Week 8 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.
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:
- Eddie Lacy, Packers: Not a great night for his box score, but there is enough reason to not believe that James Starks is threatening his job anymore. He carried the ball 11 times to Starks' five against an elite Broncos run defense and got the ball on the goal line for a TD, which is enough a display of trust from the staff. Lacy may still be a fade in DFS against the Panthers in Week 9, but we should feel fine with him in seasonal leagues.
- Mark Ingram, Saints: Ingram is always listed here because of the goings on in New Orleans box scores that make people worried. The fact is that he has had 15 or more touches in all but one game, 18-plus in five of eight, and at least 20 in three games. He played 64% of the snaps in a blowout game where Khiry Robinson (tibia) left the game due to injury. C.J. Spiller becomes a must-add in PPR with RB2 upside, as he is targeted well when he is on the field and should get 25-35% of snaps with Robinson out for the season, unless Pierre Thomas is signed off the street.
- My lowly 49ers: Will Carlos Hyde play Week 9 against the Falcons? Who knows? Will newly acquired Pierre Thomas be a PPR option for Blaine Gabbert checkdowns? Who knows? Will Mike Davis just run it 15 times for 20 yards? Probably. I don't even know where to start here. I can only only advise we wait to start anyone but an active Hyde and stash Thomas in 12-team PPR leagues. Go Pack!
Tier 1: Renting the starting job
Jeremy Langford, Bears: Matt Forte will miss an unknown amount of time with an MCL sprain. Forte played through an MCL sprain in 2009, but we do not know the severity of the tear, yet. At least, Langford won't share a juicy Week 9 matchup against the Chargers.
If Forte is inactive, Langford is a top-10 play this week in all formats.
Tier 2: Timeshares where everyone is bad
Giants, Lions, Texans, Washington, Titans
Rashad Jennings, Orleans Darkwa, and Shane Vereen, Giants: In a game where the G-men scored 49 points, Jennings was replacement level and Vereen had an 8/60/1 day in the pass game. Jennings is an RB4 you should not own unless you need to plug a hole in your lineup in a 14-team standard league. Vereen remains a low-end RB3 in PPR formats, but must be owned, as an injury to Jennings would elevate his role to becoming a weekly flex, at worst.
Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, and Joique Bell, Lions: So, Detroit replaced Joe Lombardi with Jim Bob Cooter at offensive coordinator to have Bell out-touch Abdullah seven to one. We really should not be owning any of these players in any format, other than: Riddick as an RB4 in PPR and Abdullah as an RB5 stash in 12-team leagues.
The Lions are on bye for Week 9, but have a decent running matchup in Week 10 against the Packers. If you don't really need an RB for that week, the schedule after that is horrid: Raiders in Week 11 and Eagles in 12. These sub-replacement starts can knock you out of the playoff hunt.
Alfred Blue and Chris Polk, Texans: Blue is the starter, no doubt, but that doesn't mean anything. The Texans defense does not let them run and when Blue runs, he goes nowhere. We should rather stash Polk on the hopes he takes this job very soon and can become a decent flex play.
Matt Jones and Chris Thompson, Washington: Working under the assumption that Alfred Morris is nothing more than a handcuff who will spell Jones, this situation has potential to be awesome. Jones should be owned in all formats and Thompson in 12-team PPR leagues. Washington is coming out of their bye, so we can only hope they figure things out. Starting Thompson isn't bad in PPR leagues this week against the Patriots, but Jones should be faded until we see some evidence that he can handle the role.
Antonio Andrews, David Cobb, and Dexter McCluster, Titans: This is the definition of a volatile backfield. Andrews is running well with over 100 yards in 26 carries over the last two game, but cannot get the ball enough and Cobb is due back from IR. McCluster continues to be a desperation RB4 flex in PPR, but that is it.
New interim head coach Mike Mularkey was great for peak Willis McGahee for terrible teams in in 2004 and 2005 in Buffalo, but could not really establish the run during his 2012 run in Jacksonville because no one could stay healthy. His history, though, is sticking with one guy and feeding him the rock like a bellcow. Sucks to fade this week against the Saints, but wait and see how carries are distributed and we can have a top-30 guy come out of this mess.
Tier 2: Timeshares with one startable option
Browns, Chargers, Broncos
Duke Johnson, Jr., Isaiah Crowell, and Robert Turbin, Browns: Ignore Crowell and Turbin. They don't even have replacement level upside from week to week. Neither should be rostered. Johnson is up and down, but is quietly on pace for 1,020 total yards from scrimmage and 66 receptions.
Johnson is just an RB4 in standard leagues because the TDs are pure luck to keep his ceiling under the higher scoring and volume backs, but is a legit RB3 in PPR, who should be owned in all formats. They get the Bengals in what should be a slow Thursday Night Football game where he should rack up some great garbage time electricity.
Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon, Chargers: What if I told you that Woodhead is the third-highest scoring RB in PPR and 12th in standard scoring behind a terrible offensive line? I know! Gordon gets enough carries and catches with Branden Oliver now out of the picture to be a risky RB3 and solid handcuff, but Woodhead is the guy we feel great about starting from week to week, despite the downs that come with the ups. Fade Gordon in DFS, even against the Bears.
Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson, Broncos: Hillman is the primary back and the Broncos D is helping him stay on the field by preserving leads. Anderson is splitting the snaps, but Hillman is getting the carries about 3:2, rest of season, we should expect. Hillman can be safely started as an RB2 for good yardage and sporadic TDs.
Anderson is a low-floor RB3 with RB2 upside, but we want to fade him wherever we can because the ball does not go his way enough when he is out there, as he is primarily on the field to pick up blitzes from week to week; in blowouts, we can flex him for double digit carries, as we say on Sunday.
Tier 3: Timeshares with multiple starting options
Buccaneers, Bengals, Bills, Patriots
Doug Martin and Charles Sims, Buccaneers: Martin is safely an RB1, rest of season, averaging over 20 touches per week and over 120 yards per game. Sims is still on the field for 40% of the snaps and is getting double digit carries+targets every week. The catches are swingy and that is on which we depend with Sims, but he remains a low-ceiling RB3 in PPR to now fade in DFS, despite simply being a handcuff in standard leagues, where he should be owned by all Martin owners.
Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, Bengals: We cannot begin to figure out why Bernard only had three touches to Hill's 16 in Week 8, despite Hill plodding for only 60 yards on the ground. Both have an excellent matchup against the Browns on Thursday and TNF is all about the running game, DSTs, and kickers. They are both splitting carries, so both getting 15 touches looks good with Bernard still in the top-18, rest of season in all formats and Hill as a TD-dependent RB3 who is easily benchable in PPR.
LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, Bills: Williams has been sidelined with a concussion since Week 4 and McCoy has taken advantage with 198 yards from scrimmage in 39 touches over their last two games. Rex Ryan is notorious for splitting RBs when all are playing poorly, let alone when both have great upside, as Williams was averaging 5.4 yards per carry in his four games played with four TDs, despite only 47 touches. They are both low-end RB2s against a volatile Dolphins run defense in Week 9.
Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount, Patriots: Blount didn't score in Week 8, but put away a blowout with 17 carries and that's all we need to see. Lewis remains a super safe bet for five catches and 75 total yards with a chance to score every week.
Lewis is an RB2 with a high floor in all formats and Blount is right there with 70-yard expectation but multiple-TD upside every week. Blount is my DFS start of the week in what should be a blowout over Washington, especially if you want to fade DeAngelo Williams and Chris Ivory in sneaky-tough matchups against the Raiders and Jaguars.
Week 9 Depth Charts
|Bills||LeSean McCoy||Karlos Williams|
|Broncos||Ronnie Hillman||C.J. Anderson|
|Browns||Isaiah Crowell||Duke Johnson||Duke Johnson|
|Buccaneers||Doug Martin||Charles Sims||Charles Sims|
|Cardinals||Chris Johnson||Andre Ellington|
|Chargers||Danny Woodhead||Melvin Gordon|
|Chiefs||Charcandrick West||Knile Davis|
|Colts||Frank Gore||Ahmad Bradshaw|
|Cowboys||Darren McFadden||Christine Michael|
|Dolphins||Lamar Miller||Jonas Gray|
|Falcons||Devonta Freeman||Tevin Coleman|
|Giants||Rashad Jennings||Orleans Darkwa||Shane Vereen|
|Jaguars||T.J. Yeldon||Toby Gerhart|
|Jets||Chris Ivory||Zac Stacy|
|Packers||Eddie Lacy||James Starks|
|Panthers||Jonathan Stewart||Cameron Artis-Payne|
|Raiders||Latavius Murray||Taiwan Jones|
|Rams||Todd Gurley||Tre Mason|
|Ravens||Justin Forsett||Javorius "Buck" Allen|
|Washington||Matt Jones||Alfred Morris||Chris Thompson|
|Saints||Mark Ingram||C.J. Spiller||C.J. Spiller|
|Seahawks||Marshawn Lynch||Thomas Rawls|
|Steelers||DeAngelo Williams||Isaiah Pead|
|Texans||Alfred Blue||Chris Polk|
|Titans||Antonio Andrews||David Cobb||Dexter McCluster|
|Vikings||Adrian Peterson||Jerick McKinnon|
Stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com.