There’s a very important place that I want to start today’s fantasy football conversation. Imagine getting fined $100K at work, just like Pete Carroll, Vic Fangio, Jon Gruden, Sean Payton and Kyle Shanahan did this past week. Not by Feds. Not by the IRS. Not by your local county judge. Think about that — just for one second. Fined 100-grand, at work. For me, this would bring up a concerning follow-up meeting: “So, uhh… are you asking me to quit? No? Ok… so the next three years are just pro-bono? Got it. Okay. I’ll be over here pummeling my head into this wall. Forever.” Although I don’t have a vendetta against any of those five head coaches, it’s an absolutely insane concept to even consider. In Green Bay, head coach Matt LaFleur actually has an assistant whose job it is to make sure he’s wearing a mask at all times. That’s literally his job! I don’t know if this is better or worse than Sean McVay’s “Get Back” assistant. I guess better, because this at least helps promote safety. Meanwhile, we’ve got reigning Super Bowl Champion Andy Reid looking one step away from being the next Power Ranger with the face shield he’s donning out there. Can you imagine being the intern that was tasked with finding a face covering that would please Andy Reid? Bet you it took weeks. I’d rather work as Philip Rivers’ governess. It’s just like I always say, if Julie Andrews can do it, so can I!
Shame on me for using the NFL’s current sideline mask fiasco for a lede two weeks in a row, but everything starts to get hazy on these late Monday nights. There’s a lot of movement in the rankings this week and even more question marks with certain running backs going down with injuries for undetermined periods of time, but it’s a job that has to be done nonetheless. Am I a hero in plain man’s cloth? No, I am but a man. Before we get into the rankings, let’s take our weekly trip around the league.
Alvin Kamara – Fun fact: I began writing this blurb at an indoor dog park, but had to stop after my pup got fixated on a sexy-looking standard poodle and spent the hour and a half to follow attached to her rear end. As for Kamara: After spending three weeks behind Elliott on the ROS top 60, Kamara is up to No. 1 this week after an eye-popping Week 3 performance. In case you were watching Big Brother and Love Island and missed Sunday Night Football, here’s a recap. Kamara ran just six times, but averaged over nine yards per carry to total 58 yards on the ground, then added another 13 catches on 14 targets for 139 yards and two touchdowns. A lot of that damage came on a 52-yard touchdown grab that developed via a dump-off pass after Brees didn’t see any enticing options deep. Kamara probably should have been brought down by one of four would-be tacklers, but he showed off some pretty impressive athleticism on the play. Although the Saints face one of the toughest schedules for fantasy RBs moving forward, I don’t think it’s enough to truly tip the scales between Elliott and Kamara, as Kamara enters Week 4 with 31.1 half-PPR FPPG, which is 6.2 FPPG more than any other back (Aaron Jones). You can still make a case for both Elliott and Kamara at No. 1.
Aaron Jones – Kamara might have enjoyed the sexier fantasy night during Sunday’s primetime game, but Jones and the Packers came away with the W. For the third week in a row to begin the season, Jones saw at least 16 carries, although he caught a season-low two passes despite Davante Adams’ absence. Jones finished with 69 yards on the ground and one touchdown, with another 17 through the air to finish with 15.6 half-PPR points. Oddly enough, that was the same total Jones finished with in Week 1, when he finished as RB12. Jones’ ranking will likely fluctuate throughout the rest of the season as the Packers face one of the toughest schedules for fantasy running backs moving forward, but barring injury, he’s locked into top-eight status at the very least with RB1 upside in this offense.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire – CEH was heavily involved in both phases of the Chiefs offense for the second consecutive week, rushing the ball 20 times for 64 yards and catching five passes for an additional 70 yards. While I won’t be bumping him into the top five, CEH is up to a season-high No. 6 in my rankings this week. CEH’s ROS schedule ranks among the bottom-third in the league, but shouldn’t be so difficult as to keep him from finishing as RB6 for ROS.
Jonathan Taylor – If Sunday’s Colts-Jets game was an episode of Tool Time, Jonathon Taylor would obviously play Randy Taylor, Frank Reich would be the wise but mysterious Wilson Wilson, Phillip Rivers would unfortunately be cast as Tim Allen by default, and Adam Gase and the Jets would all be the tools. This was an easy match-up for Indianapolis, one that saw Taylor’s role reduced significantly in the second half as the Colts opened with a 10-point lead and quickly extended it to a 24-point advantage by the end of the third quarter. Sunday’s performance has to be considered pretty close to Taylor’s floor, as he saw just 14 touches but converted those to 12.7 half-PPR points. He’s into the top-10 and after the Bears in Week 4, should enjoy a very favorable ROS schedule.
Kenyan Drake – Despite having a fairly attractive match-up on his side, Drake was underwhelming yet again in Week 3. He rushed for 73 yards on 18 carries, good for 4.06 per attempt, but only caught one pass for six yards. With just five receptions through games — and Deandre Hopkins returning to fantasy superstardom while Kyler Murray eats up carries — I’m finally beginning to get worried about Drake’s rest of season upside. As a result, he has been down-graded to fringe RB1/high-end RB2 status — though I remain one of his fiercest supporters in fantasy circles.
Chris Carson – A fourth quarter knee sprain has Carson looking at a one-to-two week absence. Despite making it through most of Sunday’s game, Carson ran for just 64 yards on 14 carries (4.57 YPC), adding another 12 yards by hauling in all three of his targets for 9.1 half-PPR points. It was Carson’s lowest fantasy total so far this season and his first one without a touchdown. As a matter of fact, all three of Carson’s touchdowns this season have come in the passing game, as the Seahawks have scored 14 of their 15 touchdowns this season through the air. It appears Seattle really will be letting Russ cook this season, as Russell Wilson set a new record for touchdown passes through the first three games of any season. For that reason, Carson’s future fantasy value will fluctuate and be unpredictable week-to-week, as his output is dependent on how involved he is in the passing game while fighting for targets with the likes of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Still, as long as Russ is cooking, he’s a quality RB2 play. Carson has been down-graded due to injury as he has fewer guaranteed games on his ROS schedule than his peers.
James Conner – How about this two-week turnaround? I haven’t seen someone flip the script like this since I showed up to the first day of sixth grade in a purple sweat suit, only to win over everyone’s hearts two weeks later by earning the top seed in the school spelling bee. Okay, not true — that only exacerbated my status as a loser and forced me to eat lunch alone with the new kid from New York. But Conner really did alter his fantasy stock the last two weeks, and is now up from fringe RB2 status to fringe RB1 status. Blasphemy? Not even a little bit, as Conner is facing perhaps the easiest ROS fantasy running back schedule of any back in the league and finished as a top 10 fantasy RB each of the last two weeks, averaging 21.0 points during that span. Start him at RB2 in good confidence and if you lost Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey, he’ll be serviceable at RB1 for as long as you need him to be. By the way, I’m still best friends with that new kid from New York to this very day. See, I flipped the script like James!
Joe Mixon – Through three weeks, Mixon ranks 39th among running backs in half-PPR points-per-game. The Bengals face one of the easiest remaining fantasy schedules for running backs through week 16, which is reason for optimism for Mixon owners, but my optimism is long gone. He’s an unexciting RB2 with a limited ceiling, albeit a fairly safe floor as he’s averaging more than 19 touches per game.
Leonard Fournette – What are you trying to do to us, Bruce? Last week, it appeared as though Fournette was going to emerge with lead-back duties ahead of schedule, with 103 yards on 12 attempts (not to mention four catches for 13 yards), only to be out-touched 15-to-nine by Ronald Jones in Week 3. Fournette totaled just 15 yards on seven attempts against Denver, while catching two passes for seven yards. I have no idea how to project touches in this backfield moving forward and although I’ve bumped Fournette down, he’s still the back to own in Tampa Bay — if you’re sick enough to involve yourself in it.
James Robinson – I’ve dubbed Thursday night’s Jaguars-Dolphins showdown the Boca Raton Bowl for obvious reasons, as it was held in Florida and featured two teams no one wants to watch, but watched anyway because it was the only option on TV. My major takeaway from this one? Robinson and fellow draft day afterthought Myles Gaskin are the clear waiver wire darlings of 2020. Robinson finished with 27.9 half-PPR points with 46 yards rushing on two touchdowns and also caught six passes for 86 yards. However, Gaskin’s usage was arguably even more telling, as the seventh round pick out of Washington touched the ball 27 times: 22 carries for 66 yards in addition to five receptions for 29 yards. Gaskin may have been inefficient on the ground and his 12 half-PPR points don’t jump off the page, but he’s the clear feature back in Miami. As for Robinson, he can be started as a ROS RB2 as he faces one of the most favorable remaining schedules for fantasy running backs. Out of caution, owners should continue to monitor the status of the injured Ryquell Armstead who, although unlikely given Robinson’s production, could steal touches if he re-enters the mix. Through three weeks, Robinson is positioned as RB5 in half-PPR.
Todd Gurley – Having rushed for a season-high 80 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries in Week 3, the stat sheet almost makes it look like things are looking up for Gurley in the fantasy realm. As someone who ranked Gurley as an RB1 heading into the season, I’d love to take that and run with it, but that’s simply not the case. Gurley continued to be borderline irrelevant in the passing game with just one catch for two yards, while Brian Hill carried the ball nine times for 58 yards and a score, looking far more explosive than Gurley throughout. Gurley remains an RB2, but he’s dropped below James Robinson in my rankings. Hill makes his season debut just inside the top 60, and if you listen closely enough, you can hear his celebratory cheers off in the distance.
J.K. Dobbins – After seeing just two carries in Week 2, Dobbins the Take-it-to-the-House Elf only saw one touch on the ground in Week 3, which he took for six yards. Luckily, the Ravens trailed for most of this game and Dobbins was able to record four catches for 38 yards to salvage some fantasy value. As a result of his light usage, he’s down three more spots this week to No. 29. As for Mark Ingram, A.K.A. Kreacher, things weren’t any better — in fact, they were worse. Ingram ran for just 30 yards on seven carries and was not involved in the passing game. What does a guy have to do to get a productive house elf around here???
Phillip Lindsay – There’s a chance Lindsay suits up for Week 4, even as the Broncos are staring down a short week with a Thursday night game. As injured backs draw closer to returning, they gain immediate boosts in ROS rankings, as their relative value to where they were one week prior is considerably higher (fewer remaining inactive games weighed against other backs’ active games). Once you get outside the top-30 running backs, I like Lindsay as much as any name to emerge with legitimate weekly Flex value. Melvin Gordon owners should keep any eye on how this backfield continues to play out on a weekly basis.
Adrian Peterson – Here are Peterson’s touches through the first three weeks: 17, 7, 23. Compare that to Kerryon Johnson (7, 8, 4) and D’Andre Swift (6, 10, 1), and it’s clear Peterson has the most secure role in the Lions backfield. Even so, I’d stay away from this entire committee with your starting lineups. Swift could still emerge with weekly Flex value later in the season, but for now, he has too small of a role to be utilized. For any The Price is Right fans out there, buying in this backfield is going to be a lot like choosing a mouse for Rat Race.
Tarik Cohen – Cohen tore his ACL on Sunday and will miss the remainder of the season. 2020 has turned the entire NFL into Aseel Tare from The Comebacks.
