Week 4 Rankings: Top 40 Running Backs

Which running backs benefit from a favorable schedule in Week 4?  Whose injuries should cause fantasy owners to be concerned about their ability to produce?  Let’s take a look at how our running back rankings shake out for the coming week:

  1. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings – at Kansas City
  2. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders – vs. New England
  3. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. San Francisco
  4. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens – vs. New York Jets
  5. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. New Orleans
  6. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears – vs. Carolina
  7. Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills – at Cincinnati
  8. Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons – at Seattle
  9. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans – at Cleveland
  10. Ryan Mathews – San Diego Chargers – vs. Miami
  11. Tim Hightower – Washington Redskins – at St. Louis
  12. LeGarrette Blount – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Indianapolis
  13. Ahmad Bradshaw – New York Giants – at Arizona
  14. Jahvid Best – Detroit Lions – at Dallas
  15. Peyton Hillis – Cleveland Browns – vs. Tennessee
  16. Arian Foster – Houston Texans – vs. Pittsburgh
  17. Cedric Benson – Cincinnati Bengals – vs. Buffalo
  18. Rashard Mendenhall – Pittsburgh Steelers –at Houston
  19. Daniel Thomas – Miami Dolphins – at San Diego
  20. Steve Jackson – St. Louis Rams – vs. Washington
  21. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers – at Philadelphia
  22. Beanie Wells – Arizona Cardinals – vs. New York Giants
  23. Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Detroit
  24. Shonn Greene – New York Jets – at Baltimore
  25. Darren Sproles – New Orleans Saints – at Jacksonville
  26. Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – at Chicago
  27. Joseph Addai – Indianapolis Colts – at Tampa Bay
  28. Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants – at Arizona
  29. Ben Tate – Houston Texans – vs. Pittsburgh
  30. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – New England Patriots – at Oakland
  31. Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers – vs. Denver
  32. Mike Tolbert – San Diego Chargers – vs. Miami
  33. Willis McGahee – Denver Broncos – at Green Bay
  34. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – at Jacksonville
  35. Danny Woodhead – New England Patriots – at Oakland
  36. LaDainian Tomlinson – New York Jets – at Baltimore
  37. Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks – vs. Atlanta
  38. Michael Bush – Oakland Raiders – vs. New England
  39. Thomas Jones – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Minnesota
  40. DeAngelo Williams – Carolina Panthers – at Chicago


