Backfield Splits with Rushing QBs

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Tommy Gilligan - USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2020 Fantasy season, a narrative was pushed around Running Backs on teams with rushing Quarterbacks. Depending on the team, we’re between 3 and 5 weeks into the NFL season, and it’s time to take a step back and assess the opinions tied to this narrative. Generally, the concern is that Running Backs with rushing Quarterbacks will get less ground volume due to the Quarterback keeping the ball himself. We’re going to look at the teams with the five most Quarterback rushing attempts and the corresponding Running Back rushing attempts.

Baltimore Ravens

Unsurprisingly Lamar Jackson leads QBs in Rushing attempts.

While he carries the ball often, he does not lead the Ravens in rushes. Ingram still leads the Ravens in attempts, with 31% of carries, but the workload has been divided between Ingram, Jackson, and Edwards. Ingram’s 45 attempts are 32nd in the NFL, a number that’s not great for fantasy purposes. That said, it’s not 100% because of Lamar Jackson’s rushing as the Ravens RB room as a whole has the 16th most rushing attempts compared to the rest of NFL teams. Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins have eaten into Ingram’s workload just as much as Lamar Jackson.

Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray is the runner up in rushing attempts among Quarterbacks.

Unlike the Ravens, Kenyan Drake is still receiving MASSIVE volume in the running game. Drake’s 81 rushing attempts are good for 5th in the NFL, behind only Elliot, Cook, Mixon, and Jacobs. Arizona’s Running Backs are top 10 in attempts, but Drake’s inefficiency has prevented him from being a top fantasy asset. It’s a bummer, but Murray has not impacted Drake’s volume in 2020.

New England Patriots

The Patriots have only played 4 games, but Cam Newton is still third in rushing attempts in 2020.

This pie chart is just a mess. It doesn’t even include James White, who missed two games for personal reasons. Honestly, we shouldn’t have expected anything less from Belichick and McDaniels with Newton as the playmaker. The RBs as a whole are top 10 in rushing attempts per game; it’s just that we can’t pick a single RB to get the carries in New England.

Buffalo Bills

MVP candidate Josh Allen has been an incredible dual-threat for Sean McDermott and the Buffalo Bills. With Zack Moss missing time, Allen and Singletary have handled 75% of rushing attempts for the Bills.

The chart makes it look like Singletary is getting tons of carries, but in reality, he hasn’t. He’s only 25th in attempts/game (before them playing the Titans on Tuesday). The Bills RBs are currently 32nd in attempts in my numbers, but they’re one of 6 teams with 4 or fewer games played, as I mentioned. It looks like Allen is just slinging the ball in Buffalo, and the offense has moved on from the run-first gameplan.

Miami Dolphins

Ryan Fitzpatrick has always been a Quarterback who quietly rushes often. It could be because he panics and needs to tuck and run, but either way, it’s not a new trend for his career.

While Fitzpatrick is 5th among QBs in rushing attempts, he really hasn’t dominated the Dolphins rushing game. Gaskin has been a surprise RB and is just outside the top 15 Running Backs in attempts. The Dolphins have quietly racked up the 6th most RB attempts in the NFL.

But There is a Problem

The Associated Press

If you’re rostering a Running Back on any of these five teams, you’ve probably been disappointed with their output. While the numbers above show they’re getting volume, there’s still a massive problem with these players on teams with rushing QBs. Mark Ingram is outside the top 50 in PPR points per game. Drake is RB34, while Edmonds is RB31. Burkhead is RB27 after his 35 point performance in week 3. Gaskin and Singletary are RBs 23 and 24, respectively. Maybe you’re less disappointed in Singletary and Gaskin, but there’s still a problem.

The problem is incredibly obvious when you look at the numbers. In consolidation, Quarterbacks have accounted for just as many rushing touchdowns as Running Backs (15) on these five teams. While the Running Back might still maintain his volume, his touchdown upside is dead. Only Jordan Howard has more than 2 touchdowns among Running Backs on these five teams (3).

We’ll revisit this at the end of the season, but it looks like something to keep in mind year over year while assessing Running Backs in this era of mobile Quarterbacks.