Week 4 Rankings (2017): Top 40 Running Backs: New Names Emerging As Viable Options

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:

  1. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Baltimore
  2. Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Washington
  3. Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – vs. LA Rams
  4. Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams – at Dallas
  5. LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – at Atlanta
  6. Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins – vs. New Orleans
  7. Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Detroit
  8. Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Buffalo
  9. Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars – at New York Jets
  10. Ty Montgomery – Green Bay Packers – vs. Chicago
  11. Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers – at Arizona
  12. Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers – at New England
  13. Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers – vs. Philadelphia
  14. Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – at Green Bay
  15. C.J. Anderson – Denver Broncos – vs. Oakland
  16. Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks – vs. Indianapolis
  17. Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders – at Denver
  18. Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals – at Cleveland
  19. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – at Miami
  20. Mike Gillislee – New England Patriots – vs. Carolina
  21. Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears – at Green Bay
  22. Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – at Houston
  23. Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – vs. Tennessee
  24. Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – vs. Cincinnati
  25. James White – New England Patriots – vs. Carolina
  26. Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins – at Kansas City
  27. Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions – at Minnesota
  28. DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans – at Houston
  29. Javorius Allen – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Pittsburgh
  30. Wendell Smallwood – Philadelphia Eagles – at LA Chargers
  31. Ameer Abdullah – Detroit Lions – at Minnesota
  32. Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns – vs. Cincinnati
  33. Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – at New England
  34. Jacquizz Rodgers – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. New York Giants
  35. Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts – at Seattle
  36. Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Buffalo
  37. Chris Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – vs. San Francisco
  38. Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints – at Miami
  39. Shane Vereen – New York Giants -at Tampa Bay
  40. 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:

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Week 4 Rankings (2017): Top 15 Kickers
Week 4 Rankings (2017): Top 20 Tight Ends: Does Anyone Want To Emerge As Trustworthy?


  1. Haggy says:

    Is there any good to keep Samjay Perine on my bench.

  2. Andy says:

    Hi Prof,
    12 teams Full PPR
    QB: J Winston
    WR: G Tate, M Thomas
    RB: M Gordon , L Miller
    TE: C Clay
    BK: A Luck, D Martin and A Cooper
    Should we drive with M Gordon this week
    or drop A Luck for W Smallwood or J Charles or B Powell or Rob Kelley
    or A Kamara or B Oliver or G Bernard ?
    If none of them, should I drop Luck to pick up A Hurns or E Engram?

    • I’d use Gordon this week, but that doesn’t mean that Luck isn’t droppable (especially with the talk that he may not be ready until November now). I would def. want to have a RB on your bench, with Kelley / Smallwood / Powell being the best stashes

  3. Haggy says:

    Since I have a good group of running backs do you think S. Perine would be ok to drop for Danny Amendola or Sterling Shepard. Or do you like S.Perine’s chances this year. I really feel Amendola has a shot.

  4. Cara Stewart says:

    Would you play McCaffery over Gordon this week at RB? I also have Hunt and McCoy so one of the others will be flex. Thanks!!

  5. Pablo E says:

    Cj2k/Richard Matthews/crabtree in the flex this week? 14 team standard and I’m starting AJ Green and Garcon at WR. Thanks for the advice.

  6. John says:

    I’m stashing so many rbs with opportunity but Bilal is also on the wire. I have Smallwood, Henry, Kelley, and javorious. Would you drop any of them for powell?

  7. Gail says:

    What would you do with Adrian Peterson? Should I drop and get Andre Ellington?

  8. carmen b. says:

    hey prof,

    need 1 RB spot filled and 1 flex- options are j. Rodgers, m. ingram, w. smallwood, j. landry and D. Jackson

    second league need 1 RB and 1 flex- options are j. rodgers, m. ingram, c. thompson, s. shepard

  9. Rich says:


    Is it worth cuffing West to Hunt (KC RB) in a 1-pt ppr league? 8 starters 7 bench spots. Thanks!

    • I wouldn’t be going crazy, depending on who you’d have to cut, though it isn’t unreasonable

      • Rich says:

        Here’s my team. Would you cut anyone for West to cuff Hunt to play it safe?

        1. Brady, Tom NEP QB 9
        2. Cook, Dalvin MIN RB 9
        3. Hunt, Kareem KCC RB 10
        4. McCoy, LeSean BUF RB 6
        5. Riddick, Theo DET RB 7
        6. Diggs, Stefon MIN WR 9
        7. Fitzgerald, Larry ARI WR 8
        8. Bryant, Martavis PIT WR 9
        9. Garcon, Pierre SFO WR 11
        10. Williams, Tyrell LAC WR 9
        11. Evan Engram NYG TE 8
        12. Eric Ebron DET TE 7
        13. JJ Nelson ARI WR 8
        14. Bryant, Matt ATL PK 5
        15. Steelers Def 9

  10. Terri says:

    Chris Thompson or Jaquiz Rogers? I got killed by Montgomery and hope he is ok…

  11. Teri says:

    Flex, standard scoring…

    Carson or Mixon?

  12. Ted says:

    would you play DeMarco Murray over Duke Johnson Jr this week?

  13. John says:

    Hey Prof, do you think Demarco can turn it around or is now the time to sell? I’m thinking of packaging him and Jimmy Graham for Gronk. I’d have Dalvin Cook, Doug Martin, Derrick Henry and Rob Kelley if I made this move. Not ideal but obviously the upside with Gronk is insane. Altogether, is Murray a sell for you or a hold?

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