The fantasy football industry gives up on players way too fast. Look at the Los Angeles Rams for instance. Jared Goff was dismissed during his rookie year as a bust. And Todd Gurley was positioned as a late second-round choice in fantasy football based on a down year.
It's a miracle what a fresh coaching staff and a little help can do. Goff is an legitimate fantasy play in his second year and Gurley is a workhorse, top-five running back.
The lesson here is don’t completely dismiss players based on a small sample size, especially now that the bye weeks are here. Speaking of bye weeks, which running backs should you turn to in case you have to do without Devonta Freeman, C.J. Anderson, Mark Ingram, Tevin Coleman, Adrian Peterson, Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, and perhaps even Jamaal Charles, Alvin Kamara and Samaje Perine? Glad you asked.
Good Calls in Week 4...
Sit Mike Gillislee (4.9 fantasy points) – In a high-scoring shootout where the Patriots got down early, Gillislee only carried the ball 12 times for 49 yards and is not a factor in the passing game.
Bad Calls in Week 4...
Sit Ameer Abdullah (16.9 FP) – Abdullah hadn’t really done much so far this season, but the Lions really needed him against the Vikings and he responded with the best game of his career.
Start Joe Mixon (4.9 FP) – This should have been Mixon’s big moment against the Browns, and the Bengals even had a big lead, but all Mixon could muster was 28 rushing yards.
Start Christian McCaffrey (4.9 FP) – This one makes no sense. The Patriots were allowing the most passing yards to running backs all season and Cam Newton finally had a good game, throwing for more than 300 yards, but McCaffrey just wasn’t involved.
Teams on bye: Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans, Washington
START THESE RBs...
Isaiah Crowell, CLE (vs. NYJ)
You may have already given up on Crowell, but Cleveland hasn't exactly been the best at staying in games in the early portion of the 2017 season. Cleveland has gotten down early in the last three weeks, necessitating a different strategy. This week offers a better opportunity at game flow. The Jets own the fourth-worst rush defense in the NFL, and this game should be close. That works well for Crowell. He's had to battle for touches with Duke Johnson, but that's mainly because Johnson is a better receiving back. With a closer game expected, Crowell should see more carries and produce better results.
Carlos Hyde, SF (at IND)
Hyde is averaging more than 80 rushing yards per game and also is on pace for a career year as a receiver, with 12 receptions for 61 yards already. He ranks sixth in yards per carry after contact (2.74), per Pro Football Focus, and should be able to break through an Indianapolis defensive front that is stopping rushers at or behind the line of scrimmage just 18 percent of the time.
Bilal Powell, NYJ (at CLE)
Depending on the status of Matt Forte (toe), Powell could be in store for another significant workload. In last week's "upset" of the Jaguars, Powell had 21 carries for 163 yards and a touchdown and added four catches for 27 yards to finish with the fifth-most fantasy points in Week 4. That kind of production shouldn't be expected again, but Powell now has 15-plus carries, a touchdown and a top-24 weekly performance in back-to-back weeks. In a game that should be close (Cleveland is a small home favorite), Powell should get another large workload with the opportunity to deliver for fantasy owners for a third straight week.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Andre Ellington, ARI (at PHI)
A weird thing about this Eagles defense — they’re one of the best in the league at stopping the run. Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams should continue to be ineffective, and game flow will likely lead to Palmer needing to get rid of the ball quickly. Ellington should get a bunch of dump-offs after seeing 14 targets last Sunday.
SIT THESE RBs...
Frank Gore, IND (vs. SF)
San Francisco is allowing more than 100 rushing yards per game, so it would be easy to believe Gore would be in for a big day. Not so fast. The 49ers also allow only 3.3 yards per carry, the seventh-best number in the NFL. The 49ers are putting up a good front against the run. It's just that teams are pounding the run early and often against them. The Colts aren't as committed to the run when compared to Carolina, Seattle and Los Angeles (San Francisco’s first three opponents). The 49ers were much better against the run last week against an Arizona team not focused on pounding the ball. Expect similar results in Week 5.
LeGarrette Blount, PHI (vs. ARI)
Arizona is off to a shaky 2-2 start, but one bright spot has been its run defense. The Cardinals’ front seven has been pretty good so far this season and that should continue against Philadelphia. Blount got back on track last week, gashing the Chargers for 136 rushing yards. He has totaled 28 carries over the last two games, so perhaps Blount is back in favor with the coaching staff. However, this matchup just doesn't work. I anticipate Carson Wentz throwing plenty, meaning more touches for Wendell Smallwood as a receiver out of the backfield. That will limit Blount's opportunities.
Latavius Murray, MIN (at CHI, Mon.)
Maybe Jerick McKinnon will split work with Murray, maybe Dalvin Cook’s absence will really bog down this offense. It’s hard to say. Last week prior to tearing his ACL, Cook ran for 66 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. After he left the game, Murray picked up 21 yards on seven carries and McKinnon gained nothing on his two attempts. Murray may now be the RB to won for the Vikings, but he’s not Cook. Pick up Murray if you must, but wait to see how he does before throwing him in your lineup and hoping for the best. Fun fact: The Bears are currently ranked in the top seven in the NFL in rushing defense.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Jordan Howard, CHI (vs. MIN, Mon.)
Minnesota is a top-three rush defense and the Bears are starting a rookie QB in the Monday night spotlight. This could get ugly, and game flow could ruin Howard’s night. He might catch some passes, but, what if he doesn’t? He’s fantasy value was saved last week by a late touchdown, but that won’t happen every week.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.