RB Player Rankings – Week 4
1. Matt Forte (vs. Car) – It may seem odd seeing Matt Forte up here in the number one spot over guys like Adrian Peterson, Run DMC, LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice, but when you’re done hearing this, you’ll know why. First of all, Forte is actually seventh in RB fantasy points thus far (standard scoring) and that’s with averaging just under 12 carries a game and scoring just one TD. Second, against these same Panthers last season, Forte rattled off a career-high 166 rushing yards and two TDs on 22 carries. Third, Carolina has only the 25th-ranked rush defense this year. Lastly, the Bears have lost their last two games because they abandoned the run too early, a mistake the coaching staff swears they will not make again this week. I love him in any format this week but in PPR leagues especially, this one is a no-brainer.
2. Adrian Peterson (@ KC) – It was tough not to put AP28 in the one-hole this week against a Chiefs defense that has allowed the second most fantasy points to running backs this season, but I think Minnesota may have a tougher time than they think this weekend in Kansas City. After making the playoffs last season, KC has had a string of bad breaks that has put their backs against the wall at 0-3, so I think they come out fighting in this one. Their rush D is better than they’ve shown thus far and I’m sure they will be keying in on Purple Jesus all day long, though I still think Peterson finds a couple of long-gainers and the endzone at least once on Sunday.
3. Darren McFadden (vs. NE) – McFadden is the real deal, folks, and he’ll show it again this weekend. He currently leads the NFL in both rushing yards and RB fantasy points and is tied with Wes Welker for most total yards from scrimmage with 477 (393 rush, 84 rec). The Patriots don’t just give up a ton of yards through the air, but they also allow the eighth most fantasy points to opposing RBs in the league as well. The Raiders will try to run the ball as much as they can to keep the ball away from Tom Brady, but even when they have to turn to the pass (which they will), McFadden is just as lethal in that respect going for over 500 yards receiving last season in only 13 games.
4. Ray Rice (vs. NYJ) – Rice is one of the top duel-threat running backs in the game today and will need to put his many talents on display this weekend if the Ravens want to win this game. Strangely enough, for as good as the Jets defense is, they actually allow the sixth most fantasy points to opposing RBs this season and are next to last in rushing yards allowed per game (tied for last in rushing TDs allowed with five). Rice didn’t fare too well against New York last season, but not only are the Jets a different team this year, but it’s a far different (and better) Ravens offense as well.
5. LeSean McCoy (vs. SF) – McCoy has surpassed expectations as a fantasy beast so far this season, showing NFL viewers a style of running maybe unseen since the likes of Barry Sanders. The Eagles may force Mike Vick to take it a bit easy this weekend against the 49ers, a ploy which should give LeSean more of an opportunity to do some serious fantasy damage. San Fran may have a great rush D, but McCoy can hurt you in so many ways, I’m not sure it even matters. Last year against them, LeSean had 138 total yards (92 rushing) and a TD. I like him for a little better than that this weekend.
6. Maurice Jones-Drew (vs. NO) – So much for tapering back MJD’s carries this year as Maurice is currently tied for the league lead with 66 rushes after three weeks of action. He’s not scoring the TDs he used to because his team is offensively inept, but he still ranks third in the league with 307 rushing yards and is as dependable as it gets as long as he’s healthy. With rookie Blaine Gabbert likely under center once again, it’s very possible the Jags give him another 27 or so touches like they did last weekend and hope he can run them to victory. I wouldn’t count on it, but he’ll put up some nice fantasy numbers with the chances.
7. Fred Jackson (@ Cin) – Fred Jackson didn’t come out of nowhere, but his numbers thus far have been unexpected to say the least. He’s not the best RB around, but he works well within the Bills system and has no doubt benefitted statistically from this suddenly explosive Buffalo offense. I don’t expect it to last all year long, but it will continue this weekend against a Cincinnati defense he put up 116 yards rushing against last season with two TDs to boot.
8. Ahmad Bradshaw (@ Ari) – I can’t say I enjoy putting the undersized half of an RBBC up in my top ten running backs for the week, but Ahmad earned it after last week’s game. The kid can be electric and with Eli Manning and the Giants receivers clicking right now, you know the holes along the front line will be wide open for him to run through. Arizona was bad against the run last year and they’re bad again this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ahmad go over 100 yards with a TD this Sunday.
9. Ryan Mathews (vs. Mia) – So it looks like the kid has finally turned the corner and if he stays healthy, he could end up as one of the top ten, if not top five fantasy RBs the rest of the way. All it took was for him to understand the importance of pass protection and learn the playbook. Miami has a pretty good rush defense so Ryan may not go nuts in this one, but he’s real fun to watch with the ball in his hands because you never know when he might make that one move that takes him all the way. Anywhere around 15-20 touches should get him up between 100-130 total yards on Sunday.
