Welcome to the season’s fifth edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees. Can you believe Darren McFadden is hurt again? What were the odds?
In this space, we’ll 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!
As usual, this series will focus mainly on the more volatile and/or 50-50 situations, but there will be some non-committee and injury notes as well. If you have any questions, the FOXSports.com fantasy staff is always happy to help. The best ways to reach me are via Facebook or Twitter.
Finally, start/sit recommendations for the players below always depend on the rest of your roster. For specific RB rankings, click here. Rankings will be available at around noon ET each Wednesday.
Bye week: Vikings, Steelers, Bucs, Redskins. That means no Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris or Le’Veon Bell
Thursday game: Bills at Browns
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians sure doesn’t sound happy with Rashard Mendenhall after a Week 4 performance that saw Mendenhall carry 12 times for 21 yards, fumble twice and drop a pass. Arians hasn’t announced any changes yet, but small, speedy Andre Ellington (owned in 3.7 percent of FOXSports.com leagues) might start to get more work. We’ve said this before, but stash Ellington if you can.
Sunday’s game against the Patriots saw another Jacquizz Rodgers-leaning timeshare for the Falcons. The Falcons’ backup duo is about to face Rex Ryan’s tough Jets’ D, so while Rodgers might be worthy of flexing (moreso in PPR formats), Jason Snelling should take a seat in many cases.
The Ravens said Monday that they want to run the ball more, but Ray Rice (hip) has been banged up, and Bernard Pierce has been ineffective. Pierce’s value has slipped to bench handcuff until he shows something more, but if Rice gets healthy things should improve. Buy low, folks.
C.J. Spiller (ankle) is TBD for Thursday’s road matchup with the Browns, who are allowing just 2.9 yards per carry. If Spiller can’t go, you’ll certainly want to start Fred Jackson. If Spiller plays, plan to start him, and pick your spots with Jackson.
Speaking of the Browns, they did a nice job on the Bengals’ duo of Gio Bernard (10 carries, 37 yards; six receptions, 38 yards) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (six carries, 13 yards) in Week 4. Plan to get Gio back in there against the Wilfork-less Patriots this week.
Willis McGahee carried 15 times for 46 yards in Week 4, and is clearly the Browns’ lead back now; you can consider starting him against the struggling Bills’ defense on Thursday. Chris Ogbonnaya, who had nine receptions in Weeks 3-4, is a desperation PPR play.
I hope the Cowboys stay within two touchdowns of the Broncos this week so we can see how the Bronco backs will be used. In the Week 4 blowout of the Eagles, it was more of the same, with Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman getting 13 touches apiece, and Montee Ball eight. Moreno is the committee leader and the only reliable back here, but it would be nice to see him get the ball more.
Week 4 reminded Joique Bell owners that their guy isn’t going to get anything close to lead-back touches as long as Reggie Bush is healthy. Bell might get the ball 12-15 times and be a decent PPR or flex option, but Bush is the man in Detroit, and should be very productive whenever he’s active.
Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy (concussion) practiced Monday and is a “full go” for Week 5 against the Lions, according to head coach Mike McCarthy. Lacy should be a “full go” for your fantasy squad as well. Johnathan Franklin’s Week 3 performance probably earned a bit of work, but not enough to start in any fantasy format. James Starks (knee) doesn’t appear close to returning.
Thirty-three touches for 171 yards and a score for Arian Foster against the Seahawks. I think I saw Ben Tate (seven carries, 44 yards) carrying Foster’s bags out of the locker room after the game. Seriously, Tate should only be considered in desperate situations for Sunday night’s game at San Francisco.
Ahmad Bradshaw’s neck sounds like a lingering issue, and you should plan to be without him in Week 5. Trent Richardson had 20 carries for 60 yards and a TD against the Jags, and should be started in all formats this week against the Seahawks due to workload alone. It would be nice if T-Rich had a big game once in awhile, though.
New England Patriots
Eleven carries against the Falcons for Stevan Ridley, with nine for LeGarrette Blount and six for Brandon Bolden. Damn you, Bill Belichick. Ridley is in committee hell, and that makes him a low-end RB2 (at best) for this week’s game in Cincinnati. Blount and Bolden are longshot bye-week options.
New Orleans Saints
So, Pierre Thomas got only nine touches (four carries, five receptions) against the Dolphins even with Mark Ingram out, huh? That’s more proof that while Thomas might have the occasional good game, he can’t be trusted. The Saints seem to be growing fond of rookie Khiry Robinson (12 carries, 37 yards), but you can’t count on him yet, if ever.
We don’t need to talk about Darren Sproles here, right? Great in PPR, decent in standard formats despite ups and downs … same as always.
Darren McFadden’s status for Sunday night’s matchup with the Chargers is uncertain due to a hamstring injury. If DMC can’t play, you could probably do worse than Rashad Jennings, who would be somewhere around RB30 in my McFadden-less Week 5 rankings.
Rookie Le’Veon Bell made a solid NFL debut against the Vikings, running 16 times for 57 yards and two scores, and catching four passes for 27 yards. When the Steelers return from their bye, forget you ever heard of Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones and Ike Redman.
San Diego Chargers
Ryan Mathews had 23 touches (19 carries, four receptions) for 102 yards from scrimmage in Week 4, but I’m still not too excited about making him an RB2 this week, even against the Raiders. Danny Woodhead is becoming a PPR machine, with 20 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns over the past three games.
St. Louis Rams
Will ONE good running back please stand up? It’s not like the Rams’ O-line is so great, but we need to focus on the guys running the ball. Daryl Richardson has 42 carries for 114 yards this season. Isaiah Pead was a healthy scratch last week, and even though head coach Jeff Fisher said WR Tavon Austin would get Pead’s backfield work, Austin didn’t get a carry. Neither did rookie Zac Stacy, but fellow rookie Benny Cunningham had four carries for six yards and one catch for 17 yards. Yeesh, this is a mess.
You want a silver lining? The Rams host the Jaguars this week, and the Jags have allowed a league-worst (by a lot) 164.2 rushing yards per game. If you own Richardson and don’t have appealing alternatives, give him one more chance with this matchup.
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