The Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB Week 3

by Jakob Sanderson · Matchups Start/Sit

Welcome in to the Week 3 Edition of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to RB! This is the place where we talk all things running back streaming. Each week we discuss running back usage, matchups, and waiver opportunities to convert the least amount of capital into a playable running back position on your fantasy teams.

If you did not read the introductory edition of the column, I strongly recommend checking it out here:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Running Back


The weekly project of this column is to stream the highest scoring running back we can using only a select group of bench running backs and the waiver wire. Additionally, I hope this article allows you to think critically about the inputs involved in fantasy production at the position that will inform how you play fantasy football.

While the introductory column was heavy on theory, each weekly column will be more practical. In every column I will briefly recap the week that was at the running back position. Then I will discuss the status of our existing running back bench and whether to make any transactions on our official roster. Lastly, I will discuss potential waiver options and designate my plays of the week. Roughly every four weeks I intend to write a more expansive version of the column in which I will address larger trends in scoring to assess the viability of running back streaming in general outside of our weekly plays.

In other weeks, I may do some data dives on backfield-level trends to identify under-rostered handcuff situations worth targeting. However, in this week we will stick mostly to the recap and plays of the week while we collect more information on usage patterns.

Week 2 Recap – League-Wide

Below are the top 24 running backs in PPR points, not including Monday Night Football, for Week 2. Beside it is last week’s results.

The color coding is as follows:

  • Teal = drafted in the top 24 at their position by 4for4’s ADP aggregator.
  • Yellow = drafted outside the first eight rounds.
  • Green = drafted outside the first eight rounds, and selected plays from our “roster” (see last week’s article)
  • Pink = players on our roster, not played last week
  • Purple = players not on our roster that were recommended plays off waivers last week
  • Orange = Un-drafted
  • White = does not fall into any of the aforementioned categories

At a systemic level, a “good” week for Zero and Hero RB teams is a balance between output and opportunity cost. The running backs we stream don’t necessarily have to keep pace with the best running backs in the league. However, they have to provide a higher degree of replacement value relative to those backs than those backs’ managers are able to replicate at receiver and in the flex.

As discussed last week, early in the season is when we often see the highest consolidation of highly drafted running backs in the top spots.

As with last year, there were eight streamers who cracked the top 24, for a total of 17 out of 48 total finishes. This was one higher than in 2021. However, highly drafted backs have been filling up the top spots each week. Nonetheless, on net this has been a very positive start for running back streaming builds in a macro sense.

Wide Receivers are Lighting up the Scoreboard

Wide Receivers – especially early Wide Receivers – are affording a significant cushion for their managers to give away points at running backs thus far. Consider the following notes on the first two weeks:

  • Across the first two weeks, 26 wide receivers have surpassed 20 points compared to just 12 running backs. Of those receivers, 16 were drafted in the top six rounds.
  • 16 receivers, to just five running backs, have surpassed 25 fantasy points. All five backs were drafted in the top three rounds. However, so were 11 of the receivers.
  • Only three running backs have repeated in the top 12 in the first two weeks. Just one of those running backs was drafted in the first two rounds (D’Andre Swift)
  • Only three receivers have repeated in the top 12 as well. However, all three (Amon-Ra St. Brown, Stefon Diggs, Cooper Kupp) were drafted in the first six rounds. Two of those receivers were drafted in the first round.

To be clear, most of this is simply describing a series of events in a minuscule sample. I highly doubt the season will close without Dalvin Cook or Derrick Henry registering an impactful performance. But because the start to the year is often in such peril for running back steamers, the early season cushion is essential.

Now let’s move into our specific team!

Streaming Rules

For those joining us in progress, here is the process for the weekly streaming choices.

  1. In the introductory column I chose one RB in each of rounds 9-14 based on those available at each round using 4for4’s ADP aggregator. That is my starting “roster.”
  2. Each week I will address whether to add any running backs available on waivers, and if so, who to drop.
  3. Because your team is not mine, my weekly plays will not only consist of my “rostered” running backs. Instead, I will recommend a play from each of three categories. (see below)
  4. My streaming “score” each week will be the average of my play in each category. My “preferred” play will count double and MUST come from a running back on my “roster.” If I choose to make a waiver back my preferred play, I will outline who I am cutting from my existing bench for that running back.

The Categories

  1. Bench Streamers: The selected running backs in the introductory article plus and minus any transactions published throughout the year in this column. If a drafted player gets injured, I retain one injured reserve spot.
  2. Premium Waiver Streamers: This group is comprised of any running back with less than 67-percent roster-ship on Yahoo leagues as of the first waiver run of the week. This can include both generally un-drafted players as well as previously drafted players who have been widely cut by managers.
  3. Deep Waiver Streamers: This group is comprised of any running back with less than 33-percent roster-ship on Yahoo leagues. The same rules apply as above.

