Zero RB Watch: NFC Week 15 – Rookies Shine, Stars Fade, And 3 Desperation Options Offer Playoff Hope
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Image Credit: Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Tony Pollard.

Lost one of your RB starters ahead of the fantasy semifinals? Shawn Siegele offers a trio of NFC desperation plays to bridge the gap.

The Ultimate Zero RB Watch is for all fantasy owners, regardless of your RB strategy, and today we’ll look at the most important developments for all 16 NFC teams. How far have Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley fallen? How high could Cam Akers and D’Andre Swift rise?

The RotoViz Screener and Weekly Stat Explorer provide a wealth of advanced stats on every team. Much of our focus is on how RBs score their points. We use expected points (EP) and fantasy points over expectation (FPOE) along with carries, targets, snaps, and red zone touches to better understand each player’s workload.

Want to know everything about the WR position instead? Zachary Krueger’s WR deep dive has all of the advanced stats and takes you behind the scenes of the trickiest depth charts.

Arizona Cardinals

Kenyan Drake continues to struggle. He’s averaged -1.0 FPOE/G since returning from injury in Week 10, numbers that fall in line with his full-season average (-1.1). Despite his run-into-the-line-and-fall-down style, Drake is benefiting from Kliff Kingsbury’s patience. Over that stretch he ranks No. 8 in team opportunity share and No. 5 in rush attempts. Due to his frequent usage at the goal line, he jumps all the way to No. 2 in total EP.

It’s been a far more dispiriting stretch for Chase Edmonds owners. In part due to playing one more game, he trailed Drake by only 11 EP over the first nine weeks, and his better efficiency actually gave him the scoring edge. By contrast, he’s trailed by 40 EP since and has only been an RB2 or better once.

Atlanta Falcons

You wouldn’t have expected Ito Smith to take over the backfield after he earned a total of eight opportunities between Weeks 5 and 11, but his breakout performance in Week 12 has carried over.

It’s hard to tell if Todd Gurley is really injured or if the Falcons are covering for him the way Arizona did for David Johnson a year ago, but even with the stated goal of saving him for high-leverage plays, the veteran’s value has evaporated. We asked you to sell high on his early season goal-line prowess, and it was a clutch escape if you were able to make it.

Even with rushing TDs in Weeks 8 and 9, his value has flatlined over his last five appearances.

Dallas Cowboys

Tony Pollard is no longer just eating into Ezekiel Elliott’s workload, he’s threatening a full blown committee. The youngster still only touched the ball four times in the first half and gained most of his ground in the second half of a blowout. That’s scant consolation for owners who were counting on Elliott running over a bad defense.

The 2019 Zero RB Watch articles included numerous discussions of the way in which Elliott’s profile was deteriorating, but the swiftness of Elliott’s collapse is still stunning even as it’s reminiscent of the Gurley, Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell debacles.[1]

Here is the image from Blair’s Zero RB Watch a week ago.

You notice the highs are less frequent and no longer as high, while the lows start to dominate. Elliott originally neutralized this decline by adding in targets – he jumped to a career-high 6.3 a game in 2018 – but those numbers declined again last year.

It looked like 2020 would offer a return to the 2018 peaks as Dallas began the year in perpetual shootout mode – Elliott averaged 7.3 over the first six weeks – but a sluggish back is no longer one you want to pepper with targets. He’s collapsed to only 3.0 over the last seven.

Part of this decline can be attributed to Dak Prescott’s absence (and offensive line play), and 2021 should breathe life into Elliott’s value. You’ll want to sell the dead cat bounce. It could be your final window.

Detroit Lions

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Elliott was on my Do Not Draft list this fall as I peppered that range with Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook picks, but I did “buy low” on Elliott in dynasty after the Prescott injury, so I’m not completely immune to the siren song.

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Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.

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