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Ultimate Zero RB Watchlist: AFC Week 7

We’re nearly halfway through the regular season, so now we will be progressing this weekly article to a more user-friendly format that should be much easier to skim through. I’ll also be introducing some new information and apps.

One last thing: make sure you check out Hasan Rahim’s accompanying NFC piece.

Observations

  • Cleveland’s first contest without Carlos Hyde went exactly as we expected it would, with rookie second-round pick Nick Chubb handling the lion’s share of the work. Chubb saw 20 total opportunities (18 rushing; two receiving) and actually managed to finish over expectation on the ground. He failed to make anything of his two targets.Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 7.02.15 PM Many questioned what had changed for Duke Johnson, implying his role would hold steady in terms of usage. They weren’t wrong, and it appears this backfield now belongs to Chubb. The former Georgia Bulldog is a tremendous ball carrier capable of creating yardage on his own. If you managed to land him on waivers, or you had him stashed on the bench, congratulations; you just added an every-week RB2 to your roster for free.
  • We should see more of Royce Freeman again this year, but he will miss the next few games with an ankle injury. Phillip Lindsay is a must-start in all formats until Freeman returns, and there’s generous reasoning that could put him into the fringe-RB1 category for the time being.Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 7.38.01 PMLindsay has the most favorable schedule among all RBs over the next six weeks, with matchups against Kansas City, Cincinnati, and San Francisco all on the horizon. There’s genuine league-winner upside here, depending on how long Freeman is out. Cort Smith predicts Lindsay will outscore Kareem Hunt this week.
  • With Amari Cooper inbound to Dallas, a sizable 14-percent of the team’s targets are up for grabs. Jalen Richard was already second on the team in receiving usage behind Jared Cook, and it’s fair to expect his share of the market to trend into the 20s with Cooper gone and Marshawn Lynch headed to injured reserve.Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 7.11.03 PM Richard’s receiving usage gives him tremendous upside that could be compared to Cleveland’s Duke Johnson last season. He’s an every-week flex play on that alone. Doug Martin is also worth a roster spot now, but I’m significantly less enthused with his potential upside.
  • Kenyan Drake is low-key the RB16 in PPR formats, partly due to his efficiency as a rusher. He’s clearly outperformed teammate Frank Gore with the ball in his hands, totaling over 10 fantasy points over expectation more than Gore this year. Gore has been more efficient with his receiving work, but I wouldn’t read too much into it. Six looks is a significantly smaller sample size compared to Drakes 39 targets.Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 7.23.14 PM I wish I knew how long it will take for Adam Gase to give arguably his most talented player bigger piece of the pie. It could happen as soon as Week 8, now that Albert Wilson has landed on IR. Kenny Stills is banged up as well.Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 7.30.12 PMIt’s worth noting that Drake has been Brock Osweiler’s second-favorite target over the last two weeks. The Wilson injury could offer a significant boost on Drake’s upside considering his target share is already generous for a running back.
  • I’d like to take a quick moment to wish Bilal Powell a speedy recovery, as he heads to IR with what’s rumored to be a serious neck injury. The injury could be career-threatening, and those are words that I dread reading every time I open up a breaking news notification on my phone. It’s easy to forget these players are real people, and Powell deserves your respect.Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 7.18.16 PMWe fantasy analysts have to continue to do our job, however. With that in mind, Isaiah Crowell just received a substantial boost in value given that a 50-percent opportunity share just opened up. Crowell is actually sitting pretty at just over 30 fantasy points over expectation through seven weeks due to his big play potential coupled with elite goal line usage. Elijah McGuire has returned to practice, and is eligible to be activated. Trenton Cannon also performed well in relief of Powell last week, leading the team with 73 yards from scrimmage. Expect these two backs to be worked in more over the coming weeks.
  • Just when we thought we had the Tennessee Titans backfield figured out, Dion Lewis decides to erupt on people’s benches everywhere.Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 7.45.32 PM Could it seriously be as simple as “sit Lewis against top-10 defenses, play him every other week”? Given that Lewis has averaged just shy of 17 fantasy points per game against rush defenses that rank outside the top-10 this year. What’s also interesting is the significant boost in receiving usage against average and poor rush defenses.
  • It was nice of Marlon Mack to make an appearance for fantasy owners in Week 7.Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 7.53.01 PMRoughly 30 fantasy points later, all of the Mack truthers are back out in full-force. To be fair, this smash-performance came in an extremely soft matchup against the Buffalo Bills. It’s highly unlikely he repeats a performance of this magnitude. Regardless, Mack’s presence severely mucks up this backfield, especially those who were riding Nyheim Hines’ WR-like receiving usage. It’s tough to sit a guy who just went off, and the Colts actually square up with the tanking Raiders in Week 8. Mack should be serviceable for a second-straight week.

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