Ezekiel Elliott Dallas Cowboys
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One thing I try to make clear in Week 1 is that I'm not overly concerned with matchups. For one thing, I'm not sure we're that good at predicting the strength of defenses early in the year, but mostly I just don't want to sit players I drafted in the first two rounds. I do factor in a team's implied point total, which factors in defense, but that's about it.

In other words, I've given no thought to sitting Ezekiel Elliott against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night. The backs on the other sideline? That's a different story altogether. 

Bruce Arians running back usage drew the ire of Fantasy managers multiple times in 2020 and, with the addition of Giovani Bernard, it may be even worse this year. The most frustrating part is that the most recent performance didn't always seem to dictate playing time in the following game. That's why i'm skeptical Leonard Fournette will earn the lion's share of the touches in Week 1. In fact, I'd rather start Ronald Jones.

The only thing I do feel confident in is that Giovani Bernard will be the pass-catching back. Bernard has been much better than Fournette and Jones at this aspect of the game and the Buccaneers have raved about the veteran since he arrived in Tampa Bay.  He's been a full participant this week after an ankle scare at the end of last week, and I'm expecting Bernard to be a full go.

My current touch expectation for Week 1 has Jones at 44% of the carries followed by Fournette at 33% and Bernard at 15%. But I have Bernard at 13% of the team's targets, with Jones and Fournette splitting five percent. That math leads to Bernard as the best option in PPR, Jones as the best in non, and Fournette as a desperation flex. 

But I'll say again, this is a very low confidence situation from game to game and even drive to drive. These are the types of situations you can exploit in DFS by choosing the least popular, but they're an absolute headache in redraft leagues.

Now let's get to the rest of the Week 1 RB Preview:

Week 1 RB Preview
RB Preview
Who's Out

The following players are not being projected to play Week 1 at this time. Here's what it means:

