Week 5 seemed to bring a little stability to the running back landscape for fantasy purposes. Most of the RB1 finishers were either high fantasy draft picks themselves, or players like James Conner and T.J. Yeldon who were essentially filling in for high draft picks. The glaring exception was Isaiah Crowell of the New York Jets. Crowell’s standout performance goes to show that there are running back sleepers to be had each and every week. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite Week 6 running back sleepers. These are players whose matchups should give them a boost over what their perceived value is heading into the week.
Week 6 Running Back Sleepers
Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins
Tarik Cohen did not do much through the first three weeks of the season. During that time, he totaled just 134 scoreless yards of total offense. His receiving output was especially disappointing. His season-high in receiving yards through three games was just 17 yards. It was not what many of us had expected considering new head coach Matt Nagy’s effusive preseason praise for Cohen. But those who rostered Cohen breathed a sigh of relief in Week 4 when the talented second-year back posted career-highs with seven grabs for 121 yards and a touchdown. He added 53 rushing yards for good measure. Now fresh off a Week 5 bye, Cohen has a chance to pick up where he left off when Chicago heads down south to take on the Miami Dolphins.
Miami’s defense has really struggled to keep opposing running backs in check. Of 32 NFL teams, Miami ranks exactly 26th or 27th in the following categories with regard to running backs: fantasy points, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, receptions, and receiving yards. They have also given up three receiving touchdowns, tied for worst in the league. Miami has allowed a top-13 fantasy running back in all five games this season. And while that is reason for optimism for Jordan Howard, it means good things for Cohen as well. I believe Tarik Cohen is a high-upside Flex play in Week 6 against the Dolphins.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets v. Indianapolis Colts
Bilal Powell has taken a back seat to Isaiah Crowell in the eyes of many so far in 2018. This is likely due to the latter’s incredibly efficient play through five weeks. Crowell currently ranks as the eighth-most productive fantasy running back, while Powell does not crack the top-25. But I think Powell is being overlooked and is one of my favorite Week 6 running back sleepers heading into a matchup with the Indianapolis Colts.
Despite Crowell’s incredible performance last week, Bilal Powell actually out-carried Crowell 20 to 15 in that game. Powell has had at least 10 touches in every game this season and should be in line for another decent workload this week. While the Colts have held opposing running backs to just shy of four yards per carry, they have had difficulty containing backs out of the backfield in the passing game. This is where Powell has a distinct edge over Crowell. The Colts have allowed 39 receptions to enemy backs, tied for second-most in the NFL. Powell should be able to see enough touches in the passing game to make him worthy of Flex consideration in this matchup.
Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia Eagles v. New York Giants
The Eagles on Monday revealed that running back Jay Ajayi suffered a torn ACL in Week 5 and will be out for the remainder of the 2018 season. This likely turns the backfield into a full-blown committee, which no fantasy owner wants to hear. But for Week 6 at least, it means good things are in store for both Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood. With Darren Sproles not expected to play, Clement and Smallwood are likely the last men standing for Thursday night’s game against the New York Giants.
It is difficult to decipher exactly how Doug Pederson plans to deploy his running backs in this matchup. Clement is typically seen as the better receiving threat and saw 16 carries in Week 3. This would seem to give him the edge, except that he has missed the last two weeks with a quad injury, perhaps due to that increased workload. Smallwood has averaged just nine touches per game since Week 3 but has totaled at least 50 yards from scrimmage in each and scoring two touchdowns along the way. I think both Eagles’ backs should be added where available. I think Smallwood has the higher Week 6 floor but Clement the higher ceiling. Both make for intriguing Week 6 running back sleepers.
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
It is not often that a player with 28 total yards at this point of the season would be considered fantasy-worthy, but I think Ronald Jones is a speculative play this week. After being a healthy scratch in each of Tampa Bay’s first three games, things seem to be lining up for Jones to receive more work. He led the Buccaneers in rushing in Week 4, albeit with just 29 yards. It is becoming obvious that Peyton Barber is not the answer for Tampa Bay. He has averaged less than three yards per rush and his touches have decreased in each subsequent week. Jones may be in for a bigger workload than most expect when Tampa heads to Atlanta to face the Falcons.
The Falcons have struggled defensively in all phases, including versus the run. Atlanta is dreadful against dual-threat running backs, in particular, having given up a league-high 46 receptions to backs. They were just gashed for 185 total yards by James Conner last week. While Jones does not fit the bill as a weapon out of the backfield, he is still someone I would be willing to consider this week against a Falcons defense that has allowed an average of 4.3 yards per rush and has permitted six rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs so far this season. Ronald Jones may not be the safest play on the slate, but I believe he is a sleeper who could have a big game in Week 6.
Mick Ciallela has been writing for FantraxHQ since July 2017. He has also written for Bleacher Report. He is a lifelong sports fan and has been an avid fantasy sports player for many years. Mick was the Overall Champion of both the 2016 Football Challenge – Roto and 2017 Play 3 Football contests hosted by CDM Sports. MIck was born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York and currently resides in New London, Connecticut.
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