Fantasy Football Week 4 Rankings: Top 40 Running Backs

Eric StashinSenior Writer ISeptember 28, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 25: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings avoids a tackle by Amari Spievey #42 of the Detroit Lions on September 25, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Which running backs benefit from a favorable schedule in Week 4? Whose injuries should cause fantasy owners to be concerned about their ability to produce? Let’s take a look at how our running back rankings shake out for the coming week:

  1. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings – at Kansas City
  2. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders – vs. New England
  3. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles – vs. San Francisco
  4. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens – vs. New York Jets
  5. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. New Orleans
  6. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears – vs. Carolina
  7. Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills – at Cincinnati
  8. Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons – at Seattle
  9. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans – at Cleveland
  10. Ryan Mathews – San Diego Chargers – vs. Miami
  11. Tim Hightower – Washington Redskins – at St. Louis
  12. LeGarrette Blount – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Indianapolis
  13. Ahmad Bradshaw – New York Giants – at Arizona
  14. Jahvid Best – Detroit Lions – at Dallas
  15. Peyton Hillis – Cleveland Browns – vs. Tennessee
  16. Arian Foster – Houston Texans – vs. Pittsburgh
  17. Cedric Benson – Cincinnati Bengals – vs. Buffalo
  18. Rashard Mendenhall – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Houston
  19. Daniel Thomas – Miami Dolphins – at San Diego
  20. Steve Jackson – St. Louis Rams – vs. Washington
  21. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers – at Philadelphia
  22. Beanie Wells – Arizona Cardinals – vs. New York Giants
  23. Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Detroit
  24. Shonn Greene – New York Jets – at Baltimore
  25. Darren Sproles – New Orleans Saints – at Jacksonville
  26. Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – at Chicago
  27. Joseph Addai – Indianapolis Colts – at Tampa Bay
  28. Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants – at Arizona
  29. Ben Tate – Houston Texans – vs. Pittsburgh
  30. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – New England Patriots – at Oakland
  31. Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers – vs. Denver
  32. Mike Tolbert – San Diego Chargers – vs. Miami
  33. Willis McGahee – Denver Broncos – at Green Bay
  34. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – at Jacksonville
  35. Danny Woodhead – New England Patriots – at Oakland
  36. LaDainian Tomlinson – New York Jets – at Baltimore
  37. Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks – vs. Atlanta
  38. Michael Bush – Oakland Raiders – vs. New England
  39. Thomas Jones – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Minnesota
  40. DeAngelo Williams – Carolina Panthers – at Chicago


  • Darren McFadden and the Oakland Raiders tore up the Jets on the ground in Week 3, rushing for over 200 yards (McFadden alone had 171). Does anyone really expect Ray Rice and company to replicate that feat? While the numbers aren’t there yet, we all know the Jets rushing defense is among the better groups in the league. McFadden’s success, as well as his ability in the passing game, helps to keep Rice pushed up in these rankings, however.
  • Speaking of McFadden, whether it is a shootout with New England or not, you had better believe that the Raiders offense is going to be running through him. He has quickly proven that his 2010 breakout was no fluke, rushing for 393 yards and three TDs (as well as adding 11 receptions for 84 yards and a TD). Clearly, he’s emerged as one of the elite backs in the game.
  • The San Francisco 49ers have done a tremendous job stuffing the run thus far in 2011, but they haven’t faced a runner even close to LeSean McCoy. I wouldn’t downgrade McCoy because of the matchup, he’ll find a way to get his yardage.
  • Can we call Chris Johnson anything but a disappointment through three weeks? He’s averaging a pitiful 2.1 yards per carry and hasn’t scored a TD. Sure, the fact that he has 13 receptions for 91 yards helps, but it’s hardly enough. Without Kenny Britt and facing a Browns defense that has been quite porous against the run, maybe this is the week that he finally puts it together. In previous seasons he’d be in contention for the top spot. This year, I would still consider him an RB1, but there’s clearly a little bit of risk involved.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals have done a great job stopping the run thus far in 2011. Of course, in the past two weeks they’ve faced depleted rotations in Denver and San Francisco. Can they stop Fred Jackson? No one else has this season, as he is fourth in the league with 303 yards (as well as eight receptions for 115 yards). At this point he has to be considered one of the better options in the league.
  • Concerned about Roy Helu stealing a significant number of carries from Tim Hightower? On Monday night Hightower got 14 (for 41 yards) vs. Helu’s five (for 15 yards). Granted, neither was overly impressive, but Hightower should remain the lead back at this point.
  • Will Cedric Benson play or won’t he? At this point we just don’t know. That means we’ll leave him in the rankings, for the time being, but owners will definitely want to handcuff themselves with Bernard Scott, just in case.
  • Daniel Thomas missed the first game of the season. Couple that with a poor preseason showing and everyone was ready to walk away from him. He’s quickly made everyone remember his name, however, rushing for 202 yards on 41 carries over the past two weeks. Suddenly he’s a viable RB2 in all formats.
  • The talk is that Arian Foster is going to be back in Week 4. However, can they simply toss Ben Tate back into a “secondary” role? All Tate has done over the first three weeks is rush for 301 yards and one TD, placing him fifth in the league. Until we see what Foster can do, I’d consider him more of an RB2, with Tate as a FLEX option, especially against a tough Steelers defense.
  • There are significant injury concerns surrounding Frank Gore and Steven Jackson. Jackson is coming off a game where he got just four carries. Will he be able to take a full slate of carries in Week 4? It’s an awfully big risk to take, so think of him as more of a lower-end RB2 until he proves he can handle it. As for Gore, it just hasn’t been there (148 yards) and there are questions about if he will be able to play or not. Proceed with caution.
  • If the Patriots had a running back we could trust, he would almost certainly be among the top options this week taking on a Raiders defense allowing 120.3 rushing yards per game. Unfortunately, do we trust BenJarvus Green-Ellis enough? Chances are Danny Woodhead and Steven Ridley will take plenty of touches away from him. No Patriots running back is more than a FLEX at this point, just because they are certain to spread the ball around.
  • Who would’ve predicted that Darren Sproles would be the most productive Saints running back? Anyone?
  • It’s becoming clear that Jonathan Stewart is the more productive back in Carolina, isn’t it? I wouldn’t consider him more than a FLEX option for now, but he could soon become a must-use option.

Make sure to check out the rest of Rotoprofessor’s Week 4 information: