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The Next Men Up - Denard Robinson, Bryce Brown, Brandon Bolden, and Carolina's Committee


There are four new faces coming out of the woodwork to help you out (maybe) at running back in Week 15. LeGarrette Blount (hip), T.J. Yeldon (MCL), Jonathan Stewart (foot), Thomas Rawls (ankle) all suffered injuries in Week 14, and I guess DuJuan Harris (he stinks) is notably out of the way as well in Seattle.

We saw Brandon Bolden step in for Blount, Denard Robinson ball out in place of Yeldon, Fozzy Whittaker run strong in relief of Stewart, and well...yeah DuJuan Harris came on for Rawls and played his way out of a job.

So, what does it all mean?

 

Jacksonville Jaguars Running Backs

Let's deal with the more obvious guys first. Okay so there's only one real obvious guy. Let's look at Denard Robinson. Toby Gerhart has been on the shelf for a while and with Yeldon out, this is Shoelace's show. It's hard to get all hot and bothered about the stats he put up on Sunday because they came against a Colts defense that pretty much was just a white flag waving in the distance with some blue on it. All the same, it was great to see that Robinson ran well and it clearly made the coaches confident enough where he should get the work moving forward. The Jaguars face the Falcons this week, and if Yeldon can't go in Week 16 then you get yourself a heaping helping of the Saints defense for Denard as well.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves though, the Falcons aren't as big of a joke as the Saints on defense (it's getting closer), but they did just get eviscerated by Cam Newton and company and the whole squad just appears deflated. They started at the top, and now they here. Atlanta is 24th on the year against the run (and the pass too actually, how consistently bad of them) according to FootballOutsiders' DVOA metric, and have given up over 20 fantasy points per game in their last four matchups to opposing running backs. You want Denard for these final weeks, as MCLs can get tricky and Yeldon might not have a simple path back to action.

 

Seattle Seahawks Running Backs

Along we move now to Seattle and Bryce Brown. Now before we get into that I should mention that Christine Michael was re-signed. For now though, let's look at Brown and how things are profiling for him. **UPDATE** It has been reported that Michael and Brown will split carries. Stay tuned, as Pete Carroll says he'll "see how this works out".**There is also a group of people who believe that Derrick Coleman, the fullback, will eat into Brown's carries as well as Fred Jackson getting the change of pace/passing down work, but I'm not sold on it. DuJuan Harris was awful out there last week, fumbling and showing general ineffectiveness and they still didn't turn to Coleman (though he did have a 19 yard carry). So Bryce Brown, he's bounced around a bit and now he looks to have a chance to shine behind Seattle's top five offensive line against the cupcake of all cupcake matchups in Cleveland.

The Seahawks are favored by a ton here and while Russell Wilson should continue to be red hot, Bryce Brown's opportunity here is fantastic to score many points. At the end of the day you're not going to feel the most confident in rolling him out, as it could be the Wilson show, Coleman could eat into his early down workload, and Jackson should take some of the third down work. Moving forward, the Seahawks will face the Rams and Cardinals in Weeks 16 and 17, and while those aren't ideal matchups, we'll know where we fall on the confidence scale after seeing this Week 15 game.

 

New England Patriots Running Backs

Into the fog that is the New England scouting department (especially the backfield), and we see that Brandon Bolden looks to be the guy to take over the early down "Blount-hammer" type work. James White isn't big enough to do it and Bolden ran okay in relief on Sunday night against the Texans (51 yards on 16 carries), so he should continue to get the work since no one else has been signed. James Develin is on the IR so he can't even vulture anything. He probably won't be leaned on that much, but then again neither was Blount really. The Patriots face the Titans, Jets, and Dolphins to close out the year. The Jets in most league's championship weeks isn't great for Bolden (seems more like a heavy dose of James White kind of game), but this upcoming week against the Titans might be a spot where he gets some late hammer work.

The Titans were just blown up by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets' passing attack, while also being totally controlled on offense amidst the absence of Kendall Wright. The Patriots could just control the game from start to finish (kind of like they did against the Texans) and use Bolden in the same way they did on Sunday night. You're obviously hoping he gets a touchdown here, as 50-60 yards isn't what you want to see from anyone out of your playoff roster, but we're just digging for opportunity here. He is the closest thing the Patriots have to a goal line back now, and while Tom Brady might just sneak it in himself, or perhaps they run the hurry up with James White shifting his way into the end zone, you play with what you've got. Look for Bolden to have a decent chance at a 16-60-1 line on Sunday, but just don't count on much in Week 16.

 

Carolina Panthers Running Backs

Now for the murkiest and least appealing situation of them all: the Panthers backfield. Reports have been trickling out all day as to who would be the Panther to own on the heels of Ron Rivera saying that Jonathan Stewart would not play against the Giants this weekend. It's hard to get too clear of a picture with the presence of rookie Cameron Artis-Payne because he's been a healthy scratch for many games. He wasn't active last Sunday so it isn't as though he still didn't see the field once Stewart went down. Fozzy Whittaker carried the ball eight times for 34 yards and a touchdown last week, while Mike Tolbert stepped in and ran it six times for 17 yards. Cameron Artis-Payne (or CAP) has only touched the ball in three games this year, and hasn't done so since Week 7. He hadn't done anything special with them (in very limited work of course) and it's hard to envision relying on him from out of nowhere this week.

There is also the matchup game, as the Panthers are facing the Giants this week (and the Falcons in Week 16, followed by the Bucs in Week 17, for what it's worth). Now as a Giants fan I like to remind many owners who come in and ask me about RB sit/starts that the Giants are absolutely awful in coverage over the middle. Their linebackers are beaten up and not that good to begin with. They were also just straight up gashed by Lamar Miller in the first half on Monday night before he succumbed to his own little respective injury (no one is that worried yet). This profiles well for Fozzy Whittaker, who appears set to take the passing down work. He's your PPR league move for sure. Mike Tolbert is probably your best bet for the goal line plunge. Cam Newton will probably end the day with the best rushing stats though. CAP may work in and get some snaps, but as of now I'm not convinced he's got anything going for him.

That wraps up today's drop in on the running back war-zone. Make good decisions and keep up with the news cycle. I just want to tell you all good luck, we're all counting on you.

 

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