Week 10 of the 2016 NFL season is over. There is a lot of confusion for owners to fill their RB2 and flex spots, make trades, craft our benches to cover our tails, and to find adequate value in our DFS cash and GPP lineups. Over a dozen teams are in clear situations of whom is startable and how we handcuff them, but the majority of the league always some questions in the backfield.
This weekly post looks 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. Generally, without three of the top-25 RBs on our roster, we are best off going with low-floor-high-ceiling WRs in our flex spots than RBs with low ceilings.
We are gauging volatility here more situationally than based on the skill of the players. A very talented back can not get the ball enough to trust. 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, one-by-one, is trite and oversimplifying. Instead, we 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.
Bears, Browns, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars, Packers, Vikings
All of these backfields ought to just be avoided altogether.
The Bears just lost guard Kyle Long for the season and Jordan Howard may have an Achilles injury. Jeremy Langford is a desperation Week 11 flex in seasonal leagues. In full PPR, Langford becomes decent value play in GPPs. But, this team is such a disaster that the Giants may be too good a defense to throw him into lineups.
The Browns offensive line regressed from being one of the best in the league in September to now sitting at 25th in adjusted line yards (ALY) and Isaiah Crowell’s yards per carry (YPC) have plummeted since. After posting 6.46 YPC in the first four games, he only has 2.62 in the six games since, only exceeding 2.64 once with three games at fewer than 1.7.
The Eagles are all splitting snaps three ways, making the volume for each back deceptive, as they show their hand toward the run when Ryan Mathews or Wendell Smallwood are on the field. Darren Sproles is still a good PPR flex, but they are a slow team with low floors and low ceilings.
The Jaguars and Vikings’ offensive lines are ranked 30th and 32nd, respectively, in ALY without the talent in their backfields to transcend these weakness. T.J. Yeldon is a poor man’s Sproles losing goal line touches to a Chris Ivory without volume.
The Vikings offensive line is getting worse with injuries, forcing them to become a passing team, putting Matt Asiata on the field more than the already inefficient Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon played 48% of the snaps to Asiata’s 34% in a relatively neutral gamescript. Their defense will prevent them from getting blown out, but their offense cannot create the blowouts to give McKinnon the volume. But, again, we could not trust McKinnon to do anything with the volume were he to get it, averaging only 3.0 yards per carry, which is actually fewer than the Vikings line’s 3.09 ALY.
James Starks’ problem is that he is not good. Add that the Green Bay defense is terrible and their line is getting banged up and we are seeing a Packer run game disappear. Aaron Rodgers has been bad, but his short game still works and this is better for spreading the ball around in the pass game.
Without Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard was not the trustworthy volume receiving back we expected. Now, it is only getting worse. In 2015, Bernard had 32 touches inside the red zone to Jeremy Hill’s 40. This year, Hill is only getting slightly more (21-20) and Bernard’s snap count is the one rising over 50% in recent weeks, but Hill’s YPC is up to 4.7 this year from last year’s 3.6 and Bernard’s is down to 3.8 from 4.7. Bernard is only getting carries to decoy the pass plays, as to not tip their hand when he is out there. Hill is out-touching Bernard 36 to 22 in the last two weeks, despite Bernard’s higher snap count.
Doug Martin is the only startable option in Tampa, but his stock is down with more injuries to an average offensive line. He only played 41.3% of the snaps and we can chalk that up to his first week back from a hamstring injury which was nagging him for weeks. Do not assume that Peyton Barber assumes some Charles Sims role to make him worthy rostering as more than anything but a handcuff.
The Patriots are going to make a shift soon, as Dion Lewis returns. LeGarrette Blount should remain a high usage, red zone dominator, but Lewis will become a strong PPR flex option. Not sure how many more neutral gamescripts we can expect because their remaining strength of schedule is a basket of deplorables. Love Blount for 15-touch safety and his league-leading 12 TDs could surpass 20 on the season. His 38 carries inside the 20-, 24 inside the 10-, and 13 inside the 5-yard lines are all second, only to Melvin Gordon.
Falcons, Raiders, Rams, Ravens
In seasonal leagues, we cannot ignore the primary backs in any of these offense, but we have to be careful in DFS.
Devonta Freeman doesn’t have an efficiency issue without Tevin Coleman. The volume increase, as we saw last season raises the yards per touch. He has not found the end zone over the last two weeks, despite 34 touches. Expect regression to be in his favor after the Week 11 bye against the Cardinals, who can be beat by pass-catching RBs.
The question is how we use Tevin Coleman. If the volume is still in the 12-15 range with similar targets to Freeman, we have to expect that he is a strong flex play at home, on turf, in Weeks 12 and 13. The play will be super-sneaky-great in DFS or burning money.
