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Austin Ekeler greets a top-shelf matchup in the Chiefs while the Steelers’ Najee Harris hopes to finally translate his early snaps into RB1 numbers.
Updated 9/26 at 10:45 AM ET. Removed Dalvin Cook based on Adam Schefter's report that he is unlikely to play. Were Cook to suit up, I would consider him in the RB18-24 range as a high-upside option whose touches would likely be limited. Removed Darrell Henderson, moved Sony Michel up.
Week 3 Running Backs
RB Notes: Coming off a 131-yard effort in a game where he got banged up, Dalvin Cook will be facing a Seahawks defense that just got rinsed by The Big Dog Derrick Henry. Whatever kind of game flow emerges here, Cook is going to get his in a 55.5-totaled showdown. … As for Derrick Henry, what else is left to say? He’s a model breaker. That will be even more true if he actually starts averaging 3-5 weekly targets. He has 10 total looks through two games after drawing only 31 all of last season. Five targets per game would probably vault Henry ahead of Cook for RB2 overall status. … The time is right for Austin Ekeler to go bonkers. He predictably rebounded as a pass catcher in Week 2, the Chargers have no established early-down back, and the Chiefs are truly horrendous vs. the run. Throw in a 54.5 over/under, and you have it all. … We get to chase Aaron Jones’ four touchdowns against a 49ers defense that came out of matchups with the Lions and Eagles allowing the third most RB fantasy points. There were extenuating circumstances in both those contests (garbage time, Jalen Hurts), but Jones should be heavily utilized in the passing game as a 3.5-point road dog.
Alvin Kamara was a victim of the Saints’ offensive line collapse in Week 2. There were no running lanes, and no time for Jameis Winston to even find his back for checkdowns. The Patriots are not exactly a bounce-back spot, but there is almost no scenario where Kamara will be held under 20 touches going forward. The Saints have no alternative. … Nick Chubb just does what he does. You don’t even really need ceiling when the floor is this high. … Joe Mixon has been a straight up usage monster. Whatever the game script, 20-plus touches appear to be a veritable lock. … Opposing Mixon in one of the week’s lower-totaled contests (43.5) will be Najee Harris, who has provided a lot of snaps but not much else. We have to keep going back to this well until it runs dry. There is no fantasy substitute for a back being on the field. The Steelers are Week 3 home favorites. … On the one hand, Jonathan Taylor is primarily an early-down back headed on the road as a five-point underdog. On the other, the Colts are injury decimated at quarterback and receiver, creating not only a need to lean on the running game, but to target RBs in the passing attack, as well. I am betting on Taylor summiting his poor Week 3 circumstances. His goal-line struggles are likely a fluke.
The only number that matters for Saquon Barkley is 84. That was his Week 2 snap percentage on a short week. The Giants are already shedding the training wheels. Barkley will be on 10 days rest against a Falcons defense that has been nothing short of embarrassing through two weeks. Whichever way it goes, Week 3 will be telling for Barkley’s RB1 status going forward. … Over his minor Week 1 finger issue, David Montgomery saw his usage, including in the passing game, kick back up to its 2020 levels. With rookie dual threat Justin Fields making his first start, game flow won’t be terribly important for Montgomery against the Browns’ tough defense. The Bears will need the run, while Fields promises to open up lanes. ... Ezekiel Elliott has now been out-gained by Tony Pollard in two consecutive games, one a shootout that came down to the wire, the other a slobberknocker that came down to the wire. He is averaging under 4.0 yards per carry as Pollard manages 7.7 with a long run of only 28, meaning he is consistently ripping nice gains. Owner Jerry Jones has called the apparent committee a “great asset to this team.” We are not entirely sure how real this is, but it is getting a little moreso with each passing week. The Eagles are surrendering volume but not efficiency on the ground. Zeke is in the RB1 danger zone.
Week 2 was a necessary Antonio Gibson reality check. It also wasn’t doom and gloom. Despite posting a career high in receiving yards, J.D. McKissic still “only” managed six targets. He has seven through two games. That is not Gibson-crippling usage. The Bills are a rough matchup, but Gibson’s early-down workloads and goal-line carries are RB2 secure. More passing-game work remains there for the taking. … Damien Harris recovered from his Week 1 fumble to handle 16-of-23 Patriots carries in Week 2. 15 totes is probably his weekly floor. … We aren’t getting as much as we would like from Miles Sanders. What else is new? Well, for starters, a 52 over/under in prime time in Dallas. … Elijah Mitchell is battling a shoulder injury, while JaMycal Hasty is down with a knee. Trey Sermon (concussion) is trending in the right direction. My best Thursday guess is that Mitchell will return and start, but this could be a situation you end up taking down to the Sunday wire. … The greatest role in the world still hasn’t been RB2 enough for Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Fears that he’s just not that good are growing more pervasive. He needs to show something vs. a Chargers defense that has been diced up by the run through two contests. … Unsurprisingly, Michael Carter is looking like the Jets back with the most upside. Also unsurprisingly, Ty Johnson’s passing-down role doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, limiting Carter’s ultimate ceiling.
Chase Edmonds is seeing enough of the Cardinals’ money touches to provide legitimate RB2 hope in this elite offense. … D’Andre Swift’s usage is still leaving something to be desired. Thankfully, garbage time will never be far away for the Lions. … Bucs coach Bruce Arians has escalated his public call outs of Ronald Jones, while Giovani Bernard seems to be the two-minute drill back more than the third-down back. All Bucs RB roads lead to Leonard Fournette, who is backing into RB2 status in one of the league’s most dangerous offenses. … Against all odds, sanity prevailed in the Jags’ Week 2 backfield. With the Jags playing as 7.5-point home ‘dogs this week, Robinson’s pass catching will be needed. … Ty’Son Williams certainly appears to be where the Ravens’ running back upside resides right now. … Even if Darrell Henderson (ribs) plays as expected, the damage is already done. He gave Sony Michel his opening and lent credence to Sean McVay’s durability doubts. The Bucs are, of course, a horrible matchup. … Josh Jacobs (ankle) is still sidelined after coach Jon Gruden followed through on his Peyton Barber threats. Predictably, only Kenyan Drake’s touches provided anything of fantasy value. … Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t win the Falcons’ Week 2 touch war, but he won the quality touch war. He was coach Arthur Smith’s man in critical short-yardage and goal-line situations, giving him desperation FLEX appeal.