clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Fantasy Football RB Depth Charts and Volatility: Week 3

Every Tuesday, we will look at the running back depth charts around the league telling you which backs are secure in their jobs, others who are threatened, listing fantasy-relevant non-starters and handcuffs.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Eddie Lacy rolled his ankle against Seahawks and did not return on Sunday night. The Packers won't practice until Thursday, as their Week 3 matchup in Monday night against the Chiefs. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy inadvertently spelled out why ankle injuries are tough to forecast for fantasy:

"I think any time you have ankle injuries, particularly with the perimeter players, until they get out there and hit the practice field ... we really won't know."

Carlos Hyde did not sustain a concussion, according to the 49ers; it was a leg contusion. He left Sunday's game and did not return because of a leg contusion. He's expected to play Week 3 in a tough matchup in Arizona. Smells fishy, so just keep your ear on it.

Tevin Coleman has a fractured rib. The ultra-talented RB has 112 yards in 29 carries and a TD, dominating the load in Week 2 until he got hurt, so it's safe to say that he won't lose the job to injury if he misses time and he may miss a couple of weeks.

Lamar Miller left with an ankle injury. Interesting because watching him try to break ankles is making my eyes bleed, lately. He didn't need an MRI, so should play in Week 3.

None of these players are returning to practice until later in the week, so prepare for all to be out and pay attention on Sunday morning.

And, oh yeah, Le'Veon Bell is back this week. Deangelo Williams is nothing more than a handcuff. Nothing.

Volatility

As per usual, for every situation that became more clear, there were others that raised more questions. We are still working with tiny sample sizes, so bear with us. Here are all of the volatile RB situations across the NFL, from the jobs at most risk to the least:

Tier 1: Renting the starting job

Chris Polk, Texans: Polk has seemed to take this job from Alfred Blue, who was awful. Polk was extremely inefficient himself. Jonathan Grimes is a deep PPR flex, but--otherwise--the Texans RBs are untouchable until Arian Foster returns and we still don't know when that will be.

Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham, Rams: As long as Mason and Cunningham are sharing time, fantasy owners are just waiting for Todd Gurley to hit the field and win this job.

Devonta Freeman, Falcons: Freeman is legit "he's a starting running back in the NFL" value if you need a flex, but the job is Coleman's to lose, as he's looked great in five quarters of play.

Chris Johnson and David Johnson, Cardinals: Chris Johnson got a huge 20-carry load in a blowout, but he goes back to the bench when Andre Ellington returns within a week or two. David Johnson is an all-around back with a cemented role in the passing game which should keep him getting relevant snaps to threaten a timeshare with Ellington. DJ has such great big play potential and this offense is high-powered enough to have two fantasy-relevant backs.

Tier 2: Safe job, but low upside

Isaiah Crowell, Browns: Duke Johnson isn't threatening Crowell's job, but Crowell isn't seizing the opportunity. We can start the Cardinals guys and Williams over him in Week 3, as well as the pass-catching RBs in timeshares with those roles solidified. Crowell isn't rosterable other than desperation; Johnson is still a sky-point PPR flex in deep leagues, but really just a stash.

Lamar Miller, Dolphins: Miller hurt his ankle and left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter. Whether or not he misses time, the concern over his workload is validating itself. It makes him a big play-and-TD-dependent RB2 who doesn't get in the end zone. Jay Ajayi, who is on short-term IR, could threaten a timeshare and is a must-own for Miller owners. In the meantime, Damien Williams is terrible, so Miller's job is safe. If Miller misses time, don't waste anything on Williams.

T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars: Nothing wrong with Yeldon's talent and there is zero threat to his role as the Jaguars every-down back. But you can never know how much they can afford to run and the offensive line is very bad up the middle. We start him for the 20 carries in the hopes that the 70 yards has a TD attached.

Tier 3: Unpredictable Timeshares

Bishop Sankey and Dexter McCluster, Titans: Sankey is terrible. The only Titans RB you may ever want to start is McCluster in super deep PPR formats, especially if Sankey goes down before David Cobb comes back.

Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, Giants: You can predict this one in that Vereen is great in the passing game, when used; and Jennings is not much better when used than when not. Against terrible defenses, Vereen is a stud in PPR, as New York can't put opponents away. Jennings is barely rosterable because the upside is dwindling.

Demarco Murray and Darren Sproles, Eagles: Murray has not played well, but the Eagles have dangerous levels of offensive line and Brent Celek problems. Murray was stuffed behind the line five times in a row in Week 2, so the larger concern is Philly abandoning the run because the line can't get Murray to level one. Their RB value is mostly in the passing game, so Sproles is a fine low-end RB2 in PPR. This really cannot get any worse, so things have to look up for Murray, making him a buy-low candidate. "Low" as in I am not confident that I would trade a piece I regularly start for him unless it was a packaged deal.

LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis, Patriots: Bill Belichick doesn't run against Rex Ryan and that trend continued in Week 2 where Tom Brady unleashed 466 passing yards. Lewis is a high-end RB3 in all formats. There will be swings. In matchups where the Pats should be securing leads, Blount should be depended on for RB1-level volume at 25+ strong touches for RB2 production. Week 3 is not a bad time to gamble on Blount against the Jags.

Tier 4: Role-based timeshares

Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar, Cowboys: No Tony Romo or Dez Bryant has to equal usage value in the 20-touch range for Randle over the next eight weeks and Dunbar is low-risk, low-reward flex in PPR. Darren McFadden had ten touches in Week 2, but he's nothing more than a handcuff. Regarding Randle: on one hand, the Cowboys may need to lean on the run and their elite offensive line; on the other, everyone will know it's coming. Still, I'm taking the volume behind an offensive line and not letting predictability sway me from Randle as a legit top-18 RB2 with RB1 upside.

Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell, Lions: The Lions likely won't abandon the run like again all season. Under 20 touches for these RBs is not what they want. Throw Week 2 away and keep plugging them into your RB2 and flex spots. In games where Detroit should be playing from behind, Bell is riskier, as Abdullah is stealing his passing down snaps.

Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, Washington: Both are RB2s in all formats. Morris is more boring, but safe; Jones is more risky, but can peel off huge weeks like Week 2. This team cannot throw the ball to anyone, so there is enough in the oven to feed both of these backs.

Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon, Chargers: Woody remains the passing downs and red zone back, while Gordon is the rusher between the 20s. Gordon looks great, but Woody's role takes his volume away. Both are RB2s in all formats. Odd to say this about a running back, but Woody is one of San Diego's most valuable players, and they are well aware of this.

C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, Broncos: Calling Anderson a great buy-low candidate. He is still the best pass blocker out of the backfield, gets the two-minute drill snaps, and forced missed tackles among the best in the NFL in 2014. The carries may split another week, but Anderson is getting the higher leverage series. Even if he continues to struggle, this role can't be lost; and he can outright win the full load back. Both are startable this week, but Hillman has a sell-high expiration date if you don't own Anderson. Better yet, if you own Hillman, but not Anderson, buy Anderson. The offensive line is bad right now, but we have to bet that it can only get better if (when) Peyton Manning gets the keys to the car back, where they should be.

Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, Bengals: Hill couldn't get off the bench in Week 2 because Bernard was killing it and this was the risk with Hill as a 1st rounder. If a RB is a timeshare, it is very difficult to cement him in top-RB1 territory. Their schedule is brutal for about the next month, but you have to trust this offensive line, which is playing among the best in football, and that Hill can dominate the red zone.

Tier 5: Timeshare looming

Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, Saints: Drew Brees' shoulder injury is an enigma. No matter what his situation, Spiller is going to get integrated into this pass game; and when he does, it should be consistent, as that's how New Orleans plays. The fear for Spiller owners is that a Brees scratch makes Ingram a 30-touch guy who dominates the ball; the fear for the Ingram owner is that Spiller picks it up and dominates the passing downs because the Saints are playing from behind.

RB Depth Charts

For the time being, ruling Lacy and Coleman out, but Miller and Hyde in. Tuesdays are hard.

Primary Handcuff PPR Option
Matt Forte Langford/Rodgers Jacquizz Rodgers
Bengals Jeremy Hill Giovani Bernard Giovani Bernard
Lesean McCoy
Broncos C.J. Anderson Ronnie Hillman
Browns Isaiah Crowell Duke Johnson Duke Johnson
Doug Martin Charles Sims
Cardinals David Johnson David Johnson
Chargers Melvin Gordon Danny Woodhead Danny Woodhead
Chiefs Jamaal Charles Knile Davis
Frank Gore
Cowboys Joseph Randle Darren McFadden Lance Dunbar
Dolphins Lamar Miller Damien Williams
Eagles Demarco Murray Mathews/Sproles Darren Sproles
Falcons Devonta Freeman Terron Ward
49ers
Rashad Jennings Andre Williams Shane Vereen
Jaguars T.J. Yeldon
Lions Ameer Abdullah Joique Bell Joique Bell
Packers James Starks John Kuhn
Patriots Blount/Lewis Blount/Lewis Dion Lewis
Latavius Murray
Rams Tre Mason Benny Cunningham
Justin Forsett Lorenzo Taliaferro
Alfred Morris Matt Jones
Saints Mark Ingram Spiller/Robinson C.J. Spiller
Seahawks Marshawn Lynch Fred Jackson
Le'Veon Bell Deangelo Williams
Texans Chris Polk Grimes/Blue Jonathan Grimes
Titans Bishop Sankey Terrance West
Adrian Peterson Jerick McKinnon