Three weeks left in the Fantasy Football regular season, and in most leagues, the trade deadline is quickly approaching. If you’re a buyer making that push toward the playoffs, congratulations! We’ll take a look at a small group of running backs who could make a major difference down the stretch because of injury to their team’s primary option, the decision by coaches and front office personnel to turn the page and look at what assets they have for 2016, or both. If there is an opportunity to pick up someone who might have a major role in Weeks 14-16, now is the time to scout them and see who is worth a flier. Let’s dive into the RBBC Report for Week 11 and find out which running backs to target down the home stretch.
Charcandrick West (24 carries, 69 yards, 1 TD; 3 rec., 92 yards, 1 TD): After his first start in post-Charles 2015, it looked pretty grim for West and the Fantasy Footballers who blew their FAAB wads on the guy. Since his Week 6 dud (9 carries, 31 yards against Minnesota), West has averaged 22 carries per game, and piled up four touchdowns and 276 rushing yards in three games. He’s getting all the goal line work, and has the full trust of Alex Smith and Andy Reid. The door will open for Knile Davis if West is injured, and that would make him a must-add in all formats to close out the year. If you own West and you’re in anything but the shallowest of leagues, Davis is a must-add down the stretch as budgets dwindle. The Chiefs get the Chargers, Bills, and Raiders in Weeks 11-14, which offers two plus games for running backs on the road, plus the Bills at home in between. West is a definite RB2 with upside going forward. TRENDING UP
Isaiah Crowell (6 carries, -5 yards; 1 rec., 4 yards): I’ve said it before, but Johnny Manziel is kryptonite for running backs. Teams will live and die with the results if Manziel beats them in the air by slinging it all over the field, but most teams have the confidence in their defensive units and game plan to know that’s very unlikely. Crowell out-touched Duke Johnson six carries to four against the Steelers, but didn’t produce a single positive yard. Now that Josh McCown has been deposed, bench this Browns running back. I think Johnson remains the one to own and could have FLEX appeal because of his unique skill set coupled with the rash of injuries we’ve seen hit so many running backs across the league, but in running back decisions as it is in everyday life, avoid Cleveland if you can. TRENDING DOWN
Chris Johnson (25 carries, 58 yards): Going into Sunday night’s divisional matchup with the Seahawks, the most appropriate stat I found was that the Seahawks haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 11 of 2014. The stat held up again this week, but the promising part of it for Johnson owners was that he still received 25 carries, meaning the coaching staff had every confidence that he had a chance to succeed. That confidence in the aging back is noteworthy as we head down the stretch. The Cards have three potentially difficult matchups for their running back coming up when they take on the Bengals at home on Sunday, followed by divisional games at San Francisco and St. Louis. It remains to be seen whether the latter two teams will play them tough, or if they’ll have long since waved the white flag on this season and go quietly into that good night. Johnson may end up being in the Fantasy MVP conversation at the end of the year given he wasn’t even drafted in a majority of leagues, and has performed at the level or better of at least a handful of first and second round players. I didn’t think I’d be saying it in 2015, but Chris Johnson was the pickup of the year in the NFL. HOLD
Matt Jones (11 carries, 56 yards; 3 rec. 131 yards, 1 TD): I wrote off the Redskins’ whole offense a week or two or nine ago when it appeared that they had absolutely no shot at producing, particularly in the running game. Jay Gruden abandoned the run almost entirely, as evidenced in games in which they garnered 7-10 carries between the entire running back committee. Well, as we now know, playing the Saints (no longer) led by Rob Ryan, cures what ails ya. The Redskins dominated the Saints all afternoon, even when it seemed like they’d go shot-for-shot early. Washington totaled 514 yards of total offense, and even Alfred Morris, who missed time in the first quarter because of a rib issue managed his most productive game since Week 1, going for 92 yards on 15 carries. But the story was Jones because of his prowess running with the football after the catch. I’m not saying rush out and outbid everyone to pick him up, but he’s a waiver wire flier who could be great these last few weeks. Better to have a guy like Jones sitting on your bench than wasting that spot on a backup QB, Wes Welker, or even C.J. Anderson at this point. TRENDING UP
