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The Cutback: Running Back Start/Sit Week 11

Week 11 is here, and @GBridgfordnfl is back to provide you with your weekly starts and sits, and we’re here to talk running backs.

Welcome Back! Week 11 is here, and the DynastyNerds writers are back once again to provide you with your weekly starts and sits. We will be making our recommendations based on weekly consensus PPR rankings from FantasyPros. Here are the cast and the position groups they will be covering to help you win your week. Follow their socials, and be sure to check out their picks for this week as well.

A Quick Note: These are recommendations based on matchups, previous performance and other contributing factors. These are not law. Any questions? The DMs are always open. 

Week 10 Hit/Miss Recap

*Hits and misses will be defined as whether or not a player finishes inside the top 24.*

Starts

Duke Johnson Jr.: Miss – RB38

Leonard Fournette: Miss – RB40

Sits

Jerick McKinnon: Hit – RB37

Damien Harris: Miss – RB21

Darrell Henderson Jr.: Hit – RB25

The Duke outcome was one of the most confusing outcomes from last week. He was the only running back that saw a touch in that backfield and couldn’t even crack the RB3 conversation. He’s clearly not going to be the type of fill-in guy I had hoped. Fournette was even more bizarre. Teammate Ronald Jones fumbled the ball in the first quarter, and he seemed poised for a quick benching as we had seen over the past couple of weeks. That didn’t happen, and he dominated en route to a huge day.

McKinnon was a smash call. This offense couldn’t get anything going on the ground, and, with a bye week upcoming, we could see McKinnon’s value completely disappear in two weeks. Harris was a miss, and he could have had an even better day if he were given the goalline work over quarterback Cam Newton. Henderson’s day was also impossible to predict. All three running backs saw a good amount of work, and they made sure none of them had value, outside of Malcolm Brown’s two short touchdowns.

Starts

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

Before you stop reading, just stick with me for a second. Has Taylor struggled compared to expectations this year? Absolutely. Many of us drafted him in the second round to be a potential RB1 for us this year, and he’s RB19 on the year. Oh well, he hasn’t been that, but now is the time for him to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. He’s got a plus matchup at home, and it’s his time.

via GIPHY

I haven’t written about Taylor in this category this year because you were starting him no matter what. Now? You’re actually thinking about benching him. Similar to other guys we’ve looked at this year, this is a matchup where, if you can’t play Taylor, you can never play him. He’s running behind an elite offensive line while still receiving a safe amount of carries with the opportunity to smash.

The Green Bay Packers are allowing the third-most points to the running back position this season. Their defense just gave up over 100 yards to the Jacksonville Jaguars despite playing in adverse weather that would force them to be one-dimensional. Even when they know what’s coming at them, they’re struggling to slow anyone down. If Taylor can’t produce in this matchup, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be able to produce at all.

Kalen Ballage, Los Angeles Chargers

Before we get into this any more, Ballage is a starter because of his matchup. While he has been able to shine outside of the guidance of Adam Gase (STUNNING I KNOW!), he’s only done it for a couple of weeks. There is an old phrase- one instance is a dot, two instances is a line, and three instances is a trend. If he can produce three weeks in a row, that would show a trend we can point to for consistency.

For his career, Ballage has been extremely inconsistent, but this is the best he’s been to this point. It’s also the most consistent volume he’s gotten thus far. In Miami and with the New York Jets, he was the backup you put in for emergencies. Now, when he’s getting at least 10 carries, he’s averaging 13 points per game. That would have made him an RB2 last week. Remember, we’re shooting for RB2 or better production. You know what players you’re already starting. These are the guys you’re unsure of.

He played 73 percent of the snaps last week, and he had 23 touches compared to seven for Joshua Kelley. This is his backfield, and volume always reigns supreme. The Jets are the eighth-worst team against running backs, as they’re allowing over 20 points per game to the position. Ballage isn’t the best play this week, but he’s a solid fill-in with multiple starters on byes or injured.

Salvon Ahmed, Miami Dolphins

We’re doubling down on getting weird today. Recommending Ballage and Salvon Ahmed is out there, but in the year 2020, is it really all that out there? Both of them finished as RB2s last week. On top of that, there is no threat to his touches until teammate Myles Gaskin returns from his injury now that the team has released Jordan Howard.

Ahmed has played in just two games during his rookie season. In one, he saw just seven carries and didn’t do much with it. In the other, he saw 21 as a true bellcow running back. That isn’t changing this week, and he’s heading against a team that just got absolutely demolished in the running game by the Las Vegas Raiders. As I said with Ballage, he may not be the best option, but he’s better than throwing a dart at someone else without guaranteed touches.

The Broncos are in the middle of the pack as things stand currently. They allow just under 19 points per game to the running back position, and that’s elevated after the show the Raiders put up with four different running back touchdowns. Ahmed will not repeat a performance of that caliber, but they can get him some room to work where he can make plays happen to keep the pressure off of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Sits

Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

It’s a new week, but Henderson is finding himself in the sits category once again. There is a big, bad recipe working against Henderson this week, and you should be scrambling for some better options this week. For one, in Week 10, he was marginalized as his team was really splitting their workload. In Week 11, it’s not as though they’re going to dramatically alter that against a similarly loaded offensive unit in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Henderson, as with most running backs, needs volume to be productive. His splits between being the lead back vs. a back-up are night and day different this season. When he sees fewer than ten carries, he averages just over 5.5 points per game. Which is ten points different compared to his ten or more carry games. In Week 10, that difference would have been what made him RB15 vs. RB37.

He now has to contend with an elite Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ front on top of his inconsistent workload. The Bucs are ranked as the second-best team against the run this year, and the Rams just lost arguably their best offensive lineman in Andrew Whitworth. The deck is stacked against Henderson, so you should be looking elsewhere this week.

Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

Unfortunately for you Lindsay fans out there, it just looks like he’s going to be relegated to occasional work in this backfield. It’s unclear if he’s still dealing with some injury, but the team seems more than content to run with teammate Melvin Gordon III as the leading man. He’s only cleared 40 percent of the snaps in two games this season, and one of those two saw Gordon miss it.

Lindsay has only played in six games this season that have also seen Gordon suit up. In the three games that saw Gordon get at least 10 carries, he averaged just 4.2 PPR points per game. Even when that didn’t occur, Lindsay was putting up just 9.33 PPR points per game. That’s just simply not good enough to rely on in your lineups during this playoff push.

This isn’t the worst matchup against a Dolphins’ defense that allows 18.8 PPR points to the running back position, but he just doesn’t get enough volume to be effective. In addition to that, Lindsay was supposed to be the primary receiving guy. Last week, he didn’t even see any receiving work late in the game in a blowout loss.

Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This one is tough because I’ve been a big proponent of Fournette all year. However, after last week, it became clear that Jones is still the primary running back in this backfield. Jones suffered a fumble in the first quarter of the game. After mistakes like that in the past few weeks, he had gotten quickly yanked. In Week 10, Arians stuck with him, and he rewarded him with a 24.8 point outing.

Arians has done nothing but heap praise on Jones since Sunday’s win. While this isn’t a damning of Fournette, it does show that he intends to ride it out with Jones behind quarterback Tom Brady. Fournette will see some work because of how talented he is, but it’s not going to be enough for you to slot him into your lineups with confidence.

On top of the lack of volume, the matchup isn’t exactly a great one to go up against. The Rams rank 12th in DVOA against the run while being 9th against the pass. This game has two really good offenses, but it could swing the opposite way into a defensive struggle between the two sides. If Fournette’s going to be running into a wall all afternoon, look for another running back option.

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