Welcome to the season’s 15th edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in your league championship game. Congratulations!
In this space, we’ll 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 will be some non-committee and injury 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. Any tier recommendations below (e.g., RB2) are meant for 12-team standard leagues.
Finally, start/sit recommendations for the players below always depend on the rest of your roster. For specific RB rankings, click here. Rankings will be available at around noon ET each Wednesday.
Thursday game: None
Rashard Mendenhall (21 carries, 69 yards, 2 TD) and Andre Ellington (10 carries, 71 yards; four receptions, 87 yards) were both pretty solid against the Titans on Sunday, but things won’t be as easy this week against a Seahawks’ D that has allowed just four rushing touchdowns all season. You can flex these guys, but Ellington is the preferred play.
Ray Rice had a 12-to-7 carry edge over Bernard Pierce on Monday night, and didn’t help his fantasy owners much (again). You can start Rice against the Patriots’ 31st-ranked run defense in Week 16, but you shouldn’t expect miracles.
Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller basically shared the load in the win at Jacksonville, but neither back got in the end zone. Rookie QB E.J. Manuel has run for two scores over the past three games, and that’s a thorn in the side of Jackson/Spiller owners. It’s easy for a fantasy analyst to default to “flex option,” but I see the Bills’ pair in the RB25-36 range when our rankings come out on Wednesday.
Eighty-one rushing yards and a 72-yard scoring reception for DeAngelo Williams? Very nice, but don’t get too excited about a guy who didn’t run for more than 52 yards in his previous seven games. Reach out on Twitter (@jhalpin37) and let me know what your alternatives are before starting Williams or Mike Tolbert against the Saints. It’s possible that my pessimism about Williams will lighten up as the week progresses.
Why did Gio Bernard – and not BenJarvus Green-Ellis get a goal-line TD in the second quarter of Sunday night’s loss? Heck if I know, but it’s got me worried about the idea of recommending the Law Firm this week, even against the 20th-ranked Vikings’ run defense. Bernard, on the other hand, can be my RB2 any time.
So much for the Chris Ogbonnaya-against-the-Bears sure thing. Second-year back Edwin Baker ran eight times for 38 yards and a score, caught four passes for 46 yards, and got the attention of head coach Rob Chudzinski, who said Monday that Baker might start to get more opportunities. If you want to start Baker on the road against Sheldon Richardson and the Jets, you’re a braver man than I am. Maybe “braver” is the wrong word there …
Reggie Bush (19 touches) got about double the workload of Joique Bell (10 touches) on Monday versus the Ravens. That’s about normal for any game in which Bush isn’t injured, and it makes Bell a shaky Week 16 start.
Donald Brown’s stinger opened the door for Trent Richardson to have his best game of the season. T-Rich ran 19 times for 64 yards against the awful Texans, and added four receptions for 38 yards and a score. Unfortunately, all the people who picked Richardson in the first round have long since benched or waived him, and now hate him even more after seeing him post good numbers in a fantasy playoff week. Keep an eye on Brown’s status, and don’t plan on starting Richardson against the Chiefs.
Jordan Todman performed very well in Maurice Jones-Drew’s absence, running 25 times for 109 yards and adding four catches for 44 yards. If MJD is out again, I would be happy to roll with Todman as an RB2 at home against the Titans. You knew in August that Todman would be your favorite fantasy player at Christmastime, right?
So, I guess Lamar Miller (15-61) was the “hot hand” this time around instead of Daniel Thomas (5-16). Unfortunately, we’ve seen this movie before, and the situation could be reversed in Week 16. Starting Miller at Buffalo isn’t a bad idea, and he has some upside, but there’s risk. I’d probably go for it and cross my fingers.
Thirty carries for 51 yards and THREE TOUCHDOWNS for Matt Asiata, who looked like fantasy fool’s gold on Sunday morning. This week, Asiata and the Vikes visit the Bengals’ fourth-ranked rush defense. IF Adrian Peterson AND Toby Gerhart are out again, you can consider starting Asiata. I’ll probably have Asiata in provisional flex territory, and be terrified of a 12-carry, nine-yard stat line. Please tell me you have more stable backfield options.
On the bright side, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said Monday that he expects to have most of his inactive players from Week 15 back in Week 16. Presumably, that means Peterson and Gerhart. Stay tuned.
New England Patriots
Shane Vereen killed his fantasy owners in Week 15, running just twice for 13 yards and catching three passes for eight yards. It sounds like Vereen was doing a higher-than-usual amount of pass blocking against the Dolphins, and I’ll be looking for a bounceback against the tough Ravens. Vereen is still an RB2 in my book, and none of his teammates (Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount) can guarantee enough work to be worthwhile fantasy starters.
New Orleans Saints
Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles had 15 touches apiece against the Rams, each splitting their work between runs and receptions. Both are somewhat shaky fantasy starts on the road against the Panthers’ second-ranked run defense in Week 16. After a busy midseason stretch that vaulted him to RB2 status, Thomas has carried fewer than 10 times in each of his last three games. This sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
San Diego Chargers
There might be two backs to watch here, but it’s not really a committee. Ryan Mathews has carried 29 times in each of his last two games, amassing 230 yards and two scores. He’s basically a must-start at this point.
Danny Woodhead, on the other hand, had a 10-touch game against the Broncos, posting a measly 42 yards from scrimmage. Woodhead has been losing snaps lately, and you should keep him on your fantasy bench.