The fantasy football season is finally here. Preseason is over, most drafts are wrapped up, and rosters are just about finalized. Now we look ahead to the games that matter, and start playing the matchups. Welcome to Week 1.
For the most part, you’ll want to stick to your drafted lineup this early in the year. The season opener is not the time to get cute or try out weird experiments. With that said, you will want to keep a heavy eye on the waiver wire, which will come into play much earlier than you might expect.
We’re already seeing some injury/suspension implications in Week 1 at the running back position. Spencer Ware is done for the year, throwing rookie Kareem Hunt into a starting role early. There’s also the looming six-game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott to account for, although it’s looking more likely that he’ll play this week.
Here are the best available options at running back, owned in 50 percent or less of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles (50 percent)
The Eagels kept Sproles on ice in August, holding him out of the entire preseason. Sproles is heading into a crowded backfield next to LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood, but all indications are that the Eagles will make him the starter. Even at age 34, Sproles still has a featured role and will be a viable PPR asset.
Jamaal Charles, Denver Broncos (44 percent)
Charles only played in one preseason game, but he showed enough to prove he’s healthy after knee injuries wiped out most of his 2015 and 2016 season. There are plenty of red flags with Charles, now 30 years old and in a timeshare with C.J. Anderson. However, his otherworldly talent might still be there, giving him a decent chance to overtake Anderson as the lead back. Charles is just a bench stash at the moment, but he’s a name to monitor when the Broncos play the Los Angeles Chargers this week.
Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots (32 percent)
It seems like the Patriots have more running backs than they know what to do with. Besides, Burkhead, they also have James White, Mike Gillislee, and Dion Lewis, all of whom play a specific role in the offense. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, even after Julian Edelman’s season-ending ACL tear. It’s entirely possible that someone gets lost in the shuffle, but we wouldn’t count out a Tom Brady offense sustaining multiple fantasy producers at running back. Burkhead is a nice lottery ticket to have on your bench.
Shane Vereen, New York Giants (16 percent)
Vereen’s last healthy season was 2015, when he had 59 catches for 495 yards and four touchdowns. His role is well-defined in Ben McAdoo’s offense, which is that of a pass-catching back while Paul Perkins handles work between the tackles. Vereen isn’t a sexy fantasy asset, but he should carry decent PPR value if he stays healthy. The Giants badly need a spark in their running game.
Dion Lewis, New England Patriots (14 percent)
Same deal as Burkhead, but with a more proven track record and longer injury history. Lewis was a bona-fide breakout star in 2015, racking up 622 total yards and four touchdowns in the first seven games. Unfortunately, he suffered a major knee injury that ended his season early, and it took until late 2016 before Lewis got on the field regularly again. There’s plenty of risk here, but Lewis has the talent to run away with the starting job again. As far as waiver wire fliers go, he has the most upside in New England’s backfield.