Week 3 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: Kyren Williams, D'Andre Swift borderline must-start RBs


Week 2 of the NFL season brought some clarity for Fantasy Football players in situations like the Rams backfield, but it brought up even bigger questions about the Bills, Texans, and Jets backfields, among others. Before we get to my rankings for Week 3 of the NFL season, here are my thoughts on four of the biggest questions heading into the week: 

Is D’Andre Swift an RB1 moving forward?

How good was Swift in Week 2? He’s now sixth in the league in NFL Next Gen Stats’ Rush Yards Over Expected despite getting just one carry in Week 1. He benefited from incredible blocking, to be sure, but it would be a mistake to just write his strong showing off as the product of good blocking. He got plenty on his own:

The case for Swift in Philly was always that he is an explosive playmaker who could make the most of elite blocking, and we absolutely saw that in Week 1. I’m tentatively ranking him as a top-12 RB for Week 3, but what we don’t know is whether Swift did enough with that performance Thursday to supplant Kenneth Gainwell as the Eagles lead back. If it were up to me, it would have been, but I am unlikely to be hired as the Eagles head coach between now and Sunday, so I don’t think that opinion carries much weight.

Still, my view of the Eagles backfield since the preseason has been that the Eagles gave Gainwell the incumbent edge, knowing he was a solid, dependable option they could trust. But they also have to know that Gainwell is not a particularly special player, so it should have taken a lot less than what Swift did in Week 2 to upend that hierarchy. If Gainwell is cleared to play for Week 3, Swift will probably be an RB2, but it’ll be a ranking I make with a low degree of conviction until we have some evidence about how the Eagles plan to distribute RB touches. 

Does James Cook have a goalline problem?

The Bills have played 133 snaps from 10 yards or further from the goal line, and Cook has been out there for 60% of them, and his workload has been very strong so far – he has 29 carries and 10 targets in two games and looks like a clear win for people who drafted him as an RB2 this season. That kind of workload gives Cook a real path to an RB1 season.

But it’d be even clearer if the Bills weren’t pulling him out in the most valuable part of the field. They played 18 snaps in the Green Zone, from 10 yards and into the opponent’s end zone, and Cook has been on the field for just four of them. Damien Harris has played eight of those snaps and Latavius Murray has logged six of them, with Cook getting just one Green Zone carry through two games. 

That’s going to make scoring touchdowns awfully tough for Cook, and that’s going to make it tough to put together a truly difference-making season. The best comparison for Cook right now is either Aaron Jones or Rhamondre Stevenson, who scored seven and six touchdowns last season, but were still low-end RB1s thanks to efficient running and strong pass-catching skills. Cook is a must-start RB, but watching him come out of the game as soon as he gets the Bills near the goal line over and over is going to be frustrating, and I’m not sure it’s changing. 

How high should Kyren Williams be ranked?

It sure feels like Cam Akers’ time with the Rams is probably finished after he was a healthy scratch last week. Of course, he was actually held out of games and practice last season as the Rams tried (and ultimately failed) to trade him, and he came back to start the team’s final seven games, averaging 92 yards per game in that stretch. So, who knows what to make of this situation at this point?

However, unless there is a significant change here, Williams looks like the clear lead back for the Rams for the foreseeable future. Williams’ 95% snap share in Week 2 wasn’t sustainable, so we’re going to see more of someone else in the Rams RB group. But Sean McVay clearly loves what the second-year back is bringing to the table. Williams doesn’t have the athleticism to get much more than what is being blocked for him in the running game, but his 10 targets Sunday were a huge number, especially for a team that historically doesn’t throw to their running backs much. He seems locked into a valuable role in a pretty good offense, and I’m viewing Williams as an RB2 moving forward, though it’s pretty hard to see RB1 upside given his limited athleticism, which means there might be a sell-high window here if you added him last week. 

Is Dameon Pierce even worth starting? 

Pierce has been the lead back for the Texans, but it’s hardly been a workhorse role so far. He’s played 71 snaps through two games, while three other backs have played at least 16. Partially, that’s a product of the Texans playing the second-most snaps in the NFL, with the kind of pace that will often necessitate cycling through backs even if you don’t necessarily want to. In a more normal game flow, it might just be Pierce and Devin Singletary seeing significant snaps. 

But still, it’s impossible to call the first two of the season anything but a loss for Pierce, who is averaging 2.7 yards per carry while running behind a line that was missing four of five starters in Week 2. The case for Pierce as a must-start Fantasy RB revolved around him consolidating touches in an offense that figured to lean run-heavy with a rookie QB; instead, the Texans have run the most pass plays of any team in the league through two games, and Pierce has 63% of the team’s RB touches. Pierce was RB21 last season while getting 78% of the RB touches before his injury. He’s a fringe starter at best right now. 

Here are my full rankings for Week 3 at running back for PPR leagues: 

  1. Christian McCaffrey vs. NYG
  2. Tony Pollard @ARI
  3. Derrick Henry @CLE
  4. Josh Jacobs vs. PIT
  5. Bijan Robinson @DET
  6. Jahmyr Gibbs vs. ATL
  7. Miles Sanders @SEA
  8. Kenneth Walker vs. CAR
  9. Travis Etienne vs. HOU
  10. D’Andre Swift @TB
  11. Joe Mixon vs. LAR
  12. Rhamondre Stevenson @NYJ
  13. Javonte Williams @MIA
  14. Rachaad White vs. PHI
  15. Kyren Williams @CIN
  16. James Conner vs. DAL
  17. James Cook @WAS
  18. Zack Moss @BAL
  19. Najee Harris @LV
  20. Alexander Mattison vs. LAC
  21. Raheem Mostert vs. DEN
  22. Dameon Pierce @JAX
  23. Jerome Ford vs. TEN  
  24. Joshua Kelley @MIN
  25. Breece Hall vs. NE
  26. Brian Robinson Jr. vs. BUF
  27. AJ Dillon vs. NO
  28. Jamaal Williams @GB
  29. Justice Hill vs. IND
  30. Gus Edwards vs. IND
  31. Isiah Pacheco vs. CHI
  32. Matt Breida @SF
  33. Dalvin Cook vs. NE
  34. Tyler Allgeier @DET
  35. Khalil Herbert @KC
  36. Antonio Gibson vs. BUF
  37. Gary Brightwell @SF
  38. Craig Reynolds vs. ATL
  39. Isaiah Spiller @MIN
  40. Samaje Perine @MIA
  41. Chuba Hubbard @SEA
  42. Jaylen Warren @LV
  43. Ezekiel Elliott @NYJ
  44. Jerick McKinnon vs. CHI
  45. Devin Singletary @JAX
  46. Kendre Miller @GB
  47. Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. CHI
  48. Tyjae Spears @CLE
  49. Roschon Johnson @KC
  50. Zach Charbonnet vs. CAR
  51. Sean Tucker vs. PHI
  52. Pierre Strong vs. TEN
  53. Salvon Ahmed vs. DEN
  54. Boston Scott @TB
  55. Elijah Mitchell vs. NYG
  56. Tank Bigsby vs. HOU
  57. Ty Chandler vs. LAC
  58. Patrick Taylor vs. NO
  59. Damien Harris @WAS
  60. Ameer Abdullah vs. PIT
  61. Rico Dowdle @ARI
  62. Chris Evans vs. LAR
  63. Cordarrelle Patterson @DET
  64. Deon Jackson @BAL
  65. Duece Vaughn @ARI
  66. Zamir White vs. PIT
  67. Michael Carter vs. NE
  68. Chase Edmonds vs. PHI
  69. Ty Montgomery @NYJ
  70. Keaontay Ingram vs. DAL

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