Let’s just be honest, things are not going to get any easier. We have another six teams on bye this week and yet more injuries and timeshares to deal with. Jacquizz Rodgers is set to miss at least one week, Jamaal Charles is done for the season and the statuses of both LeSean McCoy and Carlos Hyde are somewhat in doubt. While we are operating under the assumption that both will be taking the field, it will be something to monitor closely.
Between the injuries and the bye weeks, roster construction and planning takes center stage this week. Options are few and far between, and fantasy owners must replace David Johnson, Lamar Miller, LeGarrette Blount, Giovanni Bernard, and Jeremy Hill (among others). With that in mind let’s take a look at how the running backs rank for this week:
Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – at Cleveland
DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans – at San Diego
LeVeon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Baltimore
Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – at Tampa Bay
Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers – vs. Tennessee
Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams – vs. Carolina
Matt Forte – New York Jets – at Miami
Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions – at Minnesota
Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers – vs. New Orleans
Latavius Murray – Oakland Raiders – vs. Denver
Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts – at Green Bay
Devontae Booker – Denver Broncos – at Oakland
Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – at San Francisco
Charcandrick West – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Jacksonville
Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – at Los Angeles
Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins – vs. New York Jets
Terrance West – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Pittsburgh
LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – at Seattle
Christine Michael – Seattle Seahawks – vs. Buffalo
Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns – vs. Dallas
Matt Asiata – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Detroit
Darren Sproles – Philadelphia Eagles – at New York Giants
Antone Smith – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Atlanta
C.J Prosise – Seattle Seahawks – vs. Buffalo
Rashad Jennings – New York Giants – vs. Philadelphia
Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – vs. Dallas
Bilal Powell – New York Jets – at Miami
Tim Hightower – New Orleans Saints – at San Francisco
Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – at San Diego
T.J. Yeldon – Jacksonville Jaguars – at Kansas City
Mike Gillislee – Buffalo Bills – at Seattle
Chris Ivory – Jacksonville Jaguars – at Kansas City
Ryan Mathews – Philadelphia Eagles – at New York Giants
Peyton Barber – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Atlanta
Dom Jackson – Green Bay Packers – vs. Indianapolis
Shaun Draughn – San Francisco 49ers – vs. New Orleans
Paul Perkins – New York Giants – vs. Philadelphia
Jerick Mckinnon – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Detroit
Alfred Morris – Dallas Cowboys – at Cleveland
Kenneth Dixon – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Pittsburgh
We mentioned that Charles is sidelined for the season, but does that really make things any easier? Even though he returned a few weeks ago he was never healthy enough to be a factor and really just got in the way. That meant many good things for Spencer Ware owners as he took advantage of the opportunity. Last week, facing the Colts and their lackluster run defense, set up perfectly for Ware but he managed just 47 on nine carries before departing with a concussion. So far he is averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 102 carries while also catching 17 passes for 313 yards. Based on that production the Kansas City running game is one worth targeting, and that brings us to Charcandrick West. West has previously shown flashes of success when filling in for Charles, and we will see that yet again as he is the Chiefs’ lone healthy running back. Last season he averaged 4.0 yards per carry on 160 carries, and so far this season he has gained 139 yards on 33 carries with 52 of those coming last week. As he faces the Jaguars, West profiles as an RB2 and needs to be owned in all leagues to take advantage of their struggles.
That is not how things were supposed to go for Mark Ingram. Yes, the Seahawks are a tough run defense but he is, or at least was, an every down running back and it’s hard to go against the Saints offense at home. Instead, Ingram fumbled, lost nine yards on three carries, and was promptly benched for the remainder of the game. Tim Hightower came in and carried the ball 26 times while gaining 102 yards. While Hightower did eclipse the century mark, and Sean Payton stated following the game that he did earn a role going forward, the he didn’t exactly do much to stand out. On a per carry basis Hightower did not impress, and he also had four carries at the goal line where he was stuffed. With the Saints facing San Francisco this week, it is a match-up to exploit, and Ingram is still the back to own.
After Jacquizz Rodgers left the game on Sunday, Antone Smith eclipsed Peyton Barber by a wide margin in snaps for Tampa Bay; 22 to three. Both will be factors on Thursday against the Falcons, but of the two Smith is the running back to target. Neither back is especially big, but Barber at 5’11 and 225 pounds does have the size advantage and will be the short yardage and goal line back. However, Smith will receive the majority of the workload and will be the pass-catching target out of the backfield. We don’t have much of a track record to go on this season, five carries for 22 yards and three catches for 50 yards, but he averaged 6.3 yards per carry last season on 23 carries while also catching 13 passes for 222 yards. We should also note that Smith played with Tampa’s head coach Dirk Koetter in Atlanta.
At this point it is clear that the Eagles really don’t have a true number one running back. If they did, it wouldn’t be Ryan Mathews. Last week, although he did find the end zone to redeem some fantasy value, but he was only on the field for eight of Philadelphia’s 78 snaps. In fact, Mathews hasn’t eclipsed 50% of the Eagles’ snaps yet this season, and in three of the past five weeks he has had 11 or less. Darren Sproles, although generally a PPR option, has emerged as Philadelphia’s number option. However, that doesn’t mean he should be anything more than a FLEX option on a normal week, but this week considering him as an RB2 is perfectly reasonable. Sproles touched the ball 20 times on Sunday, and on the season is averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 46 carries while catching 22 passes for 227 yards. It is also good news that the Eagles are considering a formal change to their depth chart as well, so Sproles shouldn’t be overlooked.
We are still a few weeks away from the return of Thomas Rawls, but might Christine Michael already be losing value? After gaining 55 yards two weeks ago, he carried the ball 10 times and gained just 40 yards while scoring a touchdown last week. Michael is still averaging 4.2 yards per carry and does have five touchdowns this season so he remains a borderline RB1, but we shouldn’t be looking at him the same way we were a few weeks ago. As Russell Wilson’s knee continues to heal, he will go back to running the ball and the passing offense will take on a greater presence. Last week also marked the coming out party for C.J Prosise. The rookie running back is finally healthy, and he carried the ball four times for 23 yards while catching four passes for another 80 yards. Prosise should only see his role increase, perhaps at the expense of Michael to some degree, and he might be a week away from legit fantasy value.
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