Week 13 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.
Duke Johnson, Jr. and Isaiah Crowell, Browns: Stay tuned to news here. Hue Jackson is still non-committal to whom will be the starting QB. Snap counts are pretty split between these two, but the offensive line is terrible up the middle and they are 0-12, so Checkdown City to protect their QB from getting killed can give these two 14-team PPR flex appeal, but that is it.
Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, Giants: Jennings and Paul Perkins keep doing nothing, equally, other than prove their unusability is mathcup-proof. Vereen is worth mentioning because he returned to practice last week, and we should not be concerned when he returns, as his injury was a torn triceps muscle, not anything to a body part of general regressive concern to a RB.
T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, Jaguars: Ivory missed Week 13 with a hamstring injury and Denard Robinson got 18 touches to Yeldon’s 17. Robinson is going to miss time with a high ankle sprain he suffered, so people will get tempted with Yeldon, but this Jags offensive line is in the bottom-three of the leauge, hence no one being able to produce from back there. Yeldon and his 3.6 yards per carry (YPC) is unstartable against a vulnerable Vikings run defense, even if Ivory and Robinson are inactive.
Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael, Packers: After Starks did his little 41 yards in 17 carries fail-a-thon, the Packers largely ignored he and his 2.3 YPC, playing a season=low seven snaps. Michael led the team with nine carries, but only played 11 snaps; Montgomery played 29 snaps all over the field, but was more of a short-yardage receiver. This team has (rightfully!) given up on running, other than to close out wins.
Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, Vikings: This may be the worst run blocking bunch in the league. McKinnon cannot get the volume to accumulate yardage because they get to 3rd down so fast that Asiata is necessary for blocking. The short passing game is basically their run game, hence the guaranteed volume for Stefon Diggs. McKinnon has broken 45 rushing yards only once this year and only has one TD to show for his career-high 115 carries. This line is bad. Neither are rosterable in any format.
Devontae Booker and Justin Forsett, Broncos: Booker keeps getting the volume. Despite 18-plus carries in four of his last five starts, he has only had double-digit fantasy points once, due to his abysmal 2.8 YPC over that span, so forseeing TD regression is hard, let alone the utility of it. He was about to lose his job to Kapri Bibbs, but Bibbs is now on IR, so it is just him and Justin Forsett, who Denver signed off waivers Monday.
Forsett has a very long history with Gary Kubiak, so Booker’s snap count could go down, as Forsett is called upon to read blitzes and run short routes in the pass game. Denver is still fighting for a playoff spot, so for us to trust Booker is to trust that Kubiak still will. He is really impossible to start in a fantasy playoff game against a vulnerable Titans run D, but may be flex-worthy for volume against Pats and Chiefs in the following two weeks after the wait-and-see approach to this week.
Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles, Eagles: Smallwood is an excusable flex in a 12-team standard league, Sproles in a 12-team PPR, but where are the TDs? That said, this is Washington they play, who is 30th in DVOA against the run and 29th in YPC allowed.
The Eagles have a good defense and a bad offense, so in a pick ‘em spread, I am surprised to see this over-under at 46.5 and over. I’m not alone, as this line opened at 47.5 and has fallen, but Philly has to get some end zone life from somewhere and Washington’s funnel run defense with the line says that Smallwood is in for a ceiling game, but reports are that Ryan Mathews is “ready to go” for Week 14. Ugh, this again.
Theo Riddick, Lions: Riddick went from must-start to questionable, despite likely dominating the snap count. Marvin Jones should miss Week 14 and this funnels the ball to Golden Tate, which never bodes well for Riddick.
Todd Gurley, Rams: Gurley has been awful and the Rams are 6.0-plus-point dogs on the road, so sticking with ignoring him seems like the right play. But the Falcons are 27th in DVOA against the run, so it is hard to bench him in a 12-team league. I just still don’t see him as a top-25 play, as Atlanta is sneakily only 22nd in YPC allowed, which is a boost from their DVOA rank. L.A. won’t hit 20 points, according to the market, and there is no indication this game is at all competitive, so my lean is to keep ignoring Gurley. But desperate times make for desperate decisions.
Backfields with Multiple Startable Options
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, Falcons: Coleman has played 32 snaps (~45%) each of the two weeks since his return from injury. If this is easing him back into the game, we can expect the 50-50 split forecasted earlier in the season, where Freeman and Coleman are the WR2, depending on whom is on the field. With Julio Jones (toe) acting as a decoy much of last week and Mohamed Sanu (groin) missing practice this week, the 15-20 touch range for Freeman and 14-18 range for Coleman should see upticks as big favorites at home.
LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis, Patriots: No need to get deep into Blount’s usage. It is there and not going anywhere, especially near the end zone with Rob Gronkowski on IR and Martellus Bennett being a blocking TE. In PPR, Lewis is always on the rise, as James Wwite gets phased out of the offense, capped under 40% of snaps.
Against a great Ravens defense, Blount is just a standard league hope-and-pray for that TD, but Lewis’ run should expand, lining up as a WR and out of the backfield. Expect his snap count to rise closer to the 40% range this week, as White’s may start to fall under 30%.
Backfields with One Startable Option
Doug Martin, Buccaneers: Whatever. Maybe? We cannot bench Martin in seasonal leagues, despite Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers’ returns, but Sims are Rodgers are no-gos and there is no way I am touching Martin in DFS. The Saints run D is allowing under 3.0 YPC in the last four weeks and Martin’s snap count is now threatened to fall under 60% if this is the shootout that Vegas predicts, as the only over-under higher than 50 this week.
Mark Ingram, Saints: Tampa is no longer a doormat. They are up to 12th in DVOA, but have become a funnel run D—9th against the pass and 23rd against the run. Drew Brees on the road is kind of a thing, but the bigger “thing” is that the game cannot be as fast on the road for New Orleans as it is on the road.
If Ingram (toe) is good enough to suit up for Week 14, don’t worry about Tim Hightower. Ingram is averaging 7.76 YPC with four TDs in the five weeks since this timeshare began.
Robert Kelley, Washington: The line in this game is very intriguing, I cannot let go of it. Philly has been such a strong D that ranking 4th in DVOA against the pass and 9th against the run, we have to just trust the Washington offensive line to get it done for Kelley. Chris Thompson is just a blocking back, as Kelley now has five straight weeks of 15 or more touches, with three over 20.
Week 14 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||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|
|Eagles||Wendell Smallwood||Darren Sproles|
|Falcons||Devonta Freeman||Tevin Coleman|
|49ers||Carlos Hyde||DuJuan Harris|
|Giants||Rashad Jennings||Shane Vereen|
|Jaguars||Chris Ivory||T.J. Yeldon|
|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||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.