Week 3 Running Back Sleepers: Let Breida Ring!
With prolific passing attacks on full display throughout the early going of the NFL season, the running game is going a bit overlooked. But from a fantasy perspective, there are still plenty of guys getting it done. Four running backs have already exceeded 40 total fantasy points, and another 18 have eclipsed the 20-point mark. Among the early contributors are several backs who are either injury replacements or are otherwise considered sleepers. The Zero-RB crowd is likely loving life at the moment. As we prepare ourselves for the upcoming week, there are still plenty of running backs who are continuing to fly under the radar. Here are some of my favorite Week 3 running back sleepers.
Week 3 Running Back Sleepers
Matt Breida, San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs
Matt Breida was given an opportunity once Jerick McKinnon was lost for the season and is taking full advantage. Breida had 138 yards on just 11 carries in San Francisco’s Week 2 victory against Detroit. Even if you remove Breida’s 66-yard touchdown scamper, he still averaged over seven yards per carry against the Lions. Detroit has been quite vulnerable on the ground in the early going this season, but it is not as if the Kansas City Chiefs have fared much better against opposing running backs to begin the year.
Kansas City has already allowed three RB1 fantasy performances this season. Considering they have played two games, that is not very good. (#Analysis) What is most interesting to me about that number is that all three of those running backs had more receiving yards than rushing yards. Breida has not done much in the passing game as of yet, but I expect that to change this Sunday. I think Kyle Shanahan will find a way to utilize Breida to exploit the Chiefs’ linebackers in the passing game. This usage would only raise his floor. He may not surpass 20 touches sharing time with Alfred Morris, but Breida proved last week that he does not need elite volume to produce elite fantasy results. Last week’s RB3, Breida has massive upside this week in a game with the week’s highest-projected total.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals at Carolina Panthers
Giovani Bernard has seen just 12 touches through two weeks, but that number is about to increase dramatically. The injury to Bengals’ starting running back Joe Mixon opens the door for Bernard to get the nod in Week 3. When Mixon missed two games late last season, Bernard parlayed 34 total touches into 173 yards. A matchup in Carolina should not deter those who have Bernard rostered. Carolina has given up two top-15 fantasy performances to begin the year, including one this past week under very similar circumstances.
Following Devonta Freeman’s knee injury suffered during the season opener, the Atlanta Falcons turned to Tevin Coleman in Week 2, and he enjoyed quite a bit of success. Coleman had 107 yards on the ground, which tied him for second in the NFL last week. I do not believe Bernard will crack the century mark on the ground, but he should get all the touches he can handle with rookie Mark Walton behind him. Walton has been a healthy scratch so far this season and does not figure to get many looks. Bernard gets a boost in PPR formats, but I think he is an RB2 regardless of format this week.
Sony Michel, New England Patriots at Detroit Lions
Sony Michel made his NFL debut last week after missing Week 1 due to a lingering knee injury. New England’s first-round pick did not post great numbers, finishing with 41 yards on 11 touches. But he gets a much more favorable matchup in Week 3 when the Patriots take on the Lions. Detroit has yielded the overall RB3 in consecutive weeks to start the year. In addition, they have also allowed two other running backs to post top-36 fantasy performances. This makes Michel a very intriguing Week 3 fantasy play.
Roles in New England’s backfield are often difficult to forecast, but I found it encouraging to see Michel tie for the team lead in touches last week considering the negative game script the Patriots were faced with. They trailed by double-digits for most of the contest, which obviously is not going to happen very often. With game script much more likely to be in their favor this week, I think it is reasonable to project Michel for 15-18 touches in this game. Given that type of workload, I believe he has top-20 upside. I love him as a Flex play this week and he is on the short list of my favorite Week 3 running back sleepers.
Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings v. Buffalo Bills
It is still too early in the season to make sweeping declarations, but one thing we do know with a fair amount of certainty is that you should start your running backs against the Buffalo Bills. They allowed three different Baltimore Ravens’ running backs to find pay dirt in Week 1, then gave up Melvin Gordon’s 24.6 fantasy points last week. Backup running back Austin Ekeler also had 98 yards from scrimmage in that game. There is no shortage of fantasy goodness for running backs facing the Bills. Enter Latavius Murray.
Murray only saw four touches against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2. This lack of volume makes him a bit dicey, but a double-digit game is certainly within reach for Murray here. Buffalo does not figure to put up many points against Minnesota’s defense, and the Bills have already allowed 78 points themselves. This does not figure to be much of a contest, and this would be an opportune time to give Murray a little extra run. The Chargers were effective in utilizing this strategy last week, splitting touches nearly evenly (15-14) between Gordon and Ekeler. I like Murray to get into the end zone and emerge from Week 3 as a solid RB3/Flex play.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins
Aaron Jones is eligible to return from a two-game suspension and should be on the field when Green Bay travels to Washington this week. While his role is uncertain, Jones has flashed quite a bit of playmaking ability when given the opportunity in the past. During his first four appearances of the 2017 season, Jones posted two top-four weekly fantasy finishes and was the overall RB6 during that span. Jones was injured following Green Bay’s bye week last season and his fantasy stock went in the tank. This allowed Jamaal Williams to emerge, and he hasn’t really looked back since.
Williams earned the Packers’ trust during the second half of last season but has not done much to continue that momentum early on in 2018. He has averaged just 3.4 yards per rush on 31 carries with a long of 11 yards. Williams should still lead the Packers’ backfield in touches this week, but I would not be surprised to see Jones get enough of a chance to make himself relevant in this game. The Colts’ duo of Jordan Wilkins and Marlon Mack combined for 95 yards on 20 carries on Sunday against the Redskins, so the matchup is certainly exploitable. Jones is not a safe play by any means, but that is exactly what makes him one of my top Week 3 running back sleepers.
Mick Ciallela has been writing for FantraxHQ since July 2017. He has also written for Bleacher Report. He is a lifelong sports fan and has been an avid fantasy sports player for many years. Mick was the Overall Champion of both the 2016 Football Challenge – Roto and 2017 Play 3 Football contests hosted by CDM Sports. MIck was born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York and currently resides in New London, Connecticut.
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