The top five fantasy football running backs offer price points for everyone.
5- Andre Williams (NYG), $7,950 @ (PHI)
The assignment won’t be easy for Williams, and his underlying and surface stats aren’t all that impressive, but his expected work volume and price tag allow him to crack the top five fantasy running backs this week. The Eagles rank 10th defending the run according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) and eighth according to Football Outsiders (FO), so don’t expect the red carpet to be rolled out for the rookie runner. However, with Rashad Jennings on the shelf, a second consecutive 20 carry effort are well within reach for the Boston College product. He’s a large man that will get the goal line work, and he’ll look to make it three games in a row in which he reaches pay dirt. Though he’s a bad receiver, he did manage to haul in two receptions last week against the Falcons, so a cheapy or two getting dropped into his lap is a possibility, but if you’re rostering him, it’s to save money and bank on a third week north of 60 yards rushing and a touchdown. He’s unlikely to carry fantasy squads, but he’s a great glue guy on a week where many of the pricier options simply don’t look to be worth the investment.
4- Chris Ivory (NYJ), $6,600 vs (DEN)
Ivory makes it a Meadowlands running back starter sweep, and unlike Williams, it’s his talent and impressive stats that catapult him onto this week’s top five fantasy running backs list. Among running backs who have carried the load on 25% of their team’s run attempts or more, Ivory leads the way with 3.44 yards after contact per attempt (Yco/Att), and he has the best elusive rating, a stat used at PFF that credits the work a runner did beyond the help of his blockers. Despite having just 59 rushing attempts, Ivory has a staggering 19 missed tackles forced running the ball, the fourth highest total among running backs. The Broncos high octane offense figure to put a spanking on the Jets, but the best way for Rex Ryan to keep them from laying the wood to their backsides is to play some ball control offense and keep the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands. Obviously that’s easier said than done, especially with the ugly two-headed monster they have at quarterbacks, and the risk of using Ivory is apparent. Last week when the Chargers boat raced them, Ivory totaled just 44 yards rushing, albeit on only nine carries. If the Jets are playing catch up very early, Ivory’s opportunities to run the ball could be few and far between, but his ability to shed would be tacklers make him a threat to pop a long touchdown score (see week one) even if his opportunities are limited. Bank on the talent, and make the most of his minimal cost against your team’s salary cap.
3- Le’Veon Bell (PIT), $14,050 @ (CLE)
Bell’s lack of touchdowns would be maddening if not for the crazy all-purpose yards he’s totaled. The second year running back’s lone touchdown came in the Steelers season opener, but he ranks second in running yards and is third in both receptions and receiving yards among running backs. In all he’s totaled 460 yards rushing and 228 yards receiving, and he’s yet to fall short of the 100 yard from scrimmage threshold in a single game this season. The more advanced metrics paint a favorable picture for the guy who ranks third in this week’s top five fantasy running backs as well. He’s ninth in elusive rating and has left 24 would be tacklers in his dust if you combine his 13 missed tackles running and 11 on receptions. Bell will get to run roughshod over a Browns defense that ranks in the bottom half of the league according to PFF (20th) and FO (28th) defending the run. The Browns defense as a whole is a mess, and while the Steelers are currently two point underdogs according to Vegas Insider, a 47 point total suggests points will be scored, and Bell’s running and pass catching skills make him a prime candidate to snap his touchdown-less streak this week.
2- Ben Tate (CLE), $7,850 vs (PIT)
On the favorite side of the Browns versus Steelers tilt is Tate. He wasted little time reasserting himself as the lead dog in the backfield after missing a few contests due to injury. The former Texan carried the ball 22 times for 123 yards rushing and added a reception for a two yard loss. Before exiting the season opener against the Steelers, he was well on his way to a heck of a debut with his new club carrying the ball six times for 41 yards. The Browns have a talented stable of runners, but Tate leads the way in YCo/Att at 2.7, yards per carry at 5.9, and his seven missed tackles on 28 rush attempts are just one less than Terrance West’s eight on 54 runs. As for snaps, the disparity was monstrous in Tate’s return to the field last week, and PFF credits him with 51 snaps to 16 for Isaiah Crowell and 11 for West. He’s a steal, and his price tag almost made him the top pick among this week’s top five fantasy football running backs, but an even more enticing tout headlines this group.
1- Marshawn Lynch (SEA), $14,950 vs (DAL)
Lynch is worth every damn penny this week. Every. Single. One. Empty the coffers because he’s going to embarrass the Cowboys this week. The Seahawks bell cow is doing his usual tackle shedding thing ranking second only to the back he’ll be facing off against this week, DeMarco Murray, in missed tackles forced running with 20. His three rushing touchdowns are tied for the second most at the running back position with a gaggle of others, and while his 2.2 YCo/Att isn’t overwhelming, he’s been plenty effective. The most exciting thing about Lynch’s 2014 season is his increased usage in the passing game with him having tallied 13 receptions for 126 yards and three scores. His work on the ground and in the air has resulted in 432 yards from scrimmage, and according to Pro-Football-Reference, that’s the seventh highest total among running backs. Not bad for a guy whose team has already had their bye week. Lynch will likely want to upstage the league’s top runner that he’s facing this week on his home field, and he’ll have a much easier go of it than his adversary since the Cowboys run defense is a sieve. Both PFF and FO rank the Cowboys last defending the run, and after watching Arian Foster’s gimpy ass torch them, thoughts of 100 plus yards rushing and a pair of rushing scores are dancing through my head.