Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB: Week 16 – Semi-Finals Week!

by Jakob Sanderson · Matchups Start/Sit

This is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB: Week 16 – Semi-Finals Playoffs Edition!

If you are new to the column, this is the place we talk all things running back streaming. Before the year started we discussed the philosophy of RB streaming strategies (Hero-RB, Zero-RB etc.) and decided to take on the task of attempting to stream a starting RB using:

(a) A starting roster of six late round running backs

(b) Any running backs we add to our roster throughout the year from the waiver wire

(c) Weekly streaming choices available weekly in your leagues

Running Back Commentary

We have also used this column to offer commentary on the running back position from a real-life and fantasy perspective, discussed strategic takeaways at a weekly, season-long and conceptual level, and discussed evolving backfields each week with an eye to buy-low or sell-high candidates.

With the playoffs now in full swing, you will see a much briefer form of this column. In this version of the column, we will only use our streaming selections to help you lift that trophy. However, if you preferred the introspective, long-form version, not to worry. At the conclusion of the regular season, I will be back to offer a review of the best and worst takes from the column and lessons learned moving forward.

If you did not read the introductory edition of the column, I strongly recommend checking it out here:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Running Back

Note: Any data not from Playerprofiler, or otherwise sourced, is via Pro Football Focus.

Another Note: This column is drafted and filed prior to Monday Night Football.

Week 15 Recap

This is the portion of the column where I walk through the results from our ‘roster’ and our streaming picks from last week.

Streaming Rules

For those joining us in progress, here is the process for the weekly streaming choices.

  • In the introductory column, I chose one RB in each of the rounds, 9-14, based on those available at each round using 4for4’s ADP aggregator. That is my starting “roster.”
  • Each week I will address whether to add any running backs available on waivers, and if so I will also discuss who to drop.
  • Because your team is not mine, my weekly plays will not only consist of my “rostered” running backs. Instead, I will recommend a play from each of three categories. (see below)
  • My streaming “score” each week will be the average of my play in each category. My “preferred” play will count double and MUST come from a running back on my “roster.” If I choose to make a waiver back my preferred play, I will outline who I am cutting from my existing bench for that running back.

The Categories

  • Bench Streamers: The selected running backs in the introductory article plus and minus any transactions published throughout the year in this column. If a drafted player gets injured, I retain one injured reserve spot.
  • Premium Waiver Streamers: This group is comprised of any running back with less than 67-percent roster-ship on Yahoo leagues as of the first waiver run of the week. It can include both generally un-drafted players as well as previously drafted players who have been widely cut by managers.
  • Deep Waiver Streamers: This group is comprised of any running back with less than 33-percent roster-ship on Yahoo leagues. The same rules apply as above.

Current Roster

Our current roster is the six running backs on our existing roster. Those running backs are:

  • Rhamondre Stevenson (24.8 – RB5)
  • Rachaad White (5.3 – RB43)
  • Isiah Pacheco (8.7 – RB35)
  • Samaje Perine (3.4 – RB51)
  • James Cook (11.9 – RB23)
  • Joshua Kelley (10.1 – RB31)

The Result – Week 14 Plays

Last week’s picks were:

  • Rhamondre Stevenson as the preferred play (from our roster)
  • James Cook as the premium play (under 67% rostered)
  • Rex Burkhead as the deep play (under 33% rostered)

Rhamondre Stevenson

The injury worry definitely downgraded Stevenson from an RB1 overall candidate coming into Sunday to a more controversial start. However, with news breaking Saturday he was likely to play, I was firing him up everywhere I had the option. Stevenson ceded more snaps than typical to Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. However, he ran brilliantly. He compiled 172 yards on just 19 carries. As the game continued, Stevenson continued to grasp a larger share of the load.

Damien Harris may be back next week. However, Stevenson will remain in the RB1 mix provided he never throws another lateral again.

