As fantasy managers, we've all been there. You get caught short at a position because of injuries, COVID-19, bye weeks, etc. Suddenly you're scanning the waiver wire looking at projected points and matchups, trying to choose between players you know very little about. In some cases their coaches don't know how they'll play either.
Of the running backs who played on Thanksgiving Day, a few were primary streaming options this week. In New Orleans, Tony Jones Jr. figured to play a big role with both Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram unable to go. And while Jones did get 16 carries, a nice volume for a streaming option, which is half the battle, he wasn't targeted in the passing game and rushed for only 27 yards. And 2.7 fantasy points does not a great streaming option make.
As it turns out, the better streaming option from the Saints was Ty Montgomery. He got six carries and seven targets in the passing game that resulted in five receptions. He mustered only 45 yards, but put it with the receptions in a PPR league and Montgomery was a much better option than Jones.
ESPN fantasy sports researcher Kyle Soppe, who is responsible for our 32 questions, noticed all of the interesting happenings on Thursday, and has questions about Montgomery as well running backs you possibly streamed such as Matt Breida of Buffalo and Tony Pollard of Dallas.
Riding byes this week are Kansas City and Arizona. So questions about the respective West Division leaders will resume next week. Away we go.
Is Matt Breida's role in this offense something we should expect to continue to grow?
Yes, but more production doesn't mean he will be seeing the field as much as a top running back. This version of the Bills' offense will never have a true No. 1 back, but Breida is certainly seeing an uptick in opportunities and has brought much-needed speed. He has scored at least one touchdown in two of the last three games and is primed to continue to have more opportunities. -- Alaina Getzenberg
It has been every other week for Myles Gaskin. After 23 carries on Sunday, can we finally count on him for consecutive good games?
You can count on him for a good workload -- and you can work with that in fantasy football. Miami's win in Week 11 marked Gaskin's fifth straight game with at least 12 carries and 15 total touches. Even more promising? He has 17 red-zone touches over the past three weeks -- 12 of which came inside the 10-yard line. With Malcolm Brown not expected to return this week, Gaskin should be the Dolphins' unquestioned RB1 yet again. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques
If you have to pick one running back from this offense the rest of the way, who would it be?
Damien Harris. While rookie Rhamondre Stevenson is coming on strong, and a case could be made for him to be the choice, Harris is still 1A, and experience tilts the needle in his direction ever so slightly. Rushing touchdowns this season: Harris 7, Stevenson 3. -- Mike Reiss
Elijah Moore seems to be coming into his own. Do you expect his growth to continue this season? How good can he be in 2022?
Moore could be the Jets' WR1 in 2022, ahead of Corey Davis. That's how much the organization thinks of him. He has 24 receptions, 336 yards and four TDs over the last four games. Don't be surprised, though, if his production dips temporarily. QB Zach Wilson, who returns from a four-game knee injury, didn't have much success with Moore early in the year; Davis was his go-to receiver. It may take some time before Wilson and Moore build their chemistry. -- Rich Cimini
Safe to label Devonta Freeman as the leader of this backfield for Week 12? For the rest of the season?
Absolutely for Week 12, and most likely for the rest of the season. Freeman has shown the most burst of all the Ravens running backs signed to help fill the void of the injury-filled backfield. It was noticeable when Freeman still received 60% of the running back carries, even after Latavius Murray returned from his ankle injury. Ravens coach John Harbaugh has always talked about going with the hot hand, and Freeman is the hottest of the backs. But, if he slows down, Baltimore could turn to Murray, who is more of an inside-the-tackles runner. -- Jamison Hensley
That's three high-usage games out of four for Tyler Boyd. Do you think he can sustain consistent, albeit low upside, value moving forward?
The Bengals have been very hard to predict. What we believed the offensive philosophy might be this season has shifted and adapted throughout the course of the season. There does seem to be some optimism about Boyd maintaining his current usage rate. Bengals coach Zac Taylor took the blame for Boyd's two-target outing against Cleveland in Week 9. Bengals QB Joe Burrow called Boyd his comfort blanket, which will always make him a valuable resource. -- Ben Baby
D'Ernest Johnson was an afterthought with Nick Chubb back; safe to cut ties with him if the roster spot is needed?
Yes, safe to cut ties with Johnson. Especially with Chubb's wingman, Kareem Hunt, on the way back from the calf injury. -- Jake Trotter
Sunday night was Chase Claypool's best game in over a month; safe to call him healthy and poised for a strong finish to the season?
He's healthy, but it's hard to trust any Steelers receiver's fantasy output. Ben Roethlisberger likes to spread the ball around, though Diontae Johnson and Claypool are the two he trusts the most. Still, the Steelers utilize Najee Harris in the run game, and Pat Freiermuth has been coming on strong in recent weeks, too. Claypool is worth keeping around on a fantasy team if there's a bench spot because he could get hot, but it's too soon to tell just how strong he'll finish the season. -- Brooke Pryor
Brandin Cooks has found producing difficult lately; does it continue, or can he regain his early season form?
Don't expect Cooks to replicate what he did in the first three weeks -- coach David Culley said "it wasn't intentional" for Cooks to have such a high target share early in the season -- but his numbers should be somewhere in the middle. Culley said teams are doubling Cooks way more as the season has gone on, but given the receiver's chemistry with Tyrod Taylor, his production should increase. -- Sarah Barshop
Make your case for Jonathan Taylor as the top overall pick next season.
The numbers don't lie. Taylor not only leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,122) by nearly 200 yards over the injured Derrick Henry, he leads the entire league in yards from scrimmage (1,444) by more than 300 yards over the next-closest player -- Rams receiver Cooper Kupp (1,136) to go with 13 total touchdowns. Enough said. -- Mike Wells
Do you think James Robinson can take advantage of a favorable upcoming schedule?
That depends on how banged up he is. He's dealing with heel and knee injuries, and unless the Jaguars shut him down for a couple weeks he'll have to battle through them every week. You could see in last Sunday's game against San Francisco that Robinson doesn't have the same burst through the line of scrimmage that he did before the injury. Another issue for Robinson is the Jaguars are having a hard time consistently moving the ball and are falling behind by double digits, which effectively takes the run game out of play. -- Michael DiRocco
Does any Titans running back need to be rostered?
No! Don't be fooled by how the Titans collectively topped 100 yards rushing last week. That came against a Texans' defense that was allowing 136 rushing yards per game entering last week. D'Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard have flashed, but they'll continue to be part of a committee. The stats simply aren't relevant enough to warrant rostering any Titans back, especially with no one emerging as a candidate to get 15+ carries. -- Turron Davenport
Is Courtland Sutton going to see more looks, or will his low production/usage in games with Jerry Jeudy active continue?
If the Broncos really self-scouted during the bye and stick to what they do best on offense, Sutton's productivity should increase. But it's up to the Broncos. If they put quarterback Teddy Bridgewater under center more, use play action more, they will have more success pushing the ball down the field in the passing game. In the win over the Cowboys they had a season-best 190 yards rushing, as well as their only game of the season with multiple completions of more than 40 yards. If they run the ball a little more, the opportunities for Sutton to have impact out of the play action will rise. -- Jeff Legwold
Are you buying DeSean Jackson as a weekly upside threat (102 yards, but tied for fifth on the team in targets on Thanksgiving)?
Once on Thanksgiving and twice on Sundays. Jackson was signed to bring that big-play possibility and production, and produce he did at Dallas. The trust is there with QB Derek Carr, who said it was "fun" to throw the soon-to-be 35-year-old wide out the ball. And with another old NFC East rival in Washington up next, that chip on Jackson's shoulder will only loom larger. -- Paul Gutierrez
Are you buying the chunk run plays we saw Sunday night from Justin Herbert as a real part of his game moving forward?
