The Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB: Week 14 – A Knight’s Tale

by Jakob Sanderson · Best Ball Plays & Strategy

This is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB: Week 14! If you are new to the column, this is the place we talk all things running back streaming. Each week we discuss running back usage, matchups, and waiver opportunities to convert the least amount of capital into a playable running back position on your fantasy teams.

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


The weekly project of this column is to stream the highest-scoring running back we can using only a select group of bench running backs and the waiver wire. Additionally, I hope this article allows you to think critically about the inputs involved in fantasy production at the position that will inform how you play fantasy football.

In each article, I will briefly recap the week that was at the running back position. Then, I will discuss the status of our existing running back bench and whether to make any transactions on our official roster. Lastly, I will discuss potential waiver options and designate my plays of the week.

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

NOTE: This is the LAST regular season edition of the Column.  As the fantasy season shifts from a seasonal view to a week-by-week view, I will tighten this column up with less space devoted to larger trends and rest-of-season outlooks.

Week 13 Recap – League-Wide

Sorry folks but no fancy chart this week, or long, theoretical reflections. I will make sure to have an updated chart next week for the conclusion of the regular season.

I have tried this year to alternate this column between longer form pieces highlighting strategic insights and shorter form columns focused more on notable usage trends and streaming picks. This week will be the latter.

If you are interested however in a longer think piece regarding Josh Jacobs and proxy variable analysis of ADP trends, check out last week’s entry. I discussed possible reasons Jacobs was foreseeably undervalued as well as possible takeaways people may erroneously form from the success of mid-round running backs. Tony Pollard – another of these successful mid-round backs – kept his hot streak alive producing his fourth RB1 performance in his last five starts.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB: Week 13- Bam Knight Shyamalan

I will also note that it was a strong week for RB streamers in need of a late-season push. All three streamers we have discussed this year in the KC-CIN game provided top-15 performances as did this week’s top waiver pick-up: Zonovan Knight. Perhaps just as importantly, the week was ultimately dominated by massive performances from top WRs: Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

I will have a long form strategic round up with takes on the running back position, major hits and misses of this column and ADP generally, as well as a reflection on the viability of RB streaming this year after the conclusion of the fantasy season.

Stashing for the Playoffs

This will be the last week I take a league-wide view of NFL backfields in this column. With the playoffs approaching and trade deadlines largely passed, the utility of analyzing players not already on your team, and not available on the waiver wire reduces significantly. That’s why, instead of focusing on usage shifts in backfields generally, I want to instead focus on the best opportunities for playoff running back stashes.

I presume the readers of this column are split between those needing a win this week for seeding or to make playoffs, and those who are looking ahead to Week 15 or even 16 for your next meaningful game. I will focus on the upcoming week in my picks at the end of the column. This section is taking an eye towards those players worth using bench spots on to give yourself additional chances for impact starters in the playoffs.

Your Bench Space Should be Used Differently Now

By this point in the year, the purpose of your bench has shifted. There is less time remaining for injuries and no byes beyond the upcoming week. Therefore, the contingency which guides your use of bench space must alter.

Instead of asking, if the players in my lineup are unavailable, who might I need? Ask instead, in what scenario does this player enter my starting lineup?

Let’s say you are in a 2RB, 2WR, and 1 Flex league. You need not roster a WR who you would never start over at most four other WRs on your roster. Let’s say that player is Nico Collins. Is there really anything that can happen which would massively shift Collins’ projection upward enough to start him if you are not currently doing so? It is unlikely.

Late Season Bench Optimization

Outside of one additional WR to play matchups or for injury insurance, I would try to use the rest of my bench spots on:

  • A possible stashed defense to maximize matchups in Week 15, 16
  • A possible stashed QB if you are streaming and want to maximize matchups (Don’t roster a backup QB if you have a locked in starter)
  • Contingent Value RBs

To put it simply, for Nico Collins to enter your lineup in the hypothetical scenario outlined above, two+ of your four other WRs must suffer an injury. Additionally, if they do, Collins may not provide meaningful value over other available replacements. For a backup RB like Joshua Kelley to enter your lineup (or your opponent’s), you only need an injury to one player: Austin Ekeler.

Here are my Top Five Stash Candidates Rostered in UNDER 33-percent of Leagues

NOTE: [these are not necessarily in order of my old waiver priority list which takes into account contingent AND standalone value, and has a lower threshold on availability]

1] James Cook

 The Bills second round pick was elevated to lead back status setting a team high in snaps (43%) and rush share (40%) in Week 13. It’s taken some time but they seem to have found a role for the talented rookie.

We picked up Cook in this column (for the second time) last week and were immediately rewarded. Interestingly, Cook’s increased involvement often came in two-RB sets alongside Nyheim Hines, with Hines the motion man and Cook the ball carrier. It was a creative allignment and a literal change of pace from their more traditional run-game with Devin Singletary.

