Rashad Jennings Trending Up, Derrick Henry Trending Down
There are just two games remaining in the Fantasy Football regular season, which means it’s time to hunker down, utilize the remaining FAAB bucks you have wisely to position yourself for a deep run, and keep the pedal to the metal. Week 11 was a tough one for a lot of running backs. T.J. Yeldon, Giovani Bernard, Ryan Mathews, LeSean McCoy, and Mark Ingram all got a bit dinged up from injuries that have them day to day or, in at least Bernard’s case, done for the season.
Thomas Rawls – With the jettisoning of Christine Michael and the news that C.J. Prosise is done for the year after fracturing his scapula, the return of Rawls from his broken fibula seems like it’s perfect timing. For owners who stuck by their man, it just might be. Rawls is in a prime position to take on the majority of the work for the Seahawks, and the offense is certainly clicking of late. With the next few games against the Bucs, Panthers, Packers, and Rams, I wouldn’t say they have an easy slate, but Rawls should be able to get himself back to fifth gear with another week of work under his belt. He’s a FLEX play this week, and is heading steadily north toward RB1 because of the workload. He’s a candidate for “season changer” for his owners down the stretch.
Jeremy Hill – Hill’s had an up and down year, but he now looks to be trending toward RB1 status because of the injury to Bernard. The Week 11 stinker against the Bills isn’t a good indicator because Bernard’s injury happened late in the fourth quarter, and Hill didn’t really get to assume the lion’s share of the work. Nonetheless, he had 16 carries and that should go up with both Bernard vacated from the backfield, and with A.J. Green looking like a dicey play because of his hamstring injury. If Jeremy Hill could recapture the magic of 2014, while keeping the fumble-free mojo of now, he’s poised to become a weekly RB1 start.
Rashad Jennings – This call isn’t as long-term focused as the previous two, but after managing 129 yards and a touchdown in Week 11, he’s a fine play against the hapless Browns this Sunday. While the Giants have rattled off five straight wins, and remain within striking distance of the division-leading Cowboys, Coach McAdoo will continue to rely on his best back, to the detriment of the development of rookie Paul Perkins. With two consecutive games of 100-plus yards from scrimmage, and a third likely this weekend, Jennings is a solid RB2 play in all formats.
Mark Ingram – Ingram may have made this side of the list even before his apparent concussion, and that is simply because the human cockroach that is Tim Hightower, the running back who, despite being away from football for over a year, just won’t go away. Hightower continues to eat into Ingram’s workload, and may get a full dose this weekend if Ingram is unable to go. Ingram had a great Week 9 against the lowly 49ers, amassing over 160 yards from scrimmage with a score. Since then, it’s been relatively quiet for the Alabama product, with his carries decreasing each week. Hightower is a FLEX play consideration regardless of Ingram’s health, and becomes something of an RB2 play against the Rams who allowed 98 yards to the Dolphins last Sunday, and nearly 140 the week prior against the Jets. Ingram is a risky FLEX play until we see how his role changes.
Ryan Mathews – This season has been a roller coaster of emotion for Mathews owners after he started the year hot with three touchdowns in his first two games, then dropped a two carry, minus five-yard stink burger on us in Week 3 against the Steelers (an Eagles win!), and the pattern continued. Weeks 8-10 were replete with four scores, including a 139-yard, two-score day against the Falcons, and we saw Mathews sustain a knee injury that has him day-to-day leading up to a matchup with the Seahawks. When you draft Ryan Mathews, you expect him to be injured at some point. Doug Pedersen isn’t making it easy on us by vacillating between Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and even Kenjon Barner, who had a sniff for a couple of weeks. If Mathews cannot suit up on Monday, Smallwood should reap the benefits. This is a muddy situation not for the feint of heart. I’ve put my money on Smallwood in a couple of leagues and hope that the uncertainty around Mathews’ health and overall role results in the coaching staff giving the rookie a look. Mathews is a dicey RB2/FLEX play down the stretch.
Derrick Henry – I had high hopes for the rookie entering the season, figuring the Titans would be bad, DeMarco Murray would be washed up, and they’d start the youth movement in Music City. Well, the Titans are vaguely in the playoff picture, two games out of the AFC South lead, DeMarco Murray is an MVP candidate (a Most Improved Player at the very least), and Henry played just three snaps this past Sunday. The talent is certainly there, the opportunity is not. Henry is a keeper/dynasty stash, and probably a top-shelf handcuff for Murray owners, but he can be dropped in redraft leagues if there are better options. Personally, I’d hold him just in case, but if someone like Rob Kelley is on the wire in your league (what?!), go grab him.