Ho! Ho! Ho! It’s the holiday season, and it’s time to shake our bellies like bowls full of jelly — or like Booger McFarland trying to get down from his field analyst forklift. Sadly, much of the cheer has passed, and the vast majority of us currently find ourselves broke from the holiday expenditures and measurably fatter than we were one week ago. As you stroll through your local Fantasy Assets ‘R’ Us, you can’t help but notice that the shelves are barren — cleaned out by the festivities of the season. Luckily for you, all you can afford at this point are the misfits, those cast off by the harsh realities of our world. What’s left behind isn’t sexy, but there are some useful scraps scattered about if you look closely enough, which is precisely what you do, being the resourceful scoundrel that you are. 2021 may have been a difficult year, but that doesn’t mean 2022 needs to be. If you play in a dynasty fantasy football league, or are simply looking ahead for 2022 draft intel, it’s never a bad time to begin laying the groundwork for a successful 2022 — which you can kickstart by buying low on rookies who may be discounted heading into their sophomore seasons. What’s done may be done, but as they say, “there’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true.”

Please, blog, may I have some more?

When I was a kid, I traded one of my toys to my friend for a Kirby Puckett figurine — which remains the best trade I have pulled off in my life to date. I can’t even remember what I gave up, but I know it was dumb, and I have that Puckett figurine to this very day. So, in a way, you could say I’m a decades-long trade guru, pertaining to life both inside and outside the fantasy football realm. Today, we’ll focus on the latter, and I’ll detail the framework for three-potential season-changing trades you should look into making in your fantasy football league. Notice the word “framework.” While some of the players involved in these deals may be close enough in value to pursue a straight-up deal, it’s fantasy trading 101 to shoot high and then work your way down. Not ever player listed will be a one-for-one match, but evaluate where your potential trade partner has needs, and where you might be able to find common ground. I’ll break down the framework for all of these deals in each blurb, but at the end of the day, we’re looking to steal value at a particular position by moving a player with a higher positional ranking for an asset with a more promising rest-of-season outlook. Alright, let’s go find your Kirby Puckett figurine!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

When I last bought a CD, my face was covered in acne and I was rocking an all-maroon sweat suit and some kind of hybrid between a mullet and the infamous pretty boy Bieber-do. The year is unknown, but I strolled into the local pharmacy (this is truly where I bought my blank CDs) and perused the isles for a stack of CD-RWs to burn some Fall Out Boy and Yellowcard onto. Now, as I’m writing this week’s buy/sell column, I can still hear the lyrics, “Dance, dance… We’re falling apart to half time…” echoing in my head. For CeeDee Lamb’s fantasy owners, those lyrics hit at another level this past weekend, as the Cowboys’ star wideout was held without a single catch in the first half of Dallas’ Week 4 game against the Carolina Panthers. Lamb ultimately finished with two catches for just 13 yards, ranking outside of the top-45 fantasy wide receivers for the second-consecutive week. That, my friends, gives us the perfect buy-low window heading into a Week 5 matchup with the Giants. For Lamb, a player who was averaging 12 targets through Week 2 of the campaign and has the luxury of one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL in Dak Prescott at his disposal, it’s nearly impossible to imagine his stock getting any lower at any point this fantasy season. So, yes — in a world where even iPods have become obsolete, I am telling you to go out and buy some CeeDees. As many as you can, and quickly — because there’s no telling how long this product will even be on the shelves. Damn you, corporate America and your painful production delays! We should have never outsourced semiconductors in the first place. Anyway, here’s some more players to buy or sell this week in fantasy football:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Two weeks into his eighth season in the NFL, Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr leads the NFL in passing with 817 yards and is positioned as the QB8 in fantasy football. This comes after facing the Baltimore Ravens at home in Week 1 (QB 10, 24.0 fantasy points) and the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in Week 2 (QB7, 24.18 fantasy points). Although the Week 1 matchup was average, Carr did what he had to do to win despite some inabilities to connect consistently with Darren Waller (19 targets to just 10 receptions). His ability to back up that top-10 positional performance with a big showing in Week 2 on the road is what really warrants this article and what begins to beg the question: can Derek Carr be a consistent fantasy starter capable of finishing inside the top 10 (or better) at the position by season’s end? It’s certainly an uphill battle for a man who puts money in the swear jar every time he lets an F-bomb slip, and apologizes to his teammates when he forgets to tidy up his locker. One thing we can’t debate is that Carr is a flat-out great guy, and for some reason, that seems to make him easier to doubt, year after year. But could this be the season Carr shifts into the left lane and passes QB2 territory by while airing the middle finger out the window, before promptly shifting back into the right lane for a swift exit to fantasy relevance?

Please, blog, may I have some more?

A late Target is a term describing a retail store open after 10 PM. A deep sleeper is a term you and your cousin Melinda use to describe your fat old uncle Bart. Neither are relevant in the realm of fantasy football, unless you and Melina decide to invite uncle Bart to the home decor section one night but end up staying past close because Bart got lost walking from the bedposts to the nightstands. That’s why any term can have an alternate meaning, such as a player to go after late in a fantasy football draft, or a player literally no one is in on except for a select few enlightened souls. For the most part, we all have preconceived notions regarding the players at the top of fantasy football drafts. Donkey Teeth will continue to target sexy upside with reckless abandon. I’ll continue to have nothing to do with Joe Mixon and receive thundering boos from the Reddit militia. And you, dear readers, will be no different. It’s when we get late into drafts that we start to lose our way and look for high-upside fliers, and far too often I see my peers wasting draft capital as the rounds creep deeper into the double digits. This week, I’ll break down one late target and deep sleeper at running back, wide receiver and tight end — and leave it up to you who to go after and include in your 2021 late-round draft strategy.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

All season long, we’ve been grinding through the top-60 rest of season running backs. There has been a lot of turnover, an excess of movement both in and outside of the top-24, and a heck of a lot of injuries and COVID-19 to navigate around — both in the fantasy realm and the real world. But, alas, we’ve finally made it to Week 14. Hopefully, for many of you, this means the start of a successful playoff run, as Weeks 14-16 is when the vast majority of fantasy playoffs occur. For this very reason, I find myself feeling sentimental as I write this. At times, I led you stray, and at others, I did my job well. Now, as we leave the regular season behind and enter the postseason threshold, I have the opportunity to provide you with one last set of running back rankings as it relates to the 2020 season. In this final installment, I’ll be focusing on the set of matchups each running back faces over the next three weeks, as I’ve replaced the previous “bye” week component in the rankings with a look at each respective player’s “upcoming schedule.” And before you ask, yes — I do have David Montgomery ranked as a top-10 rest of season, fantasy playoff run option for that very reason, among others.

But before we get to the rest of that top 10, let’s take one final, albeit emotional trip around the league together. Feel free to bring a pack of Kleenex or, if you wish, simply deploy your own makeshift snot sleeve. Personally, I haven’t cried this hard since I said goodbye to my foreign exchange student in 10th grade. It was emotional. We played a lot of ping pong together. To fully appreciate this last ROS top-60 segment, I highly recommend playing the song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. Blast it from the speakers as you digest the fickle words to follow.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

In a casual conversation with my future mother-in-law this past week, she adamantly described Derrick Henry as “sexy.” Now, I’m no expert on the perceived attractiveness of 6-foot-3, 250-pound behemoth running backs, but I do know one thing: there’s only one. There’s only one Derrick Henry, and as he approaches a fantasy playoff schedule as easy as hiding a piece of Thanksgiving stuffing in Matt Patricia’s beard at the end of No-Shave November, we’re likely to see history repeat itself yet again. Remember, Henry averaged 24.2 half-PPR points in his final five games of 2019, which was only slightly better than the 23.1 points he averaged across the final five games of 2018. Historically, Henry is stretch-run hero — a fantasy playoff superman in a class all his own. Even if Henry hadn’t erupted for 37.5 half-PPR points in Week 12, he would likely enter the Week 13 rankings as the RB1 overall, as an upcoming matchup with the Browns is the only thing that stands between him and a remaining schedule against the Jaguars, Lions, Packers and Texans. No matter how your league is structured, those matchups scream league-winning upside, and there’s no doubt in my mind Henry will again have a high ownership percentage on championship rosters. But, since Henry did pop off in Week 12, let’s unpack it: 27 carries, 178 yards, three rushing touchdowns; two receptions (four targets), seven yards. All three of Henry’s rushing touchdowns came in first half, as he legitimately provided three healthy weeks of fantasy value in a single half. Now I understand the “sexy” part. 

While Henry is up to RB1 this week, there’s a lot of other movement on the top-60 list and, as always, an overwhelming amount of injury updates to digest. So, before we get to the rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Frank Reich is a fine man. A good man, even. Sometimes, I sit around daydreaming, wondering what it would be like if he were my father. He would no-doubt instill many wholesome values in me, his son, and be a great fishing partner. He simply has that look about him — the one that comes with a Geppetto-eque twinkle in one’s eye — that exudes wisdom and level-headedness. Personally, I believe he’s a tremendous football coach, perhaps one of the most underrated in the entire league. The Indianapolis Colts are incredibly fortunate that Josh McDaniels spurned their head coaching offer back in the February of 2018 to remain with New England, leading to Reich landing the job as a sort of second choice candidate at the time. Since then, he’s done wonders with the team and carries many strengths as the man in charge, but he’s largely been a fantasy enemy to this point — especially as it relates to the running back position. That’s because he treats his backfield like a true father figure would: he believes in all of his backs, especially the young Jonathan Taylor, and is always willing to give dish out a second chance. The issue is… it’s hard to predict when those second chances are going to come. Heading into the week, Nyheim Hines was one of the highest risers up most rest-of-season rankings after receiving 12 carries in Week 10, rushing for 70 yards and one touchdown in addition to his typical receiving workload: five receptions for 45 yards and another touchdown. Jonathan Taylor saw just seven carries in that game, to which he translated to a mere 12 yards, which came on the heels of a Week 9 game in which Reich gave Taylor a measly six carries. Fast-forward to Week 11: Taylor rushed 22 times for 90 yards, also catching four passes (on four targets) for 24 yards. Those 22 carries equated to 68.8% of running back carries (22/32), as his 26 total touches were by far the highest amongst the Indy trio. Jordan Wilkins (four carries, 21 yards; one reception on one target, 15 yards) touched the ball just five times, while Hines (six carries, two yards; three receptions on four targets, 31 yards) registered nine touches. It’s certainly encouraging to see Taylor so involved in a crucial, competitive game that the Colts ultimately won in exciting fashion — but what can we expect from him moving into the home stretch of the 2020 fantasy football season?

After sinking to RB30 overall in my rankings last week, Taylor is back up into RB2 territory thanks in large part to an incredibly easy schedule from here on out. The only truly difficult matchup remaining for Taylor will come in Week 16 against the Steelers, which isn’t ideal as it’s when most fantasy championships will occur, but until then he’ll go up against the Titans, Texans, Raiders and Texans, again. There are certainly RB2 options with safer floors, but Taylor is once again trending up and represents a much more attractive Flex play than he did one week ago.

There’s a lot more to dive into this week, so before getting to the rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

What in the Anthony Lynn is going on in San Diego!? I mean, Los Angeles!? Justin Jackson (zero carries; zero targets) seemed like a safe RB2 play with upside heading into the weekend, but suffered a first quarter knee injury and exited the contest prior to receiving a touch. In his stead, it was Kalen Ballage (15 carries, 69 yards, one rushing TD; two receptions on three targets, 15 yards) who burst onto the scene and answered the call. With the opportunity, Ballage finished as Week 9’s RB4, posting 15.4 half-PPR points. That was good for RB4 overall, you might say? Yes, indeed. Times are tough. The RB landscape has a bleaker outlook than the FBI Director’s job security. Joshua Kelley (nine carries, 28 yards; five receptions on five targets, 31 yards) did very little with his 14 touches, managing just 3.1 YPC and finishing outside RB2 range as the week’s RB25 with 8.4 points. Ballage, on the other hand, cruised his way to 4.6 YPC and was targeted three times by Justin Herbert in his debut. If you didn’t even know Ballage was on the Chargers until this past Sunday night, don’t fret! You’re not alone! With Troymaine Pope out with a concussion, Los Angeles elected to activate Ballage off their practice squad just over one month after the New York Jets cut him on Oct. 5 — making this entire situation all the more hilarious.

As we attempt to forecast the weeks ahead, there is still no official word as to when fantasy managers might expect Austin Ekeler to return outside of details provided on his Instagram account. For some of you, that may be the definition of a scholarly source. Ekeler showed that he started running last week and is ever-so-slowly increasing his activity, making a Week 12 return seem like a possibility, albeit an optimistic one. I speculated last week that his chances of returning at all seemed to be dwindling, but we may in fact see him on the field again in 2020. In the interim, I’m going to go out on a limb and state that Ballage is the Chargers running back to own. *hears a crack, stops to think, then plummets to the ground* It was an incredibly precarious limb.

