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Ultimate Zero RB Watch List – AFC Week 10

We’re late in the fantasy regular season and the shifting and shuffling in AFC backfields in showing no sign of subsiding. One of the best rookie backs in years was bewilderingly benched, while one of the biggest stars of the past decade had his best game in years. From Jacksonville to Oakland, there is plenty to cover, so let’s dive in.

Baltimore Ravens

This week was a good example of just how dependent the Ravens are on game script, as Alex Collins had nine touches to Javorius Allen’s three in the first half, but took a backseat to Allen in the second half with the Ravens playing catch-up. Ultimately, they both ended up at 14 touches, with Collins nearly doubling up on Allen in rush attempts.

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Allen continues to carry a very valuable receiving role, sporting the second-highest receiving expected points (reEP) in the league in Week 9. He now has the third-highest reEP among all backs since Week 5, but as we mentioned last week, Danny Woodhead lurks and could throw a wrench in the works. Sell Allen while you still can and make sure Woodhead is rostered.

As for Collins, we can see just how game script dependent he is using our Game Splits App. He’s scoring at a significantly higher pace in games where the Ravens are favorites.

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Collins’ role shouldn’t be affected by the return of Woodhead as much as Allen’s will be, and he’s also due for some positive TD regression. No RB in the league has more carries without finding the end zone than Collins.

Buffalo Bills

After being buoyed by some positive regression in recent weeks, the floor fell out for LeSean McCoy on Thursday Night Football. He was outscored by Mike Tolbert, posting his worst point total of the season and failing to make a reception for the first time in 2017.

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This may open a small buy-low window for McCoy, as his workload isn’t going anywhere.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals backfield has been bereft of any real developments for well over a month now. Jeremy Hill was a late inactive this week, but that had no bearing on the workloads of Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard.

Although Mixon has been getting the majority of carries and receptions for several weeks now, it’s not adding up to a valuable workload, nor actual points. Since becoming the de facto starter in Week 3, Mixon is 18th in rushing expected points (ruEP) and 35th in reEP, resulting in a PPR total which ranks 22nd among all RBs. He’s a back-end RB2 with some room for upside if he ever gets it going, or if the Bengals increase their volume at some point.

He did find the endzone this week, helping boost him to a RB15 finish.

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No other Bengals back is worth rostering.

Denver Broncos

As it has been since Devontae Booker returned to action, the Broncos backfield is trending in the wrong direction (for our fantasy purposes) on two fronts: Denver is both bad and gravitating more toward a timeshare.

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Booker led the team in snaps with 24 – C.J. Anderson had 23 and Jamaal Charles 18 — and was second in total touches. Anderson once again led the RB corps in that department, but wound up a distant third in actual points while looking increasingly ineffective with a miserable 13 yards on nine carries.

If you’ve still been holding Charles, you can safely cut bait. Despite the Broncos offensive collapse and the team having every reason to at least attempt to increase his role, it isn’t happening. The future Hall of Famer still hasn’t topped 10 touches all year.

I scooped up Booker as a free add in a number of leagues last week and believe he has the best chance to emerge down the stretch, especially with his heavy role in the passing game.

Houston Texans

One of the more eye-opening developments of Week 9 was D’Onta Foreman leading the Texans in rushing attempts and EP just a week after he didn’t get a single touch working behind Alfred Blue. It’s the first time Foreman has led the Texans in rush attempts, though he wasn’t able to make much of an impression against a Colts defense that had given up the third-most fantasy points to RBs.

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Whatever the reason for Foreman’s benching in Week 8, it appears to be water under the bridge, putting the rookie squarely back on the Zero RB radar. It’s not like these were throwaway touches in a blowout either. Foreman’s involvement came in a huge game for the Texans where they trailed most of the way against a division rival.

With Tom Savage set to start for the foreseeable future, the Texans are indicating they’ll rely more on the run game going forward. That could make Foreman a decent Flex option, in addition to the massive potential he carries in the event of a Lamar Miller injury.

We encouraged you to hold last week, and he’s still well worth a roster spot.

Indianapolis Colts

So much for any Marlon Mack momentum. After leading the Colts in PPR scoring in each the past two weeks, Mack took a backseat to Frank Gore in Week 9. The Colts were playing from ahead and nursing a lead for most of the game, so that shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is confirmation that Gore isn’t going anywhere, leaving Mack at the mercy of game script and the whims of his head coach.

