Game flow favors Duke Johnson

Adam Eastman discusses Week 5 fantasy performances and their impact on the prominent running back timeshares.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Aaron Josefczyk)

(AP Photo/Aaron Josefczyk)

Game flow favors Duke Johnson

Demarco Murray finally did what he was supposed to do, Melvin Gordon emerges as a prime buy-low candidate and other headlines around the prominent running back timeshares entering week 6.

Cleveland Browns – Game Flow Favors Duke Johnson

The timeshare in Cleveland isn’t as confounding as its contemporaries. Isaiah Crowell handles the majority of the early down snaps and Duke Johnson has embraced his role as passing down threat. But Crowell leaves too much to be desired from an elusive perspective to be considered an RB2, or even a weekly flex option. In 2014, Crowell forced just 9 missed tackles on 148 carries and continues to disappoint at the same pace in 2015 with 5 missed tackles on 62 carries. His value has been saved by fluky involvement in the passing game.

Duke Johnson’s role has evolved into that of a pseudo-Shane Vereen. The Browns staff believes they misused Johnson for the first two game in which he received 19 rushing attempts and zero targets. Since then he has been utilized extensively in the passing game, averaging 7 receptions for 58 yards per game while reducing his early down rushing activity. He has embraced the role and will benefit from a durability perspective.

Neither option from Cleveland’s committee can be considered a serviceable RB2, but Johnson’s upside is far more attractive as a weekly flex play. Upcoming schedule vs DEN, @ STL, vs ARZ doesn’t bode well, particularly for Crowell’s case.

Detroit Lions – Theo Riddick, PPR’s Overall RB15

Offenses that struggle to execute often rely heavily on short passes to running backs. Theo Riddick leads all RBs with 30 receptions and 36 targets. While the dialogue during the preseason was dominated by Ameer Abdullah, Joique Bell, and even Zach Zenner, Riddick has thus far been the only consistent fantasy contributor from Detroit.

Despite being outsnapped by Zenner 31-15 in Week 5’s blowout loss, Abdullah remains the starter and fantasy asset with the greater upside, but has faded significantly since his Week 1 debut. Joique Bell is probable to return Week 6, which should further deter anyone from starting any Lions RB.

Philadelphia Eagles – Ryan Mathews Stuck in Limbo

That gust of wind that blew through your window Sunday afternoon was from the simultaneous sigh of relief from all the patient Demarco Murray owners, finally receiving what they paid for: A 100 total yard day with (at least) one touchdown. It was by no means pretty, taking 27 touches (20 attempts, 7 receptions) to accumulate 110 yards, but Murray successfully stoked the flames of optimism.

Ryan Mathews played less than half the snaps Murray played (21-44) but came close to matching his fantasy output, gaining 96 yards on 11 touches (8 attempts, 3 receptions) and scoring once.

The initial diagnosis of Murray’s early season struggles was poor offense line play. But through 5 games, Mathews simply has looked like the better fit for Philly’s scheme.




DeMarco Murray



Ryan Mathews



Darren Sproles




Murray’s inefficiency likely is due to his lack of familiarity to Chip Kelly’s zone blocking scheme rather than poor offensive line play. Chip Kelly will soon be forced to confront the obvious fork in the road: continue relying on Murray, while adjusting the playbook to accommodate Murray’s strengths or choose to continue the same zone-blocking scheme and lean more heavily on Mathews.

Mathews would easily be in the RB1 conversation if he were to receive Murray’s workload based on his efficiency metrics. But until some form of compromise is sought, Murray remains a must-start high risk RB1 and Mathews is stuck in limbo between high risk flex play and elite handcuff bench stash.

Arizona Cardinals – Chris Johnson’s Looming Production Cliff

The backfield continues to dazzle in Arizona. David Johnson added two more touchdowns, bringing him to 6 in five games (1kr 3rush 2rec), Chris Johnson has taken full advantage of outstanding offensive line (#7 PFF Run Block grade) with a 5.1YPC, and Andre Ellington looks to be fully healthy after taking one of his three carries for a 63 yard touchdown during his return to action this past Sunday.

Chris Johnson is the clear starter and priority fantasy option. His speed is visibly diminished, but his durability remains. His success has also been a product of Arizona’s weak schedule. The corresponding record of Arizona’s first 5 opponents is 6-19. Their next 5 match ups feature all four teams from the rugged AFC North and a road game in Seattle. He continues to dominate the early down rushing work but has only scored in one game.

There has been a consensus that David Johnson is a perfect sell high candidate. His numbers seem fraudulent. He is tied with Giovani Bernard for the overall RB16 in standard formats and tied with teammate Chris Johnson for the overall RB17 in PPR formats, while only given 27 touches (5.4 touches/game). But there lacks any sort of demand for David Johnson. All reports coming out of Arizona is that he is the odd man out of the three way timeshare.

The sell high candidate continues to be Chris Johnson. His value will continue to decline as Ellington is eased back into full time action. With his value perceived to be borderline RB1, Chris Johnson could heed some intriguing trade offers and owners should be shopping him throughout the week. David Johnson is an elite stash and his touchdown rate (TDs/touches) of 18.5 percent makes him an every week emergency flex option.

Tennessee Titans – Buy Antonio Andrews Now

Antonio Andrews Week 5 performance of 7-9-1 (3-45-0) was pedestrian enough to keep him under the radar for another week, but his impending ascendance to RB2 status is imminent. He has scored in each of his first two games and there has been no resistance from Bishop Sankey to challenge him for the starting role.

The snap count continues to be deceiving (Sankey-23, McCluster-31, Andrews-17) and the touches are being evenly distributed (Sankey-10, McCluster-9, Andrews-10) but Andrews is getting all of the goal line work and is also a capable pass catcher (4 reception of 5 targets for 57 yards).

Sankey did start Week 5 and took the snaps on the Titans’ first possession, but has failed to build on his Week 1 performance. Look for Andrews to exploit Miami’s 28th ranked run defense (-21.1 PFF run defense grade) during Week 6 and further separate himself from Sankey as the priority fantasy choice in this committee.

San Diego Chargers – Force Feeding Melvin Gordon

Melvin Gordon is another great buy low candidate at this juncture of the season. His numbers seem lousy 71-270-0 3.8YPC [13-86-0] and he has lost two critical fumbles in his first five games. But he has been playing behind a poor offensive line (-14.9 PFF run block grade) and the game flows have not been conducive to opportunistic running situations (San Diego has almost exclusively been playing from behind).

His elusiveness continues to be a silver lining. His 0.27 forced missed tackles per attempt trails only Dion Lewis (0.33) and Carlos Hyde (0.30) among running backs with 30+ carries. He also showcased his pass catching ability during Week 5, catching 7 of 8 targets for 52 yards.

But his touchdown outlook is bleak. Danny Woodhead has always been an elite goal line option and has the only 2 rushing scores this season for San Diego. Woodhead will likely end the year leading the team in rushing touchdowns and is a weekly must start in all formats. But Gordon will eventually break out for a long touchdown run in the upcoming weeks and his statistical floor also warrants him to be started in all formats.

Adam Raines-Eastman is the architect of the Fantasy Marketplace™, a multi-dimensional arena that illustrates the ever-changing landscape of the entire draft pool.

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