2012 Fantasy Football: Week 4 Running Back Rankings

Jeremy Alpert@@pyroman1acSenior Analyst IISeptember 28, 2012

Figuring out who the best running back plays are from week to week is a little easier than doing so for wide receivers, but by no means is it simple—especially in Week 4 when a fantasy team can really take shape—and a few teams are forced to replace their starters due to injuries.

That's why those of us in the fantasy industry put together these lists for you—to give the reader a gauge of what to expect from his or her players on any given Sunday.

With that, here are the weekend's top 50 running backs, along with some detailed analysis on the five best plays for the week.

(BYE:  Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers)

Running Backs 11-50

50.       Ronnie Hillman (vs. Oak)

49.       Bernard Pierce (vs. Cle—Thursday Night)

48.       Ryan Grant (@ TB)

47.       Bryce Brown (vs. NYG—Sunday Night)

46.       Daryl Richardson (vs. Sea)

45.       Jackie Battle (@ KC)

44.       Lance Ball (vs. Oak)

43.       Shaun Draughn (vs. SD)

42.       Shonn Greene (vs. SF)

41.       Kendall Hunter (@ NYJ)

40.       Daniel Thomas (@ Ari) 

39.       Bilal Powell (vs. SF)

38.       Tashard Choice (vs. NE)

37.       Danny Woodhead (@ Buf)

36.       Mark Ingram (@ GB)

35.       Steven Jackson (vs. Sea)

34.       Chris Johnson (@ Hou)

33.       Jacquizz Rodgers (vs. Car)

32.       Michael Bush (@ Dal—Monday Night)

31.       Pierre Thomas (@ GB)

30.       Andre Brown (@ Phi—Sunday Night)

29.       DeAngelo Williams (@ Atl)

28.       Ben Tate (vs. Ten)

27.       Ahmad Bradshaw (@ Phi—Sunday Night)

26.       Jonathan Stewart (@ Atl)

25.       Ryan Williams (vs. Mia)

24.       Darren Sproles (@ GB)

23.       Fred Jackson (vs. NE)

22.       Mikel Leshoure (vs. Min)

21.       Trent Richardson (@ Bal—Thursday Night) 

20.       Matt Forte (@ Dal—Monday Night)

19.       Reggie Bush (@ Ari)

18.       Willis McGahee (vs. Oak)

17.       Stevan Ridley (@ Buf)

16.       Cedric Benson (vs. NO) 

15.       Alfred Morris (@ TB)

14.       DeMarco Murray (vs. Chi—Monday Night)

13.       Frank Gore (@ NYJ)

12.       Doug Martin (vs. Was)

11.       Michael Turner (vs. Car)

Top RB1 Plays in a 10-Team League

10.       BenJarvus Green-Ellis (@ Jax)


This may look like one of the stranger calls of the weekend, but yes, the Law Firm is in my top-10 running backs for the week.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been too awful of a rush defense this year to ignore the matchup, though it’s killing me to put BJGE up this high. The fact is, Cincinnati looks to have more than enough firepower in the passing game for defenses to have to pay attention to, so Green-Ellis will undoubtedly have room to run.

His goal-line prowess should be on full display as well in this one and I’d be extremely surprised if there weren’t at least three to four touchdown opportunities for BenJarvus by the end of the day.

He may not rush for 110 yards like Arian Foster did on them, but 85 to 100 is within reach and a touchdown is almost guaranteed.

9.           Adrian Peterson (@ Det) 

The Lions rush defense is pretty darn good as we all know, but the only team Purple Jesus has had more success against in his career is the Bears, though he’s been pretty darn awesome against both of them.

Peterson has obviously proven that he’s back and ready to take on a full load each week, as was shown by his 27 touches against the hard-hitting 49ers last weekend, so don’t think for a second that the Vikings won’t use him a ton against Detroit.

AP usually plays better in these inter-division rivalries than in other games, so make sure to watch this game if you can because something special just might go down this Sunday.

8.           Darren McFadden (@ Den)

 Run DMC came through with 13 catches in Week 1 and one gigantic 64-yard TD run in Week 3, but has otherwise been hugely unspectacular.

One of the reasons is that he’s barely used to the new offensive blocking scheme they have going on there in Oakland, but the other one is that defenses haven’t had to play the pass all that much yet either with the amount of injuries to the Raiders wide receivers.

No matter, because if there’s one team in the world McFadden loves to play, it’s the Denver Broncos. In fact, in his last three games against them, he’s rushed for 150, 165 and 119 yards.

Could it happen again? Absolutely, though Denver has been a lot better against the rush recently. I’d still take my chances with history this weekend.

