Tennessee and Chicago Running Back Situations

Jordan Howard and DeMarco Murray were both held to nine carries in week two due to injuries, and they combined for less than five points. Their backups (Tarik Cohen and Derrick Henry) have outscored them through two weeks, and are now priced equally with Howard and Murray.  Depending on the severity of both injuries, there could either be great value here, or a true time share. How will you approach these backfields in week three?  Does your opinion change for cash games vs GPP's? 

BJ VanderWoude: Jordan Howard and DeMarco Murray were both held to nine carries in week two due to injuries, and they combined for less than five points. Their backups (Tarik Cohen and Derrick Henry) have outscored them through two weeks, and are now priced equally with Howard and Murray. Depending on the severity of both injuries, there could either be great value here or a true timeshare. How will you approach these backfields in week three? Does your opinion change for cash games vs GPP's?

James Brimacombe: I like Tarik Cohen in a full point PPR setup but I would stick to only GPP for him because of the offense that he plays in. As far as Derrick Henry he is a guy that I love and if given the opportunity I believe he can handle an increase in volume. Volume is key for me when filling in my running back position. If DeMarco Murray is not able to play this week against the Seahawks I would consider using Henry in cash games. Even in a tough matchup, Henry has potential to see 15-22 touches and we have already seen two strong performances by Ty Montgomery and Carlos Hyde against this run defense.

Justin Howe: Cohen is likable because his role is twofold: he spells Howard in the run game and dominates the Bears' toothless passing game. He's a real weekly threat for 4-5 receptions as a floor, and as an eruptive spark plug, he boasts almost all of the pitiful Bears' touchdown upside. He's definitely deserving of this salary, even if it's risen close to its highest acceptable point. That said, whether Howard suits up Sunday or not, I don't love Cohen's cash-game prospects. A pint-sized weapon, Cohen would be unlikely to dominate rushing attempts in Howard's absence, and he can't reach value at that cost on receiving alone. It's hard to project much scoring opportunity for these Bears anytime soon, so he may be priced near his likely ceiling. But he's a perfectly appropriate choice to differentiate your GPP portfolio. His conceivable ceiling in high every week, and even more so with Howard on the shelf.

To me, Murray looks almost done. He slogged to the finish line in 2016 and into 2017, averaging an anemic 3.38 yards per rush over his last 8 games. Over that span, his touchdown production has similarly cratered - he produced 10 all-purpose touchdowns over his first 10 games as a Titan, but just 2 in the 8 games since. In my eyes, he's virtually unplayable in cash games, even at 100%, until his salary dips a little further. When healthy, though he'll always play a prominent role in this backfield due to his passing-game prowess. As a result, he'll always be a moderate GPP consideration - and Henry will always face uncertain volume outlooks. If Murray can go this weekend, Henry will be a dicey cash-game play while we watch how the backfield shakes out. But there's a strong chance those willing to take the GPP leap will be rewarded by Henry taking over a majority of interior and down-the-stretch work. His dynamism in that role (5.22 yards per carry and 5 touchdowns since Week 12 of last season) points to big DFS weeks as soon as this very instant.

John Mamula: I want no part of Jordan Howard or Tarik Cohen at the moment. Justin nailed the analysis on Cohen who has value in PPR leagues but his DFS price was much more reasonable the first two weeks. The Steelers defense is currently ranked third in overall defense and eighth in rush defense while allowing 74 rushing yards/per game.

The Titans offense is more interesting as Derrick Henry is starting to emerge with 14 rushes for 92 yards and 1 touchdown in a difficult matchup last week in Jacksonville. If DeMarco Murray is inactive, Henry will be a target in cash games and GPP contests in a home game versus Seattle. The Seahawks defense has not been as stout against the run this season allowing 159 rushing yards to San Francisco last week and 90 rushing yards to Green Bay in Week 1. I expect the Seahawks rush defense to improve later in the season but Henry is underpriced in this spot.

Justin Bonnema: I’m not touching either one of these backfields until we get some clarity. The running backs I target have to meet two very basic criteria: 1) dominate touches as a true workhorse, or 2) be extremely cheap (such as Buck Allen last week). Neither holds true for the running backs in question. And it’s not like we have exciting matchups to exploit here, either. The Steelers are tough on the ground, and while the Seahawks can be run on, I’m just not sure there’s enough value to chase situations that look like unpredictable timeshares. I’ll pass.

Phil Alexander: It doesn't seem to me the Bears backfield lacks clarity. When healthy, Howard is the base down back on a team that has trouble building leads. Assuming he regains full health, he's best kept out of your lineup unless the matchup is too good to pass up. Cohen is a GPP play on full PPR sites. The higher his salary goes, the tougher it is to trust him, but his penchant for explosive plays should keep him in consideration most weeks, including this week in a tough home matchup with Pittsburgh.

Tennessee is tougher to get a read on unless we get news DeMarco Murray will scratch. Even in a tough matchup against Seattle's defense, Henry's workload with Murray sidelined would make him a better proposition than most running backs priced in the low-RB2 range. Don't be afraid to use him in cash or GPP lineups if Murray is out, but he's a clear fade with Murray active.

Chris Feery: I’m passing on the Bears backfield entirely this week with a tough matchup against the Steelers on the docket. I can understand the appeal with Cohen due to the explosiveness that he showed in Week 1, but we also have to keep in mind that he won’t be sneaking up on opposing defensive coordinators again anytime soon. As for Howard, I’m steering clear until we have some more clarity on his status.

For the Titans, Henry is becoming more appealing as the young season moves along. We all knew that he would see increased carries this season, but he has the opportunity to seize the lead in the backfield if Murray winds up being out or limited. I’ll definitely consider taking a flier on him for GPP purposes, and I won’t hesitate to roster him if Murray is in street clothes on Sunday. While the Seahawks remain a tough matchup, I’m less intimidated by the prospect of rostering their opponents when they’re on the road.


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