Week 4 Rankings (2018): Top 40 Running Backs

by Ray Kuhn

We had three weeks of relative calm at the running back position but now we add another variable into the equation… Bye weeks. First of all I don’t believe it myself, and I’m not sure anything really qualifies as calm any more in the NFL, but it is all relative. There is one less game on the schedule with Carolina and Washington not playing this week. That means fantasy owners will have to replace Christian McCaffrey, a suddenly resurgent Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson. Let’s take a look at how the options actually taking the field rank this week:

  1. Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints – at NY Giants
  2. Saquon Barkley – New York Giants – vs. New Orleans
  3. Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Detroit
  4. Todd Gurley – LA Rams – vs. Minnesota
  5. Melvin Gordon – LA Chargers – vs. San Francisco
  6. James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers – vs. Baltimore
  7. Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – vs. Tampa Bay
  8. Giovani Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals – at Atlanta
  9. Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Cincinnati
  10. Carlos Hyde – Cleveland Browns – at Oakland
  11. Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – at Indianapolis
  12. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – vs. Seattle
  13. Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs – at Denver
  14. Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. NY Jets
  15. Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks – at Arizona
  16. Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions – at Dallas
  17. Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings – at LA Rams
  18. Matt Breida – San Francisco 49ers – at LA Chargers
  19. James White – New England Patriots – vs. Miami
  20. Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders – vs. Cleveland
  21. Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens – at Pittsburgh
  22. Phillip Lindsay – Denver Broncos – vs. Kansas City
  23. LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – at Green Bay
  24. Dion Lewis – Tennessee Titans – vs. Philadelphia
  25. Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles – at Tennessee
  26. Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins – at New England
  27. Sony Michel – New England Patriots – vs. Miami
  28. Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers – vs. Buffalo
  29. Bilal Powell – New York Jets – at Jacksonville
  30. Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos – vs. Kansas City
  31. Austin Ekeler – LA Chargers – vs. San Francisco
  32. Isaiah Crowell – New York Jets – at Jacksonville
  33. Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears – vs. Tampa Bay
  34. Peyton Barber – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – at Chicago
  35. Javorius Allen – Baltimore Ravens – at Pittsburgh
  36. Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – vs. Philadelphia
  37. Rex Burkhead – New England Patriots – vs. Miami
  38. Alfred Morris – San Francisco 49ers – at LA Chargers
  39. Jordan Wilkins – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Houston
  40. Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers – vs. Buffalo

Notes:

  • For as good as Kansas City’s offense has been, Kareem Hunt has been a bust so far. While it has clearly been the Pat Mahomes show, the success hasn’t flowed down to the second year running back. Generally, when you have an offense with the firepower that the Chiefs have shown the running back (especially a prolific one like Hunt) generally benefits. However, through three games it appears to be an issue both with the way the offense is structured and with Hunt. The newly healthy Spencer Ware has eight touches so far in three games, so competition isn’t an issue. Instead it seems that Kansas City has just two many other weapons for Mahomes, as Hunt only has one reception through three weeks. At least last week he found the end zone, twice in fact, for the first time this season. That helped to save his value, as did a fourth quarter drive when the Chiefs were running out the clock as Hunt gained 22 of his 44 yards. Andy Reid is at least committed to handing the ball off to Hunt, as he has 52 carries in three weeks, but he is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Hunt has to remain in your starting lineup and eventually he will break out, but unless he finds the end zone his value will be limited for now.  This week against the Broncos on the road, it likely won’t come even though he will still be ranked as a RB2.
  • There was a lot of interest in Giovani Bernard entering last week since he was a newly elevated starting running back thanks to Joe Mixon’s knee surgery. The Bengals dressed just two running backs this past Sunday, Mark Walton was on the field for seven snaps and didn’t touch the ball, it is clear whose backfield it is. The veteran carried the ball 12 times for 61 yards and a touchdown while also catching five passes for 25 yards. That production will continue, at least for another week, and Bernard will likely more valuable this week. Facing the Falcons and their reeling, and injured, defense will help and since Bernard had a good, but not great performance last week, attention will likely be elsewhere in Week 4.
  • For as bad, and boring, as the Cowboys’ offense will be this season, it is clear that things will be focused on Ezekiel Elliot. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it is always a good, and welcome, development to see some of your preseason expectations come true. Despite scoring a touchdown in each of his first two games, Elliot had what might be his best game of the season in Week 3 in Seattle. While the Seahawks’ defense isn’t what it used to be, playing in Seattle isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Elliot gained 127 yards on 16 carries, with 76 of those coming on seven second half carries while Dallas was trailing. What is perhaps slightly troubling is the fact that he was targeted eight times, and he only managed to catch three passes for 11 yards. The Cowboys are trying to involve him in the passing game, but he has 37 yards on 11 catches.
  • While Eli Manning is the leader of the Giants, and their biggest star is Odell Beckham, it is becoming clear that things will run through Saquon Barkley. The rookie now has eclipsed 100 yards in each of his first three games, and he found the end zone once again this week. After being sidelined for a few plays in the first quarter with a knee bruise, everything appeared to be in order and he was his normal, explosive self. Ultimately Barkley carried the ball 17 times for 82 yards and a touchdown while catching five passes for another 35 yards. On 46 carries he is averaging 4.7 yards per carry to go along with his 6.5 yards per catch on 21 receptions. As the Giants get more comfortable with their rookie, and their offensive line improves with Erick Flowers relegated to the bench, Barkley’s role can only increase. In fact he has been a Top-5 running back thus far this season and he will likely finish that way as well.
  • Efficiency wasn’t the name of the game for Carlos Hyde in the first two weeks, but he did find the end zone each week. Perhaps more importantly, despite averaging 2.8 and 2.7 yards per carry respectively, Hyde has been the main ball carrier for Cleveland. Through three weeks Nick Chubb has just seven carries, and with Baker Mayfield now under center Cleveland’s offense should improve. Last week Hyde broke out with 98 yards on 23 carries while scoring twice. At some point, Chubb will likely take some carries, but for now the veteran remains a dependable option.
  • What is up with Kenyan Drake? Entering the season I was lower than most, but that didn’t mean I was completely down on him. This past week has to be the bottom for Drake, and his value can only go up from here. The issue is that after five carries for three yards and two catches for another seven yards, it’s hard to see much upside or trust in him for Week 4. I guess the good news is that Frank Gore only touched the ball six times last week, so Drake still led the backfield in touches. One other possible source of optimism, even though Drake wasn’t exactly efficient with his touches, is the fact that Miami scored 28 points but only ran 39 offensive plays. Don’t cut Drake just yet, but if you a better option this might be the week to use it.

Make sure to check out all of our Week 4 rankings:

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defenses
Week 4 Rankings (2018): Top 50 Wide Receivers
Week 4 Rankings (2018): Top 20 Tight Ends

26 comments

  1. J says:

    Lynch, brieda, Lindsay for my RB 2 spot.

    I lean Lynch just because he’s been solid and I think this game’s script leans low scoring giving him time to run and brieda is playing injured.

  2. Terri says:

    Pick 3 RB’s. Breida, McCoy (assuming he is active), Carson, Bernard or Ekeler. Standard scoring.

    Right now I have Bernard, Carson and Breida. I thinking its between Breida or McCoy for last spot.

    Your thoughts?

  3. Brian says:

    Want to pick up Tyler Boyd off waivers….which receiver would you drop? Corey Davis or Kenny Stills?

    Also, is Ronald Jones worth holding onto?

  4. M says:

    Considering getting Michel off waivers – worth the chance, even though I already have White? My other backs are Hunt, Lindsay, Williams. Can Williams be dropped or should I drop Sutton?

  5. Jim says:

    Should I drop Jamaal Williams to pick up Chris Carson? Should I drop Algohor or Corey Davis to pick up Jeffries or Baldwin? Thanks.

    • The RB question is trickier, but I’d lean Carson

      As for the WR, all are good options. Baldwin is the must own, and Jeffrey is also better than both Algoholar and Davis. I’d rank them Baldwin / Jeffrey / Davis / Agholar

  6. bway says:

    1 pt PPR
    Need 2 from this group
    RB’s: McCoy Buf, Michel NE, Eckler SD,
    WR’s: Kupp Lar, Robinson Chi

    Standard
    Need 1 I have Gordon, Fournette, Thielen and rank them for Week 4 (in case Fournette doesn’t play)
    Landry, Fuller, Michel,and Bredia

  7. Romo says:

    Hey roto!

    2 rb and a flex
    I have Barkley and Howard
    For flex, I’m leaning with tevin Coleman, on my bench is Lindsay and McCoy. I also have d Thomas and m Williams. My 2 current WR is Landry and k Allan

  8. K says:

    Standard league: Does Sony move up at all with Burkhead out? How do you see the work split between him and White? I’ve got both Devonta and Mixon out, and am looking to start 2 out of:

    Lamar Miller, Marshawn, and Sony. Leaning toward the first 2 though.

    Thanks!!

  9. Brian says:

    Am I crazy for thinking I might sit David Johnson this week in place of Lynch?

  10. Brian says:

    Cousins tonight or Wentz against Tennessee?

  11. promillo says:

    Hello prof!

    Pick two please:
    J. Conner, Kerryon Johnson, Jay Ajayi, Aaron Jones

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