Green Bay Packers v Las Vegas Raiders
Chris Unger / Getty Images

Before we get to the running back rankings for Week 9 of the Fantasy Football season, let's take a look at some of the biggest questions facing the position, beginning with one of the biggest first-round disappointments so far: 

What is the case for continuing to start Tony Pollard

As I wrote Monday in the Fantasy Football Today Newsletter, Pollard is still top 12 in rush attempts and top 10 in targets, with the second most touches inside of the opponents' 10-yard line of any back. If you knew nothing else about Pollard – his historic production, how good the Cowboys offense has been for running backs, etc. – you'd view him as a must-start running back. That should be good enough.

But the thing is, those other factors matter too, and most of them should be working in Pollard's favor. He's down to 3.9 yards per carry, after topping 5.1 in each of the previous seasons. Some regression in terms of efficiency was to be expected as he assumed the mantle of the team's lead back, especially coming back from ankle surgery, but I don't think it's necessarily fair to just assume he'll be a 3.9-YPC guy moving forward. We're still dealing with very small sample sizes here, and it's too early to make definitive statements about Pollard just being a much less talented back than he was in the past. 

And then there's the touchdown stuff. Pollard scored 12 touchdowns last season, from an average of 23.2 yards from the goal. Even if we grant that he isn't the same kind of explosive playmaker he was last season, that doesn't make his two-touchdowns-on-18-Green-Zone-plays pace sustainable. Pollard has lost a step? Well, he's still quicker than Ezekiel Elliott was a year ago when Elliott scored 11 touchdowns on 27 Green Zone touches. Elliott's a bigger back, but do we really think the 6-foot, 209-pound Pollard is too small to run in short-yardage situations?

I don't buy it. Pollard is still in one of the best situations for running backs, even if there have been some situations, like Sundays, where it doesn't really feel like it. And I think he's still at least an above-average playmaker if perhaps not a superstar. Admittedly, I don't have a ton of specific things I can point to back up this point besides Pollard's track record, because he really just hasn't played very well this season. But the point is that history didn't start this season, and for all the talk of Pollard's small samples in the past, we're talking about 510 carries and 161 targets coming into this season, vs. just 108 and 30, respectively.

And since my expectations for Pollard's true talent level haven't changed all that much and he's still clearly in a very good situation for a running back, I'm still buying him as an elite Fantasy option, someone I'm starting absolutely every week. Even in a tough matchup in Week 9 against the Eagles. 

Who is the best buy-low candidate at running back?

Oh, you mean besides Pollard? 

I'd argue there are a few candidates who, like Pollard, are seemingly underperforming both their talent level and team context. Chief among them is Austin Ekeler, who hasn't truly had a massive performance in both facets of the game since at least Week 1, if at all. He's averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, his first time below 4.4 ever, with just two touchdowns in four games – he had 20 and 18 in the previous two seasons. I don't think that's just bad luck – his ankle injury is surely playing a role there – but I'm willing to bet on Ekeler's long track record as both an efficient runner and pass-catcher. 

I think you can make similar cases for Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Josh Jacobs, and Aaron Jones, with the latter seemingly sitting on the biggest gap between what he's done so far and what he's capable of. It's fair to wonder if the soon-to-be 29-year-old can get there, given his struggles with that hamstring injury this season. But he's another player who has historically been a very efficient runner and pass catcher who really hasn't been the former so far. The biggest mitigating circumstance there, aside from the hamstring, is the fact that Jones is playing with Jordan Love instead of Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers wasn't just a great passer who elevated the entire offense, but he was also a master tactician who would take his time reading the defense before every snap and almost always made the right decision of where to go with the ball or what to audible into. That might be the missing piece for the Packers offense this season, and it might continue to limit the running game, albeit somewhat indirectly. 

Who is the best sell-high candidate? 

I do wonder how sustainable Travis Etienne's current usage is. He's up six carries per game from last year, with a league-high 151 through the first eight games – in addition to 27 catches, after just 35 last year. To be clear, I'm not knocking Etienne for his elite workload. It just begs the question of whether he can sustain this kind of volume, or if the Jaguars might not dial it back at some point – and whether he could make up for that by replicating last season's efficiency. He's clearly a must-start Fantasy option, but he might be more like a top-12 than a top-five back, and that gap might be worth exploiting.

Otherwise, I think you'd have to point to someone like Raheem Mostert, though that window might have started to close with a couple of pretty mediocre performances over the past few weeks. Again, I think Mostert is a must-start running back, but unlike Etienne, I'm not sure how confident I am in saying that will be the case the rest of the way. Mostert has a lengthy injury track record that suggests plenty of risk he'll miss some time, and the pending return of De'Von Achane (eligible after Week 9) could push Mostert into more of a timeshare. He's been tremendous, and his role in this offense keeps him as a viable starter, but I think it's almost certain we've seen the best of Mostert this season. 

  1. Here are my full rankings for Week 9 at running back for PPR leagues:

Week 9 Running Back Rankings

  1. Alvin Kamara vs. CHI
  2. Austin Ekeler @NYJ
  3. Saquon Barkley @LV
  4. Josh Jacobs vs. NYG
  5. Tony Pollard @PHI
  6. Breece Hall vs. LAC
  7. Bijan Robinson vs. MIN
  8. Jonathan Taylor @CAR
  9. Kenneth Walker @BAL
  10. Joe Mixon vs. BUF
  11. Rachaad White @HOU
  12. D'Andre Swift vs. DAL
  13. Raheem Mostert @KC
  14. Isiah Pacheco vs. MIA
  15. James Cook @CIN
  16. Gus Edwards vs. SEA
  17. Aaron Jones vs. LAR
  18. Zack Moss @CAR
  19. Devin Singletary vs. TB
  20. Darrell Henderson @GB
  21. Rhamondre Stevenson vs. WAS
  22. Chuba Hubbard vs. IND
  23. D'Onta Foreman @NO
  24. Keaontay Ingram @CLE
  25. Alexander Mattison @ATL
  26. Roschon Johnson @NO
  27. Brian Robinson Jr. @NE
  28. AJ Dillon vs. LAR
  29. Jerome Ford vs. ARI
  30. Ezekiel Elliott vs. WAS
  31. Kareem Hunt vs. ARI
  32. Royce Freeman @GB
  33. Miles Sanders vs. IND
  34. Kenneth Gainwell vs. DAL
  35. Tyler Allgeier vs. MIN
  36. Chase Edmonds @HOU
  37. Justice Hill vs. SEA
  38. Joshua Kelley @NYJ
  39. Zach Charbonnet @BAL
  40. Jeff Wilson Jr. @KC
  41. Jerick McKinnon vs. MIA
  42. Mike Boone vs. TB
  43. Antonio Gibson @NE
  44. Cam Akers @ATL
  45. Latavius Murray @CIN
  46. Trayveon Williams vs. BUF
  47. Pierre Strong vs. ARI
  48. Dalvin Cook vs. LAC
  49. Rico Dowdle @PHI
  50. Salvon Ahmed @KC