Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire
You’ve finished your drafts, have pizza, wings, and drinks ready for Thursday’s kick-off and start to doubt your lineup decisions. This early in the year, rosters are more or less locked into place. Other owners still see players as draft picks, and many will want to stand by their selections at least for a couple of weeks. Outside of practice and non-football injuries (calling out my fellow Jerick McKinnon owners), there has been little change to the Week 1 outlook. That said, there are still a handful of factors that should make you prioritize some players over the others. Below is the first installment of a weekly piece displaying how I see both the running back and wide receiver positions. Note: this relates to the positions individually and not to FLEX plays.
Note: This article series will include gifs once there is regular season footage in the archive.
|Your RB1s||RB1 Potential||Safe RB2s||Deep League Plays|
|Alvin Kamara||Dalvin Cook||Royce Freeman||Tarik Cohen|
|Todd Gurley||Christian McCaffrey||Devonta Freeman||Tevin Coleman|
|David Johnson||LeSean McCoy||Kenyan Drake||Marlon Mack*|
|Leonard Fournette||Alex Collins||Rex Burkhead||James White|
|Ezekiel Elliott||Joe Mixon||Chris Carson||Corey Clement|
|Saquon Barkley||Derrick Henry||Dion Lewis||Adrian Peterson|
|Kareem Hunt||Jordan Howard||Bilal Powell||Theo Riddick|
|Melvin Gordon||Lamar Miller||Marshawn Lynch||Giovani Bernard|
|Isaiah Crowell||Kerryon Johnson||Javorius Allen|
|Jay Ajayi||Peyton Barber||C.J. Anderson|
|Jamaal Williams||Carlos Hyde||Ty Montgomery|
|Alfred Morris/Matt Breida|
|Duke Johnson Jr.|
Your RB1 Plays
Alvin Kamara (NO) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kamara will be an interesting name to watch over the first couple of weeks as Mark Ingram serves his four-game suspension. The versatile second-year back carried a fair number of teams to championships with his air and ground attack last season. With his running mate on the sideline for a month, Kamara should be in line for ample scoring opportunities. That said, the addition of Mike Gillislee could serve to be a problem in short-yardage and early down situations. Nevertheless, he can be expected to start the season on a strong note against, presumably, one of the worst teams in the league.
Todd Gurley (LAR) @ Oakland Raiders
David Johnson (ARI) vs. Washington Redskins
Leonard Fournette (JAC) @ New York Giants
Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) @ Carolina Panthers
Saquon Barkley (NYG) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
No pressure, no diamonds. Right? The much anticipated rookie out of Penn State will undergo a baptism by fire in his debut. Asking any 21-year-old to perform in front of thousands of fans is one things, asking him to do it against the Jacksonville defense is enough. Nevertheless, he delivered in these big moments at the collegiate level and I expect much of the same against better competition. His run game may be inconsistent to start the year, but his value as a receiver means he will likely land in this top tier for much of the season.
Kareem Hunt (KC) @ Los Angeles Chargers
Melvin Gordon (LAC) vs. Kansas City
Dalvin Cook (MIN) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Christian McCaffrey (CAR) vs. Dallas Cowboys
LeSean McCoy (BUF) @ Baltimore Ravens
McCoy’s weird off-season of being a leading headline for 48-hours before everything cooled down seemed to make a lot of people forget about him. I would not expect him to be forgotten in this Buffalo offense. After carrying the ball 203 and 234 times in his first two seasons with the Bills, McCoy rushed 287 times with a staggering 77 targets through the area. A potential 364 touches is unlikely to be repeated, but heavy usage is still likely. Buffalo has an out of McCoy’s contract going into his final year, making it all the more likely they run him into the ground. Significant usage alone is enough for me to see him as a potential top 12 back this week, add in that Nathan Peterman will be under center, and McCoy will be used early and often in this one.
