Saturday, October 9, 2021

Fantasy Football Week 5 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, Damien Williams is listed below as a "start" for Week 5. And I'd certainly be comfortable going into Week 5 with him as one of my starting running backs.

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

In other words, if you own Austin Ekeler, Nick Chubb and Williams and only start two running backs, you should start Ekeler and Chubb and, in turn, bench Williams.

For a more direct answer on whether we would start Player X over Player Y, check our Week 5 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 5 Fantasy Football RB Start'em

Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. MIA)

Coming off season highs of 20 carries, 23 touches and 138 yards from scrimmage against the Patriots last week, Fournette now has at least 14 touches in three of four games this season. While Giovani Bernard was out in Week 4, no other Bucs running back has had double-digit touches in a game this season. Through Week 4, Fournette has 56.4% of the team rush attempts and 10.73% of the targets.

So far this season, the Dolphins have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Not only do the Bucs have one of the week's highest implied totals as a double-digit favorite, but the Dolphins have allowed three 100-yard rushers through three weeks. All signs point to Fournette having a big Week 5.

Damien Williams, Chicago Bears (at LV)

With David Montgomery (knee) sidelined for roughly a month, it opens up a tremendous opportunity for Williams to produce as a weekly RB2. The Bears have one of the week's lowest implied totals and are currently 5.5-point underdogs, but Williams' pass-catching ability gives him the potential to be a three-down back during Montgomery's absence. The Raiders have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

Damien Harris, New England Patriots (at HOU)

In the first two weeks of the season, Harris had a total of 39 carries for 162 yards and a touchdown. In each of those games, he finished as a top-24 fantasy back. Over the past two weeks against elite run defenses (NO and TB), Harris had a total of 10 carries for 10 yards. In those two games, Harris finished no better than the weekly RB50.

The Patriots are one of four teams to play in a game with a sub-40 over-under, but the Patriots are favored by more than a touchdown against the Houston Texans. The game script bodes well for Harris. The Texans have allowed running backs to average 4.96 yards per carry, which is tied with the Chiefs for the third-most allowed to opposing running backs behind the Cardinals (5.21) and Chargers (5.02).

I guess the theme is to start your Damiens this week.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta Falcons (vs. NYJ)

As noted in our QB Start'em, Sit'em, Matt Ryan will be without Calvin Ridley this week. Even if there are some sustainability concerns giving his relatively low snap counts and usage stats compared to his recent production, missing the team's go-to receiver means that those targets that would otherwise go to Ridley will be spread around to the team's other weapons including C-Patt.

Patterson has been playing out of his mind. Following his three-TD week, Patterson trails only Derrick Henry and Austin Ekeler in fantasy points scored through a quarter season, just as we had all expected. With 11-13 touches in each of the past three weeks, Patterson has performed as fantasy's RB5, RB22 and RB1, respectively, during that span.

While the New York Jets have been top-three at limiting fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, only the Detroit Lions have been more generous than the Jets when it comes to allowing fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

Week 5 Fantasy Football RB Sit'em

Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles (at CAR)

It's been a frustrating start to the season for those that roster Sanders. Outside of Week 1, Sanders has finished no better than the weekly RB36. In the most recent three games (all losses), Sanders has a total of 29 touches and failed to reach the 60-YFS mark in any of those outings.

Sharing the workload with Kenneth Gainwell and ceding valuable work in the passing game, Sanders has a challenging matchup against the Carolina Panthers this week. The Panthers have limited opposing running backs to the fourth-fewest fantasy points this season.

Melvin Gordon/Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos (at PIT)

The Broncos have a tough matchup this week against the Steelers, who have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Along with the Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers are one of two teams that have yet allowed a touchdown to an opposing running back. Even though the Broncos are favored, they are among the bottom eight in NFL implied totals for Week 5.

It's impressive that both Gordon and Williams have double-digit touches in all four of the games played so far this season. That shared volume puts both backs on the RB2/RB3 border in good matchups. In a difficult matchup like this one, however, both are better treated as flex options.

Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins (at TB)

Gaskin was drafted to be a low-end RB2 or (worst-case scenario) flex option. Through the first three weeks of the season, Gaskin was the clear leader in the clubhouse for running back touches (39). Not only did he have 58.2% of Miami's running back touches in those first three games, but he had 14-plus touches in two of three games.

Given his minuscule involvement in Week 4, however, Gaskin's floor is virtually non-existent after a two-touch outing last Sunday. Both Malcolm Brown (nine touches) and Salvon Ahmed (five) had more than Gaskin last week. In addition, Gaskin played a season-low 12 snaps (23%).

Facing a difficult matchup against a stout Buccaneers run defense, one could argue that a talented receiving back like Gaskin could benefit if fantasy managers could count on the opportunities/targets. Of course, last week's dud is reminder that we can't.

James Conner, Arizona Cardinals (vs. SF)

Given their offensive roles, Conner is best in non-PPR formats and Chase Edmonds is best in (full) PPR formats. Even though Conner has scored multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games (and is tied with Ezekiel Elliott for most rushing TDs) and Edmonds has yet to score a touchdown this season, it's actually Edmonds (RB17) that has more fantasy points scored in half-PPR formats than Conner (RB22) this season.

Edmonds ranks third among running backs in targets (22) and receptions (20) and he has never finished any week worse than RB25 in half-PPR formats. Edmonds has a minimum of four receptions in every game and he has averaged 10.75 rush attempts per game as well.

Conner has performed as a top-12 running back (RB12 and RB8, respectively) with the multiple-score outings the past two weeks, but he has also finished as the weekly RB44 and RB58, respectively, in the first two weeks where he didn't score. In other words, Conner's more modest passing-game role likely means that he will finish outside the top 24 backs if he doesn't score. I'd be fine starting him as my flex, but I'd still prefer the scoreless Edmonds over Conner.

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