Saturday, December 19, 2020

Week 15 Fantasy Football RB Start'em, Sit'em

The decision on which player to start, or sit, largely comes down to the options on your roster (and/or possibly the players available on your league's waiver wire).

As an example, J.K. Dobbins is listed below as a "start" for Week 15. And I'd certainly be comfortable going into Week 15 with him as one of my starting running backs.

Then again, Dobbins may be a "sit" for your team.

In other words, if you roster Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb and Dobbins and only start two running backs, you should start Henry and Chubb and, in turn, bench Dobbins.

For a more direct answer on whether we would start Player X over Player Y, check our Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings. Instead of making those direct comparisons, the goal here is to highlight players that we like, or dislike, for the week.

Week 15 Fantasy Football RB Start'em

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts (vs. HOU)

The timing of Taylor's breakout could not have been better for fantasy managers. Taylor, who sat out Week 12, has at least 90 rushing yards and 114 yards from scrimmage in three consecutive games. Among running backs that have played multiple games since Week 11, only Derrick Henry (152.0) has more YFS per game than Taylor (138.0) over that span.

Taylor has finished as a top-three fantasy running back in back-to-back weeks. That includes a matchup against the Houston Texans in Week 13 when Taylor rushed 13 times for 91 yards (7.0 YPC) and three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.

It's not just Taylor that has feasted against the Texans, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Positive game script should help Taylor as the Colts are favored by more than a touchdown at home and have a top-five implied total in Week 15.

Not only is Taylor a high-end RB1, but teammate Nyheim Hines is inside our top-24 fantasy running backs for the week as a viable RB2. Over the past three weeks, Hines has performed as fantasy's (half-PPR scoring) RB16, RB21 and RB24, respectively.

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams (vs. NYJ)

Like Taylor, Akers has timed his breakout well. A recommended bench stash in many iterations of our weekly waiver-wire column before getting the volume fantasy managers desired, the rookie from Florida State has a total of 53 touches over the past two weeks.

Only Minnesota's Dalvin Cook (62) has more touches than Akers (53) over the past two weeks. Henry is a distant third with 44 touches over that span.

Going into Week 15, no team is a bigger favorite than the Rams (-17), who host the winless New York Jets. In turn, only the Tennessee Titans have a higher implied total than the Rams.

Mike Davis, Carolina Panthers (at GB)

Once again, the Panthers will (likely) be without running back Christian McCaffrey (doubtful) and will turn to Davis. McCaffrey played in Weeks 1, 2 and 9 and amassed 76 touches in those three games combined.

If we exclude the games that CMC has started, Davis has scored the sixth-most (half-PPR) fantasy points over that span. Even though Davis has no 100-yard rushing games and only two games with more than 66 rushing yards, he is top-three among running backs in receptions (44) and targets (54) in the weeks that he has started.

As fairly large road underdogs to the Green Bay Packers, Davis' role as a receiver will help maintain a high floor. In addition, the Packers have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens (vs. JAX)

One-quarter (six) of the running backs in my top 24 are rookies -- although the only one of the group that was drafted in the first round (Clyde Edwards-Helaire) ranks lowest of that group (RB24). For Dobbins, he has emerged over the past few weeks as the team's lead back.

In his past three games played, which excludes Week 12, Dobbins has 17, 11 and 13 touches (all team highs), respectively. In those three games, Dobbins has handled 56.9% of the backfield's touches and has more than double the next closest back (Gus Edwards, 25.0%).

SLEEPER: Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (vs. JAX)

The Jacksonville Jaguars have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season and the Ravens are 13-point home favorites against the one-win Jags. If the Ravens repeat last week's usage (Mark Ingram, no touches), the one-two punch of Dobbins-Edwards both become viable plays.

Edwards had seven carries for 49 yards and two touchdowns and one four-yard reception against the Cleveland Browns last week. With six rushing touchdowns over his past eight games, he has made the most of his relatively limited opportunities.

Since Week 6, here are his weekly half-PPR finishes: RB24, RB13, RB25, RB28, RB67, RB31, RB23 and RB12, respectively. Outside of the Titans game (RB67), he has been in the RB2/flex mix in seven of his past eight games.

MORE: BAL has the easiest remaining strength of schedule (.218, 8-30-1).

Week 15 Fantasy Football RB Sit'em

Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons (vs. TB)

Gurley is listed, but this applies to all Falcons running backs. Averaging close to 20 touches per game (19.3) over the first nine weeks of the season, only three backs had more touches through Week 9. Since then, however, Gurley has either missed a game, the team had its bye or he has been limited to single-digit touches each week.

Even when Gurley was getting the volume, he was inefficient (3.67 YPC) but an effective fantasy running back as only Dalvin Cook (13) scored more touchdowns than Gurley (nine) over that stretch. Over his past three games, he has a total of 80 scoreless scrimmage yards.

Allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2020, no team has limited opposing running backs to fewer YPC than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3.19) this season.

David Johnson, Houston Texans (at IND)

Johnson returns in Week 15, but he's nothing more than a flex option this week. A TD-dependent play against the Colts, Johnson carried the ball 10 times for 44 yards and a touchdown against the Colts in Week 13. Not only was Johnson held without a catch in that game, but he's exceeded two catches in only two games this season.

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. PIT)

Losing his first fumble since 2016, Bernard had only six touches and 23 yards in Week 14 against the Dallas Cowboys. Since a three-game stretch (Weeks 6 to 8) as the RB20, RB7 and RB2, respectively, Bernard has finished as the weekly RB30 or worse in five consecutive games. Bernard has averaged 41.0 scoreless yards from scrimmage over that five-game stretch with no more than 55 YFS or 7.5 half-PPR fantasy points in any of those outings.

The first of his current five-game malaise was against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he had eight carries for 30 yards and added four catches for 17 yards. Only the New Orleans Saints have allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs this season than the Steelers.

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