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Fantasy Football Week 6 running back rankings: Khalil Herbert jumps into the top 20 if Damien Williams is out

Written by on October 14, 2021

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Depending on how you count it, you could argue up to half the league has already had a change in lead running back since Week 1, either due to injury, demotion, or some other factor. Add in that the Saints, Falcons, Jets, and 49ers are on bye in Week 6 — so no Alvin Kamara, Mike Davis Cordarrelle Patterson, Michael Carter, or Elijah Mitchell — and the position looks even shallower than usual this week.  

And that’ll be even more true if Christian McCaffrey is unable to play — he was downgraded to a missed practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. He’s still ranked as of Thursday evening, but make sure you don’t cut Chuba Hubbard just yet. Also, consider adding Khalil Herbert if he’s available in your league, because he looks likely to start for the Bears with Damien Williams placed on the COVID list Thursday. Herbert might be a top-20 back by default with how much work he figures to get, and I would start him over both Leonard Fournette and Miles Sanders on Thursday night. 

Get your first look at the running back rankings for Week 6 from Chris Towers, including thoughts on some of the most interesting players for this week. To see Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings’ rankings, make sure you head here. We’ll be updating this throughout the week with new notes and rankings as we get news and the rankings get tweaked, so make sure you bookmark the page.    

Week 6 RB Rankings

  1. Christian McCaffrey vs. MIN — It’s not guaranteed that McCaffrey will be back in Week 6, but I’m projecting him as the starter, and he returns to the top of the RB rankings as a result.
  2. Najee Harris vs. SEA — I’m not expecting Harris to rush for 100-plus yards regularly, but it was nice to see the Steelers are still capable of that kind of game. And he might have a chance to replicate it in Week 6, against a Seahawks defense that has struggled to stop the run and won’t have Russell Wilson to light up the scoreboard and force the Steelers into a pass-heavy game script. And he might be among the league leaders in target share at running back with JuJu Smith-Schuster out. It’s all lining up for Harris.
  3. Derrick Henry vs. BUF — At some point, you have to wonder if we’re bumping up against the edge of what even Henry can handle. He’s got at least 29 touches in his last four games, with 125 carries in that span. Injuries have never really been a concern for Henry, however, and as long as he’s healthy, he’s going to remain an absolute must-start Fantasy option. Whether this is sustainable remains to be seen, however we’ve also been saying that about Henry for years now, so maybe it is.
  4. Austin Ekeler @ BAL — Remember when Ekeler was supposed to be a good Fantasy option in PPR, but not in non because he wouldn’t score touchdowns? Well he’s got seven of them through five games while averaging 108.6 yards per game from scrimmage — he’s the No. 2 RB in Non-PPR and PPR. The touchdown pace will slow down, but he’s on the shortlist of best players in Fantasy right now.
  5. Dalvin Cook @ CAR — Cook was back at practice without limitations Wednesday for the first time in weeks, so he’s back into the top-five of the rankings. 
  6. D’Andre Swift vs. CIN — If the Lions ever win a game, it might be bad news for Swift, who has nearly 40% of his Fantasy points in the fourth quarter this season, including more than half his receptions and receiving yards for the season. The good news is, they’re 3.5 underdogs at home to the Bengals. His passing game role makes Swift an elite Fantasy option.
  7. Aaron Jones @ CHI
  8. James Robinson vs. MIA — Even with Carlos Hyde back, Robinson had a massive Week 5. It could have been even bigger if not for the baffling decision to go with Carlos Hyde on a 4th and goal from the 1-yard line instead of Robinson — one of five carries Hyde had the whole game. But that’s Urban Meyer for you, I guess. Robinson’s role in the passing game hasn’t been there the last two weeks, but he’s still running routes on around two-thirds of their passing plays, so chalk that up to variance. He’s a must-start RB again.
  9. Joe Mixon @ DET — Mixon clearly wasn’t at 100% despite playing in Week 5, but the Bengals still got him involved in the red zone and he scored his third rushing touchdown of the season. He figures to be back to his regular role more or less in Week 6 and he’s got an incredible matchup on the way against the Lions, one of the worst defenses in the league. Even without the passing game usage increase we were hoping to see for Mixon, he’s a must-start Fantasy RB.
