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Fantasy football rankings 2016: Running backs for standard leagues, Week 1

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Welcome back to fantasy football, and the hardest week to select your lineups. Or is it the easiest? Here are our fantasy football running back rankings for standard leagues for Week 1.

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)

Rk Consensus Tm Opp. ZS JM AP SK JG JG
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 -- --