, but he'll never be a priority target for me.
Injuries, News, and Notes
Cooper Kupp injury update
Kupp is expected to be out "a few weeks" due to the hamstring injury suffered Tuesday during practice, according to Adam Schefter. That's a pretty vague timetable, but seeing as we're five weeks away from Week 1, it shouldn't impacted his availability for the start of the season. Unless he suffers a setback, which is always a concern with a soft-tissue injury at this time of year, especially for a 30-year-old. I took Cooper Kupp fifth overall in a draft we did Monday, but he'd be more like a second-round pick for now. I tend to be pretty agnostic about injury risk, but that's no longer true when a player is presently injured. Let's hope the Rams are patient with him and give him plenty of time to get to 100% before bringing him back, because Kupp is pretty much their entire offense at this point.
Could the Vikings add another RB?
That's what The Athletic's Alec Lewis suggested Wednesday after noting that none of the backup options have stood out. Alex Mattison limped to the sideline after a catch Tuesday, and while the injury doesn't seem serious, neither Ty Chandler nor DeWayne McBride apparently did much to take advantage of the opportunity for added reps – Kene Nwangwu was not at practice Tuesday. Nwangwu is a special teams contributor, which helps his chances of being active on game day, but might also limit his usage on offense, which means there's a real chance for one of Chandler or McBride to contribute, but apparently that hasn't been the case in camp so far. There's no shortage of experience running backs available on the market right now, so if the Vikings could add one of Leonard Fournette or Kareem Hunt cheaply, that might be an option.
Garrett Wilson is dealing with an ankle injury
The Jets are expected to primarily lean on backups in the preseason opener tonight, so Wilson probably wouldn't have played either way. But he is dealing with an ankle injury suffered earlier in the week during camp. The hope is he'll be back at practice Saturday, but we'll keep an eye on it for now. It doesn't look like a reason to discount Wilson right now.
In Wednesday's newsletter, I said that I'd "rather see Abanikanda get an opportunity for a bigger role" than Michael Carter or Zonovan Knight, but it doesn't look like that's the case yet. The rookie could still earn his way into the primary backup role behind Breece Hall by the end of camp, but he'll have to shine in the preseason, and should get a chance tonight. Of course, that would all be moot if the Jets sign Dalvin Cook.
Packers offense has been "frustrating"
That was Jordan Love's word for how the team's Tuesday session went, and that's been the vibe for much of the early part of camp. "It's very frustrating," Love told reporters. "I think we're all very tired of it. Kudos to the defense, but obviously it's disappointing as an offense. Collectively, as a whole, it's definitely an area we need to step up." And hey, that isn't particularly surprising – Love is running the first team exclusively for the first time, and while there have been some bright spots, some growing pains aren't unexpected during the first week. It's too early to panic about this offense, but this is one to keep an eye on moving forward, because we'd like to see the positive reports outweigh the negative before long – especially because what we've seen from Love in his brief chances in the NFL haven't been super promising.
Eagles getting RBs involved in passing game
The Athletic's Bo Wulf wrote Tuesday, ""There have been considerably more passes to running backs this summer." That's to be expected with D'Andre Swift joining the team, and I think it's reasonable to expect an increase on last year's league-low 61 targets to the running backs. Heck, Swift might be a good bet to beat that all on his own. Whether that will be enough to make Swift more than a fringe starting option will depend in part on how often they throw to him – is 61 a ceiling? – and whether he's a clear No. 2 in the running game behind Rashaad Penny or more of a co-lead rusher. If Swift can be counted on for 10-plus carries and four targets per game, he's probably going to be close to a must-start back in an offense this explosive.
A committee in the Josh Jacobs-less Raiders O?
Here's how Tashan Reed of The Athletic broke down the RB split so far in Raiders camp: "With Josh Jacobs still away from the team, Zamir White and Abdullah split time as the starting running back. White took most of the carries and Abdullah was called upon more in pass-catching situations." Obviously, if Jacobs reports, this might be moot, as he was one of the league leaders in RB touch share last season. There's been a bit of talk about White having an opportunity to open up a bigger role, but I'd expect Jacobs to get 75% of the rushing work once he reports. If he doesn't, or there is a setback, White could be a fringe starting Fantasy option if this split holds, with Abdullah still looking like more of a bye week replacement or desperation start even in PPR.
Mike Williams was sidelined during Wednesday's practice
Williams told reporters Wednesday that "everything is solid," so it doesn't sound like there's much reason to be concerned that he missed full-team activities during practice. However, given his injury history – and specifically his history of nagging injuries that keep him limited, but active, which is especially frustrating for Fantasy – I figured I'd note it here.