With Week Four upon us, we have now seen players like Ryan Mathews and Maurice Jones-Drew cement themselves as quality fantasy options, while guys like Marshawn Lynch and Shonn Greene have made owners cry that they wasted such high picks on garbage. The guys who have disappointed still have plenty of time to redeem themselves, but this weekend will be the week that owners should start looking for other alternatives.
Ryan Grant (Bruised Kidney) and Daniel Thomas (Hamstring) both missed practice Friday and could sit out for Week Four. Bump up James Starks in a solid matchup against the Broncos and look at Reggie Bush as a possible low-end PPR flex option against the Chargers if you are desperate for help. Grant and Thomas could be listed as doubtful when the injury report comes out Friday afternoon.
Below are my running back rankings going into Week Four.
TOP FIVE WEEK-FOUR MATCHUPS (MUST START)
1. Darren McFadden (OAK) vs. NE: Many owners got a scare after it was reported that McFadden suffered a groin injury at the end of the Jets game, but it wasn't severe enough that he could have came back if the team needed him. Through three games, McFadden has averaged 131 rushing yards a game and has chipped in another 28 yards a game through the air. He should be huge against a Patriots Defense that has allowed a little over 102 rushing yards a game.
2. Ray Rice (BAL) vs. NYJ: The Ravens' passing game was able to do whatever it wanted against the Rams Defense, including that three touchdown performance from rookie Torrey Smith. Rice only carried the ball eight times, but still managed 73 rushing yards and made up for the lack of rushing yards with five receptions for 83 receiving yards. Rice should have another easy day with the Jets Defense that has given up 23.4 fantasy points a game so far.
3. LeSean McCoy (PHI) vs. SF: NFL analyst Moose Johnston pointed out during the Eagles game against the Giants that McCoy looks like a more complete back and has taken his play to a whole new level this year. It's hard to disagree considering McCoy has been averaging a very strong 6.1 yards a carry through three games. Even though there are a ton of receiving weapons in the offense, McCoy is clearly as big a part of the offense as he has ever been. Start him with confidence, despite the tougher matchup.
4. Adrian Peterson (MIN) @ KC: It's mind boggling to me that the Vikings had a 20-0 lead over the Lions, yet they refused to give AD the ball more in the second half to wind down the clock as much as possible. That's just bad play-calling and something that eventually landed Brad Childress on the unemployment line. If The Vikings want to succeed, they have to give the ball to their best play-maker as much as possible. I expect Leslie Frazier to learn from his mistakes and give Peterson the ball as much as possible in Week Four.
5. Fred Jackson (BUF) @ CIN: For the second-straight week, I have to include Jackson in the top five for Week Four. While the Bengals have only given up 15.5 points a game to fantasy running backs, they have dominated against guys like Knowshon Moreno and Frank Gore. After airing it out against the Patriots, I expect the Bills to be more conservative and give Jackson the rock as much as possible.
|6.||Ryan Mathews (SD)
||vs. MIA: Has been given more goal-line opportunities and is making the most of them.|
|7.||Matt Forte (CHI)||vs. CAR: Forte's value is much higher in PPR leagues. He's only averaging close to 40 yards a game. Should run more this week.|
|8.||Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX)
||vs. NO: Jags will continue to rely on the run to keep Blaine Gabbert comfortable.|
|9.||Rashard Mendenhall (PIT)
||@ HOU: I can't see Mendy putting up two-straight duds.|
|10.||Michael Turner (ATL)
||@ SEA: Like Mendy, Turner has to get back on track this week.|
|11.||Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG)
||@ ARI: Value is higher in PPR leagues.|
|12.||Chris Johnson (TEN)||@ CLE: This will be the last week for Johnson to prove himself. With Kenny Britt out, the Titans will need to rely more on the run.|
|13.||Tim Hightower (WAS)||@ STL: The matchup is tasty, but Hightower will need to be mistake free with Roy Helu breathing down his neck.|
|14.||Jahvid Best (DET)||@ DAL: Was held in check last week with a slightly injured thigh. Will be back to full go this weekend.|
|15.||Peyton Hillis (CLE)||vs. TEN: Hillis was a surprise Sunday-morning scratch because of strep throat. Should start this week, but Monterio Hardesty looked good in his first start.|
|16.||LeGarrette Blount (TB)||vs. IND: The Colts held Rashard Mendenhall in check, but I don't see this rushing defense turned around all of a sudden after giving up 116 to Ben Tate in Week One and 94 to Peyton Hillis in Week Two.
|17.||Felix Jones (DAL)
|vs. DET: Aggravated his dislocated shoulder, but should be good to go if he suffers no setbacks in practce this week.
|18.||Daniel Thomas (MIA)
||@ SD: Can he put up quality stats three-straight weeks?
|19.||Beanie Wells (ARI)
|vs. NYG: The bad news was Wells wasn't able to go Sunday. The good news is that neither Chester Taylor or Alfonso Smith showed much in his absence. Keep an eye on his status in practice.|
|20.||James Starks (GB)
||vs. DEN: Was quiet in Week Three. But the Broncos Defense is bad enough against the run that Starks should easily bounce back.
|21.||Steven Jackson (STL)||vs. WAS: Jackson was limited last week mainly because the Ravens treated the Rams like a punching bag. The Rams will need to get their running game going after a disappointing 0-3 start.
|22.||Frank Gore (SF)||@ PHI: Has a good matchup, but Kendall Hunter could see more work.|
|23.||Arian Foster (HOU)||vs. PIT: Expected to get his starting job back, but how much will Ben Tate see?
|24.||Cedric Benson (CIN)||vs. BUF: Says he will play this week with a suspension looming.
|25.||Shonn Greene (NYJ)
||@ BAL: Continues to disappoint. Terrible matchup.|
|26.||Joseph Addai (IND)||@ TB: Ran well against the Steelers.
|27.||Ryan Grant (GB)
|vs. DEN: There is a chance that Grant may end up sitting this week against the Broncos. Once confirmed, the rankings wil change Thursday.
|28.||Darren Sproles (NO)||@ JAX: Does a little bit of everything. Better option in PPR and return leagues.
|29.||Johnathan Stewart (CAR)||@ CHI: Carolina should have let DeAngelo Williams go in free agency.
|30.||LaDainian Tomlinson (NYJ)||@ BAL: Is averaging close to 90 yards a game on the ground and through the air.
BEST OF THE REST:
|31. Ben Tate (HOU) vs. PIT: Deserves a bigger role even with Arian Foster expected back.|
|32. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE) @ OAK: Could lose more work to Stevan Ridley.|
|33. Mike Tolbert (SD) vs. MIA: Slowly being phased out of the offense, but is still a low PPR flex option.
|34. Dexter McCluster (KC) vs. MIN: That's right. Thomas Jones is off the list. McCluster is an asset in the running and passing game, but his value is worth more in PPR leagues.|
|35. Marshawn Lynch (SEA) vs. ATL: Had a good Week Three, but avoid if possible.|
Keep An Eye On:
Roy Helu - Washington Redskins
The Redskins have slowly incorporated Helu in the offense over the last two games and has really progressed. He's averaging a little over 5 yards a game, compared to Tim Hightower's 3.5. I don't recommend owners pick Helu up and automatically use him as a flex option because he still has a ways to go to turning the backfield into a committee. But if you can afford to pick him up and stash him away for the next few weeks, he could eventually be worth the wait.
I wish everyone the best of luck this week. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post below.