This was supposed to be the Year of the Running Back in fantasy. Instead, it's the worst three weeks to start a season for running backs that I can ever remember in fantasy. First and second round picks are injured and disappointing (C.J. Spiller, Stevan Ridley, Steven Jackson) and more backfield-by-committees are popping up where we least expected it (Jets, Bengals, Texans just to name a few). So I'll try to offer as many answers as I can this week in Targets and Touches. This will distract me from my other popular pastime, trying to figure out what happens in the series finale of Breaking Bad.
Josh Gordon, my goodness. 19 targets in his first game back from suspension showing there's at least a little life in the Browns offense. He was one of my pre-season sleepers but I can't tell you I thought he'd be this good this soon after weeks of inactivity. You can play him at your flex, certainly -- he's the Browns number one WR already. Is he a low-end No. 2? Not quite yet, but he could get there sooner rather than later.
Let Antonio Brown's situation be a lesson: When a star WR complains about getting the football, you play him the next week. We saw it with Mike Wallace two weeks ago and with Brown this past week. And what happened? The Steelers offense was much more dynamic than it had been so far in 2013. Brown is your play as either a low-end No. 2 or a flex. He's the best playmaker Pittsburgh has and he'll continue to get the football.
Just off the list is Nate Washington, who had 10 targets for the Titans in Week 3. It was a big game for him, but his first of the season. So how to make sense of the Titans wideouts? Forget Kenny Britt. He's in the Titans doghouse full-time and shows no signs of recapturing his form of a couple of years ago. He had five targets Sunday and no catches. Justin Hunter? Yes, he had a touchdown, but it was his only catch of the game on two targets. Kendall Wright continues to motor along as the most dependable option, but he's a 5-8 point-a-week player. No one is consistent enough to start, and it's hard for me to justify even owning any of them. The Titans just don't throw it enough, and when they do, they spread it around.
After three weeks the Patriots running back situation is as muddled as ever. LeGarrette Blount led the team with 14 touches, Stevan Ridley was next with 12 and Brandon Bolden had eight -- but those eight were good enough for 100 yards from scrimmage. Bolden's explosive and could slide into Shane Vereen's former role very nicely. Blount had a 23 yard-run but the rest of his day was 13 carries for 33 yards. If you have a roster spot open, you can pick up one of them -- I would lean towards Bolden because he's more explosive. But Ridley? He's THE fantasy disappointment of the season so far. Are you still starting him? Unless you've gotten luck in free agency with someone like Knowshon Moreno or Joique Bell, you still have to put him in your lineup and hope it turns around.
Ahmad Bradshaw gave you a nice going away present with 22 touches in a big win over San Francisco. Or did he? This is Trent Richardson's job, true, but the Colts like to play two running backs. Richardson saw 13 touches Sunday -- which is about what Indianapolis said he'd get in his first game -- and that number is just going to increase as the weeks go on. But Bradshaw is still going to get the football. He's very valuable as a bye week flex option over the next few weeks as Richardson gets acclimated and you have roster holes.
Due to Daryl Richardson's injury/ineffectiveness, Isiah Pead had 13 touches (six carries and seven receptions) out of the Rams backfield Sunday. His role will be increasing as the year goes on. St. Louis invested a 2nd round pick in him, so they have to see how good he is, and the fact that Richardson's been ordinary will open the door for this. Pick up Pead and stash him on your bench. The Rams offense plays fast and he fits in pretty well. He just needs the reps.
Bilal Powell has been the best player on the Jets so far this season (and he had 29 touches Sunday, by far the most on the team). Remember the team has a lot invested in Chris Ivory, who they're still waiting to get healthy enough to get going, and don't forget off-season acquisition Mike Goodson returns after Week 4 to become the teams big home run threat out of the backfield. But despite all of this, Powell continues to be the guy. No one wants to believe in him but you should. He's got the starting job and he's done nothing but continue to earn it. Ivory and Goodson are two huge question marks and will continue to be so for weeks. Pick up Powell, put him in your flex and enjoy the points for the foreseeable future.
How many people ran to pick up Willis McGahee after the Browns traded Trent Richardson this past week? Plenty. And he gave you an eight carry day, which was twice as many as the next closest player on the team (Bobby Rainey) had. Should you own McGahee? Sure. Because eventually -- when he gets into real game shape -- he could be a contributor at your flex. But don't forget this time last week he was just watching NFL Fantasy Live on TV and now we're showing his highlights in it. You can't start him for a few games.