Lamar Miller vs. New York Jets
The theme of the early 2015 fantasy season has to be “the year of the disappointing running back.” Miller falls smack dab in the middle of that unfortunate billing. Miller’s numbers were supposed to be increased by roughly 20 percent given that he would have the full-time job for all 16 games instead of having to wait for Knowshon Moreno to check out. The additions to the passing game were supposed open up ample room for him to exploit. Instead, Miller has looked slower and less explosive making him unable to reel off the big play.
This week, against the Jets, owners find themselves asking if they should bench their second-round pick? Chances are, unless you’ve hit the waiver wire hard, Miller is still one of the two best options on your squad. Many fantasy teams will be forced to roll him out against a tough matchup and have to sit back with their fingers crossed. The outcome of such a forced hand could ultimately decide Miller’s remaining 2015 outlook. Miller has to surprise owners in order to avoid being a permanent fixture on the bench and going down as one of the many complete wastes of a pick.
Devonta Freeman vs. Houston
Last week was the sudden outpouring of what was expected of Freeman when given the full-time opportunity. Dallas figured to be one of the better teams in the league against the run but instead looked like a peewee team as Freeman ripped them up for the best running performance of the week. A couple of questions still remain after that great Week 3 game, though. The first being is this just a flash in the pan? Can Freeman sustain just statistics against a weaker team against the run (Houston) or was last week just the stars aligning? Secondly, when rookie runner Tevin Coleman does return from his rib injury, will Atlanta revert to a time share in the backfield? Freeman has to keep the pedal to the floor to hold off Coleman and to continue to deserve being viewed a top-end starting worthy option.
Jeremy Hill vs. Kansas City
Much like Lamar Miller, Jeremy Hill finds himself planted in the “the year of the disappointing running back” theme. Some actually picked Hill to lead the league in rushing this year. Instead, Hill has made a habit of putting the ball on the turf and in doing so reopened the door for Giovani Bernard. The job that was once viewed as a potential workhorse situation is another fumble away from becoming an unquestioned RBBC. Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said earlier in the week that Hill will be back to his usual role. That’s all well and good but owners have to realize that if Hill puts an easy fumble on the ground again, that Giovani Bernard would once again be used as punishment for Hill. That means, that a fumble on the first or second series could lead to a huge goose egg in the box score, like we’ve already seen. Hill has to have a superstar kind of game to make up for his in-game benching while also avoiding any turnovers. Owners need to watch this game with one eye closed as Hill could back himself into a season-long corner that tarnishes his once strong RB1 billing.
Kirk Cousins vs. Philadelphia
Cousins certainly isn’t any sort of in-season goldmine for quarterback-needy teams but he could offer some cushion on specific weeks. Those owners who have lost Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo find themselves wheeling and dealing for a fill-in. In the event you missed out on Tyrod Taylor, Cousins could help out on such weeks as this one. Last week, Cousin’s might have only scored one touchdown against the New York Giants but he did go for more than 300 yards. At the end of the day, those numbers make for a solid fill-in. Cousins finds himself facing Philadelphia in Week 4, which could help owners get through another bridge week as they await their ailing quarterback. Back-to-back solid fantasy weeks could make Cousins the ultimate matchup based fill-in, especially with DeSean Jackson figuring to get back into the fold soon. Cousins could prove himself here and be used down the road as a filler in such upcoming matchups as Atlanta, Tampa Bay, New England and New Orleans.
David Johnson vs. St. Louis
If Andre Ellington doesn’t return this week, his return is just around the corner. Arizona has already said that running back Chris Johnson will still get 15-20 touches a game even when Ellington returns. So that leaves fill-in and third-down work to what looks to be a 50-50 split between David Johnson and Ellington. The question becomes, can David Johnson do enough to deserve being rostered beyond this week? We can’t expect 100-yard kick returns on a regular basis to bail us out of letdown rushing and receiving totals. The next few weeks will tell us a lot about all three running backs’ values. but it’s David Johnson who looks to have more on the line than Chris Johnson. David Johnson would be well-served to break off several big time plays to force Arizona to keep him heavily involved in the backfield game plan. If not, he may become nothing more than a handcuff for the oft-injured Ellington.