THUMP. That was Week 10 crushing us in the face. It was unpredictable, I know, but let’s begin the conversation about the running back position this past week with a look at some of the names that finished inside RB1 territory, with their overall rank listed: RB3 Nyheim Hines, RB4 Ronald Jones, RB5, D’Andre Swift, RB6 Devontae Booker, RB7 Rex Burkhead, RB8 Antonio Gibson, RB10 Wayne Gallman, RB11 Malcolm Brown and RB12 Salvon Ahmed. That’s three-fourths of the past week’s RB1 finishers going to running backs that were likely all drafted outside of the first five rounds in your fantasy draft and at least three, maybe four players who may not have even been rostered in your league as of Sunday night. Next, let’s move over to RB2 territory: RB14 J.D. McKissic, RB15 Boston Scott, RB17 Kalen Ballage and RB23 Alex Collins. Overall, that’s 12, or half, of Week 10’s RB1-2 crop going to names that likely required very little draft capital to make your roster. Some of those names are less surprising, like Swift and Gibson, but for the sake of argument, both running backs finished outside the top-28 running backs drafted in 2020. It’s already been a miraculous year at the position — for some, perhaps heart-breaking is a more fitting adjective — and the madness ensued in Week 10, to put it lightly. Fortunately, we can at least say we did not see the same absurd number of running back injuries as we’ve grown accustomed to.
Even so, it was a truly unpredictable week. Before you begin beating your forehead against the keyboard and your boss yells at you (or partner/child/parents/etc. for those still stuck at home) for disrupting the workplace over fantasy football for the umpteenth time since the onset of September, remember this: we’re all in it together. We’re all playing the same game, with the same weekly uncertainty factored in and with the same information at our fingertips. That’s reason for composure. That’s reason to keep fighting the good fight because, as you may have heard me say many times before, the grinders beat the whiners. I’ve actually never said that before, but you get the point.
It’s time to get to the rankings, but before we do, let’s take a quick trip around the league.
Derrick Henry – 19 carries, 103 yards; one reception (two targets), six yards. Henry had a tough match-up in this one as he went up against Indianapolis, but he still managed 5.4 YPC en route to his fifth 100+ yard game of the 2020 season. As we’ve come to know with Henry, however, his ceiling is limited when he doesn’t find the end zone on any given week due to his lack of involvement in the passing game. That’s why, despite his efficient performance against a stout Colts front seven, he ended up as just the RB22 overall, and it’s why I’ll continue to rank him behind Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara. Henry has two more difficult match-ups coming in the next two weeks, so hopefully, he can find pay dirt in those two games before being home free to close out the year with the Browns, Jaguars, Lions, Packers and Texans. Those five weeks are as enticing as a primetime football game with Joe Buck on furlough.
Josh Jacobs – 21 carries, 112 yards, two rushing TD; four receptions (four targets), 24 yards. You were already forewarned. It’s Jacobs (ROS)SZN. Las Vegas’ lead back finished as Week 10’s RB2 overall, as his 27.6 half-PPR points trailed only that of Alvin Kamara (27.8). Jacobs wasn’t the Raiders’ only RB1 this past week, however, as Devontae Booker (16 carries, 81 yards, two rushing TD; one reception on one target, two yards) posted 20.6 points en route to being RB6 overall. Las Vegas built a hefty second half lead in this one, which is why Booker was able to accumulate so many carries. Expect this backfield to continue to benefit from favorable game script through much of the remainder of the season. For three weeks running now, I’ve had Jacobs ranked as a top-six ROS back. He’s now up to RB5 and has a legitimate shot to finish inside the top three running backs for the remainder of the year. That hasn’t changed as he continues to see one of the heavier workloads in all of football on a team in the midst of the easier half of their 2020 schedule. If that isn’t enough data for you, please refer to my Week 10 and Week 9 rankings, where I screamed from the rooftops to go out and acquire Jacobs shares. Shortly thereafter, I was forced to call 9-1-1 after realizing I really was on the roof and had no idea how I got there.
