Divisional Round RB Rankings
Each week, as we prepare to make some difficult playoff lineup decisions, our team, which includes Rob Willette, Ryan McDowell, and Sal Leto, will give you their rankings for this week’s playoff games!
Rob Willette’s Divisional Round RB Rankings
1 – Ezekiel Elliott
Zeke is one of the few top backs on the slate with a full set of working extremedies. He’s also en fuego. Elliott has not gone under 20 touches since an October 21st date with Washington, and his increased usage in the passing game has made him an all-purpose yardage machine. While Wade Phillips’ defense has defended the run fairly well this season, it is still a scheme which stops the pass first and matchups are nearly irrelevant at this juncture for Elliott. Healthy, rolling, and the focal point of an offense which has founds its groove, Elliott is the Divisional Round’s top play at running back.
2 – Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara excels in the passing game. The Eagles defense was olbiterated by receiving backs all season long, yielding the second-most receptions and sixth-most receiving yards to the position. The Bears failed to take advantage of this weakness with Tarik Cohen, yet the Saints figure to be immune to making the same mistake. New Orleans’ offense has struggled to find playmakers in the passing game beyond Michael Thomas and Kamara, leaving the second year back a favorite to do some heavy-lifting this week. An elite, high floor player with a cozy matchup, Kamara is an elite play.
3 – Todd Gurley
After three weeks off, it appears Todd Gurley is set to return this weekend. Fantasy’s best running back over the past two seasons, there is little reason to turn away from Gurley, even if he is a touch less than one hundred percent. Dallas was a stout defense against backs on the ground, but has shown vulnerabilities through the air, ceding 101 receptions to the position, sixth-most in football. In sunny LA, the conditions are ripe for offensive playoff football. If Gurley returns to his usual workload, he could very well pace the field in fantasy points this weekend.
4 – Melvin Gordon
Another back playing at less than one hundred percent, Gordon gets a strong matchup against a New England defense which finished 19th in rush defense DVOA and lacks the personnel to slow the Chargers offense. Despite leaving last week’s game for a stretch with yet another leg injury, Gordon toughed out 18 touches against the Ravens. That number figures to be around his floor in a game which should provide a few more offensive fireworks. Given his myriad of injuries, they may not be pretty touches, but they should be effective ones for Gordon in Foxboro.
5 – Damien Williams
Spencer Ware’s potential returns clouds the outlook for Damien Williams, but Williams’ play late in the season is enough to fire him up with confidence this weekend. Williams performed at RB1 levels down the stretch and could continue to do so against a Colts’ defense which – like many on this slate – struggles against receiving backs. A starting running back in an Andy Reid offense is a fantasy goldmine, and Williams will continue to rain points this Saturday.
6 – Marlon Mack
Mack surprised many – yours truly included – by demolishing a stout Houston run defense to the tune of 148 yards and a score in the Wild Card Round. Mack and the entire Indianapolis offense are playing with a unique swagger, and Kansas City may possess possibly the worst run defense in football. There’s little reason to turn away from Mack this weekend, even if his limitations in the passing game lower his ultimate ceiling.
7 – James White
Another matchup, another team who struggles against pass-catching backs. You may have heard Bill Belichick is fond of exploting weaknesses. The best to do so against the Chargers formerly of San Diego is to get White out in space. Given the Chargers are fairly tough against the standard run game, it looks as though they’ll turn away from Sony Michel for the most part. There’s always value to be had in a New England back if you can scope out the opponents’ weakness. This week, the value lies with White.
8 – Mark Ingram
Ingram’s value is largely tied to game script. Perhaps Nick Foles continues his magical run, but it is hard to erase memories of the Saints’ obliteration of the Eagles in Week 11. This sets up as a neutral to positive game script for Ingram, and he faces a defense who has fallen off from their fearsome 2017 perch against running backs. You have to pick your spots with Ingram, but this is one in which he can return value.
9 – Sony Michel
While I decidely prefer White in this matchup, you can still cannot ignore Michel, a safe bet for 10+ carries and always a threat for a goal-line score. The ceiling here is incredibly limited, but he is the best of the third-tier runners.
10 – Austin Ekeler
Ekeler has reprised his typical role with the return of Melvin Gordon. He sprinkles in 8-10 touches, being fairly effective with them. It is not a path to fantasy glory, but Ekeler is a cost-saving play with a strong enough floor to consider a start.
11 – Spencer Ware
It is unclear what to expect from Ware in his first game back. However, last we saw him, he was posting a strong game against a stout Baltimore defense. If he can mix in at all behind Damien Williams, he’s a viable hail mary play. Of course, these are not the types you want on a small slate.
12 – Darren Sproles
I don’t know what to expect from the Eagles backfield. The only thing I do know is Sproles led the team in comeback mode last week, and the Saints’ status as a potent run defense makes Sproles more viable. Play any Eagle runner at your own risk
Sal Leto (@LetoSal), Ryan McDowell (@RyanMc23), and Rob Willette (@RobWillette24) are freelance contributors for the SportsHub Games Network, Inc., Fanball’s parent company. Any advice or strategies provided by SportsHub contributors represent their personal opinions; they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of SportsHub Games Network and are not necessarily reflective of the strategies they may employ in their own lineups.