Welcome to our Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Running Back edition for Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season. In this column, we highlight a converted receiver making noise in Atlanta’s backfield. Plus, is Ezekiel Elliott’s majority ownership in Dallas’ backfield coming to an end?
* Reminder: Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em is intended to present you with the non-obvious choices for your fantasy lineup. We dig deep into player matchups, scoring trends, and other factors to best help you with your fantasy decisions. Superstars such as Christian McCaffrey will not be found in this column.
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RB: Start ‘Em
Miles Sanders at DAL
Sanders has failed to find the endzone this season and has averaged less than 65 rushing yards over the first two weeks. However, he’s essentially doubled Kenneth Gainwell’s snap count over that span (86-to-44) and averaged 17.5 combined rushing attempts/targets per contest. Chargers running backs caught 10 receptions vs. Dallas a week ago, a unit that has surrendered 18 receptions to the position since Week 1 (tied for third-most in NFL). In Sanders’ lone matchup with the ‘Boys in 2020, he amassed four receptions on six targets and 18.4 fantasy points.
Ty’Son Williams at DET
Williams has averaged 6.5 yards per carry this season — second-most in the NFL with a minimum of 20 rushing attempts. Yes, Latavius Murray will eat into his red zone work, but he continues to operate as the team’s first option between the 20s. Detroit was just embarrassed by Aaron Jones on Monday night to the tune of 41.5 points. Williams may not sniff that output, but the Lions have allowed an average of 37.4 points per game to the position this season (second-most in NFL).
Myles Gaskin at LV
Gaskin has been a disappointment thus far but still has a grip hold on the workload in Miami’s backfield. Through two weeks, Gaskin has 12 more touches than the next Dolphins running back, Salvon Ahmed, who has touched the football just 11 times on the year. The Raiders have allowed three total touchdowns to running backs this season and the 12th-most fantasy points (25.2). With Jacoby Brissett under center, don’t be surprised to see Gaskin take on a usage similar to last season’s 18.3 touches per game average.
Chase Edmonds/James Conner at JAC
Edmonds has hauled in nine receptions and averaged nearly 95 total yards per game over the first two weeks. Jacksonville has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points and an average of 140.5 yards per game to running backs this season. Conner is also worth a look here as the Jags have allowed 17 rushing attempts and six touchdowns in the red zone this year, each of which rank within the top-three in football.
Sleeper: Cordarrelle Patterson at NYG
It may have taken nearly a decade, but the Cordarrelle Patterson-running back truthers may finally be on to something. He won’t dominate in the running game, but the fact of the matter is, he’s a top-three weapon in Atlanta’s offense and his usage has demonstrated that — 21 touches and eight targets through two weeks. Fantasy’s 10th-highest scoring running back (not a typo) is worth a flyer against a Giants defense that has allowed 100-plus yards from scrimmage to an opposing running back in each of their first two games.
RB: Sit ‘Em
Tony Pollard vs. PHI
The Pollard hype is at an all-time high, as he’s both outscored Ezekiel Elliott in fantasy points and outgained him in yards over the first two games. With that said, he’s been out-snapped by Zeke 114-41 over that span and is just one game removed from handling three rushing attempts. While Pollard may look a bit more explosive than Elliott, he’s far more of a backup than he is a 1B in Dallas’ backfield. The Eagles have not allowed an opposing running back to eclipse 54 rushing yards this season, nor find the endzone.
Mark Ingram vs. CAR
The good news, Ingram looks to be Houston’s lead-back in the running game, as he has 18 more carries than David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay have combined. There is a chance the Texans lean on Ingram early in Week 3 with Tyrod Taylor out of the lineup. However, the question is how long until Ingram gets phased out of the game. With a rookie quarterback under center, keeping pace with the Sam Darnold-led Panthers could prove improbable. Furthermore, Carolina has been a menace defensively, allowing the fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. They are one of just three teams to surrender a single-digit average to the position through two weeks (8.4).
Michael Carter at DEN
Pretty simple here, avoid the Jets backfield until they force your hand. Carter cracked double-digit points last week but also played the same amount of snaps as Ty Johnson — who out-attempted Carter on the day 12-11. Only the Panthers have allowed fewer fantasy points to running backs this season.
Buyers Beware: Devin Singletary vs. WAS
This is a tough one. On one hand, Singletary has performed as a high-end RB2 this season, totaling at least 80 yards per game and playing an average of 70.5% of the team’s offensive snaps. On the other hand, Zack Moss’ red zone usage caps Singletary’s ceiling, who will face off with a Washington defense who has allowed the sixth-fewest points to the position. Singletary is on the flex radar, but don’t be shocked if you get burned.