Not necessarily, but it worked well in this instance and his sliding game was on point. If the gaps are there and the defense is giving it to him, he proved what an asset his wheels are. But little of that was by design. -- Shelley Smith
Give us your best guess for average touches per game moving forward for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
If the Cowboys were in a 60-40 split between Elliott and Pollard for a good spell earlier in the season, it will now be closer to 50-50. But don't confuse this with any ineffectiveness from Elliott. He is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee that is limiting him. He is trying to play through it, and the Cowboys are managing his workload if not so much his snap count. With a longer break after next Thursday's game vs. the Saints, the Cowboys hope that will serve as a mini-bye for Elliott. The running game as a whole, however, needs to improve. Aside from a 31-yard run vs. the Chiefs, Pollard's yard per carry average is not much different than Elliott's. -- Todd Archer
What are your weekly touch expectations moving forward for Saquon Barkley on a 3-7 team?
Barkley played 32 snaps (59.3%) and had 12 touches in Tampa Bay following a six-week absence. It would have been more if it wasn't a blowout in the fourth quarter. Barkley should creep closer to 20 touches and 75% of the snaps on Sunday in Philadelphia. Expect his role to increase only as he gets healthier. It should mean for some big games. -- Jordan Raanan
The backfield rotation seemed to vary by quarter. Do you expect any RB to earn the feature role, or is this a committee that will be more of a headache than anything?
Miles Sanders is the starter when healthy and will get the bulk of the snaps, but Jordan Howard has earned a role and could siphon a lot of the touchdowns given his effectiveness as a short-yardage back. Howard is expected to be out at least this week because of injury. However, Boston Scott could be featured given his success against the Giants in the past (222 rush yards, 5 TDs in 4 games). -- Tim McManus
Antonio Gibson looked like "the guy" in Week 10, not so much in Week 11. Moving forward, can we count on him for 15 touches a game, or is it going to vary weekly?
Actually, he looked a lot like "The Guy" in Week 11 -- in the second half, that is. That's when he gained 76 of his 95 yards, following a three-series benching at the end of the first half after he had fumbled. The fumbling issues will be worth watching down the stretch; he has fumbled five times this season, losing three. If it continues to happen, beware. Short of that, yes you can expect 15 touches a game -- provided his shin holds up. They like how Gibson is running - more physical, pressing the hole better. They've found an offensive identity and it centers around their run game. The other backs -- J.D. McKissic and Jaret Patterson -- have shown they can be effective. But Gibson remains the primary focus. -- John Keim
Cole Kmet's role is on the rise: Can we count on him weekly to produce viable numbers?
I think so. Kmet is a viable member of the offense who is a proven pass-catcher. Unfortunately, he often got lost in the shuffle earlier in the season because the Bears were such a mess on offense. Kmet, however, has emerged over the past couple of weeks and I see no reason for that to change. To clarify, he isn't going to put up eye-popping statistics. But viable numbers? Absolutely. -- Jeff Dickerson
How many touches should we expect from Jamaal Williams if D'Andre Swift were to miss time?
On average, even with Swift, Williams is already seeing a little over 12 touches per game. On Thanksgiving, he got 15 carries for 65 yards with another five receptions for 18 yards, so that would be around the number I would expect him to see if Swift were to remain out. Although he's not as gifted as Swift, he has proven that he's more than capable of carrying that load as a dual threat, if necessary. -- Eric Woodyard
Anything to the heavy Marquez Valdes-Scantling usage against the Vikings, or was it simply a one-week matchup thing?
Allen Lazard's absence due to a shoulder injury helped get him more in the plan. Also, MVS' hamstring injury finally appears to be completely healed. He could have trouble this week, though, because all the injuries on the offensive line might force Aaron Rodgers to get the ball out much faster, which means fewer deep-ball chances for MVS. -- Rob Demovsky
Minnesota's final four games of the season: Bears (twice), Packers and Rams. Can Kirk Cousins be a top-10 QB over that valuable stretch?
Yes. Cousins ranks top 10 in all the major passing categories (passer rating, QBR, completion percentage, yards, touchdowns) and his 21-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio is insanely good. Mike Zimmer wants his quarterback to keep "going for the jugular" despite throwing two near-interceptions versus Green Bay, and if Cousins can keep the Vikings' offense humming with this new-found aggressive attitude (PFF has him ranked fourth in expected points added), Minnesota should fare well against two bottom-half defenses in Chicago and Detroit. -- Courtney Cronin
Would the return of Calvin Ridley help Kyle Pitts, or would it further hurt his upside by taking targets off his plate?
