Editor’s Note: Originally published at ChiefsSpin.com, republished here with permission.
By John Evans
Earlier in the week, I wrote about backup running backs thrust into the spotlight by injuries ahead of them on the depth chart. Since RB is the most volatile of positions right now, rife with possibility to deliver victory or defeat, I will focus on it once again. Sorry, I know you’d rather read about kickers and DSTs, but this is my show.
Many fantasy owners are worried about playing Alfred Morris this week vs. Atlanta. Alf was a stud last year, coming from out of nowhere (some might say from Melmac) and awing observers. This season his high level of play has been one of the sole bright spots for Washington. But as the team’s fortunes have slid, so have Alf’s numbers. Over the last five weeks, Morris has managed 13, 9, 5, 10 and 3 fantasy points in ESPN standard leagues, adding only 3 receptions for PPR purposes. This offense has stunk and so has Morris.
However, the insertion of Kirk Cousins at quarterback heralds a “back-to-basics” approach. After averaging just 12 carries per game over the last three weeks, Alf is due for 20 touches in Atlanta. The Falcons are likely to focus on stopping the run to make Kirk Cousins beat them, but Cousins is one of the better young backups at his position. As a rookie last year, the Michigan State product completed almost 70% of his passes for 9.7 yards per attempt, an average that would lead the NFL right now. The sample size wasn’t huge but I’m confident that Cousins will keep the defense honest (Atlanta is an easy mark for QBs) and allow Morris to gash a team allowing 4.6 yards per carry, 5th worst in the NFL. Only five teams allow more fantasy points to running backs.
A player I am less confident about is Rams rookie Zac Stacy. Yes, his opponents give up 4.7 yards per rush, but to date New Orleans has faced the fourth fewest rushing ATTEMPTS. The reason teams don’t run on the Saints is because their high-flying offense gets so far ahead so quickly that you have to throw on them. Only Washington allows more yards per pass attempt than the Rams, so are we worried about Drew Brees lighting it up in St. Louis on Sunday? I’m not.
On the other side of the ball, the Kellen Clemens-led offense will continue to make Stacy its focal point, but for how long and how effectively? Unlike Alf, Stacy can’t trust his quarterback to generate enough offense with his arm to keep the opposition from loading the box all day. And facing such defensive attention Stacy has rushed for an average of 61.5 yards over his last four games. You’re counting on a touchdown to save his day.
With Rashad Jennings’ return relegating Marcel Reece to the bench, Toby Gerhart nursing his hamstring and Lamar Miller splitting carries with Daniel Thomas, that leaves Jordan Todman as the standout among the sleepers I wrote about last time. Add the Browns’ Chris Ogbonnaya to that list. Willis McGahee has been ruled out (concussion) which leaves only Fozzy Whittaker to compete with Silent G for carries. Ogbonnaya is the more talented, experienced back and has shown more in the past. In 2011, he posted back-to-back games with more than 100 total yards, given starter carries. This season he is averaging 5.3 yards per rush and has added 41 receptions — only 10 RBs have caught more passes this year.
On Sunday the Browns face a Chicago team that has allowed RBs to exceed the 100-rushing-yard plateau in six consecutive weeks. Only Dallas and Washington dispense more fantasy points to tailbacks than the horrendous Chicago run defense. A word of caution, though — Silent G has put the ball on the carpet lately and an early fumble could mean that Whittaker is the one to take advantage of this cupcake matchup.
And finally, Chiefs insider Herbie Teope has reported that rookie RB Knile Davis has earned the team’s trust and appears set to receive lots of run, once Kansas City’s playoff seed is set and head coach Andy Reid rests Jamaal Charles. Denver’s loss to San Diego on Thursday night kept the playoff picture fuzzy, but keep Davis in mind. He’s a must pickup for all Jamaal Charles owners and could be the next handcuff back to receive starter snaps. I would not be shocked to see Davis become a factor vs. San Diego Week 17, which is of interest if you play daily fantasy.
After writing light-hearted sports columns in college, John Evans covered a variety of sports for The Olympian, a daily newspaper. While chasing Hollywood dreams for most of the last decade, he discovered that the entertainment industry loves fantasy football! For three seasons and counting, John has co-hosted The Xs & Ys Podcast with The Fantasy Football Girl and he now writes for ChiefsSpin.com. Follow him on Twitter @Evansjo5.