Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Taking stock of every NFL backfield ahead of NFL Week 4

NFL depth charts are always in a constant state of flux due to transactions, injuries, performance and at-times questionable coaching decisions. The RB position in particular can be tough to stay on top of, as an overwhelming majority of offenses have replaced a single three-down back with committees of various shapes and sizes.

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What follows is a breakdown of each team's backfield ahead of Week 4 in order to better determine:

  • Offenses that are featuring a single workhorse
  • Fantasy-friendly committee backfields
  • Situations that fantasy football owners should avoid

This isn't a full depth chart listing; I'm not concerned about special teams RBs or guys that will be lucky to play more than an offensive snap or two come gametime. Rather, the goal here is to get an early idea of the league's various committee situations in an effort to see undervalued backfields. We’ll also take a quick look at Week 4 matchups with some DraftKings notes.

Each back’s Week 3 snap rate, carries and targets are listed next to his name in parenthesis. Note that the snap rates denote total snaps, so teams with a dual-threat RB/WR like Austin Ekeler might have a total percentage higher than 100% since those backs typically spend a solid chunk of time lined up in the slot or out wide.

Arizona Cardinals

Notes: Those that drafted Drake as a top-10 fantasy RB haven’t gotten the return they hoped for through three weeks. Overall, the Cardinals’ RB1 is the fantasy RB24.

Kyler Murray (26-187-4 rushing) is the Cardinals’ best pure runner.

This doesn’t mean that Drake won’t rebound. He’s one of 11 backs with at least 15 touches in every game this season. Drake (4.1 yards per carry) has also been more efficient than Edmonds (3.6) on the ground, making a takeover unlikely.

Week 3 wasn’t the blowup that many (including myself) thought was on the way, but it was Drake’s best game of the season. He’s still demonstrated a burst and ability to make defenders at the second level miss; continue to fire up the Cardinals’ undisputed RB1 as a top-12 option at the position ahead of this cozy three-game stretch against the Panthers, Jets and Cowboys. He’s arguably the premiere buy-low option in fantasy football at the moment.

DFS notes: Playing against the Panthers’ league-worst run defense is the closest thing we have to a matchup cheat code for the RB position. Drake ($6,000) figures to be among the highest-owned players on the main slate — and he should be.

Atlanta Falcons

Notes: The Falcons have had back-to-back games with double-digit point leads that should’ve helped Gurley rack up touches throughout the second half. This hasn’t been the case, as Gurley’s relatively pedestrian overall snap and target share have made him a TD-dependent option with little upside.

It’s tough to even blame the Falcons offensive line; they rank seventh in yards before contact per rush through three weeks. Rather, Gurley’s lack of tackle-breaking and big-play ability deserves most of the blame. Just three of his 49 carries have gone for at least 15 yards, and none longer than 20 yards. Gurley also (somehow) has just three total forced missed tackles on those touches.

Hill has been the Falcons’ best RB this season and deserves to continue to work ahead of Smith. Perhaps Gurley can get back on track, but I wouldn’t count on the explosiveness getting better as the season goes on. Consider selling if you can find a decent trade offer.

DFS notes: A trip to Lambeau Field on Sunday night certainly doesn’t seem to qualify as a get-right spot. Yes, Alvin Kamara had quite the performance against the Packers in Week 3, but to compare him to Gurley at this point in their respective careers is borderline malpractice. Gurley should continue to flirt with 15-plus touches more weeks than not, although the potential for negative game-script and depressed ownership makes Hill the preferred showdown play.

Baltimore Ravens

Notes: What a mess. The Ravens shouldn’t face many more double-digit TD deficits this season, but Monday night demonstrated that this backfield is far more muddled than most hoped for. It’s truly much worse than 2019. Ingram had at least 12 touches in all but two games last season; he’s yet to reach that mark through three weeks.

Dobbins has been the offense’s best back as both a rusher (7.6 yards per carry) and receiver (10.2 yards per target). The talented second-round pick ranks 14th in elusive rating among 65 qualified backs.

Ingram isn’t washed, and Edwards (league-high 5.2 YAC per touch) is hardly a liability out there. The reality that Lamar Jackson 1) soups up the majority of the offense’s rush attempts, and 2) generally refrains from throwing to the RB position, gives this three-back committee a low-floor/ceiling combination despite the weekly potential for multiple scores.

None are worthy as top-24 options at the position until we see someone rise to the top.

