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The Cutback: Running Back Start/Sit Week 8

Week 8 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 8 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 7 Hit/Miss Recap

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

Starts

Kenyan Drake: Miss – RB40

J.D. McKissic: Miss – RB35

James White: Miss – RB66

Sits

Boston Scott: Miss – RB8

Jerick McKinnon: Hit – RB97

Devonta Freeman: Hit – RB59

The injury to Kenyan Drake didn’t help our cause, but damn this was a rough week. Despite a blowout loss, James White just got no work in the receiving game to buoy his day. J.D. McKisic saw his team win big because of the Cowboys’ ineptitude on offense. He still seems like a safe flex option in most weeks, but this was a weird game script for him.

Things got a little better in the sits category. Scott snagged a late touchdown that pushed him into the hit category. We crushed the McKinnon call. He was the lowest-scoring running back on the week, as he finished with -0.1 points. Freeman wasn’t as bad as McKinnon, but he was damn close. He finished with just 0.8 points. Better weeks will come, and we will head back towards the other direction.

Starts

Melvin Gordon III, Denver Broncos

This call hinges almost entirely on the idea that Phillip Lindsay is going to miss the team’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Lindsay left the team’s Week 7 loss with a concussion, and he was the more effective running back than Gordon. However, effectiveness doesn’t matter for fantasy. All that matters is volume and production. Gordon led the team in touches, and he had five more carries than Lindsay and Royce Freeman combined.

Outside of Week 6, where he missed with an illness, Gordon has played at least 60 percent of the snaps in every game this season. He has more than double the snaps of the next running back on the roster, and it’s not like they’re closing the gap on him. He has a 28-touch advantage over Freeman, and Lindsay put together. He’s also getting the goal-line touches, which can really carry a day.

The Chargers have a decent defense against running backs, and they’re only allowing 17.1 PPR points to the running back position this season. With Gordon getting his raw volume, it doesn’t matter how good the defense is because he’s going to be able to generate plays. With bye weeks in effect, you’re going to be pressed to find a better option on your roster than what you’re getting in Gordon.

Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

We’ve been fading Henderson all year long because he wasn’t guaranteed the lead touches, but we’ve now seen clearly that he is the starting running back for the Rams. While Malcolm Brown remains a threat to take snaps, Henderson is the one getting the actual touches, and that’s what matters. Rookie Cam Akers is non-existent in this backfield after looking earlier in the year like he would be the starter.

This right here is why Henderson has become one of the safest plays in fantasy. As long as he gets the lead-back work, he’s finishing as an RB2 or better in the majority of weeks, and he’s doing it without relying on touchdowns. He’s averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per carry on the season, and he’s scored a total of four touchdowns through seven games. While other players, such as teammate Malcolm Brown, need to fall into the end zone to have value, Henderson is not one of those guys.

As for the matchup this week, they’re going up against the Miami Dolphins, who have struggled to stop opposing running backs this week. They’re allowing over 21 fantasy points to running backs this season, and they’re about to start a rookie quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa. If he struggles at all and allows the Rams to get a lead, they can lean on Henderson to run out the clock.

Sits

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

After a couple of strong weeks, Swift is likely to come back to Earth in Week 8 against the Indianapolis Colts. Swift was RB16 last week after a top-five performance the week prior, but it’s unlikely that he repeats this week. His volume has remained somewhat of a concern thus far, and he has a matchup with one of the best defenses in football in Week 8.

Swift has yet to play over 50 percent of the snaps in any game this season, and he’s only cleared 40 percent of the snaps in two of the team’s six games. Swift has maintained fantasy value with his receiving work, but the Colts’ defense has the linebackers to stick with him consistently.

Darius Leonard returned to the practice field on Wednesday, and this defense has already been playing great football this year. They’re allowing just 14.9 PPR points per game to the running back position, so there isn’t a ton of meat on the bone for Swift as it is. This game projects to be lower scoring from the two sides, which favors a player like Adrian Peterson more than Swift, who excels in receiving.

Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers

When Austin Ekeler went down with an injury, it was unclear who would take his snaps while he was out. The presumption was that it would be rookie Joshua Kelley, who had been the primary backup prior to the injury taking place. However, Jackson became the primary player in that role for this Chargers’ roster. He’s been the leading man for fantasy, but you shouldn’t be looking in his direction this week against the Denver Broncos.

After seeing a healthy portion of the snaps in Week 5, he was out-snapped by Kelley in Week 7 38 to 31, and he was also out-touched 17 to 10 on the afternoon. If it weren’t for his involvement in the receiving game, his day wouldn’t have looked nearly as good. After two weeks, it’s become clear that we have no idea who the leading man is going to be in this backfield until Ekeler returns.

The final piece of this puzzle for the week is the Broncos’ defense. Despite losing Jurell Casey, they’re still playing like one of the league’s best defenses against running backs. They’re giving up an average of just under 4.0 yards per carry, but they’re allowing just 12.9 PPR points to the running back position per game. Between splitting touches and a bad matchup, Jackson isn’t the best option for Week 8. 

Devonta Freeman, New York Giants

Freeman finds himself in this spot for two weeks in a row. Outside of the struggles he showed last week, he hasn’t exactly been effective prior to Week 7. He’s yet to top 61 yards in a game on the ground, and he’s scored just one rushing touchdown thus far. Throw in the fact that teammate Wayne Gallman continues to look like the more effective running back, and the case can be made that Freeman needs to be splitting his touches more.

Freeman is averaging 3.2 yards per carry right now on 54 attempts, and Gallman, on 25 attempts, has an average of 4.4. Gallman actually finished as RB12 in Week 7 thanks to a rushing touchdown, and he caught all five of his targets on the evening. Even if he’s not a primary running back, he’s seeing enough work to lower the ultimate ceiling of Freeman.

On top of the ineffectiveness that Freeman has shown, he has an awful matchup this week. The Buccaneers have been one of the best run defenses in football over the past two seasons, and that isn’t likely to change against a Giants’ front that lacks cohesion at this point in the year. They allow just over 14 fantasy points per game to the running back position, and they have allowed a league-best 341 rushing yards this season. Fade Freeman for better options in Week 8.

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