Week 12 of the 2016 NFL season is over. There is a lot of confusion for owners to fill their RB2 and flex spots, 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. A whopping 27 RBs had 15 or more touches in Week 12, so the game is slowing down earlier than normal, concentrating the game even more in the hands of RBs and offensive linemen than even a month ago, let alone September.
This weekly post looks solely at the safety of primary and passing downs roles around the league up to this point. 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.
Duke Johnson, Jr. and Isaiah Crowell, Browns: Cleveland is on bye for Week 13 and it should mark the transition from Crowell to Johnson at the forefront of this backfield. This team will not have the leads to close out game with Crowell's plodding, the offensive line plummeted from being in the top-8 in adjusted line yards (ALY) in the September to now sitting in the bottom-8, and Crowell is averaging 2.2 yards per carry (YPC) in the last five games.
Crowell's 22 touches in Week 12 were a season-high and his 16 carries the most since Week 4, but the snap count advantage was only 40-35 over Johnson. When he is on the field, the ball is highly likely going his way. The Browns are 0-12, so the correlation has to be noticed.
Rashad Jennings, Giants: Jennings is averaging 3.4 YPC and only had 55 yards, despite 15 carries. After a season-high 47 offensive snaps in Week 11, Jennings only playing 28 (50%) against the terrible Browns, showing how confident that staff is in him. The Giants' 104 total rushing yards in Week 12 was the fewest against Cleveland since Tom Brady's comeback in Week 5. Shane Vereen can return for Week 14 against a stout Steelers run defense which should keep Jennings on the bench for Paul Perkins, even if Vereen is inactive. An 8-3, the Giants playoff push is too fragile for them to keep putting the ball in Jennings' hands. The same should be said for our fantasy teams.
T.J. Yeldon, Chris Ivory, and Denard Robinson, Jaguars: Ivory left Week 12 with an injury and Yeldon did not get a boost. Denard Robinson just entered this mess with 13 touches in Week 12, despite never registering more than three all year. He saw 37 offensive snaps after only 37 in the first 11 weeks, combined. Now, the inefficiency may be split three ways! Fun!
James Starks and Christine Michael, Packers: In a positive gamescript, Michael was not called upon to put the game away, holding out any hope for his rosterability. All of the work went to Starks, who actually saw his 2.5 YPC, coming into the year go down (!!!), running for only 41 yards on 17 carries. His five catches are repeatable, so 20 touches may be something on which to bank, but we have to foresee positive gamescripts for the Pack, so he is a deep league (14-team) flex in full PPR leagues, but, even in 12ers, just go with a slot WR as those 17 carries can easily just be 10 for 20 rushing yards. Bear in mind that their fullback, Aaron Ripkowski, has Green Bay's lone rushing TD from the backfield this season and that was last night.
Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, Vikings: Only the Jags offensive line saves the Vikings from having the worst, but their injuries continue and the uselessness of these two will follow. Bear in mind that Adrian Peterson is targeting a Week 15 return. Drop all of the RBs in this segment for him where you can.
Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Ryan Mathews, Eagles: No Mathews (MCL) in Week 12 and the backfield still only combined for 14 carries against a recently vulnerable Packers run D with no linebackers. Sproles had seven targets and Starks over him in PPR is considerable, but with the Bengals and Washington in the next two weeks, we can't go that far. Smallwood and Mathews are unrosterable. Neither get work and neither do much with the work when they get it.
Kenneth Dixon and Terrence West, Ravens: The Ravens comfortably led against the Bengals all day, but Dixon got the later run in the game, out-snapping West 31-23. Both had 13 carries and four targets with equal rushing yardage, but Dixon is clearly being eased into the primary role. Not sure we can start either with confidence, but Dixon has more PPR upside than Sproles and interesting contrarian DFS appeal against a Dolphins team allowing a 2nd-most 4.6 YPC.
Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson, Washington: Kelley isn't exactly the world's greatest, but he can grind enough to bump up in the rankings, flying above the rest in this bunch, but I wish he had a better matchup this week than the Cardinals in Arizona. You've been a great crowd. Don't forget to tip your waitress.
Timeshares with Two Startable Options
Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, Chiefs: Ware had 17 carries to West's three and two targets to West's one, outsnapping West only 42-33, though. The Broncos have a fierce blitz, so West's usage rate was largely due to the need for pass blocking. In an offense run by a QB who cannot get the ball more than eight yards down the field, we have to continue to trust a receiving back like West on the field this much.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, Falcons: Props to the Falcons for dominating the final three quarters to pick apart an otherwise strong Cardinals defense. The run game was not efficient, as expected, but the leads helped to ease Coleman (hamstring) back into action. Coleman looked back, but only got ten touches to Freeman's 18. He still played on 46% of snaps, so expect more 50-50 usage from these two and just start them every week in PPR with Freeman having the edge. At home, Coleman makes for an interesting DFS play in full PPR against a Chiefs D which does not travel well.
LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis, Patriots: These names should probably be reversed, as a I am a Dion Lewis Truther. This is Lewis' backfield and Belichick's way of easing him back into action after a brutal knee injury is solely through snap count, up to 32% from 27% in his 2016 debut. He still saw seven targets and six carries in those 23 snaps, signaling that high usage forecast that is gamescript- and matchup-proof.
Blount is matchup-proof, only because every game has a potential blowout positive script from New England. The next four weeks, the Pats face tough foes in the Rams, Ravens, and Jets again, but he should run through the Broncos in Week 15 and the Dolphins in Week 17. Against a Jets exaggerated funnel pass defense, he still saw 11 carries, so 15-touch projections with goalline usage domination is still in the works for the rest of the schedule. Dropping James White for a handcuff to another back on our roster, as the odd man out, where we don't have Lewis, is the play.
Timeshares with One Startable Option
Matt Forte, Jets: The Jets suck, but kept their match with the Pats close and Forte still got 16 touches to Bilal Powell's nine. It marked only the second time in five weeks where Forte has had fewer than 22 touches. He will crush the Colts, Niners, and Fins over the next three weeks and Powell will be nothing more than a handcuff who puts up sub-replacement level PPR production.
Latavius Murray, Raiders: Against a stout Panthers run D, in a hard-fought game, Murray was trusted for 49 snaps. It was the first time this season a Raiders RB has played 66% of the snaps. That's the good. The bad is that his 19 carries only amounted to 45 rushing yards. His three catches for 43 yards and rushing TD made his fantasy day. With Derek Carr at QB, one of the best lines in the game, and 20, 16, 21, 17, and 22 touches in the last six games, just treat him as a high-upside RB2, rest of season. The only thing really keeping him from being an RB1 is that RBs are extraordinarily healthy and more primary backs than usual are also getting trusty volume.
Mark Ingram, Saints: We should hope that Sean Payton's little game of punishing Ingram for fumbling on October 30 is over. Since being benched in Week 8, Ingram has not seen 20 touches, but is averaging a whopping 8.13 YPC and has four TDs in those four games. If the 3.93 YPC of Tim Hightower experiment behind the same line continues, we can keep trusting Ingram, as is. If this game is over, Ingram is an RB1 again.
Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden, Cowboys: McFadden (elbow) will be activated this week and reportedly is in game-shape and ready to go, due to his injury not being related to his primary talents. In PPR, I would rather handcuff McFadden to Ezekiel Elliott than Alfred Morris, as McFadden should step into a passing downs back pretty smoothly with the threat of taking the spell job outright from Morris, making Morris solely a goalline back.
Ameer Abdullalah and Zach Zenner, Lions: Zenner is unrosterable, even as a handcuff. Cuffing Abdullah to Theo Riddick is better than having an unrosterable back or middling low-red-zone usage WR. In 16-team leagues, he may be a must-stash with the Lions playing meaningful games in Weeks 16 and 17 against the Cowboys and Packers.
Week 13 RB Depth Charts
|Bears||Jordan Howard||Jeremy Langford|
|Bengals||Jeremy Hill||Rex Burkhead|
|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||Darren McFadden|
|Dolphins||Jay Ajayi||Damien Williams|
|Falcons||Devonta Freeman||Tevin Coleman|
|49ers||Carlos Hyde||DuJuan Harris|
|Giants||Rashad Jennings||Shane Vereen|
|Jaguars||T.J. Yeldon||Chris Ivory|
|Jets||Matt Forte||Bilal Powell|
|Lions||Theo Riddick||Ameer Abdullah|
|Packers||James Starks||Christine Michael|
|Panthers||Jonathan Stewart||Fozzy Whitaker|
|Patriots||LeGarrette Blount||Dion Lewis|
|Raiders||Latavius Murray||DeAndre Washington|
|Rams||Todd Gurley||Benny Cunningham|
|Ravens||Kenneth Dixon||Terrance West|
|Washington||Robert Kelley||Matt Jones|
|Saints||Mark Ingram||Tim Hightower|
|Seahawks||Thomas Rawls||Alex Collins|
|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.