It was a familiar scene at running back for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15. The cast may not always be the same (an injury to Elijah Mitchell made sure of that), but Kyle Shanahan’s team still had the same success. This time, Jeff Wilson Jr. plugged into the starting lineup, and he repaid the faith shown in style. What does this mean for fantasy football managers, though, and can you trust Wilson as a player to start in Week 16?
What is the fantasy value of Jeff Wilson Jr. with Elijah Mitchell out in Week 16?
Wilson had his largest workload of the season in Week 15 and made the most of it, easily posting his best fantasy performance. He rushed 21 times for 110 yards and a touchdown as the 49ers comfortably took care of the Atlanta Falcons. He also caught 2 passes for 9 yards. Wilson was the clear lead back for the 49ers.
JaMycal Hasty’s fantasy value looked non-existent as he had only 2 touches, although a kickoff return fumble on the game’s opening play may have contributed to that. He’d be an incredibly risky start, and there could be better options on your waiver wire. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk also had 2 touches, although 1 of them was a 6-yard touchdown run.
Wilson was the workhorse among running backs, but wide receiver Deebo Samuel challenged his monopoly. One of the top weapons in the league, Samuel has been taking more snaps out of the backfield recently.
Samuel has carried the ball 39 times for 269 yards this season. He also leads the team in rushing touchdowns with 7. His opportunities don’t look to be decreasing, and his dynamism with the ball in his hands means he can take over at RB at any moment.
Is Elijah Mitchell playing in Week 16?
Mitchell took over as the starting running back after Raheem Mostert’s injury and tops the depth chart when healthy. He has missed the previous two games after suffering a knee injury and a concussion on the same play against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 13.
On Tuesday, general manager John Lynch confirmed that Mitchell is out of the league’s concussion protocol, and his knee injury has “taken a positive turn.” Lynch said Mitchell would be a game-time decision. However, on Wednesday, the 49ers listed Mitchell as out for Week 16. That looks set to leave Wilson as the lead back for the 49ers this week.
The Titans have been shutting down running backs
The 49ers face a stiff test when they play the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football. No team allows fewer fantasy points per game to running backs than the Titans. They have been the stingiest against the position in both standard scoring and points per reception (PPR) scoring.
The Titans have recently become a low-scoring team, with Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Julio Jones all on the sideline. In their last four games (which included contests against the lowly Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars), they’ve averaged just 14.75 points. In three of those games, they scored only 13 points.
The 49ers know that the ground game is crucial to their success. Even against an elite unit, they’ll likely continue to rely on their running backs, especially if they’re winning or the game is close. Mitchell’s absence gives another opportunity to Wilson. Samuel will also have a role in the run game, as he has at times this season.
Injuries and illnesses have been a key theme in the NFL this season, and fantasy managers have had to navigate them carefully. Things only seem to be getting worse as more and more starting running backs are being forced to miss games. If you’re lucky enough to be in a position where you have players who will see plenty of opportunities, then you will likely have to start them.
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