The Ultimate Zero RB Watch List helps you keep track of every backfield development in the AFC and provides a wealth of weekly and seasonal advanced stats.
As we head into the fantasy playoffs, let’s reflect on where things stand from a Zero RB perspective. One of the reasons that the strategy works is because points at RB are much more replaceable than any other.1 The bottom line is that if you lost David Johnson early, you would have had an easier time replacing those points than if you had lost Odell Beckham.
Here are the top-12 RBs over the past four games.2
- Alvin Kamara
- Mark Ingram
- Todd Gurley
- Jamaal Williams
- Rex Burkhead
- Le’Veon Bell
- Latavius Murray
- DeMarco Murray
- LeSean McCoy
- Tevin Coleman
- Dion Lewis
- Austin Ekeler
In the most crucial stretch of the fantasy regular season, only three of the top-12 RBs were taken in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts: Gurley, Bell, and Murray. And despite his RB1 status of late, Murray’s owners are probably not doing cartwheels over his performance. The rest of the list is littered with guys available in the fourth round or later, and in the case of Ekeler and Lewis, completely free.
Let’s look at the major backfield developments as we head into Week 1 of the fantasy playoffs. That is followed by expected points tables, first for Week 13, followed by seasonal totals. Both charts are sortable by team.
New England Patriots
Rex Burkhead had the seventh-most valuable rushing workload on the week,3 more valuable than that of Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, and the best mark among Patriots backs. He has surpassed 15 fantasy points in every week but one since Week 8, has scored five TDs in his last four games, and now gets a good matchup against the Dolphins. However, his receiving totals were hurt by the re-emergence of James White, who had the most valuable receiving load on the team at 7.3 (the 14th-highest reEP in the league this week). White also hurt the bottom line for Dion Lewis, who scored under 10 PPR points for the first time in a month.
Burkhead is the safest–and likely the highest-ceiling option–of all Patriots backs for the playoffs. Lewis is also a consideration, but obviously carries some risk.
New York Jets
Bilal Powell had the most valuable workload of any back on Sunday–nearly three times as valuable as Matt Forte’s, despite getting just three more carries. Both had three catches, but Forte found pay dirt on one and ended up outscoring Powell on the week. This backfield is currently as muddled as any in the AFC, but if forced to choose, I’d start Forte in Week 14 against Denver based on his superior efficiency and steady role in the passing game. The Denver defense has slipped in recent months, but they’ve only only allowed an 80-yard rusher twice on the season. I’d be eyeing other options at RB in Week 14.
Kenyan Drake cashed in on his big opportunity with Damien Williams out, piling up 120 yards on the ground, the most yards surrendered by the Broncos all season. He performed over rushing expectation while also tacking on the third-most valuable receiving load in the AFC at 7.8 reEP.
Drake will be worth a start in a neutral matchup against the Patriots in Week 14. The health status of Damien Williams is very much up in the air this week, but even if he does return, I tend to think that Drake’s positive play, combined with Williams nursing an injury, should give him the edge in any potential committee.
Week 13 Expected Points and Points Over Expectation
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After leading the Broncos in fantasy points over the previous four games, Devontae Booker naturally had the fewest carries and fewest targets of all Broncos backs this week, as well as the lowest ruEP and reEP by a wide margin. C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles had 12 targets between them in a game where they trailed the whole way. The Broncos are likely to be playing from behind against the Patriots this week too, but I’m not risking a starting spot on any of these guys.
It’s a shame that Alex Collins is said to be dealing with migraine headaches, clouding his Week 14 status. Not only because some positive TD regression has helped him settle in as a solid RB2 option in recent weeks, but also because he’s responsible for two of the top TD celebrations of the year.
Alex Collins with the TD celebration of the year. pic.twitter.com/Tn4cCexOqC
— Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport) December 3, 2017
Alex Collins touchdown celebration – The Irish Dance pic.twitter.com/NYMdHsAgg4
— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) December 3, 2017
If cleared, Collins is Flex worthy in a matchup against the Steelers, who may have lost their top tackler, Ryan Shazier, to a serious back injury. Otherwise, expect a timeshare with Javorius Allen leading the way on the ground and Danny Woodhead playing a larger passing role than the four targets per game he’s had since returning from injury.
Is it possible that the Bengals best back has been the backup the entire time? That sure looks like a possibility after Giovanni Bernard averaged 5.9 YPC, piling up 77 yards on 13 carries against a Shazier-less Steelers defense that surrenders the eighth-fewest fantasy points to RBs. With Joe Mixon’s concussion making him iffy at best on a short week, Bernard needs to be added in all formats for his Week 14 matchup against the Bears. Jeremy Hill is on the I.R., and Bernard projects to get a heavy load on the ground and through the air in Week 1 of the fantasy playoffs. Mixon’s status is a situation to monitor throughout the week.
In Week 13, Derrick Henry had a less valuable workload (ruEP) than someone called Elijah Penny, a player so unheralded that he went almost a full calendar year between Rotoworld blurbs. Well played, Mularkey.
Despite this continual and criminal under usage, Henry was still the RB14 this week, turning 11 carries into 109 yards and a TD. The only development here is that there are no developments. Barring an injury to DeMarco Murray, Henry won’t be the playoff MVP this year. He’s a high-risk, low-reward Flex play.
RB Fantasy Playoff Schedules
RB Advanced Stats – Full Season
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