by Ray Kuhn
If you lost last week chances are there is a running back to blame. Whether it was an unexpected poor performance (Ezekiel Elliot), an early injury (Matt Brieda and Sony Michel), a late scratch (Melvin Gordon) or just a wrong decision, the struggle was widespread. We know that it is not going to get any better, whether it is for this week or the remainder of the season. This week we do get another variable, as there are four teams on bye and fantasy owners will have to find replacements for Elliot and Gordon (among others). Let’s take a look at how our options rank for this week:
- Todd Gurley – LA Rams – vs. Green Bay
- Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints – at Minnesota
- Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Denver
- James White – New England Patriots – at Buffalo
- Saquon Barkley – NY Giants – vs. Washington
- Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers – vs. Baltimore
- James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers – vs. Cleveland
- Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals – vs. Tampa Bay
- David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – vs. San Francisco
- Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – vs. NY Jets
- Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings – vs. New Orleans
- Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – vs. Miami
- Adrian Peterson – Washington Redskins – at NY Giants
- Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts – at Oakland
- Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions – vs. Seattle
- Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – at Minnesota
- Nick Chubb – Cleveland Browns – at Pittsburgh
- LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – vs. New England
- Matt Brieda – San Francisco 49ers – at Arizona
- Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers – at LA Rams
- Jalen Richard – Oakland Raiders – vs. Indianapolis
- Phillip Lindsay – Denver Broncos – at Kansas City
- T.J. Yeldon – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. Philadelphia
- Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks – at Detroit
- Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins – at NY Giants
- Kenyon Drake – Miami Dolphins – at Houston
- Corey Clement – Philadelphia Eagles – at Jacksonville
- Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens – at Carolina
- Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears – vs. NY Jets
- Bilal Powell – NY Jets – at Chicago
- Javorius Allen – Baltimore Ravens – at Carolina
- Wendell Smallwood – Philadelphia Eagles – at Jacksonville
- Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos – at Kansas City
- Latavius Murray – Minnesota Vikings – vs. New Orleans
- Isaiah Crowell – NY Jets – at Chicago
- Carlos Hyde – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. Philadelphia
- Doug Martin – Oakland Raiders – vs. Indianapolis
- Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – at Pittsburgh
- Mike Davis – Jacksonville Jaguars – at Detroit
- Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions – vs. Seattle
- We had an inkling of this heading into the bye week, but the Raiders made it official on Monday. Marshawn Lynch was placed on IR with a “groin injury” and he can be safely removed from rosters in all seasonal fantasy formats. Now, to be clear, I’m not questioning Lynch’s word, health or pain threshold, but it is clear that he doesn’t fit into Oakland’s future plans and placing him on IR is the best solution for all parties. As far as early down work goes, Doug Martin should see the bulk of those carries. While he does hold fantasy value, I would temper my expectations. So far he is averaging 3.7 yards on his 27 carries while catching four passes for five yards. While the sample size is small, he has yet to show explosiveness and I’m not sure we can expect to see it. The fact that Martin isn’t jumping into the lineup for an offensive that is rolling also doesn’t help. The one running back on Oakland I am targeting is Jalen Richards. He will serve as more of a third down back, and I would expect to see the Raiders continue to target him on dump offs. He already has 31 receptions for 253 yards and he will continue to hold PPR value. In his last two games Richards has 13 receptions for 101 yards, but he has yet to show any big play potential.
- Just as we were beginning to form our final opinions on things for Week 7, we had a nice big variable thrown in the mix as Carlos Hyde was traded to Jacksonville. That gave us clarity surrounding Cleveland’s backfield, and the main beneficiary was Nick Chubb. While Duke Johnson was technically thought to be the starter, Chubb is who garnered the most attention. Johnson touched the ball five times, compared to 18 for Chubb, as the rookie saved the day from a fantasy perspective with a late touchdown. It was his third touchdown of the season as he gained 80 yards on 18 carries to bring his average yards per carry up to 7.4 on 34 carries. Chubb has shown big play potential, and if anything his workload should only continue to increase. With just 18 receptions for 187 yards so far this season, he caught four passes for 23 yards on Sunday, Johnson has yet to truly find his footing. Despite the trade of Hyde, I would resist the urge to truly bump Johnson up that much.
- Despite finding the end zone five times Hyde is only averaging 3.4 yards per carry while not showing much game breaking ability. Following the trade late in the week he was inactive, with T.J. Yeldon retaining control of the backfield. Going forward I would expect the veteran to have more of a supporting role behind Yeldon, who has had success so far this season. While I would potentially wait a week before dropping Hyde to confirm the distribution of work in Jacksonville’s backfield (mainly carrying the ball on early downs), his fantasy value is on the decline (which it would have been regardless had he stayed in Cleveland.) Yeldon has had some success running the ball, 4.1 yards per carry on 79 carries, but his true value is as a pass catching threat. He is already up to 30 receptions for 263 yards and four touchdowns, and even if Hyde does draw away some carries Yeldon is still the back to own in Jacksonville’s backfield. Well, at least for the next few weeks until Leonard Fournette returns.
- Sony Michel doesn’t have any structural damage to his knee, and currently his status for next week is unclear, but knowing the Patriots,I wouldn’t count on him. I also wouldn’t count on much of an update until later on in the week, so with that being said I excluded Michel from the ranks. With 10 carries for 36 yards, Kenjon Barner replaced Michel and failed to do much of anything on the ground. The more reasonable expectation for New England is to lean on the passing game, and more specifically James White. White carried the ball 11 times for 40 yards, but more importantly he caught eight passes for 57 yards and 2 TD. That gives him 45 receptions for 380 yards and 6 TD as the veteran is emerging as a true threat. We shouldn’t overlook that he is also averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
- Maybe now the Lions will lean on Kerryon Johnson after he gained 158 yards on 19 carries this past week. Granted, the Dolphins’ run defense doesn’t offer up much in the way of resistance, but it’s hard to ignore that production (he also caught two passes for 21 yards). A large part of that success was a 71 yard run, but after last week Johnson is averaging 6.4 yards/carry (69 carries for 444 yards). Part of the problem is that he has just 1 TD despite eclipsing 100 yards twice. That is where LeGarrette Blount comes into play, as he gained 50 yards on 10 carries while also scoring his third touchdown of the season. With 2.9 yards per carry Blount isn’t performing consistently enough to take advantage of his 57 carries. Johnson is clearly the player to own, and the hope is that last week’s success serves as a springboard.
- Kenyan Drake did gain 72 yards on the ground last week, but he did it via just six carries. At this point, with Drake averaging 4.9 yards per carry, I’m not sure what else he has to do in order to build on his 59 carries through seven weeks. With just 25 receptions for 160 yards, Drake isn’t doing much in the passing game and Frank Gore isn’t going anywhere. Last week the veteran didn’t do much of anything with his 10 carries (29 yards), but he is averaging 4.3 yards on his 72 carries while failing to reach the end zone. This is not a good situation, as Gore does just enough to remain relevant and Drake doesn’t touch the ball enough to reach his true value.
Make sure to check out all of our Week 8 rankings: