Handcuffs aren’t just fun, they’re a necessity.
It’s crazy how much the complexion of the top 10 fantasy running backs has changed from August. For the most part, the consensus top 10 went in an order along the lines of:
- Adrian Peterson
- Jamaal Charles
- Le’Veon Bell
- Eddie Lacy
- Marshawn Lynch
- DeMarco Murray
- Matt Forte
- LeSean McCoy
- Jeremy Hill
- C.J. Anderson
If you feel like getting critical, check out my preseason top 12 to see who I thought would reign supreme at the running back position this season. (I did have Melvin Gordon within my top 10. That was fun, you know, back when most of us had optimism about a young, first round pick who’s seemingly following the path of Trent Richardson. But, it’s still early in his career, I suppose.)
Of these consensus top 10 backs, only two are returning first round value. Injuries compromised the seasons of Bell, Charles and Lynch. Lacy, Hill and Anderson all have yielded playing time to the back behind them on the depth chart. And Forte has endured a combination of the two. The only backs that have returned value from draft day is Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy, and Shady only started taking off in Week 6.
McCoy, in addition to learning a new offense, dealt with a hamstring issue in the preseason that evidently bled into the first quarter of the season. Simply put, he just wasn’t the same back he was in Philly… until Week 8.
From Week 8 on, he has averaged 18.57 carries a game, 92.28 yards per game and scored three times. At age 27, he has three years left until he hits that vaunted age of 30. I think it’s safe to say that he’s settled into
Greg Roman’s run-first offense. There’s no reason not to keep him in keeper formats or to project him as a first round pick in 2016 (barring injury).
Would you look at that?! Thomas Rawls had another big game with Marshawn Lynch out of the lineup. In case you haven’t noticed, Rawls has been –dare I say- better than Lynch had been in the past while filling in for Beastmode. In the six games where Rawls has been the feature back this season, he has racked up 126/712/4 (21 carries, 118.7 yards per game). He has been, by all accounts, a first round pick available on the waiver wire. Rawls is a prime fantasy football lesson for anyone for, or against, taking a running back in the first round. Either avoid running backs altogether and grab a
wide out like Antonio Brown, or if you do grab a running back (like Lynch, Charles or Bell), for the love of everything holy and sacred, draft the damn handcuff.
Speaking of handcuffs of other 2015 first round running backs, DeAngelo Williams is putting up Le’Veon Bell numbers with ease after having yet another epic performance Sunday night (26/134/0). In Bell’s absence, including Week 8 when he came in to spell an injured Le’Veon Bell, Williams has averaged a whopping 120.12 all-purpose yards a game to go along with six rushing touchdowns. He’s a major factor in both the passing and running game and will be a must-grab for those looking to take a chance on Bell in 2016.
Last Sunday, Lamar Miller did something he has only done one other time in his career, carry the ball 20+ times. The last time he carried the football more than 20 times was Dec 1, 2013 in a 23-3 Miami victory over the Jets; he went 22/72/0. Since he’s been drafted in 2012, Miller has ran for 100+ yards just 6 times, including his 20/113/0 performance last Sunday. Mind you, half of his 100 yard games have come this season. However, I still think it’s fool’s gold. Yes, he has shown flashes of brilliance in the past, but I just don’t think he’s more than a solid flex/low-end RB2. And, that’s more of a product pf the other eight games this season where he couldn’t reach 50 yards.
Another waiver wire darling performed brilliantly on Sunday. David Johnson finally got his chance to shine as a feature back and did not disappoint. Johnson went 22/99/0 rushing with 2/21/1 on three targets in the passing game. Yes, this is a statement of Johnson’s play-making ability, we all saw flashes of this in the return game and occasionally in relief of Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. However, this is also a statement against a Rams run defense that was feared earlier in the season.
Over their previous five games, the Rams have given up an average of 141.8 rushing yards per game, 4.24 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns. They aren’t the stalwart of a defensive front anymore, or at least they aren’t playing like one. Either way, teams can and will run on this defense.
Packers’ Head Coach Mike McCarthy told ESPN.com that Eddie Lacy looked “rejuvenated” at Tuesday’s practice. “His work was good today,” McCarthy said. “(I) look for him to have a very good week of practice, and I look for him to be productive Sunday.” An encouraging sign for the under performing running back. His Packers will host the Cowboys next Sunday.
Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden told Mike Jones of the Washington Post that Alfred Morris’ Monday night benching was “gameflow-related” and that Morris will remain the starter. This backfield is one you should avoid at all costs. However, I do believe that Matt Jones does hold significant dynasty value. I would be surprised if Morris wasn’t cut this offseason. If you’re really hurting at running back, and one of either Morris or Jones is available, I would lean Jones. And, this is predicated on nothing more than an eye test, he just looks like the superior back from a pure talent standpoint. The opportunity will eventually come, like it did Monday night.
Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News reports that Ryan Mathews to return this Sunday in LeSean McCoy’s return to the City of Brotherly Love. Shady, like I mentioned earlier, has excelled in Buffalo once he’s been healthy.
DeMarco Murray, on the other hand, has been a profound disappointment. His 163/569/4 isn’t quite what the Eagles expected out of Murray when he signed on as a free agent in the offseason. In fact, he’s been yielding carries to Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner over the past few weeks and only saw the field for 14 snaps last Sunday against the Patriots. He also recently went to Eagles’ owner Jeffery Lurie behind Chip Kelly’s back to express is discontent with his role according to ESPN’s Ed Werder. “We have a group of running backs that we feel good about putting in all the time,” said Eagles OC Pat Shurmer per the Eagles’ official Twitter account. Expect this backfield to remain a committee of sorts going forward, with the chance of Mathews taking the job and possibly running away with it if he gets hot down the stretch.
