by Ray Kuhn
Relatively speaking, Week 3 was fairly stress free. That doesn’t mean there weren’t running backs who disappointed or under performed, but we were devoid of any major developments. There are some situations where tough choices are necessary and there are some possible additions on the waiver wire, but we don’t have anything too crazy this week. With that said, let’s take a look at how the running backs rank for this week:
- Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Baltimore
- Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Washington
- Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – vs. LA Rams
- Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams – at Dallas
- LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – at Atlanta
- Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins – vs. New Orleans
- Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Detroit
- Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Buffalo
- Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars – at New York Jets
- Ty Montgomery – Green Bay Packers – vs. Chicago
- Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers – at Arizona
- Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers – at New England
- Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers – vs. Philadelphia
- Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – at Green Bay
- C.J. Anderson – Denver Broncos – vs. Oakland
- Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks – vs. Indianapolis
- Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders – at Denver
- Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals – at Cleveland
- Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – at Miami
- Mike Gillislee – New England Patriots – vs. Carolina
- Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears – at Green Bay
- Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – at Houston
- Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – vs. Tennessee
- Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – vs. Cincinnati
- James White – New England Patriots – vs. Carolina
- Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins – at Kansas City
- Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions – at Minnesota
- DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans – at Houston
- Javorius Allen – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Pittsburgh
- Wendell Smallwood – Philadelphia Eagles – at LA Chargers
- Ameer Abdullah – Detroit Lions – at Minnesota
- Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns – vs. Cincinnati
- Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – at New England
- Jacquizz Rodgers – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. New York Giants
- Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts – at Seattle
- Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Buffalo
- Chris Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – vs. San Francisco
- Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints – at Miami
- Shane Vereen – New York Giants -at Tampa Bay
- Matt Forte – New York Jets – vs. Jacksonville
- Seven yards on nine carries. That was Jordan Howard’s production two weeks ago against Tampa Bay as he dealt with a shoulder injury. He ended the game with his shoulder in a sling, so it wasn’t surprising when he ended up on the injury report. What was surprising was when Howard came off of the injury report despite news that he had a sprained AC joint. What to do with him was one of the biggest questions fantasy owners had to deal with it, and it seemed like there was no right decision. Watching him last week you would have never known there were any health issues as he gained 136 yards on 23 carries while catching five passes for another 26 yards. Chicago went home victorious as Howard scored his second touchdown of the day in overtime, and while we will have to monitor his health going forward he helped to alleviate a lot of concerns. At the same time there is still plenty of room in Chicago’s backfield for two backs; especially considering that is the extent of their offense. Tarik Cohen wasn’t impacted by Howard at all as he gained 78 yards on 12 carries while catching four passes for 24 yards. In fact, Cohen just missed ending the game with a long touchdown run as he stepped out of bounds, and is a legit Flex option.
- One of the surprising things about this past Sunday is that not only did the Jets win, but the outcome of the game was never really in doubt. Just because New York won doesn’t mean we should look to their running game for fantasy value. Despite Matt Forte being the starter, Bilal Powell was the one getting the buzz, if that’s what you want to call it, as a mid-round draft choice this summer but I would keep my distance. Powell was on the field for just 28 of 63 snaps this past Sunday and he only gained 37 yards on 15 carries. Granted he did score a touchdown and had a 55 yard run called back, but for the second straight week he didn’t catch a pass. After not being targeted last week, he has a combined 89 yards this season and just five catches. Forte isn’t exactly much better with 94 rushing yards and 58 receiving yards through three games, but if you must he is the back to own.
- While Jay Ajayi has been dealing with a knee injury, that didn’t appear to be the issue last week. Ajayi was removed from the injury report but was just never able to get going against the Jets. Not only did he not have any room to run, but Miami was out of the game pretty early so he didn’t do much. That was especially true in the second half, as he ended the day with just 25 total yards on 13 touches. This came on the heels of a 30 touch effort last week in San Diego where Ajayi gained 122 yards on the ground. He is still looking for his first touchdown of the season, but he should find a lot more room to run against the Saints.
- DeMarco Murray worked to remind owners not to forget about him this week. Entering Tennessee’s match-up with Seattle all of the buzz was surrounding Derrick Henry, but it ended up being a pretty even day between the two backs. At least in terms of touches that is. Murray entered the game dealing with a hamstring issue, and in the first half, he struggled to find room to run. In the third quarter he ultimately ripped off a 75 yard touchdown run which truly made his day from a fantasy perspective as he gained just 40 yards on his other 12 carries. Henry, who had one less touch than Murray (15 to 14), gained 54 yards on 13 carries and still remains the better long term option. What is clear is that both running backs have fantasy value.
- At the end of the season we might look back on last week as the moment when Joe Mixon began to breakout. He got the same amount of touches last week, 21, as he got combined in the first two weeks of the season and he was the clear bell-cow for Cincinnati. The distribution between the Bengals’ three running backs was relatively even early in the game, but Jeremy Hill finished with eight touches while Giovanni Bernard had five. Mixon carried the ball 18 times for 62 yards while catching three passes for another 39 yards. With Bill Lazor now in charge of Cincinnati’s offense Mixon’s role will only grow from here, and it’s hard to argue with his match-up this week against Cleveland.
- With Darren Sproles now sidelined for the season, the natural question is who will replace him? Wendell Smallwood received some buzz last season that he didn’t live up to, and once again he is getting talked up. It obviously doesn’t hurt that the coaching staff has stated Smallwood will see an increase to his workload, but what should we expect from a fantasy perspective? Smallwood is the more explosive back, and after gaining eight yards on seven carries in the first two weeks of the season he picked up 71 yards on 12 carries last week while catching one pass for nine yards. LeGarrette Blount has had an equally boring start to the season, and after carrying the ball 14 times for 46 yards in Week 1, he didn’t have a carry the following week. Blount also benefited last week, as he gained 67 yards and found the end zone. Smallwood will likely have more value of the two as he will be used on passing downs and is the more explosive option, but Blount will take away just enough to keep his value down.
Make sure to check out all of our Week 4 rankings: