Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB Week 5: The RB Strikes Back

by Jakob Sanderson · Matchups Start/Sit

Welcome in to the Week 5 edition of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB! This is the place where we talk all things running back streaming. Each week we discuss running back usage, matchups, and waiver opportunities to convert the least amount of capital into a playable running back position on your fantasy teams.

If you did not read the introductory edition of the column, I strongly recommend checking it out here:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Running Back


The weekly project of this column is to stream the highest scoring running back we can using only a select group of bench running backs and the waiver wire. Additionally, I hope this article allows you to think critically about the inputs involved in fantasy production at the position that will inform how you play fantasy football.

Each article I will briefly recap the week that was at the running back position. Then I will discuss the status of our existing running back bench and whether to make any transactions on our official roster. Lastly, I will discuss potential waiver options and designate my plays of the week.

Note: Any data not from Playerprofiler, or otherwise sourced is via Pro Football Focus.

Week 4 Recap – League-Wide

Below are the top 24 Running Backs from Week 3, excluding Monday Night’s game.

Note: Rhamondre Stevenson‘s ADP rose to 8.10 (94) just days AFTER the pre-season version of this piece was finalized. At the time it was written, he was drafted outside the first eight rounds and thus streamer-eligible per our criteria.

The color coding is as follows:

  • Teal = drafted in the top 24 at their position by 4for4’s ADP aggregator.
  • Yellow = drafted outside the first eight rounds.
  • Green = drafted outside the first eight rounds, and selected plays from our “roster” (see last week’s article)
  • Pink = players on our roster, not played last week
  • Purple = players not on our roster that were recommended plays off waivers last week
  • Orange = Un-drafted
  • White = does not fall into any of the aforementioned categories

Back from the Dead (Zone)

This week was the revenge of the Running Backs in a couple of ways. First of all, they simply scored more points. For the first time this season, the top 12 running backs of the week outscored the top 12 wide receivers of the week. As for who scored those points, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Only three of the top 12 RBs were drafted as top 12 RBs, while six of the top 12 WRs were drafted as such. That being said, seven of the top 12 RBs were drafted top 24 at the position, and only Jamaal Williams qualified as a “streamer” among the top 12 finishers. This was by far the worst streaming week of the year.

It was in fact a rise of the dead zone. Dameon Pierce, Josh Jacobs, Rashaad Penny, Miles Sanders and J.K. Dobbins all turned in breakout weeks from the mid-rounds of drafts; the first top 12 week of the year for the later four. It’s probably worthwhile briefly discussing these breakouts – along with fellow mid-rounder Clyde Edwards-Hellaire – to determine our expectations going forward on each.

Legitimate Role Shifts?

Often when a running back sees a boost in production without a major change to the personnel of the team, my presumption is it will regress. That being said, there are reasons to think most of these backs may actually be seeing improved roles. The following is the percentage of team snaps, routes, carries and targets these running backs had in Week 4 vs. their season-long average.

Note that Dobbins is only Week 4 vs. Week 3.

Buying High or Trading Up?

These backs were drafted late enough that it’s entirely plausible RB streaming drafters made an early pivot to one of these options. Should you ride the wave or look to sell high?

First off, as a general note: in seasonal leagues my preferred route to selling high is always selling up. Use the impending byes and injuries to use a running back off a hot week with a surplus receiver and target a potential difference maker come playoff time. You are playing for first place and should make aggressive moves on aggressive assumptions.

Anyhow, as for these Running Backs…

JK Dobbins is the most straightforward to discuss. He was expected to be eased back into action in his first start, and it’s hardly surprising to see him given more work the following game. The good news is seeing Dobbins immediately involved in the passing game. The Ravens have a low rate of running back route participation, but Dobbins did lead the running back room in routes each week. Keep in mind Dobbins was No. 5 in juke rate, No. 1 in true yards per carry, and No. 14 in yards created per touch as a rookie. If he gets back to full health, his rushing efficiency gives him a Nick Chubb-esque profile with potentially greater receiving upside.

J.K. Dobbins Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

2019 Running Back Redemption Tour

Miles Sanders and Josh Jacobs both had stronger than anticipated roles to open the season given how many were projecting a committee. That being said, while each had been dominating early down snaps, they were ceding almost the entirety of passing situation snaps (third and long / two minute drills). This led to both being perceived as game script and touchdown dependent RB2s.

