Updating RB Situations for the Fantasy Football Playoffs
As we move deep into the Fantasy Football playoffs it is important to review the running back situations throughout the NFL. We will only go over the teams where some sort of changes that have been made might actually have affected some Fantasy values. So, you won’t see teams like the Cowboys or Giants mentioned here.
Atlanta Falcons: At draft time, we all knew it was just a matter of time until Devonta Freeman would go down with an injury. It’s why most of us Fantasy analysts advised you to select Tevin Coleman in the middle rounds of your draft if you took Freeman earlier. Well, that hasn’t really worked out now has it? Coleman has been a bust as both a RB and a receiver out of the backfield. That is strange when you consider he will be a free agent after the season and once had the starting job in Atlanta before injury gave Freeman a shot. So much for the contract year theory. Ito Smith has taken over the backup role and has also taken away some snaps from Coleman, but the truth is that neither RB is worth starting in Fantasy for the rest of the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens: Alex Collins was placed on IR two weeks ago but was likely going to lose his job to Gus Edwards anyway. Coming into the season it was expected that Collins would split the role with Javorius Allen. Neither one was all that impressive in their roles. Edwards has been better than both since taking over the starting job and may continue to be a RB2 for the remainder of the Fantasy playoffs, but recently activated Kenneth Dixon is starting to cut into his snaps.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills offense has been a vast wasteland for most of the season although now we are seeing signs of life with the running ability of Josh Allen. LeSean McCoy was always a risky start this year as he was dealing with some off-the-field issues, but his play on the field has been underwhelming to say the least. McCoy suffered a hamstring injury Sunday and may not be able to play this week. This actually may be addition by subtraction, as now you won’t have to debate about whether or not to insert him into your lineup. Chris Ivory also suffered a shoulder injury and may not be able to play in Week 15. This could leave the starting job to Marcus Murphy. Stay far away here.
Chicago Bears: The Bears still have the same two starting backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, but the order in which you want to start them has changed. At the beginning of the season there was little doubt that you wanted to start Howard. He was a popular RB2 but played so poorly that he was probably on more benches then he was in starting lineups of late. Howard did have over 100 yards Sunday night but that came against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, the Rams. Howard will be much harder to trust this week. Tarik Cohen is just a safer play in PPR leagues.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns probably wouldn’t have signed Carlos Hyde had they known they were going to draft Nick Chubb. It’s one reason why I’ve always wondered why the NFL Draft isn’t held before free agency. The Browns rectified part of the problem by dealing Hyde to the Jaguars and handing the starting job to Chubb, but outside of a solid week here and there Duke Johnson has been a colossal disappointment this season. It just doesn’t seem like the Browns know how to get Johnson involved in their offense week after week. Johnson is best left on your bench.
Denver Broncos: Remember when Royce Freeman was going to start the season as the Broncos RB? Good times. Phillip Lindsay has come on like gangbusters this season and may be the Fantasy MVP. Freeman has been solid when on the field, but his value comes with volume. Freeman can wear down a defense, but the Broncos don’t give him enough carries to do so. Freeman is the handcuff to Lindsay, nothing more.
Detroit Lions: The knee injury to Kerryon Johnson could not have come at a worse time. Johnson was just starting to hit his stride this season and more importantly, was getting the goal line rushes over LeGarrette Blount. The Lions are out of the playoff hunt and have very little reason to rush Johnson back this season. Blount is now the starter but is nothing more than a flex play and next to worthless in Fantasy unless he happens to reach the end zone. Theo Riddick could have some value as a PPR flex play, but this team looks like it can’t wait for the season to end.
Green Bay Packers: It took about half the season before the Packers seemed to realize that Aaron Jones is a better RB than Jamaal Williams. The coaching change might have put us back at square one, but it does seem that Joe Philbin also knows that Jones is his best back. Jones is a strong RB2.
Kansas City Chiefs: Unless you have been living in a cave, you know that Kareem Hunt has been suspended and won’t play for the rest of the season. That left the starting job to Spencer Ware, who had a good game this past Sunday when the game plan was specifically tailored towards his skills. Ware is the back you want in K.C. now, but Damien Williams received the goal line carry Sunday. Williams is likely nothing more than just a handcuff to Ware, but a K.C. goal line carrier also has value. In that offense, Williams may have a shot to get a TD each week. If you’re desperate at the flex position, Williams may be your man and he also may be a pickup for Ware owners as insurance in case of injury.
Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers are going to be in flux at RB this week. They have a short turnaround before a huge game versus the Chiefs on Thursday. Melvin Gordon has missed the past two games with a knee injury. Austin Ekeler was injured Sunday (stinger) and may not be able to play Thursday. Will the Chargers rush Gordon back? Is Gordon healthy enough to play? If Gordon starts Thursday, he starts for your Fantasy team. If Justin Jackson is the last back standing, then he is your man. I’m likely not touching Ekeler no matter what happens as I just don’t think he will be able to finish the game.
