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Depth Chart Watch: A Giant Mess

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

Bengals TE - The split in targets looked fairly even for a little while there, but Jermaine Gresham saw a bit more work during Week 16 than Tyler Eifert, who suffered a neck stinger. It wasn't by much, three targets to one, but Gresham who saw the lone TE red-zone look and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass. Gresham did lose a fumble in the first quarter, but that didn't seem to affect his snap count or his targets. Keep an eye on Eifert's condition heading into the final week. If he's out, it could prove positive for Gresham owners.

Browns RB -
The handwriting was on the wall last week when Edwin Baker was used at the goal-line, and his team-leading 17 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown during Week 16 solidified his place as the Browns lead back at season's end. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise as Chris Ogbonnaya has been fairly useless, particularly after he was almost given the lead back job a few weeks ago, but it's also a little too late for fantasy owners to care as we're sitting with one game left in the season. However, if you still have a game in Week 17, Baker might actually be worth a look with a match-up against the Steelers.

Colts RB -
Although Donald Brown was clearly the more productive running back with 110 all-purpose yards and a receiving touchdown during Week 16, Trent Richardson continued to see an increased workload as he carried the ball 16 times to Brown's 10 and saw five targets in the passing game. Brown saw three. The win allowed the Colts to keep pace with the Bengals, so the battle for the No. 3 seed in the AFC remains alive, but while Brown remains the lead back, the Colts are still going to give Richardson the extra work to see just how useful he can be once the playoffs start.

Colts WR -
With T.Y. Hilton still holding onto the No. 1 receiver job, the battle for No. 2 continues between Griff Whalen and Da'Rick Rogers. Whalen saw eight targets to Rogers' six in Week 16 and was clearly the more productive of the two. While both are likely to stay involved in the passing game, it appears that Whalen seems to have the upper hand. He has great speed, good hands and runs his routes well, and while Rogers has those qualities as well, Whalen seems to be the more experienced/polished of the two and should probably maintain that edge.

Dolphins RB -
It's difficult to call this a position battle when neither seems to really be willing to fight for his job, but based on the carry distribution in Week 16, one assumes that Lamar Miller is hardly a lock as the lead back. Daniel Thomas saw nine carries to Miller's three, though neither was able to get anything going against the Bills this week. Miller hasn't been productive since Week 9 and hasn't sniffed the end zone since Week 4. Meanwhile, Thomas hasn't been the be-all, end-all either as far as yards go, but he has scored a touchdown in three of his last five games. Unless there's an announcement, Miller should still be considered the lead back, but it could be a more even split for the season finale. The Fins face the Jets in Week 17, and while the Jets have had some recent struggles against the run, it hardly looks like either running back will do much damage.

Giants RB -
What a nightmare this backfield situation has been this year. The latest in a long line of calamities, Andre Brown was carted off the field during overtime Sunday after suffering a concussion. With Peyton Hillis also dealing with a concussion, the running-back duties will fall to Michael Cox if Brown is unable to go. Good thing for the Giants there's only one game left, and while it's against division rival Washington, it's as meaningless as it gets.

Giants WR -
It's hard to tell if this is much of a position battle worth watching as Jerrel Jernigan saw the majority of targets Sunday, not Rueben Randle. Jernigan, who had 12 targers to Randle's nine, also saw the key red-zone look during the second quarter, which stood as the Giants' only offensive touchdown. With Victor Cruz out and Hakeem Nicks expected to leave, this should be an interesting position battle to watch, not just for the next game, but for the start of next season as well.

Jaguars RB -
Bottom line, Maurice Jones-Drew is the lead back, and if he's healthy enough to play, he will get the work. Jordan Todman fared well in MJD's absence last week, but he hardly saw any work Sunday as his six carries were merely complementary touches to MJD's work. If you're looking toward Week 17, Jones-Drew is the way to go so long as he's playing. Todman won't see the work unless the game is a blowout or MJD gets hurt again.

Packers RB -
Eddie Lacy is the team's lead back, and that's not up for debate. However, he's been bothered by an ankle problem recently and was forced to leave Sunday's game early. Of course, he rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns before he left, so the day certainly wasn't a waste by any means. But looking toward next week, if Lacy's ankle continues to be an issue, then expect James Starks to lead the way. Starks looks like a great Week 17 option against that disgusting Bears run defense.

Panthers WR -
With Steve Smith headed for an MRI on his knee, the No. 1 receiver job seems open. Brandon LaFell is likely to fill that spot with Ted Ginn Jr. stepping in as the team's No. 2. However, given Ginn's unfavorable track record over the years, look for Domenik Hixon to see an increase in both snaps and targets. He caught the game-winning touchdown against the Saints in Week 16, which should remain fresh in Cam Newton's mind when he's looking downfield in Week 17.

Patriots RB -
Stevan Ridley no longer resides in Bill Belichick's dog house, but LeGarrette Blount still sees the edge in carries and also gets all the goal-line work. Shane Vereen should stay strong on the passing front if he can beat this latest groin issue, but it's Blount who you want to use if you're looking for carries. The Pats play host to the Bills in the final game, looking to lock in their playoff seeding, and given the status of the Bills run defense, all three could post solid days.

Raiders RB -
Rashad Jennings is still considered the lead back in Oakland even though Darren McFadden was healthy enough to not only play but get some goal-line work and score as well. The team wants to continue to let McFadden heal so it won't push him, but it also wants to reward Jennings with his fine play in McFadden's absence these last few weeks. So assume that Jennings will continue to see the edge in touches. Hard to say how either will fare, though, as they face the Broncos, who need a win to lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Rams WR -
With Tavon Austin still sidelined with an ankle injury and the rest of the regular Rams receivers stinking up the joint, the team has turned to rookie Stedman Bailey for a boost at the position. He saw a team-high five targets this week and was the choice for the infamous end-around, which never seems to catch defenses by surprise anymore but still turned into a touchdown run. Bailey should take a back seat to Austin when he returns, but he'll likely stay ahead of the likes of Chris Givens and Austin Pettis over on the depth chart.

Saints RB -
It's a good thing we're at the tail-end of the season as this situation continues to stay murky, at best. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles usually lead the way out of the backfield, but this week Mark Ingram looked like the primary with a team-high 13 carries for 83 yards. Perhaps it was just his style of running that worked well against a tough Carolina run defense, but whatever the case may be, this certainly clouds things for Week 17 against Tampa Bay. Thomas hasn't done anything to lose his job as the lead back, so perhaps it was just Sean Payton's way to get his starter some rest before the playoffs. Unfortunately, though, without really knowing how the split will go Sunday, neither can be trusted.

Texans RB -
Dennis Johnson is considered the lead back in Texas, but considering how awful he was Sunday against the Broncos, it's no wonder that Deji Karim and Jonathan Grimes saw a chunk of carries. None did much to distinguish himself, so look for Johnson to get another chance to prove his worth, as long as he is healthy. Johnson suffered an undisclosed injury Sunday. A Week 17 matchup against Tennessee is inviting, so if Johnson falters, then you know he's not long for the job.

Titans RB -
The even split in carries for Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene continues, and unfortunately, it continues with Greene getting the goal-line work. With Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, it's hard to see the Titans splitting 41 carries again as the passing game is usually what dominates then, but if you have to pick one over the other, then the lean still goes Johnson's way. The number of carries still favors him slightly, and the Titans aren't specifically targeting Greene for the goal-line work. The matchup against Houston in Week 17 should be somewhat favorable, but you'd still like to see a bigger edge for Johnson to make you feel more comfortable about using him.