Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Doug Martin, Justin Forsett. If I dropped those names on you back in early August, perhaps your guess of what Jeopardy! category they would be included in would have been “Washed Up Running Backs.” Here we are in October, and those are four of the Top-5 rushing yardage leaders (Devonta Freeman sits tied with Johnson and Martin at second with 405 yards) in the NFL.
Week 5 brought some new names to the forefront of consciousness, either because of their stellar play, or because of injury. After turning in yet another red hot performance, Devonta Freeman has done more than enough to solidify his place as the Falcons’ lead back, and a RB1 from here on out. Freeman put up 197 total yards and a touchdown in a hard-fought battle with Washington. In injury news, Jamaal Charles is done for the year after tearing the ACL in his right knee against the Bears. This puts Charcandrick West and Knile Davis in line for a work-split, with De’Anthony Thomas factoring as a pass-catching option out of the backfield.
Onto the list of who’s up, who’s down, and where to look for emerging talent as we approach the halfway mark of the Fantasy Football regular season.
DeMarco Murray (20 carries, 83 yards, 1 TD; 7 rec. 37 yards): A week after demanding more work, Murray got back to his 2014 ways with a solid 120-yard performance in a big win against the Saints. Murray was the clear leader, and Chip Kelly may finally understand that he needs to get his carries to get the engine going. Ryan Mathews had 73 yards and a score on just eight carries thanks to a couple of long runs, but it was Murray’s show. If the Eagles find their stride, and Murray keeps receiving 20 carries per game, he could be back to his RB1 status, but for now, keep him as a mid-range RB2. TRENDING UP
Alfred Morris (8 carries, 17 yards): It would appear that Alf Morris’ time not only as a feature back in Washington, but his tenure in general is in jeopardy. For the second time in three weeks, Morris failed to top eight carries, ceding the lead role to rookie Matt Jones, who didn’t exactly light it up (11 carries, 20 yards, 1 TD) himself. The ‘Skins seem committed to a “hot hand” approach, which is always good for a few frustrated Sundays each season for Fantasy Football players. He’s not a must-hold despite his name recognition and where he was taken, so if there are better options out there (like the man two names down this list), or if you need help in another area, feel free to drop him. TRENDING DOWN
Dion Lewis (6 carries, 34 yards; 8 rec. 59 yards, 1 TD): After being rewarded for his efforts with a new two-year extension this week, Lewis came up with one of the niftiest touchdowns of the week on a 10-yard catch and run that made the Dallas D look silly. That was a recurring theme on Sunday, as the Pats rolled 30-6. Lewis out-touched LeGarrette Blount 14-13, and bested him in total yardage from scrimmage, 93-74. Lewis hasn’t delivered less than 67 yards in a game this season, is averaging 105 yard per game on the year, and he received 11 targets this week. He has to be locked in as an every-week RB2, as the New England offensive machine rolls on through the regular season to the playoffs. HOLD
Charcandrick West: After caddying for Jamaal Charles for the first five weeks, it appears to be West’s time to step to the fore, and be “the man” in K.C. It’s been reported that Andy Reid prefers West to former backup Knile Davis, who filled in ably for Charles in 2014 when he was dealing with ankle issues. I believe this is going to be a total committee approach. Reports out of Kansas City this week are saying that the team worked out two out-of-work backs in Pierre Thomas and Ben Tate, so the team may be looking to add options. If they don’t add another player, they’ll have West, Davis and De’Anthony Thomas to lean on. Thomas is an interesting pickup because, at least in Yahoo! Leagues, he has dual WR/RB eligibility, making him a nice stash in PPR leagues. He figures to play a major role, and I can see all three of these players getting 10-12 touches a game. It’ll be dicey to throw major FAAB bucks at any one of them, and it depends on your depth at the RB position too, but if I was a Charles owner who needs help and didn’t handcuff with him, I’d say trust the reports from the team, and go with West. TRENDING UP
Mark Ingram (12 carries, 57 yards; 2 rec. 17 yards): Ingram failed to clear double-digit points this week for the first time all season, as the Saints had to play catch-up after falling behind in the second half. The game was 10-10 with about 11 minutes to go in the third quarter, but the Eagles rattled off 29 straight points to send the reeling Saints to their fourth loss. Ingram only received four carries in the second half, so his stat line suffered because of the team’s lack of performance after halftime. Ingram is the clear leader in the backfield, with Khiry Robinson working in here and there (five carries for 30 yards in Week 5), sometimes frustrating Ingram owners. C.J. Spiller is a case I don’t understand. The expectations going into this season for the ex-Bills player were that he would thrive in the pass-catching third-down back role formerly occupied by Darren Sproles, and utilize his speed to create matchup problems for defenders. We’re still waiting for that to happen, as his usage is just too spotty to trust as anything beyond a benchwarmer. Ingram remains a solid RB1 option, and while his team’s performance holds his value down a bit, he’s still a good week-to-week bet to receive 15-18 touches and 90-plus total yards. Hopefully, those touchdowns come, but he remains an every-week starter in all formats. HOLD
Jeremy Hill (8 carries, 13 yards; 1 rec. 12 yards): Hill continues to frustrate owners with his erratic play and uneven usage. The coaching staff insists – and rightly so – that they want to stick with the run and have it be the foundation of the Bengals’ offensive game plan. The fact is, Andy Dalton is the passing yardage leader in the NFL, is protecting the ball by not allowing foolish turnovers, and is leading a potent aerial attack that is complemented by the run, not vice versa. At 5-0 for the first time since 1988, the Bengals really don’t have to tinker with the formula too much, making Hill a nice-to-have, but maddening to start, RB2. He’s becoming way too touchdown dependent for my liking and with game flow dictating whether or not he or Gio Bernard are behind Dalton, it’s not going to change soon. I wouldn’t drop him, but trading Hill to a desperate Charles owner shut out of the West/Davis/Thomas action this week is certainly an option. He’s a timeshare RB2 that will rely on red zone work and late game salting to beef up his stat lines, and as mentioned, with the Bengals having such success in the passing game with A.J Green and Tyler Eifert proving to be stars at their positions, it’s a risky move to count on Hill going forward. TRENDING DOWN
Chris Johnson (11 carries, 103 yards): The 4-1 Cardinals have a plus 100 points differential against opponents thus far, and lead the league in points scored with an eye-popping 190. They’re doing a lot of their damage in large part thanks to this man, a guy who was shot in the offseason and all but forgotten through most of training camp. The Cardinals found him on the scrap heap, and all he’s done is become the second-leading rusher in the league, on pace for nearly 1,300 yards, which would be his best total in five years. This Arizona offense is potent, as they have scored 48, 47, and 42 points in three of their wins (the other win was a measly 31-point effort). They have the Ravens at home before traveling to Cleveland for a tilt at the Dog Pound ahead of their Week 8 bye. I can only perform so many mea culpas, but I was wrong about Johnson slipping to the background once Andre Ellington returned. He remains the starter, and a good RB2 option week in and week out. That said, Ellington and rookie David Johnson scored three TDs between them this weekend, as Johnson was parked on the sideline once the game got out of hand. Of course, with touchdowns hard to predict, it’d be hard for owners to be upset with 100-yard plus production each week from their RB2 or FLEX depending on how you drafted, and when you grabbed him. He’ll continue to be counted on by Arizona, making him all the more necessary to your Fantasy Football success. TRENDING UP
The Broncos are 5-0, which continues to defy logic when you consider Peyton Manning has more interceptions than TDs, and their running game, “led” by tandem garbage sandwiches C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman is essentially non-existent, averaging less than 72 yards per game, good for 30th overall in the NFL. Getting rid of C.J. Anderson will be an imperative if he fails to do anything this week against a Browns defense that has been consistently gashed on the ground. If past performance is the best indicator of future success, I wouldn’t count on him breaking out. … Similarly maddening is the Detroit backfield, averaging an anemic 47 yards per game on the ground under new OC Joe Lombardi. Sitting at 0-5 for the first time since their winless season, it is clear that whatever they’re doing isn’t working in the Motor City, and change is going to come sooner than later. Zach Zenner, he of the outsized pre-season buzz fame, led the team with 10 carries for a meager 30 yards this weekend, while prized rookie Ameer Abdullah only handled six carries for an even worse 17 yards. The most productive member of the backfield was Theo Riddick, who managed a 10 catch, 53-yard day with a touchdown to boot. I am tempted to pick up Riddick in PPR leagues, figuring he’s a check-down machine who figures to get at least 6-7 receptions a week going forward. Don’t ditch Abdullah in dynasty or keeper formats just yet, but in re-drafts, saying sayonara to the whole lot of them is probably the best bet for your personal well-being. … Latavius Murray was hurting this week (13 carries, 39 yards; 3 rec. 18 yards) and was eventually pulled in the second half to protect him from further injury. He remains on the RB2 radar for the competitive Raiders with no real threat to his usage in terms of carries. Marcel Reese has reprised his 2013 role as a capable blocking fullback with good hands out of the backfield, earning seven receptions, 49 yards, and one touchdown in relief. Finally, it was great to see two veterans contribute some really solid stats in Thursday night’s Colts vs. Texans match-up. Arian Foster was a factor all second-half, and finished with 19 carries for 41 yards to go along with nine receptions for 77 yards. Across the field was Frank Gore, a player I and many others thought was cooked. He wound up finishing with 22 totes for 98 yards and one score. Between him and the signal-caller leading the team on Thursday (Matt Hasselbeck), the Colts had about 71 years of NFL experience between them, and at least on this night, that’s exactly what they needed. Foster is an upside RB1 when he finally gets to 100 percent healthy after missing the first three weeks of the season, and Gore is an RB2-3 depending on what Andrew Luck looks like when he returns. If the Colts go with the 2-0 Hasselbeck for a third straight week, Gore is a clear RB2 with a floor of 15 carries.