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Bradshaw owners can exhale
Welcome to the Week 5 edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees. In this space, we’ll look at recent performances and attempt to read the backfield tea leaves to help you with lineup decisions. We’ll post this article each Tuesday, and offer updates in our fantasy coverage throughout the week, including in the Friday morning edition of the FOX Sports Fantasy Buzz Blog!
This series will focus mainly on the more volatile and/or 50-50 situations, with some injury notes at the end.
Week 5 Byes: Cowboys, Lions, Raiders, Buccaneers
Michael Turner had a huge game against the Panthers that included 100 yards rushing and a 60-yard touchdown reception. However, Jacquizz Rodgers got 10 touches to Turner’s 16, and looks like a viable flex option for some bye weeks. This is also the first time Turner has looked good; let’s see how he does against a good defense (he faces a porous Redskins’ D in Week 5). Start him this week, of course.
With a 16-10 advantage in touches, Fred Jackson (knee) was busier than C.J. Spiller (ankle) in their respective returns from injury in Week 4. Still, Spiller has been so explosive this season that the Bills would be crazy not to keep him in at least an equal timeshare. They’ll have a tough road matchup in San Francisco this week, but Jackson and Spiller both appear to be fantasy starters.
And the Panthers’ leading rusher in Week 4 was … Cam Newton! DeAngelo Williams got 12 touches to Jonathan Stewart’s 11 against the Falcons, with Williams getting a TD, and neither back surpassing 51 yards from scrimmage. With the tough Seahawks’ D coming to Charlotte this week, I’d try to avoid Williams and Stewart unless an injury or bye forced my hand. I hate this backfield committee.
Rookie Ronnie Hillman finally got some action as Willis McGahee’s sidekick against the Raiders, and looked pretty good with 10 carries for 31 yards and a couple of catches. McGahee is still the Broncos’ lead back, but one more game like this from Hillman will make him relevant in bye weeks. Hillman is a little guy at 190 pounds, so don’t get any ideas about him being a workhorse down the road.
This isn’t a committee, as Mikel Leshoure is pretty clearly the lead back. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Joique Bell, who has caught 10 passes for 122 yards over the last two games. Don’t knock anyone over on the way to picking Bell up, but consider him as a deep-bench PPR stash if he’s available.
Brandon Bolden? Really, Bill Belichick? Even though Stevan Ridley had a strong day against the Bills, Bolden was terrific as well, running 16 times for 137 yards and a score, and racking up seven carries of 10 yards or more. Since running backs are scarce, you almost have to grab Bolden off the wire this week if you can. You don’t need to trust him enough to start him just yet, but that might come later.
Speaking from a purely fantasy perspective … what a %$#@! mess. Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram combined to run 14 times for 25 yards against the Packers, and it’s hard to stress enough how little you should depend on them. If you have two or three or seven backs out this week due to byes and injuries, you can start one of these fantasy mediocrities. Otherwise, forget them.
As always, PPR killer Darren Sproles is exempt from Saints’ backfield criticism, as he had 10 touches for 64 yards and a score in Green Bay. Ho-hum.
The first round of the Ahmad Bradshaw-Andre Brown battle went to Bradshaw, who got 16 touches to Brown’s six against the Eagles on Sunday night. As good as Brown was in Week 3, it looks like he’ll be Robin to Bradshaw’s injury-prone Batman. Bradshaw looks like an RB2 against the Browns, while Brown is more of a desperation flex play.
No committee yet, but a warning: If you own Greene, you should be worried about his 2.8 yards-per-carry average. It might not be all his fault, but it’s not like he makes something out of nothing very often. Keep Bilal Powell on your radar in all formats, and stash him if you have a deep bench. Powell is a good bet to get some handoffs from Tim Tebow in the second half of the season.
Rashard Mendenhall is scheduled to return this week after offseason surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee. How will he fit into a Steeler running game that has sputtered so far with Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer? On Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Mendenhall is the team’s “lead dog.” Despite the uncertainty that comes with anyone recovering from such a bad injury, you can start Mendenhall as an RB2 this week, even against the tough Eagles. Redman and Dwyer are now virtually useless except for handcuffing purposes (I’d take Dwyer in that case).
What were you doing on Sunday, Norv Turner? Teaching Ryan Mathews a lesson in an effort to make him stop fumbling? Turner says that Jackie Battle’s busy day against the Chiefs (15 carries, 39 tards, TD; four receptions, 42 yards, TD) was more about easing Mathews back into action after his recent return from a broken clavicle. As annoying as this is – and it could remain somewhat annoying in the short term – now is the time to strike with a buy-low offer to a Mathews owner. He’s too good to share a lead back role with Battle for long. I bet he has a big Monday night game against the Saints.
Dear Doug Martin owners: Before you panic, know that according to Pro Football Focus, Martin was on the field for 46 snaps against the Redskins, while LeGarrette Blount saw 12 snaps. Even though Blount got a short-yardage touchdown, their Martin’s small eight-to-six carry advantage is a bit misleading.
Even though head coach Greg Schiano said recently that he wants to get Blount more involved in the offense, he noted that “One week it could be 50-50 and the next week it could be 80-20.” That suggests at least an even split for Martin, and often a lot more. When the Bucs take the field against the Chiefs in Week 6, Martin might not be the stud RB1 you hoped for on draft day, but he’ll still be worthy of a fantasy start. Stay away from Blount until he gives you good reason to play him.
St. Louis Rams: Steven Jackson’s groin issues don’t seem to be going away, and become even more of a concern with a short week. Make sure he’s active against the Cardinals before setting your lineup, and grab Daryl Richardson as a one-week handcuff if you can.
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