In PPR formats, receptions from the running back position are gold.

Imagine sitting at home up 50 points in a PPR league with Davante Adams left, while your opponent has Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones. There’s no possible way the Rodgers and Jones combination can outscore Adams by more than 50 fantasy points, right? Because barring a fumble, every single time Adams touches the ball he’ll score more points than Rodgers on that play.

Basically, the only way to lose is for Rodgers to throw four touchdown passes with three to Jones out of the backfield and Jones scoring an additional rushing TD, and Adams not being the recipient of any of those touchdowns. Well six receptions, four touchdowns, 27.8 fantasy points through the air, and 41.5 total fantasy points from Aaron Jones later, suddenly you’re staring at your matchup in disbelief.

Or imagine having Derrick Henry as the centerpiece of your team, having watched the rest of your team, including your quarterback, score zero touchdowns. You need an outrageous performance from Henry to give your team a shot to win. Only one problem: Henry doesn’t catch the football. He produces almost zero value in the passing game. How little?

Entering this season, Henry had recorded at least one touch in 77 games. Of those 77 games, only four times did Henry catch at least three passes. In fact, Henry had more games played (78) than receptions (76). As a result, Henry totaled 30.4 fantasy points in the passing game last season. The entire season! In two games this year, D’Andre Swift has already accumulated 28.6 fantasy points through the air.

So, there you are sitting at halftime of the Titans game and Henry has averaged less than 3.0 yards per carry on his way to 37 rushing yards in the first half with one 15-yard reception as his only other output for the half. Realistically, you’re doomed.

Instead, Henry goes berserk. In the second half and overtime, he rushes the ball 22 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns. On top of that, he catches the ball five times for 40 yards. Final PPR output: 47.7 fantasy points. Good for the top performance of 2021 so far.

top fantasy running back performances

Which ultimately, brings us to our Week 3 projections. We have 30 position players (RB/WR/TE) projected to score at least 16.0 PPR points this week. Henry (1.7 receptions) is one of only two players projected to catch the ball less than four times. Yet, he still resides in our top five players of the week. How is that possible?

Well, in Henry’s last 24 games, he has carried the ball 569 times for 3,163 rushing yards and 30 rushing touchdowns. Those totals average out to 23.7 carries, 131.8 yards and 1.25 touchdowns per game. In fantasy terms, that’s over 20 points per game on the ground.

Remember above when we noted that in his career, Henry only had four games with three or more catches? He’s hit that threshold in both games this year. If he remains a beast on the ground and contributes even a little bit in the passing game, Henry will be a potential league-winning back. Always remember: Every catch matters, especially at the running back position.

As always, let’s jump around and evaluate some Week 3 projections gathered from some of the top data-driven projections available using several of our AI-powered models. We’ll get into some yays and nays before highlighting a few DFS value plays.

Fantasy Yays

Note: The ranking to which we compare ours in this piece is the expert consensus ranking (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week. (We pulled these numbers from Thursday.) Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.

Matt Ryan, QB (ATL) vs. NYG (ECR: 20, Our Rank: 13): Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons offense have had a brutal start to the season. After only scoring six points in their season opener, they turned the ball over three times – including two Pick 6s – the following week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With two tough matchups behind them, the Falcons head up to New York to face a Giants team that has struggled on defense to start the year, ranking 25th in passing yards allowed per game (287.5). As a result, both quarterbacks to face the Giants have recorded at least 20.0 fantasy points.

If Ryan can produce similar numbers to both Teddy Bridgewater and Taylor Heinicke, 20.0 points should be enough for Ryan to be a solid QB2. It would have been QB13 last week, and that’s right around where we’re projecting Ryan to finish in Week 3.

Mike Davis, RB (ATL) vs. NYG (ECR: 28, Our Rank: 7): The biggest differential between ECR and our rank belongs to Davis, probably because people have been extremely discouraged with his performance through two weeks. With Cordarrelle Patterson seemingly stealing touches, Davis is a prime candidate to be benched by fantasy managers.

The wise thing to do is hold off on that for one more week. Like we mentioned with Ryan above, Davis’ early season schedule (Philadelphia and Tampa Bay) has been incredibly difficult, but it’s about to lighten considerably. The Giants defense has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per carry (5.04) and is coming off a game in which Washington running backs combined for 166 scrimmage yards and tallied seven catches.

Davis, despite his modest overall output last week, was second in the NFL among running backs in receptions with seven. Facing the Giants should allow him to continue to put up similar volume numbers, but they should be more rewarding. Start Davis with confidence this week. If he can find the end zone, he can easily vault into the top 10.

James Robinson, RB (JAX) vs. ARI (ECR: 26, Our Rank: 16): It’s been a rough start for every Jacksonville Jaguars player not named Marvin Jones Jr. That includes Robinson, who was out-carried in Week 1 by Carlos Hyde and couldn’t get much going against the Denver Broncos in Week 2. But there were some positives coming from Week 2, as Robinson touched the ball 14 times to Hyde’s two.

Seemingly entrenched as the No. 1 option in the Jaguars offense, Robinson now faces an Arizona Cardinals defense that has allowed the second most carries of 10-plus yards (10) and ranks 26th in rushing yards allowed per game (131.5) through two weeks.

most 10+ yards carries through Week 2

Even if they find themselves playing catchup, Robinson has been on the field for 68.6% of the Jaguars’ pass plays. Either way, Robinson should feature enough volume to carry solid RB2 numbers for the week.

Chris Godwin, WR (TB) vs. LAR (ECR: 17, Our Rank: 11): What a delicious matchup we have on tap for our Week 3 viewing pleasure. The dynamic and efficient Los Angeles Rams (NFL-best 10.03 yards per pass play) host Tom Brady and the Bucs in a matchup that boasts several key fantasy options.

