Looking at the weekly running back leader board from Week 14, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces from those who have emerged this second half.
Number five, we have Chris Ivory. Kind of an up and down season, he’s been very hit and miss in 2015. But, 22/101/0 out of him against the Titans wasn’t exactly out of the realm of possibility. He’s more than capable of that stat line, a great flex play/decent RB2.
At four, we had Darren McFadden. Now, counting on him for regular production wasn’t an expectation until the Cowboys demoted Joseph Randle following their Week 6 bye. Run DMC rushing for 100+ yards isn’t shocking anybody.
Week 14’s number three running back, Eddie Lacy was a first round pick in just about every league last August. His season has frustrated those who drafted him (or acquired him in-season), but he’s turned things around as of late. 24/124/1 is by far his best slash line of the season, the fourth highest single-game rushing yard total he has put up in his career and the best line he has produced since his nearly identical 25/125/1 line from Week 11 of 2014 against the Vikings in Minnesota. His production is a relief to anyone who took my advice last week and those who bought-low or stayed true were rewarded in a big way. Again, not a major surprise.
The second best ball carrier last week was the one and only Todd Gurley III. For those who follow my work, you know exactly how I feel about the rookie out of Georgia. He vanished for a few weeks after that offensive juggernaut, the St. Louis Rams, ran into the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals and mustered 10 total points combined in both games.
Still, Gurley’s 975 rushing yards is good enough for fourth in the NFL. Only Jonathan Stewart, Doug Martin and Adrian Peterson have accumulated more this season. He should edge-out Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston for the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Interestingly enough,
the two face off tomorrow night on Thursday Night Football.
Gurley’s 16/140/2 should shock anyone any more. It’s the third time this season he’s run for at least 140 yards and the second time he’s crossed the end zone multiple times this season.
The number one rusher of Week 14, however, shocked fantasy football enthusiasts everywhere. Isaiah *bleeping* Crowell ran for, wait for it, 20/145/2!!! It might be the quietest monster fantasy line in the history of fantasy football. Like, what the actual bleep?? Isaiah Crowell? I mean, sure he was drafted in most leagues, but most of those who took a chance dumped him by Week 7 after his stellar 8/9/0 performance against the Rams. Not even Nostradamus, the Mayan Calender, Zoltar or any other prognosticator saw that coming. Not that the Niners are any sort of run-stopping fiends any more, but it’s Crowell. What he ran for in Week 15 was exactly 12.6 per cent of his career rushing yards, he’s not exactly Barry Sanders.
If Crowell had faced the Niners earlier in the year, I would probably place a claim on him. Why not? To quote Fantasy Baseball Hall of Famer and friend of Majorleaguefantasysports.com Ron Shandler, “once a player displays a skill, he owns it.”
That being said, he also owns something else that’s rather deterring, his remaining schedule. To close out the year, he and his Johnny Football-led Browns go to the two biggest hornet’s nests in the NFL, Arrowhead and
Centurylink Field in Seattle, and then host the Steelers to close out the season. Last I checked, the Seahawks and Chiefs have some pretty nasty defensive fronts and while the Steelers aren’t the Steel Curtain of old, they held Crowell to negative five yards on six carries in Week 10. Not exactly inspiring matchups to trust Crowell in for your Fantasy Football Super Bowl.
It’s late in the season, so we get the privilege of Saturday night football. The Jets and Cowboys kickoff at Jerry’s World at [8:25]. With regularly scheduled TNF on Thursday, the Saturday kickoff shouldn’t affect fantasy owners remembering to set their lineups, however this is where possible waiver claims could be impacted. Just keep that in the back of your noggins.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the hip injury sustained by Patriots’ running back LeGarrette Blount is, in fact, season-ending. From what I saw Sunday night, it looked to me as if Branden Bolden was getting the carries typically assumed by Blount, leaving James White as the passing-down guy. White had only one carry for two yards against the Texans while he caught 4/38/0 on six targets; Bolden ran for 16/51/0 in relief of Blount. The Patriots have also signed former Bronco Montee Ball to the practice squad for depth.
Speaking of season-ending injuries, “Beastmode 2.0” Thomas Rawls is done for the season with a broken ankle (just in case you didn’t here the collective f-bomb dropped by Rawls owners and Seahawk fans everywhere around 2 PM EST). As a result, the Seahawks have signed another former Buffalo Bill in Bryce Brown. Brown, who was originally signed by Seattle on Oct. 27, has been waived by the team twice already; this is his third go-around with the team in less than three months.
That being said, his only real competition for carries is Fred Jackson. The Seahawks also cut DuJuan Harris, who had 18/42/0 in relief of Rawls. Pete Carroll has gone on record to say that Jackson will be used in a third-down/relief-type role, much like he has been used all season. With Marshawn Lynch still out of commission, this is Brown’s job for the
taking. With the Browns coming to town next week, Bryce Brown becomes a must-add and a very intriguing flex option.
Andre Ellington (turf toe) did not practice Tuesday and Fox Sports 910’s Mike Jurecki believes that the Cardinals will be “cautious” with Ellington in terms of his recovery. Rookie David Johnson accounted for two-thirds of the carries coming out of the Arizona backfield last Thursday (19/92/0), expect more of the same when the Cardinals go to Philadelphia next Sunday night.
The Jaguars have signed Jonas Gray off the Miami practice squad after T.J. Yeldon spraining his knee in Jacksonville’s 51-16 romp of the Colts. With Yeldon expected to miss at least one week (per Adam Schefter), Denard Robinson becomes the play in his absence. Don’t let Gray’s past performances, more specifically, Week 11, 2014. Denard “Shoelace” Robinson is the guy with Yeldon absent.
With Mark Ingram done for the season, the Saints gave Tim Hightower 28 times for 85 yards and a touchdown in their win over the Buccaneers Sunday. He clearly has the edge over C.J. Spiller for every-down work.
Bryce Brown, Seattle Seahawks:
From a running back standpoint, he’s the top waiver wire add this week. The Seahawks seem inclined to allow him to take the bulk of the carries, something he hasn’t seen since he was a rookie in 2012. While filling in for LeSean McCoy in 2012, Brown had back-to-back excellent games of
19/178/2 and 24/169/2. He was traded to Buffalo in between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, only to be buried behind the likes of C.J. Spiller and current teammate Fred Jackson. If he can avoid dropping the ball, he could be in for a big game against a less-than-stellar Browns run defence; a very intriguing flex play if you’re lucky enough to snag him on the waiver wire.
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals:
With Andy Dalton out of the lineup, and the Bengals facing a Niner defence that gives up 133.2 rushing yards per game, Cincinnati might be more inclined to lean on the run; despite what Bengals’ offensive coordinator Hue Jackson told the Cincinnati Inquirer Tuesday morning.
“Did he start out (Sunday) being a manager? He threw it all over the field, right?” Jackson said via The Enquirer. “That gave us the best chance to win. It didn’t work. I’m not going to tell you I’m going to start with him being a manager. He’s going to start off doing what we need him to do to win. That’s what we pay him for. We pay him to win games. So whatever it takes for him to win, that’s what he’s going to do. If you guys think he’s going to turn around and hand it off 70 times to win a game, then you guys are mistaken. That’s not going to happen. That’s not going to happen.”
Despite no Dalton, I do believe that McCarron will do enough to put the Niners away early, leaving Hill to do the clock-churning. Hill has out-carried Bernard 45-21 over the past three games, I expect more of the same this week.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins:
It took four seasons, but it looks as if the Miami Dolphins have finally learned how to properly utilize Lamar Miller. New Dolphins’ OC Zach Taylor’s balanced approach is a far-cry from the Bill Lazor/Joe Philbin philosophy of throw, throw, throw from early in the season and Miller owners are reaping the rewards. Over the past two games, Miller has rushed for 32/202/2. I expect more of the same out of Miller in San Diego, the Chargers have been a sieve of a run defence all season.
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns:
Don’t let his Week 14 distort your opinion of this guy, he’s just not that talented. Yes, it was an amazing effort. However, he has the Seahawks in Seattle this week, and the Chiefs at Arrowhead next week. This right here is fantasy fool’s gold, do not subscribe. I repeat, DO NOT SUBSCRIBE.
Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys:
The Cowboys host the Jets on Saturday night, a game in which I fully expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to run Matt Cassel out of the stadium. Fitzmagic, Marshall and Decker are quietly one of the best QB/WR trios in the league and the Cowboys don’t have the defense or offensive fire power to keep up. This will leave Run DMC with little opportunity to run the ball. And even with the opportunities he does get will be a struggle, the Jets allow an NFL best 78.9 rushing yards to opposing rushing attacks.
Any Philadelphia Running Back:
This backfield is giving It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia a decent run for best Philly-based comedy. All that money spent in the offseason, and not a single one of them has run for more than 70 yards since DeMarco Murray in Week 9 against the Cowboys. Sproles might be the best pure fantasy option, but most of his value will come by way of a special teams touchdown; not something you can rely on. With a rested Cardinal defence coming to town this week, no Eagle ball carrier should be trusted.
Waiver Wire Mining:
Tons of options off the wire this week, many of which have been discussed earlier. So, here are how I would rank some of the potentially-available running backs, both for this week and going forward.
- Bryce Brown, Seattle Seahawks
- Tim Hightower, New Orleans Saints
- Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots
- Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
- James White, New England Patriots
Good luck in your fantasy Super Bowls!
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