The Raiders have questions where they should not really exist. They understand that they’re averaging 4.84 YPC because of their elite offensive line giving the backs 4.2 ALY. But the hot hand theory is still in play, despite Latavius Murray’s enormous Week 9 against a bad Broncos run defense. They face the Texans at home on Monday night, who are ranked 28th in DVOA against the run. Murray should feast, but his 4.4 YPC is under the team total and we are all still at risk of him not playing half of the snaps. Even in that great Week 9, he only played 48.3% of snaps and 38.3% the week before. The backfield is healthy with DeAndre Washington averaging 4.9 YPC and Jalen Richard at 6.5.
The Rams are terrible. Their line is below average in ALY and Todd Gurley still has yet to hit 100 yards, averaging only 3.1 YPC. But, this week, they get to face a Miami run D which can get gashed, 25th in the league in YPC allowed (4.4). Next week, L.A. goes to New Orleans where Gurley can feast on the Saints on turf. Their QB switch to Jared Goff can up Gurley’s volume, so there is a case for buying low and making the contrarian GPP play now.
The Ravens are not putting Terrance West on the field for more than 42% of snaps over the last three weeks, so be careful trusting his 38 touches over the last two. Kenneth Dixon got seven targets in Week 10 and should have a more pass-friendly, negative gamescript in Dallas for Week 11, making Dixon a sneaky PPR flex play.
Don’t Worry About...
Broncos, Saints, Seahawks
Neither Gary Kubiak nor Pete Carroll have ever been timeshare coaches. Kubiak rode Arian Foster into the ground throughout his Houston tenure, did the same with a mediocre Justin Forsett in Baltimore in 2014, couldn’t resist his one-back addiction in 2015 and ended up married to C.J. Anderson throughout a bad start to this season, and will do the same with Devontae Booker. If Booker loses the gig to Kapri Bibbs, he will do so outright, and we will know.
Carroll has the same history. He rode Marshawn Lynch hard, even when Lynch was bad or the Seahawks were down on the scoreboard, rode Thomas Rawls hard when Lynch was hurt, rode Christine Michael hard with Rawls hurt (no matter how bad), and is doing so with C.J. Prosise now. The thoughts of a Rawls-Prosise timeshare is against everything we know of Carroll. Even if Prosise is more of a WR than a RB, Carroll will push it or just throw more, using the screen game as his run game.
Throughout Mark Ingram’s career, he has dominated goal line volume, much to the ire of Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham owners of the past. This season, he has 11 touches inside the 10-yard-line; he had 12 at this point last year. He is not dominating the snap count in the 60-80% range, as he did in 2015 for extreme production, but hovering around 50% still gives him TD regression on which we can bank.
Week 11 RB Depth Charts
|Bears||Jordan Howard||Jeremy Langford|
|Bengals||Jeremy Hill||Giovani Bernard|
|Bills||LeSean McCoy||Mike Gillislee|
|Broncos||Devontae Booker||Kapri Bibbs|
|Browns||Isaiah Crowell||Duke Johnson, Jr.|
|Buccaneers||Doug Martin||Peyton Barber|
|Cardinals||David Johnson||Stepfan Taylor|
|Chargers||Melvin Gordon||Kenneth Farrow|
|Chiefs||Spencer Ware||Charcandrick West|
|Colts||Frank Gore||Robert Turbin|
|Cowboys||Ezekiel Elliott||Alfred Morris|
|Dolphins||Jay Ajayi||Damien Williams|
|Falcons||Devonta Freeman||Tevin Coleman|
|49ers||Carlos Hyde||DuJuan Harris|
|Giants||Rashad Jennings||Paul Perkins|
|Jaguars||T.J. Yeldon||Chris Ivory|
|Jets||Matt Forte||Bilal Powell|
|Lions||Theo Riddick||Zach Zenner|
|Packers||James Starks||Ty Montgomery|
|Panthers||Jonathan Stewart||Fozzy Whitaker|
|Patriots||LeGarrette Blount||Dion Lewis|
|Raiders||Latavius Murray||DeAndre Washington|
|Rams||Todd Gurley||Benny Cunningham|
|Ravens||Terrance West||Kenneth Dixon|
|Washington||Robert Kelley||Matt Jones|
|Saints||Mark Ingram||Tim Hightower|
|Seahawks||C.J. Prosise||Thomas Rawls|
|Steelers||Le'Veon Bell||DeAngelo Williams|
|Texans||Lamar Miller||Alfred Blue|
|Titans||Demarco Murray||Derrick Henry|
|Vikings||Jerick McKinnon||Matt Asiata|
Stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com and FootballOutsiders.com.