In fantasy circles, running backs are a premium because so few consistently carry 15 times or more in games. That’s what made Derrick Henry such a joy to watch (and have on your roster. In the eight games before injury, Henry had 219 carries for 937 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. After having 17 carries in Week 1, he had 20 or more in all of the subsequent seven games, including 28 or more carries in six of those.
So, with him gone, who picks up the mantle for the workhorse running backs? Hint: There aren’t many. By my count, there are currently just four.
Dalvin Cook has 15 or more carries six of seven games played. In the two games he has missed, backup Alexander Mattison has rushed 51 times for 225 yards. Jonathan Taylor has come into his own, with 15-plus carries in eight of 10 games. Najee Harris has hit that number in seven of nine games, including five straight games with 22 or more carries (the Steelers are 4-0-1 in those games). Alvin Kamara has 15 or more carries in six of eight games played.
A case can be made that the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears backfields fit in that category, but injuries of kept them down. If you ever wonder why elite running backs remain the most expensive fantasy investments, that should answer your question. So few are dominant that it makes them more precious, and King Henry was the gold standard.
Here is the Week 11 Fantasy Market Report:
Fantasy Football Risers
QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
It’s rare when you have the opportunity to acquire a quarterback off the waiver wire who has the potential to have the kind of games Newton is capable of having. He isn’t the star he was when the Panthers went to the Super Bowl, but when you have Christian McCaffrey as an ultimate weapon and a strong pair of veteran receivers, Newton has the ability to be a fantasy starter with the right matchups. He’s not an every-week starter, but he can bolster a roster and be a pick-and-choose type that can be plugged in as needed.
RB A.J. Dillon, Green Bay Packers
When the Packers drafted Dillon, they did so because they understand the conditions in which Green Bay plays – often a combination of cold, wind and snow. Dillon is a hammer whose value goes up as it comes to be later in the year. That is even more pronounced now that the regular season stretches into mid-January. Aaron Jones made the Fallers list due earlier this month due to not having more than 15 carries in any game since Week 3, and much of that was due to Dillon’s presence and his ability to be a banger between the tackles when they need it. Since Week 3, Green Bay has had two games with a runner with more than 15 carries – Dillon at Arizona Oct. 28 and Dillon Sunday against Seattle. He will likely be a 1b option when Jones returns after spraining a knee ligament, but he has two weeks to make his case to be in a time share, if not the lead dog as weather in the Great White North deteriorates.
WR DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
Consistency has been an issue with the Eagles offense all season, and it’s always an issue when dealing with rookie wide receivers. However, Smith has topped 60 yards in five of the last seven games. In the last two, he has been the big-play threat in the Philly offense, catching nine passes for 182 yards (more than 20 a catch) and has scored three touchdowns. For much of the season, he was showing promise, but it wasn’t translating into consistent big plays or touchdowns. Now it is starting to show, and his value is gaining steam.
RB Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Ingram was the leading rusher in Houston, but nobody felt confident that he could produce the kind of numbers needed to be in a fantasy lineup. When he was in New Orleans to start his career, once Alvin Kamara arrived, his role changed, but his ability to have big weeks continued. Running backs are the most difficult commodities to obtain in fantasy leagues. Ingram is the No. 2 guy, but Sean Payton is still the head coach and still calls the plays. He knows better than anyone what Ingram can do in his offense. He’s not a handcuff for Kamara, who happens to be out with a knee sprain of his own. He can post numbers as a rusher and receiver on his own. Playing alongside Kamara limits some of those opportunities, but look back at his first run in New Orleans. He will have his share of fantasy moments.
RB Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos
The funny thing about Gordon is that those who have him on their roster get frustrated because he’s clearly in a time share in Denver’s backfield. In his last seven games, he has rushed more than 10 times just once. But, his bottom line is that he has scored a touchdown in five of his last six games. I wouldn’t want to have my fantasy season hinging on Gordon having a huge game, but, if you need someone who has consistently been putting up consistent weekly numbers as a runner, receiver and scorer, Gordon checks a lot of boxes in that regard.
Fantasy Football Fallers
WR Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
In the first two games of the season, Lockett was on fire, catching 12 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns. In the seven games since? 31 catches for 324 yards and no touchdowns. That works out to four catches for 46 yards a game. You can’t blame his lack of production on Russell Wilson missing time. In that same seven-game span, DK Metcalf has caught 32 passes for 493 yards and seven touchdowns. Lockett is still a talent who fantasy owners will have a hard time miring on their benches, but it seems like it is time to make Lockett a matchup-only type of play.
QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
The best thing that happened to Roethlisberger owners is that he didn’t play last week due to COVID protocol against the Detroit Lions, because there may have been the temptation. At a time when quarterbacks routinely throw for 300 yards, Big Ben has done it just once – and that was in Week 3. More troubling is that he has 10 touchdowns in eight games – two games with two TD passes and six with one TD. Given that he is a glacier in the backfield and hasn’t earned a single point for rushing if you go on the point-for-10-yards standard. He has six yards rushing all season. I would rather take a chance with a QB left on the waiver wire gut pile than go with Roethlisberger with the expectations of having a big fantasy day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight ends
In the first two games of the season, Rob Gronkowski scored four touchdowns. In his first three games, he caught 16 passes. He hasn’t caught a pass in the last six games due to injury, yet he leads Tampa Bay tight ends in receptions. Cameron Brate has played in all nine games for the Bucs and has caught 14 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown. O.J. Howard has played in all nine games and has caught 13 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown. Given how the Tampa Bay offense (and the Tom Brady offense) has routinely included a heavy dose of tight ends, it’s shocking that neither Brate nor Howard has filled in the void left by Gronk’s injury. They’re posting the kind of numbers glorified offensive linemen put up and have reached the point of not being able to live up to their talent or their past histories.
WR Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns
With all the upside the Browns came into season with, Landry may be the next disgruntled receiver looking to work his way out of town. He has missed four of the Browns’ 10 games due to injury and, in the six he has played, he has caught just 23 passes for 219 yards no touchdowns. That works out to an average of four catches for 37 yards and no scores. Futility like that is difficult to maintain over a long stretch, but he has managed.
RB Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team
Coming off a season in which he emerged as a fantasy threat with 11 rushing touchdowns, Gibson was taken in fantasy leagues to be a starter most if not all weeks. In his last seven games, he hasn’t rushed for 65 yards in any of them and, aside from a 73-yard screen-turned-touchdown as a receiver, he has caught 18 passes for just 85 yards in the other eight games. Instead of being a weekly must-start, Gibson is player who is in lineups more by force than choice. Granted, he has scored six touchdowns, but fantasy football is played on a weekly basis and, many more weeks than not, he has come up empty.