Fantasy Football Week 2 Start 'Em & Sit 'Em: Running backs

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Editor's note: Welcome to Week 2! 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  

Start 'Em
16.6 projected points
James Conner Pittsburgh Steelers RB
I'm taking the free space here by saying to start him because who knows how much longer this will last. We should see Le'Veon Bell back before the end of the month, according to various reports, but until then it will be the Conner show. And he was awesome in Week 1 at Cleveland with 31 carries for 135 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and two touchdowns and five catches for 57 yards. He gets to face a Chiefs defense that just allowed 104 rushing yards and 14 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown to the Chargers running backs. Conner is a top three running back in Week 2.
11.9 projected points
Adrian Peterson Washington Redskins RB
If Peterson was facing any other opponent this week, I'd be skeptical of recommending people to start him. But this matchup against the Colts is too good. Hopefully, Peterson, 33, can get ramped up again for a full workload after he just had 26 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 70 yards at Arizona. It wasn't quite vintage Peterson, but it was still fun to watch him dominate the Cardinals. And he should do the same against Indianapolis, which just allowed 149 total yards and a touchdown to Joe Mixon in Week 1. For one more week, Peterson should defeat Father Time.
11.8 projected points
T.J. Yeldon Jacksonville Jaguars RB
There could be an update to the column prior to Sunday if Leonard Fournette (hamstring) is active against the Patriots, but if he's out, Yeldon is a recommended starting Fantasy option in all leagues. Yeldon would get the majority of touches for the Jaguars, and he had 69 total yards and a touchdown at the Giants in Week 1, with most of that production coming after Fournette got hurt. The Patriots just allowed 134 rushing yards and a touchdown to Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue in Week 1, and Yeldon will hopefully run well behind this upgraded offensive line. Keep an eye on Fournette's status, but Yeldon has plenty of upside if he's featured in this game.
10.8 projected points
Royce Freeman Denver Broncos RB
Freeman had a good NFL debut in Week 1 against Seattle, but he was overshadowed by Phillip Lindsay. Both running backs had 15 carries for 71 yards, but Lindsay added two catches for 31 yards and a touchdown. I like Lindsay as a sleeper this week, but I expect Freeman to go off. He's facing a Raiders defense that is going on the road after playing on Monday night, and that group should be tired playing in the altitude. Oakland also just allowed Todd Gurley to gain 147 total yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Freeman isn't Gurley, but he should have a big game this week.
10.2 projected points
Jay Ajayi Philadelphia Eagles RB
Ajayi was impressive in Week 1 against Atlanta with 15 carries for 62 yards and two touchdowns, and he should build off that performance this week. It would be nice if he was more involved in the passing game, but coach Doug Pederson already said Ajayi would handle more touches in future outings. He'll continue to rotate with Corey Clement and Darren Sproles, with the latter the primary option on passing downs, but Ajayi should again carry the offense with Carson Wentz (knee) and Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) out. Tampa Bay only allowed 38 rushing yards on 12 carries to Alvin Kamara and Mike Gillislee last week, but Kamara scored two rushing touchdowns. And he added nine catches for 112 yards and a touchdown through the air. Ajayi won't do that, but he should have the chance to score again in Week 2.
9.3 projected points
Dion Lewis Tennessee Titans RB
Lewis was the best Titans running back in Week 1 at Miami, and it wasn't exactly close. He had 16 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown, along with five catches for 35 yards. Derrick Henry, meanwhile, finished with just 10 carries for 26 yards, along with one catch for 5 yards. Now, Henry did have a 61-yard touchdown run called back by a penalty, and he's a candidate to score every game. But this could be a game where Lewis dominates touches again, and the Patriots just had James White catch a touchdown against this Texans defense last week. We'll see if offensive linemen Taylor Lewan (concussion) and Jack Conklin (knee) are able to play this week, as well as quarterback Marcus Mariota (elbow), but either way Lewis is a low-end starting option in non-PPR leagues and a must-start option in PPR.


  • Alfred Morris (vs. DET): The Lions run defense was abysmal in Week 1 against the Jets, who had 188 total yards and two rushing touchdowns in Week 1 from their backfield. Morris had more carries than Matt Breida in Week 1 at Minnesota and, more importantly, more red-zone chances. I like both 49ers running backs given the matchup against Detroit, but give Morris the edge over Breida this week.
  • Austin Ekeler (at BUF): Ekeler was great in tandem with Melvin Gordon in Week 1 against the Chiefs, and he finished the game with five carries for 39 yards and five catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. He likely won't be that productive against the Bills, although the Ravens just got three rushing touchdowns against Buffalo in Week 1. Ekeler is a solid flex play in all leagues this week.
  • James White (at JAC): As expected, White played well in Week 1 against Houston with five carries for 18 yards, along with four catches for 38 yards and a touchdown on a team-best nine targets. He should be heavily involved in the passing game again with Julian Edelman (suspension) out, and in last year's AFC Championship Game against Jacksonville, the Patriots had 10 catches for 54 yards from Lewis and White, with White also scoring a rushing touchdown. White is a must-start PPR running back in Week 2 and a solid flex in non-PPR leagues.
  • Bilal Powell (vs. MIA): Isaiah Crowell was the star of the Jets backfield in Week 1 at Detroit with 10 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard scoring run. Powell had more touches with 12 carries for 60 yards and one catch for 5 yards, and he's still the better play of this running back duo. I like both as flex options this week against Miami, but I would lean toward Powell given his expected role in the passing game. If the Jets fall behind this week, Powell will see plenty of work.
  • Tevin Coleman (vs. CAR): We'll see what happens with Devonta Freeman (knee) this week, but if he can't go or suffers a setback during the game, Coleman would be a standout Fantasy option. He scored in Week 1 at Philadelphia after Freeman got hurt, and he typically thrives when Freeman misses time. Now, if Freeman is fine, we don't recommend playing Coleman, so just keep an eye on his status prior to game time.
Sit 'Em
9.4 projected points
Jamaal Williams Green Bay Packers RB
Williams quickly went from the penthouse to the outhouse after he was the Start of the Week in Week 1 to the Sit list in Week 2, but let's be real. Even if he dominated the Bears in the season opener, he was likely in this spot against the Vikings. Unfortunately, Williams did not dominate Chicago last week, and the game script wasn't in his favor once the Bears took an early lead followed by Aaron Rodgers (knee) getting hurt. He finished with just 15 carries for 47 yards and no catches on two targets. Minnesota held Morris and Breida to a combined 89 total yards last week, with neither running back scoring more than five PPR points, and that's about what I expect from Williams in Week 2.
8.5 projected points
Peyton Barber Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB
If you weren't checking your live scoring in Week 1 and saw Tampa Bay scored 48 points at New Orleans, you would have expected a big outing from Barber. Not so much. While he established himself as the clear-cut No. 1 running back for the Buccaneers, especially with Ronald Jones as a healthy scratch, Barber managed just 19 carries for 69 yards and no catches. He should see more involvement in the passing game when Tampa Bay is chasing points -- he had no targets against the Saints -- but it's hard to start him in PPR. In non-PPR leagues, he's a flex option against the Eagles, who allowed just 95 total yards to Coleman and Freeman last week, although Coleman scored. Linebacker Nigel Bradham returns from his one-game suspension, which make Philadelphia's defense even tougher, and I'm skeptical of Barber having a big game in this matchup.
6.6 projected points
Marshawn Lynch Oakland Raiders RB
Lynch is expected to play this week despite dealing with an illness in Week 1 against the Rams, but it's hard to trust him in this matchup with the Broncos. While he did have 11 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 8 yards against the Rams before falling ill, he'll have to recover on a short week before going on the road. And last year at Denver, Lynch struggled with nine carries for 12 yards and no catches. He should do better this time around, assuming he's healthy, and Chris Carson just had 10 PPR points in Week 1 at Denver on only 10 total touches. But the circumstances given his health and traveling on a short week make him just a flex play in any format for Week 2.
5.8 projected points
Chris Carson Seattle Seahawks RB
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll praised Carson for his performance in Week 1 against the Broncos and said he solidified himself as the lead running back ahead of Rashaad Penny. Even though Penny had 11 total touches compared to 10 for Carson, the yardage wasn't close with Carson having more at 79-43. We hope that Carroll makes the touch difference in favor of Carson this week and moving forward, but Penny isn't getting benched. And this is a tough matchup against the Bears, who limited Williams in Week 1, as well as finishing in the top 10 in fewest Fantasy points allowed to running backs last year. Carson is just a flex option in all formats this week.
8.2 projected points
Derrick Henry Tennessee Titans RB
While Lewis should be able to overcome the injuries for the Titans with Mariota and the offensive linemen, it will be tougher for Henry, who needs volume and likely a touchdown to help your Fantasy roster. He had neither in Week 1 and struggled with just 31 total yards on 11 total touches, and his lack of involvement in the passing game makes it hard to trust him in PPR. The Texans run defense is tough and held lead New England rusher Rex Burkhead to 18 carries for 64 yards in Week 1, along with one catch for 5 yards. Henry could get about six PPR points this week if he doesn't score, but that doesn't make him an attractive option in any format.

Bust Alert

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Devonta Freeman ATL • RB • 24
Week 2 Projection13.1 Fantasy points

Freeman is expected to play this week against the Panthers despite dealing with a knee injury, but we don't know if he'll be at 100 percent in a tough matchup. The Panthers gave up a touchdown to Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1, but he managed just 15 carries for 69 yards, along with three catches for 17 yards, which is a low stat line compared to how Elliott typically performs. Freeman had nine catches for 85 yards and a touchdown against Carolina in Week 17 last year, but he's had fewer than 60 rushing yards in four games in a row against the Panthers over the past two seasons. If Freeman were 100 percent healthy then you should start him without hesitation. But playing at less than full strength in a tough matchup makes him just a flex play in Week 2.

So who should you sit and start this week? And where does every player stack up? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 2 Fantasy football rankings for every single position, and see which shocking QB is going to finish in the top 5 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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