As the way the game is played has changed in real football, so too has it changed in fantasy. The proof is in the running game. Go ahead and look at the top rushers in the NFL through three weeks.

As the way the game is played has changed in real football, so too has it changed in fantasy.

The proof is in the running game. Go ahead and look at the top rushers in the NFL through three weeks.

Darren McFadden (OAK), LeSean McCoy (PHI), Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC), Fred Jackson (BUF) and Ben Tate (HOU) are the top five rushers thus far.

That’s right. No Adrian Peterson (MIN), Chris Johnson (TEN), Ray Rice (BAL), Rashard Mendenhall (PIT) or Michael Turner (ATL).

I’ll give Rice a pass because the Ravens seemed intent on beating down the St. Louis Rams through the air, but for all five of these players to be on the outside looking in is mind-blowing.

Peterson has had just one game with 20 or more carries, Johnson is a shell of himself at the moment, Turner’s burners aren’t where they were a few years ago and Mendenhall hasn’t rushed for more than 70 this season.

Just what is going on?

For starters, passing yardage league-wide is through the roof. Nine quarterbacks this year have thrown for 300 or more yards a game and Mark Sanchez is five yards shy of the 300-yard average on the ground-and-pound New York Jets.

It’s also made for some weird receiving leaders three weeks in. Wes Welker (NE) and Mike Wallace (PIT) are No. 1 and No. 2 on the receiving yards list and two tight ends (New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Dallas’ Jason Witten) and a running back (Chicago Bears Matt Forte) are in the top 10.

You know who’s not in the top 10? Greg Jennings (GB), Larry Fitzgerald (ARI), Hakeem Nicks (NYG) and Calvin Johnson (DET). I’m sure no one’s complaining about either three, especially Megatron who just scored another touchdown as you were reading this (trust me, he was).

Thing is, the top-tier receivers will be where they should be at the end of the year.

Running backs aren’t necessarily guaranteed to get theirs. Teams are running the ball less than I’ve ever seen (or at least it feels that way) and it’s hurt a ton of fantasy teams this year.

Couple that with injuries and flat out inconsistency across the board with the top-tier backs and it’s no wonder some people are hurting with what should be a good fantasy team.

Again, this was why depth at the RB position, along with all positions, was so important to draft for way back when. Mid-to-late round draft picks like Welker, Run-DMC, San Diego’s Ryan Mathews, Freddy Jackson, Eli Manning (NYG) and Joe Flacco (BAL) were among the top scorers last week.

Weather the storm. As the weather gets colder and wetter, the more likely teams will get back to running the ball a bit more. Unless of course, they’re in a dome.
Ugh.

Can’t Wait! Waiver Wire Pickups

Something tells me Torrey Smith (BAL) will be owned by a bit more than under one percent of fantasy teams by the end of the week.

Before you pick him up, I say go after Nate Washington (TEN). He’s been on my sleepers list for the past two seasons, and with Matt Hasselbeck throwing as well as he has and Kenny Britt down for the year with torn ACL and MCL, Washington will play a big role for Tennessee’s offense.

QB: Hasselback (TEN)
RB: Kendall Hunter (SF), Bernard Scott (CIN)
WR: Washington (TEN), Smith (BAL)
TE: James Casey (HOU)

Breakin’ Bread List

Of course Tom Brady, Peterson and Megatron are breakin’ bread and will continue to stay on the list. I’m not a fool — just don’t say anything about how I whiffed on my Aaron Rodgers prediction that he wouldn’t torch Chicago — so I’m sticking with what works.

But I’m adding both McFadden and Jackson to the list.

Simply put, neither was given the credit they deserved on draft day by most and they’re probably a big reason why owners of both are giddy about their seasons.

QB: Tom Brady (NE) at Oakland
RB: Peterson (MIN) at Kansas City, McFadden (OAK) vs. New England, Jackson (BUF) at Cincinnati
WR: Johnson (DET) at Dallas

The Purple Drank list — presented by Steve Spagnuolo

Remember how I mentioned the Baltimore Ravens routed the Rams this past weekend? It’s become a habit for teams to beat ‘em down this year. Well Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo took it personal.

Apparently the coach told his wife “we’re not talking to them” referring to Ravens coach John Harbaugh and his family. Yikes!

Spagnuolo was so heated about the loss he didn’t want the Harbaughs at the house. That’s harsh, considering his team could’ve stopped the drubbing if they were a bit more talented.

The coach later backed off his comments, according to NFL.com, but I’d steer clear of any drinks served by Spagnuolo.  

QB: Curtis Painter (IND) at Tampa Bay, Blaine Gabbert (JAC) vs. New Orleans
RB: Marshawn Lynch (SEA) vs. Atlanta, Shonn Greene (NYJ) at Baltimore
WR: Mike Sims-Walker (STL) vs. Washington, Chad Ochocinco (NE) at Oakland

Don’t sleep on my sleepers

QB: Donovan McNabb (MIN) at Kansas City, Kyle Orton (DEN) at Green Bay
RB: Montario Hardesty (CLE) vs. Tennessee, Thomas Jones (KC) vs. Minnesota
WR: Titus Young (DET) at Dallas, Steve Smith (PHI) vs. San Francisco

Joey Baskerville writes his fantasy football column every Wednesday. He can be reached at jbaskerville@journalstandard.com or @jmark79 on Twitter.