Week 3 Rankings (2015): Top 40 Running Backs

by Ray Kuhn

So after two weeks of the NFL season, what do we know? Well, in short, I would say not that much. After months of preparation for the season and two weeks of real action to digest, you might ask how can that be?

In fact the answer is quite simple. There have been some questions we have gotten answers to, but there has also been a whole new set of things to which we do not know the answer. And there have been some disappointing performances. But let’s also remember that after just two weeks, we want to keep the over reactions to a minimum.

Let’s jump right into the rankings:

  1. Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks – vs. Chicago
  2. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings – vs. San Diego
  3. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs – at Green Bay
  4. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers – at St. Louis
  5. Latavius Murray – Oakland Raiders – at Cleveland
  6. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears – at Seattle
  7. Eddie Lacy – Green Bay Packers – vs. Kansas City
  8. Lamar Miller – Miami Dolphins – vs. Buffalo
  9. Justin Forsett – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Cincinnati
  10. Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – vs. New Orleans
  11. Chris Ivory – New York Jets – vs. Philadelphia
  12. Joseph Randle – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Atlanta
  13. LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – at Minnesota
  14. TJ Yeldon – Jacksonville Jaguars – at New England
  15. Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – at Dallas
  16. Jeremy Hill – Cincinnati Bengals – at Baltimore
  17. Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers – at Minnesota
  18. Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers – at Arizona
  19. Ameer Abdullah – Detroit Lions – vs. Denver
  20. CJ Anderson – Denver Broncos – at Detroit
  21. Dion Lewis – New England Patriots – vs. Jacksonville
  22. Chris Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – at San Francisco
  23. Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts – at Tennessee
  24. Alfred Morris – Washington Redskins – at New York Giants
  25. DeMarco Murray – Philadelphia Eagles – at New York Jets
  26. Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns – vs. Oakland
  27. Ronnie Hillman – Denver Broncos – at Detroit
  28. James Starks – Green Bay Packers – vs. Kansas City
  29. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – at Carolina
  30. Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – at Houston
  31. Danny Woodhead – San Diego Chargers –  at Minnesota
  32. CJ Spiller – New Orleans Saints – at Carolina
  33. Shane Vereen – New York Giants – vs. Washington
  34. Tre Mason – St. Louis – vs. Pittsburgh
  35. Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – vs. Oakland
  36. Legarette Blount – New England Patriots – vs. Jacksonville
  37. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – at San Francisco
  38. Giovanni Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals – at Baltimore
  39. Rashad Jennings – New York Giants – vs. Washington
  40. Chris Polk – Houston Texans – vs. Tampa Bay

Thoughts:

  • It feels like 2014 all over again. After gaining nine yards on just three carries Sunday, Lacy exited for the day with an ankle injury. We won’t get any information until after Thursday’s practice, but with Green Bay playing on Monday, Lacy does have an extra day to get healthy. For as good as that is for Lacy’s health, it isn’t the best for your fantasy team. If Lacy ends up not playing on Monday, you likely won’t have any options other than James Starks – if in fact you were or are able to acquire the handcuff. Should Lacy play, Starks will likely play a role, but you can’t not start your first round pick. With 95 yards on 20 carries against Seattle on Sunday, Starks qualifies as a legit RB2 if he gets the start.
  • And just like that, D’Angelo Williams is now heading to the bench. For owners that drafted or acquired Williams as a temporary running back to begin the season, the running back exceeded just about all expectations. After gaining 127 yards in the first game of the season, Williams found the end zone three times last week. Now with Le’Veon Bell returning from suspension, Williams can be safely dropped in just about all weeks as Bell will resume being a top running back. If these last two weeks proved anything, it is that Pittsburgh’s offense line is still an asset.
  • We know that Danny Woodhead is an asset in PPR leagues, but so far through two weeks you could say that he has exceeded expectations. But, we should pump the brakes a little bit and not overreact as a large part of Woodhead’s value is that he has two rushing touchdowns. Thus far, he has 79 yards on 19 carries, and as Melvin Gordon continues to make his presence felt, I would expect that total to decrease. However, Woodhead, who has 10 catches for 88 yards, will continue to be a factor in the passing game. But it is Gordon, who ran with increased authority last week who I truly have my eye on. After gaining 88 yards on 16 carries last week, the rookie has 30 carries for 139 yards. I would not be surprised to see Gordon continue climbing this list.
  • While Duke Johnson is receiving the majority of the attention, don’t ignore Isaiah Crowell if you are looking for quantity. Just be sure not to invest too heavily in Crowell. After gaining 72 yards and scoring a touchdown on 15 carries last week, the second year running back will continue to be a factor as Cleveland employees a backfield by committee. Johnson had three less touches than Crowell, but was severely out gained; just 43 yards. What is worse though, is that Johnson has yet to be targeted in the passing game. Long term, Johnson is the back to own, but over the next few weeks if you need immediate help, feel free to go with Crowell.
  • What is clear after two weeks, is that Washington will need to rely on their running game to have any success this season. We have also learned that Matt Jones is going to be a factor sooner than we might have expected. And it is not entirely due to the struggles of Alfred Morris. After kicking off the season with 121 yards on 25 carries, Morris followed that up with 59 yards on 18 carries. Jones on the other hand should the explosiveness that caused him to be stashed on many fantasy benches this draft season. The rookie gained 123 yards on 19 carries and also scored twice. This time share looks like it is going to continue, but for at least one more week, I still rank Morris ahead of Jones. However, that could change quickly.
  • So far we have two extremes of Tennessee’s offense. Owners that thought Bishop Sankey might have arrived after one week were disappointed as he gained just 42 yards on 12 carries. But, I would still try to hold out a little more patience on Sankey. Reading into Dexter McCluster’s 98 yard effort on 10 carries would not be prudent as game flow had a lot to do with it. Give this situation another few weeks to develop, but there still might not be much of a investment opportunity here. We should also note that the Colts do have a strong run defense, so there likely won’t be much room to run.

Make sure to check out all of our 2015 rankings:

Week 3 Rankings (2015): Top 15 Defenses
Week 3 Rankings (2015): Top 50 Wide Receivers

19 comments

  1. Joel says:

    Pick 3. Jeremy Hill, Hyde, Bell, Gordon. Bell is a lock, but what about the last 2?

  2. Romo says:

    I want to start Blount but I’m scared he will produce what he did in week 2! My other option is d martin.

  3. Joel – I’d say Hyde & Hill (though Gordon isn’t far behind him. Monitor the news to see if there’s anything said about Hill’s status as the starter)

    Romo – I’d go Martin

  4. ClubberLang says:

    I have Ronnie Hillman stashed, guy wants to trade me cj Anderson for matt jones. Yes?

    • Eh…. Anderson has the higher upside so I guess I’d do it. At least you know you’d have the Broncos starter.

      That said, it wouldn’t shock me if Hillman/Jones are the top two backs of these three

  5. Chewy says:

    Professor,

    I’m starting L.Bell and L.Murray at RB, and J.Mathews and B.Marshall at WR. Which flex option do I go with: I.Crowell, G.Bernard, or M.Wallace? 0.5 PPR league.

  6. chris says:

    2 questions- Morris or matt jones this week???

    Flex play– Terrance Williams or Abdullah???

  7. Wayne says:

    Hi Professor:

    Who do you prefer in the Flex…Randle or kendall Wright?

  8. Mike says:

    L Bell
    CJ Anderson
    D Lewis
    I Crowell
    PPR League – I want to start 3, who do you go with?

  9. ZorntoLargent says:

    Aggressive ranking on Lamar Miller. Reasons?

  10. Mike – Bell & Crowell would be the locks. Anderson has the favorable matchup and you never know what the Patriots will do, so I guess I’d go that way (but it is a risk)

    ZorntoLargent – I’m not going to speak for Ray, but I agree with you. Against Buffalo I’d put him more in the RB2 discussion

  11. Matthew Summerlin says:

    Hi Prof,

    Half Pt.PPR…Need Two RBs and a Flex….

    Lynch
    Latavius Murray
    Forsett
    CJ Anderson
    Jordan Matthews

    Thanks!!

  12. Mike says:

    Who should I start? L. Miller, R. Hillman, Karlos Williams – PPR League

  13. Shivan Sharma says:

    Given the recent updates, match ups, etc, should I start TJ Yeldon or Demarco Murray this week?

  14. Matthew Summerlin – Assuming Lynch is out, I’d go Murray, Forsett & Anderson (Matthews vs. Revis isn’t really a favorable matchup)

    Mike – Miller is the safest, so I’d go that way

    Shivan Sharma – It’s really a coinflip. Murray obviously has the higher upside, but I’d probably go Yeldon

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