Lance Dunbar Dallas Cowboys
There’s something awry going on in Dallas, perhaps some karmic manifestation of long-begone malevolence, because there are not many more explanations that make sense as to why the Cowboys have suffered so many injuries to their notable players (no pun intended) this 2015 NFL season. The newest entry to this long list comes in the form of RB Lance Dunbar, who, during a kickoff return against the New Orleans Saints, incurred a serious knee injury – tests would later reveal that Dunbar has torn his ACL and MCL, effectively disbarring him from further active participation this season.
Within the Cowboys offensive scheme, Dunbar has definitely flourished in his niche role – while Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has employed a community-running back scheme, Dunbar has enjoyed his third-down/long-yardage role, having totaled 215 yards on 21 catches (last week against the Saints, Dunbar also finally got some useful rushing production, breaking for a 45-yard run). While having yet scored a touchdown, either on the ground or in the air, Dunbar has noticeably proved himself a valuable asset to the Cowboys – unfortunately, his ability to contribute to his team this season will decrease tremendously.
As far as we’ve been able to discern, the way the Cowboys use their RBs is as follows: Joseph Randle is more or less the starter/first-string – he handles the bulk of the running. His 2015 stats would accredit him as much: 59 carries, 229 yards (3.9 yards-per-rush), 4 rushing TDs. On third-downs or “passing” downs, Lance Dunbar is (was) put to work – as mentioned, he had 21 receptions for 215 yards (10.2 yards-per-catch) – impressive for a utility back. In either running-back’s downtime, Darren McFadden comes to the forefront – he has 32 rushes for 113 yards (3.5 yards-per-rush) and a TD.
Now that Dunbar is out of the picture, it is yet to be seen which of the two remaining rushers will fill his specific role – maybe they are to share third-down duties – it’s too early to tell. Fantasy-wise, Dunbar was pure PPR benevolence to whosoever employed his services. Now, in the wake of his injury, a gaping void for third-down/long-yardage production is left in his place. Depending on who gets those touches, their value will naturally increase significantly: for Randle, he might emerge from this a long-term low RB1 if he assumes Dunbar’s duties; if he splits third-downs with McFadden, he’ll still be a consistently-high RB2 for the coming weeks. If McFadden gets those touches, he gets bumped up to a mid-range RB2; if he splits with Randle, he’d be treated as a lower-end RB2 for the year’s remainder. The bottom line is that if you have access to either of these two RBs, Week 5 is the time to start them. Christine Michael is slated to be in the mix at running back for the Cowboys as well.
Jordan Reed Washington Redskins
As we’ve hinted at in previous articles, TE Jordan Reed could very well have a breakout year in 2015, that is, if he managed to stay healthy. Disappointingly for Redskins fans, the injury bug took another bite out of Reed, who will have to adhere to concussion protocol and sit out the next upcoming matchup against the 4-0 Falcons. Reed has since also suffered a mild MCL sprain.
In 2015, Reed has been nothing short of consistent – in each of his 4 games, he’s had no less than 5 receptions – as far as tight-ends go, this season, Reed ranks tied-for-second in receptions with 24 (Bears TE Martellus Bennett being the other) and third in receiving yards with 278. He and QB Kirk Cousins have created a useful rapport, connecting on 24 of his 34 targets (70.6%).
For fantasy football purposes, Reed is going to be very hard to replace, if only for a week or so. His backup, Derek Carrier, could prove himself worthy of a starting spot, but has thus far done nothing to indicate that he will assume a major role within the Redskins offense. With DeSean Jackson still likely inactive for Washington’s Week 5 matchup, the likely targets for Cousins will be WRs Ryan Grant, Jamison Crowder, and Pierre Garçon: Grant and Crowder have just started to come into the mix – they are both valued at high-end WR3s for the upcoming week, and mid-level WR3s upon Reed’s and Jackson’s return; Garçon is definitely a solid high-WR2/low-WR1 with Reed and Jackson off the field and a mid-WR2 with either of them present. Cousins looks like he’s slowly running out of dependable targets, so we’ll keep our eyes open if anyone decides to step up and take on the responsibility of imposing the Redskins offense.
LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, and Sammy Watkins Buffalo Bills
With RB LeSean McCoy and WR Sammy Watkins already unlikely to factor into the Bills’ next contest against Tennessee, news of second-string RB Karlos Williams having sustained a concussion last Sunday’s game against the in-state rival Giants will probably not bring a lot of smiles to Buffalo. Williams is listed as day-to-day.
As far as the Bills runners go, Williams has enjoyed notable success in finding the gaps – in 42 rushing attempts, Williams has gained 226 yards on the ground (an outstanding 5.4 yards-per-carry average) and 3 rushing TDs. Against the Dolphins in Week 3, Williams turned in a 110-rushing-yard effort, topping his performance off with a ground-TD.
Since news broke of Williams’ injury, Bills staff have signed former-Colts RB Dan Herron, a 3-year veteran who may likely split touches with Boobie Dixon in Buffalo’s traditional time-share system. Until McCoy’s or Williams’ return, it would be unwise to employ either of these backs for fantasy purposes – each of these RBs should be considered RB3s. That’s not saying that Buffalo’s run game won’t be effective, mind you – simply, not nearly enough information is known about any of the their roles going into Week 5.