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Five Things to Know: Jones for Now, Dunbar for Later

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Ishmael Butler, James Harrison and David Bowie.

1. Felix Jones Should Provide Short-Term Starting Value

Be it in an RB2 or flex capacity, Felix Jones should provide fantasy starter numbers so long as he's healthy and DeMarco Murray (foot) is out. Those conditions probably won't last more than two or three weeks - Jones' own lengthy injury history makes him a risk even if Murray is out a while - but Jones has fresh legs and a favorable schedule in the meantime.

He's still an awkward runner who's remarkably good at getting himself into dangerous predicaments and is unlikely to be a factor in the red zone (nine career rushing touchdowns), but Jones combines good wiggle with excellent acceleration, and he should have a great deal of spring in his step since he has carried the ball just 21 times this year. And in PPR leagues, Jones' lack of touchdown production is largely offset by his strong receiving skills - he had 81 catches in 28 games between 2010 and 2011.

With Carolina (4.4 YPC allowed), the Giants (4.6) and the Falcons (5.2) up next, it would disappoint if Jones can't surpass double-digit fantasy points in two of the next three weeks. Don't expect his productivity to continue beyond that, though - Jones never went more four games without getting hurt last year.

2. Sell Shonn Greene

Hopefully this isn't stating the obvious, but owners of Shonn Greene who are feeling a little optimistic after his 161-yard, three-touchdown showing against the Colts on Sunday need to remember that he's still Shonn Greene.

Instead of basking in the glory of that performance, try to pin down any delusional thoughts that lead you to picture a bright future with Greene and condense them into a trade letter to a fellow owner in your league.

This is still a player with a rushing average of 4.0 yards per carry outside of his 2009 rookie year, with just 12 touchdowns on 546 rushing attempts and a long of 32 yards in that span. Even in his 161-yard outburst Sunday, Greene managed a long of just 21 yards. That yardage total nearly doubled his yardage on the season, which sits at a mere 378 yards, and Greene failed to surpass 40 yards on the ground in four of six games this year.

His glaring lack of talent is compounded by playing in an offense with one of the league's worst passing games, somehow resulting in Greene arguably being the biggest threat to opposing defenses. That means extra attention from opposing defenses as teams dare Mark Sanchez to beat them through the air.

If you can get a middle-tier flex option in exchange for Greene, you should take it.

3. Ben Tate is a Good Target if You Can Land Him Cheaply

The Texans have made it clear that Ben Tate is nowhere close to pushing Arian Foster for touches. Despite running for 942 yards on just 175 carries last year (5.4 YPC), Tate has just 33 carries in five games this year.

That minimal workload makes Tate's value extremely low. He was nearly a flex investment entering this year for many owners, yet for now his numbers indicate no more than RB4 value. That won't last for long, so it's a good time to pounce if you're looking to add some running back depth with upside.

Even if Arian Foster stays perfectly healthy the rest of the year, the Texans are nearly compelled to lighten his workload, with Tate the likely beneficiary. Foster is on pace for 397 carries and 29 catches after six games - a workload like that is a good way to make sure Foster burns out before the third year of his five-year contract. He received "just" 327 carries in 2010, and his 278 carries in 13 games from last year projects to a 342-carry pace.

Furthermore, Foster's carries aren't yielding easy yardage. He's running at a hard-earned rushing average of 3.8 yards per carry, a figure that drops to 3.4 yards per carry outside of a 46-yard run against the Jets. Defenses can't crash much harder against the run, yet Houston has shown no restraint in sending Foster into those collisions. This is an equation that's ripe for injury.

Foster's workload is a worry independent of injury history, yet the injury risk is compounded by the fact that Foster has a history of getting nicked up. A hamstring issue cost him three games in 2011, and college injuries were a huge reason why he went undrafted. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in January 2008, and he underwent shoulder and knee surgeries following his 2005 season, as well, knocking him out of 2006 spring practices.

4. Steven Jackson is Due to Break Out Against Green Bay

Steven Jackson has disappointed through six games, running for just 323 yards on 89 carries (3.6 YPC), but he should finally give his owners a return on their investment against the Packers on Sunday. Not only is Jackson running well (4.3 yards per carry against Miami's No. 1 rush defense), but the Packers lost standout inside linebacker D.J. Smith to an ACL tear against the Texans on Sunday.

Although it's concerning that Daryl Richardson received 11 carries against the Dolphins on Sunday while Jackson had just 12, the distribution should tilt more in Jackson's favor this week, both because he's another week removed from his groin issue and because the Rams probably turned to Richardson because the Dolphins are big and strong on defense more than they're fast.

Richardson had 15 carries combined against the defenses of Seattle and Arizona before Sunday's 11-carry game, perhaps because the Seahawks and Cardinals can easily counter Richardson's speed. A matchup with Green Bay linebackers Clay Matthews (4.62-second 40-yard dash), A.J. Hawk (4.59-second 40-yard dash) and Nick Perry (4.63-second 40-yard dash) should similarly lead St. Louis to utilize Jackson's power more extensively since the Packers are better able to match Richardson's speed than the Dolphins. The Dolphins, by contrast, run a 4-3 featuring a defensive end (Jared Odrick) who's a defensive tackle by trade, and an outside linebacker (Koa Misi) who mostly has a defensive end skill set, so they can't run the way the Packers defense can.

5. Lance Dunbar is Worth Adding in 14-Team Leagues

See if you can get him as a free-agent pickup rather than a waiver claim, but Lance Dunbar is worth stashing in 14-team leagues as Dallas' third running back with DeMarco Murray out.

Felix Jones is the clear starter and Phillip Tanner is officially his top backup, but Dunbar is a more talented runner than Tanner, who earned his roster spot through hard work and special teams snaps rather than his ability as a running back.

Tanner never surpassed 1,000 yards rushing at Middle Tennessee, and he ran just a 4.57-second 40-yard dash at his pro day after weighing in at 208 pounds. He's listed at 217 now, implying a drop in his already unimpressive speed, and he has just 107 yards on 31 carries (3.5 YPC) in the NFL despite playing off the bench.

Dunbar, on the other hand, ran for 4,046 yards and 40 touchdowns in his final three years at North Texas - playing in the same conference as Tanner - while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Dunbar is also an excellent receiver, as he turned 97 catches into 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns for the Mean Green. He's much more explosive than Tanner, too, displaying a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at his pro day at a weight just three pounds lighter than Tanner.

Jones' remarkable lack of durability is well demonstrated, so Tanner is closer to the field than most backup runners. But if he does see the field, his lack of talent will likely doom him. If Dunbar gets a few change-of-pace carries, Tanner's days as the third running back in Dallas will end in a hurry.