Week 2 Rankings: Top 40 Running Backs

by Ray Kuhn

Heading into the Monday night games there were only two players who had rushed for more than 100 yards in Week 1. One of them was a quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, and the other was a running back, Shane Vereen, who is now going to be out a few weeks after having surgery to repair a broken bone in his wrist. So it is not exactly an understatement to say that, for a lot of running backs, the only way to go is up. What saved a lot of running backs and their value was their proficiency in the passing game so it is safe to say that a lot of PPR fantasy owners feel better about their running backs, with Ray Rice being a prime example.

It is important not to overreact to the first week of football and not to make any rash roster decisions.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at the rankings for Week 2:

  1. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings – at Chicago
  2. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. San Diego
  3. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Cleveland
  4. Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. New Orleans
  5. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Dallas
  6. Alfred Morris – Washington Redskins – at Green Bay
  7. Arian Foster – Houston Texans – vs. Tennessee
  8. Reggie Bush – Detroit Lions – at Arizona
  9. CJ Spiller – Buffalo Bills – vs. Carolina
  10. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears – vs. Minnesota
  11. Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks – vs. San Francisco
  12. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars – at Oakland
  13. Trent Richardson – Cleveland Browns – at Baltimore
  14. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans – at Houston
  15. Steven Jackson – Atlanta Falcons – vs. St. Louis
  16. Stevan Ridley – New England Patriots – vs. New York Jets
  17. D’Angelo Williams – Carolina Panthers – at Buffalo
  18. DeMarco Murray – Dallas Cowboys – at Kansas City
  19. Ryan Mathews – San Diego Chargers – at Philadelphia
  20. Eddie Lacey – Green Bay Packers – vs. Washington
  21. Darren Sproles – New Orleans Saints – at Tampa Bay
  22. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders – vs. Jacksonville
  23. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers – at Seattle
  24. Daryl Richardson – St. Louis Rams – at Atlanta
  25. David Wilson – New York Giants – vs. Denver
  26. Lamar Miller – Miami Dolphins – at Indianapolis
  27. Rashard Mendenhall – Arizona Cardinals – vs. Detroit
  28. Ahmad Bradshaw – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Miami
  29. Joique Bell – Detroit Lions – at Arizona
  30. Knowshon Moreno – Denver Broncos – at New York Giants
  31. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Cincinnati Bengals – vs. Pittsburgh
  32. Bilal Powell – New York Jets – at New England
  33. Montee Ball – Denver Broncos – at New York Giants
  34. Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills – vs. Carolina
  35. Danny Woodhead – San Diego Chargers – at Philadelphia
  36. Giovani Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals – vs. Pittsburgh
  37. Daniel Thomas – Miami Dolphins – at Indianapolis
  38. Jacquizz Rodgers – Atlanta Falcons – vs. St. Louis
  39. Vick Ballard – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Miami
  40. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Cincinnati



  • On paper Stevan Ridley had a decent game gaining 46 yards for an average of 5.1 yards per carry. The problem, though, is that he only carried nine times thanks to his inability to hold on to the ball. After fumbling twice in the first half (one was reversed after a replay review), Ridley was benched for Shane Vereen. However, Vereen now will be out for a few a weeks so Bill Belichick has no choice but to go back to Ridley. The Patriots play the Jets, who were able to limit Doug Martin, on a short week so look for Ridley to have his standard 20-25 carries.
  • David Wilson might have been the biggest fantasy disappointment this week. He fumbled twice and was then firmly planted on the bench. I feel that there was some level of overreaction from Tom Coughlin there, as he is fully aware that Wilson will be playing a vital part of the Giants this season. The bottom line is Wilson needs to hold on to the ball. The Giants are auditioning veteran running backs this week, but I don’t think that totally eliminates Wilson’s value. While I am downgrading him, the negative impact will not be as bad as it would be if Andre Brown were healthy.
  • So much for the lofty expectations for Lamar Miller. Ten carries for three yards will not cut it for any running back, let alone one drafted as a low end RB2 or a Flex option. The good thing is that his competition, Daniel Thomas, really did not do that much better (rushed 8 times for just 14 yards), although he did find the end zone. I would not sell on Miller as I think there is still some real potential here. He faces the Colts this week who gave up close to 200 yards rushing in Week 1, so the matchup is favorable. That said, if you have other options they are certainly worth a look this week.
  • Of all the rookie running backs, Eddie Lacy was the only one that earned a start for the coming week. Aside from two series at the end of the first half, Lacy was the running back for the Packers. He showed a nice burst and I would not read too much into the fact that he only gained 41 yards on 14 carries. The 49ers are a tough matchup for anyone, let alone a rookie making his NFL debut. He did add a touchdown along with a 31 yard reception. I would look for his role to continue to expand over the next few weeks.
  • New season, essentially the same results from Darren McFadden (48 yards on 17 carries).  It certainly did not appear that the blocking scheme had changed for the Raiders. He still had some issues breaking into the second level of the defense and his value was only saved by the fact that he scored a touchdown. He did also catch three passes for 18 yards, so that was a nice bonus. At least the Raiders showed a commitment to getting the ball in McFadden’s hands. The important thing is that he emerged healthy and has a favorable matchup against Jacksonville this week.
  • The Lions started off the season showing off a nice one/two punch in the backfield. Reggie Bush caught four passes for 101 yards and a touchdown to go along with 90 yards on 21 carries. Of course he already is having health issues as he dislocated his left thumb in the first quarter and also had a problem with his groin later in the game. Obviously it did not slow him down, and neither injury appears to be an issue for him this week. Joique Bell also was a threat as he found the end zone twice running the ball and he also caught 5 passes for 67 yards. At this point both running backs have value and there appears to be enough touches to go around. What I like is that Bush seems to clearly be the number one guy, but he will not be overworked. I don’t think you can expect Bell to score two touchdowns every game, but he could be a solid plug and play option, and at the least a necessary handcuff to Bush.
  • Between Peyton Manning and his stable of receiving weapons, the running game is not exactly high priority in Denver. At this point I think Ronnie Hillman is more of an afterthought, and the true competition is between Knowshon Moreno and Monte Ball. Moreno got most of the work on Thursday and Ball really came in to close out the game. Neither had much success, but right now Moreno appears to be the player to own. He will be targeted in the passing game and he looks to be ahead of Ball on the depth chart, as Ball struggled to gain much traction against Baltimore’s defense.
  • At least after one week, it looks like Steven Jackson has some life left. He carried the ball 11 times for 77 yards and showed an impressive burst getting through holes and into the next level. I know it is just one game, but he looked like a different player than he did last season with the Rams. However, it is clear that he is not the player he once was. Perhaps what even bodes better for Jackson is that he was targeted at least seven times in the passing game. He had five catches for 45 yards, but did have two tough drops. At a minimum, he is an RB2 as it looks like he will be a key part of Atlanta’s offense.
  • Given the talk this offseason, I really thought Mark Ingram was going to be a breakout candidate. I am not completely ready to sell after the first game, but I certainly am not ready to put Ingram in my starting lineup either. The running back was not targeted in the passing game and had just 11 yards on nine carries.
  • DeAngelo Williams is the number one back in Carolina. Jonathan Stewart is out due to injury and Mike Tolbert does not appear to pose much of a threat. Williams appears to be healthy and ready for a heavy workload, and he showed that on Sunday with 16 carries and 76 yards. At least for next week, Williams could be a good option for those of you that are dealing with some Week 1 disappointments.

Make sure to check out all of our Week 2 rankings:

Week 2 Rankings: Top 50 Wide Receivers
Week 2 Rankings: Top 25 Quarterbacks


  1. Eric H says:

    Should I keep plugging in Wilson or abandon ship? Due to my Bernard/Wilson/Ball group I’m probably starting Edelman at FLEX this week, but how aggressively should I look for another RB? I won in Week 1 and am seriously considering waiting until Week 4 is over to use my Rodgers/Cam/Bradford/Pryor/Geno trade chips in my 2 QB league, but I don’t want to be down 1-3.

    • I think you can get by. It’s not like the Giants brought in a stud to compete with Wilson, so he should continue to get touches. I also think Bernard is going to emerge sooner rather than later.

      That said, if you could use Geno Smith to get a RB I would do it in a heartbeat, though I wouldn’t spect to get someone much better than you already have.

      • Ray Kuhn says:

        I might be more hopeful than most on Wilson, but I’m not giving up. Still unsure in one of my leagues whether or not I will start him or Darryl Richardson.

        In one of my leagues I just traded Boldin and Ryan Matthews (both on my bench) for Wilson. Could be a case of buying low, or just a dumb move, but we shall see.

        • Eric H says:

          Between this and ESPN saying the Giants see this as correctable and that he’s poised to get the bulk of the carries I feel better about staying the course on this, thanks!

  2. Ray Kuhn says:

    The tough part of doing this is so early, is accounting for injuries. I took a shot including Le’Veon Bell, but put him at 40 on purpose. From what I gather now, he is still not ready to return, so I guess if you are desperate a combination of Redman/Dwyer could slot in there.

    • Eric H says:

      Apparently the Steelers finally got around to designating him with a Lisfranc rather than a minor midfoot sprain and he’s going to miss at least another month. Ugh.

  3. l says:

    I have quite the tough decision…

    David Wilson, Lamar Miller, or Joique Bell to fill my RB2 spot considering I just lost Shane Vereen for the foreseeable future.

    • Wow, that is a tough call. I’d lean Wilson, as he has the highest upside of the three. If you want to go “safe”, it’s Bell for me because he’s going to be a TD vulture and play a big role in the offense.

  4. Ryan says:

    Most of the conversation is going to be from owners who drafted Wilson. I already have Doug Martin and Trent Richardson in the starting roles on my roster. Do I keep Wilson in at Flex or do I insert WR-Julian Edelman who is pretty much the only target for Tom Brady tomorrow?

    • That one is incredibly difficult, as both have their negatives.

      We all know the issues of David Wilson and, while Edelman seems like a no-brainer, that makes you think the Patriots may go in a different direction.

      I would lean Edelman, but only by a real hair honestly. It wouldn’t surprise me if he actually disappointed, but it also is hard to bank on Wlson.

  5. ako says:

    i have McCoy as a Rb and i traded J.Bell for B.Brown was that a good move…

  6. Paul says:

    Hey Professor, due to their matchups this week, do you think Joique Bell would be a safer bet over Chris Johnson?

  7. ako – It’s not a bad move at all, though Bell may have a little bit more upside if everyone stays healthy.

    Paul – I like Bell, but he’s still not a lock to get extensive touches. He has potential, but I would still say Johnson’s upside is greater and is the one to start.

  8. Cody says:

    OB: Tom Brady
    WR1: Desean Jackson
    WR2: Vincent Jackson
    WR3: Dez Bryant
    RB1: MJD
    RB2:CJ Spiller
    TE: Julius Thomas

    Bench: Forte
    Bench: Ryan Matthews

    With Forte sitting on the bench as of now. I cant decide who to start between the three. I know I shouldn’t bench Spiller when healthy, but that Carolina D-Line isn’t bad by any means and I believe Gabbert going down could benefit MJD. This league doesn’t have a flex. Forte is ranked right under Spiller, what was your deciding factor?

    • I understand your thoughts on MJD, but the potential of the foot injury still lingering and the ability of opposing defenses to focus on him would scare me.

      While Ray can talk to why he went Spiller over Forte, the TD potential is part of it. Forte is going to lose TD chances, hurting his value. Spiller also is by far the more explosive of the two and has the higher upside.