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Mack has been a popular waiver option for over a month now, with many preferring him over the likes of Rex Burkhead. I don’t think it’s close, and there are several reasons I would rather roster Burkhead:

  • The teams themselves are on different planets in terms of expected and actual production. Over their last four games, the Patriots RBs have 122.6 total expected points (62.8 ruEP and 59.8 reEP) and 123.6 actual PPR points scored, while the Colts backs are getting a workload roughly 58 percent as valuable – just 71.9 total expected points (38.5 ruEP and 33.4 reEP). They’ve scored about half (54 percent) as much as Patriots have in their last four.
  • You may point out that Burkhead is blocked by several backs in front of him, but that also has a positive element. While Mack needs an injury to one specific guy — a guy who happens to have made 101 straight starts —Burkhead would see a boost in usage if any of the other three backs went down. His skill set is such that he’s not particular about who he’d replace.
  • Theoreticals aside, he’s been a better bottom-line player. In the two games since returning from a rib injury, Burkhead has posted 20.5 PPR points (10.25 per game). In his last four, Mack has 30.6 points (7.65 per game).

Give me the better production and better upside of Burkhead over a lot of the middling options out there. That said, Mack should still make of a decent Flex option in the right game scripts.

Jacksonville Jaguars

We got a “bonus week” to see what life would look like in a Leonard Fournette-less landscape, and for the second straight week sans their star rookie, it was Chris Ivory getting bulk of the carries over T.J. Yeldon.

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In two games games with Fournette out, Ivory now has 37 rush attempts and four targets to Yeldon’s 20 rushes and six targets. The touches he gets are also much more valuable, with a ruEP of 28.8 over that time compared to Yeldon’s 10 expected rushing points.

Assuming Fournette stays healthy and his coach doesn’t cook up more ways to get his best offensive player off the field, this pecking order probably won’t matter much.

Do continue to roster Ivory, however, as he’s been usable as in the Flex even when Fournette is playing.

Miami Dolphins

As expected, the first game with Jay Ajayi produced a dead even timeshare with just two touches separating Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake. What is surprising is that, not only were both usable in fantasy, they were both RB1s in Week 9.

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Propelled by six targets a piece, Williams was the RB9 in PPR leagues, while Drake was the RB11, and both outscored Ezekiel Elliot. They didn’t need any fluke big plays1 to put them in the RB1 bracket, just their roles in the passing game. Williams reEP of 9.5 was the third highest among all RBs in Week 9, while Drake’s was ninth best — a more valuable passing-game role this week than that of even Kareem Hunt.

On the same number of carries, it was Drake that was the far more effective back, with his 2.7 ruFPOE good for ninth best among all RBs. Still, we have plenty of evidence to suggest that this will continue to be an even timeshare going forward. We suggested rostering Williams over Drake last week, but it appears both could provide value in PPR leagues.

New York Jets

Just like old times, Matt Forte is once again in the RB1 conversation. He was the RB3 in overall in Week 9, and since returning from injury in Week 6, he is the RB5 in PPR leagues . On the year, he’s the 22nd-highest scoring RB, despite missing two full games and most of a third game.

I will be honest — despite drafting him in a number of leagues, I was ready to write Forte off a few weeks ago before Shawn Siegele explained why that might be hasty. Forte was a pre-season favorite at RotoViz, and is paying off now that he is at full health and playing on a decent offense. If you went Zero RB and started the likes of Forte and Alvin Kamara over the past few weeks, you’re probably in very good shape.

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What is most shocking is to see just how much more involved a sixth-round rookie was than Bilal Powell this week. Elijah McGuire had just one fewer carry than Forte, while Powell was a distant third in total touches and also got less than half of Forte’s snaps. It’s not just the two TDs propelling Forte either, as his eight expected rushing points (ruEP) was the ninth best in the league this week.

Oakland Raiders

We’ve been keeping an eye on this backfield recently just in case Marshawn Lynch were to suddenly fall out of favor. However, coming off his best game as a Raider, a two-TD performance, it’s safe to say that the other two backs won’t be forcing a timeshare any time soon.

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Tennessee Titans

Battling a hamstring issue since training camp, DeMarco Murray has apparently added a knee ailment to list of injuries, but once again that wasn’t keeping the Titans from trotting him out and watching him be supremely ineffective.

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Murray was one of the least efficient backs on the field this week. His rushing Fantasy Points Over Expectation (ruFPOE) mark of -2.8 was 49th among 54 RBs who registered a carry, while teammate Derrick Henry’s ruFPOE of 0.8 was the eighth best across the league, thanks mostly to his third rushing TD of the season.

Sadly for Henry owners, head coach Mike Mularkey appears intent on keeping Murray in the lineup, despite the growing bill of bumps and bruises.

Mularkey obviously has a different definition of “effective” than the rest of us, since Murray has been not been effective by the numbers, nor by the eye test, yet he is still allowed to play. The good news for Henry owners is:

  • This is a straight timeshare at worst.
  • Henry is logging couple of catches a game.
  • He still possesses plenty of upside down the stretch.

 

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  1. Drake did show plenty of burst on his 42-yard run  (back)
By Cort Smith | @cortnall | Archive

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