With just four weeks left in the Fantasy Football regular season, it is now the time of year when the FAAB budgets will begin to flow much more freely for anyone with a balance remaining. Heading into Week 10 with more injury news for running backs like Dion Lewis tearing his ACL, Matt Forte still ailing, DeAngelo Williams’ reported foot injury, and even Chris Ivory continuing to get back on track after leg and quad issues that have limited his effectiveness (23 carries for 26 yards on Sunday) along with some lackluster O-line play, according to him. Because of this, anyone with even a chance at double-digit carries is going to be highly sought after. The thing is, there just aren’t many out there, so if Jeremy Langford was smartly snatched up before the Bears played the Chargers, he’s not a consideration for many heading into a tough game against the Rams this weekend. Let’s have a look at some of the backs who, heading down this home stretch, may be the keys to a sustained playoff run for those who go after them.
James Starks (10 carries, 36 yards; 6 rec. 83 yards, 1 TD): Starks has ascended to the top of the pile in Wisconsin and it would appear to be due in large part to the shape he’s in versus that of Eddie Lacy, as discussed last week. He out-touched Lacy 16-5, and obviously produced far more than his battery-mate. The Packers brass remains committed to Lacy and wants to get him going as the team tries to bounce back from two straight losses, and stay ahead of the Vikings in the NFC North. However, Starks seems to have earned a 50 percent share at a minimum, and Aaron Rodgers looks far more confident when Starks is on the field, which may be enough to make that happen. TRENDING UP
T.J. Yeldon (14 carries, 64 yards; 3 rec. 37 yards): In a tough matchup against the Jets, Yeldon looked more than capable, carrying the mail for the Jaguars when called upon. Blake Bortles attempted 40 passes in the game, finishing with 381 yards on the day, and was complemented nicely by the running back on the day. Yeldon has had a tough season establishing himself because of the sheer dominance of breakout second-year wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, but has still averaged over four yards per carry on 115 totes. He’s showing he’s a capable back for a young, up-and-coming squad, and he should be a big part of their plans the next few weeks, particularly if Hurns misses any time with his sprained foot. TRENDING UP
Matt Jones (11 carries, 27 yards; 2 rec. 17 yards): Pick your poison in the nation’s capital. Both Jones and Alfred Morris have failed to inspire any confidence among their teams’ owners (including Dan Snyder at this point), and last Sunday was no different. The two combined for 37 yards on 15 carries in what was a putrid offensive performance for three and a half quarters, barely salvaged by a late Jordan Reed touchdown reception. Things are not clicking in Washington, and their stable of RBs can be safely dropped for better options in re-drafts, but Jones is definitely worth a roster spot in all keeper formats simply because of the talent. TRENDING DOWN
Latavius Murray (17 carries, 96 yards; 1 lost fumble): It wasn’t his best afternoon in what ended up being an outrageous shootout featuring two dueling quarterbacks. Derek Carr continues to impress in his second year, with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree – the man they should have drafted instead of Darius Heyward-Bey all those years ago – having proven to be one of the most formidable wide receiver duos in the league. In theory, that is a good thing for Murray, who will see fewer seven and eight man fronts geared toward stopping the run, adding that much needed dimension to the Raiders’ offensive game. It was just the third time this season Murray failed to crack double-digit points on the day, and since he still received 17 carries and looked as quick to get to the corners as he looked powerful between the tackles, the work is still going to be there for Murray so hold him and use him as an RB2 just as in any other week. HOLD
Antonio Andrews (19 carries, 88 yards; 1 rec. 23 yards): New coach Mike Mularkey took the reins from the dispatched Ken Whisenhunt and almost immediately committed to the run as what will setup the rest of the offense for success. Andrews had been pedestrian up to this point, and while he certainly didn’t break onto the scene like a Jerome Harrison of 2009, this was a nice glimpse into what benefit high usage brings to volume backs who require touches to get going. Andrews is a solid RB2-3 fringe if he continues to dominate touches for Tennessee and could provide some great upside down the stretch playing behind a healthy Marcus Mariota pushing his team toward AFC South contention now that it is seemingly, once again, wide open with the news of Andrew Luck’s 2-6 week injury. Expect the Titans to rely on Andrews and the run to setup their passing game – a surprisingly potent one at that, with Delanie Walker, Kendall Wright, and rookie Dorial Beckham-Green offering some really intriguing upside on a relatively young team, too. I’m cautious about anointing him the clear leader until we see what rookie David Cobb looks like in action, and how committed the coaching staff is to Andrews after a very nice Week 9 as a result. TRENDING UP
The New York Giants Running Backs (33 carries, 114 yards, 0 TDs): All four of the Giants’ running backs who dressed had six carries or more in their game against the Buccaneers on Sunday, with Rashad Jennings leading the way with his 13 carries for 48 yards (3.7 YPC). Andre Williams (7 carries, 30 yards) was the most productive on his touches, but that still didn’t stop Ben McAdoo, Tom Coughlin, et al from using all four backs who dressed in some capacity. Whatever it takes to win, they’ll say. But from a Fantasy Football perspective, this backfield is kryptonite and you’d be best advised to ignore it entirely. I’ve been wrong before in guessing who emerges, thinking it would be Williams first, then Orleans Darkwa after a solid Week 8 showing, and I’ve never been a fan of 2015 Jennings, thinking he’d slowly slip down the depth chart and out of the picture. But they’ve all proven me wrong. With a Week 11 bye upcoming, you could make the case for a drop this week to pick up someone with more upside (even Wes Welker?) for these last few games and I’d understand. But with running backs in such high demand, that’s probably not the right move. This is a total lottery ticket situation, but if I had to pick one to hold and trust down the stretch based on anticipated usage, it might actually be Shane Vereen because of his pass-catching ability and strength in protections. This is a pass-first team, so they’ll likely exploit that strength as much as possible. One of the other three may emerge as a red zone threat who gets goal line duties, but it’s also not entirely out of the question for the Giants to pass on three straight downs from the 2-yard line. Vereen is my pick for a late-season surge, but I have about a 25 percent chance of being correct on that, as good a guess as anyone else. HOLD
Additional Notes: Prophetically, I said LeGarrette Blount (29 carries, 120 yards, 1 TD) would factor into the Patriots’ offensive game plan much more going down the stretch. Unfortunately, it was at the expense of Dion Lewis and his “loose” ACL, but nonetheless, Blount is the back to own in Foxboro. James White and Brandon Bolden are worth fliers, but there’s no telling how Belichick & McDaniels will utilize them going forward. … Danny Woodhead (12 touches, 111 total yards, 1 TD) is the clear back to own in San Diego and is another wild card for the stretch run for owners. If you can pry him away from someone, do it. His skill set is so unique, and his diminutive size is actually an advantage in some senses because of his ability to disappear among the bigger bodies, particularly in routes out of the backfield. … Johnny Manziel hasn’t helped the Browns offense much, as evidenced by their performance last Thursday. The lone touchdown scored was on a broken scramble by Manziel, who completed less than 50 percent of his passes and managed just 168 yards through the air. With the Bengals keying on the run to force him to beat them, Isaiah Crowell led the charge with just 10 carries for 38 yards. Duke Johnson remains the top target and a good FLEX candidate because of his versatility, but his stock goes up, as Manziel goes back to the bench and Josh McCown, the NFL’s Ivan Drago, takes over again. That should be a bump for all skill players on the Brownies, which could be reason enough to cut Manziel in the off-season. He’s not the answer.