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:
- Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints – at NY Giants
- Saquon Barkley – New York Giants – vs. New Orleans
- Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Detroit
- Todd Gurley – LA Rams – vs. Minnesota
- Melvin Gordon – LA Chargers – vs. San Francisco
- James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers – vs. Baltimore
- Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – vs. Tampa Bay
- Giovani Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals – at Atlanta
- Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Cincinnati
- Carlos Hyde – Cleveland Browns – at Oakland
- Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – at Indianapolis
- David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – vs. Seattle
- Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs – at Denver
- Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. NY Jets
- Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks – at Arizona
- Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions – at Dallas
- Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings – at LA Rams
- Matt Breida – San Francisco 49ers – at LA Chargers
- James White – New England Patriots – vs. Miami
- Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders – vs. Cleveland
- Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens – at Pittsburgh
- Phillip Lindsay – Denver Broncos – vs. Kansas City
- LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – at Green Bay
- Dion Lewis – Tennessee Titans – vs. Philadelphia
- Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles – at Tennessee
- Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins – at New England
- Sony Michel – New England Patriots – vs. Miami
- Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers – vs. Buffalo
- Bilal Powell – New York Jets – at Jacksonville
- Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos – vs. Kansas City
- Austin Ekeler – LA Chargers – vs. San Francisco
- Isaiah Crowell – New York Jets – at Jacksonville
- Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears – vs. Tampa Bay
- Peyton Barber – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – at Chicago
- Javorius Allen – Baltimore Ravens – at Pittsburgh
- Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – vs. Philadelphia
- Rex Burkhead – New England Patriots – vs. Miami
- Alfred Morris – San Francisco 49ers – at LA Chargers
- Jordan Wilkins – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Houston
- Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers – vs. Buffalo
- 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: