From Halloween week to Election week, November is shaping up to be interesting, not only trick or treaters and political aficionados, but also for Fantasy owners. Why, you ask? Well, because Fantasy owners have some decisions to make when it comes to running backs. Whether it’s simply who to start or who to pick up off the waiver wire, there are plenty of running back situations that aren’t exactly clear. So who should get your vote on teams that have a running back by committee or timeshare situation? Let’s take a look.
New York Giants
While it is clear that Ahmad Bradshaw is the No. 1 running back for the Giants, Andre Brown is still in the picture. Whether he’s stealing goal-line carries or just taking a few touches away from Bradshaw, he’s found his way onto Fantasy rosters. Preseason favorite backup David Wilson has fallen out of Fantasy relevance, however. Wilson is droppable, but Brown has some flex value right now. He has scored a touchdown in each of the past three games while Bradshaw has not found the end zone in the previous two games. Brown’s value is touchdown-dependent, but if Bradshaw were to miss time at any point (a likely scenario, given his extensive injury history) Brown would be the back to own. In deep leagues, stash Brown just in case he gets the opportunity, but he is a risky start each week.
The injury to DeMarco Murray is to his foot, although the extent of the injury is unknown. The Cowboys have said that he needs to pass certain tests before he can play, including toe raises and other exercises that show he can push off and run without pain. He hasn’t played since Week 6, and odds are that he will be out for Week 10 as well. It is possible he returns for Week 11, but until then the backfield is a mess. Felix Jones has been the lead back, although, he has not looked like a threat to Murray’s starting job at all. He hasn’t had more than 45 rushing yards in the three games he’s started. He’s found the end zone once, and the only thing that saved his Fantasy production in Week 9 was five receptions for 70 yards. Lance Dunbar also had carries in Week 9, but he only had 26 rushing yards. Even if Murray is out in Week 11, leave Dunbar on the waiver wire. Jones will get the carries, but he may not be effective. Dunbar is not worth picking up.
Green Bay Packers
Can you imagine how good the Packers would be if they had a decent running back? The Alex Green experiment failed, so now it’s time to bring James Starks back into the mix. Fantasy owners from last year remember how well that worked. In Week 9, the two backs split carries almost evenly – Starks had 17 carries for 61 yards; Green had 11 for 53 yards (and added two receptions for 25 yards). In 10- or 12-team leagues, neither back should be owned and started unless you are desperate. Either can be a flex, but in an offense that is focused on the passing game, neither has a lot of value if the Packers are riding the hot hand each week.
New Orleans Saints
It is unclear how long Darren Sproles (hand) will be out. Initial reports said six to eight weeks. Then a report came out that said he could be back for this week. The real answer is likely somewhere in the middle. In the meantime, it was thought that Pierre Thomas would pick up the majority of Sproles’ carries. Instead, the work was split between Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory in Week 9. Thomas had six carries for 44 yards and added two receptions for 26 yards. Ingram had seven carries for 44 yards and added two receptions for 23, and Ivory had 10 carries for 48 yards and a touchdown with one reception for two yards. Don’t rush to the waiver wire to pick up any of these guys unless you are in a deep league. Thomas is still the best back to own, even though Ivory found the end zone in Week 9. Just wait for Sproles to return.
So when the Panthers said they were going to stick with one back and feed Jonathan Stewart the ball, they apparently meant that they were going to let Stewart have a few good runs and then put in DeAngelo Williams or Mike Tolbert. Obviously Fantasy owners should have known that. It’s like Mike Shanahan took control of the Panthers offense. In Week 9, Stewart had 10 rushes for 51 yards and one reception for six yards. Granted, Williams only had six rushes for 37 yards, but he did find the end zone. Tolbert has a concussion, and is droppable in all leagues. The rushing game for Carolina is struggling, and it might as well struggle with two backs rather than three. Williams is a handcuff to Stewart, but that’s it. Stewart should be owned, but is a risky flex play each week.
Owners of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller know the frustration of owning a Bills running back. While Spiller is clearly the better back to own in PPR leagues, it’s a toss-up in standard leagues. Both backs get work, both backs have good games and bad games, and it’s a gamble to predict who will have the better game each week. If you own one of the backs, you’re starting him. If you own both of the backs, you may even be starting both of them. They are RB2s and that doesn’t seem likely to change unless there is an injury. While Ryan Fitzpatrick has said that Spiller should get the ball more, until that actually happens continue to start them as you normally would. To date, Spiller has 78 rushes for 562 yards and four touchdowns, along with 24 receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown in eight games. Jackson, in six games, has 59 rushes for 218 yards, one rushing touchdown, 22 receptions for 148 yards and a receiving touchdown. The numbers for Spiller are better, but keep in mind that includes two games in which Jackson didn’t play.
What an injury-riddled mess the Steelers backfield is right now. An owner in one of my Fantasy leagues has Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. While that might not seem like the best strategy, if only one is starting it works out pretty well. Last week, Redman totaled 147 rushing yards and a touchdown. During the two weeks prior, Dwyer was the back to start with 122 and 107 yards respectively. Mendenhall has only put up decent numbers in one game so far this year. If there is ever a point when all three backs are healthy, who knows what the Steelers will do. Currently, Mendenhall is nursing an Achilles’ injury and Dwyer is nursing a quad injury. It appears that Mendenhall will not play in Week 10, and Redman will get the start. It may end up being a timeshare between Redman and Dwyer, but at least for this week, Redman seems to be the best Fantasy bet. If he’s available in your league, grab him for a spot start if you need a running back this week.
Apparently, the high ankle sprain is the injury to have if you are a running back in Oakland this week. Both Darren McFadden and his handcuff Mike Goodson suffered the injury in Week 9 and both are looking doubtful to play this week. That opens the door for either Marcel Reece or Taiwan Jones, or both of them. While Reece isn’t a running back and didn’t actually have any rushes in Week 9, he has value in PPR leagues. Carson Palmer used him as a check-down as he totaled eight receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown. Jones had one rush for two yards and one reception for four yards in Week 9. Reece is a high-upside flex play for Week 10 – and potentially longer, depending on the status of McFadden and Goodson. Expect Jones to be given a chance to carry the ball, but he is a riskier Fantasy option. However, in deeper leagues, either back should be added. McFadden isn’t known as a quick healer, and Goodson may be out for a while as well.