Week 3 RB Start’em, Sit’em: Running Back Fantasy Football Strategy

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In a PPR format, there will be running backs who on paper are No. 1 on the depth chart, but may actually be second on the depth chart in fantasy value. A situation like that, is why we have a hate/love relationship with fantasy football. To save you from your Sunday agony, I looked closely at the 10 running backs who may be fringe starters, that you may contemplating putting in your lineup. Here are the 5 running backs you should start, and 5 that you’re better off keeping on your bench.


James White, New England Patriots

Opponent: New York Jets
Did you see the New York Jets’ play without Sam Darnold against Cleveland? The abysmal Jets who are now onto their 3rd string quarterback, will be in for a beatdown against the Patriots. White, who found the end zone in week 2, should be a surefire flex play, if not RB2 at home against their division rival. I’d expect a healthy balance of rushes and catches in week 3.

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers
Seattle’s workhorse is coming off a game where he lost two fumbles. Not to mention, he lost a fumble in week 1 as well. This is a very concerning sign, especially when backup Rashaad Penny sees a bigger role because of it. With all that said, Carson has shown the ability to be dynamic for the Seahawk offense. He totaled 2 touchdowns against the Bengals in the season opener. He has a matchup against the Saints, who just allowed Gurley a goal-line touchdown. The gap between Carson and Penny is shrinking, but Carson going into week 3 is the undisputed lead back. He should be active in both the passing and rushing attack.

Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Opponent: New York Giants
Probably the most surprising pick on the list, Peyton Barber is coming off an impressive week 2. He had 23 carries, and turned that into 82 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he thoroughly outplayed Ronald Jones II, who was pegged to have a larger role in the offense this season. On top of that, he gets a favorable matchup against the New York Giants. Jameis Winston should be able to move the ball against the 30th passing defense in the league, which will hopefully give Barber scoring opportunities. If you are in a pinch, and need a bench RB to produce, I like Peyton Barber’s chances.

Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins

Opponent: Chicago Bears
The Redskins’ back is one of the most PPR friendly running backs in the league. He practically acts as a slot receiver for Washington’s quarterback Case Keenum. He gets a brutal matchup against the Bears, but he should continue to garner a heavy dose of targets. He has seen 18 targets in just 2 games of play. Chicago’s defense will undoubtedly stifle the Redskins’ attack, but that doesn’t mean Thompson won’t catch a healthy amount of flat routes. In one point of view, you can make the case that Keenum will have to check down to Thompson more often because of the pressure and coverage Chicago will present. In any case, I like him as a flex play this weekend.

Frank Gore, Buffalo Bills

Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
The ageless wonder is still the lead back in the Bills’ offense. He has 30 carries through 2 games, and might even see more this weekend with backup Devin Singletary possibly out with a hamstring injury. Gore has a very nice floor, considering the amount of touches he is receiving, but doesn’t appear to have a high ceiling. Gore should provide solid yardage, but will be touchdown dependent to really make a splash in lineups. Fortunately, he gets to face the 23rd ranked rushing defense in week 3. The Bengals just let San Francisco’s Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert combine for an eye-popping 283 yards in week 2. Frank Gore should be seen as a flex-worthy play against the Bengals in week 3.


Duke Johnson, Houston Texans

Opponent: Los Angeles Chargers
The former Browns’ running back, has had a limited role in the Texans offense. He was expected to be an every down back coming into the season, but the signing of Carlos Hyde has put a wrench into those plans. In week 2, Johnson was out-touched by Hyde 20-6. He does has some PPR value, as he did have 4 catches in week 1. However, Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson is known to not involve his running backs in the passing game. I’d suspect Johnson’s receiving production will not be much better than what it was in game 1 moving forward. This past weekend, Johnson saw just 1 target against the Jags. Until he can carve out a substantial role in the run game, I’d stay away from Johnson in week 3.

Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs

Opponent: Baltimore Ravens
The Chiefs’ 5th-year back is likely to see a continual decrease in rushing attempts. Williams has struggled to run the ball, averaging just 1.5 yards a carry. He also has serious competition, as the signing of LeSean McCoy has already caused a drop in Williams’ fantasy value. Williams is the passing down back, but that won’t be enough to warrant starting him in week 3. We will all have to wait and see how the timeshare between Williams and McCoy shakes out, but my money is on McCoy.

Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

Opponent: Green Bay Packers
Broncos’ starting running back Phillip Lindsay has now been outplayed by backup Royce Freeman two weeks in a row. Both backs were subject to Chicago’s defense in week 2, which usually doesn’t equate to great fantasy production. However, Freeman was able to total over a 100 all-purpose yards. Lindsay and Freeman will be working in almost a 50/50 split, which will make it difficult to feel confident in either ones fantasy value. Lindsay should be in flex consideration due to his catching ability, but should not be starting as a RB2 this weekend.

Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders

Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
Oakland’s rookie running back has had an impressive start to his 2019 campaign. However, the combination of Minnesota’ defense and his groin injury, gives me cause to pause in week 3. The Vikings were ranked 8th against the run last season. While the Vikings did get gashed by Green Bay’s Aaron Jones last week for 150 yards, I tend to see that as a fluke, rather than a trend of things to come. If Jacobs does play, I’d assume he will be less than 100% healthy. A banged up rookie running back facing a stout Vikings defense, tells me that Jacobs should be left on the bench if you have other viable options.

Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons

Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
Falcons’ starting running back Devonta Freeman has struggled to find his footing in the run game this season. After a string of injuries, you have to wonder if Freeman can return to form. Freeman is just averaging 2.2 yards per carry, totaling just 41 yards though 2 games. Atlanta has always been more pass first, considering they have Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. To make matters worse, backup Ito Smith has been the more efficient runner of the two. Smith has ran for 61 yards on just 10 rushes. The numbers suggest Smith should be receiving more touches in the coming games. With all these things considered, Freeman should be left on your bench until further notice.

I am an aspiring creator who was born and raised on O’ahu, Hawaii. I am currently a student at University of California, Santa Barbara. I am a former college student-athlete, who loves all things sports.

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