Current Roster

Our current roster is the six running backs on our existing roster. Those running backs are:

The Good

It may be odd to charactarize this as a win given he registered just six fantasy points, but stock is up with Rhamondre Stevenson; at least for as long as Ty Montgomery remains on injured reserve. In last week’s column, we discussed Stevenson.

The former Sooner played 62-percent snaps and ran 66-percent of routes. He was afforded the entire two-minute drill. That usage being said, PFF’s Nathan Jahnke noted that they rotated drive by drive and that each running back was kept on the field for third downs. Thus, it is possible the two minute drive was a coincidence and not intentional. Pierre Strong only played on kneel downs as the second back, after Harris was injured, on the fourth to last play (he appears likely to play in week three).

Stevenson has typically been targeted on over 20-percent of his routes, but that didn’t carry over in week 2 If this role is real, he will certainly have better weeks ahead. However, it could be a blip in the radar, and if that is the case, we’re back to square one. If it was an intentional role change, but Stevenson didn’t produce as a pass catcher, perhaps the role shifts again. I’m holding out hope at least one more week but patience is running thin. As discussed last week, clearly the Patriots did not intend to bestow this role upon Stevenson or Harris pre-season and thus it is fluid. Last week, I emphasized his broader profile as a reason to hope he could seize the role. Now he needs to perform in it.

The Bad

Darrel Henderson is one of only 11 backs with back to back top 24 finishes, so why is he in the bad category?

Cam Akers, who was sidelined to breather duties Week 1, played a much more significant role Week 2. He handled 18 touches to Henderson’s 10. However, Henderson found the end zone and salvaged his day for fantasy.

Looking deeper, I am more bullish on Henderson’s usage than when I first saw the box score results.

State of the Rams Backfield

The Snaps were allocated 35-27 in favor of Henderson in this contest. He also played every third down, all the two-minute drill snaps, and 80-percent of goal line snaps, converting a carry for a touchdown. (Early week data is courtesy of PFF)

Akers may lead in touches most weeks if this is the split going forward, but Henderson would be favored for all the high-value touch opportunities. This usage does not support the notion that Akers’ three targets to Henderson’s zero is sustainable, with the latter leading in routes 19-8.

That being said, we have seen wildly different iterations of this backfield in the two weeks, and your guess is good as mine about what comes next. Amateur film take forthcoming, but I felt Akers was more elusive than last year’s playoffs. Henderson however outpaced him once again in efficiency,;4.7 yards per carry v. 2.9. My opinion is Henderson has a better feel for the game than Akers, and it’s not a total coincidence that he is consistently excelling in yards before contact. His runs will often appear to be better blocked because he’s executing the play design more consistently that Akers.

A Bell Cow?

It would be a surprise to me (albeit a mild one) if this game convinced the Rams to re-install Akers as their bell cow. But I do think Sean McVay would prefer not to operate a backfield based on situational usage. Over time he’s preferred to have a one back approach. This is a loose prediction given the variance on this situation, but I expect each back will get work early in the year. However, I would anticipate by mid-season the better man wins, and that player holds the backfield to themselves by late season. Akers is the more classic bell cow, but Henderson has been the more effective running back. It is hard to say how this one goes from here, but each should have relatively similar value in all formats as RB2/Flex options for the time being.

The Rest

Nyheim Hines, Khalil Herbert and Rachaad White see no change in their outlook. If you read last week’s piece, I discussed the use case of each, and the trend has not shifted this week. However, I will note that David Montgomery rushing more effectively in Week 2 is a mild downgrade for Herbert’s odds of taking a larger role. The fact Herbert ran equally effectively on his touches suggests this was more about matchup than talent disparity.

A Shift in the Desert?

I can’t label Eno Benjamin‘s outcome in Week 2 as “bad” because he provided a useable score for the second consecutive week. He also did so after James Conner suffered an apparent ankle injury. Thus far, Conner’s injury is said not to be long term, but he should be considered questionable for Week 2. Unfortunately, Benjamin’s role was curtailed from last week when he handled all 22 non-Conner snaps. It is surprising to me this shifted given how well he played in his opportunities the first week. Nonetheless, Williams mixed in both before and after Conner’s injury in week 2.

Overall, Williams played 40 snaps to Benjamin’s 37. Routes, targets, carries and third down work were all split evenly. The only difference in usage was Williams monopolizing goal line work. This showed up in the box score as the six point gap in production was due to Williams’ touchdown plunge.

