Erik Smith’s RB Rankings
- Sure, Alvin Kamara‘s start to the season has been disappointing, so approaching Week 4 with cautious optimism is probably the smart move. But have you seen the running back position lately? In his first game back from a rib injury that cost him Week 2, Kamara was back to his old self usage-wise, playing on 70% of the snaps and drawing an 18% target share against the Panthers. While the usage didn’t amount to much fantasy production, we need to stay patient with a running back seeing this kind of volume. And with a matchup against a Vikings defense giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs on the year, Kamara is a top 10 option this week. Kamara makes for a logical buy-low candidate if you are looking to upgrade at running back as well.
- I’m ranking with the assumption that D’Andre Swift misses Week 4, which immediately vaults Jamaal Williams into top-15 running back status as his fill-in. Williams has already racked up four touchdowns in a complimentary role to Swift and gets a home game against the Seahawks that profiles as an excellent game script for the veteran rusher. Seattle has given up the fourth-most points to opposing running backs on the year, and they have been exploitable both on the ground and through the air. In one of the best matchups that a Lions running back will see this year, I’m just very bitter as a Swift manager that he will miss this game of all games. Enjoy the spoils, Williams managers.
- I’m ranking with the assumption that David Montgomery and Dalvin Cook will be playing this week for one simple reason. If either player misses, you will be starting their handcuff, Alexander Mattison or Khalil Herbert, no questions asked. The tricky spot will be if the veteran rushers play in a limited role. Cook has played with this shoulder injury before and has elite upside, so I’ll be starting him if he suits up anticipating anywhere near a normal workload. Montgomery is a little trickier, as he plays on a much worse offense and therefore has less of a chance to be bailed out by a touchdown. At RB18, I’m willing to play Montgomery over the committee backs in tough matchups, but I’ll take a more locked-in workload like Ezekiel Elliott’s this week if Montgomery plays but sounds iffy.
- For the handcuffs, it’s hard to recommend them as a play if the starters are active. Mattison faces a Saints defense that has allowed the tenth-fewest PPR points to opposing running backs despite facing the third-most rushing attempts on the year. Even a 40% snap share likely keeps him out of the RB2 rankings for me. And as good as Herbert looked last week, and he looked great, this is still a backup running back on a bad Bears offense. Sure the Giants defense is a good matchup, but playing on the road puts Herbert in a tough spot as a running back in an offense that is comically bad at passing the football. If the Bears get down and have to abandon the run, Herbert’s committee usage wouldn’t be enough to warrant a start.
- Cam Akers battled back to a dead-even split in the snap share last week, making both him and teammate Darrell Henderson Jr. sketchy starts against a strong San Francisco defense. It certainly appears that Akers is trending upward, however, so I would give him the benefit of the doubt if choosing between the two. We are probably waiting for an injury before one of the backs truly emerges.
- I was struggling with who to rank higher, Rashaad Penny or Damien Harris, so I checked out the comparison in our Range of Outcomes Sit/Start Tool. It’s an interesting look at the two players, as Harris oddly has a strong floor with his consistent touchdown-scoring role. His ceiling, however, is lacking, as it takes quite a few scores to top 20 points without the benefit of any realistic pass-catching role. Penny lacks a pass-catching role as well, but he has at least shown big-play ability in the past, highlighted by his much higher ceiling. In this Sit/Start decision, I’ll lean Penny as the better option to score over 11 PPR points.
Green=Strong Starter, Yellow=Solid Starter, Red=Look for Better Options