The Most Reliable Fantasy Football Running Backs

August 29, 2015

After posting the Most Reliable Fantasy Football Quarterback list, I thought the rest of the players would be fairly easy to rank using the same format.  I sure was wrong.  When it comes to running backs, reliability is a whole different beast.  The biggest issue is that the running backs who are most reliable are the ones that do not get the ball much, which in the case of fantasy football would make this information practically useless.  Another issue is that there are so many running backs to consider as each team runs at least two backs and most have a 3rd down back, which can be of interest in PPR leagues.

So when I sat down and thought about how to present this data, I realized a more broad point when it comes to fantasy football running backs….DO NOT CENTER YOUR FANTASY TEAM AROUND A RUNNING BACK, NO MATTER WHO HE IS!  When you really think about it, running backs have it the absolute worst when it comes to their risk of being hurt.  For instance, the quarterbacks take the snap and usually have 4 defenders coming for them if they drop back to pass.  If it is a blitz they may have 5, 6, or maybe even 7 defenders coming for them.  Even with that many defenders, when they arrive at the quarterback they are only allowed to hit the QB in his belly button; anywhere else is a personal foul these days.  You can look at a wide receiver or tight end as well and note that in most cases when they catch the ball they will have a relatively small cornerback or safety coming to tackle them and in some cases maybe a linebacker.  On most plays the highest number of defenders looking to tackle the receiver is three.  When we analyze the running back position, it is very simple.  When the running back touches the ball, all eleven defenders are pursuing him with about 6 or 7 defenders having a running start.  The running back position is simply destined to get hurt or injured based on the design of the game.  If I went deeper and talked about the change of direction and the acceleration/deceleration that a running back puts their body through, the injury risk would tilt even more to the running back position.

I don’t know about you, but when I started playing fantasy the running back was like platinum.  To some extent it still is, as many people will draft Adrian Peterson or LeVeon Bell number one this year and build their team around them.  Many will win with this strategy, but from an objective standpoint it simply is not smart.  My SEP Ratings are adapted to each position and therefore a running back with a rating of 80 is not necessarily more reliable than a quarterback with a rating of 70, so be sure to not cross reference these list to decide which player to take.  As you consider these ratings, know that I can conclusively say that the running back position is the least reliable position.  Even if your running back doesn’t get injured, you can bet that he will at least get hurt a few times during the season.

With all that said I will highlight many of the running backs who are on most of our radars to hopefully save you from hitting those waiver wires every week.  Running back is simple in the sense that age dominates the level of reliability more than any other position.  If you look at the full list of SEP Reliability Ratings-Running Backs at TheInjuryReportDoctor.com, you will notice that the highest rated running backs will be rookies and young backs and many of the less reliable will be veterans, but the interesting data lies in between.  I will highlight those that I feel some of you may get burned on, and hopefully some running back sleepers that you can get late that you can depend on all season.  So without further ado, here are your 2015 SEP Running Back Reliability ratings!

I used weight, speed, experience, football IQ, injury history, position norms, and other factors to create a rating system that predicts which fantasy football players are the most reliable.  I call this my SEP Rating as it primarily consist of SCIENCE, EVIDENCE, and PERFORMANCE. I put just a pinch of subjective into these ratings as I believe there are simply some things that you have to assess with your eyes and not through data.  

For the running backs the most reliable running backs scored a rating of 115, while the least reliable back scored a rating of 77.  We ranked 64 running backs for now, but if we missed someone you are interested in email me at DrPetty@theinjuryreportdoctor.com

 

63. DeMarco Murray: SEP Rating – 83

demarco
6abc.com

How could I not talk about DeMarco Murray.  As a die-hard Eagles fan, Murray is the classic example of someone who I was completely against and wrote post after post of how he would not make it through last season due to his injury history.  But now that he is in an Philadelphia Eagles uniform, I love him like a play cousin!  I am trying to convince myself that this data is wrong and that Chip Kelly’s Sports Science will turn his career around.  I won’t repeat many of the facts that I wrote about last season in regard to running backs who are used, or shall I say abused like the Dallas Cowboys did him last year; but you can click here to read all about it.  Unfortunately for me and Eagles fans everywhere the data supports the likelihood that DeMarco Murray will either not make it through this season or will need to significantly decrease his workload.  The fact that I know this probably means that Chip Kelly knows this as well, hence the fact that  Kelly did not even hesitate to go ahead with signing Ryan Matthews after the Murray signing snuck up on him.  I expect the Eagles to carry 4 running backs this year and even though Murray is the absolute perfect back for this system I would not depend on him to be my fantasy back in any format.

