Coping With Fantasy Football Skidders Like Kareem Hunt and DeMarco Murray
These Guys Are Killing You! But You're Not Dead Yet. ..
By Tim McCullough
The Fantasy Football regular season comes to an end with Week 13, thus we begin the playoffs and the march to the championship. As you prepare your roster for this section of the schedule, here are five players you need to be worried about for the playoffs.
Kareem Hunt, RB – Kansas City Chiefs – The Week 12 matchup with the Buffalo Bills was an opportunity for Hunt and the Chiefs offense to get back on track, especially since the Buffalo defense is second only to the 49ers in points allowed to the running back position. Instead, Hunt put up his fourth consecutive game without reaching 100 total yards from scrimmage after doing so in each of the first seven games, and he’s averaged just 5.8 FPPG during that span.
The Chiefs have now lost five of their last six games and their offense is trending in the wrong directions in all phases of the game. The team has failed to score 20 points in each of the last three games, which have all been against teams with defenses in the bottom third of the rankings. Quarterback Alex Smith is largely to blame for the problems, as his performance has regressed to the mean after a red hot start. Opposing defenses are stacking the box against the run and daring Smith to beat them through the air.
The schedule ahead can provide Hunt and the rest of the Chiefs’ offense an opportunity to turn things around. After a meeting with the Jets in Week 13, the Chiefs face the Raiders and Chargers in Weeks 14 and 15, teams that have allowed the third and fourth-most points to the running back position. In fact, no team has allowed more rushing yards than the Chargers this season. Week 16 pits the Chiefs against the Dolphins, a team that allowed 201 rushing yards to the Carolina Panthers in Week 10 and can be beaten on the ground when the game script allows. The bottom line is you can only trust Hunt as a flex play with upside for now, and hope that Alex Smith can regain some of his early season magic.
Dak Prescott, QB – Dallas Cowboys – Many analysts point to the loss of Ezekiel Elliott as the source of Dak Prescott’s woes under center. However, while the last three games have been losses in which Prsecott has failed to exceed 179 passing yards and thrown five interceptions, his problems began as early as Week 8, when he threw for just 149 yards with zero touchdowns. Over his last five games, Prescott has averaged just 10.6 Fantasy Points Per Game after averaging 19.3 FPPG over his first 22 games as a starting quarterback, and star receiver Dez Bryant hasn’t caught a touchdown from Prescott since Week 7.
Elliott won’t return until Week 16, a point at which the Cowboys will be out of the running for a playoff spot. Even though the schedule appears favorable for Prescott with the Giants, Raiders and Seahawks on the docket for Weeks 14-16, it’s tough to trust him after such a downward trend in recent weeks. Even with Elliott in the backfield for Week 16 against Seattle, the smart play is to look elsewhere for a quarterback to help you to a championship.
Jay Ajayi, RB – Philadelphia Eagles – We all hoped that when Ajayi was traded to the Eagles that he would take over as their primary workhorse running back. Well, three games later and we’re still waiting. This past week, Ajayi played 22 snaps and carried the ball five times for 26 yards. However, the real story is that he ran for 30 yards on one play, fumbled the ball near the end zone and ended up with negative yardage on his other carries. Meanwhile, LeGarrette Blount has 37 carries over the last three games and his usage has increased each week. In addition, rookie RB Corey Clement has been used just as much as Ajayi over the last three games and Clement has three touchdowns during that span.
At this point it’s clear that the Eagles are going with a committee approach that will continue to limit the value of all three running backs. However, while you can probably slot Blount in as a flex play in deeper leagues, Ajayi has to remain on your bench until his usage changes, something that is unlikely to happen with the Eagles winning games handily.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars – Fournette hasn’t been the same explosive running back he was prior to a lingering ankle injury suffered in Week 6. He averaged 19.1 FPPG over the first six games but that’s down to 6.9 FPPG in the three games since returning in Week 10. Aside from Week 11 when Fournette had 28 carries for 111 yards, he’s only run for 58 yards on 28 carries in the other two games. The problem appears to be that he needs to rest the ankle injury and as long as he continues to play through it, the longer it’s going to take to heal. The schedule ahead looks balanced with good matchups with Indianapolis and San Francisco, but tougher ones against Seattle and Houston. He’s not a must start right now and you have to consider your alternatives each week before making a decision whether to use Fournette. Make sure you have T.J. Yeldon as a handcuff.
Like this tweet if DeMarco Murray is ruining your fantasy football week early.
— FlightMike (@TheFlightMike) November 17, 2017
DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans – You knew before the season that 29-year-old running backs are just inches away from falling off the production cliff. You also knew that the Titans had a young stud named Derrick Henry who was just itching to steal Murray’s job. However, you likely chose Murray based on his performance last season when he produced roughly 14.6 FPPG and played all 16 games. Unfortunately, things haven’t worked out, as Murray has become a touchdown dependent Fantasy play. The only times he’s produced double-digit Fantasy points is in games in which he’s scored a TD, something he’s done in just four of 11 games played.
The schedule ahead looks favorable and tempting with the 49ers and Rams on the docket respectively in Weeks 15 and 16. They are the two teams that have given up the most Fantasy points to running backs. However, unless you’re willing to gamble that Murray’s number gets called for a scoring play, you can’t trust him in your lineup. Consider reserving him if you have another adequate option. Murray has suffered hamstring and knee injuries this year and has not looked healthy at all.
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