  • Darren McFadden and the Oakland Raiders tore up the Jets on the ground in Week 3, rushing for over 200 yards (McFadden alone had 171).  Does anyone really expect Ray Rice and company to replicate that feat?  While the numbers aren’t there yet, we all know the Jets rushing defense is among the better groups in the league.  McFadden’s success, as well as his ability in the passing game, helps to keep Rice pushed up in these rankings, however.
  • Speaking of McFadden, whether it is a shootout with New England or not, you had better believe that the Raiders offense is going to be running through him.  He has quickly proven that his 2010 breakout was no fluke, rushing for 393 yards and 3 TD (as well as adding 11 receptions for 84 yards and a TD).  Clearly, he’s emerged as one of the elite backs in the game.
  • The San Francisco 49ers have done a tremendous job stuffing the run thus far in 2011, but they haven’t faced a runner even close to LeSean McCoy.  I wouldn’t downgrade McCoy because of the matchup, he’ll find a way to get his yardage.
  • Can we call Chris Johnson anything but a disappointment through three weeks?  He’s averaging a pitiful 2.1 yards/carry and hasn’t scored a TD.  Sure, the fact that he has 13 receptions for 91 yards helps, but it’s hardly enough.  Without Kenny Britt and facing a Browns defense that has been quite porous against the run, maybe this is the week that he finally puts it together.  In previous seasons he’d be in contention for the top spot.  This year, I would still consider him a RB1, but there’s clearly a little bit of risk involved.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals have done a great job stopping the run thus far in 2011.  Of course, the past two weeks they’ve faced depleted rotations in Denver and San Francisco.  Can they stop Fred Jackson?  No one else has this season, as he is fourth in the league with 303 yards (as well as 8 receptions for 115 yards).  At this point he has to be considered one of the better options in the league.
  • Concerned about Roy Helu stealing a significant number of carries from Tim Hightower?  On Monday night Hightower got 14 (for 41 yards) vs. Helu’s 5 (for 15 yards).  Granted, neither was overly impressive, but Hightower should remain the lead back at this point.
  • Will Cedric Benson play or won’t he?  At this point we just don’t know.  That means we’ll leave him on the rankings, for the time being, but owners will definitely want to handcuff themselves with Bernard Scott, just in case.
  • Daniel Thomas missed the first game of the season.  Couple that with a poor preseason showing and everyone was ready to walk away from him.  He’s quickly made everyone remember his name, however, rushing for 202 yards on 41 carries the past two weeks.  Suddenly he’s a viable RB2 in all formats.
  • The talk is that Arian Foster is going to be back in Week 4.  However, can they simply toss Ben Tate back into a “secondary” role?  All Tate has done over the first three weeks is rush for 301 yards and 1 TD, placing him fifth in the league.  Until we see what Foster can go, I’d consider him more of a RB2, with Tate as a FLEX option, especially against a tough Steelers defense.
  • There are significant injury concerns surrounding Frank Gore and Steven Jackson.  Jackson is coming off a game where he got just 4 carries.  Will he be able to take a full slate of carries in Week 4?  It’s an awfully big risk to take, so think of him as more of a lower-end RB2 until he proves he can handle it.  As for Gore, it just hasn’t been there (148 yards) and there are questions on if he will be able to play or not.  Proceed with caution.
  • If the Patriots had a running back we could trust he would almost certainly be among the top options this week taking on a Raiders defense allowing 120.3 rushing yards/game.  Unfortunately, do we trust BenJarvus Green-Ellis enough?  Chances are Danny Woodhead and Steven Ridley take plenty of touches away from him.  No Patriots running back is more than a FLEX at this point, just because they are certain to spread the ball around.
  • Who would’ve predicted that Darren Sproles would be the most productive Saints’ running back?  Anyone?
  • It’s becoming clear that Jonathan Stewart is the more productive back in Carolina, isn’t it?  I wouldn’t consider him more than a FLEX option for now, but he could soon become a must use option.

Make sure to check out the rest of Rotoprofessor’s Week 4 information:

Week 4 Rankings: Top 50 Wide Receivers
Week 4 Rankings: Top 25 Quarterbacks


  1. Tom says:

    My team is QB-Newton, Sanchez, and Freeman
    RB-Ray Rice, D. Thomas, Tolbert, Greene
    WR-Calvin Johnson, Fitz, S. RICE, David Nelson; I lost Britt
    TE-Finley, Fred Davis
    I want to upgrade at QB and RB. So my question is who should I trade to try and get a guy like Ryan Fitz or Ahmad Bradshaw or should I target anyone else. The guy with Bradshaw on his team also has Reggie Wayne who might be ok to pick up.

  2. Alex says:

    Hey Professor, I see you have Frank Gore above Felix Jones. Is that b/c of Felix injury? Or do you believe in a Gore turnaround?

    I also ask b/c I’m thinking of a trade. I desperately need WR help (I’m piecing together waivers already for my WR3 and my WR2 is Mike Thomas). I was offered Felix Jones and DeSean Jackson for Ray Rice. I would then be playing Beanie Wells/Felix Jones/Frank Gore in 2 slots with Starks on my bench. What do you think?

    • I wouldn’t do it, honestly. Ray Rice is one of the elite players in the game, with the ability to carry you from week-to-week. I would want a lot more for him.

      Jones is a wild card and DeSean Jackson can be real hit or miss (especially if Vick misses time). There’s not enough value back, especially since you’d be leaving yourself a lot weaker at RB.

  3. Alex says:

    Thanks Professor. That’s probably good advice, especially since he’s also trying to milk David Nelson out of it.

