Nick Mensio

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Week 5 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

Friday, October 6, 2017




RUNNING BACK

Start of the Week: Joe Mixon vs. Bills: Mixon is coming off a really disappointing Week 4 against the Browns where he ran 17 times for just 29 yards (1.7 YPC) and failed to find the end zone. But the workload under new OC Bill Lazor has been promising. In two games with Lazor, Mixon has handled 42 touches while playing 52% of the snaps. In the first two games under ex-OC Ken Zampese, Mixon touched the ball just 21 times on a 30.4% snap rate. At such a shallow position like running back that was depleted even more last week, that volume is too good to pass up, even in a tough spot against the Bills. Buffalo is No. 9 in run-defense DVOA and has allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. However, the defense did show some cracks last week, allowing a combined 222 yards and one touchdown to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Both finished as top-18 running backs for Week 4. Lazor has made a concerted effort to get the ball in the hands of Mixon and A.J. Green. A floor of around 18 touches should be expected for Mixon on Sunday, and with a three-point spread, this one should remain close much of the day. Mixon is a strong RB2.

Starts

Buck Allen at Raiders: After getting 19 touches in Week 2 against the Browns, the Ravens have significantly dialed back Allen’s workload as a runner the past two weeks. He’s run the ball just 10 times total the last two games, managing 22 yards. On the positive side, however, Allen remains a fixture in the passing game, catching 11-of-12 targets in that same span while playing a team-best 60% of the running back snaps the last three weeks. Alex Collins has entered the mix in the Baltimore backfield, but his insertion has hurt Terrance West far more than it has Allen. Allen’s role remains constant. While he’s not getting carries, Allen’s catches and yards are valuable PPR points in the current landscape at the running back position. He now gets a great draw against a Raiders defense that has surrendered the fifth-most receiving yards to running backs and is dead last in DVOA at covering the position. With Joe Flacco still not healthy after his summer back injury, he remains one of the biggest check-down machines. Allen is one of the only pieces worth firing up in this Ravens-Raiders tilt that features the lowest total of the week at 39 points with Derek Carr (back) out.

Duke Johnson vs. Jets: A whole heck of a lot of it has had to do with the Browns trailing badly on the scoreboard, but Johnson has out-snapped backfield mate Isaiah Crowell 165-147 this season. Johnson’s main contributions have been as a pass-catcher with a team-high 28 targets and 20 catches, but Johnson has actually been seeing more work as a runner with 10 carries the past three weeks after registering zero in Week 1. He has rushed for a touchdown in back-to-back games after scoring just one time on the ground in 2015-2016. And it was Johnson who received the goal-line plunge late in last week’s loss to the Bengals. Crowell simply hasn’t been moving the chains on the limited work he has been getting, and Johnson adds a different dimension to an offense that is devoid of playmakers. The Jets have been getting killed by running backs, surrendering the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. They’ve also struggled with pass-catching backs, allowing the ninth-most catches and 10th-most yards through the air. Crowell has a chance to be more involved this week with a pick’em spread and 39.5-point total, but Johnson is still going to get his work. The Browns just don’t have any reliable receivers with Kenny Britt a total bust as a free agent and Corey Coleman still being out with his broken hand. Johnson is currently the RB16 in PPR.

Ameer Abdullah vs. Panthers: Abdullah is coming off one of the best games of his career after setting career-highs in carries (20) and rushing yards (94) while scoring a touchdown against a tough Vikings defense on the road. Abdullah also matched his season-high with four targets, reeling in three for 15 yards. He seems to be eating into Theo Riddick’s usage. Abdullah played 47% of the snaps to Riddick’s 25.7%. Prior to Week 4, Riddick had been in on 40.4% of the plays. On top of the usage spike, Abdullah also scored his touchdown last week on a plunge at the goal line. That work had typically been going to Dwayne Washington or Zach Zenner, or Riddick was in the game in pass situations. It very easily could have been a one-time deal for Abdullah, but since he did well with the increased load in a divisional road win, look for OC Jim Bob Cooter to maybe lengthen Abdullah’s leash a bit. The matchup against the Panthers isn’t great by any means. Carolina has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs, but it has surrendered the most catches to the position. Abdullah’s (hopefully) new workload puts him firmly on the RB2 radar based on volume.

Sits

Marshawn Lynch vs. Ravens: Lynch was a firm pass for me in fantasy drafts over the summer. I simply wanted nothing to do with a 31-year-old running back coming out of a one-year retirement that was spent spanning the globe following a 2015 that saw Lynch’s body break down in Seattle. After Week 1, when Lynch rushed 18 times for 76 yards against the Titans, running over defensive linemen in the process, I feared I may have made a mistake. But in the three games since, Lynch is averaging nine carries and 25 rushing yards per contest. Lynch is playing just 38% of the snaps in that span after being in on 47% of the Week 1 plays. The Ravens have been victimized on the ground the past two games by Leonard Fournette (17-59-1, RB13) and Le’Veon Bell (35-144-2, RB1), especially with DT Brandon Williams (foot) being out. Williams still has yet to practice this week, and the Ravens have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs. But Lynch is now going to be running in an offense with E.J. Manuel at quarterback where Baltimore will surely stack the box and make Manuel beat them. Also, it’s not as if Lynch can be Manuel’s outlet with check-downs in the short passing game. Lynch has caught three passes all year; that’s not his game. While Fournette and Bell gashed the Ravens in Weeks 3 and 4, Lynch doesn’t get nearly the same usage as those two. The Raiders may lean on him more with Derek Carr (back) out, but it’s to the point where we need to see it from Lynch before we can believe it. He’s a weak FLEX play.

Theo Riddick vs. Panthers: This was touched on above, but Riddick saw his snap rate dip all the way down to 25.7% last week against the Vikings after playing 40.4% of the reps in Weeks 1-3. It’s a big concern, and Riddick has received just nine touches total over the past two games and has yet to top 38 total yards in a contest this season. Ameer Abdullah matched a season-high with four targets last week and even got some of the goal-line work inside the 10-yard line. Those reps had normally been going to Riddick. It very easily may have been a game-flow situation, but Abdullah has vastly outplayed Riddick through the first month. The only concern with Abdullah is he always seems to come up hobbling at some point each week. He’s practicing in full this week after twisting his ankle last Sunday. The Panthers have allowed the most catches to running backs, which plays right into Riddick’s strong suit, but he just hasn’t shown it so far. Riddick is by no means a must-keep in 12-team leagues right now. If his snaps are again cut back in Week 5, he can be dropped.

Thomas Rawls at Rams: Rawls was one of the hotter pickups of the week off fantasy waiver wires, but he’s impossible to trust as an immediate plug-and-play. Rawls was inactive Week 1 with an ankle injury, played 16 snaps and rushed for four yards on five carries in Week 2, played one snap and didn’t touch the ball in Week 3, and was a healthy scratch in Week 4. But now that rookie Chris Carson is out with a broken ankle, Rawls is expected to reenter the mix. Coach Pete Carroll hinted earlier in the week that Rawls would be the lead back and then said again on Wednesday that Rawls and Eddie Lacy will “take the load” moving forward. Lacy rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries last week and looked the best we’ve seen him in a Seahawks uniform. It would be surprising to see Seattle not go back to Lacy as the 1A to Rawls’ 1B. Further clouding up the picture is J.D. McKissic’s two-touchdown breakout last week as the pass-game back. Rawls and Lacy offer nothing in that department, further lowering their floors. The Rams have been shredded by running backs, allowing the most fantasy points to the position and checking in at 24th in run-defense DVOA, but Lacy is the preferred RB3/FLEX play if forced to pick between the two backs this Sunday.


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Nick Mensio is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. The 2014 NFL season marks his third with Rotoworld. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.
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