Injuries are always a part of any NFL season, but when you look at the running backs who were ranked highest heading into auctions and drafts prior to the start of the season, it just goes to show why RBs maintain their fantasy value – they’re an endangered species.
The list is impressive and growing with those who will be out in coming weeks. It’s staggering.
Derrick Henry has missed four games and counting. Christian McCaffrey has missed five games and left Sunday’s game, only to be placed on season-ending IR. Dalvin Cook has missed two games and left Sunday’s game. He’s out at least two more. Alvin Kamara has missed three games. Saquon Barkley has missed four games. Nick Chubb has missed three games. Josh Jacobs has missed two games. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has missed five games. Aaron Jones has missed one game and parts of three. Chris Carson has missed six games. J.K. Dobbins has missed the entire season. Miles Sanders has missed three games. David Montgomery has missed four games. James Robinson has missed one game and parts of two others. Raheem Mostert has missed 10 games. Darrell Henderson has missed one game. Kareem Hunt has missed five games.
Considering fantasy owners get heartburn when their star players are on their bye weeks, missing time at this rate for a critical position has likely broken a lot of teams – both fantasy owners and NFL franchises.
Here is the Week 13 Fantasy Market Report:
Fantasy Football Risers
WR Kendrick Bourne, New England Patriots
While his numbers don’t jump off the page as a receiver, when you split them out between home and road production, the contrast is stark. He has scored five touchdowns – all at home. He has five games with 60 or more receiving yards – all at home. While he has just one game with more than five receptions, he has showed that he can be a valuable fantasy contributor when playing at Gillette Stadium, and his numbers all year have borne that out.
TE Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Many fantasy owners will forget that two weeks into the 2021 season, Gronk stood alone as the leading scorer in the NFL with four touchdown catches. That was good Gronk. Then came bad Gronk. Late in the Week 3 game against the Los Angeles Rams, he went down with an injury and didn’t have a reception in the next six games. In his two games since returning, he has reestablished himself as Tom Brady’s go-to target. He has been targeted 18 times, catching 13 passes for 194 yards and putting himself back into the discussion of the top fantasy tight ends in the game – just in time for a postseason run in defense of Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl championship.
RB Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
For those who didn’t have Mattison as a handcuff for Dalvin Cook, these could be heady days. Cook has a history of injury because of his punishing running style. In the last three games Cook has missed due to injury, Mattison has rushed 72 times for 320 yards, has caught 16 passes for 149 yards and scored three touchdowns. With Cook sidelined with a shoulder injury and free-falling Detroit and Pittsburgh next up on Minnesota’s schedule, Mattison could be one of the most valued running backs in the fantasy game.
TE Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers
At a time when game-changing tight ends are in short supply, fantasy owners scramble in hopes of tight ends that are used considerably in the red zone. Everyone is looking for the 2021 version of what Green Bay’s Robert Tonyan accomplished last year. That is becoming Freiermuth this season. While he only has one game with more than 45 receiving yards, in his last five games, he has caught five touchdown passes and has four or more receptions in each game. While not earth-shattering numbers, at a time when the tight end pool is relatively dry, these are numbers sent from heaven.
RB Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
Typically, we don’t put weekly fantasy starters on the risers list, but for most of his career, Mixon was a premium pick in fantasy drafts that was most likely to be benched for a better matchup due to long stretches without consistent production. In his first four seasons, he missed time due to injury in three of them and scored just 20 rushing touchdowns in 40 games. This season, he has scored 13 touchdowns (11 rushing, two receiving) and has scored two TDs in each of his last four games. With the Bengals staring down a trip to the playoffs, over his last two games against wild-card contenders (the Raiders and Steelers), he has rushed 58 times for 288 yards and four touchdowns. He’s lining up with Jonathan Taylor for fantasy MVP consideration.
Fantasy Football Fallers
WRs Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
The Broncos have been snake-bitten when it has come to pairing up Jeudy and Sutton. Last year, it was Sutton, who played just one game before going down for the season. This year it was Jeudy, who was injured in Week 1 and missed the next seven games. The two have been playing together for the last month, and, in those four games, Jeudy has caught 18 passes for 181 yards and no touchdowns. In that same span, Sutton has caught seven passes for 95 yards and no TDs. Both players have a high ceiling to their talent, but neither is worth putting in a lineup as things currently stand, much less when the stakes are higher in December.
RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Similar to McCaffrey, Barkley has been battling injuries the last two seasons and the results have been numbingly bad. Prior going down in Week 5, Barkley never had more than 57 rush yards in a 2021 game. While he managed to score three TDs in that span, he wasn’t putting together the type of huge numbers that were expected. He’s back and has taken over the lead back role, but he has just 19 carries for 65 yards, 10 receptions for just 44 yards and no touchdowns in those two games. At this point, it’s difficult for those who made a big investment in him to bench him out of fear he will be the Barkley of past vintage. In the end, most owners who invested in Barkley will have to sink or swim with him and, at the moment, they’re drowning.
WR T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
I’ve never been a huge Hilton guy but had to respect the numbers he put up with Andrew Luck at the wheel. However, this season has been a disaster. He missed the first five games and has been inactive in two more. At least under those circumstances, he doesn’t hurt fantasy players. In the last four games he has played, he has caught just nine passes for 75 yards and one touchdowns. At a time where Michael Pittman has established himself as the No. 1 guy and four others have more receptions than Hilton in the games in which he has played, it seems about time to stick a fork in Hilton as fantasy commodity and move on.
RB Kenyan Drake, Las Vegas Raiders
It was curious on two fronts when Drake hit free agency last year – one that the Arizona Cardinals made no effort to re-sign him and second that the Raiders did. In 23 games with the Cards, Drake was close to dominant from the fantasy perspective, rushing for almost 1,600 yards and scoring 18 rushing touchdowns. His role with the Raiders has never been defined. He has played in every game and has more than eight carries just once and averaging less than six. He has more than 34 rush yards in just one game and when Josh Jacobs was down with an injury, Peyton Barber was the primary back. He has talent, but it isn’t being utilized in Las Vegas.