Week 3 Rankings (2016): Top 40 Running Backs

by Ray Kuhn

Injuries, injuries and more injuries. If you take that, along with players not performing up their expectations, it gives you the underlying theme from Week 2. It might actually be easier to go through the players who have made it through the first two weeks of the season healthy and the backfields that don’t have questions, as they are in the minority. Keeping that in mind (as well as the fact that things could remain cloudy up until Sunday), let’s take a look at how the running backs rank for this week:

  1. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – at Buffalo
  2. Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – at New England
  3. Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers – at Indianapolis
  4. DeAngelo Williams – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Philadelphia
  5. Matt Forte – New York Jets – at Kansas City
  6. C.J. Anderson – Denver Broncos – at Cincinnati
  7. Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Chicago
  8. Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams – at Tampa Bay
  9. DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans – vs. Oakland
  10. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – vs. Atlanta
  11. LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – vs. Arizona
  12. Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions – at Green Bay
  13. Latavius Murray – Oakland Raiders – at Tennessee
  14. Eddie Lacy – Green Bay Packers – vs. Detroit
  15. Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – at New Orleans
  16. Ryan Mathews – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. Pittsburgh
  17. Spencer Ware – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. New York Jets
  18. LeGarrette Blount – New England Patriots – vs. Houston
  19. Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts – vs. San Diego
  20. Charles Sims – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Los Angeles
  21. Jeremy Langford – Chicago Bears – at Dallas
  22. Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – at New Orleans
  23. Jerick McKinnon – Minnesota Vikings – at Carolina
  24. Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers – at Seattle
  25. Giovani Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals – vs. Denver
  26. Rashad Jennings – New York Giants – vs. Washington
  27. Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns – at Miami
  28. Fozzy Whitaker – Carolina Panthers – vs. Minnesota
  29. Christine Michael – Seattle Seahawks – vs. San Francisco
  30. Matt Jones – Washington Redskins – at New York Giants
  31. T.J. Yeldon – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. Baltimore
  32. Shane Vereen – New York Giants – vs. Washington
  33. Justin Forsett – Baltimore Ravens – at Jacksonville
  34. Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – at Miami
  35. Chris Ivory – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. Baltimore
  36. Thomas Rawls – Seattle Seahawks – vs. San Francisco
  37. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. New York Giants
  38. Matt Asiata – Minnesota Vikings – at Carolina
  39. Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Los Angeles
  40. Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins – vs. Cleveland

Notes:

  • Prior to exiting Sunday’s game with a knee injury, Adrian Peterson wasn’t exactly dominating opposing defenses. On 31 carries he had gained just 50 yards on the ground, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a running back fantasy owners planned to rely on it a big way. At this point there are differing reports as to the course of action, although it is clear that he has a torn meniscus and I wouldn’t plan on having him in your lineups for at least the next few weeks. That then brings us back to same question we have asked over the past few seasons, Jerick McKinnon or Matt Asiata? Last season McKinnon out touched Asiata 73 to 48, but in 2014 with Peterson sidelined the opposite was true (208 to 140). While Asiata is the short yardage and red zone option, McKinnon possesses the greater upside and is the running back to target. Both backs will have value, but McKinnon should play the larger part in the passing game (Asiata did catches 19 passes last season, to McKinnon’s 21). If you are betting on talent, then it is McKinnon who should take the job and run with it, but don’t over look Asiata and his ability to find the end zone.
  • On Tuesday, Doug Martin had an MRI on his hamstring, and his status for this week has to, at the very least, be in doubt. The injury was enough to knock him out of the game on Sunday after just seven carries, and Charles Sims is very much in play for this week. Even if Martin does play, he will likely be limited. Week 2 was rough all around for Tampa Bay, so that makes it hard to draw too many conclusions. Sims was targeted five times and caught three passes for just four yards while gaining 24 yards on nine carries. Last season he averaged 4.9 yards rushing while also catching 51 passes for 561 yards, which makes him a legit RB2 with Martin sidelined and a borderline FLEX option regardless.
  • Who had Fozzy Whitaker on their Week 3 radars? After Jonathan Stewart exited this past week’s game with a hamstring injury, Whitaker stepped in and gained 100 yards on 16 carries while Carolina closed out their victory. The most rushing yards Whitaker has gained in a season,is 145, so we don’t have much of a track record to go on for the fourth year running back, but the role and opportunity is there. However, there are a few potential roadblocks to him taking the reigns and running with them. Cam Newton has shown a propensity to run, especially around the goal line, and Mike Tolbert is known as a touchdown vulture. Then we have Cameron Artis-Payne, who should not be forgotten about even though he was inactive for the first two weeks of the season. Last season when Stewart was sidelined it was the then rookie who got a shot and gained 183 yards on 45 carries. Of the two Whitaker is the back to own, as he will likely get the first chance to build on last week’s success, but he’s hardly a guarantee to produce.
  • We have a similar situation in Miami where Jay Ajayi has been inactive for the past two weeks and Arian Foster’s status for this week is in doubt. When he exited last week, rookie Kenyan Drake entered and gained 12 yards on two carries while scoring a touchdown and catching two passes for six yards. At this point the Dolphins are retaining hope that Foster plays, but knowing his track record and their opponent (Cleveland) I wouldn’t be too optimistic. Regardless of what happens Drake will have a role, but at this point I can’t see him being more than 50% of a backfield, whether it is with Foster, Ajayi or Damien Williams joining him. If you had to pick one back to count this week from Miami, Drake would be it as he also offers PPR value. Miami has also made it clear that they don’t trust Ajayi, and neither should you.
  • Let’s stick with the injury theme, but in this case the situation is clear cut. Brandon Oliver was lost for the year before the season started and now Danny Woodhead is headed to IR with a torn ACL. That leaves us with Melvin Gordon, and it’s not a bad thing as he has discovered where the end zone is this season. Gordon picked up 102 yards on the ground last week and once again found the end zone after two rushing touchdowns in Week 1 He also caught three passes for 18 yards, and he likely will have a similar role moving forward.
  • Another backfield in which there are no questions is the Jets. Matt Forte carried the ball 33 times last Thursday for 100 yards and three touchdowns while also catching two passes. Now it’s pretty obvious that Forte is not going to reach the 472 touches he is on pace for, but it is clear that he is a heavily featured part of the Jets’ offense. Forte is one of the few running backs you can truly trust to dominate the touches this week.

