Opportunity isn't everything when it comes to Fantasy value at running back, but it's incredibly important. And that's especially true for the right kind of opportunity, as we saw with Justin Jackson in Week 16. Jackson is a career backup whose role as the Chargers lead back without Austin Ekeler was questioned, but he basically took Ekeler's role in the offense, and while I don't think he's as good as Ekeler as a player, who did a mighty fine impression en route to a massive game both on the ground and as a pass catcher. That's what you're looking for when it comes to replacements as well as waiver-wire claims and buy-low candidates.

A good example of that is David Montgomery, who is suddenly playing a massive role in the passing game and looks like a potential league-winner as a result. After having just 15 targets in his first seven games, Montgomery has at least six in each of the past four (31 overall) and is averaging 19.4 PPR points per game in that span. And, with a matchup on the way against the Giants, he's a top-five RB for Week 17.

Ekeler will be back for Week 17, but there are more than a few players looking like must-start options all of a sudden this week, including Devin SingletaryRonald JonesDarrel Williams; Boston Scott might be in that group as well if Jordan Howard's stinger keeps him out, as could Chase Edmonds if James Conner is out. 

Here are the injury situations we're watching: 

  • Out: Antonio Gibson (COVID), Miles Sanders (hand), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (collarbone/shoulder), Tevin Coleman (COVID), David Johnson (COVID)

With Gibson out, I expect Jaret Patterson to be the lead back, but Johnathan Williams will have a significant role and might actually be the better option for Fantasy since he's more likely to take on passing situations while getting a share of the running work. In PPR especially, he's closer to a starting RB than Patterson, who will likely need a touchdown against a tough Eagles defense to be worth using.

With Sanders out, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott figure to split time. I would expect Howard to be the "lead" back and get a bigger goal-line share, but both he and Scott are worth using as low-end RB2/3 options. Darrel Williams is the best of the injury replacements for this week, as he should have goal-line opportunities and third downs for the Chiefs; he will still split with Derrick Gore as well, however. 

And Michael Carter and Rex Burkhead should be in line for significant roles in their offenses. I would rather take a chance on Carter than Burkhead, despite the latter's big game in Week 16. 

  • Legitimately questionable: James Conner (heel), Cam Akers (Achilles), Kareem Hunt (knee), Alex Collins (abdomen)

My guess is Akers is more on the doubtful side, while Colins will likely have little role even if he's active. Conner's presence looms large, because Chase Edmonds is a top-six RB if Conner is out. If Conner plays, they're more in the RB2/3 range, with Edmonds preferred in PPR especially. Hunt is in that RB2/3 range if he plays, too. 

Likely in: Damien Harris (hamstring), Elijah Mitchell (knee), Melvin Gordon (hip/knee), Javonte Williams (knee), Jordan Howard (stinger)

I'm assuming Harris is in after playing last week, especially since we haven't heard of a specific setback. However, because it's the Patriots, we really don't know. Rhamondre Stevenson is expected back from the COVID list, and I expect they'll share work, but keep an eye on inactives in case one is a surprise inactive. 

Mitchell presents a tough decision. He was a must-start option before his injury, and the question now is whether he'll return to being the lead back, or if he'll be in a timeshare with Jeff Wilson. I'm worried it'll be the latter, so I'm wary of trusting Mitchell if I can avoid it, especially with Lance at QB likely to play a big role in the goal line area. 

Reports Sunday indicate Howard will be active and that both Williams and Gordon will play. 

Here are my Week 17 rankings for running back. To see the rankings from Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings, make sure you head here

Week 17 RB Rankings

  1. Jonathan Taylor vs. LV
  2. Austin Ekeler vs. DEN
  3. Dalvin Cook @GB
  4. David Montgomery vs. NYG
  5. Chase Edmonds @DAL
  6. Alvin Kamara vs. CAR
  7. Josh Jacobs @IND
  8. Joe Mixon vs. KC
  9. Sony Michel @BAL
  10. Ronald Jones @NYJ
  11. Nick Chubb @PIT
  12. Najee Harris vs. CLE
  13. D'Andre Swift @SEA
  14. Ezekiel Elliott vs. ARI
  15. Darrel Williams @CIN
  16. Rashaad Penny vs. DET
  17. Aaron Jones vs. MIN
  18. Devin Singletary vs. ATL
  19. Javonte Williams @LAC
  20. Saquon Barkley @CHI
  21. Michael Carter vs. TB
  22. AJ Dillon vs. MIN
  23. Damien Harris vs. JAX
  24. Cordarrelle Patterson @BUF
  25. Melvin Gordon @LAC
  26. D'Onta Foreman vs. MIA
  27. Devonta Freeman vs. LAR
  28. Dare Ogunbowale @NE
  29. Kareem Hunt @PIT
  30. Jordan Howard @WAS
  31. Elijah Mitchell vs. HOU
  32. Boston Scott @WAS
  33. Rex Burkhead @SF
  34. Jonathan Williams vs. PHI
  35. Jaret Patterson vs. PHI
  36. Myles Gaskin @TEN
  37. Rhamondre Stevenson vs. JAX
  38. Jeff Wilson vs. HOU
  39. Jamaal Williams @SEA
  40. Ameer Abdullah @NO
  41. Mark Ingram vs. CAR
  42. Devontae Booker @CHI
  43. Alexander Mattison @GB
  44. Mike Davis @BUF
  45. James Conner @DAL
  46. Chuba Hubbard @NO
  47. Brandon Bolden vs. JAX
  48. Justin Jackson vs. DEN
  49. Cam Akers @BAL

2021 NFL jerseys now available

The new NFL season is here! Win or lose, you can shop jerseys, shirts, hats, and much more to support your favorite team. Shop here and show your colors.

We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.