Week 3 Rankings: Top 40 Running Backs

There have been some early season surprises, while others have fallen well short of expectations.  Let’s see the implications in our current Week 3 rankings (these will be updated later in the week if any news necessitates it):

  1. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Detroit
  2. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. Philadelphia
  3. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Cleveland
  4. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans – at New York Giants
  5. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers – at Kansas City
  6. Rashard Mendenhall – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Tampa Bay
  7. Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons – at New Orleans
  8. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles – at Jacksonville
  9. Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams – vs. Washington
  10. Pierre Thomas – New Orleans Saints – vs. Atlanta
  11. DeAngelo Williams – Carolina Panthers – vs. Cincinnati
  12. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders – at Arizona
  13. Knowshown Moreno – Denver Broncos – vs. Indianapolis
  14. Cedric Benson – Cincinnati Bengals – at Carolina
  15. Arian Foster – Houston Texans – vs. Dallas
  16. Ahmad Bradshaw – New York Giants – vs. Tennessee
  17. Ronnie Brown – Miami Dolphins – vs. New York Jets
  18. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears – vs. Green Bay
  19. Jahvid Best – Detroit Lions – at Minnesota
  20. Tim Hightower – Arizona Cardinals – vs. Oakland
  21. Clinton Portis – Washington Redskins – at St. Louis
  22. Ryan Mathews – San Diego Chargers – at Seattle
  23. Brandon Jackson – Green Bay Packers – at Chicago
  24. Joseph Addai – Indianapolis Colts – at Denver
  25. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. San Francisco
  26. LaDanian Tomlinson – New York Jets – at Miami
  27. Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – vs. Cincinnati
  28. Fred Taylor – New England Patriots – vs. Buffalo
  29. Justin Forsett – Seattle Seahawks – vs. San Diego
  30. Marion Barber – Dallas Cowboys – at Houston
  31. Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins – vs. New York Jets
  32. Shonn Greene – New York Jets – at Miami
  33. Thomas Jones – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. San Francisco
  34. Peyton Hillis – Cleveland Browns – at Baltimore
  35. Mike Tolbert – San Diego Chargers – at Seattle
  36. Jason Snelling – Atlanta Falcons – at New Orleans
  37. Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys – at Houston
  38. Reggie Bush – New Orleans Saints – vs. Atlanta (update: a broken leg will keep him out for six weeks, so he will be removed from the updated rankings)
  39. Carnell Williams – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Pittsburgh
  40. Chester Taylor – Chicago Bears – vs. Green Bay


  • The Detroit Lions have allowed over 260 yards on the ground over the first two games of the season.  The Vikings are having problems with their passing game.  Is there any questioning what the game plan could be this week?  Look for Adrian Peterson early and often.
  • I know the Giants got torched by the Colts running game (surprisingly), but that appeared to be their game plan.  They wanted to stop Peyton Manning, letting the Colts pick up chunks of yards on the ground.  While the game plan will change, don’t expect them to be able to stymie Chris Johnson like the Steelers did in Week 2.
  • Arian Foster has certainly been impressive over the first two weeks of the season, though Week 2 was not quite up to the lofty Week 1 numbers (69 rushing yards, 69 receiving yards).  Of course, the Texans also went pass heavy against the Redskins, something they again could turn to against the Cowboys.  He’s a borderline RB1, as he should perform in the passing game, but I wouldn’t yet slide him into the Top 10.
  • Even after the Redskins were torched by the Texans passing game, that’s just not a strategy the Rams have the ability to replicate.  Look for Steven Jackson to remain the epicenter of the offense.
  • The Packers have been exposed by the running game (273 yards over the first two games), as teams try to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands.  Unfortunately, Matt Forte hasn’t gotten things going on the ground, with just 79 yards over the first two games (his big contributions have come in the passing game).  Continue considering him a RB2 at this point.
  • Will the big game from Jason Snelling when Michael Turner went out with injury ultimately cut down on Turner’s carries?  Time will tell, but for now the early word is that Turner could’ve returned to the game if needed, so he shouldn’t be downgraded.
  • Arizona has been one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, allowing 306 yards in the first two games (the bulk of that came in Week 2 with Snelling & Turner thrashing them for 204 yards combined).  With the way that Darren McFadden has been running over the competition (240 yards over the first two weeks), you have to think that he could have a big day.  Having not yet scored a rushing touchdown, either, you have to feel like he’s due.  He’s a top RB2 in all formats.
  • Jahvid Best had a huge Week 2, but let’s keep our expectations tempered, especially with the Minnesota Vikings on the schedule this week.  Consider him a low-end RB2, or a FLEX option in all formats.
  • Even in a blowout victory, the Colts allowed Ahmad Bradshaw to rush for 89 yards on 17 carries (an average of 5.2 yards/carry).  The Broncos are turning into a solid passing team, but Knowshon Moreno should also have a solid day on the ground.
  • Jamaal Charles has had only 11 carries in each of the first two games this season.  Until Kansas City commits to him, it’s tough to consider him more then a low-end RB2, at best.
  • Clinton Portis has a positive matchup, but is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry over the first two weeks of the season.  If he’s going to have a big day, now’s the time, with the Rams allowing 142.5 yards/game thus far this season.  Temper expectations, but consider him a RB2.
  • Tim Hightower was impressive in Week 2 (115 yards on 11 carries), but down a large number of points makes it difficult to really gauge his success (though, 28 yards on six carries in the second half on the season shows that the Cardinals consistently get away from the run).  It’s hard to imagine them falling behind by that many to the Raiders, so look for Hightower to thrive.  Of course, a return of Beanie Wells could limit his upside potential, but for now it doesn’t appear like he’s ready.
  • LaDanian Tomlinson has 138 yards on 22 carries.  Shonn Greene has 70 yards on 20 carries.  Who do you see as the more valuable back?  Either way, the even split means that both should be considered for nothing more then your FLEX spot, but Tomlinson is probably the better play, especially when you factor in his ability in the passing game.
  • Will the Colts again go run heavy?  It’s tough to imagine them taking the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands back-to-back weeks, but if the defense forces their hand there’s no reason to think that they won’t.  Still, it’s hard to trust Addai as a RB2, just in case, but they proved that they can run if given the opportunity.
  • Peyton Hillis may not lead the Browns in carries, but he’s averaging 4.5 yards/carry and has 2 TDs (Jerome Harrison has yet to score and is averaging just 3.4 yards/carry).  At this point, Hillis should be viewed as the more valuable back.

Make sure to check out the rest of our Week 3 Rankings:

Week 3 Rankings: Top 60 Wide Receivers
Week 3 Rankings: Top 25 Quarterbacks


  1. MrS says:

    “Pittsburgh Pirates”, eh? Crossing sports, or going for the throwback team names?

  2. admin says:

    hahaha…Sorry about that everyone! It’s what happens when you write about baseball and football simultaneously.

  3. Nick Tenaglia says:

    Per my usual comments, I have a couple gripes….

    1. Matt Forte is a better play than Cedric Benson and a MUCH better play than Ronnie Brown this week. Chicago going up against the Packers defense is not going to be able to air the ball out like they did against Dallas. So not only is Forte going to see a good chunk of rushing attempts, but he should see at least 10 targets in the short-yardage passing game (swings and screens). Conversely, Cedric Benson is going up against Carolina. Granted they don’t have as good a run-defense as Baltimore, they have a decent one, but what’s more a factor is their terrible pass-defense. Benson will still see at least 20 carries, but the majority of those will probably come during garbage time when Cincy already has the game won. I think Cincy will use this soft matchup to bring back Carson Palmer’s confidence (and help improve his 58% completion %). As for Ronnie Brown, he is facing the Jets who have only allowed 50.5 Rush Yds per game (granted one game was against the soft-running Pats). But the Jets were able to shut down one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL in Baltimore, so what makes anyone think that the Dolphins will do any better?

    2. What does Darren McFadden need to do to get into the Top 10? Conversely, what does Steven Jackson need to do to get OUT of the Top 10? DMC is 2nd in the NFL in Rushing and averaging 5.0 YPC. To further show his dominance thus far, he only has 1 rush over 20 yards (30 yrd rush). So even if you want to still be skeptical, let’s factor out that 1 30 yrd rush – he still averages 4.47 YPC. Every run he has is powerful and gets him something (he only has 3 carries in which he lost yards, and 4 carries for no gain).

    As far as Steven Jackson is concerned, why does everything think he is so great? He has only cracked 1100 yds twice in his carrer (granted, he has gone over 1000 yds for the last 5 consecutive seasons), and he has only scored double-digit TDs twice in his career (2005 and 2006). Furthermore, he is facing the Redskins, who have the 8th ranked Rush-Defense, and a phenominal Passing Offense. Meaning that the Skins will get a big lead early on in the game, thus negating any meaningful carries by Steven Jackson. Now I know Jackson always has the “threat” of going for 100+ yds and TD, but he has only done that 6 times since the start of the 2007 season (41 games). He is not a reliable RB1. At best, over the course of an entire season, he is a RB2 with a few RB1 matchups each season. And this week’s matchup does NOT make him a RB1.
    Verdict: DMC in the Top 10, and Steven Jackson OUT of the Top 10

  4. admin says:

    Nick, your point on Forte is well taken, but it’s a matter of opinion. Forte’s big contributions have been in the passing game and I’m not ready to call those a guarantee. On the ground he has just 79 total yards, so I am a bit skeptical.

    As for McFadden, it’s funny. I expected comments that I pushed him too far up the rankings this week, not that I didn’t push him far enough. I agree with you that he’s a great play for Week 3.

  5. LukeNukem says:

    Love the site, guys.

    Nick, Jackson has averaged 16 fppg over his starting career in PPR leagues. Until he’s not a lock for very solid RB1 numbers, week to week, he’s going to be ranked ahead of McFadden who’s had two good games in the last two years. Frankly, people aren’t buying McFadden yet and I don’t blame them. Sell high, is my advice, and this ranking is a little high still, in my opinion (he’s 16th on my list for this week).

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