A return of Calvin Ridley -- which is anything but certain as Arthur Smith had no update Monday even though Ridley is now eligible to return off the NFI list -- would be beneficial to Kyle Pitts. While it might shrink his target share, it would give Atlanta three players defenses must account for every play -- Pitts, Cordarrelle Patterson and Ridley. That alone could leave Pitts in some single-coverage situations, which might lead to more breakout plays. Right now, Pitts is the main target for defenses in the intermediate and deep passing game, and it has shown in his -- and Atlanta's -- production. -- Michael Rothstein
Is Cam Newton back to being a viable option?
Well, he had two touchdowns on only eight plays in his first outing, and he followed that with two touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown in his first full game. So YES. He's a viable option. The more he learns this offense the more dangerous he should be. -- David Newton
Can Ty Montgomery work into a weekly role if at least one of Alvin Kamara/Mark Ingram is injured?
No, I think he would need both to be sidelined to make a significant fantasy impact, and I expect one or both to be back next week. But if they do both remain out, Thursday night was a reminder that Montgomery might be just as valuable as Tony Jones Jr. in PPR leagues. And the seven-year vet does deserve credit for being a reliable emergency option at both RB and WR. Remember, he ran for 105 yards in Week 17 last year when the rest of the RB room was wiped out by COVID. -- Mike Triplett
Leonard Fournette has impressed as a pass-catcher all season, but his usage is peaking. Can he sustain 6-8 targets per game moving forward?
As long as opposing defenses are hell-bent on stopping the big play downfield -- which they have been all year -- we'll continue to see more of Fournette in the short passing game as he's who Brady trusts the most in the Bucs' running back room. -- Jenna Laine
The second most productive pass catcher in this offense moving forward will be ...
Van Jefferson. Prior to Odell Beckham Jr.'s signing and the season-ending knee injury to Robert Woods, quarterback Matthew Stafford had been looking more often to target the second-year pro and the two have connected on short, intermediate and deep throws. Watch for Stafford to continue to connect with Jefferson, who can be depended on to run crisp routes and hang onto the football. -- Lindsey Thiry
A great season for Deebo Samuel is getting better with his usage in the backfield. Can we count on that continuing?
Yes. Here's the thing, Elijah Mitchell has earned the right to be the team's primary ball carrier when healthy, but he has struggled to do that. And the Niners love racking up the rushing attempts, so it only stands to reason they'll keep handing it to Samuel as part of that plan. If nothing else, it's a guaranteed way to get the ball in the hands of their best player, and that's always a good thing. -- Nick Wagoner
Is there a single player in this offense we can trust right now?
Nope. They've scored a combined 13 points in the last two games because Russell Wilson and their passing game have been so off. Wilson continues to say his surgically repaired finger is fine, and his resume over the last decade suggests he'll snap out of his funk eventually. But who knows when? The closest thing the Seahawks have to a reliable fantasy play right now is Alex Collins, who figures to remain their primary back. But barely getting double-digit touches each week means his ceiling is limited. -- Brady Henderson
Should fantasy managers be concerned about Miles Sanders?
Field Yates and Matthew Berry discuss Miles Sanders up and down day for the Eagles.
Is Elijah Moore becoming a QB-proof fantasy star?
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Is Devonta Freeman a reliable RB option?
Field Yates and Matthew Berry break down Devonta Freeman's recent success in fantasy.
Why Jonathan Taylor is the MVP of fantasy football
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What to make of Saquon Barkley's return for the Giants
Field Yates, Stephania Bell and Matthew Berry react to Saquon Barkley's performance in the Giants' loss to the Buccaneers.
Is Cam Newton set for sustained fantasy success this season?
Matthew Berry explains why he thinks Cam Newton is a borderline QB1 as long as he has the starting job in Carolina.
How concerning is the Seahawks' lack of productivity since Russell Wilson's return?
Field Yates and Matthew Berry discuss Russell Wilson and the Seahawks' poor production since Wilson's return from injury.