Fantasy mailbag: Murray's low workload puzzling

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I keep telling myself, "I can't bench Ray Rice because he was my first-rounder." Is it time to accept him as a fantasy bust? - @mjw_86 (via Twitter)

Michael Fabiano: I'm not sure there's much of a defense for Rice's lack of production. He said he was healthier than he's been all season heading into Week 9, but Rice was still limited to 3.8 fantasy points. After nine weeks, a total of 36 running backs including Bilal Powell, Jacquizz Rodgers and Roy Helu, have scored more points than the Rutgers product. That is the definition of a first-round bust. This is not all on Rice, though, as his offensive line is having major problems with both run-blocking and pass protection. Still, he's gone from a viable must-start No. 1 runner to more of a low-end No. 2 back or flex starter. Consider him that in Week 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals, who have allowed an average of 15.94 fantasy points per game to running backs on the road.

Props from Germany! I have Tony Romo and Matt Ryan, and both have tough matchups in Week 10. Should I add Ryan Tannehill (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers) or Eli Manning (vs. Oakland Raiders) to start ahead of them? - E. Martini (via Facebook)

M.F.: Tannehill and Manning do have very attractive matchups this week, but I don't trust either one of them enough to start them over Romo. Did you know that the Cowboys quarterback is one of the five best players in fantasy football based on points? I'd rather roll with him than Tannehill or Manning, who have been inconsistent and overall disappointing in the stat sheets this season. Also keep in mind that the Cowboys-Saints contest in New Orleans could turn into a serious barn-burner. In his last two games against Drew Brees and crew, Romo has thrown for a combined 728 yards and five touchdowns.

Are the recent performances of Zac Stacy and Mike James a sign of things to come ... or flukes? - @Cdub5_ (via Twitter)

M.F.: I don't see how you can call Stacy a fluke, not after what he's done over the last three weeks. During that time, he's averaged an impressive 19.1 fantasy points -- and he's done a good part of it against tough run defenses in the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. Coach Jeff Fisher has made Stacy the centerpiece of his offense after the loss of quarterback Sam Bradford, so fantasy owners should continue to start him. He'll face the Indianapolis Colts next. I have a bit less faith in James as a long-term option, though what he did in Seattle last weekend was nothing short of spectacular and warrants a pick up off waivers (if available). He also has a nice upcoming matchup against the Miami Dolphins, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points (24.4 PPG) to running backs on their home field.

Is it time to give up on Trent Richardson? I'm thinking of dropping him for Rashad Jennings. - J. Bernatowicz (via Facebook)

M.F.: Holy cow, was I wrong about Richardson? His move to Indianapolis looked like a godsend for his fantasy value but instead, he's turned into one of the most disappointing running backs in the league. In fact, Donald Brown has looked like the better back in recent weeks. That's right -- Donald Brown! Richardson does have a fantastic matchup this week against the Rams, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points (23.9 PPG) to running backs on the road, so he's still in the mix as a low-end fantasy starter. With that said, Jennings is still someone to add with the status of Darren McFadden (hamstring) in question. I just wouldn't do it at the expense of Richardson.

Was Chris Johnson's Week 9 performance legitimate? Can I lean on him every week now? - @Travis941 (via Twitter)

M.F.: I don't think CJ2K is going to morph back into the player who rushed for over 2,000 yards in 2009, but it sure was a welcomed sight to see him run hard and produce in the stat sheets in Week 9. He also has some great matchups ahead against the Jacksonville Jaguars (2), Indianapolis Colts (2) and Raiders, which makes Johnson an attractive option based on the matchups as well. He's not going to score 20-plus fantasy points every week, but at least the arrow is pointing upward for the veteran running back heading into the fantasy season's stretch run.

Would you look to trade Arian Foster? - R. Kim (via Facebook)

M.F.: Foster's league-leading 1,115 touches between 2010-12 might be catching up with him this season. Honestly, making a trade all depends on what you expect to get in return. Foster's value has taken a major hit over the last two games, as injuries have limited him to just four carries. He was active against the Colts last Sunday night but didn't see a single touch before leaving with back issues. In his previous contest, Foster left after four carries and didn't return. If you can find a trade partner who likes to acquire "names" without looking at production, trying to ship Foster off makes sense. If you can't consummate a deal, look to add Ben Tate as insurance for the former fantasy superstar.

is DeMarco Murray a regular fantasy starter moving forward? He had just four carries last week! - @carru808 (via Twitter)

M.F.: I'm not an NFL head coach or general manager, but I do know this much -- players can't produce on the field without touching the football. In last week's game against the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas set a franchise low with nine rushing attempts, four of which went to Murray. Four. That's odd considering the Vikes entered the week with one of the league's worst run defenses. Minnesota did put a safety in the box often, though, which caused Romo to audible and call more passes. Still, I would keep the faith in Murray in Week 10. Not only does he have a great matchup against a Saints defense that just got torched by Chris Ivory, but coach Jason Garrett should put a greater emphasis on the run after last week's failures.

Are you picking up Andre Brown off waivers? - @bigbluesandiego (via Twitter)

M.F.: I started grabbing Brown in every league I could last week in preparation for his expected return to the field this week. While he has been prone to injuries, Brown is a far better talent than off-the-couch runners Brandon Jacobs or Peyton Hillis. He's also proven in the past that he can be an asset both for the New York Giants and fantasy owners, averaging 5.27 yards per carry with eight touchdowns in 10 games last season.

I have Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Cameron, so I need a tight end for Week 10. Any suggestions? - @spencertillson (via Twitter)

M.F.: Based on the upcoming Week 10 matchups, here are a few players to consider who should still be available on the waiver wire (in order): Timothy Wright (vs. Dolphins), Garrett Graham (at Arizona Cardinals), Delanie Walker (vs. Jaguars), Zach Ertz (at Green Bay Packers). Wright is the best bet of the four, as he's scored nine-plus fantasy points in three of his last four games and has a great matchup against the Dolphins -- their defense has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points (10.46 PPG) to tight ends this season.

Is Case Keenum the real deal? - @RioRivers91 (via Twitter)

M.F.: It's hard to know for certain, but he's looked good in his first two starts with the Houston Texans. He played well in a hostile environment back in Week 7, throwing for 271 yards and one score in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. He found much more success in the stat sheets last week, however, recording 350 passing yards with three touchdowns and 28.6 fantasy points in a loss to the Colts. It's smart to grab a hot player regardless of position off the waiver wire, so Keenum is now worth a look as a No. 2 quarterback with upside.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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