! Warning ! Your 2021 fantasy football season is on FINAL NOTICE. Otherwise meaning: your team is swirling down the crapper, spiraling more quickly thank my bank account after a fun-filled day spent at Chuck-E-Cheese, and you’re desperately in need of that one (maybe two?) player to save you from permanent destruction. Now, there’s this scene in New Girl where Nick shows Jess his box of overdue bills, which he hides in the closet — a place where he puts things he doesn’t want to have to deal with. Heading into Week 11, do not let your fantasy roster become a hidden box of overdue bills. Get the box out. Read the writing on the wall (in the letter). Take a stand and do something about it. Target the right players. Don’t waste a waiver claim on the guy who will save you for one week, rather, go big on the one name that could turn your entire season around. In this segment, I’ll detail seven players who hold the potential to flip the switch your 2021 fantasy football season. Many of these names have been discussed in this week’s waiver column, but as I’ll discuss later, not every waiver add has rest-of-season relevance. These players aren’t so much league winners, as they are league savers. 

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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?

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It’s that highly anticipated, glorious time of year where friends of all shapes and sizes come together, smash their laptops onto one dining room table, spread the chips, salsa and guac aimlessly around, and begin trash-talking and scheming to no end about one singular thing: season 23 of Big Brother. This is a time where fans of MTV’s The Challenge can begin scouting the next rookies that will soon join the Big Brother alliance, while simultaneously putting together their draft boards for their ensuing The Challenge draft pools. Oh, what a special time of year, and while it’s all going on, there are also a select few souls prepping for their upcoming football drafts, which I suppose is something we should mention at one point or another here on the fantasy football side of Razzball. And while I have plenty of tips on how to spot talent on the reality TV show front, I also came equipped today with five mid-to-late fantasy football draft steals for 2021. These are five players whose current ADPs I find particularly perplexing, but am happy about nonetheless, as it means I’ll have a surplus of shares of (most of) these players this upcoming season. So, who are they, and why should you be foaming at the mouth to snag them as a value at their current ADP? Let’s get to it.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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