by Ray Kuhn
Just as we get Mark Ingram back from suspension, he is gone this week as the Saints are one of the two teams on bye. This also means fantasy owners must make due without Alvin Kamara, but other than that it’s a relatively quiet week at the position. That doesn’t mean we are without injury, questions or indecision, but it’s simply the normal frustrating decisions that we face and nothing out of the ordinary. With that being said, let’s take a look at how our options rank this week:
- Todd Gurley – LA Rams – at Denver
- Saquon Barkley – NY Giants – vs. Philadelphia
- Melvin Gordon – LA Chargers – at Cleveland
- Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs – at New England
- Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers – at Washington
- Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Jacksonville
- James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Cincinnati
- Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals – vs. Pittsburgh
- T.J Yeldon – Jacksonville Jaguars – at Dallas
- David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – at Minnesota
- James White – New England Patriots – vs. Kansas City
- Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – at Miami
- Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Tampa Bay
- Carlos Hyde – Cleveland Browns – vs. LA Chargers
- Sony Michel – New England Patriots – vs. Kansas City
- Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Arizona
- Isaiah Crowell – NY Jets – vs. Indianapolis
- Phillip Lindsay – Denver Broncos – vs. LA Rams
- LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – at Houston
- Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks – at Oakland
- Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders – vs. Seattle
- Nyheim Hines – Indianapolis Colts – at NY Jets
- Alfred Morris – San Francisco 49ers – at Green Bay
- Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – vs. Buffalo
- Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers – vs. San Francisco
- Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins – vs. Carolina
- Austin Ekeler – LA Chargers – at Cleveland
- Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears – at Miami
- Javorius Allen – Baltimore Ravens – at Tennessee
- Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Tampa Bay
- Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins – vs. Chicago
- Dion Lewis – Tennessee Titans – vs. Baltimore
- Adrian Peterson – Washington Redskins – vs. Carolina
- Bilal Powell – NY Jets – vs. Indianapolis
- Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens – at Tennessee
- Corey Clement – Philadelphia Eagles – at NY Giants
- Ronald Jones – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – at Atlanta
- Mike Davis – Seattle Seahawks – at Oakland
- Wendell Smallwood – Philadelphia Eagles – at NY Giants
- Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos – vs. LA Rams
- Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just ignore some running back situations? Of course that is not an option, and at least for Week 6 we should be grateful that there are just two teams on bye. The one thing that Philadelphia’s backfield has going for it is that now we are just down to two options, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement. Jay Ajayi is out for the season with a knee injury and it doesn’t appear that Darren Sproles will be taking the field for a favorable match-up against the Giants, but the situation still lacks clarity. For now let’s assume that no other moves are made this week (ie. LeSean McCoy or Le’Veon Bell) and there will be a split in workload between the two backs. Clement wasn’t active last week and Smallwood’s workload was limited, but he was successful after Ajayi went down as he carried the ball three times for 27 yards while catching three passes for another 44 yards and a touchdown. Smallwood is averaging six yards per carry with 25 carries while Clement has 4.1 yards per carry on his 27 carries. Both have also had success in the passing game (10/96 for Smallwood and 8/74 for Clement) and it’s clear both will be a factor moving forward. While fantasy owners aren’t going to want to hear it, both have fantasy value. Between the two I’d have to give a slight edge to Clement as he is the more dynamic and slightly bigger back, but it’s quite possible their final stat lines are close to identical.
- We don’t want to see injuries, but with Leonard Fournette potentially sidelined for the next few weeks (at least Week 6) and Corey Grant out for the year Jacksonville’s backfield currently belongs to T.J Yeldon. Based on his performance he doesn’t appear to be letting it go anytime soon. The fact that the Jaguars were trailing all afternoon in Week 5 limited Yeldon to 10 carries, but he was efficient in those touches as he gained 53 yards. It was his skills as a receiver that ensured he was a valuable fantasy option as he caught eight of his 10 targets for 69 yards and a touchdown. It was his third receiving touchdown of the season, he has four touchdowns overall, and with 22 receptions for 194 yards he has proven to be a vital part of Jacksonville’s passing game. With 4.4 yards per carry on 59 carries it’s not like that part of Yeldon’s game is lacking, and I wouldn’t read all that much into the fact that Jacksonville signed Jamaal Charles this week. The Jaguars need more than one healthy running back and Charles isn’t in town to take any substantial playing time away from Yeldon. It also helps that the Jaguars are once again on the road in what will be a close game that will likely require Blake Bortles to lean on Yeldon.
- As far as opponents go Atlanta is shaping up to be a quite favorable match-up if you are an offensive player. This week Tampa Bay is the beneficiary as they come off a bye week looking for a fresh start with Jameis Winston back under center as they look to recover from just a disastrous afternoon in Chicago two weeks ago. With Ronald Jones getting off to a slow start, despite being a second round pick, Peyton Barber was given every opportunity to grab hold of Tampa Bay’s backfield. Instead, all he has to show for himself is 148 rushing yards on 50 carries and two receptions for 13 yards. Barber has yet to reach the end zone and last week Jones actually touched the ball three more times than Barber; 11 to eight. Jones didn’t exactly do much to state his case, 10 carries for 29 yards and one reception for a one yard loss, but he is the more talented option. Thus far the Buccaneers have been quiet about their plans heading into Week 6, but they are going to need some level of production from their backfield. So why not take a flier on Jones, or at the very least be a week ahead on the rookie?
- Your feelings on Baltimore’s backfield situation are likely going to be dependent on whether or not Alex Collins is on your roster. Based on snaps from last week Javorius Allen has the clear edge (50 to 27), but when it came touches things were a lot more equitable; 14 to 13 in favor of Collins. Overall Collins has received more of the work on the ground, 57 carries compared to 34, but the issue is that Allen has emerged as the goal line back. Despite Collins being the leader when it comes to carries, each back has two rushing touchdowns. Neither has been especially explosive, Collins is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry but he does have the skill set better suited to being more of a bell cow. Allen’s true skill is in the receiving game, and so far he has 21 receptions for 131 yards compared to 77 yards on nine catches for Collins. If your head is spinning between the two options I apologize, but this is the reality in 2018. Collins should have more fantasy value, but at this point Allen is the running back to own. That doesn’t mean it won’t, or shouldn’t, change in the near future which means you have to hold onto Collins.
- One backfield that does appear able to sustain two running backs is the New York Jets. With rookie quarterback Sam Darnold under center it is clear that the Jets are going to lean on the running game a bit more than normal, especially early in the season until the rookie can make adjustments and find his groove. It certainly makes things easier for any quarterback, and most certainly a rookie, to have the run set up the pass. Taunting penalties and new endorsement deals aside, it has been an up and down season for Isaiah Crowell, but we certainly saw what he is capable of last week. He started things off last week with a 77 yard touchdown run and then followed that up with a 54 yard carry. Even if you take away those two carries it was still a successful day as he gained 88 yards on his other 13 carries for an average of 6.8 yards per carry. While that brought Crowell’s rushing touchdown total up to five on the season, we still can’t forget about Bilal Powell who gained 99 yards on 20 carries last week. Each gets enough touches to warrant starting consideration; 4.5 yards per carry on 59 carries for Powell with 57 carries for an average of 6.8 yards per carry for Crowell.
- One backfield that appears to have a clear hierarchy is Cincinnati. Following knee surgery Joe Mixon returned to action last week, and it was as if he never left. The Bengals didn’t waste any time working him back into the fold, and he gained 93 yards. Despite the work Mixon was relatively quiet until he broke a 31 yard run in the fourth quarter, but he made his presence felt by catching three passes for 22 yards, while most importantly finding the end zone. Mixon’s role in the passing game is minimal, nine receptions, but he has proven to be up to the occasion when he is targeted. It is his average of 4.5 yards per carry on 60 carries that truly gives him value, aside from the fact that it is clear whose backfield it is.
Make sure to check out all of our Week 6 rankings: