Stevan Ridley, Montario Hardesty, Bernard Scott, Kendall Hunter Week 4 RB Pickups
Fine-tuning your fantasy roster is critical to having success on a weekly basis. You can draft a good team, but with injuries and bye weeks, there is always room for more depth. With that in mind, we have four running backs to suggest as free agent pickups for week four of fantasy.
Stevan Ridley is a rookie running back for the Patriots. The LSU product drew attention when he scored three touchdowns in the first preseason game. He followed that up by gaining 111 total yards in the second preseason game. Though he didn’t see action in week one, he had two carries in week two. Last week he saw significant action in the second half of the Pats game against the Bills. Ridley ran for 42 yards on six carries and added an 8-yard catch. The Pats still have BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead in the running back rotation, but Ridley has earned his share of carries. If you have room for him, we suggest adding him. He could be the team’s primary back in a month or so — he’s just better than what New England has.
Montario Hardesty is a second-year running back for the Browns. He was taken in the second round by Cleveland last year but he tore his ACL in his first preseason game and missed the entire year. He’s back healthy and acted as Cleveland’s primary back week three with Peyton Hillis out sick, going for over 100 total yards. Hillis will be back, but Hardesty was so impressive in his first start that he almost assuredly has earned a timeshare with the Madden cover boy. We loved Hardesty’s physical running style in college and were impressed by his ability to break tackles. The talent is there, the Browns have a good enough line, and Hardesty will get enough carries to be a passable bye week fill-in on your fantasy team. Don’t expect the same production in week four as Hillis will likely be back, but 10 touches is possible.
Bernard Scott is a third-year running back from the Bengals. He was a sixth-round pick out of Abilene Christian, falling in the draft because of character issues and a lack of size. Scott became a hot name around fantasy circles last week when it was reported that starting running back Cedric Benson would be suspended three games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Benson is scheduled to appeal the suspension, and legally it’s hard to see where the NFL has grounds to suspend him for what he did during the lockout. The suspension would likely run from weeks 4-6, but I would be surprised if it went down. If Benson does get suspended, Scott becomes the most attractive waiver wire pickup at running back. He would be the team’s primary back for three weeks and although the Bengals are reluctant he can carry a full load, he would be a source of decent production for three weeks. That’s hard to find. Pick him up and hope Benson gets suspended because Buffalo, at Jacksonville, and Indy are attractive matchups.
Kendall Hunter is a rookie running back for the 49ers. He was a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma State this year. Hunter looked sharp in the preseason, amassing 231 yards on 35 carries, good for a 6.6 yards per carry average. With Frank Gore apparently banged up Sunday, Hunter saw action carrying the ball nine times for 26 yards and a touchdown. The talent is evident, but the same could be said for Gore. The problem is the team’s offense. The passing game stinks so teams stack the box against them, and the line is unable to push defenses around. I don’t expect either San Francisco running back to put up big stats, but if you want to stash a guy on your roster who could end up seeing a decent amount of carries per game, Hunter could be your guy. I just wouldn’t expect much out of the Niners.
When it comes to stashing backup running backs on your roster, I generally believe in getting running backs that fall into at least one of two categories. They either have to be supremely talented so that they can actually produce if they get a shot (think Michael Turner when he backed up LaDainian Tomlinson). Or two, they have to be on a good team where if they got playing time, they’d have a chance at scoring touchdowns. Thomas Jones, for instance, fails on both accounts and that’s why I wouldn’t want him, even if he is getting a lot of carries. Ronnie Brown however, is a good player to have on your roster because he still has talent, and if something happened to LeSean McCoy, the Eagles’ running game is a dynamic one. Always use those two criteria when determining the value of a free agent running back.