Saturday, October 2, 2021

Week 4 Fantasy Football RB Start'em, Sit'em

The decision on which player to start, or sit, largely comes down to the options on your roster (and/or possibly the players available on your league's waiver wire).

As an example, Chuba Hubbard is listed below as a "start" for Week 4. And I'd certainly be comfortable going into Week 4 with him as my starting quarterback.

Then again, Hubbard may be a "sit" for your team.

In other words, if you roster Austin Ekeler, Nick Chubb and Hubbard and start only two running backs, you should start Ekeler and Chubb and, in turn, bench Hubbard.

For a more direct answer on whether we would start Player X over Player Y, check our Week 4 Fantasy Football Rankings. Instead of making those direct comparisons, the goal here is to highlight players that we like, or dislike, for the week.

Week 4 Fantasy Football RB Start'em

Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers (at DAL)

With the injury to Christian McCaffrey (hamstring), Hubbard will make the start on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. There was a wide margin between Hubbard (39 snaps) and Royce Freeman (10) in Week 3. Of course, no (backup) player will be able to replicate what CMC could do for this offense and fantasy managers, but Mike Davis demonstrated how productive a backup could be in this same situation last year.

The Cowboys have been a much better defense early in 2021 and have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. That said, they have also allowed opposing running backs to rush for 4.97 YPC (sixth-most in 2021). For as long as McCaffrey misses time, however, Hubbard's significant bump in usage makes him a viable weekly RB2.

D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions (at CHI)

Few teams, if any, have a receiving corps as weak as Detroit's. Of course, the team has one of the league's better tight ends, T.J. Hockenson, and he leads the Lions in receiving yards (173). The team leader in receptions (19) and targets (23), however, is Swift, who ranks second on the team in receiving yards (166).

Heading into Week 4, Swift leads all running backs in receiving yards. In addition, only Pittsburgh's Najee Harris has more receptions and targets than Swift. The Bears have allowed only nine running back receptions this season, but they have allowed the second-most Y/R (11.89) to opposing running backs this season.

Due to his receiving prowess, Swift is best in (full) PPR formats (RB4), but he has performed as a top-10 back across all scoring formats. Swift was likely a "start" for you whether he appeared on this list or not, but he is a top-eight back in half-PPR formats this week.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears (vs. DET)

Like Swift, Montgomery is ranked higher this week than he was in our preseason rankings. Montgomery has been a solid RB2 (RB18 in half-PPR scoring), but he's a viable RB1 (top-12 option) this week.

In Justin Fields' debut as a starter, the Bears offense including Montgomery struggled to get anything going against the Browns. In that game, Montgomery handled season highs in his share of rush attempts (76.92%) and targets (20.0%). In a softer matchup this week against the Lions, we should see improvement from Fields, Montgomery and the Bears offense overall. The Lions have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns (at MIN)

Even though Nick Chubb missed four games in 2020, both Chubb (RB9) and Kareem Hunt (RB10) finished the year as top-10 fantasy running backs (half-PPR scoring). Through the month of September, the Browns once again have a pair of top-10 fantasy running backs.

Only the Saints (56.97%) have a higher run-play percentage than the Browns (53.4%). Not only do both backs average at least 90 YFS per game, but the workload split is fairly close between Chubb (17 touches per game) and Hunt (13/G) and Hunt is much more involved as a receiver.

Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals (at LAR)

Edmonds has yet to score a touchdown this season. Edmonds has also finished as a top-24 fantasy running back every week (half-PPR scoring). Through three weeks, Edmonds has a total of 17 targets, tied for third-most among all running backs. In those games, he's finished with the following receiving lines: 4/43, 5/29 and 7/49.

While he's heavily involved as a receiver, he is also averaging double-digit carries (10.3) per game as well. Because of his role as a receiver, however, Edmonds has a solid RB2 floor with RB1 upside if he scores his first touchdown of the season.

Week 4 Fantasy Football RB Sit'em

Damien Harris, New England Patriots (vs. TB)

In the first two weeks, Harris had 25 and 17 touches, respectively. Last week, he had only eight. Not only did the Patriots lose last week's game by 15 points, but the Saints have a stout run defense.

Given the difficult matchup against the Buccaneers, who also have one of the league's best run defenses, the Patriots game plan is unlikely to give Harris the type of workload he'd need to be a top-24 back for the week. The Bucs allow the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season and the Patriots have the eighth-lowest implied total as touchdown underdogs in Tom Brady's return to Foxboro.

Kenyan Drake, Las Vegas Raiders (at LAC)

Drake has a minimum of five targets in each of his first three games. In addition, only Najee Harris (27) and D'Andre Swift (23) have more targets among running backs than Drake (17).

Even though Josh Jacobs is a game-time decision for Monday Night Football, we know that Drake's role won't change regardless of whether Jacobs is active or not. In his first three games as a Raider (one with Jacobs, two without him), Drake has 11, 12 and 11 touches, respectively. In fact, Peyton Barber has out-touched Drake by a margin of 39-23 over the past two weeks combined.

No team has allowed a higher YPC to opposing running backs (5.46) than the Los Angeles Chargers this season. If Jacobs is inactive, Barber would be in the low-end RB2 mix. Either way, Drake is nothing more than a flex.

Ty'Son Williams, Baltimore Ravens (at DEN)

Williams was fantasy's RB9 and RB17, respectively, in the first two weeks of the season. In what should have been another opportunity for an RB2-level performance against the Detroit Lions, Williams managed just five carries for 22 scoreless yards and failed to catch his lone target. For the first time this season, a different back (Latavius Murray, seven) had more touches than Williams.

Le'Veon Bell may not get (m)any touches, but he will be active in Week 4 as he joins Murray, Williams and Devonta Freeman. Given the difficult matchup against the Denver Broncos and the uncertainty around workload allocation, Williams is better off on your bench this week.

James Conner, Arizona Cardinals (at LAR)

Conner rushed for multiple touchdowns last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The duo of Conner and Edmonds have a fairly even split in carries this season -- 35 (Conner) to 31 (Edmonds). While he's the favorite for any goal-line carries, Conner has only one target through three games. Because of his non-existent role in the passing game, Conner will be a TD-dependent play in games where the Cards aren't big favorites. In the two weeks where he didn't score, he finished as fantasy's RB43 and RB57, respectively.

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