A Look at Fantasy Relevant Backfield Situations

One must be crazy in order to play the running back (RB) position in the NFL. The average career of a player at the position is 3.11 years which of course is the lowest of any position in the game. Almost every single time they touch the ball it results in them taking a beating. Therefore it’s not surprise at this point in the season there are murky situations at the position. Some coaches like to mix up their backfields in order to keep all of their guys fresh and healthy while others at this point in the season are just trying to manage the remaining pieces after suffering a devastating injury. Here is a look at several different fantasy relevant backfield situations and how they have adapted over the past few weeks to their ongoing situations:

Arizona Cardinals

Week 13:

David Johnson – 24 touches (two receptions (RECs)), 120 total yards, one touchdown (TD)

Kerwynn Williams – six touches, 59 yards, one TD

Stepfan Taylor – six touches, 20 yards

Week 14:

David Johnson – 24 touches (five RECs), 123 total yards

Kerwynn Williams – six touches, two yards

Stepfan Taylor – two touches (one REC), one total yard

Analysis: Due to the injuries to both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, David Johnson has stepped into a true workhorse role. Coach Bruce Arians gets a bad rap for turning clear bellcow situations into committees for seemingly no purpose but credit must be given here; he has no intentions of allowing anyone to touch the ball more than his young, stud talent. Johnson both handles a heavy share of carries and catches the ball out of the backfield to go with his ability to take it to the house on any given play. The combination of workload, talent and upside has seen his stock rise from a third string back to a borderline weekly RB1 moving forward. At this point, there are only a handful of backs with a better combination of aptitude and situation (Todd Gurley, Devonta Freeman, Adrian Peterson, DeAngelo Williams and Doug Martin) than Johnson…yeah, he’s in that good of a spot.

Houston Texans

Week 13:

Chris Polk – 13 touches (one REC), 72 total yards, one TD

Jonathan Grimes – seven touches (two RECs), 43 total yards

Alfred Blue – four touches, 14 yards

Week 14:

Chris Polk – 13 touches (one RECs), 48 total yards

Jonathan Grimes – nine touches (two RECs), 62 total yards

Alfred Blue – zero touches

Analysis: Losing Arian Foster drastically changed the identity of this team as they went from a “pound the ball down your throat” type mentality to allowing Brian Hoyer to throw the ball 43 times in week 13. Alfred Blue initially stepped up as the starter but he’s nothing more than a “volume back,” meaning he needs a large volume of touches to succeed. In layman’s terms, he’s a mediocre NFL back at best and finally Coach Bill O’Brien has taken notice. Over the long haul, I believe Chris Polk is the best option in the backfield but Jonathan Grimes is working his way into the conversation. After Polk’s 13 touch week 13, I thought his arrow was pointing straight up and he would continue to ascend. Instead, his touches remained the same in week 14 and Grimes’ total rose. This situation is a true committee and therefore offers no clear fantasy options on a weekly basis. The Texans can be safely avoided.

New York Jets

Week 13:

Chris Ivory – 15 touches (five RECs), 69 total yards

Bilal Powell – 14 touches (eight RECs), 108 total yards, one TD

Week 14:

Chris Ivory – 22 touches (one REC), 107 total yards

Bilal Powell – eight touches (five RECs), 36 yards, one TD

Analysis: Bilal Powell was an afterthought in fantasy circles heading into his season as he was awarded his chance to start last season and did not impress. Chris Ivory was the clear-cut lead guy for the team and was the only one worthy of fantasy consideration…how things have changed since early in the season. Sunday marked the second straight game Powell outscored Ivory in the FantasyDraft PPR format and the fourth time in the last five games he caught at least five passes. It appears he is emerging in the team’s Shane Vereen role which always catches my attention. Passing down backs can see an inconsistent number of touches but the receptions make up for it especially if he can consistently hover around four to five. Powell has yet to score a rushing TD this season so it’s pretty clear who the goal line back and touch dominator on the team still is: Ivory. However, it will be a difficult proposition moving forward deciding which to roster especially considering Ivory’s price remains inflated while Powell’s is just catching up to his new, intriguing role.

San Diego Chargers

Week 13:

Melvin Gordon – 13 touches (one REC), 63 total yards

Donald Brown – eight touches (one REC), 57 total yards

Danny Woodhead – six touches (three RECs), 34 total yards

Week 14:

Melvin Gordon – 18 touches (four RECs), 63 total yards

Donald Brown – zero touches

Danny Woodhead – six touches (three RECs), 13 yards

Analysis: On the surface, Danny Woodhead’s numbers still look respectable. He is on pace for 71 RECs, 740 receiving yards and four receiving TDs over 16 games. In his 2013 breakout season, he finished with 76 RECs, 605 receiving yards and six receiving TDs, which was good enough for RB15. However, Woodhead hasn’t moved the needle since his six catch, 78 yard performance capped by a TD in week nine versus the Bears. Since then, Melvin Gordon’s carry count has risen and he continues to be more and more involved in the passing game. If Gordon can develop a knack for catching passes then the need for Woodhead dwindles considerably. It’s time to stop chasing Woodhead points because Gordon, the team’s first round back, is rounding into form just in time for the fantasy playoffs. He’s the back to own in the San Diego backfield plain and simple.

…And finally a look at a backfield that suffered the most impactful injury of maybe any team other than the Cincinnati Bengals’ Andy Dalton in week 14…

Seattle Seahawks

Analysis: After losing Marshawn Lynch during the team’s week 10 game against Arizona, the Seahawks have now lost Thomas Rawls for the season due to a broken ankle. The Seattle backfield is left with a combination of Fred Jackson, DuJuan Harris and the newly-signed Bryce Brown. Jackson is likely too old and slow at this point to lead a backfield so Harris is expected to get the first shot at leading the backfield. For week 15 purposes only, Harris will be the back to roster. My worry is Brown’s has always possessed serious talent (the top RB recruit out of high school his year) but has shown the propensity to fumble/has had a difficult time hanging onto the ball. If he could ever correct that flaw, it’s within reason he could develop into a productive NFL back. If Harris falters whatsoever, he may be given yet another shot as Coach Pete Carroll has proven will play the best player (he started rookie Russell Wilson over Matt Flynn whom the team handed a hefty contract in the offseason prior).

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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