10. LeGarrette Blount (vs. Ind) – This might be the exact type of game the Buccaneers run the hell out of LeGarrette Blount. Against a Colts team they know they can beat if they just keep at them throughout the whole game is exactly what Blount is good for… wearing down an opponent. Indy hasn’t been a very good rush D for a while now and with this game being at home where he’s thoroughly excelled, you know Blount is in for a good 20 carries. Anything less than 100 yards and a TD would be a bit of a disappointment in my book.
11. Rashard Mendenhall (@ Hou) – The Texans give up a good chunk of yardage to opposing RBs and Mendenhall could be in for a day of heavy lifting. Pittsburgh will want to control the clock and keep the ball away from Houston’s offense, so Rashard will need to carry the ball at least 20-25 times for that to happen. Roethlisberger should be able to pass against this team as well, but it will come a lot easier if Mendy draws the defense in a little closer with some hard running. I expect to see Rashard’s best game of the year so far in this one.
12. Michael Turner (@ Sea) – The Seahawks have held opposing rushers to just 3.1 yards/carry against them so far this season, but that won’t last. Not against a bruiser like Turner who carried the ball 25 times against them their last meeting in Week 15 of 2010. Turner actually put up most of his best games on the road last season, a trend I can easily see continuing this weekend against a team that will need to use their linebackers to help out in coverage throughout the game.
13. Peyton Hillis (vs. Ten) – Hillis should be well rested after a week off and ready for a rough-and-tumble game against the Titans, though I’m not so sure he carries the load like he normally does this Sunday. Montario Hardesty looked just fine as a lead back in Week 3 and with Peyton maybe a bit weak from his illness; this could be a split backfield for a game. He’ll still get the goal-line carries and should see a good 20 touches, so from a fantasy perspective, he’ll be just fine.
14. Tim Hightower (@ StL) – St. Louis has easily allowed the most rushing yards per game this season, so Hightower should be in for a nice day. On the turf indoors, however, I could see the Redskins using the speed and shiftiness of Roy Helu some, so Hightower’s fantasy outlook might be capped. Whatever they decide to do, Tim is running as hard as anybody in the league right now which is something Coach Shanahan loves to see out of his players. If he hits his average of about 23 touches this Sunday, he could end up having an outstanding day.
15. Felix Jones (vs. Det) – Felix looked awesome against the Redskins this past Monday night and if his shoulder injury heals up before the weekend, he should be able to continue his dominance into the game against the Lions. Detroit may be a much improved defensive team this year and may get even better once DT Nick Fairley gets on the field, but they’ve still given up 5.0 yards a carry this season. Felix is known to bust some long runs, so watch out for a couple of those amongst a nice fantasy performance this Sunday.
16. Chris Johnson (@ Cle) – CJ2K had an opportunity to show his fantasy owners that he was worth using their first-round pick on this past Sunday against a porous Broncos defense… and he pretty much crapped his pants. I can’t put my finger on exactly why Johnson has been so awful, but if I had to guess, I’d say it has something to do with the offensive line and the loss of All-Pro Center Kevin Mawai before last season. With Kenny Britt done for the year, the Titans will lean on Chris more than ever and expect production. I think he steps up to the plate against a Browns team ranked 29th against the run thus far, but if he doesn’t, I’d officially call him a bust.
17. James Starks (vs. Den) – If Ryan Grant’s bruised kidney isn’t fully healed by Friday, Starks will be in line for a heavy workload this Sunday against Denver. Even if Grant is able to go, I still believe they lay off him a bit despite his nice performance last weekend because frankly, hurt kidneys are not something you mess around with. The Broncos rush D has been much better this season after ranking next to last in the league in 2010, but Aaron Rodgers has a tendency to open things up and will undoubtedly give Starks quite a few gaping holes to run through. Expect an early Packers lead and a heavy dose of Starks late in this one.
18. Jahvid Best (@ Dal) – Jahvid is so incredibly quick and shifty in the open field, it’s hard to believe he can’t even manage to average three yards a carry, but he’s not. He still accumulates fantasy points with his topnotch play coming out of the backfield, but he doesn’t generate a lot of confidence running the ball at a 2.9 YPC clip. The Cowboys are great at stopping the run, but one thing they haven’t been so good at is containing the RB coming out of the backfield; Best’s specialty. This could be that type of a game for Jahvid.
19. Steven Jackson (vs. Was) – Jackson has rested quite enough and is itching to get back out on the field. He should be able to put in a full workload, but the Rams aren’t likely to push him too hard against a relatively stingy Redskins rush D. I expect him to see around 15-20 touches in this one and am cautiously expecting a decent showing.
20. Frank Gore (@ Phi) – Gore has looked awful this season, but the ‘Niners will need him to turn it on in this game if they have a chance of winning. The Eagles have given up the most fantasy points in the league to opposing RBs this year allowing them to run for 4.9 yards a carry. San Francisco knows this and will feed Gore over and over in order to exploit it. Frank the Tank still has some world class skills in him and I expect at least a couple of long plays this weekend and possibly his second TD of the season.
