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Fantasy running backs by committee
Welcome to the Week 6 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. 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.
Week 6 Byes: Panthers, Bears, Jaguars, Saints
Beanie Wells will be out until at least Week 12 due to turf toe, and Ryan Williams is about to have season-ending shoulder surgery. If you have a deep bench, stashing Wells for later isn’t a bad idea.
In the short term, the candidates to run the ball are LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell and Alfonso Smith. Stephens-Howling is pretty good, but at 5-7, 185 pounds, he’s more of a change-of-pace back, and I noted in Tuesday’s blog post that one local beat writer can’t see him getting a full workload. Powell seems to be ahead of Smith in the pecking order, and looked decent in the preseason. Thanks to a bad offensive line, this team isn’t very good at running the ball, but since they’re playing the weak Bills’ run defense this week, taking a shot at Stephens-Howling or Powell as a flex play isn’t a terrible idea if your alternatives are also pretty bad. Stephens-Howling would be more of a PPR play, with Powell better in standard formats.
Speaking of the Bills, Fred Jackson has carried 22 times for 58 yards since returning from a knee injury two games ago, while C.J. Spiller has 57 yards on 15 carries in the same span. It’s not surprising that this duo had trouble against the 49ers, but the Cardinals won’t be a picnic to run against this week, either. Still, Jackson and Spiller are good enough to start in most cases, even with a shared workload. Try not to depress yourself by thinking about how good either one would be as a featured back, and appreciate them in their part-timeness.
Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams combined for 22 yards on 10 carries against the Seahawks, and were again outgained on the ground by QB Cam Newton (42 yards). Thank goodness the Panthers are off this week. From a fantasy standpoint, I loathe this backfield.
The Lions return from their bye week with Mikel Leshoure ready to run against the Eagles. Leshoure is worthy of starting this week in many cases, but Jahvid Best could return from his myriad concussion issues as soon as Week 7. When the PPR-friendly Best comes back, you’ll want to pay close attention to head coach Jim Schwartz’s backfield plans. This humble fantasy analyst has already placed a couple of waiver claims on Best, but let’s keep that between us.
Cedric Benson hurt his foot against the Colts, and could miss six weeks or eight weeks or the rest of the season. Alex Green and James Starks are the primary replacement candidates, and while Green ran nine times for 55 yards (including a 41-yard burst), head coach Mike McCarthy spoke Monday of “protection opportunities” that Green needs to work on. Fortunately for Green, Starks isn’t regarded as much of a pass blocker, either. I’d try to grab Green first, and take Starks as a consolation prize. Your whole league will go after Green, so you’ll need a backup plan, right? The Texans don’t present a friendly matchup for either guy on Sunday night, anyway.
In terms of both yardage and snaps, Stevan Ridley was the lead back against the Broncos in Week 5, and Brandon Bolden was the sidekick. Ridley’s owners should start him without hesitation against the Seahawks, while keeping in mind that A) he has a tough matchup, and B) he could be one more fumble away from losing carries. To quote Bill Belichick from Monday’s press conference: “There’s nothing more important than possession of the ball … We can’t afford to lose it. It’s just as simple as that.”
Bolden’s owners should sit their man this week against the nasty Seattle D.
Bilal Powell has been on the field for more snaps than Shonn Greene for each of the last two games, but Greene has 19 carries for 60 yards during that time to Powell’s eight for 19. I can see plugging Greene in against the subpar Colts’ run defense this week, but only if your alternatives are pretty bad or on bye weeks. As for Powell, we need to see a productive game before getting him in there. You could stash him on a deep fantasy bench, though.
Rashard Mendenhall’s comeback game went smoothly, as he carried 14 times for 81 yards and a score against the Eagles, while adding two catches for 20 yards. Ike Redman ran 13 times for 41 yards as Mendenhall’s caddy, but they were probably just easing Mendenhall back into the mix, right? Well … sort of. With just three days off before the Steelers’ Thursday night game at Tennessee, it would make sense for the easing-in process to last at least one more week. Start Mendenhall, but don’t expect a dramatically-increased workload just yet.
Even though he was still the victim of some puzzling absences from the field against the Saints, order has seemingly been restored to the Chargers’ backfield. Ryan Mathews is a beast, and should be started in all fantasy formats. Jackie Battle (handcuff) and Ronnie Brown (occasional third-down back) won’t be useful again until Norv Turner gets PO’d at Mathews’ next fumble. God, I love Mathews. He should get 60 carries a game.
Don't read the 14-11 carry split between Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter as a timeshare, as only two of Hunter’s 11 carries came before the Niners took a 21-3 lead over the Bills midway through the third quarter. Hunter is more handcuff than sidekick, with better chances to get carries during blowouts.
Last week in this space, we noted that Bucs’ head coach Greg Schiano said he wants to get Blount more involved in the offense, suggesting that, “One week it could be 50-50 and the next week it could be 80-20.” With that said, Martin saw 46 snaps to Blount’s 12 in Week 4, and is still at least a fantasy RB2 this week against the Chiefs. Leave Blount on your bench until he produces.
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