Week 10 of the 2015 NFL season is over and the fantasy football running back landscape is as volatile as it always is at this moment. We are at a point where it is unclear if there are 20 RBs who are safe to start, which means there is a lot of confusion for owners to fill their RB2 and flex spots, make trades, craft our benches to cover our tails. But we are at a point where well over half of the primary jobs are solidified.
This weekly post has looked solely at the safety of primary and passing downs roles around the league up to this point. For the remainder of season, we will contextualize the individuals with rest of season rankings in a separate post.
Remember we are gauging volatility here more situationally than based on the skill of the players. On one hand, a very talented back can not get the ball enough to trust while a mediocre back is higher in ranks simply because he can be trusted to get a high quantity of touches. No matter what the talent level of the back, an RB is only good in fantasy as his situation.
Ranking volatility is trite and oversimplifying. We will separate them into tiers, from the most to least volatile. The most volatile situations are mostly ones to avoid, unless otherwise noted; and the least are one where roles are shared, but there is still startable weekly fantasy value to be had.
Notable situations not ranked in volatility this week:
- LeGarrette Blount, Patriots: It goes without saying that Blount is the only startable RB in New England, but James White may still be too trusted. White is rosterable in 12-team PPR leagues with Julian Edelman's double digit targets per week having to go somewhere, but the Patriots run more as the season goes on and Blount is so dominating the touches out of the backfield and the passes are going to WRs more with Danny Amendola and Brandon Lafell healthy.
- T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars: Yeldon (foot) did not practice on Tuesday and was in a precautionary walking boot. He may or may not be active on the short week against the Titans on Thursday for a great matchup, so Denard Robinson is a must-add for those who need a RB to start this week. This situation is merely one on which to keep a close eye and be cautious. Robinson would just be renting the job for the week. Expect Yeldon to play until we hear otherwise.
- Demarco Murray, Eagles: Murray has been the primary back, getting 18 or more carries in five straight weeks. Ryan Mathews has been fantastic in limited play, but left Sunday with a concussion. The two may both be startable from week to week, but Mathews should be treated with caution, as concussions are unpredictable, so being active does not necessarily put him in the gameplan.
- Danny Woodhead, Chargers: The Chargers can't block, so we barely care about Melvin Gordon anymore. Gordon led the team in carries in Week 10, but could only muster 31 yards on those 11. Catching the ball is a bonus, but catching three balls was still only good for a little more than eight fantasy points in PPR against a horrid Bears defense. Woodhead, meanwhile, has performed as a top-10 back in all formats--top-five in PPR. Woodhead is the primary back and Gordon is just a handcuff coming out of their bye.
- Antonio Andrews, Titans: As long as David Cobb cannot get on the field, Andrews is the man in Tennessee. Terrible week against a strong Panthers run defense for eight total yards in 11 touches, but the staff is very disappointed in Cobb's conditioning. We need to see it from Cobb before we trust a timeshare. What also threatens Andrews is the fantasy-useless Dexter McCluster dominating the passing downs on Sunday, but we have seen Andrews share that role as well. He is safely an RB3, but not limited by teammates in his own backfield.
Tier 1: Timeshares where everyone is bad
Shaun Draughn, 49ers: Draughn is renting the job from Carlos Hyde (foot), who is still day-to-day. He should dominate the carries, should Hyde miss Sunday's game, but the game is in Seattle, so who cares?
Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, Giants: Orleans Darkwa should be the primary back for New York, but it doesn't matter that he isn't Jennings is still the only player to trust for double digit carries out of this backfield and he does nothing with them. Shane Vereen has top-25 upside in PPR leagues from week to week, but good luck guessing which week. Difficult to roster any of these players over handcuffing our existing backs.
Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes, Texans: Pretty sure I was wrong on Chris Polk threatening this job. Blue had 13 touches to Polk's four and Grimes' seven. No one ever does anything with the ball when they get it and no one is being used in the passing attack. Polk and Grimes are merely 16-team PPR stashes, but Blue is dead weight.
Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, and Joique Bell, Lions: Bell led the Lions for the second straight week in carries, logging useless 14/17/0 slash line. He is killing any potential RB3 value for Abdullah and Riddick, who can both be stashed in 12-team leagues, but are easily droppable, as their upside is so limited. We can never start them and hope for more than replacement level, even if Bell left the picture and we are in a PPR format. They are really only RB5s in 16-team leagues, but handcuffs are more valuable.