Jerick McKinnon – Emerging as a Comeback Player of the Year candidate, McKinnon popped off in Week 3 for his third straight double-digit fantasy performance to begin the season (11.9, 13.7, 15.2). With Raheem Mostert out, McKinnon saw 14 carries (38 yards, 1 TD) and was targeted four times in the passing game, resulting in three catches for 39 yards. Unfortunately, McKinnon also suffered a rib injury in San Francisco’s dismantling of the Giants, leaving even more fantasy question marks as it relates to this 49ers offense entering Week 4. If McKinnon and Mostert are both out, Jeff Wilson (12 carries for 15 yards and 1 TD, 3 catches for 54 yards and 1 TD on Sunday) would be a mid-tier RB2 with upside for Week 4. It’s unknown whether Mostert will be active for this week’s game against the Eagles, so he’s still positioned within fringe RB2 territory until we know more.
Mike Davis – For the second straight week, Davis was heavily involved in the Panthers’ passing game and concluded Sunday with eight catches for 45 yards and one touchdown. Davis also added 46 yards on 13 carries on the ground, cementing himself as a top-20 running back option for as long as McCaffrey is inactive. Since that scenario looks to be the case for only another three-to-five weeks, Davis’ ROS value is capped significantly, yet he remains a potential league winner should any changes occur regarding Carolina’s timetable with McCaffrey.
Sony Michel – During the early stages of Sunday’s Patriots-Raiders game, a colleague in the industry texted me and asked “Is J.J. Taylor the new pick-up?” He looked great at times with a team-high 11, rushing for 43 yards. However, my reply to this question was: although Taylor would be considered for the top 60, he’s nothing more than a bench stash in deeper leagues as this backfield is only going to get more crowded in Week 4. You have Michel’s ongoing presence mixed with the fact Damien Harris is now eligible to return off IR, not to mention that James White is in all likelihood returning this week. Then there’s Rex Burkhead, whose 31.3 half-PPR points (6 rushes for 49 yards and 2 TD, 7 catches for 49 yards and 1 TD) trailed only Kamara in Week 3. Michel, on the other hand, was ridiculously efficient, totaling 117 ground yards on just nine carries while adding another two grabs for 23 yards in the air. With Cam Newton stealing carries as well, I don’t see how you can start anyone in this backfield with confidence. Don’t overreact to Burkhead’s big Week 3 performance. The fantasy output in this backfield is flukier than Adam Gase’s interview ability.
Darrell Henderson – With Cam Akers sidelined, Henderson was handed 20 carries and didn’t squander the opportunity. One week after rushing for 81 yards on 12 attempts (6.75 YPC), Henderson broke the century mark with a 114-yard game, also catching one of three targets for six yards. Meanwhile, Malcolm Brown rushed seven times for 19 yards, converting neither of his two targets into catches. Henderson is the only back under Flex consideration in this Rams backfield in the short-term, and even with Akers returning as early as Week 4, the former should continue to see the bulk of the carries after impressing against a stout Bills defense. Akers still could emerge as a Flex play later in the season and although I would urge owners to hold him, I can’t say the same for Brown, whose fantasy value is fading fast despite nearly mirroring Henderson in snaps. More importantly, the Rams have sported the third-heaviest running offense in the league to this point, and Henderson out-snapped Brown six-to-one in the red zone on Sunday — both major boosts to Henderson’s ROS value.
Devonta Freeman – Entering his first game with the Giants, Freeman shouldn’t have been expected to do very much as fantasy option — and he didn’t. He didn’t even practice with the team until Wednesday and just a couple hours prior to kickoff, it was revealed that Freeman would only be on the field for roughly 30% of offensive snaps. That translated to five carries and 10 yards. Although Freeman’s role should continue to increase as weeks go by, I find it doubtful he’ll ever see the volume to obtain top-24 upside in this offense. Expect Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman to eat into his workload in the passing game even as Freeman takes on a higher percentage of the carries.
Note: Rankings are constructed for half-PPR fantasy scoring.
And there you have it: the top 60 running backs for the rest of the 2020 fantasy football season. I started this week’s rankings while watching my dog hump another dog at the park, then finished them while grappling down the spouting of a nearby city building. Until next time, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.