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RBs

RBs Week 1 Analysis Pt. 1 – Phong Ta

Well, that sure was an exciting week of football. Sadly, Week 2 is never gonna live up to the hype that was just had, but then sequels rarely do. For now, let’s check in with the RB situations around the league, shall we?

Carolina Panthers

Not too much to say here. Jonathan Stewart continues his solid, if somewhat unspectacular, play from last season. He played relatively well (15 carries for 64 Yards, one reception that went for no Yards, 0 TDs) against a very tough Denver defense. It was unfortunate to see Newton score on the ground as opposed to Stewart, but you knew that was going to be the case more often than not when you drafted him.

In good news however, Stewart dominated the RB touches. Not counting Newton’s runs/scrambles, Stewart received 15 of 21 carries. Unsurprising, considering he averaged just shy of 20 touches per game in 2015, but it was still nice to know the Panthers are fine loading him up with plenty of touches despite his relatively advanced age – for a RB, he’s 29, and has injury-history.

Denver Broncos

Gary Kubiak is well known for his incredibly effective zone blocking running scheme, and it showed up big time against a very stout front seven. With Manning retired, this is his offense, which means a lot of runs up the middle and plenty of touches for his workhorse RB. In this case, the beneficiary is C.J. Anderson, who ran wild against Carolina, finishing with 20 carries and 4 catches for 139 Total Yards and 2 TDs(1 Rush, 1 Receiving).

It certainly helped Anderson’s cause that Devontae Booker, who some predicted could potentially steal work from Anderson, fumbled on his first ever career carry, effectively putting him in the dog house for the night (he received just 3 carries for 8 Yards and the Fumble).

Gary Kubiak is known for using a single featured back in his offense (hello Arian Foster), so as long as C.J. Anderson can stay healthy, something that’s been a problem for him in the past, he’ll likely continue to produce quality RB1 numbers regardless of the match-up. I’d suggest picking up Booker if you can due to his injury-history, but otherwise you’re good to go here.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1 week in, and it is clearly Doug Martin‘s backfield, to the surprise of no one. When healthy, he’s an incredibly effective 3 down RB capable of anchoring a ground game for a team, which is bad news for 3rd Down/change-of-pace RB Charles Sims. However, despite seeing 18 carries against an inexperienced Falcons’ front seven, he found very little room to run, picking up just 62 Yards on the ground for a paltry 3.4 YPC. Considering he’s run behind less than effective O-Lines for the vast majority of his career, it’s fair to write this off as a one-game aberration. He also added 34 Receiving Yards on 5 catches.

Doug Martin is a RB who can produce stellar numbers, but comes with the typical caveat of injuries. He’s worth starting regardless of the match-up, but make sure to keep an eye on his health, and potentially trade for Charles Sims as a solid handcuff who holds potential Flex Player value in his own right, who would be in line to takeover should Martin get hurt.

Atlanta Falcons

Turns out the Falcons were very serious about a pretty even split of touches for Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, with a near 50/50 split of 15 touches to 13 respectively. This is good news for Coleman owners who may have gotten themselves a solid Flex player on the cheap, but obviously not so stellar news for Freeman owners. On the bright side for owners of Freeman, he received 6 of 7 touches in the red zone compared to Coleman’s 1.

Neither player was effective on the ground, combining for just 42 Yards on 19 carries, though that was to be expected when you play a D-Line that features Gerald McCoy. Coleman however came up big in the passing game, catching 5 passes for 95 Yards to Freeman’s 4 for 20, a surprising twist considering Coleman is typically seen as the better between-the-tackles runner while Freeman is considered the better receiver out of the backfield.

You shouldn’t put too much stock in a single game, but a roughly 55/45 split between Freeman and Coleman is likely to continue, with Freeman carrying more value due to his domination of red zone touches for the Falcons. Both carry solid Flex player value moving forward.

Buffalo Bills

As expected, LeSean McCoy dominated the backfield touches, receiving 20 total touches to Reggie Bush‘s 3. Despite the workload however, he had a tough time gaining yards against a rejuvenated Ravens’ front seven that finally seems to be healthy. Sadly, even against inferior front sevens, this trend is likely to continue. Sammy Watkins admitted that his foot is still bothering him, and with no other dynamic threat offense, defenses will be free to key-in on Shady all year long. While his workload should be more than enough to keep him relevant as an RB2(he had 70 Total Yards and a TD), that may be his ceiling this year unless Watkins’ foot gets better in a hurry and he regains his late 2015 form.

I certainly wouldn’t panic with McCoy, he’s likely to continue to see about 20 touches a game, but it seems the hope that he could return to Elite RB1 status has been dashed unless someone on the Bills’ offense steps up big time, and allows McCoy some more room to run.

Baltimore Ravens

It seems we have our answer as to how the Ravens’ plan to divvy up the touches amongst their RBs, and it’s a roughly 50/50 split between the incumbent veteran starter Justin Forsett and offseason sensation Terrance West.

Forsett was more effective on his touches (56 Total Yards on 13 touches) than West (14 touches for 38 Total Yards), and if the trend continues, it’s likely the Ravens would go back to giving him the 18 touches a game he saw in 2015 when healthy. For now though, it seems it’s a pretty even split, making neither an attractive option in Fantasy due to playing in what looks to be a rather low-scoring, inefficient offense. Both are best left on your bench for now until more clarity comes around about this backfield.

Houston Texans

Good news everybody, Lamar Miller is finally a workhorse RB! He dominated the backfield touches against Chicago, seeing 28 carries and 4 catches for 117 Total Yards and a Fumble. He did seem to wear down a little as the game wore on, but when you get 32 touches, that’s to be expected.

While Miller was unable to score this week, it’s only a matter of time before he does due to his high volume of work. Miller is good to go against any opponent due to playing in an offense that features field stretching WRs in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller preventing opponents from loading up the box. He seems ready to make good on the RB1 promise everyone was expecting out of him when he signed with Houston this offseason. You can start him with confidence on a weekly basis.

Chicago Bears

Jeremy Langford, as everyone expected, saw plenty of work for Chicago this week, touching the ball 19 times (17 carries, 2 catches) to just a single carry for Ka’Deem Carey. He seems to be the workhorse back for the Bears until further notice, which is good news for his owners. Matt Forte dominated the backfield touches during his time there, and Langford has clearly inherited that role with Forte now playing for Gang Green.

While he was not particularly effective against Houston (he had just 63 Total Yards and 1 TD), it does stand to reason he’ll get better as the season wears on as the O-Line works out the kinks. New LG Sitton was only signed a week ago so he’s still learning the offense and the protections, while RG Long was playing hurt. As the group gets more time together, gets healthier, and plays D-Lines that don’t feature JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, expect more and bigger holes to open up for Langford to run through.

Langford for the moment should be considered a match-up flexible RB2. While he’s likely to see 18+ touches a game, he’s yet to do much with them aside from a few games here and there. If he has a tough match-up, bench him if you have another solid option, but otherwise he’s a solid RB2 who will likely only get better as the year goes on.

Green Bay Packers

Eddie Lacy was solid in his season debut following his time P90X-ing it up this offseason. He didn’t turn any heads, but he ran decisively and with physicality against a Jaguars’ front seven that got a huge infusion of new talent this offseason, including a 28 yard gallop. He finished with 14 carries and 1 catch for 78 Total Yards. A relatively quiet performance Fantasy wise, but as Rodgers and Nelson work things out, Lacy should find more room to run, and post bigger, better totals.

On a separate note, those of you thinking James Starks was something to worry about should be more at ease, as he saw just 5 touches to Lacy’s 15.

I’d consider Lacy a matchup based RB1, as he plays in an offense that won’t feature him if the match-up isn’t right. He’ll post RB1s against the opponents you expect him to, but not against top of the line front sevens, when Green Bay will simply air it out. He’s still a weekly must-start however, unless you have incredible backfield depth on your team.

Jacksonville Jaguars

This week at least, it was the TJ Yeldon show as Chris Ivory was admitted into the hospital with an undisclosed, non football injury/illness. Sadly, despite seeing 21 carries, Yeldon had just 39 yards on the ground, as his O-Line gave him very little room to run against a Packers defense that made him work for what little yardage he did gain. He did make up for it somewhat with 30 yards on 4  catches, and he did find the endzone as well, but in what was essentially his audition for more backfield touches when Ivory does return, it wasn’t very encouraging.

For now, I’d caution against both Ivory and Yeldon in Fantasy. Yeldon really hasn’t shown much as a runner so far and the Jaguars’ run blocking is still very suspect. Meanwhile, depending on why Ivory was admitted into the hospital, he could be worked back into the offense slowly. Start either player at your own risk.

San Diego Chargers

With Keenan Allen officially ruled out for the season with a torn ACL, both Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead just received a boost in stock in Fantasy.

Once Allen was hurt, the Chargers switched to a more run-heavy game plan, much to the benefit of Gordon and Woodhead. Surprisingly though, Danny Woodhead actually out-carried Melvin Gordon 16 to 14. It seems the two are going to hurt each other Fantasy wise as one would expect, with Gordon the better bet in games that figure to be run-heavy, and Woodhead better in games that will likely become shootouts and require the Bolts to pass it a lot.

