Week 1 looks rough for a handful of backs we thought were going to be solid No. 2s or better this season. Marlon Mack lost Andrew Luck and now has to face a very good Chargers defense. Aaron Jones is in Chicago on primetime against the consensus No. 1 defense. Damien Williams has to compete with LeSean McCoy in Jacksonville. And Derrick Henry takes on the Browns with his offensive line in shambles. 

None of these backs rank in my top-20 for Week 1, which means Fantasy owners will have some interesting lineup decisions to make. We'll start with the easiest: You're starting Austin Ekeler over all of them. Chris Carson as well. Duke Johnson is a bit more difficult, but I prefer him in PPR to all of them as well. Tevin Coleman and Phillip Lindsay are two more backs you could consider. 

With that being said, I wouldn't necessarily panic if you're forced into starting Jones or Williams. I feel fine about Mack and Henry in non-PPR as well. It's Week 1 and there's still plenty we don't know. Hopefully you'll know a little bit more after finishing this piece. 

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:

DEN Denver • #25
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Week 1 Status
Doubtful
Holdout
Much like Pollard, I expect Austin Ekeler to be a top-20 back for as long as Gordon is out. He'll share early-down work with Justin Jackson, who is a low-end flex this week against the Colts.
RB Preview
Numbers to know
  • 3.6 - Damien Williams' career yards per carry in Miami. So we probably shouldn't make too much of LeSean McCoy's rushing average last year in Buffalo. I'm not sure whose number Andy Reid is going to call on Sunday, but I expect them to be successful. That being said, McCoy's presence combined with the matchup makes me uneasy starting Williams in non-PPR.
  • 287 - Jay Ajayi's touches in 2016, the most any back accrued during the Adam Gase era in Miami. Gase has talked about sparing Le'Veon Bell, so we'll be watching closely to see what share of the touches he earns in Week 1 with the Jets
  • 4 - Dalvin Cook's career rushing touchdowns. Cook has lost short yardage work to Latavius Murray the past two seasons. Does Alexander Mattison take that role?
  • 22.7 - Todd Gurley's touches per game the past two seasons in Los Angeles. Just how much will Sean McVay curtail that to keep Gurley fresh for the postseason?
  • 9.3 - Josh Jacobs' touches per game in his final year at Alabama. That number is going up, but how much? More specifically, does Jacobs take Jalen Richard off the field on third down? I doubt it. 
  • 11 - The number of targets for Sony Michel in 13 games last year. There's been speculation in camp he'll be used more as a pass catcher, but we'll need to see it to believe it. 
  • 42 - The number of targets left behind by Mike Davis. And the Seahawks have talked about using their running backs even more in the passing game. If Chris Carson gets those targets, he's a top-12 back. Rashaad Penny needs them to be flex relevant. 
  • 39.5 - Rushing yards per game for Derrick Henry over his first 12 games in 2018. Let's hope we get the version of Henry from the final month of the season instead. 
  • 3.5 - Yards per carry for all Tampa Bay running backs in 2018. Do we even care who earns a majority of the carries?
RB Preview
Matchups that matter
Matchups that Matter
GB Green Bay • #33
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Week 1 Matchup
@
CHI
The Bears only allowed 3.8 yards per carry and 80 yards per game in 2018. That doesn't make Jones an automatic sit for me, but I would sit him for Austin Ekeler or Tony Pollard if I had them.
MIN Minnesota • #33
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Week 1 Matchup
vs.
Atlanta
The Falcons were one of the worst defenses in every regard last year. I expect they'll improve on a lot of those things because most of their injured starters are back to full strength, but there's one thing I'm confident won't change: They'll continue to allow running backs to thrive in the passing game. It's a staple of a Dan Quinn defense. In 2018, they allowed a league-worst 976 receiving yards to running backs.
SF San Francisco • #34
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Week 1 Matchup
@
ARI
The Cardinals allowed almost five yards per carry and more than 150 yards per game on the ground in 2018. They looked even worse in the preseason. This is one of those weeks where I really don't care how much Johnson has to share the workload.
RB Preview
Waiver Wire Targets
Week 1 Adds
LAC L.A. Chargers • #22
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Ownership
64%
Jackson is by far the best Week 1 running back rostered in fewer than 75% of leagues. The matchup against Indianapolis isn't fantastic but it's helped by the absence of Andrew Luck. The odds of the Chargers finding themselves in a position to grind out the clock the fourth quarter have gone up and we expect that to be Jackson's role. I have him projected for 14 touches and a top-30 week.
LV Las Vegas • #30
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Ownership
38%
Richard is a must-own back in PPR until we see otherwise. He was third on the team in targets in 2018 while also being one of the most efficient pass-catching backs in the NFL. It's hard to imagine the Raiders reduce his role too much after a season like that.
JAC Jacksonville • #34
Age: 30 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Ownership
46%
One thing about changing over to weekly rankings is the chance of injury shrinks dramatically when you're just talking about one game. When Thompson has been fully healthy he's been a top-20 PPR running back over the past two seasons and Washington hasn't added anything in the passing game to take work away from him.
Stashes
BAL Baltimore • #43
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Ownership
61%
I don't anticipate Hill having a Fantasy-worthy start to the season but there's immense upside here. He's backing up a 29-year-old back in one of the most run-heavy offenses in the league. And there are some who think he's already the most explosive back on the roster.
JAC Jacksonville • #24
Age: 31 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Ownership
57%
This is a play on uncertainty. I don't want to believe Hyde is going to dominate touches with Duke Johnson on the roster, but it's something we need to be prepared to at least consider. The upside here is what Lamar Miller gave us the past few years. That's not exciting but it's absolutely worth a roster spot.
TB Tampa Bay • #25
Age: 29 • Experience: 9 yrs.
Ownership
18%
Joe Mixon has missed time each of the past two years. Each time Bernard has instantly been a must-start running back. Now that the Bengals have extended Bernard, I'd expect that will continue. If we're going to roster handcuffs we might as well roster one who has proven he can succeed when he's called upon.
RB Preview
DFS Plays
Top Plays
LAC L.A. Chargers • #30
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Week 1 Prices
FanDuel
$6,400
DraftKings
$5,500
Because of Ekeler's struggles last year without Gordon, I wouldn't be surprised if some people fade him this week. That's fine in tournaments but I wouldn't advise it in cash games. This is a week to take the value and then use it for the studs.
NYG N.Y. Giants • #26
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Week 1 Prices
FanDuel
$9,200
DraftKings
$9,000
As long as Elliott and Gordon remain out, you're playing a running back in your flex this week. Yes, Barkley is expensive, but I have him outscoring every other running back on this slate by 1.5 Fantasy points and it's not hard to afford him with Pollard and Ekeler in the lineup.
CLE Cleveland • #24
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Week 1 Prices
FanDuel
$7,400
DraftKings
$6,400
Chubb is in a feature role with one of the highest implied totals on the main slate as a huge favorite. I project him for 21 touches, 105 yards and at least one touchdown.
Contrarian Plays
SEA Seattle • #32
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Week 1 Price
FanDuel
$6,600
DraftKings
$5,700
It's not hard to imagine Carson getting lost with the enormous values out there. But in a typical week he's everything we look for: Home favorite against a bad defense on a run-heavy team. And he's underpriced as well. If Carson's ownership projection comes in below 10% he'll be one of my favorite tournament plays.
TB Tampa Bay • #7
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Week 1 Prices
FanDuel
$7,200
DraftKings
$6,100
We don't usually look to underdogs in DFS, but Fournette could be the exception. He has a feature role with enhanced usage in the passing game and he's in a projected high-scoring game against a defense that allowed 5.0 yards per carry last year.
RB Preview
Heath's Projections

