Week 14 RB tips: Leshoure fantasy value rising

Posted Dec. 06, 2012 @ 2:04 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

PFW's late-week fantasy tips for running backs expect consistent producers like Mikel Leshoure and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to remain steady, but Bryce Brown has a tough matchup and it may pay to be patient with Darren McFadden.

With a rushing TD in three straight games and his spot as the Lions’ featured runner pretty well set, Mikel Leshoure is a solid play in Week 14 vs. Green Bay. Leshoure has received 52 carries in the last three games, compared to 13 for Joique Bell.

The fantasy value of Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (348 yards rushing in the last three games) has soared of late. He’s a solid RB or flex option in Week 14 vs. Dallas, which has surrendered 1,398 rushing yards and 11 rushing TDs in 12 games.

Titans RB Chris Johnson needs just seven yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark rushing for his fifth consecutive season since entering the league, and he has a favorable matchup against the Colts, who surrender 122.6 rushing yards per contest (22nd in the NFL). C.J. is a very strong start Sunday, particularly with Jake Locker playing arguably his worst game as a pro in Week 13.

The Eagles have placed an emphasis on Bryce Brown’s ball security and are trying their darnedest to keep him from coughing up the ball in his third start against the Buccaneers, who do (it should be noted) feature the league’s best run defense statistically.

Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer received 64 percent of the carries that went to Steelers tailbacks in Week 13 (16-of-25), and he racked up 49 yards and a TD in his first game in his new role as the club’s clear featured back. He’ll keep this role in Week 14, and he’s a reasonable RB or flex start, even against a stout San Diego run defense. If rain is likely in Pittsburgh, Dwyer’s value increases a little more.

Is it finally time to bench Chargers RB Ryan Mathews? Like the rest of San Diego’s offense, Mathews has fallen well short of expectations this season, and he faces a Steelers defense that is fifth against the run. When the Chargers have fallen behind this season, Ronnie Brown has gotten more snaps in the backfield as a blocker and receiver. If you have depth at running back, you can afford to bench Mathews.

It was a troublesome sign when Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray sat out practice on Wednesday with the same foot injury after returning to the lineup. But we hear it was a precaution — nothing else. Murray has a tough matchup against the Bengals, but it should not otherwise prevent you from putting him in your lineup.

Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw has responded well to a busy workload last week and should be all systems go. His regimen of being held out of a Wednesday practice should not bother you.

Teams that contain Dolphins RB Reggie Bush do so by shutting down the edge and keeping Bush from getting outside. The 49ers’ run defense, which is third in the league, has plenty of personnel and talent to keep Bush contained. It’s a rough week for all Dolphins offensive players, especially for Bush, who is the team’s top fantasy option each week.

With Colts RB Donald Brown (ankle) ruled out for Sunday against the Titans’ 27th-ranked run defense, rookie Vick Ballard will be the lead dog in the Indianapolis backfield. Delone Carter will continue with his goal-line responsibilities. Ballard is a solid flex play this week, while Carter remains more of an emergency option.

Don’t expect Packers reacquired RB Ryan Grant to make much of a fantasy contribution this weekend, even though the team is indicating that he could very well see some action this Sunday. The same can’t be said for fellow RB James Starks, who apparently suffered a bad enough knee injury in the win over the Vikings last Sunday to be in danger of being placed on injured reserve. With Starks out of the picture just when it looked he was starting to come on strong, the onus this weekend falls on Packers second-year RB Alex Green, who has displayed some fantasy flashes but has averaged only 3.3 yards per carry and does not shape up as a legitimate fantasy starter. It would be a good idea to monitor the progress of Grant, who has much more of a proven track record than Green.

The hits keep on coming in the Jacksonville backfield, where Rashad Jennings still has not been cleared to resume football activities since suffering a concussion in Week 13. That makes Montell Owens, a special-teams ace with just 21 rushing attempts during his seven-year career, Jacksonville’s primary ball carrier against the Jets Sunday. Gang Green limited the Cardinals to 81 yards rushing a week ago, making this a situation to avoid.

Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart has yet to practice this week and owners still should be skeptical about his chances of playing Sunday vs. the Falcons. Stewart missed last week’s game after suffering a high ankle sprain vs. the Eagles in Week 12 and it will be no surprise if he needs at least one more week before he is ready to return.

The Raiders listed RB Darren McFadden (ankle) as probable to play Thursday vs. the Broncos and it appears safe to assume he will play after missing the past four games. Oakland could ease him back into the mix after the long layoff, and RB Mike Goodson and FB Marcel Reece are expected to also get their share of touches. McFadden is worth a start as a flex play in deeper formats, but remember — he was not very productive even when he was healthy this season and Denver held one of the league’s leading rushers, Bucs RB Doug Martin, to 56 yards on 18 carries last week.