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Depth Chart Watch: Welcome Back, Le'Veon Bell

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

Bengals RB - It looks as if the transition is occurring sooner rather than later as, for the first time this season, Giovani Bernard saw more carries than BenJarvis Green-Ellis. Neither running back did much with his touches, but Green-Ellis only saw six carries to Bernard's 10 while the rookie also saw seven targets in the passing attack and finished with six catches for an extra 38 yards. There hasn't been any sort of an official announcement, but the handwriting has been on the wall for a while now. This isn't to say that Green-Ellis is done in Cincinnati, but his time spent as the primary running back has likely come to an end.

Bengals TE -
Incumbent Jermaine Gresham was expected to eventually give way to rookie upstart Tyler Eifert, but through the first three games, Gresham retained his status as the primary tight end for the Bengals. However, Eifert has seen a few extra targets come his way lately, and both were targeted equally Sunday with five apiece. The work likely will continue to be distributed equally, eventually favoring Eifert. So long as he continues to get a fair amount of work, it will be easier for him to show the coaches that he is the better all-around player.

Bills RB -
This situation just keeps getting worse and worse for fantasy owners as both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson ended up hurt in this one. Spiller opened the game and saw the majority of touches, but not only did Jackson see a share of the carries, he also broke for a 16-yard touchdown run late in the first half. Spiller left the game briefly in the third quarter with an ankle injury but eventually returned. Meanwhile, Jackson looked like a workhorse in his absence only to be diagnosed afterward with a sprained MCL. Both running backs said they will be ready for their Week 5 Thursday game, which leaves fantasy owners in no better a spot than when this week began. The only difference now is that with both guys banged up, will Tashard Choice find his way into the mix? Ugh!

Broncos RB -
The committee approach continues in Denver, though Knowshon Moreno still looks like the primary. But while Moreno saw a team-leading 12 carries and the work inside the five-yard line, Ronnie Hillman saw a fair amount of work as well, carrying 11 times and catching two passes on three targets. Both running backs were used effectively, and the split should look fairly similar in coming weeks. Moreno has done a solid job chairing this committee, but he still won't sit alone in the backfield. Montee Ball saw eight carries, but his work didn't come until the fourth quarter when the game was well in hand for the Broncos.

Buccaneers QB -
Despite Tampa Bay losing its fourth straight game, it appears that the quarterback switch will permanent. Josh Freeman wants out and says that he will happily re-structure his contract if he is dealt. Meanwhile, the rest of the team seems content with the change as teammates said they are behind Mike Glennon and believe that he's actually a better team leader. Freeman was inactive Week 4, and if he isn't traded, the Bucs will simply leave him on the roster as the team's No. 3 the rest of the way.

Colts RB -
With Ahmad Bradshaw inactive Sunday due to a neck injury, we may have seen the last of the committee situation in the Indianapolis backfield. Trent Richardson showed that he had no trouble handling every-down duties with 20 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown and one catch for six yards. Bradshaw is the better pass-catcher of the two and, once healthy, could get some work in a third-down role, but his days of splitting carries may have ended.

49ers WR -
While Anquan Boldin is the team's top receiver, the search to find a legitimate No. 2 continues. Quinton Patton has now been removed from the conversation, thanks to a fractured foot, which leaves Kyle Williams, Jon Baldwin and Marlon Moore as the remaining options. Williams seems to hold the edge, though Baldwin finally made his season debut, so this will have to be monitored more closely throughout practices and the next few upcoming games. However, with Boldin and Vernon Davis on the field, the second wideout sits mostly as an afterthought. Someone will earn the job, but the contribution in the grand scheme of things is likely to be limited.

Jaguars QB -
Perhaps Blaine Gabbert has some secret, illicit photos of Jags coach Gus Bradley because after a miserable 179-yard, three-interception performance against the Colts on Sunday, the quarterback still has the starting job in Jacksonville. There's really no other explanation as Gabbert owns a career 5-21 record with a miserable 54.3-percent completion rate and 22 interceptions to just 21 touchdowns. Chad Henne remains the team's No. 2, but it's difficult to see this arrangement lasting much longer.

Packers RB -
With Green Bay on a bye week, both Eddie Lacy (concussion) and James Starks (knee) have had ample time to recover from injuries. Lacy is expected to return to the primary role so long as he has no lingering symptoms while Starks likely will spell him every so often. Backup Johnathan Franklin, who shined in Week 3 until a late fourth-quarter fumble, falls back to No. 3 on the depth chart.

Patriots RB -
The backfield committee was in full force Sunday night as Stevan Ridley saw 11 carries, LeGarrette Blount was given the rock nine times and Brandon Bolden was handed it six times against the Falcons. While Ridley saw the most touches, it was Blount who found the endzone, and while Bolden left at one point with a knee injury, he returned later and was still given a few carries. I'm sure you appreciate the recap, but that's really as far as it goes here. There is no indication that one player will rise above the others, and when Shane Vereen eventually returns, the mess gets even messier. Unless one player clearly shines brighter on a more consistent basis, this is going to be a fantasy nightmare all year.

Raiders QB -
Matt Flynn saw his first starting action Sunday and threw for 227 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also fumbled twice (lost one), but when your offensive line crumbles like three-day old coffee cake and you end up sacked seven times, there's little you can do when mobility is not your strong suit. If Terrelle Pryor passes all of his concussion tests, something he was unable to do Saturday, then he'll be under center for the team's Week 5 matchup against San Diego. But that is something you'll need to monitor throughout the week.

Raiders RB -
Are you sitting down? If not, grab a chair as the news you are about to receive will be the most shocking thing you hear today. Ready? Brace yourself. Darren McFadden is hurt. Yes, yes, as hard as it is to believe, the least-sturdy running back in the NFL found himself on the sidelines early in the game Sunday nursing a hamstring injury. To make matters worse for the Raiders, backup Marcel Reece also had a short day as a knee injury put him on the shelf as well. Rashad Jennings, the running back equivalent to an Ambien pill, took over the role and carried 15 times for 45 yards. He did have eight catches for 71 yards, so the day wasn't a total loss, but he's a hard name to stand by. We'll wait for test results Monday, but McFadden owners should probably prepare themselves with a contingency plan.

Redskins RB -
With Alfred Morris leaving Sunday's game with a rib injury, Roy Helu saw his most extensive workload of the season, carrying 13 times for 41 yards and a touchdown while also catching two passes for another 43 yards. But after the game, Morris informed the media that he is not dealing with a fracture and that he should be back as the primary rusher when the Skins return after their Week 5 bye. It should be more than enough time to heal, but Morris owners should sensibly handcuff Morris to Helu just to play it safe.

Steelers RB -
For all who stashed Le'Veon Bell on their benches through the first three weeks, congratulations. You are now the proud owner of the starting running back for Pittsburgh. He saw 16 carries to just two each for Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones and found his way into the endzone twice during Sunday's loss to Minnesota. Barring injury, this will be the last time this position finds its way into this article.

Titans QB -
Perhaps there will be additional news by the time you are actually reading this, but we are still awaiting the results of Jake Locker's MRI. After getting hit by a pair of Jets defenders, Locker grabbed his hip and was immediately taken back to the locker room for examination. Initial tests did not show that the joint had been knocked out of place, but no one is choosing to speculate until the MRI results are in. Ryan Fitzpatrick took over and just might be the starter for Week 5.

Vikings QB -
With Christian Ponder nursing a rib injury, Matt Cassel had himself a strong day across the pond and gave the Vikings brass some tough decisions to make. Sort of. After defeating the Steelers, 34-27, and seeing Cassel throw for 248 yards and two touchdowns (no turnovers), the team announced that Ponder's injury will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis and that he won't be pushed to return before he is healthy. Basically that just means that the Vikings will ride Cassel until he shows his true colors and they have to make a switch back. Given what we know about Cassel, that means we just have to wait another couple weeks before we likely see Ponder again.