It’s past the halfway point for a majority of Fantasy Football leagues, and is now the part of the season when the winnowing begins. Whether it’s because of sound drafting, quality free agent pickups, or attrition that has sunk other teams, a few teams in every league are probably sitting pretty while the majority of teams slug it out. For what it’s worth, I would be willing to bet that, of the teams in each league that are in the Top-3 right now, one of them probably owns Dion Lewis. He’s been a revelation for owners who took a chance on the Patriots’ backfield before Week 1, figuring that somebody has to run the ball while LeGarrette Blount served his time. Lewis has exceeded even the most bullish projections at the outset, and has topped 100 points in PPR formats, delivering no less than 15 points in five of seven Patriots games (one of which he missed because of an injury).
Another important item this week is, yet again, injuries. The bodies are piling up at running back now, as we saw the season end for Le’Veon Bell after a knee injury, possibly the end of Reggie Bush’s career after a freak fall on the St. Louis Rams’ concrete ring of death, Carlos Hyde is ailing as well, and additional damage to medial collateral ligament of Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears.
DeAngelo Williams (9 carries, 71 yards; 4 rec. 39 yards): The story of Williams’ ignominious departure from Carolina, much like the one of another injured competitor, Steve Smith, was one that everyone saw coming because of continued poor performance and advancing age. Fast forward to Week 1, 2015 when a slimmed down Williams ripped it up against the Patriots and totaled an impressive 132 total yards filling in for Le’Veon Bell. “No way he does it again,” they said. And they were wrong. In Week 2, he was equally impressive in another win at San Francisco, amassing 92 yards and three touchdowns against a toothless Niners squad. The time has come to see what Williams can do for the Black and Gold after losing Bell – arguably the most valuable and multi-talented running back in the NFL – for the season. With seven games to go in most Fantasy Football leagues, will he be able to hold up to the workload at 31-years of age? I should say so. With Martavis Bryant back, and Ben Roethlisberger healthy enough to suit up and setup the passing game, I still think the Steelers can challenge for a Wild Card spot along with the Jets, Raiders, and possibly the Chiefs. If he’s out there on the wire in your league, bid everything you have on this guy regardless of the health of your stable of backs. Boxing out others is just as valuable, and creates a trade market. He’s a Top-10 running back this week, and could be for the remainder of 2015. TRENDING WAY UP
Frank Gore (22 carries, 70 yards; 3 rec. 22 yards): The Kobe Bryant of the NFL, Gore remains valuable only for as long as his volume of work remains at a peak. He’s not nearly the same player he had been in San Francisco, and that’s not entirely his fault. Pep Hamilton is out as Offensive Coordinator in Indy after struggling with play-calling all season, which has had an effect on the entire offense. Furthermore, Andrew Luck hasn’t been 100 percent for weeks thanks to broken ribs and an ailing shoulder, as revealed last week. The team signed Ahmad Bradshaw two weeks ago, which will eventually result in a time-share situation to keep the older legs fresh. Could that mean a 50/50 snap count ratio for the two men with nearly 62 years between them? I think you can count on it, or something very close as the season continues. If you sit in the fray of your league and feel less-than-optimistic about your chances of advancing, particularly a future-focused league such as keeper or dynasty formats, consider shopping Gore now to get some emerging talent. 92 yards in a tough game to watch for three-and-a-half quarters in Carolina is good and you can likely point to the high usage numbers as a positive for other owners looking to shore up their running back situation ahead of a playoff run. Much like the situations being bandied about last week regarding veterans who should be traded to allow for a Super Bowl quest (Steve Smith Sr., Joe Thomas, Vernon Davis, etc.), Gore would make a nice RB2-3 on a potential Fantasy Football playoff team, and could return some useful talent particularly in the face of injuries to Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, Le’Veon Bell, and Matt Forte. HOLD
