Wild Card Round RB Rankings
Each week, as we prepare to make some difficult lineup decisions, our team, which includes Rob Willette, Ryan McDowell, and Sal Leto, will bring you a few sleepers and landmines for each position. Our sleeper picks could be on your waiver wire or a low-priced DFS target or could simply be going overlooked this week. On the other hand, our landmine players are getting attention, too much attention. These are players we feel are being overvalued and overpriced and would avoid for this week.
Rob Willette’s Wild Card RB Rankings
1 – Ezekiel Elliott
Elliott is the slate’s top back with a bullet. He’s an elite back attached to a home favorite with a cozy matchup. The Seahawks have struggled against backs all year, and they’re one of only 6 teams to yield over 100 receptions with the running back position. Zeke’s passing game usage took over during the season’s second half; he’s notched 5 or more receptions in each of his last 7 games. Elliott flamed this same Seahawks group for 138 total yards in Week 3. With incredibly high usage and a great matchup, this sets up as a monster tilt for Zeke.
2 – Melvin Gordon
I can understand being reticent of riding with Gordon this weekend. The Ravens yielded the second-fewest fantasy points to backs during the 2018 regular season, and Gordon has notched only 28 touches in the past 2 weeks as he eases back in from a variety of ailments. The Wild Card Round, however, is no time to pull back on the reins of your stallions. Gordon should return to being his typical heavy workload, if a bit curtailed due to the Ravens ball control tendencies. Always a good bet for a score, Gordon gets the workhorse bump in this matchup.
3 – Tarik Cohen
A dominant run defense not long ago, the Eagles took a big step back in 2018. Most importantly for Cohen, they ceded 110 receptions to running backs, tied with the Colts for the second-most receptions allowed ot the position. This game sets up as more of a Cohen game than a Howard one, and Matt Nagy is savvy enough to exploit the personnel weakness. The Bears seem unlikely to run away from the Eagles, keeping game script in favor of Cohen this weekend.
4 – Chris Carson
With one of the safest floors on the slate, Chris Carson gets a boost as a workhorse for a small road underdog. The Cowboys are a stout run defense, but Seattle is the rare team who will run regardless of the results. With 19 or more carries in the season’s final 4 games, Carson is a safe bet for 20 touches, albeit without the massive ceiling given his limited work in thre receiving game.
5 – Lamar Miller
The least exciting running back play during the regular season becomes the postseason’s least exciting play. Despite lacking panache, Miller is locked-in as Houston’s lead back and alpha runners on a home favorite are always a sound play. On the downside for Miller, the Colts are most exploitable by backs via the air, and Miller has been a passing game afterthought all year. However, the Texans do not have a designated satellite back, and Miller did match his season-high with 5 receptions against this same Colts defense in Week 14. Don’t expect fireworks, but Miller’s workload makes him viable.
6 – Marlon Mack
You’ve had to pick your spots with Mack all year. He has pummeled defenses when the Colts control the game. When game script is neutral or poor, Mack has been a middling asset. But he’s the goal-line back for a good offense, and this game should be a back and forth affair which keeps Mack in play. He may need a short plunge to save his day, but the offense keeps him afloat weekly.
7 – Gus Edwards
Just when it looked like Kenneth Dixon may take his job, Gus Edwards has responded with a pair of strong weeks. Included in his recent run was a 92 yard rushing outing against the Chargers in which Edwards even tossed in a 13 yard reception. A zero in the passing game and lacking touchdown upside, Edwards is always a risky bet, but we know the Ravens are going to emphasize their run game and Edwards is at the center of it. With a favorable matchup, it is enough to place him on the radar.
8 – Jordan Howard
Though Cohen has a better on-paper matchup, it is far from imposing for Jordan Howard. Howard has played into the theory late season games are made for power backs. He blitzed the Vikings in Week 17, and has been a featured piece of the Bears offense as they closed the season on a hot streak. Howard’s workload is fairly safe; I just prefer Cohen’s explosive ability in this contest.
9 – Austin Ekeler
Ekeler got a touch boost in Week 17 with Melvin Gordon ailing, but it is tough to rely on a backup runner in a brutal matchup. The Ravens are dominant against runners in both the run and pass game; there is little reason to expect Ekeler to produce with his usual 8-10 touches.
10 – Josh Adams
Tentatively at the forefront of the Eagles’ RBBC, Adams is still as untrustworthy as they come. He can be scripted out at any time given his limited role in the passing game. Despite 3 receptions in Week 17, he caught only 7 on the year and went 5 straight games without hauling in a pass. He’s a touchdown-dependent dart throw, and tossing darts at the Bears defense is a fools ‘errand.
11 – Kenneth Dixon
Coming off his best performance of the year, Dixon may have the most upside of this weekend’s bargain bin options. He has hit double-digit touches in each of the past three weeks, and has been able to take series from Gus Edwards when he is running hot. On the downside, the tilt with the Chargers does not figure to be high-scoring. Taking the plunge on a backup runner in a game with a meager 41 1/2 Over/Under is most definitely risky, and makes Dixon more of a last-gasp option than certifiable sleeper.
12 – Nyheim Hines
An afterthought in the run game, Hines stays afloat due to his receiving ability. He hit 60 receptions on the year and has carved out his niche as the passing game complement to Marlon Mack. With a nearly bottomless floor, I do not have the gumption to fire up Hines for Wild Card Weekend, but hey, you do you.
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.