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Fantasy hot seat: Dameon Pierce among players with something to prove in Week 13

Dameon Pierce's output has taken a nosedive the past two games as the Texans have fallen way behind early in both and been forced to throw thereafter. Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

Each Friday during the 2022 NFL and fantasy football season, Eric Karabell will bring his always-reasonable perspective to highlight the biggest storylines heading into the weekend's games.

It's likely a fallacy that rookie running backs get more tired than others as an NFL season goes on and their numbers suffer. Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris certainly didn't slow down late last season, and Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor ended his rookie campaign by torching the Jaguars for 253 rushing yards. So it is that fantasy managers shouldn't blame obvious and expected fatigue for what has happened recently to Seattle Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III and Houston Texans RB Dameon Pierce. Something's happening, though.

Walker and Pierce rank 17th and 18th, respectively, in PPR fantasy points this season. Both are still a bit ahead of Harris and Taylor, who have battled inconsistency and injury. Walker and Pierce have done exceptionally well, really, and played a key role for fantasy managers for months. The question moving forward is whether Walker and Pierce remain fantasy options we simply leave active without thinking about it, or if they belong on the proverbial hot seat.

Walker scored on 12- and 14-yard touchdown runs last week versus the Las Vegas Raiders, but his other 12 rushing attempts produced zero yards. Walker rushed for 109 yards in Week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals, but in two games since then he has 24 rushes for 43 yards, albeit with the two touchdowns saving his fantasy value. Yeah, Walker has become a little touchdown-dependent, which is fine until the scoring stops. Walker has scored rushing touchdowns in six of seven games and nine on the season, though he has little role in the passing game.

Pierce doesn't have the luxury of playing with a top-10 fantasy QB -- yep, Seattle surprise Geno Smith is No. 7! -- and perhaps that has played a role lately, along with his team being overmatched. Pierce rushed 17 times for 94 yards in Week 9 against the New York Giants, but in two games since then he has only 15 rushes for 16 yards. Not ideal for fantasy managers aiming to make the playoffs. The Texans swapped quarterbacks prior to Week 12, but they trailed the Miami Dolphins 30-0 at halftime, even with Kyle Allen replacing Davis Mills. The Texans couldn't run the ball much in the second half.

ESPN fantasy managers have made the Cincinnati Bengals' Samaje Perine, Denver Broncos' Latavius Murray, Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Rachaad White, New York Jets' Zonovan Knight and Kansas City Chiefs' Isiah Pacheco the most-added running backs over the past week, and they will rely on them to different degrees this weekend. Should any of these players be active over Walker or Pierce? Our rankings say they should not, that Walker and Pierce warrant more trust than that, and it makes sense. White, Knight and Pacheco are rookies as well, seemingly invalidating the theme of rookie running backs struggling late in the season.