7.           Jamaal Charles (vs. SD)

 As far as I know, I was the only one who stayed firmly planted on the Jamaal Charles wagon last week and as I expected, he finally proved my faithfulness worthy.

In fact, he now leads the league in rushing yards with 323 and is back up CLOSE to his career YPC at 5.9 yards per carry (6.0 career).

Two years ago when “The Ostrich” was second in the league in rushing yards, he was much better playing at home, which is where he’ll be this weekend against the Chargers.

San Diego has been pretty stout against the rush, but they seem to tire easily and can be exploited late in games—as Michael Turner showed last weekend.

With Peyton Hillis doubtful to play, Charles could see up over 30 touches once again and if so, could easily end up in the top-three RBs this week.

6.           LeSean McCoy (vs. NYG—Sunday Night)

McCoy hasn’t been bad by any means, but he hasn’t quite lived up to his top-five fantasy draft pick status just yet.  

He’s put up less than 100 total yards in two of his three games, though Andy Reid admitted he didn’t get McCoy the ball enough in Week 3, so I expect he’ll see plenty of touches this Sunday night against the Giants.

New York may look to have had a pretty good rush D on paper, but they’ve allowed a 4.6 YPC to running backs thus far and gave up 131 yards to DeMarco Murray in Week 1.

In two games last season, McCoy had 241 yards with a TD against them, so it looks like he at least knows how to crack through their front seven. Expect a nice game from Shady on national TV.

5.           Ryan Mathews (@ KC)

It wasn’t quite the debut fantasy owners were hoping for in Week 3, but the Chargers fell behind against the Falcons real quick and had a tough time getting Ryan Mathews involved the rest of the game.

His fumble inside the 5-yard line was a bummer as well, but not something tremendously worrisome. The Chargers will be forced to play him as an every-down back regardless because his backups are so mediocre.

I don’t see what happened last Sunday happening this week against the Chiefs, so look for Mathews to be given the ball early and end up with a good 25 or so touches.

Ryan had a couple of nice games against this team last season putting up an average of 130.5 total yards and one TD per game, numbers he should be able to at least equal this time around. 

4.           Marshawn Lynch (@ StL) 

Marshawn Lynch is touching the ball more than everyone in the league whose first name isn’t Arian.

When Seattle comes out onto the field for the initial kickoff, I’m surprised they haven’t handed it off to Lynch by accident simply out of habit.

Lynch’s 305 rushing yards is good for fourth in the league right now and though the TDs haven’t been there like they were last season, they WILL come, and they’ll start this weekend.

Lynch had a touchdown in each of his games against the Rams last season along with 203 rushing yards, so I’m expecting nothing less than 100 yards and a TD (or two) this Sunday.

3.           Ray Rice (vs. Cle—Thursday Night)

Rice continued to do his normal fantasy damage last Sunday night putting up 150 total yards (101 rushing) along with a rushing TD and five receptions.

His consistent high-end fantasy production is a dream for fantasy owners and won’t be thwarted this Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. In fact, back in Week 9 of his rookie 2008 season, Rice put up his first 100-yard game (154 yards on 21 carries) against the Browns and has enjoyed playing against them ever since.

The Ravens new up-tempo offense has given Rice a little more room to do his stuff out there and while the Browns have been pretty good against the rush thus far, they’ll be in over their heads this week after allowing Tashard Choice to rush for the third-most yards in his career in only three quarters of the game.

Not only is he one of the more solid RB1 plays this week, but he would probably be the fantasy gem of the bunch if not for Foster’s and MJD’s sweet matchups.

2.           Maurice Jones-Drew (vs. Cin)

MJD is back in full force after watching him shred the Colts for 177 rushing yards and a touchdown in Week 3.

He’s currently fifth in fantasy points on the season and sits just nine yards behind Jamaal Charles for the league lead in rushing yards.

Cincinnati has been awful against the rush allowing 5.8 yards per carry, by far the worst in the NFL. With the Jaguars passing game still underwhelming and Cinci allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to RBs, Jones-Drew could be in for a 30-touch day and a ton of points for your team.

1.           Arian Foster (vs. Ten)

It doesn’t matter much who Foster plays as it seems the only thing he knows how to do is score touchdowns and put up fantasy points.

This week, however, it does matter as this could be the explosive game fantasy owners have been waiting for.

In his lone game against the Titans last season, Foster had 115 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, but also added 119 yards and another TD through the air for a gargantuan 41.4 fantasy points.

Considering the Titans have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to RBs this season along with the most real points (113) in the NFL, Foster is shaping up to be the absolute top play of Week 4.

For other pyromaniac rankings visit: QB Rankings  WR Rankings  TE Rankings 

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