DFS notes: Ingram ($5,700) probably shouldn’t be priced so much higher than either Dobbins ($4,800) or Edwards ($4,000). The Ravens are 14-point favorites over the Football Team; there should be plenty of rushing scores to go around. Just realize the touch ceiling for these backs seems to be in the 12-to-15 range at the moment.

Buffalo Bills

Notes: Nobody broke more tackles than Singletary (8) in Week 3. The Bills’ starting RB looked explosive as both a rusher and receiver, regularly finishing off runs with power to gain extra yards.

The absence of Zack Moss (toe) led to the Bills embracing the Singletary show. Josh Allen still probably won’t consistently target him, and Allen (per usual) scored the offense’s loan rushing TD in Week 3. Still, 15-20 touches with this type of near every-down role inside of, let’s face it, one of the league’s better offenses can still be good for fantasy business.

These aforementioned “issues” with Allen’s style of play are the only factors holding back Singletary from the RB1 conversation. As it stands, Singletary is an upside RB2 due for a trip to the end zone against the Raiders’ 25th-ranked scoring defense.

DFS notes: Projected ownership rates between Kenyan Drake ($6,000), Singletary ($5,900), Joe Mixon ($5,800), Darrell Henderson ($5,800) and Mike Davis ($5,700) will be interesting; there’s a chance the Bills’ RB1 goes under the radar due to the presence of these other backs. I wouldn’t necessarily project him for more points than those players in Week 4, but low-owned backs with high-volume roles are the type of players we should be prioritizing in tournaments.

Carolina Panthers

Notes: I cautioned in expecting Davis to receive a true CMC-esque role in Week 3 — and he didn’t. Still, fantasy investors could hardly complain about him playing over three-fourths of the offense’s snaps and racking up 22 opportunities. The journeyman back looked good too; Davis tied Devin Singletary with a week-high eight broken tackles on his way to functioning as the week’s PPR RB10.

Teddy Bridgewater’s target distribution over the past two weeks paints a pretty clear picture for how the offense views their new RB1:

This sort of pass-game friendly role is hard to find at the RB position. Only Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott and Aaron Jones have more targets than Davis among all backs this season.

The Panthers haven’t resembled a high-functioning offense for most of this season, but there aren’t more than a handful of healthy RBs with a more fantasy-friendly role than Davis at the moment. He’s worthy of locked-in top-12 treatment as long as McCaffrey remains sidelined.

DFS notes: Davis ($5,700) will likely join Drake ($6,000) as the week’s top-two chalkiest RBs. They’re fine and dandy for cash games, although fading perceived can’t-miss backs (see: Sanders, Miles) can prove beneficial when attempting to separate from the pack in large tournaments.

Chicago Bears

Notes: Cohen (ACL, IR) is done for the season. There’s a real chance that Montgomery is given a true three-down role. He’s certainly earned the opportunity through three weeks:

  • Yards after contact per attempt: 3.1 (No. 17 among 67 players with 20-plus attempts)
  • Missed forced tackles per attempt: 0.22 (No. 20)
  • Total forced missed tackles: 11 (tied for No. 11)

Overall, only Chris Carson (81%) and Sony Michel (81%) have gained at least two yards after contact on a higher percentage of their carries than Montgomery (79%) this season.

A Week 4 home date against the Colts’ underrated defense isn’t a smash spot, but Montgomery might be looking at RB1-level volume from here on out. Don’t be surprised if he posts the same level of production if he can maintain his aforementioned high-end efficiency.

I’m the self-appointed president of the Cordarrelle Patterson Fan Club; obviously I’d love to sit here and say CP is going to get double-digit touches per game with Cohen out of the picture. Still, that doesn’t seem to be in the fold for the NFL’s second-most efficient rusher of all time; don’t expect Patterson’s present role to increase all that much, and an injury to Montgomery would inevitably result in the front office adding to the position.

DFS notes: Montgomery ($5,500) is one of seven backs in the $5,500-$6,000 range worthy of fantasy consideration. There’s still some concern regarding what his pass-game role could look like, but the likelihood of 20-plus touches makes him a viable cash and tournament play alike.

Cincinnati Bengals

Notes: Don’t panic, Mixon managers: this exact same slow start unfolded last season.

  • 2019 Week 1-3: 26.8 PPR (RB27). Final PPR rank: RB13
  • 2020 Weeks 1-3: 27.2 PPR (RB38) 

It’s not like Mixon is 1) experiencing a newfound decrease in opportunity, or 2) functioning as a significantly worse version of himself. The largest issue has been the Bengals’ offensive line: Mixon had 49 rushing yards in Week 3, and 48 yards after contact. Cincy’s 22nd-ranked offensive line in yards before contact per rush simply hasn’t gotten the job done through three weeks, but the good news is Joe Burrow is seemingly as good as advertised.

There will be brighter days ahead for Mixon. The man is on pace for 315 touches; the scores will come at some point. The Bengals have an up-and-down upcoming schedule against the Jaguars, Ravens, Colts, Browns and Titans before their bye week, but continue to fire up Mixon as the every-week borderline RB1 that he’s been for the better part of the last three seasons.

DFS notes: The general disdain that the fantasy community seems to have for Mixon ($5,800) at the moment leads me to believe he’ll carry the lowest ownership in the main slate’s stacked $5,500-$6,000 pool of RBs. It’s fair to not want to use him in cash games; the target floor here is unfortunately low. Still, Mixon is a more-than-viable tournament option that is overdue for a bounce-back performance.

Cleveland Browns

Notes: The Browns have seldom used Chubb and Hunt on the field at the same time this season like we saw down the stretch in 2019. It’s unfortunate; Hunt has demonstrated the ability to function as a high-end receiver when lined up in the slot or out wide.

And yet, Hunt has played five total snaps this season in the slot or out wide. He didn’t finish with fewer than seven such snaps during any game in 2019. The Browns utilize a 1A/1B backfield split, and Hunt has benefited mightily from extremely positive game scripts during the team’s last two wins over the Bengals and Football Team.

Either RB would be a top-five fantasy option at the position if the other gets injured. Both remain plenty capable of continuing to make the most of their good-not-great workloads. I’m just concerned about Hunt’s touch-floor in matchups that don’t feature the Browns leading by multiple scores.

Hunt is the type of talented back who could continue to turn his somewhat limited touches into legit RB1 fantasy production. Still, I’m inclined to treat him as more of a borderline RB2 for another week due to the potential for Chubb to see the majority of the work in a more neutral game-script. This sort of setting seems a bit more likely in Week 4 against the Cowboys’ high-scoring offense.

DFS notes: Chubb ($7,000) and Hunt ($6,200) each seem a bit overpriced ahead of a matchup that doesn’t figure to yield them the same sort of 1) positive game-script, and 2) endlessly wide rushing lanes.

Dallas Cowboys

Notes: Week 4 was one for Elliott to forget: 14-34-1 rushing and 6-24-0 receiving on 12 targets. Elliott is the overall PPR RB3 through three weeks, and his 23 targets are more than any RB not named Alvin Kamara (31). Don’t fret the down Week 3; Zeke is again locked in as a top-three option at the position ahead of this week’s smashable matchup against the Browns’ promising, but still unproven, defense. 

It’d be nice to see the Cowboys get Pollard more work as a true receiver; only Aaron Jones (2.78) and Austin Ekeler (2.6) have averaged more yards per route run when lined up in the slot or out wide than Pollard (2.6) among all RBs with at least 10-such targets since 2018. As it presently stands, Pollard remains off the fantasy grid, but he’d be locked in as a top-eight fantasy option if Zeke is ever forced to miss any time.

DFS notes: Only Kamara ($8,000) is more expensive than Elliott ($7,800). The potential for most of the position’s ownership to go to the under-priced backs in the $5,500-$6,000 range makes taking more of a stars-and-scrubs approach in roster construction a viable contrarian strategy this week.

Denver Broncos

Notes: Week 3 hardly presented an ideal game script for Gordon to get going, but that isn’t exactly something we should expect much of moving forward anyway. The Broncos seemed at worst a decent offense paired with an elite defense in the preseason, but now they look like anyone’s idea of a bottom-five team.

It’s hardly been Gordon’s fault; the Broncos, Panthers, Jets and Giants are the league’s only four offenses averaging less than 1.0 yard before contact per rush this season. Still, Gordon has yet to reach even 15 receiving yards in a game, and Freeman’s enhanced involvement in Week 3 after being an afterthought in Week 2 was troubling.

Phillip Lindsay (toe) seemingly has a chance to return this week. This would further lower Gordon’s ceiling, although his Thursday night matchup against the Jets represents one of the few spots that we should expect the Broncos to have a chance to play with a lead. Treat him as a low-upside RB2 that should be shopped in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.

DFS notes: My preferred showdown strategy this week is to stack both defenses and rushing attacks to avoid playing either deranged signal -caller. Kickers sound fun, too. Jets-Broncos! Thursday Night Football! Let’s go!

Detroit Lions

Notes: What a complete and total mess. The Lions are apparently done with their Swift experiment in the near term. The path to a high-end fantasy role in 2020 seems more unattainable than ever for the Lions’ second-round pick.

And then we have AP, who has started off his Lions’ career with 14-93-0, 7-41-0 and 22-75-0 rushing performances. He’s arguably the single-most game-script dependent back in the league right meow; facing the Saints as a four-point underdog doesn’t seem like the spot to expect a throwback AP blowup.

Seemingly any of these backs would need multiple injuries to sniff a three-down role. Stay far away in fantasy land.

DFS notes: Don’t do it.

Green Bay Packers

Notes: The Packers continue to feature A-aron heavily in Davante Adams’ (hamstring) absence. Even more snaps as a true receiver would be appreciated: Jones has averaged a position-high 2.8 yards per route run while lined up in the slot or out wide since 2018.

Most screamed scoring regression for Jones in 2020, but somehow he’s been a bit unlucky. Only Ezekiel Elliott (6) has more touches that have ended at the 1-yard line than Jones (5) through three weeks.

Jones could certainly have an even higher ceiling if Williams wasn’t as involved, but we’re still looking at a talented bell-cow back operating as the engine of the league’s highest-scoring offense. A home Sunday night matchup against the Falcons should leave Jones as a consensus top-three fantasy RB.

DFS notes: Fading Showtime in primetime seems reckless. I’d particularly refrain from going with this contrarian tournament strategy if Adams remains sidelined; Jones is simply way too involved at the moment to be treated as anything other than a locked-in stud.

Houston Texans

Notes: The Texans’ absolutely brutal start to the season is mercifully over, meaning Johnson’s extremely fantasy-friendly workload should land him in the RB1 conversation more weeks than not up until the fantasy playoffs.

  • Week 4: Vikings (No. 26 in fewest PPR per game allowed to RBs)
  • Week 5: Jaguars (No. 21)
  • Week 6: Titans (No. 29)
  • Week 7: Packers (No. 30)
  • Week 8: Bye
  • Week 9: Jaguars (No. 21)
  • Week 10: Browns (No. 8)
  • Week 11: Patriots (No. 15)
  • Week 12: Lions (No. 24)

Johnson is the PPR RB20 despite facing the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers to open up the season. The snap and touch share couldn’t be better, and we’ve actually seen a return to form from Johnson in terms of elusiveness.

  • 2015: 0.2 forced missed tackles per rush attempt
  • 2016: 0.15
  • 2017: 0.18
  • 2018: 0.09
  • 2019: 0.06
  • 2020: 0.2

Expect these early-season RB2 performances to turn into RB1-level production if Johnson can continue to maintain good health. Even the return of Duke Johnson (ankle) isn’t going to stop coach Bill O’Brien from feeding the main asset received from the Nuk trade. I’d put Johnson ahead of both Joe Mixon and Kenyan Drake as the single-best buy-low RB at the moment.

DFS notes: Johnson ($5,600) is facing a Vikings defense that remains all sorts of banged up. The Texans’ RB1 is going to surpass 20-plus touches in a game once the offense has any semblance of positive game-script; don’t be surprised if that dream comes to fruition this week.

Indianapolis Colts

Notes: The defense (16 points) nearly out-scored Philip Rivers and company (20) during the Colts’ 36-7 beatdown over the Jets in Week 3.

Wilkins has been involved in each of the past two weeks, but it’s been more due to extremely positive game script. PFF tracks snaps in both garbage time and regular moments; Taylor (66 snaps) has far and away been more involved than Hines (25) and Wilkins (15) since Marlon Mack (Achilles, IR) was lost for the season.

I’ve been a tad disappointed by Taylor’s tackle-breaking ability, but his 9-79-0 receiving line on nine targets has been a pleasant surprise. Continue to treat Taylor as a weekly RB1 as a workhorse starter running behind arguably the league’s single-best offensive line.

Hines’ 61 total yards on 11 touches in Week 3 was good news for his chances at maintaining some sort of floor during positive game scripts. This week’s matchup in Chicago seems like the type of sneaky spot for him to flirt with double-digit targets; just realize nobody other than Taylor is guaranteed any sort of high-end fantasy production in this run-first offense.

DFS notes: The $6,000-up range of RBs will likely go undervalued this week due to the plethora of great options in the $5,500-$6,000 range. Talents like Taylor, who should see 20-plus touches more times than not if we simulated this week 100 times, should be prioritized in GPP contests considering the 1) perceived meh matchup, and 2) somewhat elevated price tag, are each probably carrying too much weight.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Notes: At this point I don’t even remember what life was like before being introduced to James RB1son.

The Jaguars’ RB1 has more PPR points than everyone other than Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook through three weeks. Just like we all expected.

Last week’s snap disparity was hardly ideal in projecting Robinson to keep on keeping on, although his six targets indicate that he’s hardly being treated as a zero in the passing game. The continued absence of D.J. Chark (back) could force Gardner Minshew to continue to feed his RBs through the air, leading to more fantasy goodness for Robinson.

Week 4’s matchup against the Bengals is a prime spot for Robinson to continue his big rookie season; just realize we’ll probably see a low floor here at some point. This happened to Minshew in Week 3 and is a reality for anyone playing for one of the league’s worst teams. Robinson should be starting in 100% of season-long lineups this week; I’m just more comfortable ranking him as more of a borderline RB1 than locked-in top-five option.

DFS notes: Robinson ($6,500) is hysterically more expensive than fellow rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($6,400) and just a notch below Jonathan Taylor ($6,600). I’m forced to rank Robinson behind both; take the better offense when touch projections are fairly even at the RB position.

Kansas City Chiefs

Notes: CEH has sure looked worthy of being the first RB selected in the 2020 draft. Only Josh Jacobs (20) has broken more tackles than Edwards-Helaire (17) on the season, while the rookie’s 6-32-0 and 5-70-0 receiving lines over the past two weeks are much more in line with preseason expectations than Week 1’s 0-0-0 dud.

CEH is the no-doubt RB1 inside of anyone’s idea of a top-three offense in the entire league; he remains locked in as a matchup-proof high-end fantasy RB1. This is particularly true against a Patriots’ defense that hasn’t come close to stopping the Chiefs' receiving-friendly backs in recent matchups: both Kareem Hunt (5-98-2, 5-105-1) and Damien Williams (5-66-2) eviscerated the Patriots through the air in previous matchups.

It’s unlikely that either Williams or Thompson would inherit a true three-down role if Edwards-Helaire was forced to miss any time; there are better assets out there to take up a roster spot.

DFS notes: CEH ($6,400) would assuredly be more expensive if pricing wasn’t released prior to the Chiefs’ Monday night win over the Ravens. Rare low ownership could be on the table against the Patriots’ normally sound defense. As we saw in Week 3: Kansas City is more than capable of blowing up against any defense in the league.

Las Vegas Raiders

Notes: Jacobs is the current 2020 king in most forced missed tackles. The Raiders’ no-doubt RB1’s stranglehold on the backfield’s snap share held up reasonably well in the team’s Week 3 loss to the Patriots after heavily benefiting from a positive game script in Weeks 1-2. The PPR RB7 through three weeks, Jacobs joins the likes of Derrick Henry, Joe Mixon and Kenyan Drake among others as talented backs that we’d like to see get thrown the ball more, but they’re still just fine as fantasy RB1s thanks to their weekly potential to clear 20 touches with ease.

Week 4’s matchup against the Bills might not be as tough as it seems on paper. It certainly wasn’t for Darrell Henderson (20-114-1 rushing) in Week 3. Continue to fire up Jacobs as an every-week RB1.

Booker would likely take over as the lead back if Jacobs is forced to miss time; Richard similarly played over DeAndre Washington in 2019 before keeping his same scat-back role once the opportunity presented itself late in the season.

DFS notes: Jacobs ($6,800) had four games with at least three receptions in 2019; he already has three-such games in 2020. We won’t likely see him flirt with, dare I say, five catches in a game anytime soon, but at least he’s a bit more cash-game viable in good matchups than previously thought. Still, the potential for the Bills to keep rolling and get up quickly doesn’t bode well for Jacobs’ chances at flirting with the 30-touch mark like he did in Weeks 1-2. There are better value backs to target this week.

Los Angeles Chargers

Notes: Ekeler wasn’t going to get just one target per game with Tyrod Taylor under center the entire season, but clearly having rookie Justin Herbert in the fold has been a positive for the Chargers’ RB1’s fantasy stock. Overall, Herbert has displayed the following target distribution in two starts:

Ekeler is PFF’s top-graded rusher this season. The PPR RB8 through three weeks is an auto-start regardless of the matchup as long as Herbert is under center. Even the return of Taylor wouldn’t be the end of the world; Ekeler is on pace for 250 rush attempts and 85 targets in 2020. The downgrade from 108 targets isn’t ideal, but the potential for more than a hundred additional carries over last season’s final 132 total reinforces the reality that removing Melvin Gordon from the equation outweighed the loss of Philip Rivers in fantasy land.

Kelley’s stranglehold on the Chargers’ early-down job will seemingly loosen once Justin Jackson (quad) gets healthy. Even then: Kelley is being treated as the run-down grinder that can be game-scripted off the field in any given matchup. Credit to the rookie for largely making the most of his opportunities throughout the season, but the chances of this offense again enabling two weekly fantasy-relevant backs isn’t nearly as high as 2019 with Ekeler spending just 16% of his snaps in the slot or out wide through two weeks. This week’s matchup against the Buccaneers’ stout defense isn’t the spot to lean on Kelley.

DFS notes: Ekeler ($7,100) is probably behind only Alvin Kamara ($8,000) in terms of backs that are probably best off operating with a negative game script. The potential for this to occur as 7.5-point underdogs in Tampa Bay seems high. The Buccaneers boast a number of blue-chip talents throughout all three levels of their defense, but that didn’t stop Mike Davis (8-74-0) or Kamara (5-51-1) from getting the job done through the air. Ekeler is a sneaky dark horse to lead the week in scoring if he can find his way into the end zone on more than one occasion.

Los Angeles Rams

Notes: The Rams continued to lean on Henderson in Week 3 with Cam Akers (ribs) sidelined. And why not? The 2019 third-round pick has been fantastic over the past two weeks. Henderson finds himself as one of the league’s best backs in per-touch efficiency, as he’s one of just six backs to convert at least 30% of their rush attempts into first downs or scores:

The included presence of Brown on this list isn’t ideal for Henderson’s chances at truly running away with the job, but 15-plus touches per week should continue to flow in as long as Akers remains sidelined.

Even then, it’s not out of the question for Henderson to run away with this job. PFF’s No. 1-graded RB through three games is set up exceptionally well against a Giants defense that didn’t exactly slow down any of Benny Snell (19-113-0), David Montgomery (16-82-0) or Jerick McKinnon (14-38-1) on the ground. Treat Henderson as an upside RB2 in this mouth-watering spot.

DFS notes: Henderson ($5,800) is a massive home favorite against a #bad defense. This is what building high-floor cash lineups is all about; expect him to be among the main slate’s highest-owned players, regardless of position.

Miami Dolphins

Notes: Gaskin’s huge workload in Week 3 was largely thanks to the Dolphins building a multi-TD lead over the Jaguars by halftime. Don’t expect this sort of best-case scenario game-script every week, but Gaskin has been involved enough as a receiver to still offer RB2 potential independent of the game script.

The problem with treating Gaskin as more of a RB1 moving forward is simple: Howard. The Dolphins are truly utilizing the ex-Bears/Eagles RB as the league’s premiere vulture. Through three weeks Howard has converted 16 rush attempts into 12 yards and three scores on the ground, commanding eight of nine team rush attempts and 10 of 16 snaps inside the five-yard line.

Usually the term “goal-line back” is overused in fantasy football. Unless there’s a stoppage of play offenses typically just give the ball to whatever back was already in the game upon getting inside the 5-yard line. Not so in Miami, and that’s why Gaskin is the PPR RB26 through three weeks despite getting all this usage. Continue to treat him as a borderline RB2 in a far less fantasy-friendly matchup against the Seahawks.

DFS notes: Gaskin ($5,000) has posted 4-26-0, 6-36-0 and 5-29-0 receiving lines through three weeks. That’s plenty valuable in a game that could feature the Dolphins trailing early and often. Consider paying down to Gaskin in tournaments as a way to differentiate your lineup from the upper-$5K RBs that figure to carry heightened ownership.

Minnesota Vikings

Notes: Cook should be on anyone’s list of the league’s top-five RBs with the ball in their hands.

The Vikings’ stud RB racked up 199 total yards and a score in Week 3. Cook is again a no-doubt RB1 ahead of next week’s matchup against a Texans defense that has been shelled by each of Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25-138-1), Mark Ingram (9-55-1), Gus Edwards (10-73-0) and James Conner (18-109-1) through three weeks.

Mattison doesn’t carry any standalone value but would be an every-week RB1 if Cook is forced to ever miss any time.

DFS notes: Cook ($7,600) is always a viable cash and tournament option with weekly potential to function as the overall RB1. Still, I’d have to give the preferred nod to both Alvin Kamara ($8,000) and Ezekiel Elliott ($7,800) at similar price points thanks to their vastly superior pass-game roles.

New England Patriots

Notes: Don’t call it a comeback, but Michel looked fantastic in Week 3. It was arguably his best performance since at least the 2018 season.

