Coming into the season, there was a standard “Top Six” at the running back position, according to most experts. There was some debate about the order, but the six were Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy, and Marshawn Lynch. And by the time you got to about the 12th running back on your list, you were looking at injury concerns, platoon problems, or both. So these guys were drafted high, and every week, they cost a lot, and the question left is: are they worth it?
When you are playing the long game and trying to make sure your team is solid at the beginning of the season, in the middle, and, most importantly, coming down the stretch, the question of worth could be very different than in a daily fantasy game, mainly because what you think you’re buying with those high draft picks and consistency. Solid performances week in and week out, with occasional week-winning outbursts. That’s what you’re looking for. But in daily fantasy football, the reasons for selecting these guys are different. Sure, consistency is a factor in price, but for a high price tag, you want performance, that week – you don’t want to wait for the averages to play themselves out.
Adrian Peterson: plenty has been said already. Don’t expect him back, and be happy his (much cheaper) replacements are playing well.
Jamaal Charles: it’s a bit unfair to judge when he has been hurt, and we should learn a lot more tonight. But, that being said, the Chiefs have NOT been playing well, and Charles was not doing anything at all to look like a top RB choice before he went down injured, so you might want to make him show you once or twice before you trust him in your lineup.
LeSean McCoy: No injury concerns, but just as untrustworthy. We are officially at a point where owners in yearly leagues are panicked, and owners in daily leagues, well, don’t exist. Again, at this point, he’s going to have to show me first. He has a grand total of just over 40 fantasy points on the year, including about four, total, over the last two weeks. Darren Sproles, his “backup” and the “change of pace” back for the Eagles, has just 2.6 and 6 points in his last two weeks, respectively, and he still outscored McCoy both times. Sproles has, in fact, outscored Shady every week so far this season, and for a significantly lower price tag. At this point, even the most ardent Eagles believer, in a week where the Eagles had the best possible match-up, still wouldn’t choose McCoy – you’d just go with Sproles and spend your savings elsewhere, right? You were not saying that last year. when headlined the squads of many a big-money winner over the course of the season.
Eddie Lacy: Lacy saved his owners with a TD plunge to cap off the first scoring drive for the Packers last night, and then… nothing. Lacy hasn’t looked particularly bad, and it’s not like any other running backs have gotten into the game and thrived where he was failing, but coming into the year, the Packers were expected to have a high-powered offense, moving the ball at will, and that just hasn’t come to fruition in quite the way we expected. In short, we expected balance… we expected a good offense, not just a good QB. And so far, the good QB is all we’ve gotten. Against the Seahawks and the Lions, two above-average defenses, Rodgers wasn’t able to will the team up and down the field, and against the Jets and the Bears, he was. But it was him making all the throws and spreading the ball around (close to 40 point fantasy games both times), with Lacy finding absolutely no room to run. At least on paper, though, their schedule is about to ease up in a big way for the rest of the season, so feel free to consider him as soon as next week. Just don’t count on him carrying you to victory before you’ve seen at least one or two big yardage games from the big back because all the touchdowns could easily be taken up by the passing attack.
Marshawn Lynch: Beast Mode, from the get-go. I suppose you could say his value is depleted somewhat in a PPR league, but he does have eight catches this season. And you know what increases his value? All these other guys playing like crap.
Matt Forte: Forte was the #1 pick in many a PPR draft this preseason, and for good reason. He is a yardage monster, and despite the two stud WRs, he remains the focal point of this offense. So far this season, he’s had a couple of off games, and they came against a couple of really tough defenses. True, when you draft a RB in the first round, you’re hoping he’s “match-up proof” but when all you have to do is take the salary cap hit for one week to get him on your squad, the math is different. You can avoid the toughest match-ups and still capitalize when the time is right. And capitalize in a big way.
And that, right there, is the perfect transition away from a discussion of the specific players and towards an attempt to internalize what all this information means and come up with some kind of cohesive strategy. Whether you want to pay to start players like these is going to vary position-by-position, and week-by-week. For me, what it comes down to actually has nothing to do with these players, and everything to do with how easily you can identify a cheaper options, and at which positions. If every week was like this week, we wouldn’t be having this conversation – why spend on Forte when you could simply plug in a Matt Asiata or a Lamar Miller or anyone who is benefiting from an injury, or increased PT for some other reason, and also has a plum matchup? You wouldn’t. But maybe some weeks, those cheaper options don’t look so enticing, going up against the Bengals and the Seahawks of the world. Or maybe you found some really cheap WRs you love, and have some salary cap room burning a hole in your pocket.
And when this happens – when the cheap options don’t look enticing, or you have a little extra money to spend, there is still a reason you turn to these top running backs, or maybe splurge on an expensive QB that week: week in and week out, they STILL give you the best chance at piling up points. At the end of the day, we weren’t all crazy during the preseason – we all liked these guys, and for a reason. And while you are waiting for Charles or McCoy to show you something before you start them, the truth of the matter is, eventually they will show you. And that week, if someone else is savvy enough to start them against you, the upside might be there to take you down and have you reconsidering your lineup choices the very next Sunday.