Make sure to check out all of our Week 3 rankings:

Week 3 Rankings (2016): Top 15 Kickers
Week 3 Rankings (2016): Top 20 Tight Ends

26 comments

  1. Patriots says:

    Hello Professor,
    12 team standard, I have aj green. Julio jones , moncrief, and Josh gordon, te’s are jordan reed and vanc mcDonald. Would you you drop moncrief, McDonald or gordon for DeVante parker? Thank you

    • Eric says:

      Hey Patriots–
      I would tell you to drop McDonald because chances are, there are more TE’s of his caliber available on the waiver wire+you’re going to play Jordan Reed every week but his Bye anyways. Depending on how many teams are in your league and thus which guys are more likely to be available, some possible TE’s to target later for that Bye on Week 9 would be Dennis Pitta of Baltimore, Clive Walford of Oakland, Kyle Rudolph of Minnesota or Jesse James of the Steelers. One of those guy is fairly likely to be available, and once your Team Defense gets past it’s Bye, if you have a 2nd one mostly just to fill in, you could always drop it after that and go ahead and snatch your backup TE again…don’t forget there’s always a reasonable chance McDonald will still be there waiting for you.
      Since you have 3 WR spots to fill each week, between potential injuries and matchup-related factors, you’re going to be better served to have more depth at the position.
      Though the QB situation in Cleveland is horrific, it’s not to say they won’t scoop up a decent journeyman QB looking for a shot here in the next week or so…even if it’s only a few games’ worth. Also with Gordon you’re still able to sell the idea of HUGE possible gains via trade, or even the distinct possibility he DOES in fact light it up immediately upon his return. I’ll put it this way–if you put Josh Gordon on the trading block you’ll have some bites/offers, while McDonald will be waiting by the phone till season’s end, talent/ability be damned.
      Basically you’re not losing that much in dropping McDonald, as although he is a decent TE on a team that will check down to him with some regularity, he’s no Josh Gordon.
      Good luck with whatever you decide to do and on your season…

      Eric

    • I’d agree, McDonald would be then rip here to grab Parker

      • Patriots says:

        Hello Professor,
        12 team standard
        Who would be a better pickup going forward, tytell Williams or DeVante Parker, thank you for the detailed information above

  2. Dave says:

    Hello Prof, would you drop jeremy langford or Rawls for either tevin coleman, or charles sims or even another hot running back with opportunity right now? im very concerned that langford and Rawls are busts this year… thank you

    • Both could be, but it’s a gamble to drop them (that said Langford would be the first of the two Id drop). I wouldn’t go crazy for the guys you mentioned, but depends on who else is out there.

  3. Luigi says:

    Hey Professor,
    Unfortunately I lost AP and my waiver priority was not in the graces to pickup anyone relevant. As well I am losing Deangelo after the week. Therefore I must make a trade. I still have AP on My roster but im thinking I need to drop him but I will wait to see results of the surgery.
    I currently have
    Cam Newton
    Deangelo Williams
    Gio Bernard
    Christine Michael
    Thomas Rawls
    Jordy Nelson
    Kelvin Benjamin
    Demaryus Thomas
    Michael Floyd
    Mike Wallace
    Travis kelce and Jesse James
    Any suggestions on who and whom I should trade for and help with my lineup on the week would be very much appreciated.

    Your Student,
    Luigi

  4. Haggy says:

    Kennith Dixon (almost back to playing), Matt Asiata or Jordan Howard. Pick one to stash for rest of season. Thanks Prof. All have upside…

  5. Ryan says:

    Need a flex for my ppr league options are:
    Snead, Spencer Ware, Baldwin, Travis Benjamin or Diggs

  6. michael phelps says:

    Prof

    I have either jamaal charles, spencer ware, or langford I can plug and play this week. Choose one.

    Also, should I drop langford for Jordan Howard given langford’s struggles?

    Thank you

  7. Trevor says:

    I was offered Theo Riddick and Chris Hogan for Jonathan Stewart and Julio Jones. I see you have Riddick ranked #12 and Stewart is out 2-4. Should I take it? It’s a 1/2 PPR.

  8. Kyle k says:

    Need some help…..pick 2 out of w. Sneed, w fuller, s ware, g tate and j ajayi

  9. michael phelps – Ware is the play. I’m not against dropping Langford, but I’d rather wait until actually removed as starter if possible

    Trevor – Not even close to enough for Jones

    Kyle k – Snead / Ware

  10. Andy says:

    Hi RP,
    Should keep Spencer Ware or drop him to pick Jerick McKinnon ? I just worry that Jamaal Charles will come back soon and no more Jerick McKinnon to pick.
    Thanks

  11. Gman says:

    who is the better pick up…Artis Payne or Howard?

  12. Matt says:

    Hi Prof.

    Half pt PPR league. Who you like? Lacy or Riddick?

    Thanks

  13. Gman – Short-term Artis-Payne, long-term Howard

    Matt – I’d go Lacy

  14. Haggy says:

    Would you trade Asiata for J. Charles. I aslo have Ware.

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