In Fantasy football, running backs take up an inordinate amount of the attention, so it's only fitting that the top early waiver-wire targets coming out of Sunday's action are running backs. That's just how this works — opportunity is king at the position, and especially this season, we knew we didn't have any clarity on how the opportunity would shake out in a bunch of backfields.
Now, we know. At least, we think we know. We think we know in at least some of those situations; I know, it's confusing. Look, running back is never an easy position to figure out, but we got some clarity on Jacksonville, Washington, Detroit and Indianapolis' backfields, plus the emergence of potential must-add players out of Los Angeles.
The top option for Week 2 should probably be Malcolm Brown, who the Fantasy community largely overlooked in our excitement over Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson. Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that the back with the most experience got the first shot at the role, but what was surprising was how well Brown did with that opportunity, rushing for 79 yards on 18 carries and adding three catches for 31 yards. Plus two touchdowns. It was a great game from Brown, who figures to remain the primary option moving forward. He'll have to hold serve to keep that role, but if Sunday was any indication, there's some breathing room here.
The other five backs worth targeting out of those backfields should be ranked in this order of priority:
Hines isn't going to become an every-down back, and if Sunday's game (27.3 Fantasy points) is his best game of the season, that won't surprise anyone. However, Indianapolis' backfield likely went from a three-way split to a two-way, with Marlon Mack suffering a torn Achilles. Jonathan Taylor should get the majority of the carries — and got six targets of his own Sunday — but Hines is going to be an active participant moving forward. Phillip Rivers threw 17 passes to running backs Sunday, and with Hines now splitting work with only Taylor, a 75-plus reception season isn't out of the question. He can be an RB2 in PPR formats, and someone I'm willing to spend 20% of my FAB budget on if I need an RB.
"Who will be the No. 2 RB for the Chargers?" was one of those questions we were hoping to get an answer to early in the season, and I may have received an emphatic answer Sunday. Justin Jackson got the first two carries after Austin Ekeler opened the game, but it was Joshua Kelley almost exclusively after that. Kelley rushed for 60 yards on 12 carries and got a goal-line score, with Ekeler ending up with 19 carries for 84 yards, and notably, only one target. Neither Kelley nor Jackson was involved in the receiving game, with the mobile Tyrod Taylor looking to take off in situations where Phillip Rivers would've dumped it off in the past. Hopefully, the Chargers get the backs more involved in the passing game moving forward, but Kelley getting a dozen carries in his first career game is a great sign — we'll see if Jackson's quad injury keeps him out moving forward, too. If Kelley is out there in your league, he's probably the top priority on waivers heading into Week 2.
There actually wasn't that much of a question about how Jacksonville would split up work after Devine Ozigbo went down, but we still weren't exactly sure Robinson, an undrafted free agent, would dominate work or be effective. It wasn't a dominant showing, but Robinson was good enough, racking up 62 yards on 16 carries and adding one catch on one target for 28 yards. Not overwhelming stuff, but Chris Thompson only had two targets, and Robinson was the only running back to even receive a carry Sunday. Robinson may not face many positive game scripts, but you can't overlook a possible workhorse back. He'll be in the low-end RB2 discussion next week against the Titans.
OK, look, the last two here are a lot less interesting than the first three, but Barber probably needs to be rostered in your league. He got 17 of 29 carries for Washington, including several inside the 10-yard line en route to his two-touchdown game. Sure, he only rushed for 29 yards on those 17 carries and didn't have a target, but if he's the primary rushing downs back for Washington, he'll belong in the flex conversation. At least until Antonio Gibson (nine carries, only two targets) is ready for a bigger role or Bryce Love is ready to play at all.
Yup. Again. Peterson was by far the most effective back for the Lions on Sunday, with Kerryon Johnson and D'Andre Swift combining for 22 yards on 10 carries. Swift still looks like the back to have here, but Peterson is going to have a role until and unless Swift and Johnson can prove they deserve otherwise. He'll never be much more than an RB3, but Peterson should be worth having around as an insurance option.