James Cook

I was worried I’d be in for a tilting night when James Cook ceded a receiving touchdown to Nyheim Hines on his first snap of the night, but Cook gathered a receiving score of his own shortly after. That was about all he was able to do as the Dolphins “middle of the field” struggles were exposed more consistently by Dawson Knox than the running backs between the twenties. Cook remains a volatile play. But, attached to this offense in a gettable matchup with the Chicago Bears, I’m likely going back to the well in Week 16 over most other options.

Rex Burkhead

As discussed last week, it was a terrible week for the deep streaming play. It’s always dangerous to project a running back who holds a defined role (third down back) and project them to assume the remainder of the backfield if the starter goes down. I thought it more likely than typical given Dare Ogunbowale profiles as no more of an early down option than Burkhead. However, the Texans felt differently and decided to use a platoon of Ogunbowale and Royce Freeman on early downs with Burkhead’s role unchanged,

Perhaps if the Texans had to play from behind (something you’d think more likely against the Chiefs!) Burkhead could have grown that pass down role, but instead we were left with a despicable 3.7 PPR points.

I should also touch on the other backfield in that game. Readers will know this is a PRO-Jerick McKinnon column, but the egg is smeared all over my face for saying his Week 14 output was unlikely to repeat. While McKinnon is outside the scope of our streamer categories, please consider this my resounding endorsement of playing McKinnon as a strong play in Week 16.

I do fear that the return of Mecole Hardman may dampen some of his short area receiving work, but McKinnon’s role as an active participant in the Chiefs running back usage has grown in the last two weeks, and Seattle is an incredible matchup for pass catching backs. Just ride this train until it stops.

Week 16 Transaction

We will pick up Deon Jackson for Samaje Perine and Zack Moss for Joshua Kelley. (More on them shortly)

Week 16 Picks

Preferred Play: Rhamondre Stevenson

Just keep riding Stevenson all the way to the championship.

Rhamondre Stevenson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Premium Play: James Cook

We are once again getting repetitive, but the reality is ownership has diverged at both ends by now leaving very little to pick from in this middle range. James Cook was wildly successful three weeks ago only to see his touches scaled back the last two contests. However, he still has a defined role in this high-octane offense, and it is one that features a concentration of high value touches. He profiles most similar to 2021 Tony Pollard or perhaps 2020-2021 Kareem Hunt – but on a team that scores more and runs less.

A matchup with the Bears may allow the Bills to feature their run game more than usual as you’d expect them to play from ahead. As well, we’ve seen this team typically use Singletary at a higher clip in higher pressure games and give opportunities to the complimentary backs in lower profile spots. With the division now in hand and a matchup with one of the weakest teams in the league, the recipe is ripe for a James Cook game plan.

Deep Play:  Zack Moss / Deon Jackson

I will correct this later in the week if Jonathan Taylor is primed to be active. However, the priority for any team needing a late streamer is the two Colts backups. In the most recent contest, Moss out-snapped Jackson 53-25 and out-touched him 25-14. However, this was a game the Colts led in its entirety … (Well, almost in its entirety).

Jackson has been used as a passing-game option this season. This is something that has never been Moss’s strong suit, though this was under Frank Reich. In this game, Moss played the majority of third downs, though we never saw them operate in comeback mode. I will also note the spread in snaps was closer prior to Jackson losing a key fumble late in the game. We can’t be sure if any punishment will carry over to next week.

Death of Efficiency

My personal opinion is that Deon Jackson is a capable pass catcher with juice in a game vs. the Chargers that the Colts likely will trail in. My other personal opinion is that Zack Moss is where efficient offense goes to die.

But my opinion matters not for I am not Jeff Saturday. All we have to go off of here is a one-game sample that says Saturday prefers Moss in all situations presented, and for that reason I unfortunately prefer Moss this week. However, I do think either are startable (and certainly benchable should you have a more secure option) as the projection on touches should be very fragile to game script, “hot hand,” or change in decision.

The Final Word

Thank you once again for reading this column, and I look forward to its continued development over the course of the season. Also, credit to Pro Football Focus for providing data I was able to use in this column in addition to the incredible wealth of information on PlayerProfiler.

Happy Hitchhiking!