This week both backs saw positive game scripts but also had seemingly improved roles by snaps and routes. Of the two, Jacobs’ shift seemed more intentional. Brandon Bolden returned from injury re-creating their Week 1 backfield, but he played just five snaps. This number is likely to rise in coming weeks as the Raiders remarkably had just nine third downs in 75 offensive plays. (Bolden played five of them)

However, a notable shift was Jacobs playing every snap of the two-minute drill. He split it with Ameer Abdullah in Weeks 2 and 3 and ceded it entirely to Brandon Bolden in the opener. Maybe Bolden was being slowly worked back from injury, but nothing about Jacobs’ dominant performance says “play the other backs more” to me.

Sanders meanwhile I think mostly saw a greater portion of plays because the Eagles – playing from ahead in a downpour – tilted more heavily to the run than in any game this season. He is their preferred rushing threat. Sanders was still subbed out after two snaps in the two minute drill which resulted in a Kenneth Gainwell touchdown.

If this usage holds, I would consider Sanders to remain a mid-range RB2 but Jacobs a low-end RB1.

Gaining Routes

Jacobs wasn’t the only back with a true shift in playing time. Despite playing from extreme trail script, Dameon Pierce ran more routes than Rex Burkhead for the first time all season. He recorded six targets and doubled his season average in route participation. He’s still ceding the two minute drill and third and long snaps, but Pierce was maintaining early down passing work in trail script. This is a lot more like the aforementioned Jacobs’ Week 2 and 3 role than Pierce’s role prior to this week. He is still limited by playing on the Texans, but this pass-game involvement keeps him in the RB2 conversation when they aren’t favoured.

Dameon Pierce Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the other hand was a more similar situation to Sanders’ in my view. He played more snaps and ran more routes than Jerick McKinnon for the first time this year, but it appeared largely game script related. McKinnon played the same role he had on passing downs and in the two minute drill. The short yardage looks continued to be a three-way split with Edwards-Helaire leading the way.

The difference in this game was that the early down snaps weren’t in trail script. Therefore, Edwards-Helaire played more of them, and when he was subbed out it was for Isiah Pacheco rather than McKinnon. Edwards-Helaire’s role is strong enough to provide spike weeks given the offense. But if it’s possible to flip him for an RB1 with a more traditional RB1 usage profile, I would still recommend it.

Penny For Your Thoughts?

No Running Back got up off the mat like Rashaad Penny. Despite being a disappointment for the first seven halves of the 2022 fantasy season, his second half explosion has catapulted him back into the conversation ahead of Week 5. This one is a touch more complicated because there have now been four iterations of this backfield’s deployment.

In Week 1: Penny IN, Walker OUT, Homer IN

Week 2: Penny IN, Walker IN, Homer IN

In Week 3: Penny IN, Walker OUT, Homer injured mid-game

Week 4: Penny IN, Walker IN, Homer OUT

For the first two weeks, Travis Homer played a purely pass down role. He played the two minute drill and third and longs. Penny (or Walker) played nearly every other snap. In Week 3, when Homer left with an injury, Deejay Dallas took over that role. However that was not the case in Week 4. Similar to the Raiders, the Seahwaks’ offensive efficiency led to just nine third downs on 67 plays. As well, Seattle played from positive game script almost the whole contest. With that being said, Dallas played just three snaps leaving the rest to Penny and Walker.

All this being said, Penny is still splitting early down reps with Walker and turned 28 routes into just one target. But it does slightly de-clutter the situation if the Seahwaks view Dallas differently than Homer. For now, I’m still sitting Penny in his upcoming matchup with New Orleans if I’m able to. But the combination of Geno Smith‘s emergence as a potentially capable offensive commander, and the reduction of the third back role in the backfield gives Penny some added life.

Week 4 Recap – Our Roster

Streaming Rules

For those joining us in progress, here is the process for the weekly streaming choices.

  1. In the introductory column, I chose one RB in each of rounds 9-14 based on those available at each round using 4for4’s ADP aggregator. That is my starting “roster.”
  2. Each week I will address whether to add any running backs available on waivers, and if so, who to drop.
  3. Because your team is not mine, my weekly plays will not only consist of my “rostered” running backs. Instead, I will recommend a play from each of three categories. (see below)
  4. My streaming “score” each week will be the average of my play in each category. My “preferred” play will count double and MUST come from a running back on my “roster.” If I choose to make a waiver back my preferred play, I will outline who I am cutting from my existing bench for that running back.

The Categories

  1. Bench Streamers: The selected running backs in the introductory article plus and minus any transactions published throughout the year in this column. If a drafted player gets injured, I retain one injured reserve spot.
  2. Premium Waiver Streamers: This group is comprised of any running back with less than 67-percent roster-ship on Yahoo leagues as of the first waiver run of the week. It can include both generally un-drafted players as well as previously drafted players who have been widely cut by managers.
  3. Deep Waiver Streamers: This group is comprised of any running back with less than 33-percent roster-ship on Yahoo leagues. The same rules apply as above.

Current Roster

Our current roster is the six running backs on our existing roster. Those running backs are:

There is a lot to cover this week, but thankfully there were no major changes for *most* of our roster. Therefore, this section will be more brief than usual.

The Good

Rhamondre Stevenson

Rhamondre Stevenson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Stevenson continued in the same role as previous weeks, but with a more middle-of-the-road outcome. His snap and route percentage was slightly reduced due to the Patriots not playing in a two-minute drill this week: a game situation he monopolizes touches on.

Rachaad White

Rachaad White made his first significant foray into the Buccaneers backfield on Sunday Night Football. He played 24 of 64 snaps (38-percent), catching all five targets and adding a goal-line touchdown. This came even after he fumbled the opening kickoff.

I’ve sung White’s praises in half the articles I’ve written this year. But the short version is that this is the type of profile we were buying and it was great to see it flash.

Rachaad White Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

As stated last week, increased White usage doesn’t make him necessarily startable. But it shows that he’s gaining traction with the staff, and further enforces the belief that he could be “the guy” if Leonard Fournette suffers an injury. Also worth noting: last week we said to be optimistic on the Buccaneers returning to form after getting their receivers back in the lineup. All their top four receivers were healthy in this one. Right on queue, the Bucs produced over thirty real points and over thirty running back fantasy points. The contingent bet is as strong as ever.

Khalil Herbert

I struggled with where to place Herbert but decided it was more good than bad despite an un-impactful 11.1 points. Herbert played 77-percent of snaps, handling 20 touches in a game the Bears lost. He also played every single third down snap. If David Montgomery misses another contest, we essentially just saw Herbert’s floor, and his ceiling – as we saw in week three – is much higher.

The bad news is that Montgomery – who was reported as day-to-day – may be back next week. If he is, Herbert didn’t provide more than replacement level production in his streamer week. As well, while he didn’t play poorly, usurping a starter requires more than adequate performance. In our dream scenario, Herbert would have been able to replicate his week three performance, placing serious pressure on the coaches to make a change in their running back room.

As a Herbert fan, I’m hoping he gets another week to do so in Week 5.

The Rest

There is no ‘bad’ per se this week. Nyheim Hines had a disappointing game in the box score but was not a start for us anyhow. He may have contingent upside realized this week as we will dive into later on.

Samaje Perine had a zero but will continue to have no value barring a Joe Mixon injury. His weekly box score is not overly relevant.

By the time you are reading this you will know what Darrell Henderson did on Monday Night Football. However, I do not at the time of writing. If his performance materially changes his value moving forward, I will update this column.

The Result – Week 4 Plays

This was a perfectly adequate streaming week especially given the dearth of strong streaming options. Stevenson had 12.9, Herbert 11.1, and McKissic – our deep play – came in at 8.6. This gives us a stream score of 11.4. This is right on the top-24 borderline.

I will address the one glaring error from this week, although it’s one I stand by in process. Playing Khalil Herbert over Jamaal Williams hurts in the box score, but our concerns with Williams more or less played out. He played 49-percent of snaps and ran less routes than Craig Reynolds. Herbert’s role was stronger this week, and if both Swift and Montgomery miss again, I would play Herbert once again. That being said, given the Lions’ more favorable offensive environment, I would rank each in a similar tier as mid-range RB2 options.

I will note that I clearly underestimated the Lions ability to maintain their offensive firepower given the injuries they had. Props to OC Ben Johnson and Jared Goff.

The Waiver Wire

Injuries Have Struck

Thus far, there are three significant injuries to monitor at the running back position. Javonte Williams has torn his ACL along with two other ligaments, ending his season. Cordarrelle Patterson had an unspecified – as the time of writing – procedure which landed him on Injured Reserve with a designation to return. Jonathan Taylor suffered a suspected ankle sprain, though his MRI was negative, and it is apparently possible he plays on Thursday Night Football.

That leaves us with a lot of new running backs to consider, alongside our old friend Nyheim Hines, and commonly rostered streamer Melvin Gordon. Let’s quickly walk through each backfield one by one.

The Broncos

If there is a right answer here, it could be a massive boon (or Boone) to fantasy managers given the season-long injury to Williams. If this had happened in pre-season there may have been no question at all. Melvin Gordon played to a 50-50 split with Javonte Williams in 2021, and has the pedigree of an all-purpose bell cow over his NFL career.

For the first two weeks of the season, he operated in a decreased but significant role, and was the only material compliment to Williams, playing 41 and 32-percent of snaps vs. just five and 10-percent for Mike Boone. However, in Week 3 that shifted. Mike Boone worked into the offense and led all three backs in long-down and distance snaps (i.e. third and long).

In Week 4, Javonte Williams established himself as a bell-cow in the first half.

After his injury, Boone out-snapped Gordon 19-10, with most of it coming in passing situations. Overall the past two weeks Gordon has played 38 snaps vs. Boone’s 33. On rushing plays, Gordon has handled 15 carries to Boone’s three, while Boone has played 26 passing routes vs. Gordon’s 20.

We don’t have enough to go on for Boone this year, but he was an intriguing prospect once upon a time. Despite going undrafted, Boone posted a 77th percentile college target share along with elite athletic measurables.

Mike Boone Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Our Best Guess

It’s easy to write off the Week 4 usage based on Melvin Gordon‘s fumble. This is his fourth fumble in as many games. However, that would ignore the shift in pass-down work which started a week prior. It would be a major surprise if Gordon is not the lead rushing option going forward, but it may be possible Boone continues his pass-down role. He also may take on portions of Javonte Williams‘ role such as the two minute drill and chunks of early down pass work.

Tempering Expectations

With that being said, we talked last week about the importance of buying profiles and it’s worth re-iterating here. Mike Boone may have been a strong passing game option at Cincinnatti five years ago, but he has 10 career NFL receptions in his fifth season. He also dropped the game-ending pass on Sunday. I’ll put it this way: our modal expectation should be Melvin Gordon as the lead rusher, with Mike Boone in a Kenneth Gainwell-esque complimentary role. But it is much more likely Gordon grows his role a la Josh Jacobs, than Boone usurpse meaningful carries without injury.

Shortly after drafting this piece, the Broncos signed Latavius Murray. While he was productive this week for the Saints, he was passed over for touches by two running back needy teams last year in Baltimore and New Orleans. It’s unlikely he’s a major threat to Melvin Gordon and more likely a third body.

Melvin Gordon is available in 20-percent of Yahoo! leagues. If you are in one of those, this would be a situation to empty your entire budget. Mike Boone is a strong add with possible flex value and newfound contingent value. Just how aggressively to bid depends on the depth of your league, but view him as an end of bench option.

The Falcons

We discussed Atlanta’s tendencies heavily in the last two Hitchhiker’s articles which sets us up well to understand the baseline coming into this week. Roughly speaking they’ve had three defined roles this season:

  1. Early Down all-purpose back: Patterson
  2. Early Down rushing compliment: Damien Williams, later Tyler Allgeier
  3. Pass-Down blocking specialist: Avery Williams (may have been Damien Williams had he not gotten injured)

With Patterson leaving this game early, the Falcons three down backfield continued, but altered in manner. Avery Williams played only one third down as the lone back, occasionally rotating into two back sets, and otherwise having little presence. It was the rookie Tyler Allgeier who instead played the majority of third downs and led the backfield in routes. Caleb Huntley mixed in on early downs as a rusher. Huntley received all the goal-line work in this one, but as we mentioned last week Allgeier has seen short yardage work alongside Patterson.

Tyler Allgeier Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Damien Williams could also be elevated off injured reserve in short order further complicating this backfield.

For now I would state the following:

Tyler Allgeier would be the preferred start next week but is a desparation flex in a game the Falcons will likely trail vs. Tampa Bay. If he is on waivers he should be a priority claim, but not one worth emptying the clip on. This backfield is too crowded and too fluid to have certainty on any player in it until we know more. That being said, Allgeier was an all-purpose college back with a 77th-percentile college target share and 1,601 rushing yards as a senior. He is the play here, and the option with the most upside.

Think back to Elijah Mitchell last year when folks were fearing the return of Trey Sermon. Or when those same folks were debating Khalil Herbert vs. Damien Williams himself. I would far rather bet on the rookie than an old, injured back who is not active in the coming week.

As for Damien Williams and Huntley, they are minimum bid options who become roster-able but are unlikely to be consistently meaningful without further injuries.

The Colts

I will discuss this one only briefly as it may not even manifset. Nyheim Hines is rostered in our fake team and 62-percent of real leagues. At least based on what they have done this season, Hines appears to be the handcuff to Jonathan Taylor.