Until proven otherwise, I believe Cook has a glass ceiling based on his size and limited college production. But even has a timeshare player, his pass-catching ability and efficiency in the Bills offense could be an every week RB2.

James Cook Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

2] Joshua Kelley

No team has produced more high value touches for its running backs than the Chargers this season. It is unlikely Joshua Kelley could replicate Austin Ekeler‘s pace, but he re-asserted himself as the CLEAR backup this week playing 31 snaps, while Spiller did not see the field. If Ekeler should miss a game, don’t count out Kelley from replicating the Justin Jackson performance from 2021.

3] Jaylen Warren

It appeared last week that Warren may be our lead streaming option when Najee Harris suffered an abdomen injury on Monday Night Football. While Harris played, there is no guarantee he does not suffer another injury in the future. Warren has taken on snaps in all usage situations this year as a reserve, and would be a plausible workhorse if Harris misses time. He also gets matchups with Carolina and Las Vegas in the fantasy playoffs.

4] Jordan Mason

Last week we expected Tyrion Davis-Price to be the second back up for the 49ers. We were wrong. UDFA Jordan Mason has usurped the third round draft choice and is now operating as the compliment to Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey’s receiving profile is his alone, but Mason could provide similar value to Jeff Wilson earlier this year or Elijah Mitchell in 2021 if McCaffrey were to miss any time. The 49ers offensive line has struggled this year, but especially with Brock Purdy at quarterback, there will be a high volume of rushing for their backfield.

5] Zamir White

Josh Jacobs has been THE league winning running back of 2022. But should anything befall him – he is dealing with a calf injury as it is – White is the natural recipient of his rushing workload. Jacobs takes on a lot more passing work than White has ever shown capable of, leading to more of a split with Ameer Abdullah than currently exists if Jacobs was to go down. However, Jacobs’ rushing work alone would be sufficient for RB2 starting value and White faces no legitimate competition for that aspect of the backfield.

Zamir White Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Week 13 Recap – Our Roster

This is the portion of the column where I walk through the six backs we have ‘rostered,’ with an eye toward their rest-of-season outlook.

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, 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 (13.8)
  • Rachaad White (pending Monday Night Football)
  • Isiah Pacheco (16.2)
  • Samaje Perine (121.5)
  • Latavius Murray (10.1)
  • James Cook (16.5)

Roster Utility Index

As the season draws to a close I am ending the stock watch and instead classifying each player in terms of their utility to a playoff team moving forward.

Rhamondre Stevenson

Start If: You want a player with six consecutive games with a target share exceeding 20-percent, a weekly projectable RB1 with one of the highest floors in fantasy.

Drop If: You are colluding with a league mate for some side action.

Stash on Bench If: You roster three of Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, Jonathan Taylor, and Josh Jacobs. (maybe)

Rachaad White

Start If: You don’t have starters with guaranteed all-purpose workloads. Even in a timeshare with Fournette, White has the opportunity for an outsized amount of high-value touches making him a more appealing floor and ceiling combination than rush-only timeshare backs such as Gus Edwards, Jamaal Williams, or D’Onta Foreman.

Drop If: Don’t.

Stash on Bench If: You aren’t starting him.

Isiah Pacheco

Start If: Kansas City has a high-team total (so, always) and is favoured (almost always). Isiah Pacheco has entirely crowded out the early down compliment role occupied by Pacheco himself, then Clyde Edwards-Hellaire and most recently Ronald Jones. It’s just him and McKinnon now. In a vacuum, his role is similar to the rush-only timeshare backs described above, but he gets to do it on the Chiefs making him the most valuable of this archetype. He’s not a mandatory start over all-purpose bell cows, but he is not meaningfully worse than most starting backs, and a strong end zone bet each week.

Drop If: Don’t.

Stash on Bench If: You aren’t starting him.

Isiah Pacheco Stats & Metrics Profile

Samaje Perine

Start If: Joe Mixon misses any further games or gets injured again.

Drop If: your league doesn’t have bench spots. Perine is the ideal all-purpose handcuff and would have ranked second on the stash list if he was low-enough owned. If folks in your league drop him with Mixon expected back make sure to snatch him.

Stash on Bench If: You enjoyed the last two weeks and want to try it again some time.

Latavius Murray

Start If: You are down bad. Latavius Murray maintained leadership of the backfield, even playing in the two-minute drill over Mike Boone. However there are simply not enough points in the Denver offense to make any member an intriguing start without a 100-pecent backfield share. Murray is a solid bet to get you double digit fantasy points, but if you have any option with more upside – even if there are less guaranteed touches – I would attempt to go with door number 2.

Drop If: you are strong at running back and can’t envision starting Murray. In fact, that is literally what we are going to do. Murray has no contingent value to grow beyond his current use-case. So if you don’t foresee using him at present you are better off dropping him for a contingent bet.

