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What do I know? Heading into Week 5

Top 10 review

 

Peyton Manning, Steve Smith (NYG), Reggie Wayne, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Maurice Jones-Drew and Joe Flacco. These are the Top 10 fantasy players in my main money performance (PPR) league through four weeks. Three running backs, five quarterbacks and two receivers. Peterson and Jones-Drew were drafted in the Top 3 picks in most fantasy drafts so at least they have delivered as promised. Johnson is a bit of a surprise as he most likely wasn’t drafted in the first round in most fantasy drafts. The other running backs likely drafted in the first round (DeAngelo Williams, Michael Turner, Matt Forte and Steve Slaton) have yet to deliver the goods. That’s not to say they won’t but so far, their Top 10 draft status has not been warranted. Completing the picture for the top running backs in this league are names like Fred Jackson, Ronnie Brown, Ray Rice, Kevin Smith, Willis McGahee, Julius Jones and Steven Jackson. Of these names, the only one that is not a surprise is

Jackson. The rest were drafted anywhere from the second round to the 10th round (or later). I know there have only been four weeks played this season, but if this keeps up the data supports the death of the stud running back theory. There will still be running backs who live up to their first-round draft status, but it is becoming more obvious with each passing week that drafting running backs first in virtually any draft format is no longer necessary.               

 

Top 5 Running Back By Committees

 

In an effort to determine where the stud running backs have gone, I reviewed each team’s primary ball carrier and the percentage of their team’s rushing attempts they have received. The Top 5 running backs with the lowest percentage of team rushes were Mike Bell (33.6), Marion Barber (39.1), Fred Taylor (40.2), Ray Rice (41.5) and LeSean McCoy (41.9). Mike Bell started out like a house of fire thanks to Pierre Thomas’ preseason knee strain, but he has since injured his own knee. Thomas has had two solid performances since

Bell’s injury so it looks like

Bell

will have a hard time regaining a significant share of the carries. I would expect Thomas to eventually garner most of the rushing workload. Marion Barber has missed a game for

Dallas

but even despite that many people speculated the

Dallas

rushing attack would be split among Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Barber’s name showing up on this list is really not that much of a surprise. Similarly with

New England, coach Bill Belichick tends to ride the hot hand depending on the game and situation so even though Fred Taylor has had his moments, I don’t expect he will ever be the feature back for the Patriots. In fact, he will likely need surgery on his injured ankle. The preseason buzz had Rice becoming the feature back in

Baltimore

and he has performed well in that role. Anyone who watched any Ravens games last year knows that coach John Harbaugh will use whoever is necessary to get the rushing job done. Willis McGahee’s resurgence has come as a surprise to most because of all the injuries he’s had to overcome, but being replaced by Rice has done wonders for McGahee’s motivation. He is running as hard as ever, leading the league with seven touchdowns. Finally, McCoy’s name appears because Brian Westbrook came up lame again (I know, big surprise) which has led to McCoy getting a heavier workload than expected out of the gate. If Westbrook proves he’s sound and continues to produce, I expect the rushing workload to eventually shift back in his favor. Rounding out the Top 10 in lowest percent of rushing attempts is Cadillac Williams (42.2), Thomas Jones (46.6), Knowshon Moreno (47.2), Willie Parker (47.7) and Ronnie Brown (48.9).

 

Top 5

Bell Cow Running Backs

 

On the flip side, the running backs receiving the lion’s share of the rushing attempts for their respective teams are Steven Jackson (83%), Michael Turner (80.2), Cedric Benson (76.4), Fred Jackson (76.1) and Matt Forte (74). Although Steven Jackson is getting a lot of touches and producing, his injury history and the lack of support from the rest of the Rams offense means it’s only a matter of time before he starts getting dinged up. Turner’s owners are wondering where his fantasy production has gone, but they should be taking comfort in the fact that he’s getting four out of every five rushing attempts for the Falcons. Sooner than later, he’s going to start having the monster games he put up last season. Benson has undergone a career resurrection with

Cincinnati, who have focused on running the ball like no other Bengals team of recent memory. It seems to be working so far. Fred Jackson owners are despondent over the return of Marshawn Lynch to the

Bills backfield, relegating

Jackson

to second-fiddle status. In PPR leagues,

Jackson

remains valuable and his owners can take heart that should anything else happen to Lynch,

Jackson

is ready to step in and take over full time duties. Lastly, the second-year back Forte continues to receive three out of four rushing attempts for the Bears. The presence of Jay Cutler under center has allowed the Bears to dial up a few more passing attempts than normal, but Forte has already shown signs of breaking out, rushing for over 120 yards on only 12 attempts last week. The rest of the Top 10 in highest percent of rushing attempts is Ryan Grant (71.3), Adrian Peterson (70.6), Clinton Portis (69.9), Chris Johnson (69.7) and Kevin Smith (63.8).

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