Week 4 Rankings: Top 40 Running Backs

Injuries and inability are certainly playing a major role on the rankings this week.  Obviously things change dramatically if C.J. Spiller, Reggie Bush or Fred Jackson dress, but can we count on that?  Throw in the struggles of some of the top backs, like LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray and Chris Johnson and there are a lot of owners shaking their heads.  Let’s take a look at how things currently fall, but keep in mind that there could be major changes as the week progresses:

  1. Arian Foster – Houston Texans – vs. Tennessee
  2. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Cleveland
  3. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. Cincinnati
  4. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. New York Giants
  5. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders – at Denver
  6. Trent Richardson – Cleveland Browns – at Baltimore
  7. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. San Diego
  8. Ryan Mathews – San Diego Chargers – at Kansas City
  9. Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks – at St. Louis
  10. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings – at Detroit
  11. Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Washington
  12. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers – at New York Jets
  13. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Cincinnati Bengals – at Jacksonville
  14. Willis McGahee – Denver Broncos – vs. Oakland
  15. Michael Bush – Chicago Bears – at Dallas
  16. Mikel Leshoure – Detroit Lions – vs. Minnesota
  17. Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Carolina
  18. DeMarco Murray – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Chicago
  19. Darren Sproles – New Orleans Saints – at Green Bay
  20. Cedric Benson – Green Bay Packers – vs. New Orleans
  21. Andre Brown – New York Giants – at Philadelphia
  22. Alfred Morris – Washington Redskins – at Tampa Bay
  23. Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams – vs. Seattle
  24. Tashard Choice – Buffalo Bills – vs. New England
  25. Stevan Ridley – New England Patriots – at Buffalo
  26. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans – at Houston
  27. Ryan Williams – Arizona Cardinals – vs. Miami
  28. Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – at Atlanta
  29. Daniel Thomas – Miami Dolphins – at Arizona
  30. Ahmad Bradshaw – New York Giants – at Philadelphia
  31. Ben Tate – Houston Texans – vs. Tennessee
  32. Pierre Thomas – New Orleans Saints – at Green Bay
  33. DeAngelo Williams – Carolina Panthers – at Atlanta
  34. Shonn Greene – New York Jets – vs. San Francisco
  35. Peyton Hillis – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. San Diego
  36. Jacquizz Rodgers – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Carolina
  37. Daryl Richardson – St. Louis Rams – vs. Seattle
  38. Danny Woodhead – New England Patriots – at Buffalo
  39. Beanie Wells – Arizona Cardinals – vs. Miami
  40. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – at Green Bay

Thoughts:

  • The early talk is that both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson could play in Week 4 for the Bills, but for now I am going to leave them both off the rankings (meaning Tashard Choice could get the opportunity to shoulder the load).  However, the news this week will have a major impact on how things play out.  If Spiller plays, he is a RB1.  If Jackson plays, he is probably more of a RB2.
  • Is anyone wondering how healthy Jamaal Charles is now?  After exploding for 288 total yards (233 rushing, 55 receiving) in Week 3 it is apparent that he is back to being a must use option.  While it isn’t fair to expect him to get that many touches on a weekly basis (Peyton Hillis’ injury contributed to it), he should be considered one of the better plays in the league at this point.
  • Maybe this will be the week that the Eagles finally lean on LeSean McCoy?  How long can they really continue to watch Michael Vick get beat up and turn the ball over?  McCoy is averaging just over 100 total yards per game against the Giants in his career (6 games), so if they do they should be rewarded.  We can’t predict what Philadelphia will do, but it certainly would make sense for them to go more run oriented.
  • We are no longer concerned about Maurice Jones-Drew’s holdout affecting him on the field, are we?  With a positive matchup, consider him an easy Top 5 option.
  • According to Ben Volin (via Twitter), “Reggie Bush said this morning on @PaulandYoungRon about his left knee: ‘It’s just a bruise. I’m working hard to get back for this week.’”  He’s another one who we will have to monitor the news, but if he is in the lineup he is going to be the focal point of the Dolphins offense once again.  However, given his history can we really expect him to dress?  If he does he’s a RB2, but for now we are leaving him off the rankings.  If Bush is out, consider Daniel Thomas a viable FLEX option, though a risky play as anything more than that.
  • Ryan Mathews got through his first game back, now I would expect him to start living up to the expectations.  With a favorable matchup against the Chiefs (who are allowing 122.7 rushing yards per game, tied for tenth most in the league), look for him to erupt.
  • DeMarco Murray has far from lived up to expectations, like the majority of the Cowboys’ offense.  With a tough draw against the Chicago Bears, it is unfair to expect him to suddenly figure it out this week as well.  He still has potential keeping him as a RB2, but with 82 yards on 30 carries over the past two games (along with 48 receiving yards) that’s all he can be considered.
  • The New Orleans Saints have allowed 215.0 rushing yards per game over the first three weeks of the season.  While Cedric Benson’s value is typically capped, it is impossible not to consider him a RB2 this week.
  • Will it be Andre Brown, Ahmad Bradshaw or a time share in New York?  A lot of that may depend on Bradshaw’s health, but after a big performance Brown may be the option to own this week.  Regardless, I would consider both low-end options.

Make sure to check out the rest of our Week 4 rankings:

Week 4 Rankings: Top 15 Kickers
Week 4 Rankings: Top 25 Tight Ends

35 comments

  1. Ryan says:

    Professor,

    Got some tough calls to make this week. I am in SSL and have Harvin, T. Smith, Cruz as my WR/Flex spots for obvious reasons. However my two RB spots have me going crazy. I have SJAX, JSTEW, Leshoure, Andre Brown, and picked up Choice off waivers… Do I have two must starts here? Thanks in advance for your help..

    • The health of the Buffalo backs is going to determine a lot. Choice could be a must start, but only if Jackson/Spiller are both out.

      Otherwise, I’d be leaning towards Leshoure/Brown at this point.

  2. Joe says:

    Is it time to get rid of chris johnson and get the best available value? I know I could get at least antonio brown for him and the league is ppr. I’m not really in need of anything particularly.

  3. Mike W says:

    Got offered a trade… I giive jennings and receive amendola. Definitely don’t do that right?

  4. Dschmidt says:

    I have Demarco Murray, Andre Brown, Mikel Leshoure, Ryan Mathews, and Willis McGahee and am wondering what your thoughts are on which 3 to choose? I am feeling like Mathews and Leshoure are the safest, but have no clue on who to choose for Flex

    Thanks

  5. Joe – It all depends on the value you can get. I still like Johnson long-term, so if you don’t have a need I would try and stand pat.

    Mike W – I wouldn’t do it.

    Dschmidt – For the FLEX, I’m definitely going McGahee. Murray is really getting to be a scary play at this point and hard to trust.

  6. Mike W says:

    Should I pick up Julian Edelman? And drop Greg Little/ Shaun Draughn???

  7. Steve says:

    1/2 PPR, 2RB, 3WR, 1R/W Flex.

    I have Foster, Tate, Benson, Jacquizz at RB
    I have Cruz, Hawkins, Hankerson, Colston at WR

    Who do you start? Foster and Benson are automatics. I’m leaning towards Tate at Flex due to history Tate has vs TEN. Rodgers has great matchup, too, but still has to deal with Turner. What do you think?

    Also, I’m considering sitting Colston since I think the injury is still nagging him and GB defense is pissed. Not a good recipe. Again, what do you think?

    Last question… Gates or Pitta?

    Thanks for your time and help.

  8. Tyler says:

    Is this the week I finally bench Chris Johnson? I have BJGE and Cedric Benson to fill in and AJ Green and Wes Welker as my starting WRs. Who should I start at FLEX: Chris Johnson or DeSean Jackson?

  9. joseph says:

    I am not sure who to start in my wr/rb spot??? Leshoure or Welker!? I have Calvin Johnson and Torrey Smith as my wr’s and Morris and Mathews as my RB’s…I also have Tate, Wells and Garcon on the bench. help?

  10. Mie W – I wouldn’t for Little. Maybe for droughts, though, f you need a WR. It’s hard to imagine Draughms making much of an impact.

    Steve – I would go:
    RB – Foster & Benson
    WR – Cruz & Colston (depending on news) & Hawkins
    TE – They are almost interchangeable at this point, so go with your gut (I have them back-to-back on the rankings
    FLEX – Tate

    Tyler – I generally go with the RB, but I don’t think I do I. This case. We all know the Giants secondary is suspect, so I would definitely consider Jackson at this point. I like Joson as a buy low candidate, but I think he may still be two or three weeks away from making a major impact.

    Of course, do to want to have him on your bench when he finally breaks out? Tough call that could go either way, but I am leaning Jackson

    Joseph – this is another tough call. Both looked very good last week, but in this case I am siding with e RB. I would think New England is going to rn the ball more this week and, if Matthew Stafford is out, I can see the Lions relying on their running game as well.

  11. Brandon says:

    I am not sure who to start at my rb positions. I can play 3 of these players: Jamaal Charles, Alfred Morris, Willis McGahee, C.J. Spiller, Ryan Williams and Chris Johnson. I was leaning toward Charles and Morris since, but McGahee and Spiller are a little banged up not sure how many carries they receive if they even play. Then Williams was pronounced the starter now.

    Thanks

    • Charles is an absolute must play and, assuming he’s healthy, I like McGahee as a good play also.

      After that, Spiller’s status (as well as Frad JAckson’s) will determine if it is him or Morris.

  12. Steve says:

    Thanks, Rotoprofessor!

  13. cd says:

    Do I play Gore and have Sproles as the flex, or go with Sproles as the RB2 (Matthews is RB1) and put a WR as my flex, and if so, which one: Decker or Malcom Floyd?

  14. Chuck says:

    What do you think about Ridley for mendenhal? This would be my third string rb and I wouldn’t need him until week 6 or in case of injury. I’d be getting mendenhal

  15. muddy cleats 18 says:

    is it time to give up on hillis and ingram? what do you think of Powell,Richardson for roy?

  16. cd – I’d go with Gore/Sproles. I think Gore is actually the better play than Sproles, but Sproles has slightly more upside than the WR.

    muddy cleats – Powell needs a starting job before we can consider him ROY. Richardson, is a different story. As for Hillis/Ingram, who would you be dropping them for?

  17. Torch says:

    RB2 decision between A. Brown and R. Williams (don’t ask how I got in this situation – it was a bonehead move) – PPR league. Thanks.

    • The recent news has been that Bradshaw is going to start and the Giants will ride the hot hand, so that makes Brown a rather risky proposition.

      With Beanie Wells out, I’d have to go with Williams this week.

      • Torch says:

        I was coming to the same conclusion – thanks.

        I guess the last game and a half don’t amount to a ‘hot hand’ in coach Coughlin’s eyes – starting to think he’s as bad as Shanahan with his RBs…….

  18. Roll Tide says:

    Prof -

    I have Fred Jackson, Chris Johnson, BJGE, Tate, Ryan Williams, Andre Brown, Leshoure.

    I can play up to three, (2 RB and a Flex) in a std scoring league.

    Currently going with BJGE, LeShoure and Brown – What say you?

    Thanks in advane!

    • I agree with the first two, but at this point I would go Williams over Brown. There are too many questions surrounding Brown and how many touches he’ll get. With Williams, we know he is the man in the backfield.

  19. steven says:

    I have 2 wr slots, 2 rb slot and a flex slot.
    My rbs are Arian Foster, Jamal Charles, Benjarvis Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley and Ryan matthews.
    My wrs are Brandon Lloyd, Miles Austin, Eric Decker and Desean Jackson.
    I know foster and charles are a must start but not sure about other spots

    • Yea, I agree with those two.

      I’d go with Mathews as my FLEX.

      For the WR, it’s Lloyd & Jackson for me, but really just by a hair. It’s hard to sit Decker down, so if you are more comfortable with him I wouldn’t mind swithcing him out for either WR.

  20. Joe says:

    RG3 or Brees this week? Can’t believe I am thinking of benching Brees, but, RG3 has impressed.

  21. Joe says:

    Steven Jackson banged up…start one of these three in his place (I know…not very good bench options). Kevin Smith, Pierre Thomas, A. Bradshaw (questionable). Or just take a chance with S. Jackson. I am watching the inactives closely again.

  22. rob says:

    i can dress reggie bush who is questionable and playing at 4 pm or do i go with cedric benson?

  23. drew says:

    Need some real last minute advice. I need to play 3 of the following in my PPR League all my players have tough matchups.

    B.Marshall
    D. Sproles
    D. murray
    m. Leshoure
    A. morris
    M. Austin
    D. Amendola

  24. rob – I’d probably go Benson, given how bad the Saints run defense has been.

    drew – Ouch. I would say Leshoure, Murray & Marshall. Murray scares me, however. The fallback would be Sproles (the two are actually a coin flip)

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