Godwin is one of them and he’s been an integral part of the NFL’s top scoring team (39.5 points per game). Maybe the unheralded option on a team that includes Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown, Godwin leads the Buccaneers in targets (18), receptions (13) and yards (167). With a touchdown in each game to boot, Godwin is WR13 through two weeks.

In 14 games with Brady as his quarterback, Godwin has recorded at least five catches in 10 of them. With Brown’s status for this game in doubt, Godwin has a great chance to make it 11 games out of 15. He’s a high-end WR2 week, with a very realistic chance of cracking the top 10 at the position.

Fantasy Nays

Aaron Rodgers, QB (GB) vs. SF (ECR: 10, Our Rank: 12): Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers bounced back from a disastrous Week 1 performance in their dismantling of the Detroit Lions. Rodgers and the offense were sensational, scoring touchdowns on five of their first six possessions.

On a short week, they head to the West Coast to take on a Niners defense that is coming off a strong performance against an Eagles team that only put up 11 points. In Rodgers’ last two performances against the 49ers with Nick Bosa on the field, he and the Packers have really struggled.

In the six quarters spanning their 2019 regular-season matchup and halftime of the NFC championship game when the 49ers were up 27-0, Rodgers was 28-of-44 passing for 166 yards and a 1-to-3 touchdown-to-turnover ratio. During that same span, the 49ers outscored the Packers 64-8.

Although he threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns in the second half of that game, his fantasy output for those two games was just over 10.0 fantasy points per game. Bosa is back and healthy and Rodgers is without his star left tackle David Bakhtiari. He could struggle to provide QB1 value this week in the Sunday night primetime game.

Nick Chubb, RB (CLE) vs. CHI (ECR: 7, Our Rank: 24): Our only question mark entering this season about Chubb was his volume and through two games, that has remained a serious concern for his fantasy managers.

Despite averaging an outrageous 6.85 yards per carry, Chubb has only received 26 carries on the season. More worrisome, Chubb rushed for 95 yards on only 11 carries in Week 2, while his backfield mate, Kareem Hunt, actually received more carries (13) despite only rushing for 51 yards.

yards per carry among RBs

As we alluded to in our intro regarding Henry, when you’re not a big part of passing game out of the backfield, your only viable path to consistent RB1 status is volume. And since Kevin Stefanski became the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Chubb has only averaged 15.4 carries per game and gone over the 20-carry mark twice.

This makes Chubb a touchdown dependent RB1. Last week, even with nearly 100 rushing yards and a touchdown, Chubb finished the week as RB13. Despite having our fourth-highest likelihood of scoring a touchdown, volume has consistently held him back and it’s likely to again. He’s an RB2 this week against a tough Chicago Bears defense allowing only 3.3 yards per carry.

Jonathan Taylor, RB (IND) vs. TEN (ECR: 10, Our Rank: 23): Unlike Chubb, volume hasn’t been the issue for Taylor this season. With 39 touches through two games, Taylor has had plenty of opportunities to rack up fantasy points.

Instead, he’s produced 23.9 fantasy points through two weeks, good for RB24. His eight carries through two weeks in goal-to-go situations are more than both Chubb and Henry, who lead the NFL with three rushing touchdowns apiece. Taylor’s eight carries have resulted in no touchdowns.

On top of Taylor’s struggles, Carson Wentz is questionable for Sunday’s game. If the Colts have to start Jacob Eason, look for Tennessee to stuff the box in its 3-4 defense. And unfortunately for Taylor’s fantasy owners, with five or more defenders on the line of scrimmage, Taylor has only averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Our data suggests that Taylor is going to have a difficult time scoring this week, situating him firmly in the RB2 conversation.

Allen Robinson II, WR (CHI) vs. CLE (ECR: 14, Our Rank: 20): The Justin Fields-era is starting this week for Chicago and if last week is any indication, it’s going to be a ground-intensive attack.

The Bears only threw the ball nine times in the second half of their Week 2 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. With throws scarce, Robinson was only targeted three times in the second half, accumulating a single catch for 11 yards. It’s been part of a disappointing start for Robinson, who finished last season as WR8.

With both Chicago and Cleveland likely to heavily commit to the running game, points for pass-catchers are going to be a premium in this game. The future is bright for Fields, but in his first start in the NFL, his pass-catching options are unreliable. Robinson is a mid-WR2 this week.

Best DFS Value Plays

Kenyan Drake, RB (LV) vs. MIA (DK Price: 4,900): When you take a chance on a player at a lower price, you’re looking for boom potential, knowing there’s a chance a player might also bust. Well, in his last 20 games, Drake has four 100-yard rushing performances and four multi-touchdown efforts. Three of those games intersect. Facing a Miami Dolphins team allowing the fifth-most rushing yards in 2021, Drake has sneaky boom potential.

Braxton Berrios, WR (NYJ) vs. DEN (DK Price: 3,600): Maybe you missed it in the cloud of four Zach Wilson interceptions last week, but it was Berrios that led the New York Jets in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (73). For a price usually reserved for players who barely touch the ball, Berrios could provide some excellent value.

Tyler Boyd, WR (CIN) vs PIT (DK Price: 4,700): The cheapest of the three Cincinnati wide receivers, Boyd is the best bang-for-your-buck this week. Joe Burrow is likely to be under pressure for a lot of the game and Boyd is best situated to provide quick outlets for Burrow. As the Bengal with the highest projected number of catches this week, the data suggests Boyd is the wide receiver with the best chance of propelling you to glory.

Data modeling by Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads. Design by Briggs Clinard.