Fantasy Mailbag 2016: Week 6

The highest scoring non-quarterback in Fantasy Football right now is David Johnson (aka #DJ2K). He added two touchdowns and 157 rush yards to his total last week against San Francisco.

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Johnson has gained over 100 yards from scrimmage in every game, so far this season, and faces a Jets defense that has allowed 16 receptions, 125 yards and two touchdowns to running backs in the last two weeks. He may not see as many carries as he got against the 49ers (27) because Carson Palmer is set to return, but you can count on his receiving skills to do some heavy damage against the J-E-T-S…blah blah blah.

Mail Time!

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TE: The perennially slow starting Seahawks offense seems to have found a connection between Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham. Graham has recorded back-to-back 100-yard performances for the first time since 2003. The Falcons are also the second worst (to the Browns) at giving up TDs to the position.

Flex: Jordan Howard recorded the 9th most yards from scrimmage by a rookie in Bears franchise history. Names like Anthony Thomas, James Allen, and yes…Walter Payton…produced better games in their first year, and just by up to 30 yards. In terms of matchups, Howard doesn’t have an easy one in Jacksonville. They have allowed 104 rush yards per game and only 2 touchdowns on the ground. Based on the volume Howard gets in the Bears offense (running and receiving) you can’t let him sit.

DEF: I’m not sure about the Panthers in the long-term, due to their young secondary being taken advantage of nearly every weekend and having one takeaway in their last 3 games. Short term, their matchup with the Saints has shootout potential, and that’s bad for any defense. I like your Titans pick against Cody Kessler and the Browns. The Titans are making a lot of noise with back-to-back multi-interception games and ranking 6th in sacks.

 

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Steve Sr. is (1) not a tight end and (2) dealing with an ankle injury that knocked him out of last week’s game. Go with James White.

 

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If I learned anything last week, it’s not to doubt Devonta Freeman. Against the best defense in football, Freeman totaled 123 yards and a touchdown. You can look at the yards per carry as a negative, but 26 touches is proof he is Atlanta’s every down back (with Coleman getting his work receiving). The upside is in Freeman’s favor, while Frank Gore will give you either 75+ yards or a touchdown…like he has in every game so far this season. Up to you.

 

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TE: In the Brian Hoyer era for Chicago, Zach Miller is averaging 6 catches, 61 yards and a touchdown. While Hoyer is spreading the ball around, he does seem to have favorite targets in 3rd down situations and Miller is one of them. Keep riding that train as Zach Ertz is facing a defense that gave up less than 60 yards to both Gary Barnidge and Dennis Pitta.

Flex: Matt Forte is that guy we all want to love (with good reason) but we really shouldn’t. He hasn’t done anything close to his monster Week 2 and Bilal Powell is taking more and more pass targets away from him. I also don’t think this will be a good week to play Travis Benjamin. As you know, Broncos are probably looking for blood on Thursday Night Football this evening. Jordan Matthews is your best call.

 

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Well, Quincy Enunwa would’ve been a pretty great pickup. Sammie Coates would be outstanding, if you can find him. Outside of those two? Chris Hogan, Jeremy Kerley and Devante Adams are decent week-to-week fill-ins, but I would try to make a trade if you are looking for a dependable solution for the rest of the season.

 

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Melvin Gordon is going to get the touches against a Broncos D (that has given up the 10th most points to RBs) and has averaged a score in every game. If I’m looking for a safer play though, it’s Kelvin Benjamin against the Saints. They have allowed 86+ yards to 6 different receivers in 4 games and are letting quarterbacks just CHUCK IT on them. Love the shootout potential at the Superdome this weekend, Cam Newton or not.

Have more Fantasy lineup questions? Don’t hesitate to ask on Facebook or Twitter

Fantasy Mailbag 2016: Week 2

Week 1 is in the books and man…did football get off the bus running or what?

A few new names made quite an impression on Fantasy Football enthusiasts, like Jalen Richard above. Or Eli Rogers and his ricochet touchdown catches.

However, the Week 2 edition of Thursday Night Football featured much of the opposite. The key offensive players on the Jets are all 30 and over: Ryan Fitzpatrick (33), Brandon Marshall (32) and Matt Forte (30). Forte ran the ball 30 times to rush for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns. FitzMagic threw for 374 yards and 1 touchdown in a 37-31 Jets victory.

Quick Hits

  • Some of you were smart and drafted DeAngelo Williams in the 8th round or later (hopefully handcuffing him to Le’Veon Bell). Some of you were smart about picking up Spencer Ware on waivers right after, or drafting him late. Williams owners were treated to an AFC Offensive Player of the Week performance of 171 yards from scrimmage with 6 catches and 2 touchdowns. Ware owners were rewarded with 199 yards from scrimmage, 7 catches a touchdown. They may be placeholders for Bell and Jamaal Charles for now but Williams and Ware are playing at level that’s worth riding for as long as you can, considering they were both Top 4 in total yardage.

  • Carson Wentz impressed a lot of people across the league in his NFL debut. Completing 22 of his 37 passes for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns earned Wentz the 7th highest quarterback rating by a rookie on opening day. Although it doesn’t count for Fantasy points, there were more Wentz jerseys sold than any in the league over the 2 days following the opener. Wentz will have an opportunity to build on his success and become the 5th NFL quarterback since 1960 to start his career 2-0 against a shaky Bears secondary on Monday Night Football.

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  • On the flip-side of the Week 2 Monday Night matchup, Alshon Jeffery could be in for a big night. The Eagles will be without starting CB Leodis McKelvin and will depend on a 7th round pick Jalen Mills in his place. Also being counted on to cover Jeffery is Nolan Carroll, who was lit up by the BROWNS (all caps necessary) in Week 1. Jeffery became the first Bears player since Forte (in 2010) to record 100+ receiving yards in the first half, against Houston, and should do even more damage when Chicago hosts Philly.

 

Mail Time!

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I love the repertoire Willie Snead and Drew Brees have. Snead had the best game of his young career in Week 1 (9 catches, 172 yards, 1 TD) in a shootout with Oakland. A game with the Giants has potential for similar results, but I still lean toward Spencer Ware while you can still use him. The Saints have a heck of a wide receiver group and anyone can be in-store for a big day. Ware is guaranteed to get touches against a Texans defense that allowed 57 rush yards and a touchdown to Jeremy Langford a week ago. Alex Smith is also bound to continue dumping the ball off to Ware over the pass rush.

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Going back to the potential shootout between the Giants and Saints, I would go with Snead in this case…mostly because I think Eli Manning will be targeting Odell Beckham Jr. more than Victor Cruz after just 4 catches a week ago. OBJ is 9 catches away from becoming the youngest receiver to 200.

Remember the 52-49 game a year ago? Round 2 has a lot of hype to live up to.

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Flex: Safest play would be Golden Tate, who will be a target machine in his hometown of Nashville. Boom would be Demaryius Targaryen against a weak Indy secondary, but he’s dealing with a bad hip. Melvin Gordon may be taking a step back, as his team should be playing a lot of catchup against the high-powered (that’s right) Jaguars offense.

QB: I’m not particularly high on a less-mobile Russell Wilson against one of the best pass rushing front-7’s in football. Wilson has proved me wrong in the past, but I see the Seahawks attacking St. Louis better by handing off to the Rawls-Michael tandem. Trust the Jim Bob Cooter offense and Matthew Stafford this weekend.

 

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Einhorn. Sean Young, FTW.

 

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I do like Houston better, you’re right…but way more because of Whitney Mercilus than JJ Watt. The pass rush that they hoped to get from Jadeveon Clowney has arrived in the form of a man with a great football name, from the University of Illinois. While Cincy-Pittsburgh always lives up to its “rock’em, sock’em” reputation, but the Steelers offense is too good (even without Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell) to bet against.

 

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-53-55-am I hope you didn’t go with McCoy…

A tandem of DJ2K (David Johnson) and Williams is a tough one to beat. They are also two of the most reliable backs you can find, with schemes that will always put the ball in their hands. Have fun.

 

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I like Stefon Diggs the most, as a receiver, but I don’t like the quarterback situation throwing him the ball. It will either be an under-prepared Sam Bradford or Shaun Hill against the Packers 3-4 pass rush. Does that inspire confidence in you? I didn’t think so…

Emmanuel Sanders may be the best option for the sole reason that he is the healthier than Thomas and he’s going against one of the worst secondaries in football.

 

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Jay Cutler and I think you should go with Will Fuller.

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Have more Fantasy lineup questions? Don’t hesitate to ask on Facebook or Twitter

Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs (4.0)

Just when you thought it was safe to post a final rankings midway through July

Le’Veon Bell gets suspended, Arian Foster is signed, a Dion Lewis has knee surgery…mass hysteria! With fantasy drafts already happening, it’s now or never to update the rankings. Rosters are closer to being set and depth charts are starting to seem clearer.

Here is my final Top 40 Fantasy Running Back list…until the next dramatic roster change.

1. Todd Gurley, Rams

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Early candidate for the Hard Knocks draft bump goes to…

Besides the freakish talent, athleticism and stats from his rookie year (1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games), another thing Todd Gurley has going for him will be his usage in the upcoming season. The Rams offense hasn’t improved much in the offseason, outside of #1 overall pick Jared Goff. Will Gurley be prepared to handle defenses that fill 9 players into the box? Look to Adrian Peterson as an example of someone who wasn’t phased by it, and consider Gurley to be a younger and faster version of him.

2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings

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Adrian Peterson has posted 10+ touchdown in 8 of the 9 seasons he has played, and has also averaged 1,689 yards from scrimmage in each of those seasons. You can’t expect him to give you receiving points anymore and he only plays on the first 2 downs, but even at age 31 you can’t let him go out of your first round.

3. David Johnson, Cardinals

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David Johnson (I refer to him as DJ2K) is going ridiculously high in most mock drafts for his incredibly high ceiling in the Arizona Cardinals offense. From the RB3 spot in their backfield, Johnson scored 6 touchdowns in his first 5 games. When given #1 reps, Johnson showed you why he is rated so high, most notably Week 14 against Philadelphia…29 carries for 187 yards, 3 touchdowns + 4 catches for 42 yards.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

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Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t have landed in a better situation. He’ll be running behind one of the best 2 offensive lines in the league…in a system that is most effective in play-action…and a quarterback who loves to check down. He isn’t afraid of the big stage, from what college fans saw vs. Alabama and Oregon in the 2014-2015 College Football Playoffs. 41 touchdowns in his last 2 years at Ohio State shouldn’t be ignored either.

5. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers

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Le’Veon, Le’Veon, Le’Veon *continues shaking head*

He is the best offensive football player in the league. His 2014 season was proof of that as he totaled 2,215 yards from scrimmage (1,361 rushing, 854 receiving), 11 touchdowns and 83 catches. In the 6 games Bell played before his 2015-ending injury, he averaged 115 yards and scored 6 touchdowns.

…but of course a 3-game suspension makes it difficult to draft Bell early in the first round. You can’t let him get out of the 2nd though. Plan on handcuffing him to DeAngelo Williams.

6. Devonta Freeman, Falcons

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In 13 starts, Devonta Freeman ranked 1st in total touchdowns, 5th in yards from scrimmage, 7th in rushing and 2nd in touches. He will have new Falcon/Pro Bowl center Alex Mack to run behind in 2016. Tevin Coleman will get reps, but look for Freeman to be even more dangerous around the end zone this year. Coleman also wasn’t very dependable health-wise last season, but could set Freeman up by taking care of business between the 20’s.

7. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

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Fresh off the PUP list, but also simply fresher than most overall after an early season-ending injury. Before the 2015 season, Charles was a production machine. He totaled 5,049 yards and 39 touchdowns over the previous 3 seasons. Yes, another injury would be devastating, but the ceiling for a healthy Charles is too high to deny.

8. Doug Martin, Buccaneers 

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Doug Martin answered a ton of questions I had a year ago, including those regarding his health. It was the first time since his rookie year that Martin played all 16 games. While the numbers didn’t quite match those of 2012, he still ranked 2nd in rush yards and 4th in yards from scrimmage. Hopefully former OC Dirk Koetter, now at the helm, will help Martin break the plain of the end zone more often.

9. Lamar Miller, Texans

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Lamar Miller was such a curious case in 2015. The Dolphins were 6-1 when Miller got 13+ carries and winless when he didn’t. You can expect Bill O’Brien to give the 25-year-old plenty of action in his new digs. In the same system, Arian Foster recorded 1,573 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 2014. Miller, who has 19 touchdowns in the past 2 season, is much younger and faster than Foster was then. Fantasy owners should prepare for a monster year out of him.

10. Thomas Rawls, Seahawks

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In 6 starts last season, Thomas Rawls averaged 118.6 yards per game and scored 5 touchdowns. The Seahawks are ready to roll with Rawls as their #1 in the backfield and he should be an absolute force if he can stay healthy.

11. Mark Ingram, Saints

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Mark Ingram stepped up big for the Saints and Fantasy owners in 2015. He recorded career highs in yards from scrimmage, targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Proving he could be effective in the passing game made Ingram incredibly valuable in-between the 20s, and he should build on that momentum within the red zone as well. You should also feel optimistic by the fact that CJ Spiller has fallen down the depth chart and won’t be threatening Ingram for as many touches as last year.

12. Latavius Murray, Raiders

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I may be a bigger fan of Latavius Murray than most, but I do believe he’ll be running behind arguably the best offensive line in football and the Raiders receivers will keep defenses on their heels. I also like how much usage Murray got in 2015, ranking 4th in touches, 3rd in carries and 6th in rush yards.

13. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers

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If there was one takeaway from the Panthers’ offseason, besides saying goodbye to Josh Norman, was their commitment to the run, as their notable moves were extending fullback Mike Tolbert and guard Chris Scott. In order to preserve Cam Newton, the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in the league, the Panthers will utilize Jonathan Stewart in the run game. From weeks 5-12, Stewart had 20+ carries in each game, averaging 86.7 yards per game and scored 6 touchdowns in that span (plus another the week after).

14. Eddie Lacy, Packers

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The prospects of the Packers returning to their typical offensive form makes me much more optimistic about Eddie Lacy this season. With the caveat being that Jordy Nelson will bring back some normalcy for Aaron Rodgers, allowing everyone else (including Randall Cobb) to fall back into their roles, Lacy and the run game could be set up to take advantage of defenses that are too focused on covering deep passes. Maybe Lacy will look like the back that recorded back-to-back 1,100+ rushing seasons and 20 touchdowns to start his career and NOT the one that was benched based on merit.

15. LeSean McCoy, Bills

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I am not totally sure how LeSean McCoy was named to the Pro Bowl last year, but recording EXACTLY 112 yards rushing in 3 of the 5 games from Weeks 6-10 might have something to do with it. Shady McCoy should be depended on more, thanks to the release of suspended backup Karlos Williams, but it’s starting to feel like the back-to-back seasons of 310+ carries prior are catching up to him. His value in the passing game can’t be overlooked as he continues to build chemistry with Tyrod Taylor on play-action and 3rd down.

16. Jeremy Langford, Bears

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The Bears running back situation was hyped as one to watch, with good reason because of John Fox’s reputation to use the back with the hot-hand. Jeremy Langford stepped out in front of the pack, with a solid performance against the Patriots. With continuity in schemes and philosophy, expect Langford to get similar reps on the ground and in the air as he did last year when he was the feature RB. His speed, catching skills, and an improved starting offensive line should help him elevate his production.

17. CJ Anderson, Broncos

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You have to appreciate the love C.J. Anderson got from others in the league, including Tom Brady, after shining in the playoffs and Super Bowl. He was a great story when he broke out in 2014 and even better when he averaged 80.4 yards and scored 4 touchdowns in his last 5 games (end of regular season until he lifted the Lombardi trophy). Then the Broncos awarded Anderson for his efforts by matching Miami’s offer sheet. No question, he’ll be depended on in high volume as the Denver offense transitions from the post-Manning/Osweiler era.

18. Matt Forte, Jets

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The all-around back has averaged 1,589 yards from scrimmage per season over his 8-year career. He’s missed a lot of time in camp, due to a hamstring injury, but is expected to handle a steady workload in the running and passing game. The Jets converted 22 of 26 goal-to-go touchdowns, leading the league with 6.35 points per situation. Hopefully that’s a credit to their blocking and schemes, which would help Matt Forte’s inefficiency from the 3-yard line and in. He has only converted 17 of 58 tries from that distance.

19. Carlos Hyde, 49ers

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The 49ers brought in Chip Kelly as their new head coach and that was really the only change they made on the offensive side of the ball. That also means Carlos Hyde has zero real competition for the #1 running back job (save your Shaun Draughn responses). Hyde had a very promising start to 2015, rushing for 168 yards and scoring 2 touchdowns, but then adversity and injuries ended any optimism for the 49ers and his season by Week 7. 2016 will be a serious PROVE IT year for both Hyde and Kelly.

20. Jeremy Hill, Bengals

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Like Hyde, Jeremy Hill started 2015 with tons of promise by awarding those who drafted him high with 2 touchdowns. Then he frustrated them with immense inconsistency until Week 10, despite a 3 TD performance in Week 4 (good for you if you started him). We found out down the stretch that Hill’s game does not translate particularly well between the 20’s but can be devastating in the red zone. He scored 11 of his 12 touchdowns from within 10 yards of the end zone. Maybe the touchdown totals should have him ranked higher, but his split-back status should give you pause to draft him high.

21. Ryan Mathews, Eagles

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Ryan Mathews is the starting running back in Doug Peterson’s new Eagles offense, designating Darren Sproles to 3rd down and special teams situations (where Sproles is at his best). The 2011 Pro Bowler filled in fine when DeMarco Murray went missing, scoring 6 touchdowns in 13 games and averaging 5 yards per carry. The Eagles were a complete mess for mostof 2015 though, and Peterson brings are well-structured running game that made Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware into viable fantasy options last season.

22. DeMarco Murray, Titans

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DeMarco Murray made the Cowboys relevant on the field again, with Pro Bowl seasons in 2013 and ’14, but fell into something weird with Philadelphia in 2015. Now he has a chance to prove it “was them, not him” in 2016 with the run-happy Tennessee Titans. The question is…how much use will he get in a backfield that includes receiving back Dexter McCluster and reigning Heisman winner Derrick Henry?

23. Arian Foster, Dolphins

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There’s a lot of risk to selecting Arian Foster. He hasn’t played a full season since 2012, he just missed an entire season, and he’s playing in a new system…Fortunately, he’s playing in a very RB-friendly scheme under new Dolphins coach Adam Gase. Despite sitting out the first preseason game, Foster is expected to win the starting running back job and his 1,573 total yard/13 touchdown output in 2014 is too hard to ignore by the middle rounds of your draft.

24. DeAngelo Williams, Steelers

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In just 10 starts, Williams tied the league high for rushing touchdowns and totaled 1,274 yards from scrimmage. Deja vu, he’s starting the season for the Steelers again because of a Le’Veon Bell suspension. Best case scenario, you handcuff Williams to Bell in your draft. Based on the recent track record, Bell could get hurt again (like last year) and the Steelers offense won’t skip a beat with Williams carrying the rock.

25. Matt Jones, Washington

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High on the over-valued list is Matt Jones, who has assumed the #1 running back role in Washington with Alfred Morris now in Dallas. In 13 games last year, Jones scored just 4 touchdowns (3 rush and 1 receiving). Their offense was clicking much more when Kirk Cousins was finding his receivers deep and Jordan Reed in the end zone. Perhaps another year in the system and confidence from coach Jay Gruden will reward Jones more opportunities, especially in the red zone.

26. Justin Forsett, Ravens

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Justin Forsett was one of the best stories of 2014, filling the void Ray Rice left by earning his first Pro Bowl invitation and recording career highs in total yards (1,529), touchdowns (8) and receptions (44). The Ravens offense hit a serious snag as both Forsett and Joe Flacco went down after 10 games. Forsett can bounce back and return to being a Fantasy force again, but he will have Javorius Allen and rookie Kenneth Dixon ready to step in if he can’t.

27. T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars

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TJ Yeldon was steady in his rookie season, but never put together the monster game that people expected. The Jaguars were regularly playing from behind and were forced to pass most of the time. While the addition of Chris Ivory may appear as a bad sign for Yeldon’s reps, it could actually prove to be the opposite. Yeldon could learn from the veteran back, and will be depended on more in passing downs. If the Jaguars’ passing attack can strike first against opponents, they’ll be able to control the clock and pace with Yeldon running.

28. Danny Woodhead, Chargers

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For as long as Philip Rivers is playing quarterback and head coach Mike McCoy is influencing the Chargers offense, Danny Woodhead will be a fixture in Fantasy Football. The Chargers don’t have a vaunted defense and you can’t bank on Melvin Gordon bouncing back, but you can plan for Woodhead to get plenty of attention from the quarterback who threw more passes than anyone last season.

29. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins

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Jay Ajayi started the summer as Miami’s clear #1 RB, with great potential for a breakout season. Then when the Dolphins signed the imm more proven Foster, everything changed. Foster isn’t as surefire a choice for the starting role as one would assume though. Ajayi started the first two games of the preseason, and Adam Gase may have tipped his hand with the reps he gave the 2nd year back.

30. Rashad Jennings, Giants

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Rashad Jennings had his most productive season in New York last year. He totaled 1,159 yards from scrimmage and had a serious uptick in rush attempts, but only hit pay dirt 4 times all season. The Giants are better known for throwing the ball and Shane Vereen had twice as many targets as Jennings (81 to 40). For now, Jennings is their #1 back.

31. Ameer Abdullah, Lions

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Ameer Abdullah was high on many lists, last season, as a strong sleeper pick coming out of the draft. Unfortunately, the Lions had different plans. Abdullah would start games with a big run or a string of big downs, but then he wouldn’t see a single rush or target his way again. Theo Riddick was actually getting Woodhead-esque work as games progressed, finishing the season with 80 catches on 99 targets. If the Lions want to find balance though, they’ll want to hand the ball off to Abdullah.

32. Melvin Gordon, Chargers

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It’s difficult to put a lot of stock in Melvin Gordon, but the Chargers are giving him every chance to bounce back. They were never totally healthy at offensive line in 2015 and they could be poised to get ahead of teams early in games, capable of controlling the pace by handing off to Gordon. If he’s the starting running back in San Diego, he’ll have more value than most running backs in the league.

33. Duke Johnson Jr., Browns

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Duke Johnson Jr could very well be Hue Jackson’s new Giovani Bernard. When he received more game reps, Johnson became a strong PPR threat and finished with 61 receptions. The Browns may be playing from behind a lot in 2016 and that gives him a significant edge over Isaiah Crowell.

34. Giovani Bernard, Bengals

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Gio Bernard recorded a career high in rushing yards, but had most of his touchdowns “vultured” by Hill. It was clear that Bernard is a better running back and he is capable from scoring from anywhere on the field. After the recent departures of Andy Dalton’s #2 and #3 receivers, there’s a good chance Bernard could be spreading out more as well.

35. Chris Ivory, Jaguars

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The Jaguars aren’t looking like the punchline that they used to anymore. They have one of the best WR duos in football, and you could be saying something similar about their backfield as well. Chris Ivory was Top 5 in rushing yards and Top 10 in rushing touchdowns a year ago, and could be a dangerous goal-line weapon while splitting carries with TJ Yeldon.

36. Bilal Powell, Jets

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Bilal Powell could be a huge sleeper this season, as he showed to be a PPR stud down the stretch in 2015. After returning from injury in Week 10, Powell averaged 5.3 catches per game. There’s also no telling how Forte will hold up for the whole season and Powell has a much better nose for the end zone.

37. James White, Patriots

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Following the news of Dion Lewis’ need for a second knee surgery and no set timetable for a return, James White immediately emerged as a popular candidate to fill his role. In the final 5-game stretch of 2015, White averaged 5.6 receptions per game and scored a touchdown in 4 straight before the final game of the regular season. He’s been better utilized as a pass catcher out of the backfield and a makes for a reliable weapon between the 20s. There’s solid mid-round value for White if he is dubbed Bill Belichick’s opening day starter.

38. Frank Gore, Colts

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Right now, Frank Gore is the #1 running back in Indianapolis but how long does 33-year-old running back have to maintain that role. In 2015, Gore finished with the lowest amount of rush yards after completing a full 16-game season and his 7 touchdowns were recorded in just 5 games.

39. Christine Michael, Seahawks

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Christine Michael has looked really good in preseasons of the past, but it never seems to translate to the regular season. His vision and decision have improved though, in his 4th NFL season, and that bodes well for the Thomas Rawls’ backup. Rawls runs hard and looks for contact, which increases his chances for another injury. Handcuffing Michael with Rawls would be extremely savvy in your upcoming draft.

40. Derrick Henry, Titans

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It’s hard to leave the Heisman trophy winner off the list. Derrick Henry made his NFL debut with 74 yards and a touchdown, all in the 2nd quarter of Week 1 against the Chargers. His pairing with Murray is being referred to as the “Thunder and Thunder Offense”, which seems scary given lightning is supposed to warn of the thunder…and there appears to be know warning with this backfield.

More Position Rankings:

*Updated Rankings Coming Soon*

Running Backs (3.0)

Quarterbacks (3.0)

Wide Receivers (2.0)

Tight Ends (1.0)

 

Follow for more and ask questions on Facebook and Twitter

2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs 3.0

With the 2016 season just around the corner, it’s time to really hunker down and prepare for your upcoming draft.

We began ranking players by their position back at the start of February, because it’s never too early to start thinking about the next season. Then we updated the running back rankings after free agency, just before the NFL Draft. (Thank you, Cowboys, for dramatically changing things with Ezekiel Elliott)

Here we are now, with the best idea of what starting backfields will look like across the league before training camp. Coaching changes, game plan philosophies, offensive lines, plus new additions through free agency and the NFL Draft are all taken into account as we rank the Top 40 running backs by priority in which you should be drafting them.

 

1. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers

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Le’Veon Bell takes the #1 spot because when he’s right, he is the best offensive football player in the league. Both on the ground and in the air, Bell does it all. His 2014 season was proof of that as he totaled 2,215 yards from scrimmage (1,361 rushing, 854 receiving), 11 touchdowns and 83 catches. In the 6 games Bell played before his 2015-ending injury, he averaged 115 yards and scored 6 touchdowns.

Though his injury history is worth the concern, his motivation this year seems to be the next big pay day, which he has made note of multiple times this summer. A player that is hungry to earn more money than anyone else at his position is usually a good one to bet on.

2. Todd Gurley, Rams

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Besides the freakish talent, athleticism and stats from his rookie year (1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games), another thing Todd Gurley has going for him will be usage in the upcoming season. The Rams offense hasn’t improved much in the offseason outside of #1 overall pick Jared Goff. Whether it’s Goff or Nick Foles under center, both will be giving Gurley a high volume of reps on all-three downs in order to move the ball.

3. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

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I give Jamaal Charles a a slight edge over Adrian Peterson for the simple fact that he has a little more tread on the tires, despite and because of 2 season-ending. Before the 2015 season, Charles was a production machine. He totaled 5,049 yards and 39 touchdowns over the previous 3 seasons. Yes, another injury would be devastating, but the ceiling for a healthy Charles is too high to deny.

4. Adrian Peterson, Vikings

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Adrian Peterson has posted 10+ touchdown in 8 of the 9 seasons he has played, and has also averaged 1,689 yards from scrimmage in each of those seasons. You can’t expect him to give you receiving points anymore and he only plays on the first 2 downs, but even at age 31 you can’t let him go out of your first round. The Vikings have improved their line as well, and the only reason I don’t have him higher is because he is on the wrong side of 30.

5. David Johnson, Cardinals

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David Johnson (I refer to him as DJ2K) is going ridiculously high in most mock drafts for his incredibly high ceiling in the Arizona Cardinals offense. From the RB3 spot in their backfield, Johnson scored 6 touchdowns in his first 5 games. When given #1 reps, Johnson showed you why he is rated so high, most notably Week 14 against Philadelphia…29 carries for 187 yards, 3 touchdowns + 4 catches for 42 yards.

6. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

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Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t have landed in a better situation. He’ll be running behind one of the Top 2 offensive lines in the league…in a system that works best in play-action…with a quarterback who loves to check down. He isn’t afraid of the big stage, from what college fans saw him do against both Alabama and Oregon in the 2014-2015 College Football Playoffs. 41 touchdowns in his last 2 years at Ohio State shouldn’t be ignored either.

7. Devonta Freeman, Falcons

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In 13 starts, Devonta Freeman ranked 1st in total touchdowns, 5th in yards from scrimmage, 7th in rushing and 2nd in touches. He will have new Falcon/Pro Bowl center Alex Mack to run behind in 2016. Tevin Coleman should still get some reps, but look for Freeman to be even more dangerous around the end zone this year.

8. Doug Martin, Buccaneers 

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Doug Martin answered a ton of questions I had a year ago, including those regarding his health. It was the first time since his rookie year that Martin played all 16 games. While the numbers didn’t quite match those of 2012, he still ranked 2nd in rush yards and 4th in yards from scrimmage. Hopefully former OC Dirk Koetter, now at the helm, will help Martin break the plain of the end zone more often.

9. Lamar Miller, Texans

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Lamar Miller was such a curious case in 2015. The Dolphins were 6-1 when Miller got 13+ carries and winless when he didn’t. You can expect Bill O’Brien to give the 25-year-old plenty of action in his new digs. In the same system, Arian Foster recorded 1,573 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 2014. Miller, who has 19 touchdowns in the past 2 season, is much younger and faster than Foster was then. Fantasy owners should prepare for a monster year out of him.

10. Thomas Rawls, Seahawks

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In 6 starts last season, Thomas Rawls averaged 118.6 yards per game and scored 5 touchdowns. The Seahawks are ready to roll with Rawls as their #1 in the backfield and he should be an absolute force if he can stay healthy.

11. Mark Ingram, Saints

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Mark Ingram stepped up big for the Saints and Fantasy owners in 2015. He recorded career highs in yards from scrimmage, targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Proving he could be effective in the passing game made Ingram incredibly valuable in between the 20s, and he should build on that momentum within the red zone as well.

12. Latavius Murray, Raiders

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I may be a bigger fan of Latavius Murray than most, but I do believe he’ll be running behind arguably the best offensive line in football and the Raiders receivers will keep defenses on their heels. I also like how much usage Murray got in 2015, ranking 4th in touches, 3rd in carries and 6th in rush yards.

13. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers

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If there was one takeaway from the Panthers’ offseason, besides saying goodbye to Josh Norman, was their commitment to the run, as their notable moves were extending fullback Mike Tolbert and guard Chris Scott. In order to preserve Cam Newton, the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in the league, the Panthers will want to utilize Jonathan Stewart in the run game. From weeks 5-12, Stewart had 20+ carries in each game, averaging 86.7 yards per game and scored 6 touchdowns in that span (plus another the week after).

14. Eddie Lacy, Packers

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I have not bought into the Eddie Lacy hype, which is all based on his fitness, but the prospects of the Packers returning to their typical offensive form makes me optimistic. With the caveat being Jordy Nelson bringing back some normalcy for Aaron Rodgers, which allows everyone else (including Randall Cobb) to fall back into their roles, Lacy and the run game could be set up to take advantage of defenses that are too focused on covering deep passes. Maybe then Lacy will look like the back that recorded back-to-back 1,100+ rushing seasons and 20 touchdowns to start his career and NOT the one that was benched based on merit.

15. LeSean McCoy, Bills

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I am not totally sure how LeSean McCoy was named to the Pro Bowl last year, but recording EXACTLY 112 yards rushing in 3 of the 5 games from Weeks 6-10 might have something to do with it. Hopefully Shady’s 2nd year in Buffalo will be more productive but it’s starting to feel like the back-to-back seasons of 310+ carries prior are catching up to him. His value in the passing game can’t be overlooked as he continues to build chemistry with Tyrod Taylor on play-action and 3rd down.

16. CJ Anderson, Broncos

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You have to appreciate the love C.J. Anderson got from others in the league, including Tom Brady, after shining in the playoffs and Super Bowl. He was a great story when he broke out in 2014 and even better when he averaged 80.4 yards and scored 4 touchdowns in his last 5 games (end of regular season until he lifted the Lombardi trophy). Then the Broncos awarded Anderson for his efforts by matching Miami’s offer sheet. No question, he’ll be depended on in high volume as the Denver offense transitions from the post-Manning/Osweiler era.

17. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins

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If you’ve been following along, this is big jump for Jay Ajayi. He was ranked 40th in the last version of these rankings because I wasn’t sure if Miami would give him more competition. The closest thing to real competition appears to be their 73rd overall pick, Kenyan Drake from Alabama, but he appears destined for 3rd down and change-of-pace status in the immediate future. So that makes Ajayi the new Frankenstein running back for Adam Gase, and you can look at Matt Forte, CJ Anderson, and Knowshon Moreno as references for success.

This should also give you some Ajayi optimism…sorta.

WHAT A BEAST!

18. Matt Forte, Jets

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Speaking of Matt Forte, it’s going to be so weird to see him a uniform that isn’t navy and orange. After concluding a tenure in Chicago that is considered only behind Hall of Famers Walter Payton and Gale Sayers, Forte is now a New York Jet. He’s the football definition of an all-around athlete (running, blocking, catching, even passing) and averages 1,589 yards from scrimmage per season.

The hope was that he could be a role player for a championship ready team, but the Jets seem to have taken a step back from continuity by not bringing Ryan Fitzpatrick back. Based on circumstance, Forte could get a ton of touches running and catching from any of the Jets QB contingent (Smith, Petty, Hackenberg).

19. Dion Lewis, Patriots

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It’s so hard to rely on New England Patriots running backs because Bill Belichick is so unpredictable in who he wants to use. However, he seems to have found a lethal weapon in Dion Lewis, who broke onto the scene in 2015 with 4 touchdowns in 6 games before a season-ending injury. Lewis’ nose for the end zone and versatility in the pass game made the Patriots confident enough to extend his contract during the season too. With Jimmy Garoppolo likely starting the first 4 games of the season, expect him to rely heavily on Lewis in both the run and passing game.

We also know how much Brady loves throwing to his running backs in uptempo situations too…

20. Jeremy Langford, Bears

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It pains me to drop Jeremy Langford in these rankings, but the drafting of Indiana running back Jordan Howard makes his status as a bell-cow back a bit less likely. In both Denver and Carolina, John Fox had always gone with the hot-hand in the running game and that could push Langford elevate his play in training camp, then carry it over to the regular season. This is the one backfield situation that you’ll want to keep an eye on before the season starts, as Langford has his leg up on the competition.

Whoever gets the starting job though will be getting TONS of work, as we saw in 2015.