61. Jonathan Stewart: SEP Rating – 83

wccbcharlotte.com
wccbcharlotte.com

Although we have a log jam here at the rating of 83, each back is separated by fractions of a point that show who is slightly more reliable.  So when you look below you will see that the 2 former Panther teammates are both lumped in the 83 pile.  The interesting part about this is that DeAngelo Williams is 4 years older than Jonathan Stewart, but barely edges him out in regard to reliability.  Many will flock to Stewart in various formats as he is now the undisputed number 1 back with Williams now in Pittsburgh.  I would definitely pump the brakes on this as Stewart has missed the most games over the past 3 years out of any of these running backs and that was in a back up or shared backfield role.  Stewart shows no evidence of being able to stay on the field and play at a high level.  When you add in the recent ACL injury to Kelvin Benjamin which means stacked boxes for Stewart, it becomes a no brainer that Jonathan Stewart can not be trusted.  With multiple ankle injuries as well as multiple surgeries to both ankles, my guess is that Stewart is carrying a little too much weight for his 5′ 10″ frame.  The average back weighs in at 215 lbs, which is likely closer to where Stewart needs to be.  The running back game can be tricky as that extra weight can help you take the contact but it can hurt you in the non contact areas.  Stewart is a game to game decision and may serve a purpose in some daily fantasy options IF he is healthy and has a good matchup, but otherwise I would stay clear.

59. Arian Foster: SEP Rating – 84

http://i.dailymail.co.uk
http://i.dailymail.co.uk

He tried to beat me to it!  But that is the beauty of the internet.  While I did not get to publish my SEP Reliability rating on Arian Foster before he got hurt, I wrote back in 2014 why Arian Foster could not be trusted.  He has proven me right down to the exact injury.  The most unfortunate part is that I think I know why he is unable to stay healthy now.  I was watching Hard Knocks the other night and noticed that Arian Foster is using his brother to train him.  Now to be fair I know nothing about his brother or his qualifications so this is just speculation on my part; but I have learned the hard way that working with family and friends is usually a good way to get burned in the end.  They showed a snippet of what Foster was doing for his training and while I can not surmise his entire regimen from the 30 seconds they showed, it is far different from what I would do with him.  I do not proclaim to be an athlete guru but with Foster’s history, I would put him in Pilates and Yoga 3-5 times per week and throw in a couple of days of weights and plyometrics and that would be it.  He shows natural talent from a physique and a performance standpoint and sometimes you have to know when to be like Elsa and “Let it Go” (that one is for my daughter and the million times I have watched Frozen).  The snippet of his work out looked like he was working his muscles to failure with fast power motions.  That type of technique helps build power and size, but at 227 lbs this is not what Arian Foster needs.  This may be the right regimen for many, but I am convinced that all that Arian Foster should be focused on in his training is eccentric contractions (slowly lengthening his muscles) and stretching.  I know that Arian has recently made public his feeling about God, but my feelings are that God has created the perfect machinery for him to be one of the best running backs on the planet and he is simply messing it up with his training.  Arian Foster is definitely the headliner on my “NEVER DRAFT” list, at least until I see a Pilates guru heading up his offseason work outs.

56. Matt Forte : SEP Rating – 85

snotbubblefootball.com
snotbubblefootball.com

Matt Forte has not missed many games but he seems to always be nicked up. Two things: Later this season Forte will hit the “fall off the cliff” age for running backs when he turns 30 years old in December; the second is that Jay Cutler is his quarterback.  That may not be enough for you, but it is for me.  I expect Forte to have a bad year on a bad team.  He may pay off now and then as he may be the only weapon on the field some games and is a great receiving back, but John Fox may be the end of those lofty reception numbers he has put up in the past.  I expect the fall to come very fast and it would not be wise to make any long-term commitments to him.

55. Justin Forsett: SEP Rating – 85

si.com
si.com

Justin Forsett is a sneaky one as most people probably don’t realize he is 29 years old as last year was his first year to really make any noise on the fantasy scene.  Although Forsett will hit 30 years old even sooner than Forte, I believe he may have just a little more time as he has not been a number 1 back for long.  I would be careful though as Forsett will enter this season as the 4th smallest running back and ninth oldest.  Now I love my seniors, but in a way he is a little old man coming out of the backfield.  You will see as this list goes on that the younger and bigger backs bring a lot more reliability to the table in comparison.  I also would not discount the role that Gary Kubiak’s system played in his success last year.  I would put him in the mix if it were me because I think he has one of the best offensive lines and has one last RB1 year in him.

 

52. Adrian Peterson: SEP Rating – 89

sayanythingblog.com
sayanythingblog.com

Now I know Adrian Peterson is at the top of many people’s draft boards, especially in standard leagues.  I look at him the same way I would look at you or me.  If you took a year off from your job, do you think you would come right back and be as good or better as when you left?  I know the answer for me is no.  The difference is that if Adrian Peterson is a little rusty it may mean he makes a cut that his body isn’t ready for and pulls a hamstring or even worst tears a ligament.  Vacations are great to rest your mind and even your body, but when it comes to being the best at your craft most of us depend on repetition.  Many are using the argument that taking a year off gives Peterson an extra year on his legs and that his running back life has now been extended.  I’m not sure I buy that.  The last time I checked there was no pause button on the hands of time. In any case, I think Peterson’s immense talent may be enough to over ride his moderate rating for reliability.  It may seem as if he is low on this rating, but when you consider that the highest rated full-time starting running back (from last year) on this list rated as a 98, it really is not that low of a rating.  Overall I have mixed feelings on Adrian Peterson.  I know for sure I would not draft him in the first round of a league, but I am sure I will use him in daily fantasy when the match up is right.  In the end he has only one real injury in his entire career and when he came back he was definitely a beast.  Maybe he will come out the gates with a little of that built up aggression, but my guess is that it will level out and we will mostly see the old Peterson at a slightly lower level.

50. Marshawn Lynch: SEP Rating – 90

democraticunderground .com
democraticunderground .com

Beast mode!  For some reason I always feel that Marshawn Lynch is older than he is, but at 28 years old he should still have a little time left to continue being an elite back.  Another deceiving factor with Lynch is that I alway envision him as being a big running back when in fact he is right about average for a running back weighing in at 215 lbs.  In many ways Marshawn Lynch is a model running back as he has the speed to break away and the power to break tons of tackles.  Despite earning the name Beast mode with physical play after physical play, he manages to suit up every week.  Lynch seems to be very smart when it comes to his career despite what he may portray to the media.  You will notice that he misses many practices and in general seems to take his breaks as he sees fit.  This is one of the smartest things you can do as a running back–make sure that when you run that you are truly on the offensive.  In a lot of ways Marshawn is my favorite back on this list so far and had he not been 5th in total touches for running backs last year, I think he would be higher on this list.  If the Seattle Seahawks can monitor Lynch’s volume (but not at the goal line in the Superbowl), I think he will continue to be a productive back.  Many of us get caught up in targets and touches and in the passing game for PPR leagues that is important, but when it comes to your running backs you want to get quality over quantity.  A perfectly managed Beast mode gets you touchdowns every week, but an overworked Beast mode may lead to him missing his first games in years.

48. LeSean McCoy: SEP Rating – 91

syracuse.com
syracuse.com

I have a soft spot for Shady as an Eagles fan, but Buffalo and Rex Ryan will prove to be the worst thing to ever happen to him.  Many people blame Chip Kelly but I blame Shady for running like Barry Sanders when we needed him to run like Jim Brown.  I think the biggest problem with his new system will be volume combined with free will.  For those who don’t know, Chip Kelly has all his players with ankle bracelets, monitors, and body guards.  He knows how much they drink, how much they pea, how many sneezes they average per day, etc.  I say this in jest, but when you leave that type of structured system and go to “let’s have a beer” Rex Ryan it is night and day.  I think we may already be seeing the effects of “free will” with the strained hamstring that LeSean McCoy has suffered already.  When your body comes off a 2 year regimen that is designed and dictated by Science and you stop that system cold turkey and put it in the hands of a young 26-year-old running back with a new contract, you are asking for disaster.  It’s not that Shady can not handle volume, because with the Philadelphia Eagles last year, he had the 4th most touches out of any running back.  The difference will be that the Bills offensive line is not even close to the Eagles line and I expect that LeSean McCoy’s conditioning and physique won’t be close to what it was last year.  Not to mention, no quarterback and only one other weapon in Sammy Watkins.  It is a shame to see a young running back crash and burn like this but I think that is what we are in store for.

46. Jamaal Charles: SEP Rating – 91

ambwallpapers.com
ambwallpapers.com

I have never used Jamaal Charles in fantasy football for some reason.  I know he is always near the top of draft boards but I can never get over how little he is.  Charles weighs in as the 6th smallest running back in the league.  What I did not realize until I compiled this data is that Andy Reid must realize this, and keeps his touches right in the middle of the pack.  Furthermore, many of his touches are receptions or toss sweep type plays.  All touches are not created equal, as in many instances Charles is headed toward the sideline or catching the ball downfield, which both lessen the likelihood of getting hit by multiple defenders.  Despite his size, Jamaal Charles has managed to stay on the field for all but 2 games over the past few years.  If he continues this style of play I may need to reconsider my stance on him, especially in PPR leagues.

40. Mark Ingram: SEP Rating – 94

nola.com
nola.com

This may seem a little backwards to see a running back like Mark Ingram ahead of some of these other backs after watching him miss 8 games in his young career and seeming to always have a nagging injury lingering.  Despite a bumpy start to his career, it appears that he should be generally reliable going forward. At 215 lbs, Mark Ingram is the perfect weight for a running back.  His size matched with his less than blazing speed lends to a lower force measure as compared to some of these bigger and faster backs.  As I mentioned we are using science to calculate these ratings and one of the formulas we learn in physics is mass times velocity (speed) squared equals force.  In most cases we would look at speed or velocity to be a positive attribute, but when you look at the injury report it is often times those blazers who occupy it as they generate so much force with their speed.  I like Ingram as a reliable running back in an offense that all signs point to being more run centric.  It will be interesting to see if Mark Ingram can hold up if the Saints actually do favor the run more and increase his touches.  Ingram had the 12th most touches last year, but if he elevates in to that top 5 or 10, we may see his reliability dip a bit.  The greatest asset on Mark Ingram’s side is his age; at 25 years old he should have at least a few prime years ahead.

35. C.J. Anderson: SEP Rating – 95

espngo.com
espngo.com

C.J. Anderson burst onto the scene last year and catapulted to the top of the RB1 list.  I considered Anderson a smaller back with the eye-ball test but in reality he is over the league average weighing in at 224 lbs.  At 5′ 8″ tall that may be a little on the heavy side.  When I see extra weight combined with lots of cutting and change of direction on a small frame, I always think of the smallest weight-bearing joint–the ankle.  Any of you who go to the gym can attest to this–when you go to the gym and see those muscled up guys, you can always get a feel for what their frame should be by looking down at their calfs and ankles.  There are many gym rats out there with huge arms, back and chest but teeny tiny ankles.  From an anatomy standpoint it is an area that you really can not bulk up all that much.  When you think about it the ankle joint along with the wrist are the two major joints in our bodies with the smallest muscles to protect them.  The hips get those big old glute muscles, the knees get the 4 headed quadricep muscle and the infamous hamstring to protect it; while the ankle depends on muscles that are no bigger than thick noodles.  When you add in that the ankle is the first major joint to absorb the force made with the ground and your body weight, it somehow seems backwards.  I am in no way questioning God’s design, but it would be nice to have a little more help in those ankles.  As for C.J. Anderson and any other running back who is carrying a little extra weight on a small frame, I worry about relying on that player.  With that said, I think it will be hard to pass on a C.J. Anderson in a Gary Kubiak system.  For this case specifically, I would simply just take out a little insurance; meaning saving a spot for Ronnie Hillman or Montee Ball.

33. LeVeon Bell: SEP Rating – 96

inkabinka.com
inkabinka.com

LeVeon Bell is arguably the best fantasy back of 2015, and if you are in a PPR league there is no argument.    Although he is coming off a hyperextended knee from late last year, I would not hesitate to draft him.  He ranks on the complete list around middle of the pack, but when you look at the running backs that counts he is ranked 4th most reliable among the true number one backs on this list.  While Bell also comes in a little heavier for a running back at 225 lbs, I don’t have the same reservations as I have with C.J. Anderson as Bell’s 6′ 1″ frame can support that extra weight.  LeVeon Bell was second in touches last year to DeMarco Murray and he would have definitely led this list this year if not for the 3 game suspension.  At 23 years old, he should be ready to handle this amount of touches for years to come.

31. Eddie Lacy: SEP Rating – 98

grabpage.com
grabpage.com

Eddie Lacy basically comes in as the third most reliable back when it comes to undisputed starters.  Lacy is a what I consider a big back at 230 lbs and for my taste, I would prefer if he dropped 5 to 10 lbs.  Regardless of what I want; his age, his injury history, and Aaron Rodgers all point to the likelihood of him being one of the most reliable running backs in the league.  Age and injury history are self-explanatory, but the Aaron Rodgers effect helps Lacy on multiple levels.  A power back like Eddie Lacy in almost any other offense would be a work horse.  My guess is that on most other teams his carries would be higher and his frequency of tough runs that end in gang tackling would be much higher.  With Rodgers under center, Lacy will not face many stacked boxes and will rarely get over worked with 30 plus carries.  Additionally he seems to have a little Beast Mode in him as he tends to deliver and not receive the punishment at the end of runs.  If Eddie Lacy can trim down just a little bit I think he may become one of the best balances of reliability and quality in the running back category.

19. Jeremy Hill: SEP Rating – 103

foxsports.com
foxsports.com

Jeremy Hill popped up last season and is now one of the most coveted standard league running backs in the game.  He is like Eddie Lacy in regard to being in the big/power back category at 238 lbs, but at 6′ 2″, it suits him a little better.  He resembles Lacy in the speed category as well as they both ran their 40 yard dash in the 4.6 range.  I know these forty times only vary by tenths of a second, but I really value I slightly slower back, if you are going to be well over 215 lbs.  If Hill were to run a 4.4, I think he would be asking for ankle tweaks and hamstring pulls as a big body like that moving so fast is a recipe for disaster.  The example I usually give people is Bo Jackson who was 6′ 1″, 230 lbs, and ran a 4.12 forty yard dash.  That is absolutely crazy.  I like to put players in Supremely Skilled and Freaky Talented categories, and if there ever was a poster child for the Freaky Talented bunch it would be Bo Jackson.  Jackson ended up ending his football career due to a hip dislocation that evolved into a more serious hip issue, but the basis for his injury I believe can be found in his measurables.  With that type of mass and that type of speed, Bo Jackson would have easily topped this list in regard to force generated by a running back.  That is not only the force created between him and defenders at the point of contact, but also the force generated between his body and the ground as well as the internal force that he created within his own body.  Jackson states that he felt his hip partially dislocating prior to his injury, and I equate this to a race car that is showing signs of wear and then eventually blows a tire.  People and things that are really big and really fast are usually not going to last long.  This is a long way of saying that I think Jeremy Hill has the right stuff to stay on the field.  The fact that he has a quality backup in Giovanni Bernard to allow him to get the proper rest from his pounding style doesn’t hurt either.

14. Carlos Hyde: SEP Rating -106

concordmonitor.com
concordmonitor.com

Carlos Hyde is a little bit of a sleeper for this list as last year he was not a number one back.  Not being a number one last year is actually a lot of the reason he is topping this list.  Hyde is the undisputed number one this year, and fantasy owners should probably take advantage of him being one of the only running backs on this list with this advantage.  Carlos Hyde represents a player you’ve seen enough of to trust his quality, but know that he has not really been used enough to question his reliability.  He has age and size on his side at 235 lbs.  Being the number one man may be enough for him to shed a few pounds, but just like Hill and Lacy he comes in at that 4.6 range with his speed which makes it work for me.  Hyde has had a few minor injuries in his short career, but in essence he is like a demo car off the lot, while most of these running backs are used cars.  Carlos Hyde may prove to be a sneaky value you can get this year as a solid RB 2  who will stay on the field and produce.  When you add in that his quarterback is not likely to be very productive, it sounds like a good equation to me.

Click here to see the entire SEP rating rankings for running backs.  Look out for the Wide Receivers coming soon.

 

Could Injury Really Cause A Peyton Manning Led Team To Miss The Playoffs?

November 22, 2014

You can type in “NFL injuries” in any search box and get the details of who is in and who is out, that is the easy part.  The more important questions are how long will they really be out? Will they actually play well when they come back?  What players are at highest risk to get hurt next?  How will one injury affect the performance of other players?  Being caught off guard by any of these issues could derail your fantasy line-up at a time where you can not afford any glitches.  For many, playoff time is coming and for you one-day fantasy players, your time is running out to win the big one.  I will discuss which injuries I see coming and which injuries I see going, and more importantly look at all of the angles that will decide whether you win or lose with your lineup.

Lets go by position:

Quarterback

Some of you have been unlucky and lost your starting QB.  Former fantasy owners of Nick Foles and Carson Palmer are the primary victims here.  For those who took the obvious option of picking up Mark Sanchez immediately after Foles got injured–good job!  I’m not too sure on Stanton and definitely would not feel good with him as my QB down the stretch with the vicious schedule that Arizona has remaining.  It is clear that neither of these QB’s (Foles and Palmer) will be back this year, or at least not in time to have a fantasy impact.

If you were not able to get in the Sanchez sweepstakes, then my suggestion would be to look at Shaun Hill as he is now injury free and the Rams have endured a tough schedule that will now lighten up just a little.  Another not so obvious option would be Zach Mettenberger, who I do not think is great by any stretch, but he has a great selection of defenses to face to close the season and a monster arm.  Last but not least is a stretch for most, but I believe Colt McCoy will finish the Washington Redskins season as a starting QB.  McCoy is also not the greatest but he will literally be playing for his NFL career, he has a ton of weapons, and he has good match ups.  I would spend a little time telling you how McCoy gets that job, but if you have a TV, a phone, or any type of electronic device I am sure that you have seen the train wreck that is RG3.

My bet is you can get any of those 3 players today and even if they just sit on your bench while you have another borderline QB playing, you will not end up in the back of the waiver line if they get hot.

peyton-manning-in-cold-weather
Fantasy owners and Peyton Manning may miss the RCA dome as this season goes down the stretch.

As for the great Peyton Manning, he is being hit by the injury bug indirectly.  With his number 1 and 2 running backs out, Julius Thomas’ status being unclear at Tight End, and his number 2 Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders just being cleared from concussion protocol; the future Hall of Fame QB may have the deck stacked against him.  Combine the injuries with the fact that his next 4 opponents all currently rank in the top ten for total defense and that 3 out of those 4 games are likely to be played in cold weather, and you may just have given the ingredients for the kryptonite recipe.  The only thing that may be missing is whipping winds and a few snow flurries.  In any case, those who pay close attention know what bothers Peyton.  When he is pushed off his spot, he is obviously uncomfortable.  When he has to hold the ball, he is uncomfortable.  With these defenses and bad weather coming, I project some sub Manning like numbers.  Now I am not talking Alex Smith mediocrity, but chances are that Peyton is carrying your fantasy team in any league play and he is eating up your salary cap in any one-day play; so you absolutely need him to put up Manning like numbers.

While I do not see a day in which I tell you to sit Peyton Manning unless it is for Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers, I think Manning owners should prepare for a more conservative output and therefore be aggressive with the remainder of the roster.  For Peyton and the Denver Broncos, I see very little chance of not making the playoffs, but for my fellow fantasy players this tough stretch falls right at a crucial time in regard to fantasy playoffs.  In the end start Peyton as usual, unless you see wind and snow in the forecast; then I may look for one of the QB’s I listed above to hold the fort for one week.  This is the closest I will get to betting against Peyton Manning and frankly it feels a little uncomfortable.  Lets see what he does over the next month.

Running Back

Running Back becomes very important in November and December as many of the outdoor teams will start to slow it down with hand-offs and short dump off passes.  However as these running backs have their workload increased you may also see more injuries.  I predicted way back in the first half of the season that DeMarco Murray would not make it through the entire season and now that its week 12, some may think I was wrong……NOT!  All of you DeMarco Murray owners better have a back up plan, because it’s coming.

Another running back to beware of is Arian Foster.  Earlier this season, I compared Foster to Steven Jackson as he is an oversized back who gets injured regularly.  He is living up to this comparison and if he does not do something different this off-season ( I would suggest some type of Yoga/Pilates blend and a very clean diet), I think you should think long and hard before drafting Foster early.  As you can see, when you need Foster most he will not be there for you.  At this point, I don’t think anyone will get caught off guard with Foster being out as he seems to be on the injury reports on a weekly basis.  The important thing is to not get your hopes up with this “game time decision” talk.  I do not see him making it back in an effective way this week as he is only been out for 2 weeks with a groin injury that should likely take at least 3 weeks to heal.   We explained the nagging groin strain a few weeks ago when predicting Monte Ball needed 3-6 weeks off before returning.  As most of you know, Monte Ball did sit out for 6 weeks and then re-injured his groin on his first game back.  Hopefully that lets you and Arian Foster know how serious this injury can be. The easy fix is to keep Alfred Blue on your bench no matter what. If you do own Foster or Murray or maybe even had Ronnie Hillman or Ahmad Bradshaw, there are a few options out there for you to consider:

Arian+Foster+Houston+Texans+v+New+England+F250cpNTtbDl

C.J. Anderson could not have timed it better in regard to fantasy playoffs.  With Ronnie Hillman down for at least another 2 weeks with a foot sprain (that should take a total of 3 weeks to heal) and Monte Ball out again with a strained groin , C.J. Anderson will basically have the backfield to himself.  I expect Hillman to come back by week 14 and I expect Ball to be a non factor for the remainder of the fantasy season as his re-injury tells me he really needs to give that groin another 3 weeks  or more to heal and then return slowly (I don’t expect him to play until the NFL playoffs).  Furthermore, Peyton plus the cold means more running plays and more short passes.  The only fear is that the volume that Anderson receives in the next few weeks will get him injured too.  The good news on that front is that this is almost like game 4 for Anderson, as he has not played much this season.  In my opinion he is the top running back to pick up down the stretch.  Do anything you can to get him for your leagues and one-day players should spend whatever he cost to get him in the line up.

Another back who’s fantasy value just got a big boost is Trent Richardson.  I say this reluctantly as prior to this injury, I literally considered him a bottom 10 back that I would never consider starting.  However, the bottom line is Ahmad Bradshaw and his fractured fibula means he is done, and for now Trent will get all the goal line carries as well as a likely 20+ total carries per game.  In a more traditional running back way, I think this will actually help Trent Richardson, who has the potential to be a wear on you/hard to stop at the end of the game back.  The final kicker is really to look at the Colts remaining schedule.   There are some blowouts coming and you know who will be killing that clock, even if it is 3 yards at a time.  Look for some fantasy numbers in the form of 25 carries for 72 yards with 2 touchdowns with 2-3 catches sprinkled in.  I think many of us can live with those 20 + fantasy points.

Giovani Bernard appears to be ready to return for week 12 and based on reports of a hip pointer and a clavicle issue, he appears to have taken the proper time off.  For some, this may seem to be a good thing, but I look at this as a lose-lose situation for fantasy owners.  Jeremy Hill showed the ability to be a fantasy stud while Bernard was out and Bernard was a stud before he got hurt.  When you put two fantasy studs in one backfield, unfortunately they turn into one half a stud each.  If you already have Bernard and are in a PPR format, he is definitely worth keeping, but I do not see the Bengals taking Hill back to his previous role of simply spelling Bernard.  I see a backfield that will almost be half and half which is a disaster for fantasy owners.  If you can trade either of these player based off of name value, now would be a good time.  Jeremy Hill owners may consider sitting tight for a couple of games, as Bernard is undersized and as the cold weather sets in, he may be in line for another injury.  If I could pick, I would much rather the style of Hill to carry me to the fantasy playoffs, but by no means would I wish injury on any player.

Wide Receiver

It appears that the wave of wide receiver injuries is over with Megatron, A.J. Green, Andre Johnson, and Odell Beckham Jr. all back and healthy.  Despite this abundance of health at the position, there are some injuries that will make some receivers more attractive than others.

ty hilton

T.Y. Hilton is already a must own everywhere but for you one-day fantasy players who are comparing T.Y. to Dez or Megatron or Jordy Nelson on a weekly basis, here is the reason why T.Y. might have eclipsed many of them.  With the injury to Ahmad Bradshaw, the Colts have lost their only receiving back.  Additionally, the Colts have an injury to their best tight end Dwayne Allen.  Allen is listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury but I expect him to miss at least one game or at the very least see less time on the field.  This means more Coby Fleener during the competitive portion (there will be garbage time for Trent Richardson to get his!) of the Colts games; it means less running as Allen is the obvious running game tight end while Fleener is the passing game tight end.  T.Y. is by far the most targeted player for Andrew Luck and these injury developments likely just increased his targets.  As we hit the stretch for the fantasy season, I think T.Y. Hilton will be as good as it gets at the receiver position.

Demaryius Thomas may also get a little bump up from his already superstar status after The Dnever Broncos lost Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas in week 11 to injuries.  Sanders went down with a concussion and looks to be probable for week 12, however there is evidence out there that correlates concussions to poor performance shortly after recovery from said concussion.  As for Julius Thomas, he appears to have a simple low ankle sprain but he likely will miss a couple of weeks.  This sets up for Demaryius to have an even bigger role in the Broncos pass game.  We may even get a Wes Welker flash back for my fantasy league players who are desperate for a short-term play at receiver.

Brandin Cooks thumb fracture has effectively ended both his fantasy and real football seasons.  This means someone who is healthy on the Saints likely gets more targets as Cooks was the second most targeted player on the team to Jimmy Graham, and the most targeted receiver on the team.  This is a tough call between Marques Colston and Kenny Stills, but I would take a chance on Colston as Drew Brees targets him more than Stills, and Brees and Colston have more history.  This must be a cautious play as Cooks injury may actually just lead to Colston, Stills and who ever replaces Cooks to split the targets by 3, which would make no one happy.  This may be one to take a look at for a week or two before making a move.