Aaron Jones – 13 carries, 46 yards; five receptions (six targets), 49 yards. After touching the ball 20 times in his return to action last week, Jones received just 18 touches in Week 10 against Jacksonville. That was largely a result of game script, as Green Bay trailed 24-17 for much of the second half. Jamaal Williams (eight carries, 30 yards; three receptions on four targets, 25 yards) stole some work while garnering just seven fewer touches (11), landing right outside of RB2 range with seven half-PPR points. Meanwhile, Jones finished as a back-end RB2 with 12.0 points, salvaging a day in which he ran for 3.1 YPC by catching five passes on six targets. Expect the Packers to continue to strategically spell Jones with Williams in order to keep him healthy moving into the tail-end of the season. That will be especially necessary the next three weeks, as Jones is entering a difficult stretch in which he’ll run against the Colts, Bears and Eagles before facing a cake fantasy playoff schedule in Weeks 14-16. Fun fact: even a slice of cake can intercept Carson Wentz. Now that is what I call a hella good transition.
Miles Sanders – 15 carries, 85 yards; two receptions (five targets), 10 yards. The added bye week seemed to do Sanders good in his return, as he averaged 5.7 YPC while adequately handling his 17 touches. However, he did look a little rusty in the passing game evidenced by a couple of drops, and Boston Scott (three carries, 63 yards, one rushing TD; one reception on one target, 11 yards) took the prize for longest carry, rattling off a 56-yarder with Sanders’ top scamper of the day being a 14-yard run. That said, it’s a relatively moderate schedule for Sanders moving forward — one he should be able to manage given the opportunity. There’s a double-edged sword to consider here, however, and that sword is wielded by the Good King Wentz-Us-Lost. Carson Wentz, the NFL’s turnover king, is looking less capable of leading the Eagles offense by the week. That means two things: 1) Philly should lean more heavily on Sanders as they ease him back and contend for an NFC East crown and 2) Sanders should see an increasing number of stacked boxes as he handles said workload. I’d still deploy Sanders as a ROS RB1, but the situation in Philadelphia is anything but a safe bet as it relates to fantasy football. And for those of you who don’t know, “Good King Wencaslas” is Christmas carol that tells a story of a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen. In our version of the story, the alms are footballs, and the poor peasant represents the remainder of the NFC East. Good King Wentz-Us-Lost is making sure the rest of the division does not go unfed. Footballs for everyone! Huzzah!
Christian McCaffrey – 11/20 UPDATE: As expected, McCaffrey will miss Week 11 with a shoulder injury. However, head coach Matt Rhule is not sure when CMC might be able to return. Due to the fact that CMC is without a timetable to return and may miss additional weeks, he has been further downgraded from RB6 to RB8. Meanwhile, Mike Davis has moved up to RB33 and will continue to rise should CMC’s outlook worsen.
Nick Chubb – 19 carries, 126 yards, one rushing TD; zero targets. Okay… yep… reading down the box score here… 19 carries… 100+ rushing yards… these are things both Chubb and Kareem Hunt (19 carries, 104 yards; three receptions on four targets, 28 yards) accomplished on Sunday, as both rushed 19 times for over 100 yards. Maybe that was repetitive. Did you get that? Both rushed 19 times for over 100 y–oh, okay. You got it. For Chubb and Hunt owners alike, this game was highly encouraging. For Chubb, he returned from the knee injury that had sidelined him since Week 4 and averaged 6.6 YPC, handling his workload and looking healthy on the ground throughout. In fact, his fantasy output (RB9, 18.6 half-PPR points) should have been even more eye-popping, but he elected to run out of bounds in the fourth quarter rather than score his second touchdown in an effort to ice the game. If you watched the game, the key word there was “effort.” Even with Chubb seeing 19 carries, Hunt touched the ball 22 times, rushing for 5.5 YPC and receiving four targets from Baker Mayfield. Although we shouldn’t expect Cleveland to run the ball 40+ times per game moving forward (result of both game script and weather conditions), the run-heavy approach is certainty in Kevin Stefanski’s DNA and key to the team’s success. Therefore, both backs have routes to weekly finishes inside RB1 territory, while both have relatively safe back-end RB2 floors. Expect more weeks like this one, where Chubb finishes as an RB1 while Hunt (RB13, 14.7 points) slots in as a high-end RB2. These days, d’importance of being Ernest (Johnson) is now much less important, and d’importance now is to feed Chubb and Hunt. The rest of season schedule in this backfield is favorable with some minor speed bumps along the way in Weeks 11 (Philadelphia) and 14 (Baltimore).