  9. EpicRyan says:

    I am wondering what the upside would be to either playing Chris Johnson or Stevan Ridley. I also have CJ spiller

  10. Steph says:

    Knowshon Moreno or Joique Bell to start?

  11. Dave says:

    I am in a 2 QB league, so 2 RB and no flex. I currently have M. Lynch, J. Charles starting at RB. I have C. Johnson and E. Lacy on the bench.

    I think Lacy could have a huge week against the Skins, but not sure if it warrants sitting Lynch or Charles.

    What are your thoughts?

  12. Mike says:

    MJD or Stephen Jackson?

  13. Ellyrae says:

    So, Lamar Miller or Joique Bell in for my flex on week 2? Miller was such a disappointment in week 1, but I don’t want to boot him based on just that… Any thoughts are appreciated!

  14. Mike – It’s probably a toss-up, but I’d lean Jackson. I don’t have much trust in MJD until he proves he’s healthy.

    Ellyrae – If Bell was guaranteed touches I’d go with him, but he’s not going to score 2 TD again. Miller should have the higher upside and it’s been just one week. Like you said, I woudn’t give up on him quite yet.

  15. wish says:

    Either I can start 3 WR and 1 RB
    or I can start 2 RB and 2 WR

    Doug Martin
    Trent Richardson
    CJ Spiller

    Victor cruz
    Larry Fitz
    Vincnt Jackson

    I am going with Doug Martin for sure but not sure whether to start 3 WR or 2 RB 2 WR

  16. wish says:

    I can either start 3 WR and 2 RB or

    I can start 2 WR and 3 RB.

    • Ray Kuhn says:

      That is a nice choice to have without a doubt. Is it PPR or no?

      Tampa’s offense is a little scary right now, but that didnt hold Jackson back last week even though he didn’t find the end zone. I’m thinking that the decision is between Jackson and Richardson

      • This is one of those bad problems to have. With what they are saying about Richardson it’s extremely tough to have him on the bench.

        I would monitor Fitzgerald’s injury status, though that doesn’t appear to be an issue. It’s looking like sitting Vincent Jackson, almost by default, just be prepared to leave points on the bench each week. When you are picking among this quality of player you are almost destined to make the “wrong” choice.

  17. hurricane says:

    Hey Prof,

    In a .5 PPR league, i recently subbed Ahmad Bradshaw in for Antonio Brown in my flex spot with the news of Ballard being done for the season. I’m not thrilled with bradshaw’s matchup but with him getting the bulk of the carries and in a better offensive system I’m slightly leaning in his favor. I don’t like Brown’s matchup either and it looked like Sanders was getting more targets even though Brown was more effective. Still, I think Brown has a high ceiling even in PIT’s mess of an offense. Who would your start in your flex?

  18. jay says:

    hey prod,

    for my flex position i was thinking of starting mike williams vs new orleans defense over chris johnson vs houston. i think tampa will throw a lot and cover v. jackson leaving williams with plenty of opportunities and chris johnson hasnt been scoring tds. what’s your thoughts?

  19. steph says:

    Ahmad Bradshaw or Daryl Richardson to start?

  20. jay – I’d go Johnson, personally, but it’s close enough that you can go with your gut

    steph – I’d lean Richardson, just because they could still ease Bradshaw in, but it’s extreme close.

  21. FB says:

    Spiller or Reggie Bush?

    Spiller may split carries with Jackson again due to last week’s performance and due to Carolina front 7. They looked good shutting down Seattle’s run.

    Bush is banged up against a defense you guys ranked higher than Carolina.

    I feel Bush has more upside but worry since the opposing defense is ranked higher.

    • I think it is a true toss up for the reasons you said. I would have a tough time sitting Spiller, personally, but if he is inline for more of a timeshare (which is possible), Bush is the better back.

      That said Spiller was a first round pick for a reason and someone I couldn’t bench off of oe week.

      Coin flip, but I would lean Spiller.

  22. Joe says:

    Joique Bell over Ryan Mathews?

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