Depending on how you chose to complete your lineup, either two or three running backs are needed each week. The days of just one running back controlling the backfield are waning but not lost. Securing these running backs will generally prove to be more costly but it is necessary. When working with a salary cap, this can be a real problem. It is also why when a low-priced running back appears to have the role in hand, they generally end up being a highly popular selection. But are they worth it?
That is a question to be answered on a case by case basis in the analysis that follows. The goal here is to look at game flow to ensure that touches will be at a maximum, it is a favorable situation against the opposing defense, and most of all that there is talent and expected fantasy success.
For those who have yet to subscribe, what are you waiting for? Until then you will get one free pick to whet your appetite. Where you start isn’t often where you finish. I’m not trying to get all philosophical and profound here but Melvin Gordon ($5,200 DK, $6,700 FD) inspired me to do so. Initially I was on board with Gordon as an option this week. The price is right and the production in his new home was there last week as Gordon carried the ball 15 times for 78 yards and a touchdown in his debut with Denver. Combine that with Phillip Lindsay’s turf toe likely keeping him sidelined this week, and the opportunity is there for Gordon who also caught all three of his targets for eight yards last week. But is this a situation too good to be true? The Broncos are 7.5 underdogs as they travel to Pittsburgh on a short week so game flow isn’t going to work in Gordon’s favor. Couple that with the fact that the Steelers’ defense is coming off a performance where they held Saquon Barkley to six yards on 15 carries (eight of which went for negative yards) and I’m staying away.
Behind the paywall, we will continue to take a closer look at some more running backs who deserve our attention this week along with a few from whom we should keep our distance. And not all will break the back either which will leave plenty of room for help at other positions. So, keep on going and take a look at what we have to offer.
Let’s start off by staying in Pittsburgh with Gordon’s counterpart in Benny Snell ($4,500 DK, $4,600 FD). For the same reason as the expected outcome of Sunday’s game kept us away from the Denver running back, it draws us to Snell. James Conner has yet to be ruled out for the week, but after exiting Monday’s game early with an ankle injury he hasn’t practiced as of Wednesday and things don’t look good for him to be suiting up on Sunday. That brings us to Snell who gained 113 yards on 19 carries in what was the best performance of his young career. Snell caught our attention last season when Conner was sidelined but he failed to deliver consistent results. Watching him run on Monday though was almost like watching a different player as he showed both consistency and explosiveness.
Above we touched on Saquon Barkley ($8,400 DK, $9,000 FD) and his struggles to begin the season but that doesn’t mean we are going to overreact. One week doesn’t make a player and Barkley has proven that he is an elite NFL running back so I’m sensing some opportunity here. Both the Giants and Barkley are going to be committed to turning things around after he gained just six rushing yards last week, and while there is a lot of issues to work out with the offensive line, he is simply too good of a running back to struggle like that two games in a row. From a fantasy perspective though things could have been worse as Barkley tied for a team high with nine targets as he caught six passes for 60 yards. Pittsburgh is one of the tougher defenses in the league and for a large part of the night, the Giants were unable to get much done offensively. This week against Chicago things should get easier as this is a Bears team that let Adrian Peterson within sniffing distance of a 100-yard effort.
With Marlon Mack now out for the season things are a little clearer and less crowded in the Colts’ backfield. Jonathan Taylor ($5,700 DK, $5,800 FD) was anointed the starter and to be honest there wasn’t much question that would be the case. This likely will be the cheapest we see Taylor all season as the rookie is coming off an up and down debut. Taylor carried the ball nine times against Jacksonville gaining just 22 yards but with the Colts trailing for the majority of the afternoon, things didn’t really line up well for him as a ball carrier. He did however show ability as a receiver as he caught all six of his targets for 67 yards. Nyheim Hines is still going to be a factor for Indianapolis but it likely will be in more of a complementary role with an emphasis on the passing game. After seeing what the Packers were able to do against the Minnesota defense last week there isn’t much concern there and 20-25 touches for Taylor seems to be a reasonable expectation.
Last week the Eagles didn’t generate much in the running game but a good portion of that blame does get attributed to the offensive line and is not strictly due to Washington’s run defense. For a true starting running back for whom there isn’t much competition for carries (although Kyler Murraydid have 15 carries last week) Kenyan Drake ($5,900 DK, $6,600 FD) is reasonably priced. With 16 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown last week he didn’t do much to distinguish himself but we have to remember that Drake was facing a tough San Francisco defense. Following their upset victory, Arizona is favored by 6.5 points at home and I wouldn’t expect to see Murray carry the ball 15 times again. That means we should see a 20 carry, 100-plus yard effort with a touchdown from Drake
Another running back who is in complete control of their backfield is Derrick Henry ($7,900 DK, $8,300 FD). After a career season in 2019, Henry made sure to remind us of his presence as he carried the ball 31 times in his 2020 debut for 116 yards. Henry also caught all three of his passes for another 15 yards and this week it’s hard to find a running back in a better situation. The Titans are favored by nine points at home against Jacksonville (I feel that is high by a few points but the point remains the same) so game script will dictate a lot of action for Henry. Not only has he proven that he can handle the work but in two games against the Jaguars last season, he rushed for 203 yards while scoring three touchdowns.
While Peyton Barber ($4,400 DK, $5,400 FD) did rush for two touchdowns last week I am not taking notice. Barber did carry the ball 17 times but it only accounted for 29 yards and if you remove his long run of eight yards, things look even worse. He is not a factor in the receiving game and we can’t bank on two touchdowns each week. That is especially true with the explosive rookie running back Antonio Gibson lurking behind him. With nine carries for 36 yards and two receptions for two yards, Gibson had the better day despite Barber’s touchdowns. While you have to like Barber’s price, I am going to keep my distance and that is especially magnified this week in a game in Arizona where Washington is expected to be playing from behind.
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