C.J. Anderson left Sunday’s game against the Chargers with an ankle injury and Coach Gary Kubiak told ESPN that it was “still very sore” Monday. “He’s had some ankle issues in the past. I think probably had we not had the other two, I think, he could have tried maybe to fight through some of it, but he was very sore,” said Kubiak. Consider him a game-time decision this Sunday when the Raiders come to Mile High.
Shaun Draughn, San Francisco 49ers:
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes. He’s not a sexy option at all, hell I don’t even think he’s even all that talented. However, the fact remains that he’s receiving close to (if not, all) the running back duties in San Francisco. Ever since taking over for Carlos Hyde, Draughn has seen 20 touches in all four games with the exception of last Sunday, where he got 18 touches. He has had at least 77 all-purpose yards in each game, half of which came against the Cardinals and Seahawks. In Week 14, he gets the swiss-cheese that the Cleveland Browns call a run defense. This could be the Shaun Draughn coming-out party.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers:
Call me crazy, but I buy what Mike McCarthy was saying about Eddie Lacy earlier. If Lacy looked as good as he said he did, he should be in for prime clock-churning duties late against the Cowboys next week.
Don’t let that crazy ending on Monday Night Football hide the fact that Matt Cassel is terrible. He went the whole first quarter without a completion, was constantly missing his targets and had the likes of Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams bailing him out on multiple occasions. Despite Aaron Rodgers’ recent struggles, I really don’t see a way where Cassel can match throw-for-throw with Rodgers. Expect a ton of running in the second half, and expect Lacy to get those carries.
Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions:
Despite this segment of the Round Up being called “Start ‘Em”, I don’t advise this start to be for the faint of heart. And, maybe this is tailored more towards the DFS players out there who are looking for a boom-or-bust play out of the flex spot, but here me out.
Abdullah has been leading the Lions in both carries and rushing yards over the past three weeks. Take a look at his previous three games:
Week 11 vs Oak: 12/44/0
Week 12 vs Phi: 16/63/0 *career-high in carries
Week 13 vs GB: 13/67/0 *career-highs in rushing yards
Now, on the surface it doesn’t look like much. But to me, it looks like a rookie running back who is making steady improvements. At 3-8, the Lions don’t have much to play for anymore. They look like they want to see what they really have in Abdullah before the offseason.
This could be the breakout game we’ve all been looking for from Abdullah. Gregg Williams’ defenses love to blitz, that’s no secret. However, recently those all-out blitzes have been missing more often than not, allowing the target to make one or two jukes for significant yardage. This plays right into Abdullah’s natural explosiveness as a back. He could very well have a 60+ yard touchdown in this one.
If you don’t believe me, just look at this Week 10 Zach Miller touchdown catch and run against the Rams:
As you can see, the Rams bring pressure and get burned, big-time. This isn’t an anomaly, it’s happened a few times over the last five games. Zach Miller isn’t anywhere near the explosive runner Abdullah is, I’m not saying he’ll live up to the Barry Sanders comparisons some idiot floated out there in the preseason, but he very well could break one on Sunday.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders:
Let me make this simple, Denver’s defense is good. We all know that. Murray and the Raiders get to face that vaunted defense in Denver this Sunday. Murray already faced Denver, and managed a measly 3 yards per carry. Just leave him on the bench and forget about it.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons:
Now, before you throw full wine bottles at your computer screen, here me out. The Falcons play the Panther this week. The Panthers! They’ve allowed a TOTAL of 251 total rushing yards over their past five games. That’s barely over 50 yards a game PER TEAM. Let that sink-in. Yes, Freeman was mesmerizing for a stretch when he officially took over the starters’ role. Hell, he was one of the best running backs in fantasy for a good stretch of the season. But, this is the fantasy playoffs. You’ve gotta start the best lineup this week if you expect to win. The Buccaneers held him to 14/47/0 last week, I’d expect something similar out of the Panthers this week. It’s the playoffs, play with your head, not your heart.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints:
This is the second week in a row that Ingram has made the “Sit ‘Em” list. He managed to penetrate the end-zone last week against the Panthers, but don’t expect that to happen against the Bucs; they’ve only allowed five rushing touchdowns all season. Tampa Bay has become a sneaky-good run defense lately. In addition to the lack of end-zone success from opposing running backs, they only average 3.5 yards per attempt against Tampa. That ties Denver for the best in the NFL. They held a talent like Devonta Freeman down last week, Frank Gore managed just 1.3 yards per carry on 19 carries the week before and DeMarco Murray was held to a pedestrian 13/64/0 the week before that. Watch out for the Bucs, they could be dangerous if they somehow squeak into the playoffs. They’re playing their best football of the year right now on both sides of the ball.
Javorius Allen, Baltimore Ravens:
The Ravens travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks. The Seahawks held Adrian Peterson to under 20 yards in his own backyard, I’m sure they can handle a little Buck Allen.
Waiver Wire Mining:
As I mentioned earlier, Ameer Abdullah could be a sneaky play if he’s floating around out there. However, the same could be said for his teammate, Theo Riddick. He’s maybe not quite as quick as Abdullah, but he’s a shifty, crafty back in the Danny Woodhead-type mold. He’s already caught 60/534/3 on 73 targets and isn’t close to 100% ownership in standard leagues.
David Cobb is the closest thing the Titans have to a “running back of the future”. With nobody seemingly want to run away with this job, the Titans might let Cobb run wild over this last month, just to see what they have in Cobb going into the offseason. He had a great deal of preseason hype for a reason, he has some talent. He’s worth the speculative add.
Good luck in the playoffs!
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@brandonziman You are more than welcome Brandon. You were a fantastic writer and a joy to work with. As we move through a very big transition for us hopefully we can continue to work with one anither.