Los Angeles Rams: There is nothing wrong with Todd Gurley, so this update is only concerning his handcuff, Malcolm Brown. He is out for the season with a clavicle injury. This leaves John Kelly as the new handcuff to Gurley. Should you grab him? Yes, but only if it will help you sleep better at night knowing you’re covered here, and only if you’re not dropping a player that can help your opponents.
Miami Dolphins: We all saw the play of the year when Kenyan Drake scored the game-winning TD to defeat the Patriots. Why the Dolphins have chosen to run the ball more with Frank Gore than Drake is anyone’s guess. Gore is a future Hall of Famer but has little to no big play ability at this point in his career. The Dolphins have continued to run the ball with Gore and use Drake out of the backfield to catch passes. This has led to Gore being a low-end flex play and Drake a low-end RB2.
New England Patriots: We are back to the Bill Belichick guessing games at RB. Since Rex Burkhead has returned off IR, James White has been a bust and even Sony Michel has been quiet of late. We’re back to starting any of these backs at our own risk. Burkhead is nothing but a handcuff to both. Michel is still a mid-range RB2 and White a flex play, but once again this team is likely to win or lose games on the arm of Tom Brady.
New York Jets: Isaiah Crowell was questionable to play Sunday due to a foot injury and t didn’t take long him to re-injure that toe and force him to leave the game. There is no word yet on whether or not Crowell will play Saturday, but if he’s forced to miss the game than Elijah McGuire will take over the starting role. All starting RBs have value, but that’s a tough matchup this week in the Texans. This isn’t a game that likely will work out for either back.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles tell us that Josh Adams is the starting RB, but when things go south early, they go away from the run game really quick. Corey Clement suffered a knee injury Sunday and could miss some time, but Darren Sproles still looks like the most explosive back on this team. Sproles isn’t a between the tackles runner, but look for the Eagles to get him the ball in space. Expect the Eagles to try and establish the run game this week as they are playing the Rams, the team that made Jordan Howard look good Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Le’Veon Bell is gone. James Conner was the Fantasy MVP until an ankle injury sidelined him last week. The Steelers say he may play Sunday, but that seems unlikely with a high ankle sprain. Jaylen Samuels was the popular pickup this past week to take over for Conner, but he’s not Conner or Bell. The Steelers may keep us all guessing this week and say Conner is a game time decision even if they are pretty sure he won’t play. As with Melvin Gordon, if Conner starts for the Steelers, he starts for your Fantasy team. If not, Samuels is next, and even though Stevan Ridley did score Sunday, he’s best left on your bench as a handcuff to Samuels in case Conner can’t return for the remainder of the season.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have been playing next man up all season. They lost Jerick McKinnon for the season in August. Alfred Morris never really showed any kind of big play ability, which allowed Matt Breida to come on the scene and impress us all. Raheem Mostert is hurt and gone for the season. Breida went down to an ankle injury that just won’t heal and we are on to Jeff Wilson. It’s pretty simple, if Breida plays again, you’re starting him, if not, it’s Wilson.
Seattle Seahawks: The ‘Hawks have run more than they passed this season and it’s paying off for them. The odd thing is that it’s not first-round pick Rashad Penny that is doing all the damage. It’s been Chris Carson and Mike Davis. Penny has looked good of late, but his value to Fantasy owners will likely be more evident next season. Carson is the man you want here as the ‘Hawks continue their sprint towards the NFL playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs don’t really have a run game. They drafted Ronald Jones, but he’s been one of the biggest busts this season. Peyton Barber is the only possible back you would start here, but he’s a flex play at best, and not one you should be ideally putting into your lineup.
Tennessee Titans: Yeah, that was Derrick Henry who went off last Thursday. True, the Jaguars defense pretty much gave up in this game, but it was still an impressive outing. Can you start him this week again? It would be a risk. Henry has needed a TD all season long to be Fantasy worthy. That may not change because of one big game against a team that has given up. Dion Lewis has been the better back. This week, however, I would expect Henry to get the first shot to realize that magic once again. Starting him in Fantasy, however, will be dangerous.
Washington Redskins: This situation really doesn’t matter. Washington does not have an offensive line capable of opening any holes, they are down to their fourth-string QB, and the WR corps isn’t putting fear into the hearts of anyone. I’d start Chris Thompson over Adrian Peterson in PPR leagues, and I really don’t want to start AP anywhere.
As always feel free to follow me on Twitter and ask any questions you like, @georgekurtz