21. Mark Ingram (@ Jax) – New Orleans will likely be able to have their way with Jacksonville from the start, which is great news for Mark Ingram owners. Assuming the Saints build a nice lead, they’ll turn to the hard-nosed rookie in the second half in order to control the clock and run out the game. He might just see a career high in touches this weekend, which should be enough to get him some fantasy points against an overachieving Jags defense.
22. Arian Foster (vs. Pit) – Foster looks like he’ll move back into the starting role this weekend, but don’t expect a full workload just yet. I would bet on more of a two-to-one series split between he and Ben Tate, thus sapping a bunch of fantasy potential from both backs. Foster doesn’t really need a ton of touches to put up fantasy points, but against a Pittsburgh team looking to turn around a sluggish start, I wouldn’t expect too much.
23. Joseph Addai (@ TB) – Addai looked terrific last weekend for the first time in awhile and should get another chance to prove his worth against a weak Tampa rush defense this Sunday. The Colts might have to start QB Curtis Painter in this one and if so, you can bet we’ll see a heavy dose of Addai. If that’s the case, Addai could start for your fantasy team as a low-end RB2 or flex in Week 4.
24. Jonathan Stewart (@ Chi) – Here’s the Carolina situation: DeAngelo Williams gets a big contract; Stewart feels underappreciated and becomes determined to prove his worth; DeAngelo falls flat on his face as Jonathan outperforms him; Carolina is forced to use Stewart more and more each week. With this being the trend, I like the bigger and more abusive Stewart to rack up the carries against this Bears defense. Chicago has the speed to keep Williams contained but seem to let bigger backs run right through them. Give Stewart a shot as a flex this week.
25. Mike Tolbert (vs. Mia) – Ryan Mathews seems to have pinned down the lion’s share of the backfield work at this point, but Tolbert will still get his opportunities. As their goal-line back, he’ll always have a chance for a TD or two, which is usually enough in most fantasy leagues. Expect around 10 touches with a chance for a TD in the red-zone.
26. Darren Sproles (@ Jax) – Besides being a ton of fun to watch, Sproles has actually been crazy-good out of the backfield this season putting up a TD in each of the first three games (punt return in Week One) while totaling 227 yards from scrimmage. The Jaguars won’t have an answer for him when he’s used and it wouldn’t surprise me to see another 75 total yards with some sort of touchdown from him on Sunday.
27. Beanie Wells (vs. NYG) – Coming back from injury, Beanie doesn’t have the nicest matchup this week as he’ll face a pretty nasty and stifling New York Giants front seven. How much Arizona plans to use him is unknown, but I’m guessing he get no more than his average of 18 touches which might not be enough to make a huge fantasy difference for your team. He can be used as a flex with upside this weekend, but don’t expect too much.
28. Reggie Bush (@ SD) - With Daniel Thomas' hamstring acting up, Bush will get another chance as the Dolphins RB1 for the week. Reggie lost the job after showing no ability to sustain an inside attack for Miami, a problem that won't miraculously change this week or ever for that matter. Still, San Diego is somewhat depleted on the defensive side of the ball, so Reggie should be able to use his quickness and veteran savvy to gain you some decent fantasy points this weekend.
29. Marshawn Lynch (vs. Atl) – There are very few games in which I would even consider using Marshawn “Fugly” Lynch on my fantasy team, but this might be one of them. Last year against Atlanta, Lynch put up 77 total yards (60 rushing on 12 carries) with a touchdown, number I can faintly see being repeated against an average Falcons rush defense. Only use him as a flex, though.
30. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (@ Oak) – I have a sneaky suspicion there could be a changing of the guard in this New England backfield sometime soon, but not quite this weekend. Rookie RB Stevan Ridley is a bigger and more skilled back than the mediocre Law Firm, but I think the Patriots stick with what they know in another tough game away from home on Sunday. He won’t get a ton of touches, but Green-Ellis will at least have a chance to put up a TD or two with Brady leading the team down the field with relative ease.
Rounding out the rest of the Top-50 RBs...
31. Cedric Benson (vs. Buf)
32. Brandon Jacobs (@ Ari)
33. Willis McGahee (@ GB)
34. LaDainian Tomlinson (@ Bal)
35. DeAngelo Williams (@ Chi)
36. Danny Woodhead (@ Oak)
37. Shonn Greene (@ Bal)
38. Ben Tate (vs. Pit)
39. Stevan Ridley (@ Oak)
40. Michael Bush (vs. NE)
41. Kendall Hunter (@ Phi)
42. Roy Helu (@ StL)
43. Thomas Jones (vs. Min)
44. Knowshon Moreno (@ GB)
45. Pierre Thomas (@ Jax)
46. Earnest Graham (vs. Ind)
47. Montario Hardesty (vs. Ten)
48. Alfonso Smith (vs. NYG)
49. Bernard Scott (vs. Buf)
50. Marion Barber (vs. Car)