AFC Team-by-Team Backfield Breakdowns

Workhorses are almost extinct.

Only 4 RBs -- Jonathan Taylor, Najee Harris, Joe Mixon and Antonio Gibson -- reached 300 touches last year. The same number hit that threshold in 2020.

Almost every backfield is split to some degree. That makes it especially important to sort through the situations and determine what we can reasonably expect.

So let’s dig into the names you need to know as we enter fantasy draft season. The “top fantasy target” for each team below is the best value at ADP, not necessarily the highest-ranked player in that backfield.

Don't miss the NFC Backfield Breakdowns.

Denver Broncos

Top fantasy target: Javonte Williams
Others in the mix: Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone

Williams turned in an excellent rookie season. He ranked 13th in NFL Next Gen Stats’ rush yards over expected per attempt and 5th in Pro Football Focus’ Elusive Rating among 50 RBs with 100+ carries last year.

The problem for Williams is that Gordon was also very good. Gordon beat Williams in rush yards over expected per attempt, finishing 11th. And he ranked a solid 14th in Elusive Rating.

Those 2 split work fairly evenly in 16 games together last year. Gordon out-carried Williams 203 to 180; Williams led 44 to 38 in targets. That left both guys in RB3 territory in terms of expected half-PPR points per game: Gordon 28th and Williams 29th.

What will the workload split look like in 2022? It’s a brand new coaching staff under HC Nathaniel Hackett and OC Justin Outten, which means more possibility for change. It’s worth noting, though, that Hackett and Outten both spent the last 3 seasons in Green Bay, where the Packers deployed committee backfields with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams and then Jones and A.J. Dillon.

Expect a committee attack in Denver – although we are projecting a bit more work to shift Williams’ way. He’s the ascending 22-year-old. Gordon is 29. And the Broncos let him hit free agency this offseason before eventually signing him about a month-and-a-half later to a 1-year, $2.5 million contract. By comparison, Gordon previously played on a 2-year, $16 million deal.

Williams is also a good bet to lead the backfield in targets. Not only did he out-target Gordon in their 16 games together last season, but he also beat Gordon in Pro Football Focus receiving grade and yards per route run.

This offense, of course, got a big boost with the arrival of QB Russell Wilson. That should mean more TD chances for the RBs.

We're willing to take a shot on Williams' upside in Round 3 of fantasy drafts -- although he often goes well inside Round 2. Gordon has a chance at standalone fantasy value and would likely score as a RB1 if Williams misses times.

Boone has flashed in sporadic chances with the Vikings and Broncos over the last 4 years, averaging 5.5 yards on 75 carries. But he’ll likely need a Williams or Gordon injury to hit the fantasy radar.