Fantasy Football: Week 4 Running Back Rankings

Kevin HansonAnalyst IIISeptember 29, 2011

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Running back Daniel Thomas #33 of the Miami Dolphins dives over defensive back Mike Adams #20 of the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Dolphins rookie running back Daniel Thomas is averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game in the two games that he has played.

In two games, Thomas has 202 rushing yards on 41 carries and 37 receiving yards on four receptions.

Thomas, who sat out Week 1 due to a hamstring injury, was limited today at practice after his hamstring injury flared up, per Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Meanwhile, teammate Reggie Bush has struggled this season with the exception of hauling in nine receptions in Week 1. On the season, Bush has 27 carries for 69 yards (2.6 yards per carry) and has had only one reception in each of the past two games.

If Thomas plays, Bush will remain just outside of our top 40 running backs for Week 4. If Thomas can't go, Bush could emerge as a flex option.

Here are some more notes on running backs and rushing defenses:

- 49ers running back Frank Gore, who sprained his ankle in Week 3, has nearly 20 rush attempts per game (59 in three games) yet he has rushed for only 148 yards (2.5 yards per carry) this season. Provided he plays in Week 4, he gets a favorable matchup against the Eagles, who have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Is this the week he gets it going?

- Raiders running back Darren McFadden, who missed three games last season, has 2,141 yards from scrimmage (1,550 rushing and 591 receiving yards), 58 receptions and 14 total touchdowns in his past 16 games played.

- Titans running back Chris Johnson continues to struggle. Through three games, Every Coach's Dream has 46 rushing attempts for 98 yards (2.1 yards per carry) and no touchdowns. One positive is Johnson has 13 receptions for 98 yards.

- Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who got a huge five-year deal to re-sign with Carolina, has struggled mightily this season as well. Williams has 27 carries for 61 yards (2.3 YPC) and no scores. In fact, Williams has scored only one touchdown in his previous 14 games going back to Week 10 of the 2009 season.

- The Vikings have been a team of two halves. In three games, they have blown three double-digit halftime leads. One of the problems is playcalling. For whatever reason, the Vikings have run Adrian Peterson 36 times (230 yards and three touchdowns) in the first half but have given him the ball 22 times in the second half. Granted, Peterson has been more effective in the first half (6.4 yards per carry) than the second half (3.0 YPC). But his nickname is "All Day" -- not "Half-Day."

- Saints running back Darren Sproles has only eight carries this season, but he also has 21 receptions (on 28 targets) for 168 yards. Plus, Sproles has three touchdowns this season: one rushing, one receiving and one on a punt return. Of the team's three main running backs, Sproles (227) has more yards from scrimmage than either Pierre Thomas (166) or Mark Ingram (126).

- Despite facing a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy, Bengals running back Cedric Benson will play in Week 4 vs. the Buffalo Bills. Benson ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing (244 yards) and the Bills rank in the bottom ten this year in rushing defense (115.7 yards allowed per game).

- Going into this season, it seemed likely that the gap in the split of the workload between Bills running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the team's first-round pick in 2010, would narrow this season, but that is not the case. Jackson has been on the field for 186 snaps while Spiller has been on the field for only 32. Jackson is one of five running backs averaging more than 100 yards rushing per game and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry this season.

- As Ryan Grant deals with a bruised kidney, Packers running back James Starks will have an opportunity to get a substantial workload against the Broncos this week. In three games, Starks has 32 carries (as does Grant) for 147 yards, an average of 4.6 yards per carry, and a touchdown. Starks also has six receptions for 39 yards.

Here are our initial top 40 fantasy running backs for Week 4:

1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings (at KC)
2. Darren McFadden, Raiders (vs NE)
3. Ray Rice, Ravens (vs NYJ)
4. LeSean McCoy, Eagles (vs SF)
5. Matt Forte, Bears (vs CAR)
6. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (vs NO)
7. Michael Turner, Falcons (at SEA)
8. Fred Jackson, Bills (at CIN)
9. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (at ARI)
10. Chris Johnson, Titans (at CLE)
11. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (at HOU)
12. Ryan Mathews, Chargers (vs MIA)
13. Peyton Hillis, Browns (vs TEN)
14. Beanie Wells, Cardinals (vs NYG)
15. LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers (vs IND)
16. Tim Hightower, Redskins (at STL)
17. Steven Jackson, Rams (vs WAS)
18. Frank Gore, 49ers (at PHI)
19. James Starks, Packers (vs DEN)
20. Daniel Thomas, Dolphins (at SD)
21. Jahvid Best, Lions (at DAL)
22. Cedric Benson, Bengals (vs BUF)
23. Felix Jones, Cowboys (vs DET)
24. Mike Tolbert, Chargers (vs MIA)
25. Arian Foster, Texans (vs PIT)
26. Joseph Addai, Colts (at TB)
27. Brandon Jacobs, Giants (at ARI)
28. Shonn Greene, Jets (at BAL)
29. Darren Sproles, Saints (at JAX)
30. Ben Tate, Texans (vs PIT)
31. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (at CHI)
32. Mark Ingram, Saints (at JAC)
33. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots (at OAK)
34. Willis McGahee, Broncos (at GB)
35. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers (at CHI)
36. LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets (at BAL)
37. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks (vs ATL)
38. Dexter McCluster, Chiefs (vs MIN)
39. Michael Bush, Raiders (vs NE)
40. Montario Hardesty, Browns (vs TEN)

Please note: As Sunday approaches, we will update our rankings when necessary on our running back rankings page. Or for more Week 4 rankings, click here to view our rankings for other positions.

If interested, check out our free fantasy football contest for Week 4.

Good luck in your Week 4 matchup(s)!