Are rookie running backs Michel and Kerryon Johnson really worth starting in week 7?
The bye weeks are in full swing in Week 7 and the impact on the running back pool will be felt by many fantasy owners. With Green Bay, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Seattle all on bye that means no James Conner, Aaron Jones, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Carson or Jamaal Williams (among others). Even guys like Jalen Richard are going to be missed in PPR leagues.
So if you are missing one of your stud running backs, who should you start in their place? Before I offer my Week 7 start/sit advice, let's see how I did in sizing up the RB pool in Week 6.
Good Calls for Week 6...
Sit Kenyan Drake (5.8 fantasy points) – The Dolphins seem to not trust Drake, and it is evident when 35-year-old Frank Gore outruns and out-touches his younger teammate.
Sit Chris Carson (5.9 FP) – The Seahawks are using a full running back by committee approach with Carson, Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny all getting touches in the win over Oakland.
Bad Calls for Week 6...
Sit Alex Collins (17.4 FP) – Collins is starting to play better, but he was helped out by two rushing touchdowns last week.
Start T.J. Yeldon (7.0 FP) – Thanks to Blake Bortles, the whole Jaguars offense struggled last week in Dallas.
Teams on bye: Green Bay, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Seattle
START THESE RBs...
Sony Michel, NE (at CHI)
If Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake did nothing else last week (besides rush for 100 yards), they showed that the Bears' run defense is not as staunch as once believed. The Bears have yet to give up a rushing touchdown, but the Dolphins were on the doorstep twice. Michel is getting close to earning matchup-proof status. He has jumped from 24th in average fantasy points for running backs from Weeks 2-4 (made his debut in Week 2) to 12th over the last two weeks, and he’s getting better each week.
Kerryon Johnson, DET (at MIA)
Johnson has a superb matchup this week against a Dolphins defense that has been terrible against opposing running backs, especially of late. In the past three games against New England, Cincinnati and Chicago, Miami has allowed 80 carries for 368 yards (4.6 ypc) and three touchdowns, as well as 20 catches for 183 yards and two scores. Yes, the Lions for some reason are still giving LeGarrette Blount a lot of touches, but here’s hoping that Detroit comes off its bye and leans on the best running back on its roster – Johnson – with a heavy workload. He's scored at least 10 PPR points in four games in a row and has either 85 total yards or a touchdown in his past three outings.
Chris Thompson, WAS (vs. DAL)
You can put an asterisk here because Thompson is still dealing with ribs/knee injuries that kept him sidelined last week and continue to limit his practice reps. There's a chance he could be back and if he plays he's in a good spot to do some damage. Dallas has been generous to pass-catching backs with Christian McCaffrey (6-45-0), Saquon Barkley (14-80-0) and Alfred Blue (8-73-0) all putting up decent numbers. There's risk here, but in PPR leagues it's one worth considering, provided Thompson plays.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Corey Clement, PHI (vs. CAR)
In the Eagles' first game without Jay Ajayi, Clement played pretty well, rushing for 43 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and catching three passes for 26 yards. Wendell Smallwood led the team with 18 carries, but finished with 51 rushing yards and caught only one pass. Smallwood played 44 snaps to Clement’s 26, but part of that may have been due to the fact that the Clement was returning from a quad injury. Clement was clearly the superior back last week, and he’s one week further removed from the quad issue. The Panthers are allowing 102.4 rushing yards per game, and while Clement and Smallwood might split carries, it's Clement who is going to be more involved in the passing game, making him a start-worthy in PPR leagues.
SIT THESE RBs...
Alex Collins, BAL (vs. NO)
It’s easy to pick on the Saints defense, but they’ve quietly allowed fewer than three yards per carry and have been fairly stingy to running backs in terms of fantasy points allowed. And they’ve faced solid backs in Saquon Barkley, Adrian Peterson, Carlos Hyde and Tevin Coleman, so those stats can't be completely ignored. Collins salvaged his stat line last week with two touchdowns, but 54 yards on 19 carries (2.8 ypc) leaves much to be desired. So dies him failing to play more than half of the snaps in any of Baltimore’s six games.
Lamar Miller, HOU (at JAC)
Miller returned to action last week after missing the previous week with a chest injury, and he picked up where he left off, struggling to do anything productive. He had 15 carries for 46 yards, as well as two catches for 25 yards, and he's now scored eight PPR points or less in three of his past four outings. Houston's offensive line is a disaster, and this week the Texans have to face an angry Jacksonville defense coming home after two disappointing road losses. In two games against the Jaguars last year, Miller combined for 97 yards on 26 carries, as well as four catches for 32 yards, with no touchdowns. He had five PPR points at Jacksonville in Week 15, so don’t be surprised if he's in that range again this week.
Derrick Henry, TEN (vs. LAC, London)
Maybe playing in London this week is what the Titans' running game needs to actually do something worthwhile. Henry has failed to score a touchdown or gain 60 total yards this year. He's a non-factor in the passing game with four catches for 17 yards. The Chargers have been fantastic against the run the past three weeks in their games against an Francisco, Oakland and Cleveland. Duke Johnson had more than 100 total yards last week, but every other running back in that span has been held under 40 rushing yards with nary a touchdown. It will be another rough outing for Henry this week.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Carlos Hyde, CLE (at TB)
The Browns are traveling to Tampa Bay to play a Bucs defense that hasn’t yielded more than 61 rushing yards to any running back so far this season, though Alvin Kamara and Tarik Cohen have both ripped them for 100-plus receiving yards. Hyde has caught a whopping six passes this season and is barely averaging above 3.5 yards per carry. Hue Jackson has sung Nick Chubb’s praises and promised to find him more work, which seems inevitable with Hyde’s struggles. This matchup doesn’t fit Hyde’s profile, meaning another shoddy 14 carries for 34 yards and zero touchdowns dud like last week is all too possible.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.
(Top photo by Eric J.Adler, courtesy of www.patriots.com)