Who's Out
Projections powered by Sportsline
CHI Chicago • #29
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
David Montgomery should be as close to a workhorse back as he was last year. Damien Williams is the primary backup running back, but just a stash for now.
SF San Francisco • #30
Age: 26 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon have a great setup against the lowly Lions in Week 1.
RB Preview
Numbers to know
  • 7.9 -- Mike Davis broke a tackle once every 7.9 attempts last year, the best mark in the league.
  • 110 -- J.D. McKissic's targets from last year. Antonio Gibson needs to take a big chunk of that to justify his ADP.
  • 25% -- The Saints and Chargers were two of four teams last year to dedicate at least a fourth of their targets to running backs. Dan Campbell and Anthony Lynn are now together in Detroit, which is one of the reasons why D'Andre Swift can succeed on a bad Lions team.
  • 12 -- Cam Newton accounted for 12 of the Patriots' 20 rush TDs last year. His departure opens the door for a breakout season for Damien Harris.
  • 118 -- Tom Brady threw 118 passes to running backs last year, and that was without a pass catcher as good as Giovani Bernard on the team.
  • 152 -- Nyheim Hines had 152 touches last year and the Colts say they want him to have more in 2021. That would not be good for Jonathan Taylor.
  • 23.3 -- Joe Mixon averaged 23.3 touches per game in 2020. He could be among the league leaders if he stays healthy.
RB Preview
Matchups that matter
Matchups that Matter
Projections powered by Sportsline
NYG N.Y. Giants • #26
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs DEN DEN -2.5 O/U 42
OPP VS RB
17th
PROJ PTS
16.2
RB RNK
18th
ATL Atlanta • #28
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs PHI ATL -3.5 O/U 48
OPP VS RB
5th
PROJ PTS
14.3
RB RNK
17th
MIA Miami • #37
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ NE NE -2.5 O/U 43.5
OPP VS RB
15th
PROJ PTS
13.2
RB RNK
20th
SF San Francisco • #31
Age: 29 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ DET SF -7.5 O/U 45.5
OPP VS RB
32nd
PROJ PTS
12.2
RB RNK
23rd
RB Preview
Waiver Wire Targets
Week 1 Adds
LAC L.A. Chargers • #22
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ WAS LAC -1 O/U 44.5
OPP VS RB
2nd
RB RNK
41st
ROSTERED
37%
Justin Jackson appears to be locked in as the No. 2 back behind Austin Ekeler, which we expect to mean 10 touches per game for as long as Jackson stays healthy. That's probably not good enough to start against the Washington Football Team, but it will be in some matchups. If Ekeler's hamstring injury is more serious than we think it is, Jackson could be a must-start back. He's averaged 14.6 PPR FP/G in five career games with at least 10 touches.
TB Tampa Bay • #25
Age: 30 • Experience: 9 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs DAL TB -7.5 O/U 51.5
OPP VS RB
16th
RB RNK
33rd
ROSTERED
60%
Giovani Bernard practiced fully on Monday so he appears to be good to go for Week 1. That makes him my favorite Bucs running back in full PPR and a solid flex at that. He has five-catch upside every week and should get a few carries a week as well. Bernard is probably not going to be very useful in non-PPR.
NYJ N.Y. Jets • #23
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ CAR CAR -5 O/U 45
OPP VS RB
22nd
RB RNK
47th
ROSTERED
54%
The Jets have a mess at running back but the coaching staff is most familiar with Tevin Coleman, so I expect Coleman to get the first look in Week 1. He should also be the goal line back, should the Jets approach that area of the field.
NO New Orleans • #21
Age: 24 • Experience: Rookie
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs GB GB -4 O/U 50
OPP VS RB
NR
RB RNK
44th
ROSTERED
49%
Jones took the RB2 job from Latavius Murray, which should make him a low-end flex as son as Week 1. Murray showed us last year, just how valuable this role can be is something happens to Kamara.
Stashes
NE New England • #38
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs MIA NE -2.5 O/U 43.5
OPP VS RB
7th
RB RNK
NR
ROSTERED
59%
Damien Harris has an extensive injury history and Stevenson looks like he'd be the next man up if Harris goes down again. Stevenson was a preseason star and profiles as the Patriots' best short-yardage back if Harris isn't there. He's a better non-PPR stash, but he should be rostered in most leagues regardless of format.
TEN Tennessee • #32
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs ARI TEN -3 O/U 52
OPP VS RB
13th
RB RNK
NR
ROSTERED
29%
If you have IR spots in your league, Evans is even easier to stash. He should be available early in the year and I still like him as the most likely beneficiary if Derrick Henry suffers an injury,
ATL Atlanta • #25
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs PHI ATL -3.5 O/U 48
OPP VS RB
5th
RB RNK
60th
ROSTERED
26%
Gallman is a much more capable backup than Qadree Ollison and would likely be a top-25 back should Mike Davis go down. It's not even that hard to imagine Davis struggling against a tough opening schedule and Gallman getting more work that way.
RB Preview
DFS Plays
Top Play
Projections powered by Sportsline
CAR Carolina • #22
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs NYJ CAR -5 O/U 45
OPP VS RB
19th
PROJ PTS
27
RB RNK
1st
There's enough value to be found in Week 1 that you should play the running back who is projected to outscore every other running back by five Fantasy points in Week 1. Sometimes it's just that simple.
Contrarian Play
Projections powered by Sportsline
DET Detroit • #32
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs SF SF -7.5 O/U 45.5
OPP VS RB
3rd
PROJ PTS
12.8
RB RNK
12th
FANDUEL
$6,400
DRAFTKINGS
$6,900
Swift has a bad matchup, an injury designation and the lowest implied point total on the slate, so it's easy to see why he'll be low rostered. Why should you play him? Because in Anthony Lynn's offense a negative game script just means the running backs get more catches and fewer carries. Swift showed last year he can succeed in bad game scripts. The Lions lost their last four games by a combined 70 points and Swift averaged 68 yards, four catches, and 15.6 Fantasy points per game in that stretch.
RB Preview
Heath's Projections