FOX Sports Exclusive
Thomas becoming a force in Miami
Welcome to the Week 9 edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees. In this space, we’ll look at recent performances and attempt to read the backfield tea leaves to help you with lineup decisions. We’ll post this article each Tuesday, and offer updates in our fantasy coverage throughout the week, including in the Friday morning edition of the FOX Sports Fantasy Buzz Blog!
As usual, this series will focus mainly on the more volatile and/or 50-50 situations, but there are a few non-committee notes as well. If you have any questions, the FOXSports.com fantasy staff is always happy to help. The best ways to reach me are via Facebook or Twitter.
Note: Some of the assessments below could change if a running back – I’m looking at you, Steven Jackson – is dealt before Thursday’s NFL trade deadline.
Week 9 Byes: Patriots, Jets, 49ers, Rams.
LaRod Stephens-Howling had eight carries for six yards against the 49ers, and caught three passes for 32 yards. If you think that’s bad, former free-agent flavor of the week William Powell had NO touches in the game. It’s hard to see starting either guy in Week 9, but LSH is a better emergency option than the now-expendable Powell. Also, remember that Beanie Wells could be ready to return in Week 12.
Did you read all the stuff last week about Jonathan Stewart carrying the load against the Bears? He had 21 touches (17 carries, four receptions) to DeAngelo Williams’ 11, so let’s call Ron Rivera’s comments a half-truth. The usual advice here is to stay away from the Panther backs, but Stewart can be considered against the Redskins’ terrible D, which is worse against the pass than the run, but still just average versus the latter.
DeMarco Murray’s status for Week 9 is still TBD, and we should know more on Wednesday. If Murray can’t go, Felix Jones is still probably a better start than Phillip Tanner against the Falcons. Jones has been ineffective in his two starts, carrying 28 times for 63 yards and a score, but unless we hear news to the contrary from head coach Jason Garrett, we should assume that Jones will get the bulk of the work if Murray is out again.
Hmm … 11 touches for Joique Bell in a close game with no injury to Mikel Leshoure? I’m intrigued enough to pick up Bell, but not start him against the 25th-ranked Jaguars’ run defense. You can flex Leshoure if you need to, but he won’t crack this week’s top 25 when my rankings are ready on Wednesday.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said this on Monday: “James (Starks) will probably be given more opportunities as we go through the week, but there are a number of different factors that are involved with that and the biggest one is Alex Green has earned these opportunities.”
That tells me that Green is still the man, but Starks could get a few more chances to give him some rest. There’s only one back in the league (Darren McFadden) who’s carried more than Green’s 64 times in the last three weeks, so plan to start him against the Cardinals.
This situation hasn’t changed, except for Ben Tate’s lingering and annoying hamstring injury. The Texans aren’t sure when Tate will be ready to practice, and that’s not good coming off a bye week. Though Arian Foster would carry the bulk of the load in Tate’s absence, Justin Forsett could get 8-10 touches and be a deep sleeper if you’re desperate for RB help.
Vick Ballard’s acrobatic, game-winning overtime TD aside, it looks like he (12 carries, 55 yards) and Donald Brown (14 carries, 80 yards) have played themselves into a timeshare. That’s good for the Colts, but bad for their fantasy owners. They’ll both be somewhere around 25-30 in my RB rankings this week, even against the tough Dolphins’ run defense. I’d feel better about it if Delone Carter hadn’t vulture that one-yard TD against the Titans.
Maurice Jones-Drew will miss at least one more game with his foot injury, so plan to start Rashad Jennings again in Week 9 against the Lions. You don’t have a bunch of other running backs that have averaged 25 touches over the past two games, right?
Fantasy owner freakout! Jamaal Charles carried five times for four yards against the Raiders. After the game, head coach Romeo Crennel said he didn’t know why Charles didn’t get the ball more (???!!!), but on Monday he said it was because the Raiders “loaded up” to stop the run. Let’s all pretend this was an aberration, and start Charles without hesitation this week against the Chargers. If he gets treated like a backup again, then we can start to worry.
When Daniel Thomas is healthy, he’s pretty good. Thomas carried 15 times for 42 yards and a score against the Jets, and looks to be the thunder to Reggie Bush’s lightning. I’d still expect Bush to get more touches this week, but against the 27th-ranked Colts’ run defense, you can think about starting Thomas as a flex play.
Ugh – these guys again? It’s difficult to ascertain much from a 34-7 loss, but Pierre Thomas carried eight times for 43 yards against the Broncos, while 2011 first-round pick Mark Ingram had three carries for eight yards. You can cut Ingram any time you’re ready.
Even if Rashard Mendenhall is healthy enough to return from his Achilles injury in Week 9, the bet here is that Jonathan Dwyer – who has two consecutive 100-yard games – has played his way into at least a timeshare. Plan to start Dwyer this week if you own him. Mendenhall’s owners need to hear some nice things from head coach Mike Tomlin before activating him.
As with the Saints’ backs, it’s really hard to learn anything from such a terrible beatdown. Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson still appear to be in a timeshare here, with Jackson getting a slight carry edge. If SJ39 gets traded before this week’s deadline, Richardson’s fantasy value will get a really nice boost when the Rams return in Week 10.
More Stories From John Halpin