Jeremy Langford (20 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD; 7 rec. 109 yards, 1 TD): Matt who? Jeremy Langford is at the top of the list of backs who seem to have earned more opportunities – even after Matt Forte returns. Remember, Forte was rumored to be on the trading block a few weeks ago, and based on how Langford has availed himself in Forte’s stead, it would seem we’re headed toward more of a timeshare, even if it’s to the tune of a 70/30 workload split. The Bears have a soft schedule down the stretch with games against the Niners, Skins, Buccaneers, and Lions over the final five weeks. Is it inconceivable to imagine them competing for the second Wild Card with the Packers or Vikings and Seahawks? I should say not, especially if they keep playing well. The next two weeks should be tough, facing a Broncos team without Peyton Manning, and a very hungry Packers squad. But after amassing 324 total yards and three touchdowns over the past two weeks (both victories), Langford is definitely worth hanging onto once Forte is back, and could even become a FLEX play down the line. HOLD
Ronnie Hillman (11 carries, 42 yards, 1 TD; 2 rec., 9 yards): Brock Osweiler gets the start this week as Peyton Manning deals with a tear in his plantar fascia, and going from one of the three greatest quarterbacks of all-time to a guy called Brock Osweiler might actually be great news for Hillman and C.J. Anderson. Hillman outpaced Anderson, again, in the dismantling at the hands of the Chiefs on Sunday, receiving 11 carries to Anderson’s two. The Broncos will head to Chicago to take on the Bears, and given the change at quarterback, we could absolutely see a ground control game that features 13 or more carries for each back, something they accomplished in their Week 8 win against Green Bay when Anderson went for 101 yards on 14 carries plus a score, and Hillman garnered 19 carries, 60 yards, and two touchdowns. That seemed to be a recipe for success then, so why couldn’t they repeat it this weekend? TRENDING UP
Additional Notes: Going back to the earlier point about late-season additions that could pay dividends in a playoff run if anyone else falls victim to the injury plague, here are just a few names to consider, but by no means break the FAAB bank on this weekend:
Jordan Todman is the likely heir to starting duties if DeAngelo Williams slows down because of his foot ailments. He could recover and be fine, or he could miss time, as he tends to do almost annually because of some kind of issue. Todman wouldn’t produce at the level Williams has, but opportunity has value, and he could see 12-15 touches per game if Williams goes down.
Adrian Peterson shows no signs of aging, particularly when he gets called upon 26 times, and delivers 203 rushing yards and a touchdown for his now 7-2 first place Vikings. However, if the Vikes were to somehow secure the division in the next two to three weeks, I could absolutely see the coaching staff downshifting on Peterson, preserving his legs and saving him from unnecessary tackles and hits, and lean more on Jerick McKinnon. It probably wouldn’t happen until Week 15 or 16, but he’s a name to keep in mind. Their schedule is brutal over the next month (Packers, at Falcons, Seahawks, at Cardinals) so it’s unlikely, but file McKinnon away as a stash pick-up, particularly for A.P. owners. Dump the Pierre Garcons and Steadman Baileys of the world, and get that insurance policy for one of the best in the game.
Finally, David Cobb, the rookie down in Tennessee who has yet to be activated could be the late season stash that pays off in a big way. Cobb was a highly touted rookie in the summer, who has spent much of the season on the PUP/I.R. designated for return list. Well, that time for a return looks like it’s this week. At 2-7, the Titans are playing for 2016, so why not see what you’ve got in your fifth-round pick? Cobb is a downhill runner with power, and he could provide a real spark to a sluggish offense without many big-play players. In combination with the lightning quick Dexter McCluster, perhaps the Titans could have a formidable one-two punch for Marcus Mariota to develop? Grab Cobb this week via FAAB if you’re willing to gamble on an upside player with a very low floor.