RB Opportunity Review: Week 14

12/05/2018Nathan Coleman

Spencer’s Gifts

If you’re a fan of dynasty football this should be your favorite time of the year. Obscure backups and rookie running backs seemingly buried on the depth charts suddenly spring to fantasy relevance. In Kansas City, an off-the-field incident propelled Spencer Ware into a prominent backfield role on the number one scoring offense in the NFL.

In his debut against the arch rival Raiders, Ware disappointed with 52 total yards but salvaged a touchdown. What’s not disappointing is Wares actual play volume, albeit in a small one game sample. On the year, Kareem Hunt had seen a 70% snap share, averaged 18 touches per game, including 3 red zone looks. Against the Raiders, Ware logged a 69% snap share with 15 touches to include 3 red zone touches.

As noted by Ryan Hodge from 4for4 Football, Ware ran 23 routes despite not being heavily targeted. For context Zeke ran 26 routes and White 21.

Simply put, Ware could be a league-winner. His early-down work combined with a strong red zone role on a juggernaut of an offense could spell a RB1 for the rest of the fantasy season.

Rivers of Targets

Another rookie seemingly buried on the depth chart was Justin Jackson who had his first breakout performance of 2018. Jackson showed off his elite quickness (86th percentile burst score and 95th percentile agility score) on an electric 18-yard run for the go-ahead touchdown. Per Rotoworld, Jackson was held without a carry in the first half and only tallied a 22% snap share despite leading the team in rushing on 8 carries. In the absence of Melvin Gordon, it’s more than possible that the rookie back just carved out a role on early downs and in the red zone but it’s no guarantee.

Justin Jackson’s breakout performance came at the expense of Austin Ekeler, who had an uncharacteristic off night, only averaging 1.6 yards per carry (5.2 YPC on the year). The former undrafted free agent did command a strong snap share (78%) and saw 8 targets. Ekeler might lose some early down work to Jackson, but he still provides a strong floor averaging 4 targets per game (mostly as a backup) on a team that ranks 2nd in RB targets.

The RB pass has become the staple of the Chargers passing attack. Head Coach Anthony Lynn has made good on his off season promise of involving his backs more through the air. Not a tell all stat but Ekeler and Gordon have combined for more red zone targets than James Conner and Kareem Hunt. Phillip Rivers' pass tendencies mesh perfectly with the strengths of Ekeler. coleman 1.png

The Rich Keep Getting Richer

In keeping with the theme of obscure upstart running backs, look no further than rookie Jaylen Samuels. The first-year back has sparked heated debate in fantasy circles surrounding position eligibility. One fact remains clear, Samuel is a playmaker. The Steelers have claimed to go with a running back by committee but in my own humble opinion usage is going to be dictated by effectiveness. The rookie is easily the most versatile and athletic back left in the Pittsburgh backfield.

On 17 plays (25% snap share), Samuels saw 5 touches including 3 targets and a touchdown. The rookie tied for the league lead in red zone targets (2) for the position in Week 13. Samuels' versatility as both a runner and pass catcher add another dimension to the Pittsburgh offense as if they needed any more help.

The rookie has an eye popping 97th percentile target share in college but the Steelers rank near the bottom in RB target percentage so something must give.

The Mike Jones of Fantasy

Who is Jeffery Wilson? No seriously, Google him, he has to be the most random and forgotten running back in the league. Though most were oblivious of the 49ers' fourth-string back, he finished Week 13 with 23 touches (2 RZ carries and 9 targets) for 134 total yards. Three times this year the 49ers have had a back finish as a RB1 and Jeff Wilson just added his name to the list.

I always assume Matt Breida is playing unless he is six feet under, but his early exit saw Wilson grab the bull by the horns. The undrafted rookie out of North Texas, was used as more than just an early-down grinder. He saw high-leverage usage with 2 red zone targets and 2 carries. The rookie tied for 7th in RB targets for the week converting all but one into receptions.

The invisible graphic below is where I show you on NextGen Stats how Wilson shredded the Seahawks. Unfortunately, the rookie is so mysterious that NextGen Stats doesn’t appear to have him in their data base.

My biggest concern for Wilson is elusiveness. On 23 touches Wilson didn't tally a single evaded tackle or yard created. coleman 2.png

Wilson must be at the top of the priority list when it comes to free agent acquisitions. There should be some obvious apprehension at Wilson’s long-term viability due to his lack of athleticism. In the interim, the rookie enters the fantasy playoff scene at just the right time.

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