Time shares can be tricky. That goes for both the vacation variety and the kind that has to do with fantasy football running backs, but let’s keep our focus on the latter here.
Sure, it’s great to have guys like Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers), Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville Jaguars) or Le’Veon Bell (New York Jets). They receive the lion’s share of attention from the running back position on their respective teams when accounting for both their share of the handoffs and the number of targets. All three are Top 10 producers at the position and have little to worry about in terms of threats to their jobs. But they’re the exception, not the rule.
For those who aren’t fortunate to have one or more of the above on the roster, it’s a different story. Some RBs are better off than others when it comes to share of the workload, but even the ones who split time pretty evenly can have value.
Read on for a look at some of the most prominent RB time shares through five weeks and how to handle them going forward.
The return of Melvin Gordon from his holdout was always going to impact Austin Ekeler, ranks second in points among RBs. With only Week 5 as an indicator, it would appear this will be a 50-50 split. Gordon received a team-high 12 carries plus was targeted six times. Ekeler hauled in 15 of 16 targets and carried three times. That’s 18 looks apiece.
Gordon looked rusty, likely frustrating patient fantasy managers who’ve awaited his return. Ekeler, meanwhile, showed he’s still got what it takes to be a PPR stud. This situation will need more results, but it’s not crazy to think both could be viable starting running back each week.
Tevin Coleman, another Week 5 returnee after missing time with an ankle injury, resumed duties as the top RB for unbeaten San Francisco as the Niners torched the Cleveland Browns for 275 rushing yards. Still his 16 carries wasn’t drastically more than Matt Breida received. Breida also found the end zone twice and caught passes on each of his three targets.
Don’t expect the 49ers to tally 40 rush attempts many more times in 2019, so this is a bit of an aberration. That said, Coleman was brought in during the offseason to be the focal point of the rushing attack. Breida will have a role, but he’s more of a flex play. As for Coleman, this might be a good time to buy relatively low before his role increases and he moves farther away from his injury.
Baltimore is one of the very few teams with a viable starting running back for fantasy and a quarterback who could finish with more touches than said RB on any given week. Although Mark Ingram’s 19 carries led the way Sunday, QB Lamar Jackson’s 14 carries yielded a team-high 70 yards.
Already, Ingram is giving up rush attempts to Jackson, limiting his ceiling. On top of that, understudy Gus Edwards gets plenty of looks. Ingram gets about two carries for every tote that goes to Edwards, which isn’t terrible but far from ideal. Neither is a huge factor as a receiver with the Ravens. If you can still trade away Ingram, who has cooled considerably after a strong first three weeks of 2019, don’t wait.
Rookie David Montgomery garnered plenty of preseason hype, but has yet to make good on those expectations despite a heavy workload. It was always expected that Tarik Cohen would continue to be a strong source of production in the receiving game, but that hasn’t manifested as strongly as in past season, either.
That is to say that Chicago’s RB situation looks dire. More importantly, there aren’t any signs of the tide changing any time soon. At this point, Cohen is a borderline add/drop in 10-team leagues. Given the investment many managers made in Montgomery, cutting bait would be tough. But I would not blame anyone who shipped him out to another, more daring league-mate in exchange for anyone of moderate value.
Denver’s RB split could be characterized as a minor success despite relatively equal use. Phillip Lindsay is producing like a borderline top-10 RB, putting to rest doubt that the undrafted 2018 rookie’s terrific first year was a fluke. More surprising has been Freeman consistently posting between 7.1 and 15.2 PPR points, making him a useful depth RB and reasonable bye week option who stands to gain a ton if Lindsay were to miss time.
This trend seems like a sustainable one. Anyone who wants to target Lindsay on the trade market should know that he won’t come cheap, but he might be worth it. In Freeman’s case, he’s the type of player I’d trade away some struggling player like Montgomery, whose upside appears to be dwindling, and look to acquire as strong depth.
Everyone knows Patrick Mahomes is the greatest thing to happen to the quarterback position since the innovation of the shotgun formation … or something like that. Hopefully, fantasy football managers also know to stay away from Kansas City running backs right now. Both Damien Williams, the preferred starter, and LeSean McCoy, who filled in during his two-game absence, have not been productive of late.
There will be weeks when one of these men is a viable starter, but when that will come is unknown. Keep them parked on the bench until further notice. I can’t imagine there’s a strong trade market for either player.
Recent history tells us that New England’s RB situation works excellent for the Pats, but can be incredibly frustrating for the fantasy football community. That’s still essentially true in 2019 as the trio of Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead all have been useful fantasy options without one of them being a wholly reliable weekly starter.
For what it’s worth, Michel’s 82 combined rush attempts and targets is nearly double the combined total from White and Burkhead, who each have missed one game this season. He’s also coming off a strong Week 5 in which he carried 16 times for 91 yards and a touchdown, adding three catches on three targets for 32 more yards. Neither White nor Burkhead has earned more than a desperation flex play at this point, but I like Michel to continue his strong contributions whenever coach Bill Belichick will allow him to do so.
Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard virtually are deadlocked in terms of touches, and both have played like solid flex options over the past three weeks. That said, Howard is averaging more than one yard per carry more than his backfield mate while Sanders has yet to find the end zone.
One has to expect Sanders will score at least one or two touchdowns if his current workload continues, but Howard’s track record from his days in Chicago — this is his first year with Philly — suggest there’s upside to become a reliable RB2-level back in fantasy. Either player wouldn’t be a bad trade target as long as nothing of major value is shipped out in exchange.
As with Philly, Tampa Bay’s running backs touch the football about as often as one another. But the duo of Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones is more like a poor man’s Eagles tandem than a mirror image of it.
Neither man is playing poorly, nor is he a player to turn to in anything other than an emergency situation. Barber’s 9.6 PPR points per game and Jones’ 9.4 average are subpar. These guys are depth only.
Things might have been OK if Derrius Guice hadn’t been lost to the injured reserve with a torn meniscus in his knee. While he could return around Week 10, that’s left Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson to carry the bulk of the load.
At this point, Peterson looks all but spent as a viable fantasy option. For that matter, it looks more and more like this will be the final campaign in his impressive career. Thompson, meanwhile, has been a very useful flex-level option thanks to his knack for garnering targets and racking up receiving yards. He’s yet to score a TD, but that could change as soon as this week against the equally woeful Miami Dolphins. Feel free to stick with him as a third RB, perhaps even after Guice returns.
Speaking of Miami … Well, maybe it’s better that we don’t speak of Miami. The Fins clearly prefer Kenyan Drake to be their top option, but he’s barely a replacement-level starter thus far. Somehow, that still makes him more successful than Kalen Ballage, who can safely be dropped and perhaps forgotten by now.
Consider Drake little more than deep depth in 10-team formats, with the hope that the Dolphins become a mildly competitive football team sometime in the next three months. If you have the room in a 14-team format, you could roll the dice on Mark Walton as a possible starter in South Florida by the end of the season. Keep expectations very low.