Of course, Burkhead stole the show thanks to his three-TD performance. He’s played a featured role with James White (personal) sidelined and is worthy of borderline RB2 treatment as long as the Patriots’ long-time pass-down back is out. Still, we’ve seen both Burkhead (8.7 PPR with White; 20.9 without) and White (12 PPR with Burkhead; 16.6 without) provide much more consistent fantasy value when the other is sidelined.

It seems likely that the return of Damien Harris (hand, IR) would impact Taylor more than any other back. The most-likely scenario at full health seems to be Michel and Harris splitting early-down work, while Burkhead and White each keep their usual pass-game heavy roles. Cam Newton’s spike in targets to the position in Week 3 was encouraging, but his goal-line usage isn’t going to help this backfield. None look like sure-thing top-30 options if all healthy.

DFS notes: Burkhead ($4,800) certainly seems like the superior option over Michel ($4,600) if the split remains the same from last week in a matchup against the Chiefs that threatens to force the Patriots into a negative game script. Both are fairly contrarian and low-cost GPP options.

New Orleans Saints

Notes: Only DeAndre Hopkins (32) has more receptions than Kamara (27) this season. This workload through the air far exceeds what CMC was seeing in 2019; Kamara is on pace for 144 receptions and McCaffrey caught “just” 116 balls last year.

Oh, and Kamara just so happens to be one of the league’s best talents with the ball in his hands.

Literally any rushing usage is just the cherry on top of Kamara’s fantasy-friendly receiving workload. He’s deserving of consensus overall RB1 honors against a Lions defense that didn’t come close to containing Aaron Jones (4-68-1) as a receiver back in Week 2.

This does seem like one of the season’s few spots that could produce some standalone value for Murray. He’s had 15, five and 13 touches in three games this season; there are worse fantasy options than someone projected for double-digit opportunities inside of the week’s seventh-highest implied offense.

DFS notes: Kamara ($8,000) is worth paying up for as long as 10 receptions seems like reasonable over/under for his weekly total. This is a true fantasy football cheat code in full point-per-reception formats like DraftKings; find a way to get Kamara into lineups of all shapes and sizes.

New York Giants

Notes: I’ll take it a personal insult if your fantasy football lineup is starting a Giants RB in Week 4.

DFS notes: Please see above “Notes” section.

New York Jets

Notes: The 2020 Jets in one play.

I guess Gore is in play as a RB3 considering coach Adam Gase ignores negative game script in favor of getting his 37-year-old back at least 15 touches. The Broncos gave up solid performances to Derrick Henry (31-116-0), James Conner (16-106-1) and Ronald Jones (13-53-0) on the ground; Gore putting together 60 or so yards and falling into the end zone once wouldn’t be the most shocking thing to happen in 2020.

DFS notes: Now we’re talking. Gore does make a lot of sense in Thursday night’s showdown slate and should be stacked with the Jets defense. The pass-game role remains pedestrian, and chances of finding the end zone slim, but he’s the favorite to lead the game in touches by a decent margin.

Philadelphia Eagles

Notes: Sanders is the Eagles’ featured back and was a better ball away from putting up a huge stat line in Week 3.

The Eagles offense, particularly Carson Wentz, looks incredibly erratic at the moment, and this banged-up offensive line isn’t doing anybody involved any favors.

And yet, Sanders is locked in as a RB1 looking at 15-plus carries and at least five targets on an every-week basis. Neither Scott nor Clement have been consistently involved; this is the Sanders show.

DFS notes: Stacking the 49ers offense along with Sanders is my early preferred strategy for next week’s Monday night matchup.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Notes: Week 1 was a disaster for Conner’s fantasy football investors. However, the Steelers’ RB1 has bounced back with consecutive top-10 finishes in Week 2 (PPR RB10) and Week 3 (RB8).

The Steelers oddly got Snell and McFarland more involved during their Week 3 win over the Texans, but Conner was still the man overall, particularly on passing downs. The 2020 Steelers don’t quite resemble some of the juggernaut offenses we’ve seen them have over the past decade. Still, Conner is plenty capable of continuing to post RB1 production with good health and this sort of workload. Treat him as such against a Titans defense that was gashed by Dalvin Cook (22-181-1), James Robinson (16-102-1) and Melvin Gordon (15-78-1) alike.

Snell would be the lead back if Conner was forced to miss any time, but McFarland would likely command a handful of touches himself, and Samuels remains more polished as a receiver than both. None are need-to-have bench stashes.

