Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB: Week 17 – The Final Count Down

by Jakob Sanderson · Matchups Start/Sit

This is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB: Week 17 – Finals Edition!

If you are new to the column, this is the place we talk about 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.

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.

The “Playoff Editions”

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, do not 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 16 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 (3.3 – RB54)
  • Rachaad White (15.3 – RB13)
  • Isiah Pacheco (10 – RB27)
  • James Cook (17.8 – RB9)
  • Zack Moss (Pending MNF)
  • Deon Jackson (Pending MNF)

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)
  • Zack Moss as the Deep play (under 33% rostered)

Rhamondre Stevenson

For the first time since Week 1, Rhamondre Stevenson was streamed by this column and delivered an unsuccessful result without injury. Of course, there was no world in which you rostered Stevenson and weren’t playing him. Sometimes strange things just happen. Stevenson – along with Josh Jacobs – were probably two of the most impactful running back picks in drafts this year. They did not combine for 10 points.

Receiver was just as odd, as several of this year’s most consistent performers – Stefon Diggs, Deandre Hopkins, and Davante Adams completely no-showed. The hope is you either avoided these unexpected landmines or were able to manage around them. I for one had one of the worst playoff weeks in my time playing fantasy football.

Quick detour: If you are feeling let down by the variance this week, I would keep in mind a few things:

Tips for Dealing with Variance

  • We have to play this game for fun – at least to some extent. You are bound to have a bad run of variance which hurts your profitability at times. There are more predictable ways to make money in this world, so try to focus on what else makes it fun. If it stops being fun, you don’t have to play.
  • If you want to reduce variance in your leagues, add more starting slots and add more payouts. Pay-outs for weekly high scorers, season-long points, and third-place finishers can help flatten the variance out and reward strong teams who fall in the playoffs. Increased spots in the starting lineup make games less dependent on one dud or injury.
  • Play in more leagues (within your bankroll). More leagues may equal more stress but also helps reduce the variance, especially if you diversify. As someone who plays in a LOT of leagues and was VERY tilted this week, it is far from perfect. But it can help to some extent.

James Cook

James Cook played to a more even split this week than in past contests as we predicted/hoped for last week. While still trailing 37-26 in snaps, Cook was only out-touched 15-13. This is a game-to-game backfield without a clear linear trend, but both backs can hit when the offense utilizes the run game as they did this week. Cook came through for us in the semis and remains a viable streamer in a high over-under game with Cincinnati. I will note however the Bills’ tendency to scale up Devin Singletary‘s usage in major in-conference games. It’s possible Cook’s efficient play has altered their thinking, but also possible this contest – crucial for their hopes of a playoff bye – tilts toward the veteran.

Zack Moss

This piece was written pre-Monday Night Football. I will provide a later update on this backfield if its deployment is significantly different from last week.

Week 17 Transaction

We will not be making a transaction as there are no weeks after the one upcoming left. However, I suggest to you that you can now release all “contingent” bets and opt for choosing any players you want unavailable to your opponent once you’ve decided on your starters.

As well – I will note that Derrick Henry‘s status is uncertain for Thursday Night. Hassan Haskins is a high-risk streamer, but if you are desperate make sure to put in a claim.

Week 16 Picks

Preferred Play: Rhamondre Stevenson

If you managed to survive his down week, you have little choice but to hope for better. His usage remains elite. Bad games just happen.

Rhamondre Stevenson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Premium Play: Tyler Allgeier

James Cook still falls in this category and is once again a viable option. However, we are mixing things up with another rookie. Tyler Allgeier led the backfield handily in snaps (42 of 71) and had a season-high 23 touches. Now he gets a Cardinals defense that just surrendered over 40 total PPR points to Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White. It seems the Falcons are willing to give the rookie the reigns in a lost season and you should be able to get a strong start out of him in your fantasy finals.

Deep Play:  Hassan Haskins / Deon Jackson

Given the (current) uncertainty of Derrick Henry‘s status and the Colts’ backfield, these are the top two options under 33-percent owned. Zack Moss is now above this benchmark.

I will update this segment of the column later in the week, but you will likely know more when you read this than I do when I type it.

If Deon Jackson plays the majority of snaps in the Colts’ backfield prioritize him over Haskins given you’ll have proof of concept already. If Jackson is only a compliment as he was in Week 15, shoot for Haskins on the possibility he gets the majority of the Titans backfield.

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!