  10. Darrell Henderson @ NYG — Henderson left last week’s game with an injury, but he was able to play through it to close out the game, so I’m not sure there’s much to be concerned about here. He did cede more work to Sony Michel than he has all season, but also still ended up with 99 total yards and a touchdown. He’s a must-start Fantasy RB at this point.
  11. Ezekiel Elliott @ NE — Elliott looks great and the Cowboys offense is racking up points, so the fact that his passing game role is smaller than it’s ever been hasn’t mattered yet. It probably won’t in Week 6 either.
  12. Josh Jacobs @ DEN — Jacobs hasn’t looked great so far this season, and injuries to his toe and ankle early on probably played a role in that. However, he also has five targets in consecutive games for the first time in his career, if you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic. Denver is a tough matchup, but he should probably be in your lineup right now.
  13. Kareem Hunt vs. ARI — Hunt ranks among the elites at running back, and there’s a lot to like about what he’s doing right now, especially in the passing game, where he has 17 targets over the past three games without Jarvis Landry. He won’t keep scoring every week like he has (almost) done so far, but he probably needs to be started in all leagues every week, but especially against a defense that has really struggled to stop the run.
  14. Nick Chubb vs. ARI — The Cardinals have really struggled defending the run, allowing 5.4 yards per carry despite somehow limiting Derrick Henry to 58 yards on 17 carries. Chubb is typically one of the most efficient backs in the NFL, and he should have yet another good game in this one. He might not be an elite Fantasy RB because of his limited passing game usage, but Chubb is the kind of RB you should never have to think about starting.
  15. Chase Edmonds @ CLE — Week 5 was Edmonds’ worst performance of the season, and you have to wonder how much his shoulder injury limited him. He still played his usual allotment of snaps, but his six carries and three catches were both his lowest totals of the season. I’m not changing my expectations for him yet, especially since James Conner only had 11 touches in this one.
  16. Antonio Gibson vs. KC — If the stress fracture in his shin is a concern, Washington sure isn’t acting like it. He had 20 carries last week and found the end zone twice for a big game. It may be asking a lot for him to repeat that this week against the Chiefs, because he tends to need pretty run-heavy game plans to thrive. This could be one of those games where Gibson disappoints you, however Kansas City’s defense has been poor enough that he could still be a solid starter.
  17. Jonathan Taylor vs. HOU — One thing to keep in mind with Taylor is, he might just be the kind of back who goes through stretches where he doesn’t run the ball super efficiently before breaking off a big play to get his rate stats in line with expectations. He’s similar to Saquon Barkley in that way, perhaps, especially with the Colts line not opening the kind of holes we expected for him. But that big play ability is always going to make it tough to bench someone with his kind of workload.
  18. Khalil Herbert vs. GB — With Williams on the COVID list, Herbert looks likely to be the lead back for the Bears and could be in for a huge role given the lack of other options. They clearly trust him after giving him 18 carries to close out their Week 5 win, and I’d be starting him pretty much everywhere.
  19. Devontae Booker vs. LAR — With Saquon Barkley leaving Week 5 with an ankle injury, Booker figures to be the starter for this one. It’s an incredibly tough matchup against the Rams, however, given the team’s injuries at receiver, he may still be worth using in PPR formats.
  20. Leonard Fournette @ PHI — Fournette’s playing time predictably dipped with Giovani Bernard’s return, but he still had over 100 yards and a touchdown, so it wasn’t a huge loss. Can you expect him to consistently see as many targets as he has been? I’m not counting on it, and I’m definitely not expecting him to be a top-12 RB with Bernard and Ronald Jones healthy — they’ll figure into the game plan, too, even if Fournette is the lead back. Still, given how few reliable options exist at the position, it’ll be hard to go away from him right now.
  21. Chris Carson @ PIT — We’ll see how the Seahawks use Carson in Week 6, as it sounds like he made a lot of progress over the weekend and is aiming to play in Week 6. Will they try to limit his reps? Or, will the absence of Russell Wilson lead to an even bigger reliance on the running game? I’m thinking we see quite a bit of Carson, though with Alex Collins mixing in more than he did in the first few weeks.
  22. Darrel Williams @ WAS — With Clyde Edwards-Helaire going down with a sprained MCL, Williams figures to be the lead back for the Chiefs. He’s never had more than 13 carries in a game, and I wouldn’t expect him to carry a super-heavy load on a pass-heavy team. However, he’s one of the top targets on waivers this week — behind Devontae Booker and Kadarius Toney for me — and should be in the lower-end RB2 discussion as long as Edwards-Helaire is out. It will be interesting to see what kind of role Jerick McKinnon has moving forward, too.