Now this one has nothing to do with an injury per say, but those who read my work often know that I split my skilled players into Freaky Talented and Supremely Skilled.  Around this time of season the Freaky Talented group will start to slow down as the weather elements may not be ideal for their talents to fully shine.  Additionally, it is my theory that these Freaky Talented athletes need pit stops to rejuvenate as they max their bodies out while utilizing all of their god given talent.  But if I can get one of the most Freaky Talented players in the league with completely fresh legs at this point in the season, I am all over that!.  Josh Gordon is exactly that.  Not only does the physical play in his favor, but the mental sounds like it is ready too. One of the first quotes given to nfl.com from Gordon was “I’m going to tear this league up”.  If your league is anything like the one I am in, Gordon has been owned all year despite not playing…he is that coveted.  If there is any way to get him, I would go for it.  For one-day fantasy players, this may be the only week you will get him cheap.  After he faces the worst pass defense in the league down in Atlanta, my guess is that his price will be right up there with the elite wide receivers where it belongs.

Marqis Lee is a low-level benefactor of the foot fracture that Allen Robinson suffered.  This consideration is more for the one-day fantasy players who have the bare minimum to spend on a flex player that has the chance to actually do something.  The two things I think I know is that Lee will now be on the field in all 3 wide receiver sets (with Robinson out) and that Lee has lots of talented.  Everything beyond that is a gamble….your choice.

Tight End

As I mentioned earlier, the Dwayne Allen injury may officially push Coby Fleener to the TE1 conversation.  Fleener has been inconsistent despite being Andrew Luck’s teammate in college, but now he appears to be ramping up.  1-2 weeks of Allen being out may generate a role for Fleener that will become a little more permanent int the Colts offense.  Additionally, if Trent Richardson does not take advantage of his opportunity like I think he will, you may see the Colts just turn into a pure passing team in which Fleener stays on the field a bunch more as run blocking would not be needed.  I would keep my eye on Fleener in fantasy leagues and pick him up if a roster spot is available.  He is also a good one-day play if you don’t want to spend on one the big three of Gronk, Graham, or Thomas.

Some of you may be waiting for Jordan Cameron to be cleared from the concussion protocol and are ready to plug him in as your starter.  I would look in another direction.  Again, performance after concussions can be tricky and with the reports indicating Cameron having some long-term concerns, I would simply stay away from Cameron this year.  Any return will be on egg shells and the likelihood of poor performance or another concussion is a very real possibility.

Tight End is a tough position to pick up late in the season and in most cases the match up should dictate who you play, but there are a few that you may be able to pick up and fill in with.  Zach Ertz had a big buzz at the beginning of the season but that buzz has faded fast.  I am not saying Ertz will win any week for you but I think the addition of Mark Sanchez to the equation allows him to not lose a week for you.  Sanchez and Ertz have a relationship that ranges from preseason as they both had significant 2nd team reps.  Sanchez is definitely looking for him more than Foles did.  Now all Ertz has to do is find a way to stay on the field for more snaps and you may have a decent TE2.

Defense/Special Teams

The Pittsburgh Steelers are about to get real healthy and are likely sitting there waiting to be picked up in most leagues.  With the return of 5 starters including their leader-Troy Polamalu as well as the addition and rejuvenation of the great James Harrison, the Steelers may look like the traditional Pittsburgh Steelers down the stretch.  The tricky thing with these injuries is that when the players make it through and the team stays competitive, the return from injury is that much greater.  The Steelers should have a lot of fresh legs on the field vs. many who are simply worn down from the grind of a 16 game season.

sproles punt
Sproles may be the biggest little reason to start the Eagles DST!

The Philadelphia Eagles should be on everyone’s radar as they are having a near historic year on Special Teams with punt blocks, field goal blocks, and even extra point blocks.  Combine this with arguably a top 3 punt-return man in Darren Sproles and Chris Polk who already has a kick return for a TD and you would think picking them up is a no brainer.  But then the leader of the defense Demeco Ryans goes down and Aaron Rodgers puts up a million points.  I can see how people may get nervous about this being their starting defense.  As bad as the Demeco Ryans injury is for the actual defense, I think the response to the injury by the Eagles is even more telling.  Instead of looking for another linebacker to replace Ryans or even just looking for another defensive player, the Eagles signed Chris Prosinski.  Posinski is a safety from Jacksonville who is primarily a Special Teams stud.  They added him to a Special Teams that already boast Chris Maragos who is arguably the Michael Jordan of Special Teams.  So while losing your middle linebacker is bad, the Eagles may have gotten even better with rushing the quarterback by bringing more speed and agility to the linebacker position with Mychal Kendricks as the new focal point.  The bigger point is that I don’t think any other team in the league takes Special Teams as serious as the Eagles and frankly that is where all the points are coming from rather than the actual defense.  They should be the premiere DST going down the stretch in all formats despite losing the leader of their defense for the remainder of the season.

Good Luck

Foster, Stewart, Matthews: what is the common thread?

Arian Foster, Jonathan Stewart, and Ryan Matthews are all out with leg injuries.  Both Stewart and Matthews are out with knee sprains and Foster is down with the infamous hamstring injury.

