Each week, above our full fantasy rankings, SI.com fantasy writer Michael Beller and 4for4 writer John Paulsen will have a brief discussion about some of the most intriguing rankings questions. Scroll down for our full rankings at every position.
Michael Beller: Lamar Miller and Kenyan Drake were both drafted as top-20 backs. Chris Carson was an obvious target in the late-middle rounds, once it was clear he was ahead of Rashaad Penny on the depth chart. All three of them struggled early in the year, but have turned it on in recent weeks. At the same time, Phillip Lindsay emerged in Week 1, and just put together his best game of the season with Royce Freeman inactive.
I think it's reasonable to expect these four backs all to give us RB2 numbers the rest of the season. I also think it's reasonable to believe that at least a couple of them have RB1 ceilings. In other words, I think you could get 24 of our colleagues in the fantasy industry together, ask them to rank the four of these backs, and get 24 different sets of rankings, one through four. So, John, let's start with you. For the rest of the season, how would you rank these four backs? And what about for Week 9 specifically?
John Paulsen: For rest-of-season, I would rank them this way: Lindsay, Carson, Miller and then Drake, and there’s a pretty good distance between Lindsay and the other three.
Lindsay’s role and production have been pretty consistent. He was ejected from Week 3 after only four touches (and 16% of the snaps), but he has garnered at least 14 touches in six of Denver’s other seven games. He’s averaging a stellar 5.71 yards per carry, which is the third-highest average of all running backs with at least 70 totes. He’s also used regularly as a receiver (15 catches in his last five games), so he can still score points if the running game isn’t going well, though that hasn’t been a problem yet. To top it all off, Lindsay has the best remaining schedule (per our RB aFPA) of these four backs for the remainder of the season, and Royce Freeman is currently sidelined with an ankle injury.
Beller: We’re in total agreement here. Freeman isn’t going to be inactive every game the rest of the season, but it has been plain to see who the best back in Denver is this season. I think Lindsay has some legitimate RB1 upside the rest of the way. Carson, too, intrigues me as a guy who’s going to be reliable with a ceiling that’s higher than most people believe. Why is he second for you?
Paulsen: After a couple of spotty games to start the season—10 touches in Week 1, six in Week 2—Carson has established himself as the lead back in Seattle with 95 touches in his last four games. He’s a pretty solid RB2, workload-wise, but I worry about his usage if the running game isn’t going great. For example, in a very good matchup against Oakland in Week 6, he carried the ball 14 times for 59 yards and didn’t find the end zone or register a catch. In his other three games since Week 3, he has gained at least 124 total yards on a minimum of 20 touches, so the weekly upside is there.
Beller: Drake and Miller have been two of the more frustrating players to own this season, but both have turned it around recently. We’re in agreement again, as I also have Miller ahead of Drake for the rest of the season, For me, it’s a question of workload. I know what Miller’s is going to be, within a reasonable range, every week. I can’t say that about Drake.
Paulsen: Exactly. I think Drake is a better and more explosive player than Miller, but he has more competition for touches in the form of Frank Gore, plus a shaky quarterback situation. Miller, on the other hand, has established himself as the clear RB1 in Houston with back-to-back big games against Jacksonville (22 carries, 100 yards, TD) and Miami (18 carries, 133 yards, TD). Miller is getting back to that fantasy production we saw early last year, when Deshaun Watson was healthy. That production was the whole reason he was going in the third or fourth round in fantasy drafts this year.
At this point, for Week 9 I have them ranked this way (half-PPR): Lindsay, Drake, Carson and Miller—but they’re all solid RB2s this week. I actually have Lindsay ranked as a low-end RB1 (No. 11) with Freeman still out. And I guess we'll see where you have them below.