If you own a fantasy football team -- and let's face it, if you're reading this, you do -- then you're probably sweating out at least one or two RBs this week. The injury/COVID list is ridiculous, even by running back standards. Kareem Hunt has already been ruled out, and both Austin Ekeler and Damien Harris are in question for early games. The list of guys on the start 'em, sit 'em bubble for Sunday includes Leonard Fournette, James Conner, Chase Edmonds, Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Elijah Mitchell, Darrell Henderson, Michael Carter, D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, and Myles Gaskin (and every other Dolphins RB). Needless to say, you need the latest illness and injury updates if you're going to make it out of Week 15 and advance in your fantasy playoffs.
Leonard Fournette injury update
Fournette (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, casting doubt on his availability for Sunday night's game against New Orleans. He certainly still has a chance to play if he gets in even a limited session on Friday, but fantasy owners should be planning ahead and grabbing Ronald Jones II if he's available.
This is a brutal matchup for RBs, so the worst-case scenario is Fournette is active and splits time. If that's the situation, both Fournette and Jones would be TD-dependent flexes. If Fournette is out, Jones is still just a flex, but his floor is a little higher. If Fournette is active and we hear reports he won't have any restrictions, he's still in play, but just know he's riskier than usual.
James Conner injury update
Conner tweaked his ankle on the final drive of Arizona's Monday night game, and he's yet to practice this week. It's possible he's just getting an extra day or two off because he played on Monday, but at this point, fantasy owners can't count on him suiting up against the Lions.
If Conner is out, Chase Edmonds (ankle), who's expected to come off the IR (see below), would likely handle the bulk of the RB touches, but it's possible Arizona eases him back with less than a full complement of snaps. If that happens, Eno Benjamin would be a (very) high-risk, high-reward flex given the matchup, but it's tough to justify starting him in the fantasy playoffs. Stick to either Conner or Edmonds, depending on who's active. If both suit up, play both.
Elijah Mitchell injury update
UPDATE: Mitchell reportedly worked "off to the side" in practice on Thursday.
Mitchell (concussion, knee) did not practice on Wednesday after missing Week 14. It seems unlikely the concussion is much of an issue anymore (though we don't know for sure), but his knee injury could certainly keep him out against Atlanta.
The 49ers have leaned on Mitchell in the first game back from injury before this season, so as long as he's active, have him in your lineup in this favorable matchup. If he's out, Jeff Wilson Jr. would head up the backfield, but his inefficiency and Deebo Samuel's emergence as the more effective "runner" limits JWJ's value. We'd still consider him flex, but he doesn't have nearly the ceiling Mitchell does.
Miles Sanders injury update
UPDATE: Both Sanders and Howard were limited again in practice on Thursday.
Sanders (ankle) got in a limited practice on Wednesday, which was good to see considering Philadelphia was coming off a bye. Jordan Howard (knee) also was limited in practice. That would seemingly put both on track to play in Week 15 against Washington, but this situation remains fluid.
If both are healthy, it's anyone's guess as to how the Eagles' backfield will shake out. Sanders and Howard were in a fairly even split in the brief time they played together, but Howard looked like the slightly more productive runner, at least when TDs are factored in. In a below-average matchup, each presents major risk in the fantasy playoffs. Howard likely has a little more value in standard leagues, but, again, we won't know for sure until we see this team on the field. If both are out, Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell would split RB touches.
Chase Edmonds injury update
Edmonds (ankle) is still technically on IR, so the Cardinals don't have to list him on their practice reports. That said, coach Kliff Kingsbury revealed last week that Edmonds would play in Week 15 against Detroit, so as long as that's still the plan, it's safe to pencil him into your lineups. The good news is we'll know for sure if he's activated by Saturday afternoon.
If James Conner (ankle) is out, Edmonds has a very high floor and ceiling in this elite matchup. Even if Conner plays, Edmonds should immediately get back to his high-floor PPR ways. He's much riskier in standard, but given the matchup, we'd still be willing to take a chance on him in a flex spot.
D'Andre Swift injury update
Lions coach Dan Campbell provided a slight bit of optimism on Swift's Week 15 outlook earlier in the week, but after consecutive missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday, it seems highly unlikely he suits up against Arizona.
A Week 16 return from his should injury seems possible, but with the Lions going nowhere, it's just as likely they shut down Swift for the season like they did T.J. Hockenson (hand). If Swift is out this week, Jamaal Williams, who missed last week's game while on the reserve/COVID list, would start and handle the bulk of the touches. However, he hasn't been activated yet, so technically his status is still in question. If both Swift and Williams are out, Craig Reynolds would presumably get the bulk of the carries like last week, but Jermar Jefferson and Godwin Igwebuike would also be involved. Given the difficult matchup, mediocre talent level, and unpredictability of this situation, avoid it in all but the deepest of leagues if Swift and Williams are out.
Michael Carter injury update
Like Edmonds, Carter (ankle) is on the IR, so he does not need to be listed on the Jets' practice reports. However, coach Robert Saleh said on Monday he expected Carter to suit up against the Dolphins.
Carter was operating the Jets clear lead back before the injury, so as long as he's out there, it's reasonable to assume he'll resume that role. Tevin Coleman (concussion) returned to full practice on Wednesday after missing last week, so presumably he'll be ready to lead the backfield if Carter has a setback, but for now, it's looking like Carter will be a solid RB2/flex in a relatively neutral matchup.
Myles Gaskin COVID update
Gaskin was placed on the reserve/COVID list last Friday during Miami's bye, and early reports indicated he was vaccinated. If that's the case, he could be activated at any time, but so far there's been no word on his availability for Sunday's game against the Jets.
Backups Salvon Ahmed and Phillip Lindsay are also on the reserve/COVID list, while backup Malcolm Brown (quad) finally resumed practicing after a lengthy IR stint. If none of the four can go, Duke Johnson would be next in line for touches. We're tentatively assuming Gaskin will suit up. Considering he's playing the worst defense against fantasy RBs, he'd be a solid starter this week. In fact, whoever starts for the Dolphins should be started in fantasy leagues, even if it's Brown or Johnson. There's still a lot to be sorted out here, so pay close attention closer to the weekend.
Darrell Henderson COVID update
Henderson went on the reserve/COVID list last Saturday, and it's unclear what his status is at this time. The good news is he was apparently over the quad injury that sidelined him in Week 13, but obviously we can't say for sure that he'll be active against the Seahawks.
If he is, he's a must-start in this elite matchup. If he's out again, Sony Michel would take over and be a legit RB1 play.