We are now a quarter of the way through the season, and there are just as many questions as we had before things got started. In fact, things might be worse now thanks to various injuries. What helps is that we at least are starting to get a better idea of who the under and over performers are and what to expect from each team. Let’s jump right into the Week 5 rankings as we kick off the second quarter of the season:
Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers – vs. New York Jets
David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – at San Francisco
DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans – at Miami
Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers – at Oakland
LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – at Los Angeles Rams
Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Cincinnati
C.J. Anderson – Denver Broncos – vs. Atlanta
Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams – vs. Buffalo
Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers – vs. Arizona
Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – at Denver
Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – at Minnesota
Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – at Indianapolis
Eddie Lacy – Green Bay Packers – vs. New York Giants
Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Chicago Bears
Terrance West – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Washington
LeGarrette Blount – New England Patriots – at Cleveland
Jerick McKinnon – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Houston
Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns – vs. New England
Latavius Murray – San Diego Chargers – vs. San Diego
Jeremy Hill – Cincinnati Bengals – at Dallas
Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions – vs. Philadelphia
Charles Sims – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – at Carolina
Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – vs. New England
Matt Forte – New York Jets – at Pittsburgh
Matt Jones – Washington Redskins – at Baltimore
Ryan Mathews – Philadelphia Eagles – at Detroit
James White – New England Patriots – at Cleveland
Darren Sproles – Philadelphia Eagles – at Detroit
Fozzy Whitaker – Carolina Panthers – vs. Tampa Bay
Giovani Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals – at Dallas
Bilal Powell – New York Jets – at Pittsburgh
Orleans Darkwa – New York Giants – at Green Bay
DeAndre Washington – Oakland Raiders – vs. San Diego
Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – at Denver
Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins – at Baltimore
Cameron Artis-Payne – Carolina Panthers – vs. Tampa Bay
Matt Asiata – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Houston
Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – at Miami
Bobby Rainey – New York Giants – at Green Bay
Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins – vs. Tennessee
Entering the season one of the backfields that was in the most flux was Baltimore’s. Things have gotten a little clearer with the release, for the second time, of Justin Forsett, and we still have another week or two before Kenneth Dixon truly becomes a factor. That means for the second straight week Terrance West will have a starring role for the Ravens. Last week at home against the Raiders he carried the ball 21 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. On the season he is averaging 4.3 yards per carry, but it is clear that he is finding his groove for Baltimore which is why Forsett was was phased out. With just four receptions West isn’t going to be a factor in the passing game, but with that kind of production on the ground there is nothing wrong with that. This week West faces the Redskins, who allowed Isaiah Crowell to rush for 120 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries last week.
What do we make of Matt Forte for this week? After racking up 59 touches in the first two weeks of the season, a far heavier workload than any expected or projected, Forte never really got going against Kansas City in Week 3. After averaging 4.3 yards per carry on 15 carries against the Chiefs, Forte gained just 27 yards on 14 carries last week against Seattle before departing for x-rays. Nothing else is known about his health as of Tuesday night, but there has to be some cause for concern. Forte caught five passes the first week of the season, but he has caught just two passes a game since then. Bilal Powell has taken on a greater role as of late, and he caught six passes for 54 yards (nine targets) on Sunday while gaining 26 yards on four carries. Forte is not a running back I would target this week if there are better options, and at the very least his status needs to be monitored. Powell is a borderline FLEX option, especially in PPR leagues, but depending on Forte’s status, he could be a running back to utilize.
Did anyone expect DeMarco Murray to be a Top 5 running back through the first four weeks of the season? If you did you would be in the minority, but the same would also be true if you expect Murray to continue on that pace for the rest of the season. He gained another 95 yards Sunday on 25 carries, but he also found the end zone two more times while catching two passes for 24 yards. So far he is averaging 5.2 yards per carry on 66 carries while also catching 19 passes for 156 yards. At some point Murray will likely slow down, he also has a track record of success and at age 28 he is showing he still has plenty left in the tank. There is enough here for Murray to be an RB1 for the remainder of the season, and he has another nice match-up againt the Dolphins.
While Matt Asiata did reach the end zone on another short yardage carry, Jerick McKinnon is still the back to own while Adrian Peterson is sidelined. McKinnon also found the end zone on the ground and gained 85 yards on 18 carries. Known as a receiving threat out of the backfield, McKinnon was targeted five times and caught just three passes for 10 yards. Overall he was the better running back and touched the ball 21 times while Asiata had eight. I would look for that trend to continue.
Should we really be surprised about how the season has gone for Latavius Murray? After opening the season with 15 touches he has seen the total go down each week to just 10 against the Ravens last week. Murray carried the ball eight times, and gained just 19 yards, while catching two passes for five yards. On the season he does have three touchdowns, and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry on 40 carries. That pales though in comparison to the success DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richards have been having on a per carry basis. The problem is that the full transition likely won’t take place for another few weeks as Washington touched the ball just eight times, five carries and three receptions, on Sunday. He gained 46 yards on the day, and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry while Richards is at 8.5 yards on 17 carries (he had just three touches on Sunday). This week Murray could be in play for a big day as he faces the Chargers and their weak defense.
While Fozzy Whitaker carried the ball just three times on Sunday, for six yards, he wasn’t without value. Game flow came into play here as the Panthers were trailing all day, but Whitaker did catch all nine of his targets for 86 yards. That gives him some PPR value if you need to fill a spot due to injury or a bye week, and I would look for that to continue this week.