Week Four in the NFL was another slate filled with costly injuries, especially at the running back position. The Browns lost Nick Chubb while Chargers RB Austin Ekeler will miss multiple weeks with his leg injury. Just one month into the season and the majority of backfields have already been shaken up, mostly due to injury. Let’s take a quick overview of how each team is handling their running game entering the second quarter of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Las Vegas Raiders
Green Bay Packers
New Orleans Saints
These dozen teams have been the fortunate ones, dealing with very few, if any, significant injuries while their backs have retained the expected roles through the early part of the season. This group includes RBs Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones and Dalvin Cook, who are off to hot starts, along with rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire in Kansas City.
The Eagles (Miles Sanders) and Steelers (James Conner) were forced to play without the lead backs, but only for a short period of time and both Pennsylvania runners look strong at this point.
The Bills were a full-blown backfield committee before rookie RB Zack Moss suffered a toe injury. RB Devin Singletary has performed well but expect this to return to a RBBC as soon as Moss is healthy.
New England Patriots
The Patriots were without RB Damien Harris through the first three games and then RB Sony Michel landed on injured reserve. RB James White also missed time following the tragic loss of his father. Veteran RB Rex Burkhead has also mixed in with the committee.
New York Jets
Starting RB Le’Veon Bell has missed multiple games with a hamstring injury, leaving veteran RB Frank Gore and rookie RB Lamical Perine to carry the load. It hasn’t exactly gone well. Bell should return this week and will regain his lead role. The Jets Offense remains one to avoid, if possible, for fantasy players.
As mentioned, the Browns lost Chubb for the next several weeks but are in good hands as RB Kareem Hunt will take on a larger role. The best 1-2 punch in the league will be without their lead but Hunt is a former rushing yardage champion, so should have no problem taking control until Chubb returns.
The Colts lost Marlon Mack in Week One and the presumption was rookie RB Jonathan Taylor would take the lead. While that has been true, backup RBs Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines have been thorns in his side, limiting Taylor’s weekly upside.
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Denver lost RB Phillip Lindsay to a toe injury, leaving RB Melvin Gordon to man the backfield for the past three games. Lindsay is due back soon for the Broncos, while Royce Freeman remains a decent depth option.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers lost starter Austin Ekeler and it is unclear how long he’ll be out. Rookie RB Joshua Kelley should get the huge opportunity to serve as the lead back with RB Justin Jackson filling in as the third-down back.
New York Giants
The Giants lost one of the best backs in the league, RB Saquon Barkley, and replaced him with veteran RB Devonta Freeman, who was unable to find a job for months. As expected, that is not going well. The Giants have a league-worst 47 points through four games and their 306 rushing yards are second-fewest.
The Bears will play the rest of the season without RB Tarik Cohen, who suffered a torn ACL in Week Three. For better or worse, Cohen wasn’t even playing a significant role prior to the injury. His injury gives starting RB David Montgomery a chance to play a larger role in the passing game.
The Panthers lost superstar RB Christian McCaffrey, but backup RB Mike Davis has filled in admirably. Davis has finished as a top-10 fantasy back in each of his two starts. McCaffrey is due back soon and should retain his role as the fantasy RB1.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have used multiple backs already this season due to injuries to RBs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman. That has given RB Jerick McKinnon a huge opportunity and he has taken advantage, scoring as an RB1 for the season so far. Even if the pair continues to miss time, McKinnon and RB Jeff Wilson have shown they are more than capable replacements.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers played without RB Leonard Fournette, who had seen his role steadily increase. He will miss some time with an ankle injury, leaving RBs Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn to see increased work. Vaughn earned more work as the team’s Week Four game went along, so he could be on his way to an uptick in value.
The Dolphins surprisingly have relied on RB Myles Gaskin as their lead back in each game this season, with RB Jordan Howard getting goal-line work and RB Matt Breida being the clear backup.
The Ravens have a trio of talented backs in veteran Mark Ingram and rookie J.K. Dobbins, along with underrated backup RB Gus Edwards. Oh, also the team’s leading rusher is QB Lamar Jackson. With so much talent in one backfield, these players will continue to cancel out when it comes to their fantasy production.
Washington Football Team
Following the departure of RBs Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson, high-upside rookie RB Antonio Gibson looked like the clear starter for Washington. Veteran J.D. McKissic has continued to vulture work from the inconsistent Gibson.
After spending a day two pick on RB D’Andre Swift, many assumed the rookie would ultimately win the Lions' starting gig. Instead, he has struggled and has had a larger impact as a receiver. Detroit scooped up veteran Adrian Peterson, who has emerged as their lead back. With RB Kerryon Johnson stealing both carries and targets, none of this trio can be counted on as consistent fantasy scorers.
Los Angeles Rams
Like the Lions, many fantasy players expected the Rams to roll with a rookie, but Cam Akers has yet to break through, recently missing time with a rib injury. His teammates Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson have both impressed when given the chance, but with Akers due back, this backfield will be messy.
RB Kenyan Drake was one of the hottest names in fantasy leagues all offseason following the trade that sent RB David Johnson to Houston. Through four weeks, Drake has been a major disappointment, currently ranking as the RB35. His backup, RB Chase Edmonds, has nearly matched Drake’s fantasy output, coming in at RB36.