Matt Jones, Alfred Morris, and Chris Thompson, Washington: Jones had his first game of 51 or more yards since Week 2 and it was against the Saints, so who cares? They still threw Alfred Morris into the mix for 40% of the snaps to close for a 15/104/0 slash, which is terrible for Jones, as Jones would need a bellcow role for relevance. Instead, everyone is killing each other's value, as Washington cannot be trusted to have the leads to commit to the run.
We can sell Jones high. He has some nice matchups against the Giants and Bears before the end of the season, but they cannot be trusted to run the ball and the rest of the schedule is really bad. This is his peak value.
Tier 2: Timeshares with a startable option
Duke Johnson, Jr., Browns: Isaiah Crowell needs to get injured for Johnson to really matter, but--even with Johnny Manziel starting--Johnson is just a homerun PPR play. Three straight games of under ten touches, but Crowell only has 89 total yards in 31 touches over that span, averaging 1.81 yards per carry. The Browns are on bye Week 11. Something's gotta give. Keeping the faith that Johnson can be a legit PPR flex again.
Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson, Broncos: Every time Hillman looks like he can be top-20 rest of season, he wets the bed on us. He scored a TD to save his 42-yard performance, but this line is a mess and Peyton Manning's foot injury just makes things worse. If this defense continues to look human, Anderson will dominate the snaps as a blocking back for Brock Osweiler.
We don't know anything about Osweiler, but being a checkdown artist is a possibility for Anderson to be PPR-worthy. Hillman remains a high-end RB3 with RB2 upside; Anderson is merely a handcuff taking Hillman's snaps away. And it isn't Gary Kubiak's fault that Hillman cannot pick up a blitz.
James Starks and Eddie Lacy, Packers: Both of these players must be owned. Lacy (groin) was inactive on Sunday, but Starks did not really exploit the great matchup against the Lions. Starks totaled 96 yards, but only rushed for 42 on 15 carries. There is nothing dynamic or powerful from him, but this workload is startable as a low-end RB2. When Lacy is healthy (which may not be until next year, I should note), both could just be RB3s until this offense finds its way and I still believe that is by Lacy returning to top-15 form.
Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, Bengals: The excuse for the coaching staff forcing 15-plus touches to Hill was that they were trying to get him going and were winning, so who cares? Well, after losing on Monday night after a week and a half of rest to a bad Texans team and not scoring a TD, the "we are winning" shine begins to wear off. Hill ran seven times for only 15 yards; Bernard eight times for 36, but was finally used in the passing game for a 5/43/0 slash.
Bernard played 72% of the snaps in the losing effort after over 50% in Week 9. Against the Cardinals in Arizona, expect another losing effort where Gio is on the field over 50% of the time and puts up a respectable PPR game. Hill is a must-bench or maybe-start depending on the matchup, as he is TD- and lead-dependent. The hope is that Gio takes this job, outright and finds the end zone from the first time since Week 6 a couple of time to nullify Hill's waste of space. This team is too talented to waste plays on Hill.
Tier 3: Timeshares with two startable options
LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, Bills: I hate to call this a timeshare, as Shady is dominating the touches 2:1 every week, but Williams finds the end zone every week and is trusted to spell McCoy in opportune situations. McCoy is a must-start every week, but Williams is among the top-25 with all of the terrible backs in the lower tiers of volatility.
Tier 4: Timeshare looming
Jeremy Langford and Matt Forte, Bears: Langford has done it again with a 20/79/1 slash in the run game and a 7/109/1 in passing game, but this was not the Chargers, but a very strong Rams defense the Bears faced. Langford may be the best RB in Chicago. With John Fox on a quest for respectability and a non-zero shot at a playoff spot and Forte on his way to becoming an unrestricted free agent, a timeshare when Forte returns may be on the horizon. Fox is known to ride the hot hand in running back carousels.
Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls, Seahawks: Every August, there is a large portion of the fantasy community which wants no part of Lynch because a timeshare seems inevitable due to his past workload. So, Christine Michael and Robert Turbin get stashed, the Seahawks beat the hell out of everyone thanks to Lynch touching the ball north of 20 times per game, and those #experts have Lynch in their top-5s every week by mid-season.
This season, Rawls has looked better than Lynch and the Seahawks are not winning games. They cannot commit to the run and may find themselves using Rawls to make sure they can effectively live life after Lynch. This is purely speculative, but Rawls should be owned in all leagues in all formats until the Seahawks put together a winning streak behind Lynch.
Week 11 RB Depth Charts
|Rod Smith (?)
|Javorius "Buck" Allen
Stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com.