Week 14 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. 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. More importantly, bye weeks are over, so the pool of startable players tightens up.
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.
Renting the Job
Kenneth Farrow, Chargers: On top of the hip sprain, Melvin Gordon has a knee sprain. It is highly doubtful that he plays Week 15. And that’s a shame because the Raiders could serve up some fantasy goodness, allowing a league-worst 4.7 yards per carry (YPC). The Chargers are saying that Farrow would split work with Ronnie Hillman, but the offense just isn’t working that way, outside of the clear skill-set differences between Gordon and Danny Woodhead. Treat Farrow as a top-20 RB this week. If Gordon misses Week 16, Farrow will face the Browns, so, yeah, then, too.
Bilal Powell, Jets: The Jets cannot pass. No matter how many QBs they try, they can’t pass. Matt Forte has a long history of knee injuries. He should miss Week 15 against the Dolphins. Not a great matchup for Powell, but the volume in both the run- and pass-game should make him a fantasy point machine.
Devontae Booker and Justin Forsett, Broncos: Not sure if Booker has a stamina problem or a not-good-at-football problem, but 2.72 YPC in his last six games is a problem. The Broncos lowered his volume from averaging 21 touches in the five previous games to only five in Week 14. Forsett is clearly being eased into a bigger role with nine touches off the street and a long history with Gary Kubiak. The whole thing is a stay-away this week against the Patriots, though Forsett as a DraftKings and FantasyDraft GPP play is tempting with the full PPR.
Ryan Mathews and Kenjon Barner, Eagles: Wendell Smallwood has a knee sprain and Darren Sproles is in concussion protocol, following a brutal hit while defenselessly fielding a punt. Neither should play Week 15, but there is no scenario that an Eagles RB would be startable most teams, let alone against the Ravens’ elite run defense.
Rashad Jennings, Paul Perkins, and Shane Vereen, Giants: Stop this.
Dwayne Washington, Zach Zenner, and Theo Riddick, Lions: If Riddick returns, there is a case to made for Checkdown City against a great Giants D, but, no. I still say that Riddick is the only rosterable Lions RB in any PPR league with fewer than 16 teams and any standard league with fewer than 14.
Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael, Packers: The Packers accept their fate to not have a running game, but what about when they have a large lead, as in Week 14? Montgomery had nine carries to Michael’s ten, but outsnapped Michael 30-17. He is clearly the lead back with Michael as the closer, and most of Montgomery’s work is in the slot. Still not starting him in a standard league; 12-team PPR is where it gets tempting because being the only act in town carries touches and TD potential off the bat, especially with this offense improving so much.
Todd Gurley, Rams: At Seattle, on a short week, and already bad? God, no.
Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, Vikings: The Vikings and Jaguars have the worst run blocking in the league. No volume has proven to solve this for Minnesota backs at any point this season. Neither McKinnon nor Asiata are rosterable. Roster Adrian Peterson for his Week 16 comeback against a very meaningful game against the Packers. He is back at practice this week.
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars: As similar as this line is to Minnesota, Yeldon can accumulate yard with volume, as long as Chris Ivory is inactive because he gets the added work in the receiving game. With injuries to Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas and Blake Bortles being a disaster, checkdowns to Yeldon are increasing with 16 targets in the last two weeks on top of 31 carries, averaging 20.25 touches per game without Ivory active. He is a passable PPR flex, as Corey Grant take away any work.
Mark Ingram, Saints: The Saints quit on the run in Week 14, despite the Bucs being a funnel run defense. Their Week 15 matchup in Arizona should have us benching Ingram and Tim Hightower, but, where we are desperate, Ingram can be started while holding our noses.
Travaris Cadet has super deep PPR flex value. Hightower played 19 snaps to Ingram’s 18 in a slow 16-11 loss. Cadet also got 18, though, after 24 (38.7%) the prior week. This seems to be the third direction the Saints have chosen this season. Even if Cadet is the direction just for negative gamescripts, 11 targets over the last two weeks, the Cardinals man defense turns corners’ backs to checkdowns, opening the door for yards after the catch.
Backfields with Multiple Starting Options
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, Falcons: Do not roster Terron Ward. This game got out of hand and Freeman did not have to close it out. Freeman and Coleman have the best matchup on the board, hosting the 49ers in a game where tons of plays will be run. If Julio Jones plays, he will likely be more of a decoy; Mohamed Sanu is non-existent when he is in, so whichever of these two back are on the field serve as a de facto WR2. Treat Freeman as a 20-plus-touch RB who will be the goalline back and Coleman as a 12-plus-touch back with the home run potential.