DFS notes: Conner ($6,900) is priced appropriately as the RB9. There are just better and cheaper cash-game options this week, and I do wonder if Conner still possesses true tournament-winning upside at this sort of high-end price tag.

San Francisco 49ers

Notes: McKinnon (ribs) is banged up after working as the offense’s featured back in Week 3. Raheem Mostert (knee) is also uncertain, while Tevin Coleman (knee, IR) remains sidelined.

Wilson has the potential to work as Kyle Shanahan’s RB1. This role has been borderline erotic in fantasy football land over the years. Wilson is this offense’s RB4 when everyone is healthy for a reason, but he deserves credit for converting seven of 47 regular season touches over the past two seasons into scores.

The Eagles defense isn’t in nearly as bad of a state as their offense at the moment. Still, Wilson would be worthy of RB2 treatment if McKinnon and Mostert are ultimately ruled out. We’ll need to hear what Shanahan has to say and check out practice participation before fully evaluating either of the team’s additional banged-up options.

DFS notes: The 49ers have until Sunday night to get healthy. The potential for George Kittle (knee) and/or Deebo Samuel (foot, IR) to return would muddle up this entire passing game, lowering the floor for each RB involved. Whomever you ultimately roster, just be sure to wind it back with Eagles RB Miles Sanders.

Seattle Seahawks

Notes: Carson (sprained knee) reportedly has a shot to suit up Sunday, although it’s tough to see him having his usual 70%-snap role if he’s operating at less than 100%. His Week 3 performance could’ve been far bigger had Russell Wilson not thrown three (!!!) touchdowns from the 1-yard line. I’m not bitter. Not at all. OK a little.

This is a situation that is probably better off avoided regardless of Carson’s status. It wouldn’t be surprising to see fourth-round RB DeeJay Dallas get his first offensive snaps of the season. Hyde and Homer have already been splitting things evenly enough to have a debate as to who would be the preferred fantasy option with Carson out. I would lean toward Hyde, but every RB involved has a low floor in this suddenly pass-first offense. 

DFS notes: There’s no price discount for Hyde ($5,300) this week. Maybe Homer ($4,000) could be worth some exposure as a min-priced dart throw if Carson is ultimately ruled out; otherwise avoid this unit for the time being.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Notes: Week 1 and 3 were the RoJo show, while Fournette looked like the better back in Week 2. Shady McCoy has stolen pass-down snaps and targets along the way.

Fournette has basically replaced Peyton Barber. This remains a muddled three-RB committee that seems capable of swaying to either Jones or Fournette depending on the week. The spot at home as a 7.5-point favorite is plenty solid; just realize neither early-down back is guaranteed for more than 8-12 touches regardless of the matchup. Both Jones and Fournette are better off treated as upside RB3s until we see any sort of trend emerge.

DFS notes: For some reason Fournette ($5,600) is far more expensive than Jones ($4,700). I guess the former is a potential tournament pivot off the various chalky backs in the $5,500-$6,000 range, but taking the value and slightly better potential for more touches in RoJo is the better play.

Tennessee Titans

Notes: Henry has a league-high 82 rush attempts through three weeks. This puts him on pace for an astronomical 437 carries across 16 games. Only 2006 Larry Johnson (416), 1998 Jamal Anders (410), 1984 James Wilder (407), 1986 Eric Dickerson (404) and 2000 Eddie George (403) have cleared the 400-mark in the history of the NFL.

The return of Evans did nothing to stop giving Henry 70%-plus snaps and a few targets. Continue to treat the Big Dog as a top-five RB even ahead of a matchup against the Steelers’ beastly defense. Henry is due for a big run with a long of just 16 on the season.

DFS notes: Henry ($7,400) possesses weekly overall RB1 upside and figures to carry lower ownership than usual against the Steelers’ beastly front-seven. I wouldn’t bet on this week being the one we get 200-plus yards and multiple scores, but obviously that’s always in Henry’s range of potential outcomes.

Washington Football Team

Notes: Gibson seemed on the verge of taking over this backfield in Week 2 after playing 67% of the offense’s snaps and racking up 15 combined carries and targets. Alas, McKissic continues to be far too involved, and Barber isn’t quite going away yet, either.

At some point Gibson figures to take over this backfield, but this week’s spot against the Ravens is hardly the time to expect a breakout performance. Terry McLaurin is the only viable fantasy option; the Football Team is implied to score a week-low 17 points.

DFS notes: Gibson ($4,500) continues to be plenty affordable; there’s just a low-ceiling inside of probably the league’s second-worst overall offense through three weeks. Pass.

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