by Ray Kuhn
After this week, we are more than halfway through the fantasy regular season. I know it seems like we were just completing our drafts, but at this point we are now beginning to get past the point of patience. It is not time to completely sell out, but it is getting close as you can’t fall too far behind in the race for the playoffs. With that in mind let’s take a look at how our options at running back rank for the coming week:
- Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – at San Francisco
- Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers – vs. Cincinnati
- Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – at New England
- Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars – at Indianapolis
- Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs – at Oakland
- LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – vs. Tampa Bay
- Mark Ingram – New Orleans – at Green Bay
- Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins – vs. New York Jets
- Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams – vs. Arizona
- Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – vs. Carolina
- Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers – vs. Denver
- Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers – vs. Dallas
- Adrian Peterson – Arizona Cardinals – at LA Rams
- Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – at Buffalo
- Jerick McKinnon – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Baltimore
- Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints – at Green Bay
- Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers – at Chicago
- C.J. Anderson – Denver Broncos – at LA Chargers
- Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – vs. Tennessee
- Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals – at Pittsburgh
- DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans – at Cleveland
- James White – New England Patriots – vs. Atlanta
- LeGarrette Blount – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. Washington
- Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins – at Philadelphia
- Buck Allen – Baltimore Ravens – at Minnesota
- Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders – vs. Kansas City
- Ty Montgomery – Green Bay Packers – vs. New Orleans
- Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – at New England
- Matt Forte – New York Jets – at Miami
- Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Jacksonville
- Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears – vs. Carolina
- Andre Ellington – Arizona Cardinals – at LA Rams
- Orleans Darkwa – New York Giants – vs. Seattle
- Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – at Cleveland
- Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens – at Minnesota
- Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns – vs. Tennessee
- Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Jacksonville
- Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – at Chicago
- Jamaal Charles – Denver Broncos – at LA Chargers
- Mike Gillislee – New England Patriots – vs. Atlanta
- So I guess we are back on Adrian Peterson? Let’s be clear, Peterson is not the running back he was a few years ago with Minnesota and he is no longer a must start. At the same time, how many running backs truly have that designation? After languishing in New Orleans for the first four weeks of the season, Peterson had a temporary resurgence in his debut with the Cardinals. The veteran gained 134 yards on 26 carries and found the end zone twice, once on a 27 yard run, and again in the fourth quarter from one yard out. Arizona traded for Peterson to use him, and it was clear last week he was a large part of their offense. This week it actually gets easier as he faces the Rams who have the worst run defense in the league from a fantasy perspective. Just be cautious of investing too much in Peterson long term.
- From a fantasy perspective Jay Ajayi had an underwhelming week. That was just because he failed to find the end zone, and taking the long view fantasy owners should be pleased. After carrying the ball a combined 23 times for 62 yards in Week’s 2 and 3, Miami has recommitted to their feature back. Ajayi carried the ball 25 times for 77 against the Titans two weeks ago, and last week he gained 130 yards on 26 carries against Atlanta. With Jay Cutler struggling to do much of anything with the passing game, I would expect the Dolphins to lean on their feature back once again against the Jets (who happen to allow the fifth most points to opposing running backs). Ajayi is not a factor in the passing game, but eventually you would expect him to find the end zone on the ground as he has yet to score.
- For, at a minimum, the next two weeks, Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden will go back to being useless from a fantasy perspective. With the news coming down that Elliot will be available for at least the next two weeks, now is not the time to sell. That is especially the case with Elliot getting to face the 49ers this week, who happen to allow the second most points to opposing running backs. Elliot has eclipsed 21 carries in four of his five games this season, and the Denver game was just a nightmare for Dallas’ offense. That is a good thing since Elliot’s value comes form his work as a ball carrier, and game flow dictates that the Cowboys will be looking to control the clock for most of the game. While Elliot does have two games of more than 100 yards so far this season, he only has two rushing touchdowns and has yet to have a monster game. This could be the week.
- Who cares that Chris Thompson doesn’t do much running the ball? At this point his value extends beyond just PPR leagues, but that is what happens when you eclipse 100 yards receiving twice this year. Thompson’s lack of success running the ball isn’t for a lack of trying, as he carried the ball 16 times but gained just 33 yards. He more than made up for it by catching four of his five targets for 105 yards. In fact, Thompson now has three games of more than 100 total yards this season. What does keep Thompson’s value to that of a FLEX play in most leagues is that while he is racking up the yards, the value isn’t really there as through five games he has just 18 receptions.
- Just when we thought the Giants season was over and Evan Engram was their only fantasy relevant player, Orleans Darkwa rushed for 117 yards on 21 carries. It was unexpected for multiple reasons, one of which being that prior to last week Denver was holding opposing running backs to 1.9 yards per carry. The Giants have struggled to do anything on offense, but their offensive line has appeared to stabilize. However, Darkwa has yet to put together any sustained success and the Giants’ offense is still one that doesn’t generate much confidence. While it wouldn’t surprise me to see Darkwa take control of the job and become a consistent fantasy option, things aren’t looking up for him this week as he faces the seventh best run defense in Seattle.
- Doug Martin carried the ball 13 times in his debut two weeks ago as Tampa Bay tried not to work him too hard, but he certainly was up to the task. This week he did get more work, but just by one carry as he gained 53 yards and scored a touchdown. I wouldn’t read too much into that, as Martin is the clear option for the Buccaneers on first and second downs. Instead, game flow was the problem as Tampa Bay fell behind early and was trailing all afternoon. With Jameis Winston’s status questionable for this week, Tampa Bay will likely look to Martin to establish their offense early on.
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Make sure to check out all of our Week 7 rankings: