When the Washington Football Team cut veteran RB Adrian Peterson days before the 2020 NFL regular season, many people penciled rookie Antonio Gibson in for a heavy workload this season. Not many fantasy football analysts anticipated that career journeyman JD McKissic would steal so much work, but that’s precisely what has happened this season.
While Gibson leads the Washington Football Team in almost every rushing category, McKissic has steadily seen passing-game work in every game. This has enabled both running backs to remain fantasy-relevant, despite each Washington RB splitting the workload. Antonio Gibson is currently RB10 in half-PPR formats, while JD McKissic is hanging around at RB35.
Enough about the past, what does the future hold for this backfield? With the Washington Football Team featuring two running backs with fantasy football value, is Antonio Gibson or JD McKissic the better RB play for the Thanksgiving Day showdown with the Dallas Cowboys? Let’s dive into their respective snap counts, fantasy production, and a look ahead at the upcoming schedule to determine which Washington RB you should trust moving forward.
JD McKissic has been a thorn in Antonio Gibson’s fantasy football ceiling all season
With Peterson off to Detroit and Antonio Gibson handed lead-back duties, the rookie running back from Memphis saw a tremendous jump in value late in the fantasy football drafting season. As a former wide receiver converted back to his natural running back position, many of us were drooling at the thought of Gibson collecting 15-20 touches per-game out of the backfield.
Unfortunately for us, we didn’t consider career journeyman JD McKissic as a real threat to Gibson’s potential massive workload. We were massively wrong, as McKissic has routinely pilfered targets and receptions, especially when the Washington Football Team gets behind on the scoreboard.
JD McKissic leads the Washington RBs with 372 snaps, 64 targets, and 44 receptions on the season. The passing-game specialist only has 217 rushing yards on 49 attempts, but he’s second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards (317) behind rising-star wide receiver Terry McLaurin.
In comparison, Washington RB Antonio Gibson has 299 snaps, 32 targets, and only 27 receptions on the season. Gibson’s 212 receiving yards are fifth-most on the team, but his running ability has saved the rookie.
While McKissic has dominated in the passing game, the journeyman has been a non-factor on the ground. That’s where Antonio Gibson checks in. Through Week 11 of the NFL regular season, Gibson has 119 attempts, 530 rushing yards, and eight touchdowns on the ground. Meanwhile, McKissic has a 49-217-1 TD rushing line on the season.
So while JD McKissic does almost all of his work through the air, Antonio Gibson is very much running-game dependent. Gibson is especially successful in the red zone, where he continues to handle massive volume over McKissic.
Gibson has 24 rushing attempts inside the 20-yard line (#16 in NFL), 13 attempts inside the 10-yard line (#12 in NFL), and nine attempts inside the 5-yard line (#8 in NFL). In comparison, McKissic has nine rushing attempts inside the 20-yard line, two tries inside the 10-yard line, and one attempt inside the 5-yard line. So while McKissic is the leader in the passing game, Gibson is the more likely of the two to score touchdowns.
Antonio Gibson or JD McKissic: Which Washington RB is the better fantasy play in Week 12?
So with all of this information in mind, is Antonio Gibson or JD McKissic the better Washington RB play in Week 12 against Dallas and for the rest of the season? That answer usually varies by the game, so why not both?
Despite not handling much passing volume, Gibson’s nose for the end zone has the rookie running back as the RB10 in half-PPR fantasy football formats. Even in PPR formats where passing work can push average backs above superior running backs, Gibson only drops back one spot to RB11.
As for JD McKissic, he’s RB35 in half-PPR formats due to his lack of touchdowns on the season. McKissic jumps up to RB27 in full PPR leagues, putting the backup running back firmly in the RB2/FLEX discussion weekly.
Even with McKissic stealing passing targets, Antonio Gibson is the Washington RB to trust in Week 12 and for the rest of the season. Gibson is currently a fringe RB1 on the season, and the Dallas Cowboys defense is exploitable for fantasy football success. The Cowboys defense has been better against the run than the pass, but Washington could have plenty of success in this game.
Do both RBs hold value in your lineups?
With Washington expected to remain reasonably competitive with Dallas, a JD McKissic blowup spot is unlikely, but the backup remains FLEX worthy in half-PPR formats. It’s impossible to predict McKissic’s big games, but his value skyrockets in contests Washington is expected to trail. McKissic shines in Washington’s two-minute drill, but he becomes expendable when they’re nursing a lead.
Looking ahead at Washington’s rest of season schedule, this running back battle could alter by the week. The Washington Football Team should be competitive against Dallas, San Francisco, Carolina, and Philadelphia. Those are the games you expect Gibson to get the majority of the running back workload, although McKissic will always snag a few targets per game.
Washington also has contests against the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0) and the Seattle Seahawks (7-3). Washington will struggle to do much of anything against Pittsburgh, but these are the matchups and game scripts usually set up for significant McKissic fantasy football outputs. Washington will likely be trailing for the entirety of these contents, putting McKissic on the field as they play catch-up.
In Week 12, Antonio Gibson is probably the superior running back play for fantasy football. Dallas looked better last week with Andy Dalton back under center, but no one expects the Cowboys to get a massive lead on the Washington Football Team. If anything, this week sets up as a fairly competitive contest and a massive one in the horrible NFC East. Washington would be smart to ride the legs of rookie running back Antonio Gibson, but don’t be surprised if JD McKissic gets the majority of the passing-game volume.
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Jordan Woodson is a fantasy football analyst for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter @Jordan_Woodson.