Week 4 Running Back Rankings
Chris Johnson burned me (and owners across the country, although I didn't draft him in any league) last week, but otherwise the running game has been a pleasant surprise this season. Teams are much more balanced than they were last season (Jamaal Charles had a ridiculous 233 RUSHING YARDS last week as proof). I love doing running back rankings because I feel like they are the most predictable. I'll write about the top-23 running backs.
1. Arian Foster vs TEN - All the Foster owners should be salivating over the prospect of him playing against the Titans. If Stevan Ridley and Mikel LeShoure can blow this defense up what is the best RB in the NFL going to do? You better hope he gets his points in the first 2 or 3 quarters...which he will.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew vs CIN - I was high on MJD last week, and I am even higher on him this week. The Cincinnati defense is a little tougher against the run than they are against the pass, but this is Pocket Hercules and he should have a second consecutive spectacular game. His lengthy holdout is a distant memory at this point.
3. Ryan Mathews @ KC - I am giving Mathews one more week to prove himself. He was out of commission for 6 weeks and came back in a game where his defense was demolished and the passing game couldn't get going. He racked up about 73 yards on his 15 touches before being removed from the game. If they stay in this one he should get closer to 25+ touches, and it is Kansas City.
4. Ray Rice vs CLE - Rice is amazing but I hate playing running backs on Thursday night. A bad game will haunt you all weekend, but I think Rice is good enough to have a great game against the Browns. It definitely helps that he is used in all phases of the game. Imagine what C.J. Spiller could have done in the last 3 quarters. I like Ray Rice's chances this week.
5. Marshawn Lynch @ STL - I was wondering whether Lynch was motivated for this season until I watched him play for 60 minutes against the Packers. He was running hard and finishing every single run. The Packers seem to have a better rush defense than the Rams, so I think 16+ points is easy to predict for Lynch.
6. Darren McFadden @ DEN - I predicted that McFadden would have a good game against the damaged Pittsburgh defense, and I don't think he is going to be slowed too much by the Broncos. He started off the season slow and worried a lot of owners, but he should be better from here on out. I am seriously worried about the blocking scheme being employed by the Raiders.
7. LeSean McCoy vs NYG - I had McCoy down below most other rankings last week because I knew the Eagles passing game would struggle. It did and McCoy paid for it. With Maclin back in business and the Giants having a mediocre defense, McCoy should have a solid game. I think his value lies more in consistency this season than huge point totals.
8. Jamaal Charles vs SD - I dislike ranking players because of what they did last week, but how can I keep Charles down after a nearly 300 yard performance (288 to be exact) and with a coming game against the Chargers? Peyton Hillis is proving to be everything we all should have known he would be, and Charles is the benefactor.
9. Adrian Peterson @ DET - You have to like this matchup for A.D. He would be above LeSean McCoy if it weren't for his 25 touch limit, but I think he should be able to do plenty with those touches against this Detroit defense.
10. Doug Martin vs WAS - Doug Martin has been pretty consistently mediocre. I would watch out for Blount getting an increasing share of the carries, and I actually traded him away in one league. If he was ever going to have a big game, though, this would be it. The Washington defense is mediocre against the run at best, so I have to put him up here.
11. Cedric Benson vs NO - Benson might not have a better matchup this whole season than the one this weekend against New Orleans. Coming in to the season I was extremely worried that he wouldn't find his niche in the passing game, but his recent performances have soothed those worries. This could be his best game of the season.
12. Ben Tate vs TEN - Honestly, Ben Tate should see lots of carries this week. The Tennessee run defense has been sufficiently terrible for no less than three Texans running backs to appear on this list. 400 total yards and 4 TDs from the Texans running backs is not out of the question this week (270 rushing and 130 receiving).
13. Mikel LeShoure vs MIN - Speaking of the Titans run defense, I was lightly insulted last week for believing that Mikel LeShoure would outstrip Kevin Smith in his first game back...I won that battle. The question this week is whether LeShoure is really as good as he was against the Titans. I believe the Lions want to run the ball, especially if Matthew Stafford is seriously injured.
14. Alfred Morris @ TB - The Redskins did not sign Ryan Grant to play him this week against Tampa Bay in a featured role. While I wholeheartedly believe he is a better all-around running back when compared to Morris, the 'Skins have been content giving Morris 20ish touches a game, which is better than most backs in the NFL can say about their situation.
15. DeMarco Murray vs CHI - What happened to Murray after week 1? Fortunately I didn't believe in him and didn't draft him, but I think he has the potential to do much better than he has been. The weak passing game and weak offensive line have been hurting him. I know Chicago is tough, but I think he should be able to make something happen this weekend.
16. Trent Richardson @ BAL - This is a horrible matchup, but Richardson is good. The Browns need to be much more committed to the run (like 20-30 times per game) regardless of the score. It is their strength...even at 2.7 YPC or lower. Richardson is far and away better than anyone else on this offense at a skill position.
17. Willis McGahee vs OAK - I don't like McGahee and I don't think he's worth starting most weeks, but the Raiders are a special exception. As has been mentioned, they have a hard time stopping anyone and John Fox runs the ball when he can. This weekend is a time when he can, and 80 yards with 1 touchdown is pretty reasonable here.
18. BenJarvus Green-Ellis @ JAX - Have you ever noticed how run defense is typically directly correlated with the success of a team's own running game? I haven't done the math, but it seems to me that great running teams also usually have great running defenses (this explains the Texans and Titans pretty damn well). This matters here because BJGE is going up against a team with a great running back and a solid rush defense. I don't think this is going to be one of his best games this year, but the passing game should be good enough to get him near the goal line. I hope he isn't too shaken from his first career lost fumble last week.
19. Frank Gore vs NYJ - I don't know what to make of this guy, so I'm just stinking him in down here. The Jets lost Revis for the season, but they should still be good against the run. Gore can't decide if he is elite or not, so I'll just say he's middle of the road.
20. Michael Turner vs CAR - Turner actually lost some ground to J. Rodgers last game, but I think he will be more featured against Carolina. He still isn't a truly strong play, but he should help the Falcons beat up on the Panthers this week.
21. Pierre Thomas @ GB - This is probably the first time I've included Thomas ahead of Sproles, but I think he will be more utilized in the screen game and the power running game against the Packers than Sproles will be. If Thomas was a featured back instead of tied to a three-man committee he would actually be a great weekly play.
22. Reggie Bush @ ARI - Assuming he isn't more badly hurt than the tweets make him out to be, Bush should have a decent performance against the Cardinals. I think the Dolphins running game matches up a little better than the Eagles running game, in the sense that the Dolphins run Bush as a WR more often than McCoy. McCoy is an outlet receiver while Bush can play as a true receiver. He's also the best receiver on the whole Miami roster...
23. Andre Brown @ PHI - I went through the first part of this week convincing myself that Bradshaw would come back as the featured back, but I think Brown will actually be better this week. I wish one of them (Bradshaw or Brown) would be touted as the featured back, because he would become a top-12 guy against the Philly defense, but since that isn't happening I put Brown here and I'm expecting 60-80 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. A nice, solid performance.
My Sleeper would be Tashard Choice this week. Fred Jackson is old and I'm worried about his cut and burst after only 3 weeks rest.