Running Back Roundup: Week 1 (Fantasy Football)
Week 1 of the NFL season is a wrap, and with it came many strong running back performances from the usual suspects (Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley) with some quality play from guys like Marlon Mack, Austin Ekeler, and Derrick Henry. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect out of the fantasy-relevant running backs in the league after one week, but today we’re going to take a look at all 32 NFL backfields for some insight into how the situations are shaping up. Each week, we’ll offer a look at the biggest performances, busts, timeshare situations, and storylines you need to be aware of to make the best fantasy lineup decisions possible. Let’s jump in to our Running Back Roundup for Week 1!
Week 1 Rushing Leaders:
1. Marlon Mack (IND) – 174 yards
2. Christian McCaffrey (CAR) – 128 yards
3. Saquon Barkley (NYG) – 120 yards
4. Dalvin Cook (MIN) – 111 yards
5. Mark Ingram (BAL) – 107 yards
Week 1 Scrimmage Yards Leaders
1. Christian McCaffrey (CAR): 209
2. Marlon Mack (IND): 174
3. Alvin Kamara (NO): 169
4. Derrick Henry (TEN): 159
5. Austin Ekeler (LAC): 154
Week 1 Fantasy Leaders (PPR)
1. Christian McCaffrey (CAR) – 44.9
2. Austin Ekeler (LAC) – 43.4
3. Derrick Henry (TEN) – 32.9
4. Marlon Mack (IND) – 30.4
5. Dalvin Cook (MIN) – 27.0
Week 1 Biggest Busts
1. Sony Michel (NE) – 1.4
2. Joe Mixon (CIN) – 3.7
3. Aaron Jones (GB) – 4.9
4. Devonta Freeman (ATL) – 5.1
5. David Montgomery (CHI) – 5.5
Frank Gore led the Bills’ backfield in touches, but it was Devin Singletary who had the big game for Buffalo. Singletary ran the ball only four times, but racked up 70 yards, adding five receptions for 28 yards. A 98-yard outing on just nine touches was impressive, though big plays like that can’t be counted on regularly. Frank Gore managed just 20 yards on his 11 carries, but it seems like the 14-year vet will regularly be in the mix for the time being. It’s just a matter of time until Singletary gains every-down duties, though. T.J. Yeldon was a non-factor.
It was hard to take a lot away from this one in a complete 49-point drubbing by the Ravens. Both backs split touches evenly with six apiece, though Drake managed 27 yards to Ballage’s 12. This Miami offense can only improve after a pitiful Week 1, but this isn’t the most appealing backfield, especially in the likely event the two form a committee behind a porous offensive line.
As expected, Sony Michel led the backfield in carries with 15, but Rex Burkhead and James White combined for 12 in the process. Michel had no involvement in the passing game, while Burkhead and White each caught five passes. In total, Burkhead finished with 13 touches and White with eight.
It’s a true running back by committee (RBBC), and Michel’s upside is limited, especially considering his lack of ability in the passing game. Burkhead and White went for 70 yards on 12 carries. Michel – a mere 14 yards on his 15 totes. Don’t expect Michel to be this bad each week, but with a fully healthy Burkhead and White in the fold, he will be a volatile option from week-to-week.
New York Jets
Le’Veon Bell: 17 carries, 60 rush yards, 6 receptions, 32 receiving yards, 1 TD
Nothing out of the ordinary. Bell is the workhorse on this team and should easily see 20+ touches every week. Even when he’s unable to get it going on the ground, his natural abilities as a receiver out of the backfield give him a high floor.
Lindsay only accounted for five more touches than Freeman, and Freeman led the backfield in rushing yards with an excellent 5.6 YPC. Lindsay is still the back to own because of his 4-0 advantage in receptions. Freeman has some deep-league value now and is a fringe flex option in 12-team leagues. Lindsay will not have the upside many expected when they drafted him, and it seems the coaching staff is making an effort to get Freeman regularly involved.
Williams scored the goal-line touchdown and was more heavily utilized in the receiving game, but McCoy simply looked like the better back, going for 93 yards on just 11 touches. The pair split carries fairly evenly, and it may be just a matter of time before Shady is the clear No. 1 in the Chiefs’ backfield. I like his rest-of-season outlook more than Williams’ right now.
Los Angeles Chargers
No Melvin, no problem. Gordon’s holdout is likely to extend six-to-eight more weeks at minimum, but that didn’t stop the Chargers’ backfield from racking up some major yards. Austin Ekeler was the star of the game, totaling 154 total yards and three touchdowns to the delight of fantasy owners everywhere. He’s a clear RB2 right now with tremendous upside. Justin Jackson chipped in 61 yards on just seven touches and is a great handcuff to own, but he has no standalone value.
