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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We are now at the quarter-mark of the NFL season, believe it or not! We’re now starting to get a better feel for who we should be starting and sitting on a week-to-week basis, and which matchups are actually ones to target, rather than matchups that look good because of a small sample size.

There are some very interesting matchups on deck for Week 5, so let’s talk about some.

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The main point I make to people in week one of the NFL season is that you can’t know what to expect. Be wary of who you think is a good team or bad team. That pendulum swings the same way in week two. Don’t think you know who a team is because of a one-week performance. I’m looking at you Tampa Bay. To bring it back to our DFS Donkeycorn analogy, it’s still hard to tell the oasis from the mirage. Let proven producers like DeAndre Hopkins lead you to water. There will be plenty of overreaction to things we saw last week. Capitalize on that. My favorite plays this week:

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