Here are the other players you should be trying to add heading into Week 2.
Early Waiver Targets
PHI Philadelphia • #88
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
I still believe Zach Ertz is the best tight end in Philadelphia, but there wasn't any evidence of that on the field Sunday. Goedert had more catches (eight to three) for more yards (101 to 18) on more targets (nine to seven) than Ertz. It's just one game, but we know Goedert can be a great Fantasy tight end if he gets the opportunity, so if this is the start of him taking on a bigger role, you'll want to be there on the ground floor — especially with hoped-for-breakouts like Mike Gesicki, Chris Herndon, Irv Smith and Ian Thomas underwhelming in Week 1. You don't have to drop any of those guys, but if Goedert is available, you should make every effort to add him.
CHI Chicago • #17
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Miller was a favorite breakout candidate around these parts, so it was nice to see him get that late touchdown and put together a solid Fantasy showing. You'd like to see more than six targets if Mitchell Trubisky is going to attempt 36 passes, but with 11 different players targeted in this one, it was going to be tough to see much volume. Hopefully moving forward, things will be a bit more concentrated. Miller is a solid No. 2 behind Allen Robinson, and he could be a No. 3 WR for you.
Russell Gage WR
ATL Atlanta • #83
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
There was some buzz in Falcons camp that Gage looked better coming into the season, and he sure did in Week 1. He matched Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley for the team lead in targets and receptions, and though he trailed both in yards, 114 is a pretty good total itself — turns out Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley set a pretty high bar! Those 114 yards are nearly 40 more than his career high. The Falcons won't have to throw the ball 54 times every week, but they did lead the NFL with 43.8 attempts per game last season, so volume should be there. I'll add Gage in any three-WR league.
Allen Lazard WR
GB Green Bay • #13
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Lazard is the priority, but both showed off the improvements we heard about during training camp. Valdes-Scantling actually out-targeted Lazard, but Lazard played 26 more snaps, so I'll still defer to him as the No. 2 option. Aaron Rodgers took numerous shots downfield in this one, and a more aggressive Rodgers would be good news for both. I'm not viewing either as a potential starter for Week 2, but both could be Fantasy relevant all season.
Logan Thomas TE
WAS Washington • #82
Age: 29 • Experience: 6 yrs.
There was a ton of buzz around the former quarterback in Washington's camp, and he gave us a good indication of why Sunday. He was Washington's most-targeted receiver, and he hauled in four of those for 37 yards and a short touchdown, the team's only score through the air. Thomas is a terrific athlete and he played 52 of 70 snaps Sunday, so he's got a solid role locked up. In deeper leagues or if you're desperate at tight end, Thomas is an intriguing flier. Maybe this year's Darren Waller? Maybe Jared Cook would be a more realistic goal. You'd take either from the wire.
JAC Jacksonville • #10
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Shenault's stat line won't blow you away, but I loved what I saw from him Sunday. He lined up in the backfield three times, including once in a Wildcat formation, and got two carries and four targets. The Jaguars want to get the ball in his hands, and he showed why on his touchdown catch, where he simply outran the defense to score on a crossing route. He's a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands, and he played more than 60% of the Jaguars snaps in his NFL debut. Shenault has the skills to be a significant contributor, and I want him on my team before the breakout happens. Bad news for those of you in leagues with me, though — he's already on almost all of my rosters.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #81
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
I was surprised to see Williams playing in Week 1 after suffering an AC joint sprain in his shoulder in camp, but he played and looked really good doing it. Tyrod Taylor showed plenty of trust in his ability to make plays down the field, and Williams rewarded that faith, catching four of nine targets for 69 yards — plus a diving catch that was ruled out of bounds and another that drew a defensive holding penalty. Williams quietly had a 1,000-yard season a year ago, and he's shown the ability to be a red-zone monster, so if he puts both together this year, he has top-15 upside. This was a good start.