By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com
The Buffalo Bills’s running back position has had so many ups and downs in four weeks, it should be up for a Daytime Emmy.
First, we had LeSean McCoy and his vitriol toward former coach Chip Kelly. Then, we had rookie sensation Karlos Williams. Now, with both sidelined, we get Boobie Dixon and Dan “Boom” Herron. Boom and Boobie? Really?
This week is maddening from a matchups standpoint at the running back position. Almost every team facing a bottom-10 rushing defense operates by committee, either by choice or by unfortunate circumstance.
I really want to advise you to start Rashad Jennings against the San Francisco 49ers this week, but he isn’t the only horse in that stable. A limited number of carries makes that matchup less appealing, and I just can’t sleep at night knowing Shane Vereen might steal touches from your starter.
On the flip side, one position group that has multiple talented players and should command your attention resides in Atlanta. Leonard Hankerson has been a machine for the Falcons, and this week, he faces a revenge game — perfect for an explosion of fantasy points! We’ve covered the weakness of Washington’s secondary. Hankerson, questionable with a thumb injury or not, is your guy.
Now, onto those choices that are a tad more arduous.
Justin Forsett, running back, Baltimore Ravens
Hey, you, novice fantasy football owner. Yep, I’m talking to you, the one who drafted Forsett near the top of your draft, because ESPN.com or NFL.com said you should.
Why are your eyes red? You’ve been crying over that pick, haven’t you?
Well, as last week proved, brighter days are ahead for you and Mr. Forsett, who rushed for 150 yards in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. I know, I know, he still hasn’t broken his touchdown slump, but don’t fret, because that’s about to end Sunday.
Look, like many of you, I too have watched the Browns all season long. And I have come to the sobering conclusion that they simply cannot stop the run.
Last season, when Phil Taylor was healthy, the Browns became stout up front. The Thursday night domination of Cincinnati was a prime example of that. But a recurring knee issue got Taylor cut this season, and they still haven’t filled the massive pair of pants he left behind.
The Browns are in the middle third of the league in rushing touchdowns allowed, but that 4.8 yards per carry is great statistical support in favor of Forsett. I truly did not want to get in line with everyone else on this pick, but it’s just too obvious to not pass onto you.
LeGarrette Blount, running back, New England Patriots
I love Blount and Dion Lewis in this matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. Why? Well, the Cowboys’ defense is having a rough go lately.
The Cowboys have allowed five rushing touchdowns in four games, including three to Atlanta in Week 3.
I choose Blount here, only because once Tom Brady carves up the Cowboys defense and puts the Patriots inside the 10, it will be the bullish runner Blount getting these carries, and the Cowboys have proven they can’t stop a strong back. Lewis could very easily churn up more all-purpose yards than Blount, but I like Blount in short-yardage, goal-line situations. Those are valuable. Any Patriot is worth a pretty penny for your team this week.
Owen Daniels, tight end, Denver Broncos
We’re continuing the trend of “play Tight End X against the Oakland Raiders” this week with the savvy Daniels. He isn’t fleet of foot, but he’s a reliable pass catcher, experienced enough to find the soft spots in the defense, and let’s face it — the Raiders could string a net 53.3 yards wide across the goal line and 15 feet high and still couldn’t keep a tight end from scoring.
Plus, Peyton Manning is throwing these passes. Daniels will be good for at least six points this week.
Derek Carr, quarterback, Oakland Raiders
This applies for most everyone on the Raiders’ offense — Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, even Latavius Murray.
Carr is facing a buzzsaw of an opposing defense when it comes to fantasy output. The Broncos have allowed a league-best 6.8 quarterback points per contest this season. And we can’t overlook the harassing games and stunts that will lead Von Miller and Demarcus Ware to Carr’s personal space quite frequently.
I undoubtedly believe in the kid beyond Sunday. But with Aqib Talib shadowing Cooper all afternoon, Carr’s best option will essentially be taken away.
That doesn’t add up to a productive afternoon for the Raiders.
Gary Barnidge, tight end, Cleveland Browns
This hurts my heart. No one has enjoyed Barnidge’s sudden ascent from blocking back to scintillating tight end quite as much as I, the same person who once shouted at the top of his lungs in support of Aaron Shea. But the numbers don’t lie in this matchup.
The Ravens have allowed — are you ready for this? — ONE point to tight ends, combined, in four weeks.
It’s hard to minimize Barnidge’s production in the past two weeks, I know. But with a stiff defense such as the Ravens awaiting him, it’s reasonable to at least expect a drop in production.
Shoot me your last-second lineup questions on Twitter @TheNickShook. Solving your dilemma is legitimately the first thing I do in the morning. I respond from bed. Seriously. So send those along, relax and enjoy the games.