The 2018 season has been an adventure for veteran running back CJ Anderson. After recording just 24 rushing attempts with the Carolina Panthers, the recently-signed running back recorded 20 carries for 167 yards and a touchdown while filling in for Todd Gurley. Anderson had a fantastic Week 16, and he’s in position to have another good game in Week 17. If he’s still available in your league, make sure to put in a claim.
Fantasy Football: Start CJ Anderson In Your Championship
The most important factor to Anderson’s fantasy value is the health of running back Todd Gurley. If fully healthy, Gurley will take the majority of the carries. However, there’s no guarantee that he plays. The Rams are basically locked into the number two seed in the NFC playoffs, and they won’t put Gurley in any unnecessary risk.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Rams are considering sitting Gurley to minimize risk on his body. From the sounds of it, he’ll only play if he’s 100% healthy. Rams head coach Sean McVay echoed this when he said “[the Rams] don’t want to do anything where they’re putting him in harm’s way”. Considering knee injuries are especially dangerous for running backs, it’s a safe bet Gurley won’t play in the regular season finale.
Anderson will be the lead guy without Gurley, and he’ll be a startable RB1 in just about any fantasy format. Last week wasn’t an illusion, Anderson is a competent running back who can take advantage of a powerful offensive line and a favorable matchup.
What Anderson Brings
Some may worry about Anderson’s big game being a one-week fluke. Prior to Week 16’s action, Anderson recorded just 20 carries for 167 yards throughout the entire season. However, despite the low overall totals, Anderson is still a good running back capable of starting in the right situation.
The reason Anderson didn’t see more action early in the season is that he was behind Carolina Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey is one of the best running backs in the NFL and has played in an absurd 96.95% of offensive snaps on the season. Quite frankly, it’s impossible to be productive with McCaffrey seeing that high a snap percentage.
Anderson was a serviceable starter as recently as 2017. Back with the Denver Broncos, Anderson recorded a team-high 245 carries for 1,007 yards and three touchdowns for a respectable 4.1 yards-per-carry. Throughout his career, Anderson has never averaged less than four yards-per-carry in any season. He’s not much of a receiving back, but he certainly has what it takes to lead a rushing attack.
Anderson put this ability on display during Week 16 when he recorded 20 carries for 167 yards and one touchdown. He probably won’t do that again, but he showed he can still run the ball well. Anderson’s big night wasn’t just a product of great blocking, either. Per ESPN Stats and Info, 105 of Anderson’s 167 yards came after contact, showing that Anderson is able to get more than his blocking gives him.
Now that we’ve established Anderson is a good running back, let’s take a look at the matchup. Anderson still has something in his tank, but he’s certainly not matchup-proof. Fortunately, Anderson has a favorable matchup for the second straight week.
The Rams host the San Francisco 49ers in the regular season finale, and Anderson should have every opportunity to run wild over this defense. The 49ers currently allow the 12th-most fantasy points to the running back position in standard scoring. Additionally, Football Outsiders currently ranks San Francisco as the 13th-best team against the running back position. Basically, this is a middle-of-the-road defense which can be exploited by the right offense.
The Los Angeles Rams are the right offense for the job. Los Angeles enters Week 17 as Football Outsiders’ top-ranked run-blocking offensive line. San Francisco’s defensive line isn’t the pushover unit of the Arizona Cardinals, but the Rams should still win at the point of attack.
Last Word on C.J. Anderson in Week 17
C.J. Anderson won’t give you the same production he did last week, but he should still be a startable asset in Week 17. He is still a good running back, even if Christian McCaffrey didn’t give him the opportunity to prove it with the Panthers. Anderson was a 1,000-yard rusher as recently as 2018 and never averaged less than four yards-per-carry in a season. He showed that he still has something left in his tank when he recorded 106 yards after contact against the Arizona Cardinals.
Additionally, Anderson has a favorable matchup in Week 17. The San Francisco 49ers defense isn’t the same pushover unit as the Cardinals, but it’s a beatable unit. Los Angeles has the best run-blocking offensive line in the league, so any defense would have its’ hands full against this unit. Anderson should have decent blocking in front of him, and that’s all he’ll need to put up another strong outing.
Obviously, this all goes out the window if Gurley plays in the regular season finale. However, it doesn’t look like Gurley will play before the playoffs begin. Head coach Sean McVay acknowledged that Gurley won’t play unless he’s 100%, and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gurley sit out an extra week.
All of this aligns for Anderson to be the must-claim of the week. He has the ability, a favorable matchup, and complete control of the Rams backfield. If he’s not available in your league, you can take a flier on a guy like Dwayne Washington. However, Anderson is easily the better player for the fantasy championship.
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