Week 3 Rankings (2019): Top 40 Running Backs: Deciphering The Crowded Backfields, Risks To Ignore & More

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Two weeks in and this isn’t getting any easier, but that is a mantra we can repeat for each week for the remainder of the season. Entering this week there are some questions regarding health, and with all of the turnover at the quarterback position there will be impacts felt by the running game as well. All we can do is look for all of the information we can find, absorb everything you can and then make the best possible decision. After all, you are the one that has to deal with it this weekend.

As we enter Week 3, this is how our options at the running back position rank:

  1. Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Miami
  2. Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers – at Arizona
  3. Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Oakland
  4. Saquon Barkley – NY Giants – at Tampa Bay
  5. Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints – at Seattle
  6. Nick Chubb – Cleveland Browns – vs. LA Rams
  7. Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. Tennessee
  8. Austin Ekeler – LA Chargers – vs. Houston
  9. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – vs. Carolina
  10. Todd Gurley – LA Rams – at Cleveland
  11. Le’Veon Bell – NY Jets – at New England Patriots
  12. Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers – vs. Denver
  13. James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers – at San Francisco
  14. Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals – at Buffalo
  15. Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks – vs. New Orleans
  16. Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Atlanta
  17. Sony Michel – New England Patriots – vs. NY Jets
  18. Josh Jacobs – Oakland Raiders – at Minnesota
  19. Phillip Lindsay – Denver Broncos – at Green Bay
  20. Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – at Jacksonville
  21. Mark Ingram – Baltimore Ravens – at Kansas City
  22. James White – New England Patriots – vs. NY Jets
  23. Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – at Indianapolis
  24. Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions – at Philadelphia
  25. Peyton Barber – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. NY Giants
  26. Matt Breida – San Francisco 49ers – vs. Pittsburgh
  27. David Montgomery – Chicago Bears – at Washington
  28. Carlos Hyde – Houston Texans – at LA Chargers
  29. Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears – at Washington
  30. Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins – vs. Chicago
  31. Damien Williams – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Baltimore
  32. Frank Gore – Buffalo Bills – vs. Cincinnati
  33. Adrian Peterson – Washington Redskins – vs. Chicago
  34. Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. Detroit
  35. Justin Jackson – LA Chargers – vs. Houston
  36. Raheem Mostert – San Francisco 49ers – vs. Pittsburgh
  37. Ito Smith – Atlanta Falcons – at Indianapolis
  38. Duke Johnson – Houston Texans – at LA Chargers
  39. LeSean McCoy – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Baltimore
  40. Malcolm Brown – LA Rams – at Cleveland

Notes:

