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Running Back Roundup Week 12: Austin Ekeler, David Montgomery, Latavius Murray

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Dec 2, 2020

Week 12 is nearly in the books, and it’s time to take stock of the crazy week we just experienced. What better way to do that then with a retrospective of the top stories from fantasy’s favorite position – the running back. Each Wednesday, we’ll look back on studs, busts, breakouts, timeshares, situations to monitor, and all things RB from the past week.

Chances are, while you’re reading this, we’ll be just a few hours away from Wednesday’s 3:40PM Steelers/Ravens showdown that has been pushed back nearly a week from its original Thanksgiving slot. Because of that, there won’t be any news or analysis involving James Conner, Benny Snell, Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, or Gus Edwards.

Settle in, partner. It’s time to saddle up for the RB Roundup. Yeehaw.

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Stud of the week: Derrick Henry 37.5 fantasy points
King Henry rolled for a monster day in Sunday’s win, piling up 185 total yards and three scores. He comfortably leads the NFL with 1,257 rushing yards, and he’s just behind Dalvin Cook with 12 rushing touchdowns.

Bust of the week: Josh Jacobs 3.9 fantasy points
Jacobs was in a solid spot against Atlanta but flopped miserably. He was forced out of the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury, but his performance to that point was highly disappointing, and Las Vegas got rolled 43-6. If Jacobs is able to go in Week 13, he’s got a great chance to bounce back against the Jets.

Breakout of the week: David Montgomery 22.8 fantasy points
Monty posted his first 100-yard rushing game of the season and his best fantasy performance to boot. More on him to come later.

Surprise of the Week: Ito Smith 15.5 fantasy points
With Todd Gurley on the sidelines, it was Smith – and not Brian Hill – who led the backfield in Sunday’s blowout win. If Gurley is out again in Week 13, Smith and Hill figure to split work once again, with Smith the favorite to handle the majority of work.

Austin Ekeler: Back and it Feels So Good 

Any doubts about Ekeler’s workload in his first game back from IR were promptly put to rest as he racked up a season-high 25 touches. Ekeler logged 14 carries, but the most important stat of the day was his work as a receiver.

Ekeler drew a team-high 16 looks and converted them into 11 receptions for 85 yards, as he totaled over 100 scrimmage yards for the third time in five games played. Ekeler made his mark as a breakout PPR star in 2019, grabbing 92 balls for 993 yards, and it looks like he’ll continue to be a focal point in the team’s passing game. Ekeler’s first game back was highly encouraging for his ROS outlook, as he figures to be an RB1 the rest of the way.

Monty an RB1?

As mentioned above, Montgomery broke out with a huge game on SNF, highlighted by the longest run of his career:

Montgomery only received 11 carries (as Chicago fell behind quickly to Green Bay), but he turned them into 103 yards. He added 40 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown to cap the breakout performance. Is it a sign of things to come? Montgomery’s remaining games are extremely favorable matchups for running backs, and our Strength of Schedule tool shows Monty’s next four games are the second best among all running backs.

Take a look, and you’ll notice that Montgomery is the only back on the list without an RB2 or RB3 behind him. With Tarik Cohen out, it’s been Montgomery or bust, as the Bears have given change-of-pace duties mostly to WR/RB hybrid Cordarrelle Patterson.

Can Montgomery be an RB1 for the most important stretch of the fantasy season?

  • His next four games are against Detroit, Houston, Minnesota, and Jacksonville – games in which Chicago should be competitive.
  • The passing game hasn’t worked all season, and leaning on the run game in these favorable spots makes a lot of sense.
  • Montgomery has little to no competition for touches out of the backfield

He has all the makings of a top-12 back to close out the season, and if you play into Week 17, good news. He faces Green Bay again.

Murray or Kamara?

Has it really come to this? Are we actually questioning the legitimacy of Alvin Kamara, the back who was on an historic pace to start the season? Sadly, we are. Since Taysom Hill took over at quarterback in Week 11, these are the two-game totals for each of the Saints’ running backs.

Rush Rush Yards Targets Receptions Reception Yards Total TD
Alvin Kamara 24 99 3 1 -2 1
Latavius Murray 31 173 3 3 38 2

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To be fair, the majority of Murray’s production came in Week 12, as he rumbled for a 124 yards and two scores on 19 carries. Still, Kamara’s outlook is concerning. On the season, he leads Murray 128-121 in carries, and that’s not too surprising considering the 2019 distribution of 171-146 in Kamara’s favor.

While the two have shared carries fairly evenly since Murray arrived, Kamara has been the clear favorite in the receiving game and as a touchdown scorer. It’s a small sample size, but after drawing 80 targets through his first nine games, Kamara has seen just three combined in two games with Taysom Hill at quarterback. The Saints face Atlanta in Week 13, where Kamara will be more of an RB2 with Murray a sturdy flex play.

Kamara is still the preferred fantasy play, as New Orleans’ ridiculously run-heavy approach and positive game script against a depleted Denver team contributed to Murray’s huge game. But Kamara is not the locked-and-loaded top-5 weekly play that he was with Drew Brees at quarterback.

Quick Hitters

  • Nick Chubb ranks third in the league with 102.7 rush yards per game. He leads the league in 20-yard rushes with 10, and he’s piled up five 100-yard games on the season (including three straight since his return from IR).

  • Antonio Gibson scored three touchdowns on Thanksgiving to bring his season total to 11, the most among rookie running backs and third most in the NFL.

  • Since Week 7, Wayne Gallman has scored in five straight games, racking up six in that span. He’s a weekly RB2 as long as he’s got the starting job in New York.

  • Cam Akers has now scored in back-to-back contests and is making inroads to take charge of the Rams’ backfield. While still locked in a committee with Darrell Henderson, Akers should be prioritized on this week’s waiver wire as a possible gamechanger should he finally see a heavier workload.

  • In his first game without Rex Burkhead, James White scored twice. He’s back in the flex conversation moving forward.

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Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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