This past Sunday marked yet another week of crucial injuries at the RB position, with none bigger than Adrian Peterson’s high ankle sprain. The fourth rated fantasy RB is all but assured to miss at least Week 12—at Atlanta—as high ankle sprain injuries tend to keep players sidelined multiple weeks.
On the plus side, the injury is of the grade 1—least severe—variety, meaning fantasy owners have a good chance of getting him back for the fantasy playoff weeks.
The Bills season continued its free fall with a blowout loss to Miami.
Adding insult to injury was Fred Jackson sustaining a calf injury that has him listed as questionable for Week 12—last year’s first round pick CJ Spiller would get the start if FJax can’t go.
Peyton Hillis, who has a hamstring injury, has already been ruled out for Week 12 and Montario Hardesty will also be a question mark, meaning Chris Ogbonnaya could garner another start.
Owners of Darren McFadden, who is currently dealing with a foot injury and Ahmad Bradshaw, who also has a foot injury, might also be forced to patrol the waiver wire as neither RB is a sure thing to return in Week 12.
This week we profile a few RBs that could provide adequate numbers if you are in need of an injury replacement.
Next to each player is each team’s remaining schedule through Week 16. In BOLD are the favorable matchups against the 10 worst defenses that allow the most fantasy points to opposing RBs. In Italic are matchups with the top 10 run defenses allowing the least fantasy points to opposing RBs.
Kevin Smith: (GB, at NO, MIN, at OAK, SD)
It's hard to believe that Smith is only 24 years old, as his multiple injuries had him on the streets without a team just three weeks ago.
The third round pick in the 2008 (Central Florida) had a productive rookie season averaging nearly 80 YPG from scrimmage with eight TDs. His next two seasons were a different story as shoulder and knee injuries cost him the bulk of the 2009-10 seasons, when he missed 13 games.
With Jahvid Best’s ongoing concussion symptoms and the mediocre, at best Maurice Morris— Detroit welcomed Smith back into the fold and he delivered in a big way in Week 10. Smith led the Lions backfield in touches and carved up Carolina’s third ranked run defense (141 YPG) to the rune of 201 yards from scrimmage with three TDs.
The schedule will get tougher over the next few weeks, but Smith should prove to be a solid RB2/Flex play going forward provided he can avoid the dreaded injury bug that has plagued his brief career. In Week 12, the Lions host the Packers 12th ranked run defense (102 YPG).
Joe McKnight: (BUF, at WAS, KC, at PHI, NYG)
With Shonn Greene sidelined with a rib injury, Joe McKnight rushed 16 times for 59 yards and added six receptions for 62 yards in the Week 11 loss to Denver. The second year RB from USC had battled a toe injury and played sparingly this season.
LT’s MCL injury could keep him out another week, but Greene is expected to start Week 12 at Buffalo. McKnight’s receiving skills make him worth considering for PPR leagues. The Jets run game has floundered—ranked 26th—so it's not out of the question that McKnight could continue to see his role expand, as the Jets look to jump start their offense in hopes of making a push for the playoffs.
The Jets have one of the more favorable remaining schedules for running backs which adds a little extra upside for McKnight.
Toby Gerhart: (at ATL, DEN, at DET, NO, at WAS)
The second round pick from Stanford is a versatile RB with good power and above average hands, but he lacks the burst to become anything more than a Flex play for fantasy purposes.
If AP is sidelined, it's likely that Gerhart will split carries with Percy Harvin, as the Vikings look to increase touches for their dynamic Harvin. The 6’0", 231 pound Gerhart runs more like a fullback, but is averaging a serviceable 4.0 YPC on only 24 carries this season. In his Week 15 start against Chicago in 2010, Gerhart had 16 carries for 77 yards and added three carries for 18 yards.
Minnesota’s offensive line has been less than impressive this season and Gerhart lacks the playmaking ability to get more than what is blocked, leaving him as more of a flex play when the matchup is favorable—not the case in Week 12 against Atlanta’s stout run defense—which is ranked second in yardage allowed with 85 YPG.
Kendall Hunter: (at BAL, STL, at ARZ, PIT, at SEA)
We profiled Hunter for the past few weeks and he remains one of the best handcuffs to own especially considering Frank Gore’s injury history—he missed 10 games over the last four seasons—making Hunter a must own handcuff.
Through 10 games,in a limited role, Hunter has 65 carries for 284 yards (solid 4.4 YPC). He is a dual threat much like Gore and could be a solid start if and when Gore misses a game or two. We had Hunter ranked as the No. 10 rookie RB but he’s climbing the charts as one of the best RBs from the 2011 draft class. Stash Hunter as the 49ers could very well clinch the NFC West in the next few weeks and could decide to rest Gore if he’s not 100 percent.
CJ Spiller: (at NYJ, TEN, at SD, MIA, DEN)
Spiller’s big play ability intrigued the Bills to take him as the first RB off the board in 2010, ninth overall.
Those game breaking college skills—he averaged 182 offensive touches, 1,242 total yards and 11 touchdowns per year at Clemson—were all but nonexistent in his rookie season. In 2010, Spiller had only 98 touches for 440 yards and one touchdown. A foot injury cost him miss two games and the rookie topped 10 or more carries only three times—he never topped 50 yards in a single game.
His sophomore season hasn’t been much better as Spiller remains in the rear view mirror as Fred Jackson has kept his foot on the gas. Through 10 games, Spiller has just 21 carries for 115 yards and 15 catches for 82 yards.
However, in Week 11 Jackson suffered a calf injury that could open the door for Spiller to takeover the starting job. In Week 12, the Bills face a Jets run defense that has been mediocre—ranked 17th in yardage allowed, with 110 YPG.
Spiller has been utilized at WR this season and his dual threat ability makes him an intriguing flex option—especially in PPR leagues—if Jackson is forced to miss any time.
Donald Brown: (CAR, at NE, at BAL, TEN, HOU)
The oft injured Brown, who missed eight games in 2009-10 has been less than productive, with a 30 YPG average.
A 2009 first round pick could be given yet another chance to redeem his fantasy relevance depending on the severity of Addai’s hamstring strain—he has only two carries over the past five games.
Brown’s one notable performance of his brief career was in Week 15 of last season when he finished with 14 carries for 129 yards against a weak Jags run defense. Over the past three weeks, Brown has 40 carries for 156 yards (3.9 YPC). He is a Flex play at best but could be worth considering for a Week 12 matchup against Carolina’s 30th ranked run defense that was abused by Kevin Smith of Detroit, in week 11.
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