  • Through two games Leonard Fournette has just 113 rushing yards to his name. He has had multiple obstacles thrown his way so far this season, starting with Nick Foles breaking his collarbone in the season opener. The Jaguars promptly fell behind the Chiefs and game flow wasn’t in Fournette’s favor. Now, and we saw it this past week against Houston, teams can begin to focus more of their attention on Fournette but the good news is that Jacksonville won’t stop feeding him the ball. He has caught four passes in each game this season, so there should be no questions about his role in the offense. At this point you can’t afford to sell low, and he has to be out there against Tennessee (a mid-pack rushing defense) this Thursday night. In reality I’m not sure there is much difference between Gardner Minshew and Foles, so Fournette should begin to find some room to work this week after starting the season off with two less than ideal match-ups.
  • One running back that I don’t feel the same confidence in is Devonta Freeman. Unlike Fournette, I have no shares of Freeman in any of my leagues and there is going to be a point (likely soon) where I’m going to be targeting Ito Smith and looking to boost his 9.3% ownership in ESPN leagues. After getting the potential sneak peak to next week’s waiver wire article out of the way Freeman is still going to be included in these ranks as he is the Atlanta starter, but my faith is beginning to quickly disappear. After rushing for 19 yards in the season opener, things didn’t get that much better as he gained 22 yards on the ground. All that kept the day from being a complete loss was his three receptions for for 42 yards. Before I truly look to scut bait, Freeman is facing the Colts this week and through two weeks they have been the second most hospitable defense to opposing fantasy running backs. Compared to Freeman’s 11 carries, Smith carried the ball four times last week but was much more efficient as he picked up 32 yards and has 63 rushing yards so far this season. If Freeman does in fact struggle early in the game, Smith could easily close the gap in carries.
  • If you look at the Chiefs’ depth chart, Damien Williams is still the name you see at the top of it. With a knee injury that forced him out of last weeks game and an average of 1.5 yards per carry, who knows how long it will last? For now we will rank him as Kansas City’s starter, but LeSean McCoy is close behind and Darwin Thompson is lurking. The fact that Williams has a role in the passing game, nine receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown, has helped to maintain some fantasy value, but with 105 rushing yards McCoy has been the better option on the ground. McCoy is also dealing with an ankle injury, but at this point there doesn’t appear to be anything holding him back for a tough Week 3 match-up with Baltimore. We should note that the majority of McCoy’s production came in a blowout victory in Week 1, as last week he was far from efficient with 11 carries for 23 yards. By the end of the season Thompson could emerge as the running back to own, but we have a few weeks for that.
  • In McCoy’s former home, Buffalo, there is also a crowded backfield and some uncertainty. Ultimately it will be Devin Singletary’s job, but for now Frank Gore has been quite involved. As far as carries go Gore has tripled up the rookie (30 to 10), but Singletary has him in yards (127 to 88). With 19 carries for 68 yards last week along with a touchdown and two receptions for 15 yards, we likely saw the best Gore had to offer. We know that Singletary is the more explosive option, and the preferred target in the passing game, but the wrinkle is that he is dealing with a hamstring injury. At this point his status is unclear and that makes Gore the preferred fantasy in Buffalo’s backfield, but is likely not for much longer.
  • One situation that appeared to clear up is the Detroit backfield as CJ Anderson was released this week. At the same time, while Kerryon Johnson is the clear beneficiary of that move I’m still a little skeptical of the second year running back. Johnson has just 90 rushing yards while catching four passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. With 12 carries last week he led the Lions, and you would imagine that the now departed Anderson’s five carries will now go to him as the Lions have yet to truly emphasis their ground game.
  • Let’s hope you didn’t give up on Aaron Jones too soon, and by too soon I mean after just one week. Despite Jamaal Williams getting 12 touches on Sunday, Jones still was the clear leader in Green Bay’s backfield with 23 carries and four receptions. More importantly Jones proved to be worthy of his workload as he gained 116 yards on the ground while scoring a touchdown and adding another 34 yards through the air.
  • With the end of an era in New York, the torch is being passed to Daniel Jones, it is clearly Saquon Barkley’s team. The Giants offense can’t really get much worse than it has been and we know that everything they do will be centered around Barkley. Even if Jones does experience some growing pains, Barkley will touch the ball 20-25 times a game (at a minimum) and he is skilled enough to get his production. The fact that Barkley will likely be targeted as a check-down option in the passing game will help to preserve that value. In reality, can opposing teams really stack the box any more than they did against him last season?

Make sure to check out all of our Week 3 rankings:

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defenses



9 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Prof – Time to flip a coin? Phillip Lindsey, Chris Thompson or Joe Mixon for my other RB position. I’m leaving Aaron Jones in my lineup and have Larry Fitz in my flex – 10 team PPR. Need one of the three.

  2. PPR 1 pt Need 1
    Breida SF or Michel NE?

    half pt PPR Need 1
    RB Mostert SF, Mike Williams SD, or WR Demarcus Robinson KC?

    Standard Need 1
    Demarcus Robinson KC, Mike Williams SD, or James Conner PIT?

  3. Been offered Carlos Hyde and Will Fuller for Sony Michel and Brandin Cooks in a PPR league. Given Michel’s disappointing performance today (and really all year), is this deal worth considering? Hyde seems to be the guy in Houston now.

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