Gio Bernard (1 carry, 12 yards; 2 rec. 22 yards): A terrible statistical game by any measure, but taken in the context of the overall Bengals’ production on the season, it’s just an anomaly game for an otherwise very productive running back. Bernard was out-touched 16-3 as the team relied more on Jeremy Hill in this one, both to grind out yards and stand in to protect Andy Dalton against a quick defensive front that was in his face all afternoon. I still don’t think that necessarily diminishes Bernard’s workload or value going forward. As we’ve seen all season, his touches are largely game flow-dependent. He remains a solid RB3 with a very high ceiling if Hill falters or becomes injured, and is a borderline RB2 in this week’s matchup against the lowly Browns run defense. HOLD
Eddie Lacy (11 carries, 38 yards, 1 TD; 1 rec. 9 yards): Nobody wants to be the subject of insensitive fat jokes, but that’s the unfortunate reality for Eddie Lacy this year. Some journalists have been wondering if the 15-plus pounds Lacy put on during the offseason is what has held him back thus far, and it’s a fair question to ask. Lacy’s production is way down from a year ago. Over his last three games, he’s gained just 68 total yards (2.4 YPC). He’s being subbed out in the second half of games more often for the svelte(r) James Starks, who has just 11 fewer total yards on the year, and Lacy doesn’t seem to have the conditioning he did. We’ve seen the effects losing some weight has had on guys like DeAngelo Williams, and perhaps Lacy should consider a few more salads these days to help optimize his output. Lacy is a talented back, and a major piece of the now 7-1 Packers’ immediate and long-term future. I remain high on him for the upcoming years, but I’m starting to sour on his chances of being the RB1 everyone drafted him to be (really, the Top-5 running back) and project him to finish outside the Top-25 scoring players among wide receivers and running backs this year. TRENDING DOWN
Jeremy Langford (12 carries, 46 yards): The rookie emerges as one of the top two pickups of the week thanks to a concerning (but not season-ending!) knee injury to Bears’ offense, Matt Forte. Yes, I meant to call him the Bears’ offense because without Forte, the Bears wouldn’t have one this year. He’s as crucial a player to Chicago as many teams’ quarterbacks are to their success, and he has accounted for roughly 30 percent of the team’s total yardage to date. Langford could have one or two weeks of relevance as his stand-in, but I wouldn’t expect anything more than 70 percent of the production Forte is capable of. If you’re a Forte owner, you probably have to go get him to be safe, but as a plug-and-play guy with a limited shelf life, I wouldn’t break the bank for Langford. Plus, the Bears face the Chargers on Monday Night Football this week, and the Rams in Week 10, which could make things a bit tougher on the rookie. I have to put him as a man on the rise, simply because his value, as the 21st Century philosopher/poet laureate Drake said, started from the bottom, and now, we’re here. TRENDING UP
Todd Gurley (20 carries, 133 yards 1 TD; 3 rec. 13 yards): There really aren’t any surprises here, nor any hard-hitting analysis or advice for you to take back to the water cooler. I just wanted to point out that Todd Gurley will be the top-pick in every draft next year and stands to inherit the throne that Adrian Peterson will vacate in 2016 as the top running back in the NFL. The kid is great, and perhaps will become even greater as his health truly returns to 100 percent and he enters his prime with an emerging Rams team. That’s all. TRENDING UP
Latavius Murray (20 carries, 113 yards; 1 rec. 6 yards): One of my favorite players, and a guy who, as I said in last week’s installment, rises to a Top-10 running back in 2016, Murray had a helluva game against the vaunted Jets defense in a surprise victory. I, along with many, did not expect that type of production, and while it would’ve been nice if Derek Carr could’ve ceded one of his four touchdowns to the ground game, the arrow is pointing way up for Murray. The Raiders will visit the Steelers in a game that now looks somewhat more winnable given the injury to Bell, and could really go a long way toward putting them right in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card spot. Murray will continue to dominate the touches among the Raiders’ stable of talent with Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reese serving as sporadic assistance while Murray gets a blow. The Raiders have a great nucleus of offensive talent, and a sneakily underrated defense that I would say has at least a 50/50 chance of upsetting the likes of the Colts if they were to get the fifth seed in the AFC (and assuming the Colts win the AFC South, obviously). What a story it’d be, and if it is going to happen, it’s going to be thanks in large part to Murray holding up, and delivering down the stretch. TRENDING UP