LeGarrette Blount, James White, and Dion Lewis, Patriots: Blount has at least 18 carries in six of the Pats’ last seven games and has scored 14 of the team’s 26 TDs. The Broncos are most vulnerable when repeatedly pounded on the ground, in the lower quarter of the league in DVOA against the run. The White-Lewis quandry in PPR is becoming easy. White led the backfield with 29 snaps to Blount’s 28 and Lewis’ 17 in Week 14, so Lewis is the discard between the two receiving backs, as White is averaging nearly six targets per game and 11 yards per catch over the last four games.
Timeshares with One Startable Option
Isaiah Crowell, Browns: Robert Griffin III starting for the Browns is a huge boost for Crowell. His read option is not very effective for the offense as a whole, but his RBs have historically performed well in his starts for it. Crowell is averaging 7.95 YPC in Griffin’s two starts versus 4.08 in the other 11 games this year. His 113-yard Week 14 on ten carries followed up a five-game stretch of running for an abysmal 2.2 YPC. Against a Bills defense allowing a below-average 4.3 YPC, Crowell is a fine RB2 in 12-team standard leagues.
Doug Martin, Buccaneers: Martin played 67% of the Week 14 snaps and had 23 carries, despite the return of Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers to the active roster. At Dallas in Week 14, he is hard to bench because dominating the backfield carries is almost guaranteed, but they will be telegraphing the run when he is out there, a negative gamescript could push his snap count under 60%, and Dallas does not allow opposing teams to run many plays because they hold the ball so long with their elite offensive line pushing their great rushing attack. Just don’t chase Sims or Rodgers, trying to predict which of the two are most active in the passing game, as this could just be a split. The Bucs are not the Patriots.
Spencer Ware, Chiefs: The emergence of Tyreek Hill as an all-purpose weapon for the Chiefs has kept Charcandrick West off of the field, consolidating the snaps and carries for Ware. Hosting Tennessee, Ware has an excellent shot at repeating his 20-touch volume, as their closer, getting 19, 17, and 21 touches over their three-game winning streak.
Robert Kelley, Washington: Averaging nearly 20 touches per game in his last six at 4.36 YPC, not even a matchup against the imploding Panthers should scare us. The game is in D.C. and this game has an over-under at 51, so the volume should amount to good fantasy production, despite Washington’s pass game being the primary benefactors of this high-scoring affair.
Handcuff News and Notes:
Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden, Cowboys: McFadden was activated from IR this week and should be ready to go for Week 15 as a receiving back. He should be rostered, as an injury to Ezekiel Elliot would likely amount to a Morris-McFadden timeshare when Morris is a plodder getting goalline scores and McFadden getting good volume in the passing game.
Shaun Draughn, 49ers: DuJuan Harris has moved back to the back of the line. Colin Kaepernick and the read option is benefiting the better receiver in Draughn. Despite only one target last week, Draughn got seven carries and has played on 24, 25, and 27 snaps in the last three weeks to Harris’ 4, 2, and 0.
Jalen Richard, Raiders: This mess has finally filtered to Latavius Murray as the clear bellcow and Richard as the next in line. Richard is second on the team in the last three weeks with 22 touches while DeAndre Washington cannot get on the field.
Alex Collins, Seahawks: Collins has ten touches, including three catches, in Week 14. Troymaine Pope was in the game late for a comeback, for no reason whatsoever other than Darrell Bevell thinks he’s smarter than his best players are good. Collins is the #2 back in this offense.
Week 15 RB Depth Charts
|Bears||Jordan Howard||Jeremy Langford|
|Bengals||Jeremy Hill||Rex Burkhead|
|Bills||LeSean McCoy||Mike Gillislee|
|Broncos||Devontae Booker||Justin Forsett|
|Browns||Isaiah Crowell||Duke Johnson, Jr.|
|Buccaneers||Doug Martin||Charles Sims|
|Cardinals||David Johnson||Andre Ellington|
|Chargers||Kenneth Farrow||Ronnie Hillman|
|Chiefs||Spencer Ware||Charcandrick West|
|Colts||Frank Gore||Robert Turbin|
|Cowboys||Ezekiel Elliott||Darren McFadden|
|Dolphins||Jay Ajayi||Damien Williams|
|Eagles||Ryan Mathews||Kenjon Barner|
|Falcons||Devonta Freeman||Tevin Coleman|
|49ers||Carlos Hyde||Shaun Draughn|
|Jaguars||T.J. Yeldon||Corey Grant|
|Jets||Matt Forte||Bilal Powell|
|Lions||Theo Riddick||Ameer Abdullah|
|Packers||Ty Montgomery||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||Troymaine Pope|
|Steelers||Le'Veon Bell||Fitzgerald Toussaint|
|Texans||Lamar Miller||Alfred Blue|
|Titans||Demarco Murray||Derrick Henry|
|Vikings||Jerick McKinnon||Adrian Peterson|
Stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com.