Fantasy football: Backfield surprises continue to be the worst kind

Surprises are great sometimes. It is fun not to know what a gift is until you’re done unwrapping. It is exciting to walk into what you think is an empty room only to have a group of friends jump out and scream, “Happy birthday!” It is satisfying when movies like “Knives Out” have one last twist at the end that pays off.

That surprises normally are fun is no surprise. It is when they aren’t that is surprising. Like, some NFL teams and their surprising use of running backs. These teams keep fantasy owners guessing, and we’re often wrong.

You think the Colts are going to stick with Jonathan Williams while Marlon Mack is out? Surprise! Instead, they shift to Jordan Wilkins. Think Ronald Jones is finally pulling away as the Buccaneers’ top runner? Think again, because Peyton Barber was back this week. No Damien Williams for the Chiefs begs the question: Darrel Williams or LeSean McCoy? How about, neither, it’s Darwin Thompson time.

But there was one surprising development from Week 13 that inspires a bit more confidence in forecasting for the future: Raheem Mostert’s rise for the 49ers.

Instead of leaning on Tevin Coleman, San Francisco doled out a heavy dose of Mostert — who delivered with 146 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against the Ravens. Coleman had just 6 yards on five carries.

Mostert finished with 23.5 fantasy points, Coleman with 2.3. It was a fantasy whitewash. It wasn’t quite to the level of some owner failing to get Julio Jones out of their lineup Thursday and leaving DeVante Parker on the bench, but it was a costly fantasy development nonetheless.

Though, it hasn’t been just this one game in which Mostert has performed better on the field, if not in the box score. On the season, Mostert is averaging 5.9 yards per carry to Coleman’s 3.8, he rates better from an efficiency standpoint, and the eye test says he hits the hole quicker and harder.

So it is clear, the coaches finally figured it out: Mostert is the better back, and he is going to get the lion’s share of carries going forward, right?

Well, remember when we said “a bit more confidence”? Though we do think that is a likely possibility — and we do have more confidence they will head this direction than we do confidence in, say, if Jones or Barber will be the guy next week, or which one the week after — we also harbor concerns.

Matt Breida was the No. 2 in a committee backfield with Coleman most of the season. Presumably Breida will return from an ankle injury at some point, maybe even this week. That muddies the water.

Also, Sunday could have been a hot-hand scenario, meaning Coleman hasn’t been usurped, he was just pushed aside for a day. Whoever gets the work, the schedule isn’t great — Saints, Falcons and Rams upcoming.

So, there are reasons to like Mostert and to acquire him if you can. Just don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work out.

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