If you’re still checking in, it means you’re still in the hunt for Fantasy Football glory, which is what we all do this for. I wanted to give a quick shout out to the committee of one, the dominator, and perhaps the NFL’s most singularly gifted offensive talent, Le’Veon Bell. Bell had an astounding 38 carries with which he produced 236 yards and three touchdowns. Not to mention the 62 receiving yards to boot. The season has been one of streaks since Bell joined the Steelers after his three-game suspension: they won the first two games in which he was present, lost the next four, and have since won their last four games. He said on Sunday that no one in the NFL wants to play the Steelers right now, and he may be right. But one thing I know to be absolutely true is that no one wants to play a team on which Le’Veon Bell is starting in Fantasy Football.
Below are a few names of ascendant running backs worthy of consideration these next couple of weeks, and a few disappointing duds who may have fizzled out already, and at the worst possible time for owners who expected their contributions to matter at this late stage of the 2016 season.
Bilal Powell – The Jets’ running back earned some prime time in the matchup with the hapless 49ers after starter Matt Forte went down in the first quarter with a knee injury. The 28-year-old career backup ran around, over, and through San Francisco en route to 179 yards from scrimmage and two scores. With a matchup against the Dolphins this week, Powell is a low-end RB1 if Forte (currently “day-to-day”) sits out. Thus far in 2016, he’s been the clear change-of-pace running back for the Jets and has received limited work as a result. However, his gaudy 5.8 YPC is worth focusing on. Surely that would change some over a full season, but even last weekend, he averaged 5 yards per carry on 29 totes against the Niners. Should Forte miss action, Bilal Powell will be the golden goose who allowed many onto their championship match-ups.
Kenneth Farrow – Farrow was little more than a caddy for Melvin Gordon this season, but after Gordon left the game with an apparent hip injury, it became Farrow’s backfield. He finished the game with 78 yards on 18 touches, certainly not setting the world ablaze (and definitely not Gordon numbers). But, this is the time of year when a starting running back getting the plurality of snaps is more valuable than gold. There are rumors that Ronnie Hillman might platoon with Farrow because Mike McCoy prefers the veteran over the UDFA in pass protection. Also, note that the Chargers have former Giants castaway Andre Williams parked on the practice squad, and could call on the plodder to pick up some work, too. Farrow offers the most upside of the bunch, and if he does get the majority of work he’s a mid-range RB2. But, we should all stay vigilant to see what’s expected of him. I’d blow a considerable amount of FAAB bucks on Farrow this week, doubly so if you’re playing (or you yourself are) a Gordon owner.
Kenneth Dixon – The Ravens abandoned the run early on Monday night, and Dixon reaped much of the benefit. He out-touched Terrance West 19-6, and had a team-high 11 targets, indicating just how high the coaching staff is on the rookie. Dixon and West could be a 50/50 split this weekend and beyond, but it’s likely to tilt Dixon’s way long-term. He’s a FLEX play this weekend against the Eagles due to the fact they haven’t allowed an opposing running back more than 80 yards on the ground since October with a slightly rosier outlook in keeper and dynasty formats.
Spencer Ware – While he continues to get the work, Spencer Raleigh Ware III has struggled over the last few weeks. He has failed to top 80 rushing yards in the last six games, and has topped 100 yards from scrimmage just once. On Thursday, he was vultured by Charcandrick West, which made many Ware owners cringe. Could it mean more West going forward? It’s too early to tell. Ware should continue to earn carries and looks in the passing game, but this week’s matchup should illuminate whether they’re heading toward a timeshare. With only three scores on the season, Ware’s value has come from his volume of work as the primary rusher, and his abilities as a pass-catcher, which the Chiefs take advantage of often.
Devontae Booker – The Broncos are struggling right now, and they couldn’t have picked a worse time as they claw and fight to hang onto a Wild Card spot with an absolute murderer’s row schedule over the next three games. They have the Patriots at home this week, followed by contests against Oakland and K.C., and if they don’t win two of the three, their playoff chances look pretty bleak with the Dolphins, Ravens, and the surging Titans all breathing down their neck. The Titans held the Broncos to just 10 points Sunday, and Booker was essentially invisible. The Broncos abandoned the run early, finishing the day with just nine rushes, six of which were handled by man-off-the-street, Justin Forsett. Booker had three carries for one single yard, and added 10 yards on a single reception. Hopes were very high for Booker at one point, but that’s all but gone now. Look for the veteran and Gary Kubiak student Forsett to continue eating into Booker’s work; so much so we might see Forsett merit RB3-4 consideration in Week 16.
Mark Ingram – Averaging 2.0 YPC on seven carries last Sunday, Mark Ingram is banged up and struggling mightily. With Tim Hightower serving as a nice complement for most of the season, Ingram has had his ups and downs: two games of more than 145 yards rushing, two multi-touchdown games; five games with 40 or less rushing yards. The Saints are a confounding team and have been for the last couple of years. This is still a pass-first team, and that’s a big reason why Hightower (who was effectively out of football for two years!) has found a role for himself. He’s a good pass-catcher who can pass block, and though he lacks explosive speed or high-level lateral speed, he hits the hole hard, is a decisive one cut runner, and manages positive yards nearly every rush. Ingram is a risky RB3/FLEX play this weekend as he nurses a turf toe injury and a gimpy knee that has truly limited his effectiveness since Week 12.