Ahead of Week 16 and the championship game in most fantasy football leagues, there are a lot of injury concerns at the RB position. Ezekiel Elliott (calf), Cam Akers (ankle), James Robinson (ankle), and Ronald Jones (finger/COVID) are a just handful of the major running backs who are banged up, and with the regular season winding to a close, their statuses will be in question this week. These players will have a big impact on key start ’em, sit ’em decisions, our Week 16 fantasy RB rankings, and potential waiver wire pickups for fantasy owners in need of flex sleepers.
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Is Ezekiel Elliott playing this week?
Elliott (calf) was unable to practice ahead of Week 15, and while reports indicated that he was expected to suit up despite the injury, he ultimately ended up being a surprise inactive for the Cowboys. Moving forward, his status is up in the air.
With the Cowboys’ playoff chances falling in the slim-to-none category, the team may be inclined to avoid playing Elliott if he isn’t fully healthy. There’s no sense in risking a long-term injury to win what will likely amount to meaningless games. Besides, backup Tony Pollard looked good in place of Elliott. He did a lot to help move the Cowboys offense through the air, and he found decent success on the ground. He would be in line for an RB2 spot if Elliott can’t play in Week 16.
Elliott’s status will likely depend on whether he can get on the practice field this week. As mentioned, he was unable to practice last week, so if he’s a non-participant in Wednesday’s practice, that will be a bad sign for his availability this week. Even if he is able to play, he may end up splitting carries with Pollard, so Elliott appears to be a low-upside play this week if he can even return to action.
Is Cam Akers playing this week?
Akers (ankle) suffered an injury against the Jets and it has knocked him out for what looks like the rest of the fantasy season. According to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry, head coach Sean McVay confirmed that Akers has suffered a high-ankle sprain that will sideline him for Week 16 “at least”.
With Akers out, the Rams will turn back to Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown to head up their backfield. Henderson is the more explosive of the two and has averaged 10.1 touches per game this year while Brown has averaged eight touches per game. That said, Brown has out-snapped Henderson the past couple of weeks, so this could be a true carry split. Both will be potential flex options against the Seahawks.
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Is James Robinson playing this week?
Robinson (ankle) suffered an injury against the Ravens last week and didn’t return to the Jaguars’ blowout loss in the fourth quarter. He had also been dealing with a knee injury that limited him in practice that week, so the rookie certainly qualifies as “banged up.”
Considering that the Jaguars are competing for the No. 1 overall pick and not a spot in the playoffs, the team could opt to hold Robinson out if he’s anything less than 100 percent. That would allow him to be fully healthy to start next season and avoid any potential injuries in the final two weeks of the year. It’s unclear if that is in the team’s plans, but rest assured that Robinson’s injuries will be handled with extreme caution.
If Robinson sits out in Week 16, the Jaguars will turn to the Dare Ogunbowale/Devine Ozigbo tandem to carry the load. The two have 15 touches combined this season, so it’s hard to recommend either as a starter in any fantasy formats, but Ozigbo was getting buzz during the offseason before suffering a hamstring injury, so he could be worth a flier in DFS tournament play.
Is Ronald Jones playing this week?
Jones (finger/COVID) was out of action last week after having surgery to repair a broken finger and after landing on the COVID list. Fantasy owners will be eagerly awaiting word on his status ahead of Week 16, but given that Bruce Arians expected Jones to practice late last week before he ended up on the COVID list, Jones should at least have a chance to play.
Of course, Jones will have to come off the COVID list first. It’s unclear if he was a positive test or just a close contact, so that will need to be watched in the coming days.
If Jones can’t get back on the field, Leonard Fournette would once again head up the Buccaneers’ backfield and would have an extremely favorable matchup against the Lions’ poor run defense. LeSean McCoy would also deserve some consideration as a boom-or-bust flex play in that scenario, as his pass-catching ability could allow him to take advantage of the Lions’ defense.