Editor's update 11:38 a.m.: Chris Ivory has been deactivated due to a medical issue. T.J. Yeldon will start in his place.
Editor's update 8:50 a.m.: These rankings are from earlier in the week. Christine Michael has been named the starter for Week 1. For this first matchup, he would be a low end RB1. He could put up huge numbers, but given his lack of previous productivity, he is not a certainty. Additionally, look for Thomas Rawls to get some of his carries.
The NFL season is back, baby! For football fans in general, and fantasy players in particular, it’s Christmas in September. The long wait since Super Bowl 50 is over and the anticipation for the Panthers-Broncos kickoff on Thursday is incalculable.
But, really, what exactly are you excited about?
In terms of fantasy expectations, there is no worse week on the schedule to plan for success than Week 1. It is the week that brings the least amount of data with which to make informed decisions about the best plays, the booms and the busts. Most rankings are based on season-long expectations, as trying to pinpoint precisely how teams will perform on both sides of the ball in their specific Week 1 matchups is almost impossible to predict without even the smallest of regular-season sample sizes to consult.
But soldier on we must and while 2015 data is rendered mostly useless by personnel and coaching changes — not to mention preseason injuries — it is all we have to try and determine the best running back plays for Week 1.
Of course, very little analysis is needed if you won guys like Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson and David Johnson. If you draft a stud RB, you are playing a stud RB. Week 1 is as smash-mouth as it gets in fantasy football. You take your elite players and you play them. If they bust, you reassess next Monday.
But for some of you, that No. 2 running back, or perhaps that flex position, is less obvious. Melvin Gordon or Matt Forte? Rashad Jennings or Ryan Mathews? For Week 1, the key word is volume. If you are choosing between a pair or trio of backs to use this weekend, find the player who is most likely to hoard snaps and carries. Guys like Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon might be huge fantasy factors by Week 5, but it’s hard to trust them right out of the gate compared to a Jeremy Langford, Carlos Hyde or Gordon, who might play for shaky offenses, but should get the lion’s share of carries.
The other place to look is opponent rank vs. position. If Gurley wasn’t already the top overall pick this week, he takes on the 49ers, who enter the season with the worst run defense. Other bottom-feeders include the Miami Dolphins (No. 31), New Orleans Saints (No. 30), Atlanta Falcons (No. 29) and Philadelphia Eagles (No. 28). Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman were already going to be in your lineup. But if Thomas Rawls (vs. Miami) and Duke Johnson (at Philadelphia) were on your lineup fence, those rankings should help inform your decision.
Running backs (standard), Week 1
(ZS: Zach Senvisky, JM: Jason Marcum, AP: Adam Patrick, SK: Scott Kaliska, JG: Jeff Goldberg, KB: Kyle Bennett)
|1||Todd Gurley||LA||at SF||1||2||2||1||1||1|
|2||Adrian Peterson||MIN||at TEN||2||1||1||3||2||2|
|3||David Johnson||ARI||vs. NE||5||4||3||4||3||3|
|4||Lamar Miller||HOU||vs. CHI||3||8||9||5||4||4|
|5||Devonta Freeman||ATL||vs. TB||9||6||6||7||6||7|
|6||Eddie Lacy||GB||at JAC||13||3||4||8||7||11|
|7||Ezekiel Elliott||DAL||vs. NYG||4||14||12||2||5||6|
|8||Doug Martin||TB||at ATL||11||5||5||9||8||8|
|9||Mark Ingram||NO||vs. OAK||7||11||8||6||10||5|
|10||LeSean McCoy||BUF||at BAL||6||10||10||11||11||10|
|11||Latavius Murray||OAK||at NO||10||9||11||10||13||9|
|12||DeAngelo Williams||PIT||at WAS||8||12||14||12||9||12|
|13||Thomas Rawls||SEA||vs. MIA||12||7||7||17||23||14|
|14||DeMarco Murray||TEN||vs. MIN||14||13||13||18||16||16|
|15||C.J. Anderson||DEN||vs. CAR||18||15||17||16||15||13|
|16||Carlos Hyde||SF||vs. LA||17||16||16||15||18||15|
|17||Jeremy Langford||CHI||at HOU||15||18||18||21||19||22|
|18||Ryan Mathews||PHI||vs. CLE||27||22||22||13||14||17|
|19||Matt Forte||NYJ||vs. CIN||21||20||19||19||20||19|
|20||Melvin Gordon||SD||at KC||24||19||20||23||24||24|
|21||Frank Gore||IND||vs. DET||23||26||26||22||17||21|
|22||Rashad Jennings||NYG||at DAL||25||23||23||20||25||20|
|23||Jeremy Hill||CIN||at NYJ||16||27||25||29||21||25|
|24||Chris Ivory||JAC||vs. GB||28||17||15||33||27||32|
|25||Jonathan Stewart||CAR||at DEN||22||30||27||26||22||23|
|26||Spencer Ware||KC||vs. SD||20||40||45||14||12||18|
|27||Duke Johnson||CLE||at PHI||34||21||21||28||28||27|
|28||Ameer Abdullah||DET||at IND||26||28||33||24||26||29|
|29||Giovani Bernard||CIN||at NYJ||29||25||30||25||29||28|
|30||Matt Jones||WAS||vs. PIT||33||24||32||30||30||26|
|31||Danny Woodhead||SD||at KC||31||34||29||27||31||31|
|32||LeGarrette Blount||NE||at ARI||32||32||24||37||34||34|
|33||Isaiah Crowell||CLE||at PHI||37||31||31||32||33||37|
|34||Derrick Henry||TEN||vs. MIN||38||29||35||36||32||36|
|35||T.J. Yeldon||JAC||vs. GB||35||39||38||34||35||33|
|36||Darren Sproles||PHI||vs. CLE||39||33||28||47||39||--|
|37||Arian Foster||MIA||at SEA||19||--||--||31||38||30|
|38||Christine Michael||SEA||vs. MIA||43||36||34||41||36||39|
|39||Jay Ajayi||MIA||at SEA||36||37||37||46||40||43|
|40||Charles Sims||TB||at ATL||41||46||44||35||37||35|
|41||Justin Forsett||BAL||vs. BUF||48||38||40||42||42||41|
|42||James Starks||GB||at JAC||46||35||36||--||43||44|
|43||James White||NE||at ARI||30||47||--||38||--||38|
|44||Theo Riddick||DET||at IND||--||41||39||45||41||42|
|45||Chris Johnson||ARI||vs. NE||40||43||43||--||46||46|
|46||Devontae Booker||DEN||vs. CAR||45||42||42||--||44||45|
|47||Charcandrick West||KC||vs. SD||42||44||46||--||45||47|
|48||Bilal Powell||NYJ||vs. CIN||--||49||47||40||47||40|
|49||Terrance West||BAL||vs. BUF||49||45||--||39||--||--|
|50||Alfred Morris||DAL||vs. NYG||44||50||48||--||48||48|
|--||Reggie Bush||BUF||at BAL||--||--||41||--||--||--|
|--||Tevin Coleman||ATL||vs. TB||50||--||--||44||50||50|
|--||Jamaal Charles||KC||vs. SD||--||--||--||43||--||--|
|--||Shane Vereen||NYG||at DAL||47||--||--||48||--||--|
|--||Jerick McKinnon||MIN||at TEN||--||48||50||--||49||49|
|--||Chris Thompson||WAS||vs. PIT||--||--||--||49||--||--|
|--||DeAndre Washington||OAK||at NO||--||--||49||--||--||--|
|--||Javorius Allen||BAL||vs. BUF||--||--||--||50||--||--|