It’s been a heck of a season in the NFL this year, one with some players breaking out and even more breaking down on the drive toward our Fantasy Football championship. It seems like this happens every season, but once again, first and second round talent at the running back position has underwhelmed based on expectations. Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Anderson, Jeremy Hill, DeMarco Murray, and even Le’Veon Bell, who would’ve most likely been great had it not been for injury, all fell short of what was expected. The only running back in the Top-10 who met or exceeded expectation was Adrian Peterson, the ageless one who has been excellent all season, leading the Vikings to a playoff-caliber year.
If you were drafting for 2016 tomorrow, could you see yourself picking Antonio Brown third overall? Second? Heck, even first? You can set your watch to the guy getting looks, making plays, and having a direct impact on your chances to win every single week. He has 116 catches on an eye-popping 167 targets through 14 games! That’s outrageous!
So perhaps grabbing him with the first pick and then grabbing running backs in the second and third round will make more sense as we pour over the numbers and evaluate which rosters fared best. When you have players like Devonta Freeman, Jonathan Stewart, and before he was placed on IR, Dion Lewis delivering legitimate RB1/RB2 value in most leagues and being drafted during or after the fourth round, the benefit to having standout wide receivers seems even more appealing. Oh well, that discussion is for another day. Let’s focus on this last week of the season, and which backs may give Fantasy teams the best chance at securing the crown and earning bragging rights among friends.
Darren McFadden (16 carries, 100 yards; 2 rec. 13 yards): It looks like this is Kellen Moore’s show for the next two weeks, so things cannot possibly get any worse than they were for Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and the Cowboys’ passing game. However, McFadden continues to impress with his quickness and willingness to dish out some hits while he struggles for yardage. Against the staunch defense of the Jets, McFadden displayed some of that early career magic on a relatively modest amount of carries. It will be interesting to see what the Cowboys do in 2016 at the position (DeMarco Murray’s return?), but for Week 16, the Cowboys travel to Buffalo for a tough game against the Bills. I like McFadden to top 18 carries, and with the championship on the line you have to like hearing that your RB3 will be getting full-time work. Start him with confidence as a mid-range RB2 or a high-end FLEX. TRENDING UP
Cameron Artis-Payne (14 carries, 59 yards; 2 rec. 34 yards): The fifth-round rookie, who was deactivated for four games this year, proved my Mike Tolbert call faulty at least for one week. As the Panthers continue their quest for an undefeated season, it remains to be seen whether Jonathan Stewart will rest another week or come back, but signs point to the Panthers resting their starter for at least another week. C-Payne gets a plus matchup against the Falcons in Week 16, which could place him firmly in the RB3/FLEX tier. It’d be hard to trust him as a 1:1 Stewart stand-in, as he could easily fall into a three-headed committee if Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whitaker take away some touches because of game flow. But if you’re left scrambling after losing LeSean McCoy or any of the other ailing backs, you could do worse than the rookie who offers a lot of upside, and who Coach Ron Rivera said they want to get going to give him — and the team — some confidence. TRENDING UP
Bilal Powell (6 carries, 25 yards, 1 TD; 5 rec. 57 yards): Chris Ivory has been up and down lately, clearing 85 rushing yards in just two of his last five games, and he has scored only one touchdown in his last six contests. Powell, by contrast, has gotten healthy and topped 75 total yards in each of his last three, scoring twice over the span. He has become an asset in PPR formats, and is only rostered in about 20-percent of Yahoo! leagues. Powell will be a risky RB3 play this weekend against the Patriots. However, no guts, no glory. HOLD
Rashad Jennings (16 carries, 107 yards, 1 TD): Finally, a 100-yard game for a New York Giant running back! The game ended exactly how every Giants fan has come to expect games to end this season, but Jennings was one of the bright spots for the team as they continue to backslide toward the draft lottery. Jennings is a versatile player who can lineup on all three downs, and he appears to have the chance to do so against Minnesota on Sunday night. I see Shane Vereen hanging on to his role, and Andre Williams will serve as a change of pace back; but I see no reason why Jennings can’t amass 15 or more total touches on his way to a RB3/FLEX role. HOLD
Christine Michael (16 carries, 84 yards): It’s amazing how quickly the situation in Seattle has changed. First, Thomas Rawls broke his ankle during their Week 14 game against the Ravens, and was lost for the year. Then DuJuan Harris filled in and did so somewhat ably, figuring to become the lead back for Seattle going forward. Enter Bryce Brown, who was signed off the street to compete with Harris and had everyone thinking timeshare. … until Harris was cut last Tuesday, opening the door for The Bryce Brown Show! Then the team signed former castoff Christine Michael, and he promptly led the team in carries and production, earning the majority of the carries in the second half. Again, all of this happened in less than a week! Heading into Week 16, Michael figures to again be in line for lead duties, but Brown is likely to maintain a role, along with the gracefully-aged Fred Jackson. This is a full-blown committee, which holds the ceilings for each rather low. FLEX Michael if you’re desperate, but with the way Seattle’s passing game has looked lately, I don’t expect more than 15 carries for any one running back against the Rams this week. HOLD
Donald Brown (12 carries, 90 yards; 2 rec. 14 yards): This is NOT an April Fool’s joke or any kind of attempt on my part to simply include my favorite Donald Brown highlight reel moment in one of my last columns of 2015. With Melvin Gordon going down due to a knee injury on Sunday, it would appear that Brown once again has a role to play for the Bolts to supplement the output they receive from the small in stature but not in skill Danny Woodhead. Brown surpassed 100 yards, and while Woodhead was the true star and continues to be an every-week RB2 after finishing last week’s game with just 60 yards but four (!!) touchdowns. Lean on Brown this week if you have to roll the dice, but, again, he’s not likely to get 90 yards on just 12 touches again. If he gets the work (18-plus carries), he could generate enough points to justify throwing him in your FLEX spot this week in a must-win game to close out the year. TRENDING UP