Kalen Ballage and Dolphins defense worth adds in fantasy leagues

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 16: Kalen Ballage #27 of the Miami Dolphins warms up before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 16, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 16: Kalen Ballage #27 of the Miami Dolphins warms up before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 16, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /

Fantasy football league championships are taking place this week, and Dolphins rookie Kalen Ballage is a popular add for week 16.

Normally, this time of the week I would be putting out my start and sit suggestions for fantasy football leagues regarding the Miami Dolphins in their weekly matchup. But who are we kidding? This is championship week for fantasy leagues, and no one playing for their league title is even considering inserting Dolphins players in hopes to win the title.

There should only be one player on anyone’s radar in the final week, and that’s rookie RB Kalen Ballage. The Dolphins placed veteran Frank Gore on injured reserve this week after he suffered a foot injury in last weekend’s loss at Minnesota. Initially, when Gore was injured, we all believed that an increased workload for Kenyan Drake was coming. Instead, Adam Gase gave Ballage the nod, and to his credit, Ballage made the most of it.

Ballage had just 8 rushes on the season heading into the game against Minnesota, but he saw 12 carries on Sunday following the injury to Gore. He turned those carries into 123 yards and a touchdown worth of production. The bulk of it coming on his 75-yard score in the 3rd quarter that pulled Miami to within 4 points before Minnesota eventually pulled away.

It remains a mystery as to why Adam Gase doesn’t use Kenyan Drake more. Yes, he does tend to bring Drake in on third down or other style passing plays, but Drake saw just 4 touches last week, with only one rush. Considering that Drake led the league in the final 5 weeks of last season with 444 yards rushing, it’s a head-scratcher as to why he hasn’t received the ball more.

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There is the possibility that Drake has been dealing with injuries even though Adam Gase has stated that is not the case. What seems more likely is that Gase simply doesn’t like to use Drake. Thinking back to last season, Gase was practically forced to use Drake down the stretch. When the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi away to the Eagles, Gase originally went with Damien Williams as his lead back. It wasn’t until Williams went down for the season with an injury that Gase turned to Drake.

Drake’s success in those final weeks led us all to believe that he would be a workhorse back this season. Gase’s comments in the off-season matched that thought process. At one point, Gase had stated that he would like to get Drake 15-20 carries a game, along with 6-8 receptions. The last time Drake saw double digit carries this year was back in late October, and he’s exceeded 5 receptions (7 at Cincinnati) just once all season.

Leading up to Sunday, the argument could definitely be made that Frank Gore is just simply a better runner than Drake, and it’s an argument that I would agree with. Even though Drake is the more capable back to break one for a big play, Gore continued to show his consistency at moving the football by pounding for 4 or 5 yards per carry.

Ballage has been used in some Wildcat packages, but we saw on Sunday that he’s sort of a combination of Gore and Drake. He has the build of Gore, and the break away speed of Drake. On his 75-yard run, he reportedly reached 21+ MPH on his way to the end zone.

Looking towards Miami’s matchup, this week against Jacksonville doesn’t look great on paper. For starters, despite their own disappointments this season, the Jaguars still have one of the better defenses in the league. There is also the mystery as to how much volume could we expect Ballage to see with Drake still in the mix.

I’m on the side where if we haven’t seen enough volume from Drake to this point, and we didn’t see it against Minnesota, then we’re not going to get it for these final two games. Based on his results from last week, I have to believe that Ballage will see a similar volume or better going against Jacksonville.

Regarding the defense of the Jaguars, they haven’t played as well against the run. We all saw Derrick Henry‘s monster performance two weeks ago against them where he finished with 238 total yards with 4 rushing touchdowns. Clearly, they were better last week against the Redskins, but it’s the area that the Dolphins are likely going to try and exploit in order to have success.

The Jaguars are 19th in the league against the run, but they are 2nd against the pass. After getting sacked 9 times from the Minnesota defense, Ryan Tannehill can expect to see the same kind of pressure from Jacksonville. The Dolphins could benefit their quarterback by effectively running the football.

With that said, it is championship week for the strong majority of fantasy football leagues. Teams could understandably be reluctant to pick up Ballage for a shot at the title after one performance. There are sure to be some negative plays, but I think the expected volume for Ballage makes him an intriguing play this weekend, particularly when he too has the ability to break one that can really satisfy his fantasy owners.

Ballage is a popular add off the waiver wire this week after nearly no ownership at all just a week ago. Despite becoming a hot pickup this week, Ballage is still available in a strong majority of leagues. As it stands, his ownership sits at just 29% on Yahoo leagues, and even lower on ESPN at 25%. Part of that is because teams that didn’t reach the playoffs simply aren’t interested in adding players at this point. Also, teams playing for their championships may already be set at running back.

There are those, however, that may have made it all the way to the title game, but are now dealing with injuries. One big question mark heading into week 16 is the status of Todd Gurley. There’s a strong chance that Gurley doesn’t play this weekend after he temporarily left last week’s game against the Eagles with a knee injury. He did return, and although head coach Sean McVay has publicly stated that he expects Gurley to play, the Rams could opt on the side of caution surrounding their star running back.

The Rams signed veteran C.J. Anderson this week as an insurance policy. Should Gurley sit, I expect for Los Angeles to use a running back by committee approach, and therefore, I would not recommend starting any Rams running back unless it is reported differently.

Leonard Fournette owners are also probably concerned heading into this week after a mild workload last week, and reports that they may limit him again this week against Miami. Fournette is a terrific runner, but fantasy owners rely on his heavy volume, and if he doesn’t receive it then he becomes a risky play this week.

There are a number of other scenarios that may lead to adding a running back a priority. If possible, I would recommend adding Jamaal Williams ahead of Ballage. Williams is already expected to receive a bulk of the carries in Green Bay this week after Aaron Jones was sent to IR. But if unsuccessful, Ballage should still be a solid play this week. If you can, I would even snag both as a block to your opponent from playing either player against you.

Another play I’m comfortable inserting in my lineups this week for the championship is the Dolphins defense. This even despite the fact the team gave up 41 points last week to Minnesota. It was the 6th time this season the Dolphins defense has allowed 30+ points in a game. With that said, they’re one of the top defenses to pick up in week 16.

The Jaguars offense is horrendous, and opposing defenses have only benefited since Cody Kessler became the starting quarterback. This juicy matchup only gets better knowing that Miami is at home where they’ve played much better this year. The Dolphins have to be concerned with Jacksonville’s run game, but there’s no reason that Miami’s defense can’t dominate this week. The Dolphins defense has allowed 400+ total yards in four straight games, but Jacksonville shouldn’t even be able to reach half of that this weekend.