That being said, he has had some level of history on this team in this role and it has not always been as simple. Hines has served as the apparennt lead back on six occasions due to inury since 2018. That featured five games in which Marlon Mack was injured and one without Taylor.


In 2018, Hines opened the year as a pass-down compliment to Jordan Wilkins while Mack missed Week 1. Mack returned in Week 2 but was re-injured. Hines played above 65-percent snaps in the next three games, averaging eight carries and 8.3 targets per game. His role was reduced however in 2019 and 2020, when Jonathan Williams and then Jordan Wilkins (again) served as the early down back, and Hines’ role was dictated by game script as the pass-down complement. This included a 10-target performance in 2020 but also just five targets in two gamers in 2019.

Overall, he handled more carries than typical, as well as more targets by running routes in all situations. However, he was not an every down back.

This year may be different. But the Colts lacking a pedigreed backup to turn to is nothing new from the previous situations. Hines should be rostered in every league, and it’s worth spending a little extra if you need a one-week spot start. The Colts are underdogs in Denver making Hines a strong play if Taylor sits. In deep leagues, Phillip Lindsay (practice squad) and Deon Jackson (active roster, but has played 0 snaps) are the names to watch. I would lean Lindsay on track record but he’s not been effective in years.

If Taylor misses, treat Hines as a middling RB2 akin to an impoverished man’s Austin Ekeler.

The Waiver Wire Priority List

Among everyone rostered in 67-percent of leagues or fewer, here is your Week 5 waiver priority list.


*CON* = Contingent Value-focused use case

*SA* = Standalone Value-focused use case

*STASH* = Role projected to grow organically throughout the season

Feel Free to adjust this priority depending on your need for immediate starting value.

  1. Rachaad White – CON
  2. Raheem Mostert – SA
  3. Tyler Allgeier – SA / STASH
  4. Nyheim Hines – CON / SA
  5. Brian Robinson – STASH
  6. Kenneth Walker – STASH
  7. James Cook – STASH
  8. Isiah Pacheco – CON
  9. Mike Boone – CON / SA?
  10. Mark Ingram – CON
  11. Kenneth Gainwell – SA / STASH
  12. Samaje Perine – CON
  13. Jaylen Warren – CON
  14. Eno Benjamin – CON / STASH
  15. Jerick McKinnon – SA
  16. Damien Williams – STASH
  17. Caleb Huntley – SA
  18. Zamir White – CON
  19. Darrell Williams – CON
  20. Gus Edwards – STASH

Our Transaction

Last week we used our first transaction to cut Eno Benjamin for Samaje Perine. Luckily our options have now massively increased. Tyler Allgeier will be making his appearance on the squad in place of Samaje Perine moving forward.

Week 4 Picks

Preferred Play: Rhamondre Stevenson / Khalil Herbert

We’re now in the portion of the season that leads to more and contingent selections. Due to David Montgomery‘s injury, Khalil Herbert skyrocketed past the 67-percent ownership range meaning that both he and Stevenson can only be played as the “preferred play” from our roster; not any deeper. If Montgomery does miss, we will roll out Herbert in this slot. If not, we will continue to ride Rhamondre Stevenson.

Rhamondre Stevenson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Premium Play: Raheem Mostert / Nyheim Hines

Similar to the above, we are making a “if X then Y” type selection here. This is the nature of writing the column early in the week but also is the type of situation you need to account for in your leagues.

Raheem Mostert comes in as our premium play this week and would be worth a considerable waiver spend in the half of leagues he is still available. Now running as the clear lead back in Miami, he is likely to join James Robinson and Jamaal Williams in the land of no-longer-streamer.

If Nyheim Hines has Taylor out of the picture he is our selection. If not we roll with Mostert here who saw a season high in carries and snaps this past week.

Raheem Mostert Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Deep Play: J.D. McKissic

I considered Tyler Allgeier here but the matchup with Tampa is tough and there is too much uncertainty going around in this backfield. J.D. McKissic gets the nod here for the third consecutive week. We know the situation with McKissic by now: low ceiling, but reasonable floor. If you feel you are an underdog, I would prefer to take a shot on Tyler Allgeier in this spot instead.

J.D. McKissic Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

The Final Word

Thank you once again for reading this column, and I look forward to its continued development over the course of the season. Also credit to Pro Football Focus for providing data I was able to use in this column in addition to the incredible wealth of information on PlayerProfiler.

Happy Hitchhiking!