Here is the final list of the ups and downs at running back, charting those backfields that are either successful, or illustrative of one back taking a clear lead, or those that are slipping toward true committees where no running back gets a lion’s share, thus making all of the backs untrustworthy. With the 2016 season almost completely in the books, it will be nice to decompress and spend some time with loved ones over the next week or two. But, then it’s time to start draft preparation for 2017, review scouting data, and start sharpening your competitive edge. Stick with RotoExperts throughout the off-season for plenty of news, tips, strategies and ideas to get ready for the championship run next year.
Todd Gurley – Without question, Gurley has been the most disappointing player in the game this season given his high draft slot and absolute and total lack of production. He hasn’t topped 100 rushing yards in a single game, and has 100 total yards or more in just one. But, folks, this is the week. The Rams, in their second game with their new head coach, face the hapless 49ers at home this weekend. It’s a tough divisional battle, and one in which I believe Gurley amasses 120 yards and has two touchdowns. It’s hard to imagine any Gurley owner making it this far in redraft leagues, but if you’re there, and you have him on the squad, start him with confidence.
Rob Kelley – Washington gets the Bears this weekend, and Kelley will be looking to lead them back after a very disappointing showing on Monday against the Panthers. Kelley threw up a stinker with eight yards on nine carries, salvaged only by his second half touchdown. He finished with 53 total yards from scrimmage, but it was ugly. The Bears were gashed for 162 yards by Ty Montgomery last week, so it’s easy to imagine Washington will look at the Green Bay game film, and mimic the plan as best they can. I like Kelley for a bounce back week in the big spot, a clear-cut RB2.
Frank Gore – The ageless Franklin Delano Gore is now just 109 yards away from the 1,000 yard milestone, which would make him the Colts’ first such running back since Joseph Addai did it in 2007. Furthermore, motivation will come from the fact that if he gets there, he’ll join the club of Walter Payton, Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders, and Emmitt Smith as the only players in history with nine 1,000-yard seasons. Gore is a student of the game; he’s a smart player with an appreciation for history. He’s climbed into the Top-10 in NFL history for yards from scrimmage, and he’s currently eighth on the list of all-time leaders in rushing yards. The Colts travel out to Oakland to take on the Raiders, who may ease off the gas pedal now that they’re assured a playoff spot. Gore is a solid RB2 with some upside.
Adrian Peterson – Trusting AP in his first game back was probably a fool’s errand, as evidenced by his general rust and ultimately, with his six carries for 22 yards. Now, it appears he may miss this Saturday’s game against the Packers because of lingering knee trouble. Even if he does suit up, this is a perfect storm to avoid: a surging Packers team and suffocating defense, a game on the road and an awful Vikings offensive line all contribute to the feelings of dread about A.P. In short, he’s old, he’s injured, and he may be done as a Viking. It’s time to move on.
Jeremy Hill – Hill ran for 43 yards on 20 carries on Sunday (plus a touchdown), while Rex Burkhead only had seven carries, and grinded out just 11 fewer yards. This weekend, the Bengals draw the Texans on the road, which is a tough task for opposing running backs given Houston’s Top-10 defense. If the Bengals welcome A.J. Green back to the field, it gives defenses one more thing to worry about, which could soften things for Hill and Burkhead, but I’m skeptical. Hill is a low-end touchdown-dependent RB2/FLEX play this week.
Ryan Mathews – Mathews, as is often the case, has had an up and down season after being hampered by injury. He has played 16 games in a season only once in his career, though, interestingly, his eight touchdowns on the ground are a career-high this season. The Eagles draw the Giants on Thursday night, which is going to be like wrestling an alligator. The Giants’ defense is too strong, and the more Mathews/the Eagles struggle, the tighter Big Blue’s defensive grasp becomes. Mathews is a FLEX play this weekend with Darren Sproles expected back, and thus cutting into his workload on passing downs and perhaps in the red zone.