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When the preseason started there were a lot of questions about a lot of running back situations. Three weeks in and ... guess what? Still questions.
But some backfields have been figured out. Others haven't. Whether you've drafted or not, here's what you need to know about some of the running back quandaries around the league.
The Raiders didn't use Latavius Murray much in their "dress rehearsal" against the Titans, but it was by design. Coach Jack Del Rio said after the game they wanted to see what they had in DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. What Del Rio didn't say is that the Raiders play the Titans in Week 3 -- why give them more film to use for that game? Murray should be locked in as the Raiders main running back with Washington the odds-on favorite to aid him. The Raiders start at the Saints in Week 1 then play the Falcons, Titans, Ravens and Chargers. Expect a hot start.
Everything has gone to plan: Gordon looks recovered from offseason microfracture surgery on his knee and has assumed the running downs. Woodhead is locked into a passing downs role that includes the two-minute offense. They'll take work away from each other all season. It's conceivable both will record over 1,000 total yards, but Gordon has more upside for touchdowns. Woodhead should have the edge in PPR formats. The matchup in Week 1 at Kansas City favors Woodhead since the Chargers will likely throw a bunch.
Tennessee's offense has been the most fun to watch this preseason partially because of these running backs. Murray has dominated first-team touches, which should continue. Henry has been a human bulldozer and has to be considered not only for touches in the second half of games when defenses are tired but for goal-line work. Henry might not rack up a ton of yards but does have the profile of a vulture who could score 10 touchdowns. The hunch is Murray will out-touch Henry every week, in part because he's better suited to work passing downs, though Dexter McCluster will cut into those reps. Murray remains a safe Round 4 pick with 1,300-total-yard potential. Henry is a good Round 7 choice. Even with a vaunted defense, the Vikings will have their hands full with both backs in Week 1.
Foster will be the Dolphins' lead back so long as he's healthy. He's the better pass catcher and the smoother runner, even though he's not necessarily as fast as he used to be. But Ajayi will play too. The Dolphins know, like everyone else, that Foster is prone to injury, so theoretically they should limit the general number of touches he gets. Draft both together if you can (Foster first in Round 7). If you have Foster, try to pick up Ajayi in a cheap trade before the season starts. Miami's offense should be a lot better than it's been -- though it probably won't look pretty at Seattle in Week 1.
This backfield has played out a lot more evenly than anticipated. Both have made plays, both have scored and both will be involved in the offense. Both have also played in similar downs and distances. If there's a specific plan for how Ivory and Yeldon will be used, the Jaguars aren't showing it. The belief is that they'll be close in total yards, but Ivory's goal-line prowess will help him nudge ahead in touchdowns. Remember, the Jaguars have been awful at the goal line for years. Ivory is there to fix it. He could score as soon as Week 1 against the Packers.
Abdullah's best run, a touchdown scamper where he showed off his speed, was called back by a penalty. Riddick's best run, an uncharacteristic 34-yard scamper, overshadowed his other two carries for 1 yard. Abdullah started and took 12 snaps in his first game action of the summer. Riddick played 26 snaps including the entire two-minute offense. Expect a split where Abdullah starts and plays early downs, Riddick plays third downs and the last two minutes of the half and Zach Zenner annoys us all with occasional touches. This isn't a backfield to feel good about for Fantasy, but they'll catch the depleted Colts in Week 1.
Gore has looked bad, the Colts offensive line has looked bad and Andrew Luck is set to throw the ball a lot. There's nothing reliable about this run game, which is so desperate for help the Colts signed Stevan Ridley. Some early-season matchups are all right, including Week 1 against Detroit, but the Colts are poised to play in a bunch of matchups where running to victory won't be in the game script. If you already spent a draft pick on Gore, hopefully he's on your bench to start the year.
Want a sleeper? Rob Kelley didn't blow away the stat sheets against the Bills, but he really didn't look any worse than Matt Jones. Kelley's also a good pass protector. He should make Washington's roster and, barring any trades or signings, could back up Jones. That's not a bad role because Jones is injury-prone, fumble-prone and inconsistent when it comes to numbers. Chris Thompson should fill in on passing downs. It's really an ugly group -- none deserve a draft choice in Fantasy until after 65th overall. Kelley is a final-round guy who could luck his way into a tough Week 1 matchup against the Steelers if Jones' shoulder isn't ready.
The numbers were ugly, but Forte didn't look like rusty. Did he run with great burst and acceleration? No. But it's not like he's noticeably lost a step or anything like that. He's still a candidate to miss time because of an injury, just as he did during training camp because of a hamstring, but Fantasy owners who took him in Round 4 or 5 should feel a little bit better about potentially starting him the first few weeks of the season. Unfortunately that means a matchup against the Bengals in Week 1 followed by games against the Bills, Chiefs, Seahawks, Steelers and Cardinals. Oof.
Pretend for a second that the Vikings didn't have Adrian Peterson. Where would McKinnon get drafted after burning through the Chargers for 56 yards and eight carries including a sweet 35-yard run where he showed the patience and acceleration of a dominant running back? Round 3? Round 4? McKinnon might not play a lot because Peterson is still on the Vikings, but he's worth getting in Round 8 as a handcuff for AP, Round 9 otherwise.