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Week 12 Fantasy Running Back Depth Charts & Volatility: Marshawn Lynch Out 4-5 Weeks, Thomas Rawls Has Got This

Every Tuesday, we go around the NFL at the running back depth charts around the league telling you which backs are secure in their jobs, others who are threatened, listing fantasy-relevant non-starters and handcuffs.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Week 11 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.

Volatility

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: Blount may take a dip in the rankings, due to performance, but the volume is undeniable. Week 11 was the lowest amount of carries he has had since Week 7, but it was still 16 carries and he is averaging 20 carries per game in the Pats last four games. James White scored two TDs on Monday night, but had only four touches and one of the TDs was a gimmicky no-huddle rush after a big play took New England to the goal line. Blount was on the field for 38 snaps to White's 18.

  • Thomas Rawls, Seahawks: Last week, the Seahawks were in my "Timeshare Looming?" tier. Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) will reportedly miss the next 4-5 weeks and Rawls is an RB1, likely for the rest of the season, as he should steal this job. The only threat to Rawls' volume is a timeshare when Lynch returns, but Rawls being active in the passing game in Week 11 adds to his utility.

  • LeSean McCoy, Bills: Karlos Williams has been fantastic in limited touches, but the keyword here is "limited". Williams is an RB3 with TD-dependent RB1 upside every week, who can be flexed in leagues as shallow as ten teams, but McCoy dominates the snaps and touches every week. McCoy has had 18 or more touches in every complete game he has played this season. The Bills' gameplan in the backfield is clear. Williams just happens to be a fantasy relevant factor, as well.

  • Eddie Lacy, Packers: Happy to get a prediction right. Lacy looks healthy and broke 100 yards for the first time this season in a season-high 22 carries. The Packers cannot get right without him and there are getting right. James Starks is just a handcuff, but one who should be owned, as there is probably a short leash with Lacy, who is running well, but very overweight.

  • Ronnie Hillman, Broncos: Hillman's fantasy production is swingy and his snap counts are gameflow-dependent, as C.J. Anderson still sees around half of the snaps as a blocking back. But Anderson's usage is fantasy-irrelevant, and that is wht matters. Hillman remains a top-24 RB, rest of season, and Anderson is just a handcuff.

  • Danny Woodhead, Chargers: This whole offense is a mess. Melvin Gordon should be fantasy-relevant with 14-plus touches in each of the last three weeks, but nothing actually happens with those touches, so he is just a handcuff for Woodhead. Woodhead is dipping in the rankings with this offense because the WRs are not stretching the field and Woodhead needs that for space in the short game. Woodhead is still the primary weapon in this offense, so the inconsistency has to be accepted with his RB1 production this season. The production will dip, but the upside for volume keeps him in RB2 territory.

  • Charcandrick West, Chiefs: West is day-to-day with a hamstring injury he sustained in Week 11. Spencer Ware should definitely be owned in all formats by Wednesday morning, but there will be no timeshare if West is healthy. And West is still elite when healthy because the schedule is very favorable and he has proven a worthy bellcow.

  • Devonta Freeman, Falcons: Freeman left Week 11's game with a concussion, but is "off to a good start" to playing Week 12. Tevin Coleman is nothing more than a handcuff who should be owned in all formats, but not started if Freeman is active under any circumstances, as Freeman should continue to get his 20-30 touches when he returns with Coleman not hitting double digits.

  • Antonio Andrews, Titans: When David Cobb gets eight touches or Andrews fumbles a few times, we can re-visit this. We should not be starting Titans backs other than Andrews out of desperation as a flex in 12-team standard leagues or a healthy Dexter McCluster in 16-team PPR leagues. Otherwise, Cobb is the only worthy player to own as a stash with bye weeks coming to a close.

  • Javorius "Buck" Allen, Ravens: Justin Forsett is out for the remainder of the season with a broken arm, but Allen has no legitimate competition for volume. His performance may be questionable, but the volume should be in the 20-touch range nearly every week.

  • Shaun Draughn, 49ers: Continue to treat him as if he is renting the job from Carlos Hyde. Considered putting this as a timeshare looming, but then they both suck. At least Draughn is being used in the passing game for PPR relevance. He has 12 catches for 78 yards in 16 targets in his two starts with Blaine Gabbert at the helm, so maybe he is an RB3 in PPR while Hyde is out; but this line cannot support a run attack and sharing snaps will kill both Hyde and Draughn's value.

Tier 1: Timeshares where no one is startable

Giants, Lions, Browns, Washington

I say the same things about Rashad Jennings, Orleans Darkwa, Shane Vereen, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson, Jr., and Isaiah Crowell every week. None of them get used often enough for fantasy relevance. Darkwa and Abdullah are good deep league stashes, should the volume come to them; Riddick, and Vereen are RB4s in PPR leagues. Johnson may return to high-end flex territory in PPR leagues with Josh McCown starting for the Browns again, as he really only had no success with Johnny Manziel at QB.

