Here we go once again. It is really getting old at this point, but Sunday once was a dark day for the running back position:
Giovanni Bernard tore his ACL and his 2016 season is officially over. While it is never a good thing to lose a contributor, at least you know that Bernard is injured and you can move on and plan accordingly.
C.J. Prosise suffered a shoulder injury and his season (at least the fantasy season) is over. The rookie running back was shaping to be an asset down the stretch, but at least he ran for a 72 yard touchdown prior to the injury.
LeSean McCoy left the game with a dislocated thumb, but he too was able to find the end zone prior to his departure. He had surgery Sunday nigh, and his status for this Sunday bears watching. Should McCoy be unable to take the field, Mike Gillislee once again is a valuable option.
Then we get to the Eagles situation which was somewhat of a mess when all three backs were healthy. Darren Sproles fractured a rib on Sunday, but he appears to be ready to play this week. Ryan Mathews is also dealing with a knee injury, which leaves Wendell Smallwood as the one healthy running back. All three have had success at some point this season, and they have a plus match-up with Green Bay. The problem is that the game is Monday night, so this is a clear handcuff situation.
The fact that there are three games on Thursday will also make some roster decisions a little more difficult. If you are looking for good news, there is some to be found as there are no teams on bye. Let’s take a look at how the running backs rank:
Le’veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Indianapolis
David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – at Atlanta
Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Washington
DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans – at Chicago
Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers – at Houston
Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – vs. San Diego
Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins – vs. San Francisco
Todd Gurley – New Orleans Saints – at New Orleans
LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – vs. Jacksonville
Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Arizona
Thomas Rawls – Seattle Seahawks – at Tampa Bay
Rashad Jennings – New York Giants – at Cleveland
Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers – at Miami
LeGarrette Blount – New England Patriots – at New York Jets
Jeremy Hill – Cincinnati Bengals – at Baltimore
Robert Kelley – Washington Redskins – at Dallas
Matt Forte – New York jets – vs. New England
Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Pittsburgh
Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions – vs. Minnesota
Spencer Ware – Kansas City Chiefs – at Denver
Latavius Murray – Oakland Raiders – vs. Carolina
Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – at Oakland
Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Seattle
Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – vs. Tennessee
Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – vs. Los Angeles
Chris Ivory – Jacksonville Jaguars – at Buffalo
Terrance West – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Cincinnati
Wendell Smallwood – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. Green Bay
Devontae Booker – Denver Broncos – vs. Kansas City
Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns – vs. New York Giants
Darren Sproles – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. Green Bay
James Starks – Green Bay Packers – at Philadelphia
James White – New England Patriots – at New York Jets
Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins – at Dallas
Matt Asiata – Minnesota Vikings – at Detroit
Bilal Powell – New York Jets – vs. New England
Mike Gillislee – Buffalo Bills – vs. Jacksonville
Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Arizona
Kenneth Dixon – Baltimore Ravens – vs Cincinnati
Jerick McKinnon – Minnesota Vikings – at Detroit
Jay Ajayi has come a long way from being a healthy scratch earlier this season. There is nothing like two games of over 200 rushing yards to right the ship and become one of the top waiver adds of the season. After gaining 418 yards in his two games before Miami’s bye week, Ajayi gained 111 yards against the Jets as he reached the end zone for the fourth consecutive week. You could make the argument that the second-year running back has come back to earth, but he has averaged 78 yards in his last two games while facing two tough defenses (San Diego and Los Angeles). This week you are going to have to resist the urge to overreact as he is sure to benefit from facing the 49ers who have allowed the most points to opposing running backs so far this season.
In true New England fashion, Dion Lewis was on the field with the starters for the first play of the game. The Patriots eased him back into action, as he was on the field for just 21 of New England’s 77 offensive snaps. Lewis carried the ball five times for 23 yards and caught three of his five targets for another 26 yards. James White didn’t carry the ball, but he caught six passes for 63 yards and a touchdown while LeGarrette Blount carried the load once again. Blount gained 124 yards on 16 carries and remains the New England running back to own. White still maintains an advantage on Lewis, but they will limit each others value.
With C.J. Prosise now done for the season we need to take a closer look at Thomas Rawls, who returned this week. After Prosise departed, Rawls had to take on a bigger role than both was expected and desired, but he did rise to the occasion. He carried the ball 14 times for 57 yards and caught three passes for 31 yards. This week he will face Tampa Bay and he should be able to find some room to run. Alex Collins, who has 10 carries for 19 yards so far this season, will be the back-up but has minimal fantasy value except as a handcuff or in deep leagues.
We haven’t talked about Rashad Jennings much this season, and it is for good reason as he hasn’t been very good. However he followed up a 109 yard outing two weeks ago by taking 70% of the snaps this week against the Bears. The veteran dominated the Giants’ backfield with 26 touches while Paul Perkins touched the ball just six times. Jennings gained 85 yards on 21 carries while catching five passes for 44 yards. After battling injury Jennings has played in seven games this season and in the past two weeks has gained 238 of his 479 yards. It’s not going to get much better for Jennings than it will this week as he faces the Browns. While Perkins was a popular sleeper pick earlier this season, his value has fallen to that of a speculative bench play.
With Giovanni Bernard now sidelined for the season it truly becomes the Jeremy Hill show in Cincinnati and that elevates his value. I would exercise some caution as he faces Baltimore and their tough run defense. Hill gained 62 yards on 16 carries this week against Buffalo, and so far this season he is averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 135 carries while scoring 6 TD. It will be intriguing to see what he can do the stretch though now that he doesn’t have to share the backfield.
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Make sure to check out all of our Week 12 rankings: