Fantasy Football Week 1 Start 'Em & Sit 'Em: Running backs

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Editor's note: Welcome to Week 1! We're handling Jamey Eisenberg's Start 'Em & Sit 'Em column a bit differently this season. You're still getting the same in-depth analysis as always, we're just presenting a bit differently, in an effort to get it out to you earlier in the day. This column takes a long time to write, and in the past, we've usually gotten it out to you in the evening. This year, we're going to publish it position-by-position, to get it into your hands quicker. Here's Jamey's take on running backs for this week. 

Don't worry: If you want the classic Start 'Em & Sit 'Em, we'll still be publishing that at the end of the day with every position included. For now, here's running back. 

Running backs

Note: Projections are provided by SportsLine.

Start 'Em
10.2 projected points
Kenyan Drake Miami Dolphins RB
We'll see just how this split is going to work with Drake and Frank Gore, but I expect Drake is going to handle at least 70 percent of the touches. And with that type of workload he should be successful. Last year, Drake had five games with at least 15 touches, and he scored at least 11 PPR points in each outing, with three games of at least 22 points. The Titans won't be an easy matchup, but I'll take my chances with Drake at home as a must-start Fantasy running back this week.
9.9 projected points
Derrick Henry Tennessee Titans RB
The Dolphins will have to prove they can overcome the loss of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and facing Henry will be a tough test. He's going to share touches with Dion Lewis, who is a low-end starter/flex in PPR, but Henry has the higher ceiling with his touchdown potential. I expect Henry to take on a hefty workload this week, which is a good thing. He has six games in his career with at least 14 carries, and he's scored at least 13 PPR points in all of them. This game is expected to be a low-scoring affair, and Henry should be a key factor in deciding the outcome with his production on the ground.
9.2 projected points
Royce Freeman Denver Broncos RB
Thank you, Broncos, for doing the right thing and making Freeman the starter over Devontae Booker. While Booker will still get some touches, look for Freeman to handle a heavy workload and build off his strong preseason performance when he had 15 carries for 84 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, along with one catch for 6 yards. It would be nice to see him more involved in the passing game, but he should have success against this revamped Seattle defense, which will be without linebacker K.J. Wright (knee). Freeman is also the first rookie running back to start for the Broncos in Week 1 since Terrell Davis did it in 1995. Hopefully, Freeman follows a similar career path toward the Hall of Fame.
11.1 projected points
Lamar Miller Houston Texans RB
Miller is expected to handle a heavy workload for the Texans, and I'm excited for his outlook this season. That wasn't the case back in February when I started looking at Miller in 2018. But when D'Onta Foreman (Achilles) wasn't ready to return in training camp, it opened things up for Miller to remain the featured back in Houston. And he will hopefully play like he did when Deshaun Watson was healthy. During their seven games together in 2017, Miller averaged 14.0 PPR points, and he should do well against the Patriots this week. Miller is a solid No. 2 running back in all formats.
8.1 projected points
Peyton Barber Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB
The last real game that Barber played in Week 17 was against New Orleans, and he had 17 carries for 71 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and a touchdown and two catches for 18 yards. Hopefully he can repeat that type of performance this week. He's coming off a strong preseason where he ran away with the starting job when he had 15 carries for 87 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and two touchdowns and three catches for 2 yards. It would be great if he does more in the passing game, and Barber closed last year with 12 catches in his final five games. We'll see how long Barber holds off Ronald Jones for the starting job, but in Week 1, he's at least a flex option in all leagues.

Sleepers

  • James Conner (at CLE): Conner should be considered a must-start running back with Le'Veon Bell not expected to play this week against the Browns. Conner is looking at a big workload, and he played well in the preseason with 19 carries for 100 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and a touchdown and seven catches for 61 yards.   
  • Adrian Peterson (at ARI): We'll see how long he can hold up at 33, but he should have fresh legs for Week 1. And he looked good in the third preseason game for Washington with 11 carries for 56 yards. He's a flex play this week, as is Chris Thompson in PPR.
  • James White (vs. HOU): Heading into Wednesday, we don't know how much work Rex Burkhead (knee) and Sony Michel (knee) will get in Week 1. That could leave White and Jeremy Hill to do a lot of heavy lifting. White has value on his own even if Burkhead and Michel are healthy, especially in PPR, and he should be involved quite a bit in the passing game with Julian Edelman (suspension) out.
  • Kerryon Johnson (vs. NYJ): It's risky to trust Johnson since he's expected to share touches with LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick, but the Lions could blow out the Jets at home  Monday night. Johnson could get an extended look in this game and has flex appeal, especially in deeper leagues.
  • Jordan Wilkins (vs. CIN): I like Wilkins for the season, and hopefully he will establish himself as a significant contributor in this backfield. He doesn't have an easy matchup this week against the Bengals, but he should get plenty of volume if Marlon Mack (hamstring) is out. In deeper leagues, Wilkins could be a flex option.
  • Duke Johnson (vs. PIT): Carlos Hyde is a low-end starter for Fantasy owners this week and should be the No. 1 running back for the Browns. But Johnson is No. 2 and should be heavily involved, especially in the passing game. Last year against Pittsburgh in Week 17, Johnson had six carries for 20 yards and a touchdown and six catches for 75 yards. He's a great flex option in PPR.
Sit 'Em
7.8 projected points
Marshawn Lynch Oakland Raiders RB
Last year, Lynch closed the season on a tear with at least 11 PPR points in six of his final eight outings, and he looked spry for 31. He's 32 now, and we'll see if he can pick up where last season left off. He has a tough first test trying to get past Suh and Donald, although the Rams were not good against the run in 2017, allowing the second-most Fantasy points to running backs. Still, this is a different defense this season, and Lynch should share touches with Doug Martin. I'm OK with Lynch as a flex option, but he's not a must-start running back this week, especially in PPR.
5.3 projected points
Alfred Morris San Francisco 49ers RB
With Jerick McKinnon (ACL) out, Morris and Matt Breida are expected to share touches this week and for the rest of the season. I like Breida better in both scenarios, although I would sit both this week. Breida should be more viable against the Vikings because of his expected role in the passing game, and this is not a good week to trust Morris. The Vikings are going to be dominant against the run, and last year they allowed the fewest Fantasy points to running backs, which could happen again in 2018.
8.0 projected points
Isaiah Crowell New York Jets RB
I expect the Jets to lean on their ground game against the Lions to try and take pressure off rookie quarterback Sam Darnold in his first NFL start, which will be on the road on Monday night. Crowell and Bilal Powell will split carries, with the Jets expected to use a hot-hand approach. I like Powell better, although neither is more than a flex option this week at best in any format. Given the uncertainty of who will get the most touches out of Powell and Crowell, even in a favorable matchup, you should be hesitant to trust either Jets running back. But if you have to choose one, lean toward Powell.
5.5 projected points
Chris Carson Seattle Seahawks RB
Carson is OK as a flex option this week, but he could struggle against this Broncos run defense, which is tough when healthy. Domata Peko and Derek Wolfe anchor a solid defensive front, and Carson could find little running room this week, even behind an improved offensive line. We also don't know how much, if any, rookie Rashaad Penny (finger) will touch the ball, so Carson's value is slightly lower with that uncertainty. He should have the chance to play well this season, but this is a difficult matchup for him in Week 1 on the road.
10.2 projected points
Tevin Coleman Atlanta Falcons RB
Devonta Freeman did not play in the preseason, which should mean he has fresh legs for this matchup and might get a heavy workload. Coleman was the starter in the preseason and ran well with 15 carries for 81 yards (5.4 yards per carry), along with one catch for 10 yards. Coleman will definitely get work, but he'll take a backseat to Freeman as usual when both are healthy. And the Eagles are a tough team to run on, even with linebacker Nigel Bradham suspended for this game. Coleman did have 10 carries for 79 yards and one catch for 14 yards in the playoff loss at Philadelphia last year (Freeman had 10 carries for 7 yards, along with five catches for 26 yards and a touchdown), but that's likely the ceiling for Coleman and not something I would expect this week.

Bust Alert

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LeSean McCoy BUF • RB • 25
WEEK 1 PROJECTION11.1

McCoy is going to be started in every league this week, and he should be at least a flex option, especially in PPR. But this could be a tough outing for him on the road, especially with Nate Peterman starting at quarterback behind what should be a bad offensive line. McCoy had limited preseason action, which is expected for a veteran of his stature, and he only received four carries for 11 yards (2.8 yards per carry), along with one catch for minus-1 yard. He's going to need a lot of volume, especially in the passing game, and potentially a touchdown to reward Fantasy owners this week. I'm skeptical of him being a great Fantasy option this season, starting this week against the Ravens.

So who should you sit and start this week? And where does every player stack up? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 1 Fantasy football rankings for every single position, and see which shocking TE is going to finish in the top 10 this week, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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