At the beginning of the week I wrote in this column about the enormous number of uncertain splits at running back in Week 14. Legitimately a third of the league has question marks at running back. And with Dalvin Cook's possible return for the Vikings, we have another.
To be clear, if we knew Cook was 100% healthy, this wouldn't be the debate. Cook would be a must-start, top 10 running back and Mattison would be a bench stash or desperation flex.
But Cook is coming back from a shoulder injury a week earlier than expected, and he's had multiple shoulder injuries over the course of his career. The risk of re-injury is very real, and the risk of what happened last Thursday, when Aaron Jones returned early to play a small and ineffective role, is equally high.
So what do we do? That will be at least partially influenced by what we hear late Thursday. For now, I have Cook as a mid-range No. 2 and Mattison as a mid-range flex. Any report that the Vikings plan to put Cook on a pitch count, or limit his work, would make both running backs borderline No. 2 options or high-end flexes. Any report that Cook is expected to receive his normal workload would boost him and drop Mattison out of flex consideration.
Keep your ears open and be prepared to adjust at the last minute.
Let's get to the rest of the Week 14 RB Preview:
Week 14 RB Preview
The following players are not being projected to play Week 14 at this time. Here's what it means:
Kenyan Drake RB
LV Las Vegas • #23
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Josh Jacobs might be a top-five back if Jalen Richard remains on the COVID IR.
SF San Francisco • #25
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
As of Tuesday afternoon, JaMycal Hasty and Kyle Juszczyk are the only healthy 49ers running backs.
Numbers to know
- 29 -- Javonte Williams saw a season-high 29 touches without Melvin Gordon in Week 13. It will be very interesting to see how the load is shared if Gordon returns.
- 13 -- Antonio Gibson has 13 targets over his past two games. He's a top-five back if J.D. McKissic remains out.
- 39 -- Josh Jacobs has 39 catches this season, which is six more than his previous career high.
- 44% -- James Robinson played 44% of the snaps in Week 13, his second lowest mark of the year.
- 9.7 -- Austin Ekeler has averaged nearly 10 yards per catch in his career. If Keenan Allen is out, Ekeler could be even better.
- 17 -- A.J. Dillon has seen 17 targets over his past four games and caught all 17 of them; who gets the passing work in Green Bay will be key moving forward.
- 49% -- Ameer Abdullah played nearly half the snaps in the Panthers most recent game. Chuba Hubbard hasn't topped that snap rate since Week 8.
- 13 -- JaMycal Hasty has never seen more than 13 touches in a game. He should smash that number if Mitchell and Wilson remain out.
- 2.6 -- Adrian Peterson is averaging 2.6 yards per carry this season. Hopefully Seattle doesn't waste any more touches on him.
Matchups that matter
Waiver Wire Targets
SF San Francisco • #23
Age: 25 • Experience: 2 yrs.
If everyone else is out, Hasty could be a top 15 running back this week against a banged up Bengals defense.
PHI Philadelphia • #24
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
The Eagles are hopeful Howard will be back after their Week 14 bye. Depending on Miles Sanders' status, Howard could be the Eagles' No. 1 running back.
DEN Denver • #33
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
This may very well change later in the week because there's still way too much uncertainty. But if Melvin Gordon is out again this week, Williams at $6,700 is the clear top play on the slate. JaMycal Hasty could enter the conversation if the 49ers don't get healthy fast.
TB Tampa Bay • #7
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Even with the Bills recent struggles against running backs, I really don't expect Fournette to be popular in this matchup. But I do think he'll be very good.
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