If Conner misses any time, this should be deemed a fluid backfield given the first two weeks. But Benjamin going from the apparent clear-cut handcuff to a timeshare makes him an unappealing hold if Conner is deemed healthy enough to play. Should Conner miss, Benjamin has one of the better projections from our roster even if the role is exactly what it was last week. But should Conner be cleared, he may be a late-week cut candidate in favor of an option with clearer cut contingent value.

The Result – Week 1 Plays

Last week the preferred play was Darrel Henderson. He scored a sufficient 10.7 points in a low scoring running back week. The premium play, owned in less than 67-percent of leagues, was James Robinson. Sadly, Robinson has since graduated out of streaming consideration due to rising ownership. But for his one week in the column, he performed admirably with a 15.8 point RB1 finish.

Our deep play was Rex Burkhead who was a colossal disappointment. I expressed my doubts he would continue to lead the backfield in all situations, but I did not expect the Texans to spend such little time in trail script and thus such little time with Burkhead on the field. He registered just 2.9 PPR points on two receptions.

All together, with the preferred play counting double per our scoring system, our stream score this week was 10.03. This was miraculously good enough for a top 24 finish on a low scoring week. Very playable indeed.

The Waiver Wire

There is a dearth of new running back options on the waiver wire this week, making this section rather brief. Most of the best pickups are holdovers from previous years. As always I am using Yahoo for roster-ship percentage.

The Injury Replacements

The only injuries publicized at the running back position this week are Tyrion Davis-Price – a reserve – and the aforementioned James Conner and Damien Harris injuries – neither of which appear serious.

On our imaginary roster, of course, we already have contingent plays to both those injuries, and thus do not have to play much of a guessing game. However, if you are in need of a running back start this week, I would strongly advise picking up both Darrel Williams and Eno Benjamin, or at least one of them, in the event Conner misses one game. Last week, Williams had the slightly superior role, while Benjamin has had the stronger signal for the season and off-season as a whole. I lean Benjamin by a sliver as I view him as the higher floor play for usage given the consistency. I also would view him as the higher ceiling back based on talent and athleticism. But Williams may project marginally better at the median.

Beyond those two, Jordan Mason and Marlon Mack are the likely beneficiaries of the Tyrion Davis-Price injury. Both will slot in behind Jeff Wilson, but they will take on a high degree of contingent value in a fluid backfield. Last week, I was dubious of the value of a running back in this offense, but much of that was due to Lance’s rushing usage. With Lance unfortunately out for the season, this backfield gained a lot of value – as evidenced by last week’s 32 running back rush attempts. Both backs are priority adds in deep leagues.

Usage Indicators for Potential Pickups

Hail to the Chiefs

Four running backs under 33-percent rostered stuck out as priority waiver adds this week without an injury should you have the bench space or no superior alternative.

Jerick McKinnon has played more snaps the Clyde Edwards-Helaire this year. He also leads in routes and handled multiple goal line series in Week 2’s tilt with the Chargers. Edwards-Helaire remains the priority play, but McKinnon’s role is not that far behind that of Nyheim Hines or J.D. McKissic in the passing game. McKinnon has the goal line upside in an elite offense.

Jerick McKinnon Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

We did however get a peak into this backfield’s contingency plan on Thursday, and it involves their Round 7 rookie. Edwards-Helaire missed a series due to a cleat to the knee, and Isiah Pacheco instantly pa-checked into the contest as their early down runner. This makes McKinnon more of a standalone play with Pacheco the desired handcuff for Edwards-Helaire’s early down role. Both should be rostered if you have the space.

Samaje Perine

Samaje Perine has played all but one snap for the Bengals in relief of Joe Mixon this season. As it is, he plays in obvious passing situations. If anything should happen to Mixon, it is likely he has the pass-down side of a committee at worst and a bell cow role at best. Perine is one of the league’s most under-valued handcuffs.

Tyler Allgeier

Tyler Allgeier saw his first NFL action on Sunday. The former BYU Cougar tied Cordarrelle Patterson for the team lead in carries with 10. While Atlanta was not able to make their running game a focus in Week 2, a tilt with the Seahawks could provide a more favorable outlook. Patterson has a much greater receiving-game role with Avery Williams handling pass-blocking situations. But Allgeier may see 10-15 carries in positive game script this week with a chance at a touchdown. At the very least, you are buying into an all-purpose prospect rookie with room to grow his role from your bench.

Tyler Allgeier Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Week 2 Transactions

I am making zero transactions once again this week for my roster. There hasn’t been a significant enough injury requiring movement yet, and each of my backs has generally maintained or improved upon their use case.

If I was to make transactions, my priority list within the parameters would be as follows: (excluding players I already have rostered)

  1. Tyler Allgeier
  2. Darrel Williams
  3. Mark Ingram
  4. Jerick McKinnon
  5. J.D. McKissic
  6. Isiah Pacheco
  7. Samaje Perine
  8. Zamir White
  9. Jordan Mason
  10. Marlon Mack

I would cut Rex Burkhead at this point for at least the top six options if you have picked him up. There are better options as pure satellite backs such as J.D. McKissic or Jerick McKinnon.

Note: Kenneth Walker is available in 41-percent of Yahoo leauges. He won’t make my list as a premium play this week and can’t be included in my transactions as he is too highly rostered. However, if he is on your waiver wire he is a mandatory, immediate add. For reference, I would drop any of Khalil Herbert, Eno Benjamin, or Nyheim Hines for Walker immediately.

Week 2 Picks

Preferred play: Darrell Henderson Jr.

Darrell Henderson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Honorable Mention: Rhamondre Stevenson, Nyheim Hines

Henderson’s role took a hit in Week 2, but it still remains the best of my available options – at least if James Conner plays. Should Rhamondre Stevenson be given the same role as last week, they may be a saw off, but for now I have more confidence in Henderson as a player. As well, Henderson’s matchup against the Cardinals is a juicy one. Even in a complimentary role, it is possible Henderson could provide a touchdown which gives him the most outs to success.

Premium Play: Raheem Mostert

Raheem Mostert Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

As a reminder, the premium play is a back rostered in less than 67-percent of leagues; thus, it includes backs who cannot be picked up for the purposes of my roster – based on the 33-percent cut off.

This is a tricky spot in Week 3. Last week this slot belonged to James Robinson who is no longer under the roster-ship threshold required. If you were to pick up or draft Robinson, by all means keep starting him. He projects better than any of our three plays this week.

However, Raheem Mostert is a back who also saw a significantly improved role this week. The former 49er led the backfield in snaps by a razor-thin margin, but he doubled up Edmonds in total touches. Edmonds has the lead in routes over the first two weeks, but Mostert ran just one fewer this week. They have alternated the two minute drill between weeks and split short yardage carries down the middle.

I view each as equal plays for the moment until one separates, but Edmonds doesn’t fit the roster-ship parameters to recommend, so Mostert it is. The matchup vs. the Bills is a difficult one; they have held opposing rushers in check each of the first two weeks. But given the dolphins’ offensive success, the odds of cashing in a touchdown or amassing enough touches for an RB2 finish are workable.

Deep Play: J.D. McKissic

J.D. McKissic Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Honorable Mentions: Tyler Allgeier, Jerick McKinnon

Washington’s backfield is mercifully predictable. McKissic plays every long down and distance snap, the two-minute drill, and increased snaps in trail script. Antonio Gibson handles every early down carry and the short yardage work. At least until Brian Robinson re-appears, this makes the backfield easy to decipher. In Week 1, the Commanders were in neutral script for most of the contest. This allowed Gibson to remain on the field for the lion’s share of touches. Naturally, McKissic contributed just three catches for 5.8 PPR points.

Week 2 Notes

In Week 2 vs. the Lions, the Commanders fell well behind early, leading to a greater dose of McKissic snaps. McKissic provided a startable 13.3 PPR points for his managers. This week the Eagles come to town as three point favorites. Personally, I would lay the points with Philadelphia in this spot who look like a viable Super-Bowl contender thus far. If Washington is to win Carson Wentz‘ revenge game, it will likely need to come through the air as the Eagles offense projects to have no difficulty with Washington’s defense. I expect to see the Commanders playing in catch-up mode in the second half. Thus the Commanders will be funneling dump offs to J.D. McKissic.

To be clear, I prefer McKissic this week to Mostert. However, I am organizing the picks in this fashion to include both. I prefer Henderson and Stevenson to both.

Injury Note: If James Conner is ruled out this weekend, I would play BOTH Eno Benjamin and Darrel Williams – in that order – ahead of Mostert or McKissic this week. Given Benjamin is already on my roster, if Conner is ruled out I will be subbing him in for Mostert as my “premium play.” As well, Stevenson would be my preferred play should Harris miss this week’s game. Lastly, should Alvin Kamara miss and you are able to pick up or hold Mark Ingram, he would surpass Mostert or McKissic in that order as well.

If this does come to pass, I will not count any Williams or Ingram points toward my roster as I am not recommending them with the appropriate foresight regarding waiver bids.

The Final Word

Thank you once again for reading this column, and I look forward to its continued development over the course of the season. Also credit to Pro Football Focus for providing data I was able to use in this column in addition to the incredible wealth of information on PlayerProfiler.

Happy Hitchhiking!