 

The Science

Running back is arguably the most injury susceptible position there is.  Their combination of speed, repetitions, and contact endured is not only unrivaled in football but is likely unrivaled in any other sport or activity.  With the extrinsic (things coming from the outside) factors that these guys face such as defensive lineman, linebacker and full speed defensive backs, who needs intrinsic (things coming from the inside) factors!

When you look at these 3 backs, their intrinsic factors are exactly why I think you will see them on the injury report often.  The average NFL running back weighs about 215 lbs.  Foster, Stewart and Matthews are 229 lbs, 235 lbs, and 218 lbs respectively.  While Matthews is close, my guess is if he got on a scale right now, it’s not that close.  In any case, much of the force for a running back is absorbed by the major muscles in their legs.  These muscles are primarily their quadriceps and hamstrings which are the major movers and protectors of the knee.  Some may argue that the gluteal muscles should be included but I consider these muscle more important in the pelvic and trunk area and less susceptible to injury.  The reason why you see so many knee injuries is that these backs are wearing these muscles out with all of the stress they put on them.

Our muscles are the first line of defense to our joints, I call them the body guards.  If your quads and hamstrings are strong and fresh, you can jump, cut, run and your knee-joint won’t get any of that rough impact because those big, strong, energy filled body guards (quads and hamstrings) are protecting the knee-joint.  However as they fatigue or become weak after a hit or a fall, your knee-joint has loss its first level of defense.  In many cases this scenario ends in a knee strain which means the muscle couldn’t keep up and had to work so hard that it failed and needs a break.  (Strain always refers to muscle-not ligaments). I think it is understandable how this is more likely to happen if you are carrying 15-20 lbs of extra weight.

Your joints next line of defense are the ligaments.  After muscles fail, ligaments jump in and do what they can.  Ligaments can only offer a certain amount of protection and if the force is too great (too hard a cut, a direct blow to the knee, too much force from a hard fall), they will also fail.  When the ligament fails, it is called a sprain (Sprain always refers to ligaments-not muscle).  In many cases this is why you see the reports say a sprain/strain injury–it signifies that both the muscle and ligament failed in some way (or in some cases it means the trainer or doctor aren’t sure and just want to let the MRI do all the work, but you didn’t hear that from me)

When sprains or strains are severe they become tears (although technically there may be some level of tearing in the less severe sprains and strains also).  Luckily these players are not dealing with tears.

With most running backs averaging about a 4.6 second – 40 yard dash time, making at least 1 cut during each play and being contacted on nearly every touch; the load on these major muscles are immense.  Outside of the athletic world a man who is about 6 feet tall should roughly weigh about 180 lbs.  Many of these backs are shorter than 6 feet and in fact if you average these 3 backs, they are an average height of about 5′ 11″.  While we know that they have more muscle mass than the average man, we also know that muscle is dense  and although many of their additional pounds may be muscle, the bottom line is that those joints are made to carry about 180 lbs.  If you work out, then you are likely aware that BMI calculations are pretty much blind.  You can have virtually no fat and be 235 lbs and be considered obese by BMI calculations.  Unfortunately your joints are blind too.  They don’t admire your muscular physique, they simply carry you, move you, absorb the shock when you land, and take the impact when your hit.

Scientifically speaking, these guys are simply carrying too much weight for the duties their bodies require to be a running back.  With 5-10 more pounds either, Foster or Stewart could play outside linebacker.  The difference is a linebacker cuts much less often, runs for much shorter distances, and delivers impact (rather than receive impact) in most cases.  There is a reason that these draft scouts and strength/conditioning coaches put these players on the scale.  There are ideal weights for different positions and frankly these 3 are above that weight and are likely to continue to be at a higher risk for injury.

What you need to know

Although my description above makes these backs similar, they are very different when it comes to how it impacts you.  Foster used to be a fantasy stud but at 229 lbs and 28 years old, I feel like he is headed to Steven Jackson comparisons (when’s the last time Jackson played a full season?).  Running backs slow down around 29 or 30 years old anyway, but the heavier ones start a little earlier.  He will continue to play for 2-3 more years but at this point I wouldn’t listen to any fantasy advice that considers him to still be an elite fantasy option.  I also wouldn’t expect the Texans to do much without him….their backfield outlook is gloomy Blue (get it).

Ryan Matthews has a slightly better outlook only because he is 26 years old and is still at a point where he may change regimens and slim down.  I still would watch his weight on the official side but also with the eye test.  If he appears to be adding muscle or fat, I would leave him alone. He has already shown to be somewhat injury prone and is not near the stud that Foster was a few years ago.

As for Stewart, not much to talk about.  He only made the conversation because of his weight and the fact that he is also injured right now.  I don’t think I have to tell anyone who is smart enough to read this entire piece what to do with Stewart.  Maybe one day Carolina will get a running back that makes sense.  For a running back, DeAngelo Williams is a senior citizen; and Stewart and Tolbert are obviously enjoying that Carolina barbecue.  Please don’t hurt me……I do live in the Carolinas…..on second thought no I don’t.

All things considered, each of these backs will be back this season, but that is not the point.  What you must consider if you rely on them for fantasy or rely on them to help their teams win; is that they are not reliable.  These minor injuries and day-to-day statuses will continue with them until they decide to trim down.