But because the NFL has so many talented running backs, and because many teams prefer to split carries among multiple backs rather than make one back the full-time workhorse, it seems like many RBs have had their fantasy values stuffed like someone trying to run over Ray Lewis.
Here are three running backs whose numbers have been outstanding in limited duty and would be even better if they were able to get more carries and not have to share the workload with another skilled runner.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans
Tate might be the best backup running back in fantasy football. The problem is that he is a backup.
Even though he plays second banana to fantasy football superhero Arian Foster, the punishing Tate has still gotten on the field enough to rumble for 820 yards and three touchdowns. The sick thing is that he is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, so if he just carried the ball 50 more times he would have 1,100 yards right now.
Seriously, why do the Texans ever pass the ball? They should run out of a wishbone formation with Foster and Tate as the two tailbacks!
Foster is not going anywhere anytime soon, so unless Tate gets traded before next season, he will remain the top backup RB in fantasy, which is sort of like being the smartest judge on American Idol.
Here’s another guy who is averaging over five yards a carry who fails to carry enough. It’s not Williams’ fault his number doesn’t get called as much as it should. Between all the rushes quarterback Cam Newton and fellow RB Jonathan Stewart receive, there is a scant amount left over for Williams.
The speedy Williams loves to be in the open field as much as Alec Baldwin loves playing Words With Friends, and not many RBs have his big-play ability. That’s not enough to garner him more touches, though. He has had single-digit carries in five games this season, and he has not had more than 15 rushing attempts in any contest.
Since Williams signed a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract before the season, he is sticking in Carolina for the long haul. Carolina likes having a two-back system, so unless someone in the front office comes to his or her senses and trades Stewart for some defensive help, Williams will not be a 20-touch runner in the near future.
Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Poor Pierre. You wouldn’t think a team that throws the ball as much as New Orleans does would have more quality running backs than the SEC, yet that is the case in the Big Easy.
Thomas does not run as well between the tackles as Mark Ingram and does not catch the ball out of the backfield as well as Darren Sproles, so he has fallen to third on the Saints' depth chart. Plus he has solid fourth-stringer Chris Ivory nipping at his cleats. Before you know it Thomas will be fifth at the position behind Deuce McAllister.
Look at Thomas’ numbers, however: 4.9 yards per carry, 43 receptions for 344 yards and four touchdowns. Pretty darn good for a No. 3 RB. He would be a No. 2 on most other teams and could even start a couple games. Thomas’ fantasy value might be enhanced by the offense he plays in, but it is destroyed because of other backs he plays behind.
RUN AND SHOOT:
Three Players Who Should be Picked Up:
T.J. Yates, Houston Texans (QB)
Out of the third-tier quarterbacks who are currently starting right now in the NFL—this distinguished group includes Indianapolis’ Dan Orlovsky, Seattle’s Tarvaris Jackson, Kansas City’s Tyler Palko and Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert—Yates is easily the best one to own and use if your fantasy team desperately needs a signal caller.
Yates has been much better than anyone thought he would be. Three hundred passing yards and two touchdowns at Cincinnati, without the benefit of Andre Johnson? And now for a two-week encore, Yates throws against a pair of the worst defenses in the NFL, Carolina and Indianapolis.
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys (RB)
I know, I know. I do not trust Jones to stay injury-free any more than I trusted Kevin Smith. But if you owned DeMarco Murray and are as desperate for a running back as your mother is to find an ugly Christmas sweater, you have to pick Jones up and pray he stays healthy.
Jones will be a workhorse down the stretch if he does not break any bones or pull any muscles. Dallas has little depth behind Jones, so he will not come off the field much. Plus Jones faces Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and the New York Giants, all below-average run defenses, over the final three weeks of the season.
James Jones, Green Bay Packers (WR)
Jones has been quieter than a mute all season long, yet he deserves a look now that Green Bay’s top target in the passing game, Greg Jennings, has injured his knee. Jones should not get more looks from Aaron Rodgers, especially on deep routes of over 20 yards, and could see some one-on-one coverage if defenses decide to double team Jordy Nelson.
Three Players Fantasy Owners Should Worry About:
Eric Decker, Denver Broncos (WR)
Tim Tebow does not throw or throw well enough to make two wide receivers fantasy worthy. Now that Demaryius Thomas has quickly slid in to become Tebow’s top target, Decker’s production has fallen off. Decker only has five receptions for 58 yards over Denver’s past two games despite Tebow throwing more than usual.
BenJarvis Green-Ellis, New England Patriots (RB)
Eleven carries over the last two weeks? You know how New England operates. One week the Pats decide to run the ball 40 times, then the next week they decide to throw it 40 times in a row. The problem is Green-Ellis cannot be considered reliable by fantasy owners when his workload changes so drastically from week to week.
Hasselbeck’s body is breaking down on him, as for the second time in a month he had to be relieved by Jake Locker due to injury. With the way Locker played against New Orleans, and with how Hasselbeck’s calf is hurting, fantasy owners have to wonder how much more of Hasselbeck we will see this season.