Alex Collins (BAL) vs. Buffalo Bills
Joe Mixon (CIN) @ Indianapolis Colts
Admittedly, there will be some bias against Joe Mixon this season. He delivered a rookie season worse than that of Trent Richardson, and we all know how that turned out. However, even the biggest anti-Mixon critic will salivate over a matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. The boys in blue are likely to start rookie Darius Leonard and last year’s late round pick Anthony Walker at linebacker, playing behind a defensive line that struggles against the run. Mixon’s additional potential in the passing game makes him a threat with valuable potential to start the season.
Derrick Henry (TEN) @ Miami Dolphins
Jordan Howard (CHI) @ Green Bay Packers
Lamar Miller (HOU) @ New England Patriots
Isaiah Crowell (NYJ) @ Detroit Lions
Jay Ajayi (PHI) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Jamaal Williams (GB) vs. Chicago Bears
Safe RB2 Plays
Royce Freeman (DEN) vs. Seattle Seahawks
Devonta Freeman (ATL) @ Philadelphia Eagles
Freeman is a name we’ve all grown use to seeing as an RB1 candidate week in and week out. However, his involvement in the running and passing game has trended downward over the past three seasons. A potentially smaller role in the offense paired with the season debuting against Philadelphia’s front seven is coveted by no one. He is still a stupidly aggressive runner with a nose for the end zone, but I lack the confidence I’ve had in him in years past.
Kenyan Drake (MIA) vs. Tennessee Titans
Rex Burkhead (NE) vs. Houston Texans
Chris Carson (SEA) @ Denver Broncos
Dion Lewis (TEN) @ Miami Dolphins
It’s worth stating that Dion Lewis is probably a must-start in full PPR leagues, but I want to see his role in Tennessee before recommending him too high in standard or 0.5 PPR.
Bilal Powell (NYJ) @ Detroit Lions
Marshawn Lynch (OAK) vs. Los Angeles Rams
Kerryon Johnson (DET) vs. New York Jets
Peyton Barber (TB) @ New Orleans Saints
Carlos Hyde (CLE) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Alfred Morris/Matt Breida (SF) @ Minnesota Vikings
If you were lucky enough to claim one of the potential replacements in San Francisco, well congrats? Week 1 is a place where you’ll probably want to rest your new addition. Aside from the fact that Jerick McKinnon figured to handle a heavy amount of the carries, the Minnesota front seven has not become any friendlier to opposing backs. A time will come where one of these backs (likely Morris) emerges as a legitimate threat in that offense, but wait a week or two to see how the personnel shakes out.
Duke Johnson Jr. (CLE) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Deep League Plays
Tarik Cohen (CHI) @ Green Bay Packers
Tevin Coleman (ATL) @ Philadelphia Eagles
Marlon Mack (IND) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Mack is the only player in this tier I would confidently have in a higher tier if I knew he could play a full game at 100%. Already suffering from a hamstring injury, it is unclear how much he will play, if at all. The second-year back will be behind an offensive line starting two rookies, and a third, new addition. Expectations are higher for the offense with the return of Andrew Luck and a potentially stronger line, but injury concerns and missing the first practice in Week 1 serve as a major deterrent.
James White (NE) vs. Houston Texans
Corey Clement (PHI) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Adrian Peterson (WAS) @ Arizona Cardinals
Theo Riddick (DET) vs. New York Jets
A lot has been made of rookie Kerryon Johnson and free agent addition LeGarrette Blount this offseason. The Detroit run game has consistently struggled as long as Matthew Stafford has been at the helm. While the two bigger backs should help move the ball between the tackles, Theo Riddick can still be expected to serve as a valuable third-down back. Stafford targeted the smaller back 71 times, translating to 53 receptions for a second consecutive year. More serviceable in PPR-leagues, Riddick can still play as a potential FLEX or RB3 against a Jets team that will try to limit the downfield threat of Detroit’s receivers.
Giovani Bernard (CIN) @ Indianapolis Colts
Javorius Allen (BAL) vs. Buffalo Bills
C.J. Anderson (CAR) vs. Dallas Cowboys
Ty Montgomery (GB) vs. Chicago Bears