Stash on Bench If: You have a weak running back room and want a safety blanket in case of emergency.

Latavius Murray Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

James Cook

Start If: You don’t have starters with guaranteed all-purpose workloads. Cook, White, and Pacheco all profile similarly now as rookies in timeshares with high-value touch roles in favorable offensive environments. In a vacuum, I prefer Pacheco to Cook to White. However, that could alternate based on the matchup or the usage trend. Cook likely has a greater path to growing his role from the most recent baseline than Pacheco given his split appears less segmented by game situation.

Drop If: you hate upside at the most volatile position in fantasy.

Stash on Bench If: You aren’t starting him.

The Result – Week 13 Plays

I feel a touch guilty about this week’s stream score. It came out quite strong with a 16.48 between Rhamondre Stevenson, – the preferred play – Samaje Perine, and Zonovan Knight. The guilt is induced by the fact that had Mixon been cleared I would have led you to play Gus Edwards who strangely saw his role reduced dramatically in game two off injury. (I have lost the will to make sense of Ravens RBs this year)

However, we have gotten the short end of injury variance in the past and will take the wins as they come.

Week 13 Transaction

We are dropping Latavius Murray for Joshua Kelley in line with the stash strategy I outlined earlier. If this were a real team, I would view Stevenson and Pacheco as my every week starters, with White and Cook additional options. It makes Murray redundant and I would prefer to proactively add a top handcuff.

So you need an RB this week…

There is no full waiver list as your mileage will vary widely on each option due to your needs. As stated earlier, if this week does not matter for you, aim for upside over usability. If you need a win this week and are short a running back, then there is no longer term consideration necessary. Opt for the highest projected option available on your wire;  ideally James Cook if available.

Failing that, take shots on the Seattle backfield. Ken Walker suffered a foot injury of – at this time – unknown severity. However, Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas also suffered injuries in this game. Tony Jones Jr. at one time was the only healthy back available before Dallas eventually returned.

With so much uncertainty as to the health of this backfield it’s a difficult situation to target. If you need a starter badly, I would opt for Dallas as my first priority with Jones Jr. as my secondary claim and try to add both. Travis Homer has generally been used only in a pass-down role, even if healthy.

If you want a backup plan to the Seattle cluster-truck consider Jerick McKinnon or Cam Akers.

Week 14 Picks

Preferred Play: Rhamondre Stevenson

I’ve officially run out of moderately humorous quips and gifs for this weekly section of the column.

Rhamondre Stevenson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Premium Play: Zonovan Knight

This week was a close call in the “premium” Section that I must admit does not feel all-too-premium. Knight plays a Buffalo defense in likely negative script making him a more complicated plug and play option than you would expect coming off last week’s performance.

Knight led Jets backs in snaps overall 47-28-9, but was out-snapped 18-8 on third downs and two-minute situations. I have concerns that if the game gets out of control, Ty “dolla sign” Johnson will take considerable passing game opportunities from Knight. Johnson had just one carry but did out-target Knight 7-5.

The Return of Michael Carter

The other factor to consider is whether Knight’s role is drastically reduced by Michael Carter’s return. As mentioned, Johnson plays a standalone role with little baring on the split of early down duties. I expect Carter to mop up the snaps allotted to James Robinson, and most of the non-passing down snaps Johnson received. However, I’m not sure he further encroaches into Knight’s workload. Carter ranks 9th worst in rush yards over expectation per attempt, at -0.20. He is also in the bottom quartile in success rate, and in PFF grade. Knight has posted an elite RYOEPA of 1.52 – albeit in a minuscule sample. While I doubt that holds up for long, the Jets have made alterations to their running back rotation on merit all year, and I expect they’ll give Knight every chance to keep firing on all cylinders.

Honourable Mention: Cam Akers

To be honest, I simply could not live myself if I went with my honourable mention in this category; Cam Akers. The Rams are bizarrely committed to reviving Akers from the jaws of death (46 of 64 snaps) every few weeks. It resulted in two touchdowns in Week 13 and he now gets the beatable Raiders defense. However, Akers ran for -0.54 RYOEPA, and sports a -0.64 mark on the year; only ahead of Melvin Gordon.

The script is so much more favourable for Akers, and his workload last week was legitimately strong. However, Akers is no longer a viable NFL running back trapped in an even less viable environment. Consider his multi-touchdown reprieve akin to a passerby briefly providing Sisyphus a bottle of gatorade before leaving him to his infinite incline.

In the end, I give the tie to the running back I believe in more as a player.

Zonovan Knight Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Deep Play: James Cook

I’ve discussed Cook plenty already in this article but he is a plug and play option this week above any Seattle backup. He was a featured option in the game plan and provided efficient results. There is no reason for the Bills to scale back this role in Week 14 and it may continue to expand.

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!