Rush Rating Week 4

NFL 2019 Week 4 Running Back Overview

by Jon Helmkamp (@JCWHelmkamp)

Well, that was an interesting week. My bust candidate, Alvin Kamara, ended up finishing the week as the RB1. And one of my most excitable picks, in Carlos Hyde, barely salvaged an otherwise terrible game with a short TD run. Oh well, can’t hit them all. Outside of that, the picks were good, and this year’s data is coming together, making up-to-date information available beginning next week.

With Week 4 kicking off on Thursday, we run into our first batch of bye weeks. Only two teams are out, the Jets and the Niners, leaving Le’Veon Bell and Matt Breida on your bench. We’ll profile eight other running backs to help you formulate your options this weekend.

The Good:

James Conner – vs Cincinnati Bengals

Let me be very clear – I’m really concerned about Conner. I had him locked in as an RB1 in the preseason, and built several of my own teams around him. So far, he’s been a terrible disappointment, and is averaging only 2.9 YPC on the young season. He has totaled only 97 yards on the ground and one TD. That said, his match-ups have been tough against the run – the Patriots, Seahawks, and Niners – and I had Conner listed as a bad matchup last week. However, this week, he gets a cakewalk against the Bengals, who have allowed 167.8 rushing yards per game. If there is ever a game to continue to trust in your late first/early second round draft pick, it’s this one. I’m optimistic that a breakout game is coming this week. Bold claim, but I believe Conner will be a Top 5 RB this week on Monday Night Football.

Phillip Lindsay – vs Jacksonville Jaguars

That’s more like it! Lindsay, who had been fading into oblivion over the first two weeks, had a standout game against the Packers, who had been playing defense very well early this season. Lindsay wracked up 81 yards and a TD on 21 carries, contributing 49 receiving yards on 4 catches as well. 3.86 YPC isn’t strikingly efficient, especially compared to his truly elite efficiency in his rookie season last year, but what matters the most to me is the 21 carries that he was given. Royce Freeman wasn’t far behind with 15 carries of his own (and he was more efficient – 4.2 YPC), but Denver has seemingly decided that their offense runs through the ground game. The Jaguars have been right around the middle of the pack, allowing 110.0 yards per game this year. They did hold Derrick Henry to only 44 yards last week, but I feel good about Lindsay as a Flex/RB2 play this weekend. 

Mark Ingram – vs Cleveland Browns

Mark Ingram just refuses to go away. And I am completely here for it. He tore the Chiefs apart for 103 yards and 3 (THREE!) TDs last weekend. The Ravens want to go to him, as he’s dominating the backfield work, and he was hugely effective with his opportunities. He’s a bruiser who has 5 TDs in the first 3 weeks of the season, and the Browns are going to have their hands full with this downhill punisher. Derrick Henry tagged them with 84 yards and a TD in the Week 1 blowout by the Titans, and the Ravens offense is infinitely more complex and explosive than that of Tennessee. Expect the strong start to keep rolling for Ingram, who is an RB2 with RB1 potential this week.

Chris Carson – at Arizona Cardinals

Much like James Conner, Carson is a guy that I am clinging to hope for. He’s fumbled in each of his team’s first 3 games, and has only reached 60 yards on the ground once. He has not been the locked in RB2 that he was drafted to be, but I believe in his talent that was on display last year. This is a team that wants to run the ball – they led the league last year with 160 rushing yards per game. On the road against the Cardinals, and their vulnerable defense who are surrendering 157 rushing yards per game, this is the game I expect Carson to get back on track – as long as he can hold onto the ball. If he fumbles again, Rashaad Penny might get a real look at lead back duties. For the time being, this is the game that Carson needs to remind his coaching staff and us fantasy fans of what he can do. Carson should keep RB2 value, and a breakout RB1 game is certainly possible possible.

The Bad:

Todd Gurley – vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is your friendly reminder that, through 3 weeks, Todd Gurley is the RB26, and has a grand total of 203 rushing yards, 1 TD, 4 catches for 8 yards, and 0 receiving TDs. Royce Freeman has more fantasy points than Todd Gurley. Right now, Gurley is the vanilla ice cream of fantasy running backs. Maybe it’s health, maybe it’s a move of preservation – I’m not sure. But Gurley is averaging 67.7 rushing yards and 14.67 carries per game. It’s so remarkably average and unexciting. Before getting hurt last week, the Buccaneers held Saquon Barkley to 10 yards on 8 carries, and have held opponents to 69.7 rushing yards per game, good enough for 6th best in the league. If you have Gurley, I feel like he still has to be started for his upside alone, but I don’t love it. RB2, maybe? A complete flop is also possible.

Sony Michel – at Buffalo Bills

Sony Michel… ouch. Other than the game against Miami (and let’s be honest, it’s Miami. Start everyone against Miami), he’s been terrible. He has a whopping one broken tackle on the season, and looks like he’s stuck in mud. Worse yet, Rex Burkhead led the backfield in carries last weekend, carrying 11 times to Michel’s 9. While Sony was terribly inefficient, Rex looked good at 4.3 yards per carry. It’s clear that #Bellitricks are alive and well, and Sony cannot be trusted from an efficiency or a workload standpoint. If you have better options, leave Sony on your bench until you see signs of life. This is not the same back we saw the Patriots ride to the Super Bowl just a few short months ago.

Aaron Jones – vs Philadelphia Eagles

Lafleur, why don’t you like nice things? Why would you go backwards from feeding Jones in Week 2 (and getting great results, mind you) to a split backfield with Jamaal Williams, who actually carried 12 times to Jones’ 10. Fortunately, Jones saw the goal-line work and punched in two TD’s, saving an otherwise terrible day (only 12 rushing yards). I don’t know what it is that has this coaching staff so unwilling to give him the bell-cow workload. I believe in his talent, and we’ve seen what he can do when given the chance, but you have to have a little bit of pause in deciding to roll with him at this point. Couple that with the Eagles, who stuffed Kerryon Johnson for 36 yards on 20 carries, and Jones is a tough play this week. If you can afford to bench him, Week 4 might be a good week to do so. If not, he’s no better than a Flex play this weekend.

Carlos Hyde – vs Carolina Panthers

Last week, Hyde was a back that I was happily endorsing, looking like the lead dog in a potent offense that was poised for solid, if not unspectacular, production. I was wrong. The Chargers had been gutted on the ground through two weeks, but held Hyde to only 19 yards on 10 carries. Fortunately, Hyde tallied a TD for the boxscore, but it wasn’t pretty. I guess the Hyde pipe dream needs to come back down to earth a bit. The Panthers haven’t been great against the run this year, but Houston is clearly concerned about Hyde, bringing in veteran C.J. Anderson for a workout this week. They’re looking for an upgrade at the position, and might turn more to Duke Johnson for the time being. Hyde might turn Flex production this week, but can probably be left on your bench.

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