Antonio Gibson – 13 carries, 45 yards, two rushing TD; four receptions (four targets), 20 yards. The Washington backfield produced two top-15 running backs in Week 10, as J.D. McKissic (eight carries, six yards, one rushing TD; seven receptions on 15 targets, 43 yards) used a whopping 15 targets to total 10.9 half-PPR points, which made him a high-end RB2 on the week. 15 friggen targets! Still, it was Gibson who stole the fantasy show, as he scored two rushing touchdowns while adding four catches of his own, paving the way for a finish inside RB1 range. Gibson has now scored seven times in the past nine games and is seeing enough passing work in addition to lead-back duties to make him a mid-tier RB2. Incredibly enough, McKissic has seen 29 targets over the past two weeks with Alex Smith under center. Although that volume is unlikely to persist, the weekly targets shouldn’t dip so much as to render McKissic irrelevant, and he’s a legitimate Flex option for as long as Smith remains under center.
D’Andre Swift – 16 carries, 81 yards; five receptions (five targets), 68 yards, one receiving TD. THERE IS HOPE FOR YOU, MATT PATRICIA! Making the first start of his career, Swift handled over 75% of the running back carries in Week 10 (16 of 21) and he did not disappoint. Adrian Peterson (four carries, 21 yards; one reception on one target, nine yards) and Kerryon Johnson (one carry, three yards; zero targets) were minimally involved, allowing Swift to eclipse 20+ touches for the first time in his rookie campaign. The result was 149 scrimmage yards from Swift on 5.1 YPC in a game in which he caught all five of his targets. He should continue to do more of the same if given the volume, and Matt Patricia would be a fool not to give him this backfield’s keys, right? The key is that he’d be a fool not to do so, not that he won’t — which is the only thing holding me back from ranking him any higher. Nevertheless, four of Detroit’s remaining six games between now and Week 16 represent favorable match-ups for running backs, so the ROS outlook for Swift is at an all-time high. He should be viewed as an RB1 against Carolina and Houston for the next two weeks and you could even make a case for him as a ROS RB1.
Kenyan Drake – 16 carries, 100 yards; one reception (one target), nine yards. Well, that didn’t last long, did it, Mr. Edmonds? Drake returned from his ankle injury much more quickly than anticipated, ultimately missing just one game. Although he fumbled and only played 52% of snaps, he still totaled over 100 yards on the ground and held a 17-to-11 touch advantage over Chase Edmonds (eight carries, 56 yards; three receptions on three targets, 21 yards). As someone who drafted Drake in countless leagues this season, I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m pleasantly surprised that he appears to be reclaiming this backfield — but it is not what I expected when Drake initially went down. I figured that by the time he returned, Edmonds would have had ample time to prove he’s the better early down back. What we learned is that Edmonds is far more explosive when coming off the bench (not a shock, logically speaking) and Kliff Kingsbury prefers to use Drake as the volume guy, with Edmonds coming in and accumulating chunk yardage in a change-of-pace role. Expect more of that dynamic moving forward, putting Drake ahead of Edmonds for ROS so long as he stays healthy.
Austin Ekeler – Expected to return in Week 12 against Buffalo, although a Week 13 return against New England is also possible. This news means that Ekeler owners may be without their RB1 for perhaps just one more match-up. It also means that Justin Jackson (inactive) is disposable for ROS, as he was placed on IR over the weekend and won’t be eligible to be activated until after Ekeler’s presumed return. Once again, Kalen Ballage (18 carries, 68 yards; five receptions on six targets, 34 yards) filled in admirably, finishing inside RB2 territory. Ballage is the Chargers running back to deploy in lineups (if necessary) until Ekeler returns, as Joshua Kelley (seven carries, 21 yards; zero targets) and Troymaine Pope (zero carries, zero targets) have done nothing to warrant weekly consideration. Bon Ballage, mayne!
Ronald Jones – 23 carries, 192 yards, one rushing TD; one reception (two targets), six yards. This is what I wrote about the Tampa Bay backfield last week: “Moving forward, those who have stock in this backfield should be more optimistic, as we shouldn’t expect Tom Brady and the Bucs to experience any more games mirroring this type of game script. Fournette comes with the higher floor due to his passing involvement, but Jones owners should at least be encouraged by the fact that Jones saw three-of-four RB carries one week after coughing up a crucial fumble. I understand if people think Fournette should be ranked ahead of Jones, but I’m holding out on that for at least one more week.” I also said in this blurb that “Jones looked like the preferred early-down back at this game’s beginning stages,” and told one Reddit commenter that it’s likely Jones and Leonard Fournette (eight carries, 19 yards; two receptions on three targets, 11 yards) could be flip-flopped in the ROS rankings multiple times down the stretch. Toot toot! That’s how I see this two-man split: it’s largely dependent on game script and flow. Do not overreact to any given week in a vacuum, rather, attempt to forecast which player projects to be more involved on a particular week. If the Bucs are the clear-cut favorite, favor Jones. If the game is positioned to be high-scoring or one in which Tampa may play from behind, favor Fournette. If the game turns into a Kangol hat fashion contest, favor Bruce Arians. For now, Jones is still higher in my ROS rankings.
Damien Harris – 22 carries, 121 yards; zero targets. There’s actually quite a bit to digest here. As the Patriots begin to hone in on their MO, we’re beginning to get some clarity on this backfield. New England ran the ball 39 times against Baltimore. That had a lot to do with weather conditions, but it also worked. They totaled 173 ground yards, and Harris was at the heart of the attack — even though he only finished as a back-end RB2 due to his lack of passing involvement. Harris owners: this is more-or-less what you should expect from Harris in regard to a ceiling. He’s unlikely to score much at all moving forward, as Rex Burkhead (six carries, 31 yards; four receptions on five targets, 35 yards, two receiving TD) will continue to vulture opportunities inside the red zone. This makes both players intriguing weekly plays if you need to get creative, but clearly Harris is the preferred back between the two as he’s seeing the vast majority of the work between the 20s. Sony Michel is nearing a return (we think), but I don’t see how Bill Belichick can give him any more than three-to-five carries even when he’s active. As for James White (zero carries, two receptions on two targets, eight yards), there’s little reason to continue to roster him. You’d be mad to deploy him now, and once he finally has a fantasy-relevant game, he’s likely to let you down with a game like this one should you risk starting him as a Flex. Toot toot! Now that one was a real toot.
Duke Johnson – 14 carries, 54 yards; zero receptions, one target. One target!? Is there anyone in Houston with half a Pinky for a Brain? DUKE has been under-appreciated for much of his NFL career, but one thing we all can all agree he does efficiently is patch casses. I mean catch passes. His 3.9 YPC wasn’t impressive, but DUKE should continue to see the bulk of the work moving forward, as Houston placed DAVID Johnson on IR on Saturday. DAVID won’t be eligible to return until at least Week 13, which is when the fantasy playoff schedule from hell begins — the one I’ve been telling you about and why I’ve urged DAVID Johnson owners to sell shares for weeks now. If DAVID does return on time, he’ll face the Colts, Bears, Colts again and Bengals in Weeks 13-16, rendering him virtually unusable for the remainder of the 2020 season. For that reason, Duke is ahead of him in the ROS rankings and represents a middling RB2 for Weeks 12 and 13. If you can somehow dump DAVID, dump fast.
Wayne Gallman – 18 carries, 53 yards, two rushing TD; one reception (two targets), seven yards. I’ve had Gallman ranked ahead of Devonta Freeman (inactive) for a couple weeks now, and the reason is simple: he’s been more effective and his success wasn’t unprecedented, as he’s enjoyed brief stints of success in Saquon Barkley’s absence in the past. Well, now that Freeman has officially been placed on IR and won’t play again until at least Week 13 in Seattle, Gallman’s ROS outlook is significantly enhanced. He won’t rewrite the record books on the ground, but should see enough touches to be worth deploying as an RB2 while Freeman is out. Unfortunately, that opportunity is limited with the Giants on bye in Week 11, but I think Gallman has done enough to maintain a substantial role even after Freeman is back. Alfred Morris (eight carries, 34 yards; zero targets) can remain on the waiver wire. AL-MOst, Alfred.
Nyheim Hines – 12 carries, 70 yards, one rushing TD; five receptions (six targets), 45 yards, one receiving TD. 27 carries went to Indianapolis running backs on Thursday night, but just seven of those went to Jonathan Taylor (seven carries, 12 yards; two receptions on two targets, 25 yards). Taylor did out-produce Jordan Wilkins (eight carries, 28 yards; zero receptions on one target), but both fell short of eclipsing five half-PPR points. Instead, it was Hines who turned in RB1 production, finishing as Week 10’s RB3 overall with 26 points. Registering 17 touches, Hines’ 5.8 YPC were by far the best in the backfield as Taylor lumbered to just 1.7 YPC. Hines scored both a rushing and receiving touchdown in this one and should remain an attractive weekly Flex option with Captain Checkdown, Phillip Rivers, under center for the Colts. Taylor owners? I’m sorry for leading you astray, but I really have no explanation for Taylor’s inability to produce. You can throw him in the crapper, wipe your be-Hines and flush him down the pipes. So long, JT! I still have faith in you come 2021 draft season. As a third-to-fourth round pick. In 20 team leagues. With no buy-in. In a league I play in with my mom. Anonymously.
Malcolm Brown – Six carries, 33 yards, two rushing TD; two receptions (two targets), 18 yards. Brown was the top fantasy scorer in the Rams’ backfield this past week (RB11 with 17.1 half-PPR points), but who paced the trio in touches? It was Cam Akers (10 carries, 38 yards), whose 10 touches on the ground topped the equal eight touches from Brown and Darrell Henderson (seven carries, 28 yards, one rushing TD; one reception on one target, five yards). Still, Akers was the only one to finish outside of RB2 range, as even Henderson was able to find pay dirt and total 9.3 points, good for RB24. Akers’ usage is trending upward and he should be owned in all leagues, but Henderson is the safest weekly play in this committee at the moment.
Gus Edwards – Seven carries, 42 yards; one reception (two targets), 31 yards. Edwards produced the top fantasy finish (RB28) in the Ravens backfield, while Mark Ingram (five carries, five yards; two receptions on two targets, 23 yards) was activated for Baltimore’s Week 10 game against the Patriots. In total, Baltimore running backs carried the ball 17 times, with Edwards seeing seven and Ingram and J.K. Dobbins (five carries, 13 yards; one reception on two targets, one yard) each getting five touches on the ground. First disappointment: Ingram returned and is “healthy.” Second disappointment: Jon Harbaugh actually used him. Third disappointment: Ingram saw more touches than Dobbins. Among running backs, Dobbins ranks sixth in YPC with 5.4. SIXTH! And instead, you give Ingram more work — a man about to turn 31 years old. Will someone explain this madness!? Dobbins is back into fringe RB3 range and, if you’re wise, you’ll stay away from this entire three-man committee for fantasy purposes until it morphs back into a two-man tandem.
Note: Rankings are constructed for half-PPR fantasy scoring. Rest-of-season strength of schedule was considered in these rankings using Fantasy Pros’ Easiest Remaining Schedule feature.
And that, my good, dear friends — are the ROS rankings for Week 11. I began them while teaching myself how to cook an omelet and finished them while teaching myself how to spell “omelet.” It just seems like it should have more letters — a double “t,” maybe? Until next time, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.