The theme of this weekly edition of love/hate is the running back position, which feels apropos, given the sheer volume of injuries and uncertain backfields in the league.
In Week 3, fantasy managers had to set their lineups without the likes of Austin Ekeler, Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Aaron Jones, Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins, to name a few. Instead, they had to rely on the likes of Joshua Kelley, Jerome Ford, Matt Breida, A.J. Dillon, Zack Moss and Gus Edwards – all with varying degrees of success.
Navigating this volatile running back landscape can be a headache, with stars seemingly dropping left and right and new talent cropping up each week. Below, we will break down four running backs to target (love) and four running backs to fade (hate) for your Week 4 fantasy football lineups based on matchups, injuries, strategies and more.
Love/Hate for NFL Week 4
Players We Love This Week
Zack Moss, RB (vs. LAR)
The Indianapolis Colts’ backfield has been quite the roller coaster for managers in 2023. Before the season began, the Colts placed fantasy star Jonathan Taylor on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list amid contract holdout whispers, which will keep him sidelined for at least another week.
Many expected backup Deon Jackson to take on a more significant role with Taylor sidelined. Still, Jackson failed to capitalize on the opportunity and was released a day before the Colts’ Week 3 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. Veteran Zack Moss appears to be the last man standing in this lean running back room, which is an ideal situation for fantasy managers (addition by subtraction, if you may).
Moss missed Week 1 due to a forearm injury and has been fantastic ever since. In Week 2 and unrivaled for work, he recorded 22 touches for 107 all-purpose yards and a touchdown against the Texans and finished as the RB10 in half-PPR. In Week 3, he was unleashed for 32 touches, 145 scrimmage yards and a touchdown, finishing as the RB4. Moss should be regarded as a top-12 player this week against the Los Angeles Rams and should be startable for as long as Taylor remains sidelined. It is also possible that Moss has proven himself enough to carve out his own role even once — or if — Taylor returns.
Jerome Ford, RB (vs. BAL)
Jerome Ford was a hot waiver add ahead of Week 3, with Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb ruled out for the season. Many in the fantasy community tempered their expectations amid the signing of veteran Kareem Hunt — and for Week 3, specifically — given the tough matchup against the Tennessee Titans‘ run defense.
Ford shined despite these concerns and led the backfield with 10 carries for 18 yards and a touchdown, and he caught two passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. Pierre Strong Jr. was the team’s second-most utilized rusher, tallying six carries for 27 yards, followed by Hunt, who saw five carries for 13 yards and caught two passes for 22 yards.
Ford was the lead rusher in snaps and enjoyed a 56 percent share to Strong’s 11 percent and Hunt’s 20 percent. This could develop into a bit of a timeshare, though it feels more like Ford will act as the Browns’ three-down tool with Hunt as the change of pace back and some Strong sprinkled in. Ford et al. face off against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, which should be a much easier matchup than the Titans. Expect to see much higher efficiency from all three and solid RB2 numbers from Ford moving forward.
De’Von Achane, RB (at BUF)
If you were De’Von Achane-d in Week 3, you may be entitled to compensation. The rookie had a massive breakout performance in a highly lopsided affair against the Denver Broncos, accounting for four of the team’s 10 trips to the end zone and 233 of its 826 offensive yards. Veteran Raheem Mostert also had quite the day, tallying 13 carries for 82 yards and three touchdowns and reeling in seven targets for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Achane, who the Miami Dolphins selected in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, was probably only started in a few leagues after a slow start to the year. He was scratched in Week 1 and saw just two touches for nine yards in his NFL debut in Week 2. His Week 3 performance certainly turned heads, though it remains to be seen how the Dolphins plan to divvy up the work when they are not leading by an astronomical margin.
The good news for Achane and Mostert is that the Dolphins’ offense is top-notch and often puts them in run-friendly game scripts. Achane, who ran a 4.32-second 40-yard-dash at the 2023 NFL Combine, certainly has age on his side over Mostert, and Achane could pass the veteran on the depth chart. Until then, Achane is an RB3/flex play with the potential to finish as an RB2 or better this season.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB (at DAL)
Forget breakup songs: Taylor Swift should write a song about New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his commitment issues breaking fantasy managers’ hearts, as it appears Ezekiel Elliott and Rhamondre Stevenson may have the makings of a dreaded running back committee.