There’s a lot more to discuss and break down this week, so before getting into the Week 10 rest of season running back rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

What. A. Mess. Have mercy on us, 2020. To anyone who owns or has ever owned a pet, or is a parent, you may have experienced a scenario much like the one I am about to lay out. You turn your back for a few minutes, heck, maybe even just a few seconds. Perhaps you had to take the garbage out, or quickly snuck away to take a shower, and left your furry friends unsupervised for a brief moment. Upon your return, you are shocked to find the stuffing of a destroyed pillow strewn about the room, or a box of tissues shredded throughout your home — maybe, for the most unfortunate of souls, even some poopy footprints scattered across the floor. That feeling is what Week 7 felt like, at least to me. We let our guard down for just a second, reclined on the couch to relax and enjoy a pleasant Sunday afternoon of football — and we returned to reality to find an array of crap flung all across our roster and, more importantly of course, the top 60 rest of season running back rankings. Sure, we didn’t see the high-caliber superstars do gown that we saw earlier in the season, but that’s more so because, well, there are only a few healthy ones left unscathed at the position as is.

Let’s run through it. Chris Carson. Kenyan Drake. Devonta Freeman. Phillip Lindsay. Thankfully, one previously injured back, Raheem Mostert, was replaced via a breakout from Jeff Wilson, who finished as Week 7’s RB1 with 31 half-PPR points. Oh, yeah. Right. INJURED. Out several weeks. Then we have the lingering injuries from Week 6 that are accompanied by just as much, if not more, uncertainty than the aforementioned names. Miles Sanders. Joe Mixon. Let’s go a degree deeper. Nick Chubb. Austin Ekeler. All of this, crumpled together one layer after another, has created arguably one of the most clouded RB groups in recent memory. Even the top 24 is incredibly weak, relatively speaking, at the tail end. It’s ugly — and it’s tough to project considering many of these injuries come with timetables of “several weeks.” Or “for a while.” I especially get a kick out of “some time” and wouldn’t be surprised to hear a head coach give a *shrug* followed by “beats me, man, you heard anything?”

In this week’s column, I’ll do my best to make sense of it all. The rest of my colleagues here at Razzball are doing an incredible job attempting to do the same at their own respective positional assignments, so be sure to check out all of our rest of season positional fantasy football rankings. Before I get to mine, let’s take a quick trip around the league.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The choice for this week’s lede seemed obvious heading into the final game of the Week 6. Fresh off the Chiefs’ signing of Le’Veon Bell to a one-year deal, Clyde Edwards-Helaire erupted for 161 yards on 26 carries, adding another four receptions on four targets for eight yards. Other than the fact that CEH remains allergic to the end zone, it was an outstanding performance, as he cruised to 6.2 yards-per-carry while handling all of his targets with ease. Meanwhile, Bell saw a much different line in the box score: three plane rides, two luxury hotel stays, seven tweets and a new Mahomes. A big boost to the fantasy value? Well, it depends on how you look at it, as they say. All things are relative. It’s certainly a worse landing spot compared to somewhere like Miami or Buffalo where Bell would have a much greater likelihood of handling lead-back duties. However, playing second fiddle to CEH (which we have to assume for now, based on his Week 6 performance) still beats being the feature back for the New York Jets. Hell, being Andy Reid’s butt-scratcher beats being the No.1 running back for Gang Green. Still, I have to mention that it was in fact Darrel Williams (six carries, 16 yards, one rushing TD; one reception, 15 yards) that found pay dirt, running in a 13-yard score in the third quarter.

As of 8:15 ET on Monday night, that was the clear headline for my top 60 rest of season running back rankings. Well, that was until early in the second quarter of the nightcap between the Cowboys and Cardinals, where we saw the second highest paid running back in the NFL, Ezekiel Elliott, cough up his fourth and fifth fumbles of the season — and it’s only Week 6! By the way, that gives Elliott a share of the NFL lead for fumbles alongside Joe Burrow, Derek Carr and Carson Wentz. That’s right, he leads all running backs. Notably, the Cowboys actually showed a willingness to move away from Elliott for much of the second quarter after that, likely out of an attempt to both wake Elliott up and prioritize salvaging the game as it quickly got away from them. Tony Pollard ended up with a season-high seven carries in the first half, which he turned into 26 yards on the ground. In the end, however, it was obviously still Zeke’s backfield in the second half. Zeke finished with 12 carries for 49 yards, but he also caught eight of 11 targets (most on team) for 31 yards. Pollard finished with 10 carries for 31 yards, adding another two catches for nine yards. It’s reasonable to be concerned if you own any fantasy weapons in the Dallas offense after their performance on Monday night. Abysmal just doesn’t seem to be the right word, but it’ll do for now. The remainder of Dallas’ schedule is also pretty tough against running backs, so I’ve downgraded Elliott one spot.

Before we get to the Week 7 rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.

Please, blog, may I have some more?