  4. JR says:

    Hey Professor,
    Trying to decide on the flex this week and am leaning towards Best despite his lack of yards last week. Can you order who you would start in the flex. Keep in mind one of these WRs will be my WR2 I just have not decided yet as they all have some favorable match-ups besides Best.

    J. Best, H. Nicks, B. Marshall, D. Bryant.

  5. Tom – I could see trying to move one of the TE for some depth, maybe packaging him with a QB. The problem is that you don’t have a ton of depth to trade off of.

    JR – Wow, you have a ton of depth if two of those guys will be on your bench this week. Who is your WR1?!

    I’d say Nicks as the WR2, then either Best or Marshall as the FLEX. Best will have the higher upside, since he’ll both rush the ball and get receptions, so I’d probably lean that way, but you can’t really go wrong with any of your choices.

    • JR says:

      Haha well, even though I drafted all of the above earlier, my WR1 is Stevie Johnson and has been since week 1 (go Bills!). This was the first team I drafted and I wish I followed the same blueprint with the two other leagues I’m in because those teams are not as well off.

      Thanks again for the input.

  6. Rob says:

    RP – I’m looking to fill a flex spot. I’ve got Mike Williams, Mike Thomas, Felix Jones and Branch.

    The only two that I’m really considering are Williams and Jones and I see that you have them ranked similarly (at their respective positions). Which would you give the edge to this week? Both have been somewhat disapointing for me thus far but I still view them both as low end No2 starts. Any thoughts?

  7. cody says:

    u think i should drop kendall hunter even tho i have frank gore and pick up mike tolbert?

  8. jonvanseters says:

    Hey Prof!!
    Question for ya, I’m going crazy holding on to “NoShow” Moreno. I want so bad to get rid of him but I’m afraid he will blow up the week I let him go. Any thoughts?

  9. Muddy Cleats 18 says:

    Spent most of the week trading to upgrade rb situation but still left with 1 spot at Flex between Felix Jones – Tate – Decker – Nate Washington and Manningham. how would rank these?
    also seems like Fred Davis is getting less love now that cooley is back. what do you think about Jared Cook? Britt is gone and hass loves to use the tall rec.(BMW in seattle last year for example). Also heard a early report that Cook might be used in 3 wide sets but haven’t heard much of that lately. would be nice to hit on a sleeper 1 week early instead of 1 week late…

  10. Rob – When it’s close I generally lean on the RB. Just make sure Jones is healthy. If there is still any question regarding his health, I wouldn’t take the risk on him.

    cody – Who else do you have? Would Tolbert be someone you would need to play at some point?

    jonvanseters – I know it’s frustrating, but all you can really do at this point and keep him on your bench and hope that he can turn things around. There’s too much upside and he’s almost a lock to get the bulk of the carries, when healthy. There’s too much talent to give up hope this early in the season.

    Muddy Cleats – I’d go with Jones as the FLEX. He definitely has the upside to produce big numbers, if healthy. If he’s hurting, however, Washington becomes the choice.

    As for Cook, he’s had a lot of hype and a ton of potential. Without Britt, he’s definitely worth the risk.

  11. Jon says:

    No love for starks? With Grant doubtful and him expecting to get the bulk of the carries I can’t believe he can’t crack to top 40???

  12. Mike W says:

    Should I start Kendall Hunter over Devery Henderson for a flex position in my league?

  13. It really depends on Gore’s health. If it appears that Hunter is going to be the featured back, then it’s a no-brainer.

    Henderson is an extremely risky play, because you never know how many targets he’s going to get (especially with Colston potentially returning).

  14. kevin says:

    out of these 4 RB i need to start three MJD tim hightower darren sproles arian foster thinking of possibly sitting arian foster but i have a feeling he may have a good game steelers defense just doesn’t seem as strong as they have been in the past

    • I’d sit Sproles. While he’s been great thus far, if Marques Colston is back in the mix there’s a good chance that his opportunities decline. Plus, with all of the options that they have, is there every a guarantee that he gets a ton of chances?

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