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The Shot Caller's Report - RBs
Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups
Positions: QBs | RBs | WRs/TEs

Running Backs

Must Start: The Top 15

1. LaDainian Tomlinson @ NE – Why did it take three weeks for Coach Schottenheimer to figure out L.T. deserves at least 50% of his team’s touches? It’s not like the guy is, you know, GOOD or anything. Though he only ran the rock 21 times (for a preposterous 192 yards and three scores), he also caught six balls (for 28 more) and threw a touchdown pass for good measure (sweet!). Forget about matchups when it comes to this guy.

2. Shaun Alexander @ WAS – Thanks to Tomlinson, Alexander’s four-TD explosion in the Emerald City ranked as only the second best performance of Week 3. Not that his owners cared much. When you get upwards of 40 fantasy points from your meal ticket, you’re almost guaranteed a victory. He won’t get that many this week against a stingy ‘Skins squad but he should still be good for 80-100 yards and a couple scores.

3. Carnell Williams v. DET – Contrary to popular belief, the polls are still open for rook of the year voting. It only seems like this kid has already landed the hardware. The Caddy has yet to rush for fewer than 128 yards in a game and has proven in three short weeks that his allegedly fragile frame can definitely handle the rigors of the NFL (a league-leading 88 carries thus far). Start him against a Detroit squad that gave up a buck-forty to Thomas Jones in Week 2.

4. Julius Jones @ OAK – Thomas’ younger brother has been every bit the workhorse Williams has been thus far, accounting for almost half the touches in Dallas’ balanced attack. This week, he draws an Oakland squad that ranks near the bottom in total defense. Do you smell high-scoring affair? I sure do. Start him.

5. Rudi Johnson v. HOU – It’s hard to call any Cincy starter a disappointment at this juncture but I definitely expected more from him through three weeks. Of course, who needs a running game when you have folks like Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson sharing the huddle? Give him a go against Houston’s 31st-ranked run defense this weekend. I promise you won’t be disappointed much longer.

6. Deuce McAllister v. BUF – Believe it or not, the only team worse than Houston v. the run is Buffalo (174 yards/game), largely considered one of the best defenses in the league before the season began. A suffocating secondary still puts the Bills in the top 10 overall but they’d better batten down the hatches against Deuce or they could be staring at a 1-3 start.

7. Willis McGahee @ NO – The best way for Buffalo to avoid that 1-3 mark? Give the rock to McGahee and get outta the way. He has no passing game to take the pressure off but, in spite of that, he still managed to grind out 140 yards and a score against the Dirty Birds last Sunday. He should find a lot more breathing room against New Orleans’ cranky bunch this weekend in San Antone. Whether it will be enough to secure a victory is another matter entirely.

8. Edgerrin James @ TEN – It seems all anyone wants to talk about these days is the Colts underachieving passing game. Lost in the hubbub is the Colts’ perfectly healthy running game and, more specifically, Edge. He’s on pace to set career marks for yardage and I gotta think that’s by design. Tony Dungy is smart enough to know that the only way to keep the ball outta Tom Brady’s hands come playoff time is to keep it IN James’ hands. At least, that’s my theory.

9. Brian Westbrook @ KC – He’s touched the ball 19, 18, and now 19 times in his first three tilts. Coincidence? Nothing’s a coincidence when Andy Reid’s running the show. Clearly, he and the Eagles’ brain trust have found Westbrook’s sweet spot and it happens to be just short of 20 touches per contest. Hard to argue with them, especially after the former ‘Nova star parlayed his limited looks into 208 yards and two scores last week.

10. Steven Jackson @ NYG – A rib injury prevented him from posting the big numbers we expected in Week 3 but he’s been cleared to rock and roll in the Big Apple this Sunday. That probably means he’ll be in for a big day. I say “probably” because Marshall Faulk filled in rather nicely against the Titans, raising the specter of a picture-clouding platoon situation. Monitor closely and don’t forget that wildcards don’t get much wilder than Mike Martz.

11. Priest Holmes v. PHI – You saw the upside of KC’s two-pronged attack in the first couple weeks. Now you’re familiar with the downside. When opposing defenses force the Chefs to throw, Holmes and his running mate, Mr. Johnson, pay the price. I suspect they’ll still be good starting options in the long run but how good is now subject to debate. He’s ever so slightly sliding down the list.

12. Corey Dillon v. SD – Dillon arrested his own freefall by hammering at the Steelers’ stout front seven for 61 yards and two critical scores last Sunday. Though he’s yet to rush for even 70 yards in a game thus far, he HAS tallied four TDs in three weeks. Expect another one (and maybe two) against the Bolts this weekend.

13. Clinton Portis v. SEA – Someday, the ‘Skins will unearth a legitimate starting quarterback to take the load off of Portis’ shoulders. Until such time, he’s nothing better than a middle-of-the-pack feature back who will occasionally surprise with a huge day. Lucky for you, I’ve got a hunch he could very well surprise this weekend, especially with the ‘Hawks’ average defense visiting the nation’s capital.

14. Stephen Davis v. GB – He actually tallied fewer yards (and fewer fantasy points) than backfield mate, DeShaun Foster, last weekend. Unfortunately for his owners, that may happen several more times this season. Fortunately, it won’t happen this Monday night. The 0-3 Pack is coming to town and that can only mean one thing: he scores a guaranteed six on national TV. Mark it down, folks.

15. Tiki Barber v. STL – Tiki took a backseat to Eli Manning and his vastly underrated receiving corps last Sunday, but you don’t keep a stud like him down for too long. Though the Rams are better against the run than they have been, the numbers are skewed by games against two paltry rushing attacks, San Francisco and Arizona. Keep him in there and don’t be surprised if he outscores several of the fellas ahead of him on this list.

Grab A Helmet:

Lamont Jordan v. DAL – We’re three games deep and he still has yet to run the ball 20 times in a game. Think that might have something to do with his team’s inability to get a lead? I suspected as much at the start of the year (see Week 1’s Report) but that doesn’t mean you should sit him down. After all, he’s been a pretty active participant in the Oakland passing game so far (five catches for 53 yards and a score last weekend). Keep starting him.

Fred Taylor v. DEN – If Jordan has been underutilized, Formerly Fragile Fred has been just the opposite, racking up a ridiculous 37 carries in the Week 3 win at the Meadowlands. Remember when the folks in Jacksonville were talking about him potentially missing the season? Keep him in your lineup against an average Browns…er, Broncos…front four.

Domanick Davis @ CIN – Nobody needed the early bye more than the reeling Texans and we can only hope Coach Capers and staff spent the extra week figuring out ways to get Dom the ball more. With Carr and the defense struggling, he’s their only hope of staying in games at this point. Believe it or not, I think he’ll post good numbers against a vastly improved Bengals bunch. Alas, it won’t be enough for the much-needed “W.”

Warrick Dunn v. MIN – He’s a top 15 talent who will never see the top 15 again unless T.J. Duckett (aka, the designated TD-converter) gets hurt. You can live with 9-10 fantasy points at your flex position but I’m betting you need more from your 1st and 2nd running backs. If you’re stacked at RB, give him a look. If not, disregard.

Mewelde Moore @ ATL – We know better than to trust Mike Tice (GOD, do we know better!) but it looks like Moore might be the main man in Minny at the moment. That could certainly change (and probably will) but he’s not a bad option in the short term. He’s shifty and could be a major factor in the passing game, especially with Nate Burleson on the shelf.

Grab A Gatorade:

Kevin Jones @ TB – Do we have an early candidate for bust of the year? It certainly looks that way after two weeks of less-than-inspiring totals. His QB (not to mention the Bears D) was largely to blame for Week 2’s flameout but he also doesn’t seem to be hitting the holes with the same explosiveness we saw last season. His longest run to date? Eight yards. Jones’ opponent this weekend, Mike Alstott, already has a nine-yarder to his credit. Ouch!

Jamal Lewis v. NYJ – If he’s 100% healthy, I’m the mayor of Baltimore. Lewis’ numbers through two weeks are almost embarrassing (57 rushing yards and no scores) and there’s no other explanation for the decline. He’s always had the disadvantage of playing with a crappy signal-caller. Only difference now is which crappy signal-caller he’s playing with. Sit him down until Coach Billick and Co. figure out what in the hell they’re actually attempting to do on offense.

Kevan Barlow v. ARI – In case you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not a huge Kevan Barlow fan. Though his figures from last weekend’s shootout were fairly decent (93 total yards), he also split carries with the rookie, Frank Gore. Trust me when I say the kid will bite into his touches even more as the season progresses and the Niners keep losing. Steer clear.

Any Arizona RB v. SF – Good thing the NFL decided to export such quality teams for its first regular season foray into Mexico, eh? Our amigos to the south give us tasty tacos and cheap labor. We return the favor by sending them San Francisco v. Arizona. And we wonder why the rest of the world hates our guts.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends