2023 Fantasy Football Week 6 Backfield Breakdown: Buy Jonathan Taylor, Hold Dameon Pierce, Sell Alexander Mattison

Which RBs are screaming buys and which should you move on from?

The running back situation in fantasy football is disgusting this year.

De’Von Achane just landed on IR and was well on the way to being a league winner. Nick Chubb is lost for the year, is facing future contract questions, and will be 28 before the season ends. James Conner and Khalil Herbert have been placed on short-term IR after sustaining injuries.

Fortunately, some big fantasy names appear to be returning this week, barring setbacks. The Chargers are ecstatic to get Austin Ekeler back from his week one injury, and Saquon Barkley is likely returning from his “ordinary ankle sprain.”

Building on last week’s Backfield Breakdown, here are my favorite buys, sells, holds, and claims for week six.

WEEK 6 BACKFIELD BREAKDOWN

RB Buys

Jonathan Taylor

Okay, I’m not exactly putting myself out there with this take. Still, everyone has been left with their jaws hanging while watching Zack Moss play this season. This is the same Moss who was left for dead in Buffalo.

So far, Moss (21.4 ppg) is averaging a staggering 2.9 Fantasy Points Over Expectation and is currently the RB4 at the position. That’s outstanding.

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Imagine Jonathan Taylor working his way into that workload more and more as the season progresses. There’s value to be had, and Taylor didn’t look terrible in his first game back from his tumultuous offseason. He saw six rushes and one target and scored 4.4 fantasy points in the process.

If Moss has been thriving in his role so much, why should we buy Taylor? I’m glad you asked.

Three years, $42 million, with $19.34 million guaranteed. Indianapolis signed Taylor through 2026, with an out following the 2025 season. They’re going to ride him when he’s ready. So let’s break down Zack Moss’ opportunity with the Colts thus far.

Through four games, Moss has seen 20 total red zone opportunities, including three targets, and has 99 total opportunities. That’s essentially 20 opportunities per game and five red zone chances.

Moss isn’t going to go away, but his role and his fantasy production equal around 18.5 xFP/g.

Taylor, as a runner, is on par with Chubb as one of the best in the NFL and is underrated as a pass catcher.

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When he gets back into game shape and shakes off the rust, he has the chance to be a league winner in a surprisingly efficient Colts offense.

Buy now and reap the rewards later.

Isiah Pacheco

Since putting a stranglehold on the Chiefs backfield, Isiah Pacheco has been a monster.

Pacheco has seen at least 15 rush attempts in his last three games and has hit paydirt in each game. He’s averaged 18 ppg across that span and is currently the RB17 in ppg.

According to FantasyPros, he has a highly favorable rest-of-season schedule. It all kicks off tonight against the Broncos, who have given up the most yards and the fourth-most touchdowns to the RB position.

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During Pacheco’s role-defining three-week stretch, he has seen 58 total opportunities, including 15 in the red zone. He’s taken advantage of that opportunity, scoring 3.15 points over his xFP (14.9).

PFF Data courtesy of @Arrowhead_Adam on X

Aside from the outlier that is Achane the Dolphins offense, Pacheco leads the league in rush yards over expectation, grading out ahead of Raheem Mostert and Bijan Robinson.

Pacheco needs to be bought now while the Kansas City Chiefs offense is sputtering a little. It’s inevitable that Patrick Mahomes will get that engine purring like a Maserati.

RB Holds

Tony Pollard

Last week, I recommended everyone buy Pollard, and I still don’t think it’s the most ludicrous stance. Last week’s embarrassment against the 49ers really shook my confidence in the Cowboys’ offense to right the ship.

Currently, Pollard is sitting as the RB15 and has not performed as well as his opportunity suggests he should. Despite having an xFP total of 19.3 ppg, Pollard has only scored 14.9 ppg (-4.4 FPOE). In fact, among qualified backs, Pollard is the second-worst performer vs. expectation, behind only Miles Sanders.

Pollard ranks fourth in overall opportunities and is tied with Christian McCaffrey in total red zone opportunities.

Last season, Pollard avoided a tackle on 21.2% of his rush attempts. That number has fallen to 7.4% which is LAST among qualified RBs. His yards after contact production have also fallen off a bit, down 1.07 yards per attempt from 2022.

Dallas has a get-right game against the lucrative Chargers defense in what could be a shootout (over/under 51). Pollard has every chance to play up to his opportunity and have a big week.

Dameon Pierce

That offensive line in Houston is BAD!

Dameon Pierce is a guy who should be producing more than he is but is not underperforming; he’s just a victim of bad circumstances. When he gets the chance to rush the ball, he sees 0.34 yards before contact, which is 41st out of 44 RBs.

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Pierce is 12th in opportunities inside the red zone, and 10th in total opportunities. Amazingly, he is only averaging 9.6 ppg (-4.3 FPOE).

So why is Pierce a hold? His quarterback is VERY GOOD.

CJ Stroud is on the precipice of balling out despite having an offensive line made up of wet tissue paper and mannequins. With the emergence of Nico Collins and Tank Dell, Pierce should see defensive fronts start softening up a bit.

He has a pretty soft schedule ahead of him after his week seven bye. Four of his six games after the bye are against bottom-half rush defenses.

As this offense gets rolling, Pierce will hopefully see an uptick in targets and more trips in the red zone.

Hold on to Pierce, as he is likely going to find the end zone more frequently during the playoff push.

RB sells

Alexander Mattison

Last week, I made my thoughts on Mattison known. With the arrival of Cam Akers, Mattison’s status as a workhorse running back was in serious jeopardy.

To his credit, Mattison answered the bell on Sunday.

Despite only seeing 11 opportunities, he did manage to find pay dirt on a red zone target and finished as the RB19 on the week. Akers managed only seven opportunities and was on the field for 29% of snaps in each of his two active games.

Mattison’s snap share has fallen each game Akers has been active, falling to 51% on Sunday. Despite not seeing more opportunities, it seems Minnesota might be steering things more towards the dreaded RBBC.

After ranking seventh in xFP among RBs through the first four weeks, Mattison fell all the way to 14th, averaging 15.0 xFP on the season (-3.2 FPOE). His role in the passing game has kept Mattison afloat, as that whole backfield has been a mess all season.

Last season, despite ranking near the bottom in RYOE, Dalvin Cook still managed 13.8 ppg, despite his role only suggesting he should score 14.2 xFP. Cook saw 308 opportunities on the season, and, through five weeks, Mattison is pacing for a similar 289 opportunities.

With the absence of Justin Jefferson, Mattison and Akers might see defensive fronts keying in on winning at the LOS, meaning they’ll face a higher rate of loaded boxes.

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There are too many red flags surrounding Mattison, and fantasy managers should probably jump ship while they can.

Derrick Henry

Father Time is undefeated. While Old Man Talent Killer is being aided by the Titans dumpster fire offense, it’s clear Derrick Henry is not an elite fantasy play anymore. He’s transitioned into the same territory as Ezekiel Elliott; a big name who wasn’t worth his draft capital.

Henry has been fine so far, this isn’t a requiem. He’s averaging a respectable 13.6 ppg, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Early in the season, Henry was producing as a solid RB2, scoring 13.9 and 18.5 ppg. From week three on it’s been far more concerning.

Weeks three and five, Henry has finished as an RB3 or worse. This devastation has been softened by a 24.4-point explosion in week four against the Bengals.

The Titans are not a good football team. Ryan Tannehill has shown minuscule flashes of being the old Tannehill from three years ago. Tennessee is trailing in games… a lot.

While trailing, Tyjae Spears is seeing more opportunities while Henry stands on the sidelines. In fact, Spears has been targeted 15 times while the Titans trail, while Henry has only seen three. On the season, Henry is averaging an xFP of 13.5, which is down from 15.6 xFP in 2022.

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A former red zone force, Henry has only seen 12 opportunities this season vs. five for Spears.

In our weekly buy low/sell high column, we saw Henry’s volume isn’t what it once was either, as he’s pacing for 50 fewer rush attempts than last season.

Use the name value to fill your roster with more upside players instead.

Author

  • Graduate of Regent University (2019) BA Sports Journalism Writer: Full Press Coverage, UnFiltered Sports Network Fantasy Football Enthusiast Fantasy Analyst/Writer for the Roto Street Journal

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