James Robinson at No. 6? Gus Edwards at No. 10? Raheem Mostert at No. 11? That’s right — it’s not preseason anymore. All those rankings and sleeper lists you carefully studied throughout August are out the window. Now, it’s about touches and matchups. Our Week 1 fantasy RB rankings reflect that, though there’s a giant caveat: We don’t know for sure how a team will divvy up running back carries and snaps, nor do we know the strengths of offensive lines and defenses.
So, why try to play matchups at all then? Well, we have to base these rankings on something, and historical performance mixed with season outlooks is the best way to do it. Perhaps the Lions and Texans, who were tied for the most fantasy points allowed to RBs last year, have improved, but based on offseason moves and projections, they still won’t be particularly strong. That’s why Robinson and Mostert are ranked where they are. Whether you think they should be as high as they’re ranked is a matter of debate, but it’s tough to argue that they should be safe starters in 10- and 12-team leagues this week.
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That’s why you shouldn’t get too hung up on the order here, at least for the top few tiers. Guys like Ezekiel Elliott (@ Bucs), Saquon Barkley (vs. Broncos), and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (vs. Browns) are lower than where you drafted them, but we’re still recommending they be in your lineups. We’re not getting too crazy.
It’s the guys in the 24-45 range, as it is every week, who fantasy owners will have questions about. Given how little we know about some of these committee situations (Broncos, Jets, Buccaneers, Texans, Cardinals, Bills, Dolphins), it’s tough to feel overly confident about any of their backs this week, but chances are, you’ll be taking some chances on at least one RB in your lineup. Our rankings give an approximation of who we think will have the most value. Some are so close that it’s not even worth trying to guess if you don’t have to, especially in a situation like the Bills (vs. Steelers) where they’re playing a stout defense.
We’ll learn a lot more about these committees after Week 1, but even then we won’t know everything. The first weeks of the season are a feeling out process, both for fantasy owners and the teams themselves. You can bet on talent or perceived matchups, or try to find a combination of both. That’s why we’re still recommending both Broncos backs (@ Giants) be used as at least flexes, but have no love for any Jets backs (@ Panthers). The matchup isn’t expected to be bad, but we have no idea who will get an appreciable amount of touches, if anyone.
You never want to bench a good performance, and it’s especially painful in Week 1. You don’t need to totally ditch a guy you drafted high (unless there are worries about his workload), but you also shouldn’t just play the guys you drafted in the order you drafted them. It’s never too early to consider other factors, especially at a position as important as running back.
Note: We’ll be updating these RB rankings as needed throughout the week. so check back for the latest changes and analysis.
Fantasy RB Rankings Week 1: Who to start at running back
Rankings are based on standard, non-PPR scoring.
Individual analysis will be added early next week and updated throughout the week to reflect any changes to the rankings.
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