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Week 3 has passed, and it is time for my 2016 rest-of-season running back rankings! Running back is definitely one of — if not the — most important positions in the NFL, so let’s take a close look at what to expect for the remainder of this season.

In the modern NFL, fewer teams use the “workhorse running back” of the olden days. Having specialists for early downs, passing downs and short-yardage situations is more effective than the do-it-all back of the past. While it can be effective, it sure doesn’t help Fantasy owners.

This is what makes the true workhorse backs valuable. There is a whole new science in the game of Fantasy Football dedicated to figuring out coaches’ backfields. You can ask anybody who has owned a Patriots running back in the past few years how frustrating it is to deal with the inconsistent genius that is Bill Belichick.

So, in the modern NFL, or at least for Fantasy purposes, a true every-down running back can make your job a lot easier. But that definitely isn’t to say that the specialists don’t have value. Goal-line specialists gain six points per touchdown, and that is especially valuable when combined with early down workers (Jeremy Hill, for example). Giovani Bernard takes his third downs, but he still remains his value. This is the same for many running backs.

The bottom line of this rant is that while a three down back is very nice, specialists can and definitely do have value. While some workhorses are ranked higher, for obvious reasons, specialists, especially the ones in run-heavy offenses, are valuable commodities as well.

Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

No. 1: David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

Johnson’s breakout near the end of last year has proven to be no fluke. His heavy, three-down workload in an elite offense has proven to very valuable for Fantasy owners. While the Cardinals struggled against the Bills in Week 3, Johnson was still able to thrive, posting his third straight game with over 100 all-purpose yards. This is why Johnson is the best running back in all of Fantasy.

No. 2: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

He is back. While his void has once again been filled quite nicely by DeAngelo Williams, Fantasy owners of Bell are thrilled to have him back. Expect for him to continue right where he left off before injuring himself near the end of last year.

No. 3: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Zeke has been nothing less than what he was hyped up to be after being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. His heavy workload behind an elite offensive line has paid dividends. In Week 3, he showed just that, as his 30 carries led to 140 yards. The talented rookie will continue to get opportunities moving forward.

No. 4: Lamar Miller, Houston Texans

Miller has finally been given a shot at being a workhorse running back in Houston, and as expected, he has thrived. While he hasn’t scored a touchdown, he has been very successful as a three-down running back, as he has topped 80 yards in every contest up to this point. Continue to expect elite results from Miller.

No. 5: Matt Forte, New York Jets

I admit that I did not like Forte coming into the year. Now, I admit that I was completely wrong. The seemingly ageless wonder has so far compiled arguably the best season in his long, successful career. Even in a week where the Jets offense had one of the worst outings in recent memory, he managed to not be a complete bust with 15 carries for 65 yards. Be careful as the season goes on, but he has shown no signs of slowing down yet.

No. 6: CJ Anderson, Denver Broncos

I loved C.J. leading up to my drafts, but he has shattered my expectations. Despite struggling in Week 3, he is another member of the rare breed of workhorse running backs. It is way too early to panic after what he did in the first two weeks. The positive in Week 3 for Anderson owners was that Trevor Siemian showed to be a capable quarterback, so opposing defenses can’t stack the box in the future.  Enjoy having this stud in your lineup.

No. 7: Lesean McCoy, Buffalo Bills

McCoy had been having a decent, yet slightly disappointing season leading up to Week 3. However, new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn looks committed to feeding the talented running back, as he exploded against the Cardinals for 116 rushing yards and two touchdowns. While this week could be a fluke, I expect a great season from Shady.

No. 8: Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

After struggling a bit in the first weeks of the season, Ingram bounced back and had a solid outing against the Falcons in Week 3, posting 77 rushing yards to go along with 30 receiving yards and a touchdown. Ingram is a very consistent option near the middle of the RB1 tier.

No. 9: DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans

After having the best Fantasy season of all 2014 running backs and being a complete bust last year, Murray has returned to Fantasy relevance this year with the Titans. He looks like a mix of both 2014 and 2015 Murray, and I am sure no Fantasy owners are complaining. 

No. 10: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

It was nice to see Gurley finally have his first good game of the season in Week 3, rushing for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns. The most important statistic of all  was his 27 carries. While he has been inconsistent so far, it is not his fault. Rather, it is the lack of a consistent passing attack. However, with a workload like his, it would be hard for him not to at least put up low-end RB1 numbers.

No. 11: Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

Eddie Lacy is back this year. While his rushing totals have been way up from last year with him looking just as good as his 2014 self, he has not yet found the end zone. But don’t worry, those opportunities will come. The Packers offense looked completely rejuvenated in Week 3, with Lacy adding over 100 yards on the ground. When Lacy was at his best in 2013 and 2014, the Packers passing offense was at well. Just be happy Lacy is back in shape and back in an elite Packers offense that should give him plenty of scoring opportunities.

No. 12: Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers

Melvin Gordon finally has broken out this year. With the injuries of Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, this offense is all his. He has looked good for the most part, and while he wasn’t the best in Week 3, he should continue to be given a steady workload that leads to strong fantasy production.

No. 13: Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons

While most people are disappointed with Freeman this year, I have been pleasantly surprised. I came into the year with no intentions to touch him in any league, but he has proved that he still has great per touch efficiency in Weeks 2 and 3. In fact, he currently leads the NFL in yards per carry 6.3. Combined with the receiving work, and he is a great fantasy option. Although he lost his goal line touches to Tevin Coleman in Week 3, Freeman is still the superior runner and fantasy asset.

No. 14: Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks

I have always loved Michael. The guy is way to talented to not be a starting running back in the NFL. Pete Carroll has shown confidence in him, and he backed that up last week with 106 yards and 2 touchdowns. I believe that even with Thomas Rawls back as soon as next week, Michael will be the Seahawks’ guy, and that gives him a sure spot in fantasy lineups.

No. 15: Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are bad at football.  However, Hyde is still a valuable fantasy asset. His 103 yards and 2 touchdowns against an elite Seahawks defense proved just that.With a large workload in a run heavy offense combined with a running back as talented as Hyde, only injury concerns will stand in the way of his RB2 status.

No. 16: Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals

As said above, although Hill doesn’t see third down work, he still is the goal line and early down back in Cinci. Those two roles led to 97 yards and two touchdown up against a great Denver defense. This makes him a solid albeit unspectacular option as an RB2 who lacks consistency as the talent at the position begins to slowly tail off.

No. 17: Legarrette Blount, New England Patriots

I’m sure that not a lot of people expected Blount to put up numbers like the ones that he has produced so far. However, this could come to an end with Tom Brady returning in Week 5. Also, remember, Bill Belichick is still the villain of fantasy running backs. While it is too late to drop the NFL’s current leading rusher yet, his position on this list could slide very soon. He is a prime sell high candidate.

No. 18: Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts

Gore is probably the most boring option that you can have in your lineups. But no one can argue with workload and production. As long as Indy doesn’t make any additions to their backfield, Gore is as solid as they get for RB2.

No. 19: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Cheifs

Charles is finally nearing his return to football. I’m sure you know the deal with him. I would love to have him higher based on his track record, but it still remains to be seen how big Spencer Ware’s role will be. Time will tell, as he could shoot up this list if he reclaims his spot on the throne, but it realistically will be a few weeks before that could ever happen.

No. 20: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Hopefully Martin can come back soon, because the lower end of the RB2s aren’t looking very promising. He is still a stud, and would be way higher if he wasn’t out for three weeks with a hamstring injury. He will creep up these rankings each week that he gets closer to returning.

No. 21: Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears

Howard is an exciting one. He has a real chance to insert him as the every down workhorse for the Bears, even when Jeremy Langford comes back. Even better, I think he will do just that. Here is another player with a huge chance to shoot up these rankings.

No. 22: Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers

Another player who would be higher without injury, but remember, this is a rest of season list. While Stewart will still be very valuable come fantasy playoff time, you still need to get there. Same as with Martin, he will slowly climb this list in the 2-4 weeks that he is sidelined. While he isn’t the most exciting fantasy option, he remains an important asset due to the weak RB2 class in fantasy.

No. 23: Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders

I do not like Latavius Murray. I would leave him out of this top 30 if I could. but I obviously can’t as he still has a solid workload in a solid offense. However, my gut feeling is that the Raiders will eventually realize that he is not that good and he will hand the job over to someone else. Maybe that someone else could be relevant in fantasy, but not Murray.

No. 24: Matt Jones, Washington Redskins

I like Matt Jones. I don’t think he is good enough to be the starting running back for a playoff team, but as far as I care, I like Matt Jones as a fantasy running back. His workload and lack of competition makes a pretty good RB3 in fantasy.

No. 25: Ryan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles

Matthews was surprisingly out carried by Darren Sproles in Week 2, but still had a decent week with his two touchdowns. Then, he got injured in Week 3. While he still could reclaim his spot as an RB2, his injuries and lack of trust (as it seems) with the Eagles coaching staff is still worrisome.

No. 26: Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons

Coming into the year, I liked Coleman more than Freeman. But like I said earlier, Freeman has been a pleasant surprise (to me at least). His three touchdowns in Week 3 make him still a fantasy relevant player. While you shouldn’t expect those numbers every week, his goal line work combined with a decent amount of touches make a great RB3 or flex.

No. 27: Spencer Ware, Kansas City Cheifs

It was a good run, but Ware is back to most likely being the lower half of a running back committee with Jamaal Charles. Still hold onto him, because another Charles injury shoots him up 15 spots on this list.

No. 28: Rashad Jennings, New York Giants

I am going to keep it real simple for the last few. Jennings still starts, which is valuable. I have never liked him, but he is a fine RB3.

No. 29: Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns

While I think Crowell is outperforming a little bit, he has a nice opportunity for a decent workload on a bad team that can lead to RB3 status.

No. 30: Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks

I believe Michael is the guy in Seattle, but if Rawls can reclaim the starting job, he goes back to an RB2. For now, I have him at 30.

Sleeper: Dwayne Washington, Detroit Lions

I love this guy. I know he will start for the Lions. Trust me. Just give him a few weeks. This is a total gut feeling, but put him as your #1 waiver priority this week (unless Jordan Howard or someone who obviously shouldn’t be on waivers is available), and thank me later.

Next in Line: Jerick McKinnon, Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Langford, Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi, Theo Riddick

 

Well, that is it for today. Make sure to come back next week for my rest of the season wide receiver rankings.

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