21. Carlos Hyde, 49ers

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The 49ers brought in Chip Kelly as their new head coach and that was really the only change they made on the offensive side of the ball. That also means zero real competition for Carlos Hyde as the #1 running back on the depth chart (save your Shaun Draughn responses, unless he wins the job). Hyde had a very promising start to 2015, rushing for 168 yards and scoring 2 touchdowns, but then adversity and injuries ended any optimism for the 49ers and his season by Week 7. 2016 will be a serious PROVE IT year for both Hyde and Kelly.

22. Jeremy Hill, Bengals

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Like Hyde, Jeremy Hill started 2015 with tons of promise by awarding those who drafted him high with 2 touchdowns. Then he frustrated them with immense inconsistency until Week 10, despite a 3 TD performance in Week 4 (good for you, if you started him). We found out down the stretch that Hill’s game does not translate particularly well between the 20’s but can be devastating in the red zone. He scored 11 of his 12 touchdowns from within 10 yards of the end zone. Maybe the touchdown totals should have him ranked higher, but his split-back status should give you pause to draft him high.

23. Ryan Mathews, Eagles

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Without question, Ryan Mathews is the starting running back in Doug Peterson’s new Eagles offense, designating Darren Sproles to 3rd down and special teams situations. The 2011 Pro Bowler filled in fine when DeMarco Murray went missing, scoring 6 touchdowns in 13 games and averaging 5 yards per carry. The Eagles were a complete mess though, for a lot of 2015, and Peterson brings are well-structured running game that made Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware into viable fantasy options last season.

24. DeMarco Murray, Titans

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DeMarco Murray made the Cowboys relevant on the field again, with Pro Bowl seasons in 2013 and ’14, but fell into something weird in Philadelphia in 2015. Now he has a chance to get back to that level in 2016 with the run-happy Tennessee Titans. The question is how much use will he get in a backfield that includes receiving back Dexter McCluster and reigning Heisman winner Derrick Henry.

25. Matt Jones, Washington

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High on the over-valued list is Matt Jones, who has assumed the #1 running back role in Washington with Alfred Morris now in Dallas. In 13 games last year, Jones scored just 4 touchdowns (3 rush and 1 receiving). Their offense was clicking much more when Kirk Cousins was finding his receivers deep and Jordan Reed in the end zone. Perhaps another year in the system and confidence from coach Jay Gruden will award Jones more opportunities, especially in the red zone.

26. Justin Forsett, Ravens

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Justin Forsett was one of the best stories of 2014, filling the void Ray Rice left by earning his first Pro Bowl invitation and recording career highs in total yards (1,529), touchdowns (8) and receptions (44). The Ravens offense hit a serious snag as both Forsett and Joe Flacco went down after 10 games. Forsett can bounce back and return to being the a Fantasy force again, but he will have Javorius Allen and rookie Kenneth Dixon to ready step in if he can’t.

27. T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars

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TJ Yeldon was steady in his rookie season, but never put together the monster game that people expected. The Jaguars were regularly playing from behind and were forced to pass most of the time. While the addition of Chris Ivory may appear as a bad sign for Yeldon’s reps, it could actually prove to be the opposite. Yeldon will be forced to earn a starting role in camp, could learn from the veteran back, and will be depended on more in passing downs. If the Jaguars’ passing attack can strike first against opponents, they’ll be able to control the clock and pace with Yeldon carrying the rock.

28. Danny Woodhead, Chargers

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For as long as Philip Rivers is playing quarterback and head coach Mike McCoy is influencing the Chargers offense, Danny Woodhead will be a fixture in Fantasy Football. The Chargers don’t have a vaunted defense and it’s hard to expect that Melvin Gordon will bounce back, but you can plan for Woodhead to get plenty of attention from the quarterback who threw more passes than anyone last season.

29. Rashad Jennings, Giants

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Rashad Jennings had his most productive season in New York last year. He totaled 1,159 yards from scrimmage and had a serious uptick in rush attempts, but only hit pay dirt 4 times all season. The Giants are better known for throwing the ball and Shane Vereen had twice as many targets as Jennings (81 to 40). For now, though, Jennings is their #1 back.

30. Ameer Abdullah, Lions

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Ameer Abdullah was high on many lists, last season, as a strong sleeper pick coming out of the draft. Unfortunately, the Lions had different plans. Abdullah would start games with a big run or a string of big downs, but then he wouldn’t see a single rush or target his way again. Theo Riddick was actually getting Woodhead-esque work as games progressed, finishing the season with 80 catches on 99 targets. If the Lions want to find balance though, they’ll want to had the ball off to Abdullah.

31. DeAngelo Williams, Steelers

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I would highly recommend handcuffing DeAngelo Williams with Bell, or stashing him in the case that he has to be a starter again. In just 10 starts, Williams tied the league high for rushing touchdowns and totaled 1,274 yards from scrimmage.

32. Melvin Gordon, Chargers

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There isn’t much reason to put much stock in Melvin Gordon, but the Chargers are giving him every chance to bounce back. They were never totally healthy at offensive line in 2015 and they could be poised to get ahead of teams early on, capable of controlling the pace by handing off to Gordon. If he’s the starting running back in San Diego, he’ll have more value than most running backs in the league.

33. Duke Johnson Jr., Browns

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Duke Johnson Jr could very well be Hue Jackson’s new Giovani Bernard. When he received more game reps, Johnson became a strong PPR threat and finished with 61 receptions. The Browns may be playing from behind a lot in 2016 and that gives him a significant edge over Isaiah Crowell.

34. Giovani Bernard, Bengals

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Gio Bernard recorded a career high in rushing yards, but had most of his touchdowns “vultured” by Hill. It was clear that Bernard is a better running back and he is capable from scoring from anywhere on the field. After the recent departures of Andy Dalton’s #2 and #3 receivers, there’s a good chance Bernard could be spreading out more as well.

35. Jordan Howard, Bears

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I include Jordan Howard here because there’s a possibility he breaks Bears training camp as their #1 running back. It will be a volatile situation, more than likely, but Howard possesses the size, speed and ability that could win the starting job…or at the very least, get plenty of opportunities in the red zone.

36. Bilal Powell, Jets

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Bilal Powell could be a huge sleeper this season, as he showed to be a PPR stud down the stretch in 2015. After returning from injury in Week 10, Powell averaged 5.3 catches per game. There’s also no telling how Forte will hold up for the whole season and Powell has a much better nose for the end zone.

37. Frank Gore, Colts

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Right now, Frank Gore is the #1 running back in Indianapolis but how long does 33-year-old running back have to maintain that role. In 2015, Gore finished with the lowest amount of rush yards after completing a full 16-game season and his 7 touchdowns were recorded in just 5 games.

38. Karlos Williams, Bills

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Remember when Karlos Williams scored touchdowns in each of first 6 games? That was awesome…Williams is another player to keep close, with strong possibilities that McCoy goes down. He also seems to get plenty opportunities in the red zone, regardless of McCoy’s health status, but dealt with the injury big himself in his rookie season.

39. Chris Ivory, Jaguars

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Chris Ivory tied for the league lead in carries within the 5 yard line and finished with career highs in touchdowns (8) and rushing yards (1,070) and for the season. Now he’s in Jacksonville, likely to split carries with Yeldon and running in an offense that tends to play from behind a lot. That could see the workload he earned in 2015 for his first Pro Bowl diminish quite a bit, but there’s potential for Jacksonville to be in his sweet spot (5 yards out) a lot because of the passing game.

40. Derrick Henry, Titans

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It’s hard to leave the Heisman trophy winner off the list, especially when the running back ahead of him had such a disastrous 2015 season. Henry is a total workhouse too, who gets stronger after every run. Although the Titans invested a lot to acquire Murray, Henry could be getting plenty of carries in the red zone and could earn more reps throughout the season as well.

More Position Rankings:

Running Backs (2.0)

Quarterbacks (2.0)

Wide Receivers (2.0)

Tight Ends (1.0)

 

Follow for more and ask questions on Facebook and Twitter

NFL Week 14 Fantasy Mailbag

If you made your Fantasy league’s playoffs…

Antonio nuts

CONGRATS!

If not, thanks for reading anyway. If people don’t send in questions, there is no Mailbag. So sincerely, thank you for making this fun for me every week to write up and try to help you get where you want to be.

December is the month that matters now, ask Russell Wilson. In December, Wilson is 13-2 as a starter which is the highest win percentage for a quarterback since 2000. All of a sudden the Seahawks look like a team nobody wants to play against and so do the Steelers. That’s who you have to be now as a Fantasy owner, and it doesn’t hurt having players from both squads either.

Quick Hits

  • Speaking of the Steelers, having any of their top 3 WRs for the last 2 weeks is not a bad thing. Sunday night was further proof Antonio Brown is the best weapon in the NFL right now (118 yards and 3 total touchdowns). Markus Wheaton is lighting things up, likely from your league’s waiver wire, with 19 targets, 12 catches, 251 yards and 3 touchdowns in that time. Then there’s Martavis Bryant, who has scored in 5 of the 7 games he’s played in since returning from suspension and injury. The trio faces a Bengals defense that is thin at cornerback with Leon Hall and Pacman Jones banged up, and is allowing more than a touchdown to opposing WRs per game.

  • Very quietly and unsuspectingly, Saints running back Mark Ingram was put on IR for the shoulder injury he was nursing the past two weeks. It seems as though the Saints are shelving him with nothing to play for, just in time for your playoffs. It’s the year of the backup running back though! CJ2K has given the reigns to DJ2K (David Johnson) in Arizona. DeAngelo Williams is doing his best Le’Veon Bell impression. And Thomas Rawls has a higher touchdown rate in the red zone (21.4%) then the league leader in touchdowns, Devonta Freeman (20%).Go snag Tim Hightower now, if you haven’t already, as he’s expected to get Ingram’s early down workload.

Rawls vs Vikings

  • If the Titans have anything going for them, besides a good shot at the #1 overall draft pick for a second year in a row, it’s Delanie Walker. Over the past 5 weeks, Walker has the most targets, catches and yards of any tight end in the game. He also faces a Jets defense this week that will be missing Revis Island and safety Calvin Pryor.

Delanie Walker TD

 

Mail Time!

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RB: Despite Giovani Bernard having more rush yards and 300 more receiving yards than Jeremy Hill, Hill is getting an actual starter’s workload with 20 more touches than Gio over the last 2 weeks. You should feel good going with him. Doug Martin has the New Orleans dumpster fire D this week. Now you’re left between Javorius Allen and Todd Gurley. Go with Buck. He’s averaging 123 yards per game since taking over for Justin Forsett. Meanwhile, Gurley is on the back of a milk carton and we can’t find him.

TE: Close call, but I would go with ASJ for matchup reasons. He played limited snaps last week but still managed to be the 2nd most targeted receiver by Jamies Winston.

 

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Even though I gave a ton of love to both Wilson and the Steelers to start this post, I’m going against them for this choice. Andy Dalton has 3+ touchdowns in half of the games he’s started this season and could be in for a total shootout with the Steelers this weekend. Considering what Russ was able to do against Pittsburgh, you should like ADalt even better.

 

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First reaction – Yikes.

*Taking a second to process*

Ronnie Hillman. CJ Anderson is playing on a bum ankle which opens up a lot more for Hillman against Oakland. As stated earlier, Gio’s usage doesn’t give me enough confidence to start him when I have other options.

 

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WR: I really don’t like the Bucs as much as I sound, but I hate the Saints defense way more. This is a great week for V-Jax because the Saints have given up 9 touchdowns to #2 WRs over the last 5 weeks.

FLEX: Going against one of the worst run defenses in the league, it’s a good week to play Shaun Draughn. I feel weird typing that, but Draughn has turned into the 49ers’ everything back and Cleveland has allowed at least 95 yards or a touchdown to RBs in 10 of the 12 games they’ve played this season.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend!