Entering Monday Night Football, Alvin Kamara was already the season-long RB1 overall in half-PPR and PPR formats despite having one less game played than much of the competition. So although his 15.9-point performance in half-PPR represented his weakest game of the season, it did very little to change his standing atop the top 60 rest of season running back rankings. Kamara rushed 11 times for 45 yards on Monday, fulfilling his usual role in the passing game with eight catches on 10 targets for another 74 yards. Latavius Murray (eight carries, 34 yards; two receptions, 23 yards) was effective but unspectacular, as it was the QB-duo of Drew Brees and Taysom Hill that punched in both of the Saints’ rushing touchdowns in the red zone. Yep, just how the fantasy gods drew it up.
As for the Chargers, the one-two replacement punch of Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson didn’t exactly play out the way many anticipated. Although Kelley was the popular pick to step into startable RB2 status with the absence of Austin Ekeler, he averaged a measly 2.6 YPC while totaling 29 yards on 11 carries, catching just one pass for nine yards. In fact, it was Jackson who handles lead back duties, out-touching Kelley 19-to-12. Jackson rushed 15 times for 71 yards (4.7 YPC), but the major takeaway was how much more effective he was in the passing game: five receptions on six targets for 23 yards. Both look to be risky plays until Ekeler returns, likely lending no value outside of weekly Flex consideration — but the unpredictable split between the two makes even that risky.
In other news, Le’Veon Bell is back, Todd Gurley finished as an RB1, Raheem Mostert’s return rendered Jerick McKinnon all-but-irrelevant and Chase Edmonds appears to be overtaking Kenyan Drake in Arizona. Before we get into the Week 5 rankings, let’s take a look at all of that and more via a quick trip around the league.
Ezekiel Elliott – 19 carries, 91 yards, two rushing TD; one reception (two targets), 14 yards. Obviously, the major storyline from Sunday’s Giants-Cowboys game was the season-ending ankle injury suffered by Dak Prescott. While this figures to shake things up significantly in the Dallas offense, if anything, Mike McCarthy should lean more heavily on Elliott moving forward with Andy Dalton at the helm. That’s not to say Dalton is a slouch, not at all. He’s simply a redhead, which is either marginally better or worse than being a slouch depending on your personal feelings towards redheads. Elliott is already the RB3 this season, trailing only Kamara and Dalvin Cook, and should continue to perform as a weekly top five play moving forward even with the offensive shake-up. He’s averaging 22.6 touches-per-game and 6.4 targets-per-game. The Cowboys offense will move through Zeke even more under Dalton.
Josh Jacobs – 23 carries, 77 yards, two rushing TD; two receptions (three targets), eight yards. Jacobs returned to RB1 status in Week 5 for the first time since Week 1 despite averaging just 3.3 YPC on the ground against Kansas City. Still, his fantasy output on Sunday reflected why he remains a consensus RB1: his degree of involvement in a respectable Raiders offense is undeniable, as he saw 25 touches vs. the Chiefs and is averaging 24.2 touches per game in 2020, plus he’s elite after contact and a terrific goal-line weapon. While Jacobs is unlikely to crack top-five ROS status, he’s a mid-tier RB1 with the potential to be RB1-3 overall on any given week.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire – 10 carries, 40 yards; three receptions (eight targets); 40 yards. CEH totaled just 9.5 half-PPR points and finished outside weekly RB2 territory in a game against the Raiders front seven. Is this CEH’s floor? Game script was certainly against him, as the Chiefs actually found themselves playing from behind in this one for the near entirety of the second half. The eight targets are certainly encouraging, considering his final line could have been much better had he simply hauled in another couple grabs late in the game — one being a touchdown that was erased by a so-called illegal screen. On the other hand, Edwards-Helaire heads into Buffalo next week — a match-up that isn’t likely to restore confidence to fantasy owners in the short term — and seems to be allergic to touchdowns on top of that, with just one score through the first five weeks. Luckily, the overall outlook isn’t bad for CEH heading into playoff season, as the Chiefs still face the Jets, Panthers and Dolphins to go with a rematch with the Raiders between now and Week 14. CEH will always have that weekly elite RB1 upside, but his floor is lower than many owners want to believe. There are just too many scoring options in Kansas City and CEH has yet to prove himself as a reliable weapon in the green zone.
Kareem Hunt – 20 carries, 72 yards; three receptions (four targets), 21 yards, one receiving TD. After Nick Chubb’s Week 4 injury, I was one of many to immediately move Hunt into RB1 territory. Although he didn’t set the world on fire in Week 5, Hunt still finished as a fringe RB1 with 16.8 half-PPR points against a Colts front seven that has been effective against the run with the sixth-fewest rush yards allowed this season. As long as Nick Chubb is out, Hunt is a mid-to-bottom tier RB1. After all, he’s RB7 overall on the season despite having lead-back duties in just 20% of his games thus far. In other news, D’Ernest Johnson (eight carries, 32 yards; one reception, four yards) had a minor role in this one, but it doesn’t appear as though he’ll be a usable option in fantasy lineups. D’importance of being Ernest is to Hunt for Kareem and not Johnson.
Miles Sanders – 11 carries, 80 yards, two rushing TD; two receptions (four targets), 19 yards. Sanders found pay dirt twice in Week 5, breaking off a long 74-yard rush to pair with a one-yard goal-line score. Philadelphia’s starting quarterback looks more like Good King Wenceslas than Carson Wentz, but the loss is yours if you were too quick to lose faith in Sanders after his Week 1 inactive status. Sanders’ 22.9 half-PPR points were good for a finish of RB4, which is his second RB1 finish in his four weeks of play this year. Overall, he’s averaging 18.3 touches-per-game and over five yards-per-rush. He’s been efficient, but his 5.75 targets-per-game have resulted in just a 47.8% success rate, as King Wentz-Us-Lost needs to connect with Sanders more consistently and help the young RB make plays in space. Depending on your assessment of some of the other backs like Joe Mixon, Chris Carson, Jonathan Taylor, James Conner and James Robinson — Sanders is either a low-end RB1 or an elite RB2. For me, that remains the former.
Jonathan Taylor – 12 carries, 57 yards, one rushing TD; two receptions (three targets), 17 yards. Things looked to be trending in the right direction early for Taylor early on in this one. He caught two passes right off the bat and it appeared as though concerns about his share of the touches and usage in the passing game would quickly be quieted. Well, Taylor was absent in the passing game in the three quarters to follow and ended up tying his season-low in touches with 14, as he’s averaging 15.3-per-game over the past three weeks. While we would like to see Taylor be as involved through the air as he was in Week 1 (six catches on six targets), he saw only one fewer target than Nyheim Hines, who finished with three carries for eight yards and two receptions (four targets) for 22 yards. Taylor received 12 of 16 RB carries and 80% of the touches at the position overall, so there’s actually some room for optimism here. Plus, the Browns rushing defense is solid — and Taylor’s ROS schedule is among the most attractive at the position. Really, the only truly concerning aspect here is that the Colts have a 17-year NFL veteran at quarterback with 229 career starts under his belt that still loses games with his decision making and commits intentional grounding penalties in his own end zone. Philip Rivers belongs in a van down by the river, not in an NFL locker room.
James Robinson – There you go, fantasy community. Robinson is not game script proof. Even as cult love for Gardner Minshew continues to grow, it’s important to remember that the Jacksonville offense is simply not very good. The Jaguars are a bottom-10 scoring offense in the NFL. Mike Tagliere over at FantasyPros does some incredible work and this past summer, he did a study on home team scoring impacts each fantasy position. Here’s a look at how team scoring has impacted a running back’s fantasy production over the past eight years.
|RB Finish||# of Players||T-6 Off.||T-12 Off.||T-18 Off.||T-24 Off.||Bottom-10|
Clearly, there are exceptions to the rule — and J-Rob could ultimately end up being one of them. But despite the fact that bottom-10 scoring teams comprise 31.25% of the NFL (10/32), they have only produced 11.4% of RB1s (top-12 running backs) over the past eight years. That makes Robinson’s route to finishing as an RB1 an uphill battle. He’s a rock solid RB2, but I won’t hear any more of these gripes to upgrade Robinson to ROS RB1 status just because his production to this point (RB8, 15.4 FPPG) has him positioned there. For the last time, mid-tier RB2 for a Week 1 waiver add is fantastic value. Stop trying to make him into more.
Joe Mixon – 24 carries, 59 yards; six carries (eight targets), 35 yards. I suggested you trade Mixon last week after his overall RB1 performance. The fact that he’s caught six passes in back-to-back weeks and saw eight targets in Week 5 is encouraging, as it’s more pass production than I anticipated seeing from Mixon in 2020, but the 2.5 YPC helped offset most of that optimism and Cincinnati remains an offense I have no interest buying stock in. Next up: Colts, Browns, Titans, Steelers. If that excites you, please sign up to emcee my next virtual house party.
David Montgomery – 10 carries, 29 yards, rushing TD; seven receptions (eight targets), 30 yards. In the Bears’ second week without Tarik Cohen, we finally got to see Montgomery get legitimately involved in the passing game. The eight targets he saw on Thursday night significantly enhances Montgomery’s floor moving forward, as the added production in the passing game allowed him to post 15.4 half-PPR points in a game where he averaged just 2.9 YPC. It also helped that he was able to punch in a three-yard scamper in the green zone, but all things considered, Montgomery is now a safe RB2 that you should play with more confidence than you would have two weeks ago. Now that’s worthy of some excitement. Those still considering emceeing at my next virtual house party be forewarned: it’s just me and my two dogs.
Todd Gurley – 14 carries, 121 yards, one rushing TD; four receptions (five targets), 29 yards. Serious question: who would you rather own for the rest of the season, Montgomery or Gurley? Gurley or Melvin Gordon? As a Gurley supporter in draft season and early on in 2020, I was hesitant to overreact to Gurley’s strong start against Carolina on Sunday. His 35-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter set him up early to have a strong week, but I was worried that much production in a single carry would over-exaggerate his total body of work. However, as the game went on, Gurley took advantage of a weak Panthers run defense, which is encouraging after seeing a younger, healthier running back like Kenyan Drake struggle one week ago. More importantly, the game-changer here is that Gurley saw five targets — he had eight total targets on the season coming into Week 5 — and converted the increased looks into four catches for 29 yards, effectively doubling his season receptions in one game. Matt Ryan looks bad and I’m not sold that Gurley’s passing usage will continue (especially under a new head coach), but I’m substantially less concerned about Brian Hill than I was two weeks ago and Gurley is just about as safe of a bet to find the end zone on any given week as any back in the game. He’s a top-20 RB for ROS.
Raheem Mostert – 11 carries, 90 yards; three receptions (three targets), 29 yards. While he was out, your league-mates were screaming “KETCHUP!” and you were left muttering, “…can’t, Mos-terd…” But Mostert returned for San Francisco in Week 5 and instantly took over feature back duties, seeing 11 of 16 RB carries (68.8%) and nearly matching Jerick McKinnon’s four targets with three of his own. Despite not finding the end zone, Mostert still averaged 8.2 YPC and finished with 13.4 half-PPR points to McKinnon’s 1.5. — the latter of which finished with one carry for zero yards, adding two receptions for an additional five. In fact, McKinnon was even out-touched by Jeff Wilson in this game — a game that the 49ers trailed 30-to-seven at half and would appear to favor McKinnon in terms of game script. Mostert’s stock is up to mid-tier RB2 status. I know I’ll take some flak for ranking Mostert over Mixon, but that’s the way I see it.
Myles Gaskin – 16 carries, 57 yards, one rushing TD; five receptions (five targets), 34 yards. Meanwhile, The Gas Kin provided RB1 production over on the opposite sideline, enjoying a much more satisfying end result than Mostert’s 49ers. Gaskin’s 21 touches marked his second 20+ touch game of the young season, and he also caught all five of his targets and totaled 17.6 half-PPR points. Matt Breida (nine carries, 28 yards; one reception, 31 yards) was second in line, although Gaskin was yet again the clear feature back for Miami. Considering Jordan Howard was a healthy scratch and Gaskin produced excellently in Week 5, you have to have an improved appreciation for the rising RB2 in regard to how you felt about him one week ago.
Ronald Jones – 17 carries, 106 yards; three receptions (five targets), 19 yards. Leonard Fournette was active as an emergency option in this one, but he saw zero carries while Jones made good use of the 17 he was given. In fact, Jones received every carry out of the Buccaneers backfield on Thursday (Ke’Shawn Vaughn caught just two passes for five yards), even breaking off a 37-yard rush to highlight his second consecutive game with feature back duties. Many industry writers were two quick to deem Fournette the back to own in Tampa Bay, myself included. Brady may not have been able to count to four adequately this past week, but he did count on Jones again and again. He’s the back to own here moving forward and serves as a unique example that not every word a head coach says in training camp is a crock of shit.
Le’Veon Bell – 13 carries, 60 yards; one reception (one target), seven yards. Returning from a three-week stay on the IR (inactive Weeks 2-4), Bell was actually efficient on the ground, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. However, he got just 14 total touches, as the passing game upside fantasy owners grew accustomed to during his dominant tenure in Pittsburgh simply wasn’t there. This Jets O-Line has struggled to open up holes all season long regardless of who has been coming out of the backfield, which means Bell will need to see increased usage in the passing game to be a reliable weekly RB2 option. Until we see that, he’s nothing more than a fringe RB2/Flex option that should be leaned on only in sexy match-ups.
DeVonta Freeman – 17 carries, 60 yards, one rushing TD; two receptions (three targets), 27 yards. Freeman’s role continues to expand in New York, as his carries have now increased from five, to 11, to 17 (of 23 RB carries) over the past three weeks. He also hauled in just as many catches as Dion Lewis while seeing one less target. He’s not very exciting, but he’s beginning to at least see the volume to validate deploying him as a streamable Flex option.
Chase Edmonds – Three carries, 36 yards, one rushing TD; five receptions (six targets), 56 yards. This is the changing of the guard — the moment when the blurb title changes from “Kenyan Drake” to “Chase Edmonds.” As a reminder, here’s what Cliff Kingsbury said about Edmonds back in camp: “We all feel like he’s a starting running back in this league, and he does, too… He can catch it, run it, block, play special teams, and he’s really bright football-wise. He’s everything you want.” Well, so far Kenyan Drake (18 carries, 60 yards, one rushing TD; one reception, two yards) has not been everything the Cardinals wanted, as he finally rushed for a touchdown for the first time since Week 1 but averaged just 3.3 YPC. Meanwhile, Edmonds caught five passes and looked far more dynamic, averaging 12.0 YPC and breaking off a long run for a score. I don’t think it’s premature to prefer Edmonds to Drake at this point, although it will take at least one more week for me to carry that over to my rankings.
Mike Davis – 16 carries, 89 yards; nine receptions (10 targets), one receiving TD. Finishing as RB1 overall in Week 5, Davis continued to roll in the absence of Christian McCaffrey. Speaking of CMC, there’s still quite a bit up in the air. Head coach Matt Rhule made it sound as if CMC were still a couple weeks away, but there are also emerging reports that CMC is seeing team doctors to re-evaluate his ankle and will return as soon as they medically clear him. If he’s out another couple weeks, that certainly gives Davis an extension in terms of fantasy value — but I still expect Davis, for as excellent as he’s been, to lose most-all deployable fantasy value once CMC does in fact return. Davis’ recent play and the fact that the Panthers are 3-0 with him leading the backfield has him rising up the rankings for Week 6, as there’s a chance he could maintain some value, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The window for selling Davis high is closing and this might be your best time to do it coming off of his Week 5 performance. McCaffrey remains positioned as an RB1 assuming he returns in the next two-to-three weeks.
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 there are the rest of season running back rankings for Week 6. I began them while humming a happy tune during the Raiders-Chiefs game and finished them hiding underneath the living room table after hearing a loud banging noise outside late Monday night. Until next time, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.