Stevenson has consistently led the running back room in snaps over Elliott, but Stevenson saw a season-low 65 percent in Week 3 to Elliott’s 38 percent. The pair saw similar touches last week (20 to 17 in favor of Stevenson), though Elliott capitalized on those opportunities more than Stevenson. Elliott posted 87 all-purpose yards to Stevenson’s 62 in the effort and appears to be carving out his own role in Belichick’s offense.
If you believe in the revenge matchup narrative, the longtime Dallas Cowboys running back should be in a prime spot to downright feast in this homecoming against the team that spurned him this offseason. While very strong through the first two weeks, the Cowboys’ defense faltered in Week 3 against the lowly Arizona Cardinals and allowed a whopping 222 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in the team’s first loss. We should regard Elliott as an RB3 option on the rise, especially if this trend with Stevenson continues.
Players We Hate This Week
Breece Hall, RB (vs. KC)
The loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers less than one drive into the 2023 NFL season swiftly quelled virtually any optimism for the New York Jets’ skill position players. Breece Hall has been no exception, and the second-year running back has been criminally underutilized since Zach Wilson officially took over. Hall has just 27 rushing yards and zero touchdowns in the last two weeks and has one catch for nine yards in that span.
The Jets have the lowest average time of possession in the NFL (24:34), which certainly does not help Hall’s case. This week, the Jets will square off against the Kansas City Chiefs, who enter the matchup as double-digit favorites for the second week in a row. This game has the makings of another lopsided affair, sinking Hall into RB3 territory for this week and beyond — or until the Jets find another answer at quarterback.
Najee Harris, RB (at HOU)
Najee Harris makes an appearance on this list yet again after another disappointing outing. He failed to take advantage of a juicy Week 3 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, recording 19 carries for an anemic 65 yards and being nonexistent in the passing game.
Perhaps even more concerning for Harris is his timeshare with Jaylen Warren. Harris saw a season-low 50 percent of snaps to Warren’s season-high 45 percent. Warren saw just eight carries for 29 yards but did catch three of his four targets for 23 yards.
At this time, the answer to which Pittsburgh Steelers running back managers should feel confident plugging into their lineups is: no one. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s offense remains too low-upside to justify either one as a starter in what is becoming a 50-50 split. Harris is an RB3 against the Houston Texans this week and one who managers can only pray finds the end zone for the first time this year.
Rachaad White, RB (at NO)
Rachaad White reminds fantasy managers why that “frozen pond” of low-end RB2s is so risky. Many drafted him hoping his volume would be enough to sustain consistent RB2 production for fantasy; sadly, that has not been the case. White has recorded 48 carries for 150 yards and a touchdown while catching 10 passes for 64 yards through three weeks. He is the overall RB21. However, most of his production came in Week 2 against the Bears when he finished as the RB12.
The volume for White exists, especially with almost no competition from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ depth chart; the efficiency is simply not there. The second-year running back’s 3.1 yards per carry are a step back even from his subpar 3.7 in his rookie season. He falls outside of the RB2 tier this week against the New Orleans Saints, who have been stingy all year and have allowed the sixth-fewest points per game and seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs this year.
Joshua Kelley, RB (vs. LV)
Fantasy managers bumrushed the waiver wire in Week 2 to grab Los Angeles Chargers backup Joshua Kelley after Ekeler suffered an ankle injury. Kelley looked decent in Week 1 against the Dolphins and finished as the RB8, with Ekeler on the field for most of the game.
Unfortunately, Kelley has been a complete dud in Ekeler’s absence and has just 56 scrimmage yards and zero touchdowns in two games. His lack of production was more forgivable in Week 2 against the Titans, but Kelley had no excuses against the Minnesota Vikings’ porous defense last week.
Even if Ekeler sits this week in this juicy matchup against the Raiders, Kelley simply cannot be trusted in your fantasy lineups on the heels of finishing as the RB45 and RB59 in back-to-back weeks.