Going into their Thursday Night Football game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers backfield is a complete mess for a multitude of reasons. Whether it be injuries or health and safety protocols, the Packers are going to be left with very few options when it comes to their running backs. Should fantasy football managers take a shot on Tyler Ervin or Dexter Williams in Week 9, or should they look for a safer option and avoid this matchup entirely?
The Packers will be missing several players due to NFL protocols
I am going to start with this one as we actually have clarity on the availability of a few players for the Packers.
On Monday, Packers rookie RB AJ Dillon tested positive and was immediately placed on NFL’s reserve list. This led to rapid testing to occur, starting with all players who were deemed to be in close contact with Dillon. Because of Dillon’s positive test, the NFL determined that RB Jamaal Williams and LB Kamal Martin are considered “close contact and high-risk” players. Both players have been ruled out for the Thursday night game due to the timeframe on a short week, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Anyone with “high-risk” close contact exposure must isolate for five days. Williams and Martin were exposed Sunday, so they must self-isolate for five days and can rejoin the team no sooner than Saturday. This leaves the Packers with Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams as the only fantasy options left on the team.
Unfortunately for fantasy football managers, the loss of Williams will sting. He had been one of the best waiver additions over the last few weeks while filling in for Aaron Jones as he comes back from a calf strain that has kept him out the previous two games.
Williams has combined for 216 total yards of offense and one touchdown in the last two games while Jones has been out. Over the previous two weeks, the only running back other than Jamaal Williams to have finished RB8 or better was Alvin Kamara. Williams averaged 19.8 fantasy points per game and should have a role in the offense even when Jones does make his return, which might not be in Week 9.
Packers RB Aaron Jones seems unlikely to play on Thursday, leaving only Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams for the team
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, there is pessimism that RB Aaron Jones will be back for Thursday. Jones has missed the last two games for the Packers while nursing a calf injury picked up late in the week prior to Week 7. The Packers have been historically cautious when it comes to the organization’s approach to the timeline of when a player can return. They consistently choose to go the safe route instead of pushing someone out a week early and risk a potential re-injury. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but in Week 9 and with nearly all the other running backs out, the loss of Jones will hit a bit harder.
If Jones can play, he’s a no-doubt RB1 fantasy option and will be in for workhorse volume. Through Week 6, Jones was averaging 15.0 carries plus 5.6 targets per game, even though Williams was cutting into the available volume with six carries and three targets per game of his own. Before his injury, the only player in fantasy who averaged more fantasy points per game at the running back position was Alvin Kamara.
Coming off a season where he scored 19 touchdowns, Jones was an obvious regression candidate, but his efficiency makes him an RB1 any week he steps on the field. Amazingly, Jones was on pace to beat his touchdown mark of 2019, even if that would have been a longshot.
Even though he has only played in five games, Aaron Jones is still the RB9 in fantasy football with 115 PPR points, and his 23 points per game average ranks fourth-best in the NFL.
If Jones is out for Week 9, which is the trending direction, Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams are the only two eligible backs on the Packer’s roster.
Are Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams worth taking the risk on in fantasy for Week 9?
I’ll be honest, this is bad. Unless you are in complete and total desperation mode, I would stay away from either of these guys in fantasy. Not only are these guys completely unproven assets, but they are also taking on the number one defense in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs at a measly 17.76. The 49ers rank 32nd in Defense Points Against Consistency (DPAC) with a score of 5.51, meaning they are a matchup that you want to avoid in fantasy unless you have someone who is a weekly must-start. Neither Tyler Ervin nor Dexter Williams falls into that category for fantasy.
Right now, I can’t even sit here and tell you who I think the starter would be. Tyler Ervin could be the guy, but I don’t have confidence in that call. The 2016 fourth-round draft pick was drafted by the Houston Texans and found a new home with the Green Bay Packers in late 2019.
The bulk of Ervin’s snaps with the Packers have been on special teams and as a returner, but he’s had a couple of decent moments in the limited offensive snaps (22 per game) he’s seen so far in the 2020 season. He’s had four rushing attempts for 43 yards (his longest a 21-yard run) and has seen nine targets on the season, catching six for 33 yards. He is the most likely candidate to be the RB1 for the Packers on Thursday, but I believe it will be a committee approach.
The other option would be Dexter Williams, who is currently on the practice squad. He has played in five career games since entering the NFL as a sixth-round pick in 2019. He has five career carries for 11 yards, and his last touch came in Week 4 of 2019. He will likely be activated for depth reasons, but I am not expecting much in terms of fantasy production.
I think you are just as likely to have someone on your bench with more fantasy upside than either Ervin or Williams will bring you. Yes, you could start them, but it is a bad matchup, and there is no certainty on which player will have the longer leash. Outside of DFS or only in the deepest of leagues would I consider playing either running back in Week 9.
Want more fantasy football analysis and news?
Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @PFN365 to stay up to date with all things around the NFL and the 2020 fantasy football season. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis while also visiting our fantasy football section for more coverage and up-to-date rankings.