Welcome to the season’s fourth edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees. Maybe we’ll have another Wednesday trade to make this column irrelevant, like last week.
In this space, we’ll attempt to read the backfield tea leaves to help you with lineup decisions. We’ll post this article each Tuesday, and offer updates in our fantasy coverage throughout the week, including in the Friday morning edition of the FOX Sports Fantasy Buzz Blog!
As usual, this series will focus mainly on the more volatile and/or 50-50 situations, but there will be some non-committee and injury notes as well. If you have any questions, the FOXSports.com fantasy staff is always happy to help. The best ways to reach me are via Facebook or Twitter.
Finally, start/sit recommendations for the players below always depend on the rest of your roster. For specific RB rankings, click here. Rankings will be available at around noon ET each Wednesday.
Bye week: Packers, Panthers
Thursday game: 49ers at Rams
Rashard Mendenhall’s toe injury and a lopsided game probably contributed to his light Week 3 workload, but this team sure seems to like Andre Ellington. Stash him in deeper formats (especially PPRs) if you can.
In the Dirty Birds’ first game without Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling basically fought to a fantasy draw. Rodgers had 20 touches (18 carries, two receptions) for 95 yards, while Snelling got the ball 15 times (11 carries, four receptions) for 101 yards and a score. Both backs are again in flex land for the Week 4 matchup versus the Patriots. It sounds like Jackson will miss a few more weeks.
It sounds like Ray Rice (hip) is tracking toward a Week 4 return. If so, it’s too bad that Bernard Pierce won’t get to run much against the Bills’ 30th-ranked rushing defense after gaining just 65 yards on 24 carries versus the tough Texans in Week 3. Plan to start Rice and bench Pierce unless things change.
Bills head coach Doug Marrone said Monday that he expects C.J. Spiller to play in Week 4. Is it time to revise our expectations for Spiller? I wouldn’t panic just yet, but this week’s matchup with the Ravens is no picnic. Start Spiller again, and consider Jackson flex-worthy.
Willis McGahee ran eight times for nine yards against the Vikings, but we should cut him some slack since he was on the couch eating Ben & Jerry’s four days before the game. Neither Chris Ogbonnaya nor Bobby Rainey offers much promise to fantasy owners, and McGahee looks to be a desperation start against the usually solid Bengals’ D (save for their inexplicable bad Week 3 game against Green Bay’s decent duo of Johnathan Franklin and James Starks).
Last week, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden hinted at changes in his team’s backfield rotation down the road … and the road wasn’t very long. Gio Bernard gained 50 yards on 10 carries versus the Packers, and added four catches for 49 yards, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis had just 29 yards on 10 carries. Week 2 showed us that the Bengals aren’t quite ready to throw The Law Firm overboard in favor of the smaller Bernard, but they’re trying to get the ball in Bernard’s hands often. Bernard pushes the RB2 tier for Week 4, while Green-Ellis is a low-end flex option who becomes very TD-dependent.
It’s hard to know if Week 3 gave us any clues on the Broncos’ backfield situation, as the game was never really in doubt. Knowshon Moreno is almost certainly still the lead guy for now, while Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman wait patiently for more chances. Also, thanks to the Bronco backs for playing a game of “rock, paper, scissors” to decide who would get a fourth-quarter TD. It’s not like thousands of fantasy games hung in the balance or anything.
Reggie Bush’s status for Week 4 is uncertain due to a knee injury, but I haven’t changed my opinion of the Lions’ backfield. If Bush plays, he’s close to RB15, while Joique Bell is at flex-range in the high 20s or low 30s. If Bush doesn’t play again, Bell rises to the RB16-20 range against the Bears.
Green Bay Packers
With the Pack on a bye, remember this: They drafted Eddie Lacy to be a three-down back, and Lacy (concussion) is expected to be ready for Week 5. That makes Johnathan Franklin a very risky fantasy free-agent investment.
Twelve carries and 54 yards for Arian Foster, along with nine carries and 36 yards for Ben Tate. Are you Foster owners getting worried yet? I would, but not enough to bench him (or start Tate) against the Seahawks.
Ahmad Bradshaw’s strong game (19 carries, 95 yards, TD) against the 49ers probably delayed his descent into fantasy backupdom, but as Trent Richardson gets comfortable with the Colts, he’ll be the clear lead back. With that said, Bradshaw could continue to get enough carries to annoy Richardson owners. For the Week 4 matchup at Jacksonville, view Richardson as an RB2, and Bradshaw as a probable flex option.
The Dolphins ran just 55 plays against the Falcons in Week 3, and that’s a pretty low total. Lamar Miller carries eight times for 62 yards, and is obviously better than fantasy non-factor Daniel Thomas (five carries, 21 yards). The Dolphins travel to New Orleans on Monday night to face a Saints’ squad that has received plenty of credit for its rejuvenated defense. Can someone tell my why they’re allowing 5.3 yards per carry? Start Miller if you have him.
New England Patriots
Eleven carries for 35 yards in Week 3? You’re killing your fantasy owners, Stevan Ridley. He’s still a great buy-low candidate after facing the tough Jets and Bucs, but the Falcons won’t be a pushover on Sunday night. Start Ridley and hope for the best.
New Orleans Saints
Did the absence of Mark Ingram (toe, ineffectiveness) help Pierre Thomas in Week 3? Let’s see … Thomas had 11 carries for 28 yards against the Cardinals, along with six receptions for 39 yards. You can consider starting Thomas in PPR leagues, but not standard formats. Darren Sproles should still start in most cases, even though he got only 56 yards from scrimmage in Week 3.
New York Jets
Chris Ivory (hamstring) is hurt again, and that helped Bilal Powell to a 149-yard rushing day against the Bills. The underrated Powell is in RB2 territory this week, and don’t worry about Mike Goodson’s planned Week 5 return changing things too much.
Rookie Le’Veon Bell is expected to make his NFL debut this week after missing three games with a foot injury. It’s hard to say how effective Bell will be, but the Steelers probably wouldn’t play him if he wasn’t fully recovered. As for the Steelers’ offensive line, it’s bad enough to keep Bell outside RB2 range for now. As for workload … how does 14 carries sound? That’s a guess.
San Diego Chargers
Ryan Mathews (45 carries, 164 yards) is still the Chargers’ busiest back, and a flex-type guy who’s no fun to own because he doesn’t catch many passes or run at the goal line. Danny Woodhead has caught 15 passes in the last two games, so you should probably start him in PPR formats.
St. Louis Rams
Daryl Richardson played one snap against the Cowboys in Week 3 before someone stepped on his already-injured foot and forced him from the game. Isaiah Pead was decent in Richardson’s absence, running six times for 20 yards and catching seven passes for 43 yards. It’s not like Richardson was playing like Marshall Faulk before he got hurt, so let’s keep an eye on this situation. Don’t plan to start Pead against the 49ers – unless Richardson can’t play – but stash him if you can.
If you have questions on any RBBC situations or think other teams should be added to the mix next week, contact me via Facebook or Twitter. Thanks!