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Shuffle Up: How far can Frank Gore take you?

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Gold Rush Gore (USP)

The Shuffle Up game is a long-view assignment; we're trying to judge fantasy value from today through the remainder of the fake football season. The ranks in this piece are not Week 11 ranks — instead, they're Week 11-16 ranks. Assume a standard scoring format (not PPR) as you mosey on through.

We handle the running backs and tight ends in the odd-numbered weeks. The quarterbacks and wideouts will return next week. I welcome your respectful disagreement and feedback, but bring your best arguments and angles to the discussion. Respect the room, gamers. And remember the golden rule: no one accrues 10-20 percent bonus value simply because they're on your roster.

I'll add the tight end ranks and the comments shortly. I also reserve the right to tweak this list as the day goes along. We're in this together.

1. Arian Foster
2. Doug Martin
3. Adrian Peterson
4. Ray Rice
5. LeSean McCoy
6. Marshawn Lynch

As wonderful as Foster's season has been, volume is driving the story. He's averaging 24.5 carries a week, far and away the most in the league. His 47 red-zone carries outpace everyone (followed by Ridley at 41, Lynch 36, Bradshaw 35 and Greene and Turner with 32; meanwhile, McCoy has just 21, Rice 20). Foster has 19 goal-line carries; no one else is past 12.

And the Texans keep running Foster into the ground, even in lopsided games. He has 58 fourth-quarter carries (only Lynch, at 60, has more), but they've gone for a paltry 155 yards. That's 2.67 an attempt, amigos. And Foster's 3.9 YPC for the season is also a disappointment, all things considered.

If I ran the Texans — and obviously they don't consult me on any decisions — I'd stop using Foster in runaway games that are decided. A whopping 27 of Foster's fourth-quarter carries have occurred while Houston is ahead by 14 or more points. Why run your biggest asset into the ground? You'll need him for the playoffs, Gary Kubiak.

If you want to put Peterson first or second, I will not argue with you. He's obviously a freakish talent who can succeed no matter the opponent (and that's good, because the remaining schedule is hellish). Peterson also gets dinged slightly for the Week 11 bye, of course. But whatever you paid for him in August, it was surely worth it.

7. Trent Richardson
8. Chris Johnson
9. C.J. Spiller
10. Stevan Ridley
11. Alfred Morris
12. Matt Forte
13. Willis McGahee
14. Jamaal Charles
15. Frank Gore

Consistency has been the watchword with Gore this year. He's averaging 18 touches a game and he's scored touchdowns in five different weeks. He's delivered a solid RB2 or better line in seven of his 10 games. You almost never see a down afternoon from him.

That said, how much upside does Gore really offer? He's only made it to 20 carries twice all year, and last week's 21 rushes (in an overtime game) set a new season high. He doesn't have any games with multiple touchdowns. He's no longer a major factor in the passing game (19 carries, 139 yards). And the 49ers like to use Kendall Hunter as the unofficial closer when a game is in hand; Hunter has 11, 11 and 11 rushes in the last three San Francisco victories. Gore has 50 first-quarter carries this year, then trends down to 28, 34 and 23 in the next three periods.

I'm not looking to bash a dependable runner who averages 5.4 yards a pop, and obviously Gore works behind an elite offensive line. But without crazy volume in the picture - 15 backs have more carries than Gore, and 15 backs have more red-zone carries - I have to consider Gore more of a second-tier back, not a true RB1. The schedule isn't easy down the stretch, even with a cushy New Orleans game in waiting. San Francisco finishes this way: Chicago, at New Orleans, at St. Louis, Miami, at New England, at Seattle.

16. Ryan Mathews
17. Reggie Bush
18. Steven Jackson
19. Ahmad Bradshaw
20. Mikel Leshoure
21. Michael Turner
22. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
23. DeMarco Murray
24. Fred Jackson
25. Shonn Greene
26. Darren McFadden

Turner has 32 red-zone carries, 12 goal-line carries. Disappointing to have just four scores. He looked slower than dial-up Internet last week. … McFadden's snappy closing schedule catches your attention, but no one knows when he's coming back. At least the Raiders seem to realize that the zone-blocking scheme isn't going to work for DMC. … Murray's upside isn't as lofty as McFadden's, but he's closer to returning — as far as we know, anyway. Projecting players off multiple-week injuries is pretty much a fool's errand. And the stash value of players like this can vary greatly from league to league, depending on how the specs and parameters differ.

27. Jonathan Stewart
28. Rashard Mendenhall
29. Darren Sproles
30. Felix Jones
31. Andre Brown
32. Daniel Thomas
33. Joique Bell
34. Rashad Jennings
35. Vick Ballard
36. Marcel Reece

Bell leads the league in something I call "hurry up/garbage time receiving yards." Those are the yards accrued in the final ten minutes of a game, where the offense is trailing by 10 points or more. Three Lions are in the Top 8; Calvin Johnson is second on the list, while Titus Young is eighth. (And to no one's surprise, the Garbage Time touchdown king in 2012 thus far is Dwayne Bowe, with three.) Back to Bell, he sure looks flex worthy even after the byes are complete. He'll see the occasional goal-line look, and he's obviously handy on third down and in the must-pass game.

I've had some questions about my Sproles Week 11 rank; I don't feel like anyone can make a sound decision on the New Orleans backfield until we see the full practice week. And even if that partially clears things up, the usage patterns are often messy here. Say this for the Saints, they've stocked the fridge with a bunch of talented runners. It's a shame they didn't liberate one of their backs at the trading deadline; imagine what Thomas could do in Green Bay.

37. Jonathan Dwyer
38. Beanie Wells
39. Larod Stephens-Howling
40. James Starks
41. Donald Brown
42. Pierre Thomas
43. Kendall Hunter
44. Daryl Richardson

The Colts running backs collectively have the fewest catches this year (18-195-2). The Jets are second. Given the experience level of Andrew Luck and the struggles of Mark Sanchez, you wonder why these offenses aren't utilizing their backs more. Then again, it's not like the Jets really have anyone handy to use in the role. At least the Colts have some options.

45. Jacquizz Rodgers
46. Michael Bush
47. Maurice Jones-Drew
48. Chris Ivory
49. DeAngelo Williams
50. Ronnie Brown
51. Mark Ingram
52. Ben Tate

So much for the trendy Tate, who did next to nothing in the early part of the year, then got hurt. And as we discussed in the Foster section, the Texans don't seem to mind running their workhorse into the ground.

53. Isaac Redman
54. Danny Woodhead
55. Alex Green
56. Robert Turbin
57. Shane Vereen
58. Mike Goodson
59. Ronnie Hillman
60. LeGarrette Blount

I loved Goodson's spec value a couple of weeks ago; now he's just another undersized back with a bum ankle. They come and they go.

61. Bernard Pierce
62. Toby Gerhart
63. Peyton Hillis
64. Justin Forsett
65. Cedric Peerman

Peerman is a better pass-catcher than Green-Ellis, for what it's worth. Mind you, we're not talking about Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig with these guys.

66. Jackie Battle
67. Evan Royster
68. Bilal Powell
69. Mike Tolbert
70. Bryce Brown

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Can you make Mark Gastineau's head bleed? (USP)

And here are the tight ends.

1. Jimmy Graham
2. Rob Gronkowski
3. Tony Gonzalez
4. Jason Witten
5. Owen Daniels
6. Antonio Gates
7. Jermaine Gresham
8. Aaron Hernandez

Although the Bengals do have some modest talent at the complimentary wideout positions, it's Gresham that's emerged as the key guy after A.J. Green. He's basically matched what Daniels has done over the last seven weeks, with no fanfare attached. … The Patriots obviously aren't going to be helpful with the Hernandez injury story, so we're flying in the dark on that one. When Hernandez is right, he's arguably the most versatile member of the offense, a movable chess piece who even sees backfield work (and carries) on occasion. Josh McDaniels is dying to get his full compliment of weapons back.

9. Greg Olsen
10. Brandon Pettigrew
11. Vernon Davis
12. Heath Miller
13. Brandon Myers
14. Dustin Keller
14. Scott Chandler
15. Kyle Rudolph

I like Myers and would like to go higher, just need to know the concussion problem won't be an issue going forward. Obviously Oakland is going to have to throw it more than most teams, given the injuries in the backfield and the problems on defense. … I was a passionate Rudolph believer, but the month off the grid left a definite mark. Christian Ponder and Rudolph had their mojo working in Week 10, in part because Percy Harvin wasn't around. I'm curious to see how Rudolph is deployed after the break. … Keller has never been much of a blocker, but the receiver-starved Jets can't be picky right now. They need anyone who can get open, even in the short areas. … Miller had that Pro Bowl look to him before the Ben Roethlisberger injury. Can any Pittsburgh receiver thrive with Byron Leftwich? Sadly, I'm pessimistic.

17. Martellus Bennett
18. Dennis Pitta
19. Brent Celek
20. Logan Paulsen
21. Jared Cook
22. Joel Dreessen
23. Jermichael Finley

The Therapeutic Finley Drop was one of the best of the season. Don't feel bad, he'd do it to you in a second. … I wouldn't say there's anything special about Paulsen's game, but he's got reasonable hands and the Shanahans know how to design intermediate strikes to their tight ends.

24. Dwayne Allen
25. Anthony Fasano
26. Rob Housler
27. Jacob Tamme
28. Dallas Clark
29. Marcedes Lewis
30. Zach Miller

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