Matt Jones feels like he should be interesting in PPR, but he cannot play the Saints every week. Neither Chris Thompson nor Alfred Morris are probably rosterable and Jones is a stash just in case, but I'm not sure of what.

Tier 2: Timeshares with one startable option

Bengals

Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, Bengals: Bernard had his third straight week of 13-plus touches, which included an 8/128/0 slash in the receiving game. Jeremy Hill scored two TDs as the goal line back, but they were his first TDs since Week 4 and his fifth game of no more than 3.5 yards per carry in his last six. The volume is there for Hill, but he is just a bad handcuff who should be owned in all formats. Bernard is very efficient low-volume RB2 who cannot find the end zone.

Hill is an idiot who acted like a fool in many spots on Sunday night. The coaching staff constantly talks about getting him going and continues to give him the ball like a homeless person drinking a 40, begging for change to get a cup of coffee. Maybe his antics will be the final straw on top of his bad play to give him the bench. Bernard has played 73.1 and 68.4% of the snaps the last two weeks, so we should not let Hill's touches sway our faith in the Bengals' perception of Bernard.

Tier 3: Timeshares with two startable options

Colts, Eagles, Bears

Frank Gore and Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts: The Matt Hasselbeck Era has brought forth the second resurgence of Bradshaw in Indianapolis. Bradshaw has played over half of the snaps since being signed weeks ago and scored two TDs to make it three in the last two. He is an RB3 in PPR with Gore still an RB2 in standard leagues.

If Gore misses time with his quad or knee or whatever ails him, Bradshaw becomes a legit RB2, but Gore plays unless he is under the knife or wearing some immobilizer. His effectiveness will be questionable but he has has 22, 28, and 19 touches in the last three weeks with 80 or more yards in each of those games, so trust the volume and his fight.

Demarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, Eagles: This is similar to the Bills situation. Mathews consistently gets 9-10 touches when he is healthy. He is still going through concussion protocol, but reports are optimistic for him being active in Week 12 against the Lions where we can plug him into our flex spot in 12-team leagues as a desperation RB3 with strong possibilities to reach his double-digit fantasy point upside.

Murray hasn't scored a TD in back-to-back games and his 17 touches in Week 11 were the lowest since Week 4, but this was due to gameflow. He is averaging 24 touches per game since Week 4, over 4.1 yards per carry, and five catches per game. Still a stud. Just one who may piss us off when he doesn't score, but the fact is that he has had over 70 yards in each of his last six games and 119 or more in four of the last six.

Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford, Bears: The consensus report is that Forte will be active on Thursday night against the Packers. Langford has been a matchup-proof stud and this is a great matchup. We don't know what to expect, but we do know that John Fox has a history of riding hot hands in the backfield. Play this as timeshare where it is difficult to bench either for this week and we will re-evaluate for Week 13.

Week 12 RB Depth Charts

Handcuff notes:

  • Robert Turbin was signed by the Cowboys last week immediately after they wiaved Christine Michael. Michael was picked up by Washington, but is just on their practice squad. Treat Turbin as Darren McFadden's handcuff and Michael as if he were Montee Ball.
  • Tre Mason is probably the proper handcuff for Todd Gurley, but Benny Cunningham seems to have the trust to get at least half of the snaps as an all-purpose back should Gurley get injured. Treat Cunningham as the Gurley handcuff.
  • I have no idea who would be Buck Allen's handcuff in Baltimore and don't really care yet.
Primary Handcuff PPR Option
Bears Forte/Langford Forte/Langford Jeremy Langford
Bengals Giovani Bernard Jeremy Hill
Bills LeSean McCoy Karlos Williams
Broncos Ronnie Hillman C.J. Anderson
Browns Duke Johnson Isaiah Crowell
Buccaneers Doug Martin Charles Sims Charles Sims
Cardinals Chris Johnson Andre Ellington
Chargers Danny Woodhead Melvin Gordon
Chiefs Charcandrick West Spencer Ware
Colts Frank Gore Ahmad Bradshaw Ahmad Bradshaw
Cowboys Darren McFadden Robert Turbin
Dolphins Lamar Miller Jay Ajayi
Eagles Demarco Murray Mathews/Sproles
Falcons Devonta Freeman Tevin Coleman
49ers Shaun Draughn
Giants Rashad Jennings Orleans Darkwa Shane Vereen
Jaguars T.J. Yeldon Toby Gerhart
Jets Chris Ivory Bilal Powell
Lions Joique Bell Abdullah/Riddick
Packers Eddie Lacy James Starks
Panthers Jonathan Stewart Cameron Artis-Payne
Patriots LeGarrette Blount James White
Raiders Latavius Murray Taiwan Jones
Rams Todd Gurley Benny Cunningham
Ravens Javorius "Buck" Allen
Washington Matt Jones Alfred Morris
Saints Mark Ingram Spiller/Hightower
Seahawks Thomas Rawls Fred Jackson
Steelers DeAngelo Williams Jordan Todman
Texans Alfred Blue Jonathan Grimes
Titans Antonio Andrews David Cobb
Vikings Adrian Peterson Jerick McKinnon


Stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com.