In good news, Gordon found the endzone not once, but twice against a tough Chiefs’ defense. It seems he’s started to find his groove in the NFL, and none too soon for his Fantasy owners. He holds low-end RB2 appeal as moving forward he’ll likely handle the majority of carries on 1st and 2nd, as well as near the goal line. Woodhead meanwhile should be right back in the mix as a solid Flex play on a weekly basis due to the loss of Allen, who often worked the short area of the field, where Woodhead would likely be used more.

Kansas City Chiefs

With Jamaal Charles out for the game, in comes offseason hype machine Spencer Ware, who saw twice as many touches (18) than teammate Charcandrick West (9), despite both playing an equal number of snaps. Even better news for owners of Spencer Ware is that he was incredibly effective on those 18 touches, amassing 199 Total Yards (70 Rush, 129 Receiving) and a Rushing score.

Jamaal Charles is likely to be brought along slowly when he returns, so Ware likely has another week or two left where he’ll be the lead dog for the Chiefs’ offense, meaning he’ll be a viable, high-end RB2.

Andy Reid enjoys using a featured RB approach when he has a guy up to the task as evidenced by Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles this. It could also mean Ware has a legitimate chance to wrangle away the starting gig from Charles for good. This is a situation very much worth keeping an eye on for owners of Ware and Charles.

Oakland Raiders

Well, so much for my prediction that Latavius Murray would be outplayed by DeAndre Washington, but it is still only Week 1. I could still be right.

Murray played solid football this week, carrying it 14 times for 59 Yards and a TD while also adding a 13 yard catch. However, he only saw 50% of the backfield touches for Oakland, so for now I’d still say Murray is hovering around RB2/Flex player level unless he gets a firmer grasp on the backfield.

DeAndre Washington was not particularly impressive this week, seeing just 5 carries that he took for 14 yards and a 10 yard catch. However, fellow Oakland Raider backup RB Jalen Richard was very impressive on a 75 yard TD run that saw him get out of a messy O-Line/D-Line scrimmage and then gallop away from defenders with impressive speed. He finished with 5 touches for 95 Total Yards and the TD. While you shouldn’t run out and grab him after just 1 big play, he could be worth keeping an eye on.

That being said, right now the only RB who looks like he’ll get consistent enough touches to matter in Fantasy right now is Latavius Murray, and is the one worth owning outside of deeper, 14+ Team Leagues.

New Orleans Saints

While Mark Ingram didn’t see a lot of touches this week (14 touches for 87 Total Yards, no TDs), that’s more the result of game plan that skewed pass-heavy as the game against Oakland quickly became a shootout between the two teams. It’s also a pretty normal occurrence for the Saints, who tend to spread the ball around a lot in their offense.

Sadly, while Ingram’s season long outlook seems fine, his Week 2 match-up against the Giants, who just bottled up Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys’ O-Line quite handily, could be bad news for Ingram. While I don’t suggest you bench him, his touches could be low for the second straight week in another game for the Saints with very real shootout potential. However, the Giants also didn’t have to deal with an elite passing attack at the same time, so Ingram should find more room to run than Elliott did, and thus remains a solid option at the RB2 position.

Cincinnati Bengals

Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard were sadly bottled up this week for the most part against a tough New York Jets’ D-Line, but there are good things to take away from this.

Hill ran hard and decisively, something he seemed to be missing last year. Bernard meanwhile looked good on the ground, picking up 25 yards on 5 carries. While neither player saw many touches (Hill had 9, Bernard had 7), the Bengals also ran relatively few plays with just 66. They also won’t be facing a defense as stout as the Jets on a weekly basis either.

Right now both are low-end RB2s or high-end Flexes with potential for more if their workload is increased, but a stout Jets D-Line did force the Bengals to air it out. Playing a Steelers’ team whose defense will be forced to account for AJ Green, both should find more room to run next week. Both make solid Flex plays.

New York Jets

Great news for Matt Forte owners, Bilal Powell did not cut into Forte’s workload, as he saw 22 carries and 5 catches this week against Cincy. Sadly for Powell owners who thought he would, he did not, and saw just 4 carries and 2 catches.

Matt Forte clearly has some gas left in the tank after gashing the Bengals’ solid defense for 155 Total Yards (96 Rush, 59 Receiving), and the Jets seem intent on wringing out every last drop of it. While it’s unlikely he sees 27 touches again considering his age and injury-history, 18-20 touches a game seems to be in the cards. You can start him with confidence as a low-end RB1, high-end RB2.

As for Powell owners, be patient. The Jets know loading up Forte with 25+ touches a game is asking for trouble, so his touches will come. It may take a little time, but Powell is likely to see about 10-12 touches a game himself, making him a solid, though unspectacular, Flex play depending on the match-up.

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