- You can say all you want about how bad the Steelers’ offense looked last week (it looked really bad), but Najee Harris is currently receiving a workload that would make Christian McCaffrey blush. With a league-leading 95.2% snap share and a 97.1% opportunity share per Fantasy Data, Harris is the league’s premier volume back. How many running backs could ever approach a 19 target game like Harris had last week? Sure, Ben Roethlisberger looks cooked, and the offensive line isn’t opening any holes on the ground. But with Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster banged up and Roethlisberger’s deep ball evaporating, Pittsburgh is going to be forced to feed Harris in the passing game, and that’s really all we care about for fantasy purposes. He’s the RB2 against Green Bay and the rare bell-cow running back that may benefit from his team playing from behind.
- Chris Carson probably deserves to be in tier 1, but I’m backing off a bit this week. Carson was banged up in the second half last week, and we’ve seen Carson deal with his share of injuries over the years. And while the 49ers have allowed the 7th most PPR points to the running back position, much of that can be attributed to the Lions in Week 1, as they played from behind by dumping off to D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams in the passing game, and both finished as top-five running backs for the week. That doesn’t fit the Seahawks bombs-away mentality, and with the struggles we just saw from this Seattle offensive line, I’ve bumped Carson down to RB14 this week.
- Our first major test of yearly trends comes on the other side of the ball, as the 49ers’ nightmarish running back situation squares off against a Seattle defense that allowed 37 PPR points per game to the running back position through three weeks, five points more than the second-place Dolphins. The Seahawks held the Colts in Week 1 to 113 yards on 30 carries in Carson Wentz‘s debut, but have followed that up by allowing 212 yards rushing on 40 carries to the Titans in Week 2 and 140 yards rushing on 34 carries to the Vikings in Week 3. So can we trust Trey Sermon in this dream spot in Week 4? I’m not sure. Sermon was underwhelming against the Packers last week, though he did find the end zone. And while fullback Kyle Juszczyk took more snaps than we would like to see (68.6%) Sermon still saw 58.6% of the snaps in his first real action of the season, and no other running back recorded a snap. This may come down to the status of Elijah Mitchell, who the 49ers hope will practice this week. Without Mitchell, Sermon is a borderline must-play RB2, even with his questionable floor, as this matchup should provide a massive ceiling for the 49ers rushing attack. If Mitchell plays, Sermon is a boom-bust option that still is likely worth a roll of the dice.
- Two players dependent on the health of the starting running backs ahead of them are Sony Michel and Peyton Barber. Michel is an excellent option if Darrell Henderson Jr. misses another week, and even if Henderson returns, Michel is in flex consideration. Don’t let Michel’s 20 carry for 67-yard stat line fool you, as it came against the league’s best run defense in Tampa Bay. We want any running back getting 20 touches in this dynamic Rams offense. And as far as Barber goes, no I don’t trust him, and no I don’t think he’s a good player. But he was a good fantasy player last week with 111 yards rushing, and he out-snapped Kenyan Drake 57%-43% with Josh Jacobs sidelined. If Jacobs is out again, Barber gets a Chargers defense that allowed 90 yards rushing to Antonio Gibson in Week 1, a combined 180 yards rushing to Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott in Week 2, and 100 yards rushing to Clyde Edwards-Helaire in Week 3. As crazy as it sounds, Barber is in a good spot this week if he gets the lead back duties again.
- As much as I would love to buy into the nine-catch game from Giovani Bernard last week, I can’t recommend him as a start this week. Bernard received most of his work in garbage time as Tom Brady checked down repeatedly, and the former Bengals suffered an MCL sprain on the final play of the game, his second leg injury of the young season. I expect the Buccaneers to handle the Patriots with relative ease this week, and coupled with the injury, I wouldn’t anticipate seeing a ton of Bernard in New England.
Green=Strong Starter, Yellow=Solid Starter, Red=Look for Better Options
Week 4 RB Rankings