  23. Myles Gaskin @ JAX — Were we wrong to lose faith in Gaskin last week? Maybe the more interesting question is whether we failed to properly account for the situation he found himself in — pass-heavy game script on an offense with a bunch of injuries at wide receiver. He benefited from Jacoby Brissett’s hamstring injury, too, but Gaskin still had just five carried, half of Miami’s total. We probably can’t count on the same passing game workload in this one, but if you need a starter, Gaskin can be considered, especially if DeVante Parker is sidelined again.
  24. Melvin Gordon vs. LV — Gordon and Javonte Williams are the Spider-Man meme, execpt both look vaguely disappointed. You’re hoping for a touchdown if you start either of them, and if you are trying to pick between them, flip a coin.
  25. Jamaal Williams vs. CIN — It’s fair to call Williams the Lions lead running back in the narrowest sense of the term, but he just isn’t in a particularly valuable role, with just seven targets since Week 1. He’s just a low-end option for Fantasy.
  26. Miles Sanders vs. TB — Teams have mostly given up trying to run against the Buccaneers, and the Eagles have mostly given up on trying to run with Sanders, so I’m not expecting much from him on the ground. The hope is his recent stretch of involvement as a pass catcher can keep him relevant, but my hopes aren’t high.
  27. Nyheim Hines vs. HOU
  28. Tony Pollard @ NE — With bye weeks and injuries all over the RB position, Pollard is a viable starter, even if you can’t rely on 18 touches every week like he got last week.
  29. Javonte Williams vs. LV
  30. Damien Harris vs. DAL — It seems like Harris is OK after dealing with a chest injury during Week 5, but it’ll be interesting to see if Rhamondre Stevenson does get more run moving forward after Harris’ second lost fumble of the season. Harris doesn’t exactly have much of a margin for error, so any dip in volume would be hard to overcome.
  31. Zack Moss @ TEN — Moss looks like the Bills lead back, but the 11-6 carry split between he and Devin Singletary doesn’t look as impressive when you realize Moss had one fewer carry than Singletary prior to the fourth quarter when he ran it seven times. Moss is playing more snaps and surprisingly ran 18 routes to just eight for Singletary Sunday, but it’s still hard to view him as much more than just a low-end starter who’ll need a touchdown most weeks to finish as a top-24 RB.
  32. Alexander Mattison @ CAR — With Cook back, Mattison returns to his reserve role, but I think he still may be usable this week if the Vikings opt to work Cook back in slower. 
  33. J.D. McKissic vs. KC
  34. Brandon Bolden vs. DAL
  35. Giovani Bernard @ PHI
  36. Devin Singletary @ TEN — Singletary looks like the smaller side of this RB platoon, and you’d have to be pretty desperate to play him most weeks.
  37. James Conner @ CLE — Conner still managed to find the end zone in Week 5 despite rushing 29 times on 10 carries, and it’s clear he’s going to be a factor near the goal line all season long. If he scores, he’ll be a good Fantasy option — if not, he’ll probably flop.
  38. Kenneth Gainwell vs. TB
  39. Kenyan Drake @ DEN
  40. AJ Dillon @ CHI — Dillon has 23 carries and five targets over the last two games, and if we could count on that kind of usage every week, he would probably be in low-end starting conversation, especially with bye weeks here. However, he’s still more of a desperation play for me until we see more from him. Another four-target game would be awesome to see, and he’s already a must-add player on rosters if you’re looking for an upside play.
  41. Jeremy McNichols vs. BUF
  42. David Johnson @ IND
  43. Mark Ingram @ IND
  44. Chuba Hubbard vs. MIN
  45. Jerick McKinnon @ WAS — McKinnon played 31% of the snaps in Week 5 and could see a similar role with Clyde Edwards-Helaire sidelined. If you don’t want to spend a ton of FAB on Darrel Williams, add McKinnon for much cheaper, because there’s a non-zero chance he ends up having a bigger than expected role while Williams remains in a similar role to the one he’s been in. McKinnon certainly has more of a track record as a lead back.
  46. Sony Michel @ NYG
  47. Alex Collins @ PIT
  48. Latavius Murray vs. LAC
  49. Ty’Son Williams vs. LAC
  50. Ronald Jones @ PHI
  51. Phillip Lindsay @ IND
  52. Malcolm Brown @ JAX
  53. Carlos Hyde vs. MIA
  54. Salvon Ahmed @ JAX
  55. Larry Rountree @ BAL
  56. Marlon Mack vs. HOU
  57. Justin Jackson @ BAL
  58. Deejay Dallas @ PIT
  59. Rhamondre Stevenson vs. DAL
  60. Benny Snell vs. SEA

So who should you start and sit this week? And which surprising quarterback could lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 6 rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that has out-performed experts big-time.


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