Jacobs lived up to the hype of being the only running back taken in the first round of this year’s draft and played as a true every-down back. He accounted for 23 of the Raiders’ 26 running back carries and managed 113 yards and two scores in his NFL debut. He’s a top-24 option, especially given the nature of the Raiders’ receiving corps.
Mark Ingram was explosive Sunday, going for 107 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries. Gus Edwards actually led the Ravens in rushing attempts with 17, but he compiled only 56 yards in clock-killer mode. Baltimore demolished Miami to the tune of 59-10, which allowed them to run the ball 46 times. Ingram should have a firm grip on the backfield, and the voluminous rushing attack in Baltimore makes him a reliable weekly RB2.
Mixon was injured again, and the incomparable backup Gio Bernard stepped in to do his part. Bernard is a priority waiver add this week and is primed for a big workload if Mixon misses time moving forward. Mixon is considered questionable for Sunday’s matchup with the 49ers with an ankle sprain.
Nick Chubb: 17 carries, 75 rush yards, 3 receptions, 10 receiving yards
This is Chubb’s backfield, and Week 1 confirmed his weekly usage of 20+ total touches. Cleveland got steamrolled in this one, but better times are ahead for Chubb, who only gained 85 yards on 20 touches.
Conner led the backfield in touches comfortably, so there’s no reason to worry about Jaylen Samuels stealing work. Conner’s 65 yards on 14 touches didn’t win you your week, but it was nice to see him so involved in the passing game. This was a complete bludgeoning by the defending Super Bowl champs, so don’t think Conner is cooked just yet. He’s a perfect buy-low candidate right now.
There weren’t many surprises here, as Hyde and Johnson finished with a near-even split in carries and Johnson was more involved in the passing game. Johnson is the preferred play in PPR formats, while Hyde offers some flex appeal in the right matchup.
Marlon Mack: 25 carries, 174 rush yards
It was no surprise to see Mack lead the pack in Indy, but his 174 yards certainly weren’t expected. He led the NFL in rushing yards in Week 1, and with Andrew Luck gone, the Colts may lean on the run game heavily this season. Mack is an every-week fantasy starter with big-game upside.
Leonard Fournette: 13 carries, 66 rush yards, 4 receptions, 28 receiving yards
Fournette has virtually no competition for touches in the backfield. With Nick Foles out indefinitely, he should be the focal point of the offense, though defenses could be zeroed in on stopping the run with rookie Gardner Minshew manning the helm at QB. Fournette is a tough sell as more than a high-end RB3 right now.
Those that predicted regression from Derrick Henry after a fantastic December were wrong – at least for now. Henry went off for 19/84 rushing and 1/75/1 receiving for 159 yards and a touchdown on 20 touches. Meanwhile, Dion Lewis finished with just six touches for a measly 13 yards. Henry was clearly in control, and his big-play abilities shined through once again. Don’t count on 75-yard scores every week, but if Henry maintains a workhorse role, he’s an easy RB2.
Zeke split carries evenly with rookie Tony Pollard, but that won’t be the norm moving forward. Though he only went for 63 total yards on 14 touches, Elliott saved his fantasy day with a touchdown in his first game back from the holdout. He was expected to be eased back into action, and this is likely the most touches Pollard sees in a single week all season. Elliott should be ready to take on more than 14 touches in Week 2.
New York Giants
Barkley had a touchdown vultured by Gallman, but he was otherwise outstanding, turning 15 touches into 139 yards. The Giants were dominated by Dallas and Barkley should see a heftier workload in Week 2.
Miles Sanders: 11 carries, 25 rush yards, 1 reception, 2 receiving yards
Jordan Howard: 6 carries, 44 rush yards, 2 receptions, 11 receiving yards
Darren Sproles: 9 carries, 47 rush yards, 3 receptions, 16 receiving yards
A full-blown RBBC is what we expected – and that’s what we got. Rookie Miles Sanders disappointed, Jordan Howard was efficient with limited work, and Darren Sproles reminded us that he can still play, even at age 36. The touch distribution will likely be this way all season, making it tough to trust any of these backs on a given week. None of these guys scored a touchdown, and the only rushing score came from — Alshon Jeffery?
Guice will reportedly miss time with a knee injury, making Adrian Peterson an intriguing (?) option for Week 2 and beyond. Thompson will be the back to own here, and he showed why he has been a PPR darling in the past, grabbing seven passes on 10 targets. He’ll likely stay heavily involved as a receiver due to the lack of talent in the ‘Skins’ receiving corps.
David Johnson: 18 carries, 82 rush yards, 6 receptions, 55 receiving yards, 1 TD
Johnson was a stud with 137 yards on 24 touches. After a down year by his standards in 2018, the coaching staff looks like it will get DJ2K involved early and often – expect high volume and elite production, especially in PPR formats.
Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley amassed 101 total yards, but he only received three more carries than Malcolm Brown. Brown rushed 11 times for 53 yards and scored twice, while Gurley was held out of the end zone. The preseason hype for rookie Darrell Henderson was much overblown, as he received just one carry in the contest. Gurley owners shouldn’t panic quite yet, but this is a situation to monitor closely. Brown needs to be rostered everywhere.
Mostert is suddenly a big-time waiver add, with Tevin Coleman set to miss time with a high-ankle sprain. Matt Breida is the lead back in San Fran, but the workload distribution may be confounding. Breida is a quality RB2/3 when healthy, but his constant injury designations mean he’s likely never at 100%.
For what it’s worth, Mostert led the team in rush yards. Both he and Breida will be on the flex radar in a tasty matchup with Cincinnati next week, where we’ll hopefully get some clarity on how this backfield will shake out with Coleman out of the picture. I wouldn’t be against dropping Coleman in 12-team leagues due to his injury and limited upside when he returns.
Carson out-touched Penny 21-to-six in the game, going for 81 yards and two scores, including six receptions. After snagging only 20 passes last season, the goal of the Seattle offense was to get Carson more involved as a receiver – and they’re off to a good start. It was disappointing for Penny owners who envisioned more than six touches and some sort of involvement in the passing game. Penny should be stashed if you have the bench space, but he’s not playable right now.
This wasn’t the workload Montgomery owners expected after a Chicago preseason lovefest for the third-round rookie. He had the fewest touches of any of Chicago’s big three running backs, seeing only one more carry than Mike Davis and catching one pass on a day that saw Davis and Tarik Cohen combine for 14 receptions. It was a dreadful day for Chicago’s offense, but this timeshare is concerning nonetheless, especially for those playing in PPR formats. Montgomery will more than likely finish the season as the lead back in Chicago, but his upside is capped for now due to Davis.
Johnson didn’t have the game many expected, seeing only a 16-11 carry advantage over C.J. Anderson. After failing to give him the touches he deserved as a rookie, Johnson was expected to see a bigger workload this season, but it appears Anderson may have a regular role. The coaching staff will likely figure this out and give the ball to Johnson more, but this is a situation to monitor.
Jones had a solid 14-7 touch advantage over Jamaal Williams, so it looks like his role atop the depth chart is secure. It’s hard to glean much from a game played against such a nasty Bears defense, as the tandem of Jones and Williams managed a putrid 39 yards on 18 carries. Jones should rebound next week against the Vikings.
Cook looked to be back to full strength in this one, ripping the Falcons’ defense for 120 total yards and two scores. He’s missed 17 games in his first two seasons, but at full health, this guy is a dynamic force. Mattison racked up his carries with the game well in-hand, so don’t expect him to take work from Cook. Cook will be a locked-in RB1 this season, with Mattison as a high-level handcuff.
It was a concerning day for Freeman, despite the tough matchup and negative game script. He finished with almost half the rushing yards of Ito Smith on two more carries and did little with three receptions. The Falcons have another stiff test against Philadelphia in Week 2 after being crushed by Minnesota in Week 1. If the low usage continues this week, it may be time to start panicking.
Christian McCaffrey: 19 carries, 128 rush yards, 2 TDs, 10 receptions, 81 receiving yards
More of the same for one of the best in the game. McCaffrey will push for 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving this season, and he’s well on his way to doing just that. The single-season running back receptions leader looks like he could also push for an unprecedented second 100-yard reception season – the first of its kind for a running back. He’s a top-two option at running back every week, regardless of matchup.
Kamara dominated backfield touches, but Murray mixed in and managed to score a touchdown. Both were highly efficient with their touches. Kamara is a clear RB1 every week and Murray looks to be a touchdown-dependent flex option unless he can garner more than eight touches per week.
Ronald Jones was clearly the best back on the field Sunday, though his 14 touches were equaled by the combined output of Ogunbowale and Barber. Jones was the least involved of the trio in the passing game, and a workload split like this could mean headaches for fantasy owners. Jones is the guy to own here if you want to pick one, but none of these guys offer much upside.