Non-PPR Rank

PPR Rank

RB

FPTs

PPR FPTs

1

1

Saquon Barkley

20.35

26.08

2

2

Alvin Kamara

19.74

25.03

3

3

Christian McCaffrey

17.01

22.87

7

4

Le'Veon Bell

15.55

20.01

4

5

Nick Chubb

16.84

19.39

5

6

Dalvin Cook

15.84

19.22

6

7

James Conner

15.79

19.06

8

8

Leonard Fournette

15.18

18.17

9

9

Austin Ekeler

14.66

18.12

11

10

David Johnson

14.07

17.87

13

11

Joe Mixon

14.00

17.34

14

12

Ezekiel Elliott

13.71

16.84

10

13

Chris Carson

14.56

16.84

12

14

Kerryon Johnson

14.05

16.66

15

15

Todd Gurley

13.17

15.18

27

16

Duke Johnson

11.13

14.75

20

17

Tevin Coleman

11.70

14.08

35

18

Tarik Cohen

9.41

13.93

16

19

Phillip Lindsay

12.07

13.80

17

20

Mark Ingram

12.04

13.67

21

21

Josh Jacobs

11.48

13.60

26

22

Devonta Freeman

11.16

13.51

19

23

Aaron Jones

11.71

13.41

29

24

Damien Williams

10.26

13.18