Fantasy football: Rookie running backs proved cruel mistresses in 2017

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Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of a NFL game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 3, 2017. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Well, that was quick.

The fantasy regular season is now a wrap – in most leagues – and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are preparing for your postseason run.

It seems like just yesterday we were drafting our squads and eagerly anticipating the season opener. Remember how pumped you were when you got the first pick and confidently invested it in David Johnson?

Not long after, back in the “olden days” of September, didn’t it seem inevitable that Kareem Hunt would be the common denominator in the majority of championship teams?

Fast forward a few weeks, and the Hunt owner in one of my leagues didn’t even make the playoffs. Then again, he was the same guy who selected Johnson first, and Ezekiel Elliott with his third pick.

Fantasy football can be a cruel mistress.

Sitting here today, the player I fear most in an opponent’s playoff lineup is a different rookie running back. A “backup,” at that.

Alvin Kamara looks positively unstoppable, and he’s making Hunt’s stellar first three games look routine. Can you imagine what Kamara’s numbers would look like if the extremely capable Mark Ingram wasn’t competing for touches? (The duo is also conspiring to turn Drew Brees into a proverbial bus driver.)

Who else do I hope to avoid in my quest for fantasy glory?

Russell Wilson, who’s hitting his stride at just the right (or wrong) time, depending on your perspective.

Keenan Allen, who has caught 33 of the 41 passes Philip Rivers has flung his way over the last three games.

A healthy Antonio Brown … because he’s still an unstoppable force.

And Rob Gronkowski, because he’s a freak of nature.

Of course, nothing beats a well-rounded team from top to bottom. And a dash of good luck!

Catch ‘em while you can

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers. The future Hall of Famer has resumed throwing and is progressing toward a probable return to the field in Week 15. He’s available in nearly half of all leagues and should be added for those hoping to progress into the postseason. I don’t have to explain why, right?

Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers. Last week I advised you to steer away from “hot waiver-wire prospect” Jacquizz Rodgers, mostly because he had failed to shine in previous opportunities and was destined to share carries. Little did I know that Barber would step so boldly to the plate. The second-year back finished with 27 touches (vs. 3 for Rodgers and 5 for Charles Sims). He was the Bucs’ leading rusher and receiver and he put to rest the notion that he’s little more than a goal-line vulture. Doug Martin could return in Week 14, but Barber has staked his claim to a continuing role in this offense.

Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars. Leonard Fournette limped off the field late in Sunday’s game, though he returned to the field and finished strong. Still, the scene should serve as a reminder of how important it is to handcuff your studs. Ivory is Fournette’s primary insurance policy, leaving him just a play away from becoming a very important addition to your postseason roster.

Don’t be fooled

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers. Let’s tap the brakes a bit before we anoint Garoppolo the second coming of Tom Brady. Sure, he was impressive in his starting debut with the 49ers. He showed poise, touch, accuracy and even the “it” factor. The interception wasn’t his fault, but he’s going to have to start leading drives that end in TDs, not field goals, before he’s ready for the fantasy stage. Maybe next year, Jimmy G.

Mike Davis, RB, Seahawks. Has Seattle finally settled on a workhorse running back? Davis got his turn in the primetime spotlight and didn’t disappoint. Of course, the best runner on the team is still the quarterback. And I continue to believe that J.D. McKissic is the team’s most talented tailback. Count me skeptical of Davis’ value down the stretch.

Follow me on Twitter @ladd_biro.

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