The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: Preseason RBs (Week Three)

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IJanuary 17, 2017

Week Three in the preseason is your best bet to get a good sneak peak at potential fantasy players, as the first string won’t see much action in Week Four. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this week’s “the good, the bad and the ugly” at the running back position.

The Good

Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings) – Anybody out there who thinks Michael Turner or Matt Forte should be drafted ahead of Adrian Peterson got the response from AD on the first play of last Monday’s game against the Houston Texans as Peterson took off for a 75-yard touchdown run.

In standard scoring formats, I don’t think there should be any debate on whether or not AD is the first overall pick. He does come with a tiny bit of worry, mostly around the fact that he’s a little injury prone, but that shouldn’t stop you in the least from taking him if you have the first overall pick in your draft.

Leon Washington (New York Jets)
– In the battle of the Meadowlands, it was Leon Washington from the New York Jets who outshined teammate Thomas Jones and counterpart Brandon Jacobs from the New York Giants. Washington scampered for 62 yards on nine carries.

Jones was able to hit pay dirt, but only totaled 16 yards rushing on 12 carries. Jacobs also scored a touchdown and had 24 yards rushing on six attempts. Jones had a tremendous 2008 season, but don’t expect a duplication of that in 2009. Washington should have a significant impact on this team.

Kevin Smith (Detroit Lions)
– One of the most undervalued players you’ll see in your draft is Kevin Smith of the Detroit Lions. Don’t let the team he plays for fool you; the Lions have two legit fantasy players (everyone knows about Calvin Johnson).

In Week Three of the preseason against the Indianapolis Colts, Smith had 8 attempts for 50 yards and 4 catches for 33 yards. Granted, the Colts don’t have a great defense, but production is production. This guy is a definite RB2. He has no handcuff or RBBC attached to him, which is one of the main reasons why I think he has great fantasy value.

Chris Wells (Arizona Cardinals)
– We all finally got our first look at Beanie Wells, and considering it was his NFL debut and he had been hurt, the rookie didn’t do too bad. Wells posted seven attempts for 46 yards, but he found the endzone twice. One of those scores came on a 20-yard rush. Before everybody jumps on the Wells bandwagon, Tim Hightower is still No. 1 on the depth chart for now.

It looks as though it’s still Hightower’s job, and I think you can expect a pretty even split in the carries, with a slight advantage to Hightower at the moment. It’s possible Wells could be the goal-line guy. Time will tell how this backfield works out, but I’d still lean a little more towards Wells than Hightower as the season progresses.

Cadillac Williams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
– Here’s a guy who it appears has resurrected his career, and while he surely won’t be the feature back for Tampa Bay, what he has done is take a huge chunk out of Derrick Ward’s fantasy value. Last week against the Miami Dolphins, Williams posted 54 yards rushing on eight attempts. Not too shabby at all.

It very well could be a three-headed beast for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now with Williams, Ward and Earnest Graham. What this means for fantasy owners is, Ward is still your best bet for RBs on this team, but he should be lowered on all cheat sheets.

Matt Forte (Chicago Bears)
– Beanie Wells wasn’t the only running back to find the endzone twice in Week 3. Matt Forte ran for a score and was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass from Jay Cutler.

The yardage doesn’t look that great in this game for Forte, but the two touchdowns are a nice foreshadowing of what you can expect when the games start counting. Forte will remain the focal point of this offense, and now, he has a QB who will help spread the defenses and give him more room to spring loose.

The Bad

Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans) – No real cause for alarm here, nothing’s happened in the preseason to cause Chris Johnson to drop in your fantasy rankings. It should be brought to light, however, that the sophomore back for the Tennessee Titans hasn’t exactly had a stellar preseason, averaging 13.5 yards per game.

In Week Three against the Cleveland Browns, he finished with 27 yards rushing on seven carries. That’s not great, but it could be worse. You should still draft him with confidence in the first round, but maybe just in case, don’t wait too long to fill out your depth at RB.

Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers)
– Frank Gore made his preseason debut against the Dallas Cowboys in Week Three. Considering he’s had trouble playing a full slate of games in recent years, it was probably smart of him to pass on the first two preseason games. His 2009 debut wasn’t sensational by any means, racking up 19 yards on five carries.

It’s fair to assume that the San Francisco 49ers just wanted Gore to see some real live action before the season starts. Still, it would have been a little encouraging to see him have one nice run in there.

Cedric Benson (Cincinnati Bengals)
– Despite the fact the Cedric Benson’s performance last week was ugly, I left him in the “Bad” section because I don’t want to totally deter you away from a running back who should most likely get the vast majority of the carries for the Cincinnati Bengals. Last week against the St. Louis Rams, Benson tallied 17 yards rushing on five carries.

As I’ve said in these articles before, it’s hard to really judge an RB’s performance when he only gets the ball five times, but don’t expect this guy to go off in the regular season. The only real upside to having this guy on your team, as an RB3, is the fact that he has no handcuff nor is he part of an RBBC.

The Ugly

Clinton Portis (Washington Redskins) – Against the New England Patriots last week, Clinton Portis almost had fewer yards rushing than he did carries. He ended the game with eight yards on six touches. This isn’t Week One of the preseason, Week Three is the closest you’ll see to a real game, and that’s not encouraging for Portis’ fantasy owners.

Sure, the Washington Redskins probably want to keep him fresh since there’s already so much wear and tear on this guy, but the preseason numbers don’t look promising. Portis is one of the running backs that I would let somebody else take their chances with, if possible. There are a lot safer bets out there for your RBs.

Denver Broncos Backfield
– Just do yourself a favor and stay away from the RBs on this team at all costs, even Knowshon Moreno. He’s recovering from an injury suffered in Week One of the preseason, so even if he does get picked late in your drafts, let that be someone else’s burden.

If nobody takes Moreno, keep an eye on him and see how he does. He could become a nice waiver wire pickup. Besides Moreno, nobody else from this backfield should be drafted on your fantasy team. Even with Mike Shanahan departing, this is still going to be the same merry-go-round backfield it has been in recent years.

Willis McGahee (Baltimore Ravens)
– Don’t let the touchdown Willis McGahee scored last week against the Carolina Panthers fool you. McGahee’s time as this team’s featured back is over. He finished that game with 16 yards rushing on 6 carries. The new main man in this backfield, Ray Rice, finished with 32 yards rushing on 10 carries, but he also had eight catches for 67 yards.

Rice’s stock is shooting up, while McGahee’s is plummeting. Consider Rice a strong RB3 on your squad, and consider calling a fantasy football ambulance if you have McGahee on your team. You can also consider this paragraph as putting Ray Rice in the “Good” section.