Week One RB Rankings
Week One Running Back Rankings- By Aaron Fritch
After months of waiting, the 2014 NFL season is finally upon us! Fantasy Football junkies and diehards have occupied ourselves with any other activities to get through what seemed like an eternity, post Super Bowl. Each week, I will have my running back weekly rankings posted to help you make all those tough lineup decisions. Whether it be to help choosing which rb to start or flex, regardless of the league type and scoring, use these as guidelines as mold your starting lineup each week. Remember that it is impossible to project exactly who will have the better week amongst any of the players, under any circumstance, so the bottom line is always go with your gut. No matter what, try not to second guess yourself or overthink things too much. There is so much luck involved and crazy things that happen during the season that even the most skilled and battle tested fantasy players get their heads spinning in circles wondering what hit them. These ranking will be based off standard scoring, not ppr, but still will factor in receiving yards and opportunities through the passing game for backs. As we all know, the more touches they get, the better chance they have at reaching pay dirt and piling up the yardage. Week one is one of the most difficult weeks to project, as there is little to go off of as the season is just starting. As always, I will base my rankings off the players skill level, opponent, number of potential touches, history, and any other factors that may add to total fantasy points for this week.
1. Jamaal Charles, KC Chiefs. Dwayne Bowe is suspended for week one and the Chiefs have literally nobody else to throw to. Charles will get the most receptions on the team along with the lions share of carries. I expect him to get between 50-100 touches this game. In all seriousness, he will get the ball a ton, and he is a very explosive player. Expect a big game from last years number one RB.
2. LeSean McCoy, Philly Eagles. I was tempted to put him atop this weeks rankings with him playing the Jags and being at home, but Charles will get more opportunities. Also, we have not seen yet how much Sproles will cut into Shady’s receptions total with this being their first game together on the same team.The Eagles will put up a lot of points, with a lot of players getting into the action.
3. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears. Da Bears are back for season two of Marc Trestman’s offense and get a tasty matchup at home with the Bills. Buffalo does have one of the best d lines in football as far as getting pressure on the qb, but they still give up yards on the ground and through the air, especially on the road.The Bears will put up close to thirty points in this one and expect Forte to have a nice combo of rushing and receiving yards. Plus, no Michael Bush vulturing his goal line carries should get him into the end zone at least once.
4. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings. Expect Norv Turner to get the ball into Adrian’s hands “All Day”. Turner and Zimmer have promised to involve him more in the passing game this year to get him into space. Sounds like a good plan, and Adrian always starts the season with a bang. See last year’s opener at Detroit.
5. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks. The crowd will be as rowdy as ever to open up the 2014 season and Beast Mode will be juiced to the max off that energy, plus a few Skittles. He has carried the ball a lot since coming to Seattle, but that won’t affect him week one against the Pack.
6. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys. Normally people would be scared of the vaunted SF 49ers defense, but a few things to consider in this game. Aldon Smith is suspended, NaVorro Bowman and Glenn Dorsey are hurt, Scott Linehan at OC for the Cowboys means an improved offense, and with Tony Romo coming off of offseason back surgery, they are bound to lean on DeMarco a little more than usual in this game. They are at home and the Niner d is not quite what is used to be, yet at least.
7. Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals. He has looked explosive during the preseason and breaks off big chunks of yards seemingly every other time he touches the pigskin. Toss in a Monday night opener at home and you have potential for a huge game.
8. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos. I had trouble figuring out exactly where to place him week one. We all know the lucrative opportunity playing with Peyton Manning as a RB can be, just ask Knowshon Moreno. Throw in a nice matchup at home against the weak Colts defense and he could be in line for a big game. On the other hand, this is his first game as the true number one back going into the season, and he is coming off a recent appendectomy surgery. Either way, you are starting him regardless and we will hopefully have a better understanding after this game how he fits in as the next stud in the backfield of a Peyton Manning led offense. A big part of that will be how he holds up in pass protection, as Peyton’s health is priority number one for the Broncs.
9. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers. Let me be clear on this, I do not like the matchup at all for the Pack. Lacy is a great talent though and you always start your studs with confidence. That’s a no-brainer, but temper your expectations somewhat. Seattle is a very tough place to play, especially to open the season as defending champs. Luckily, Aaron Rodgers is back, which takes a ton of pressure off the running game and gives the offense great balance. It’s not like Seattle can stack the box, even with their Legion of Boom in the secondary. Rodgers will burn them bad with a healthy Randall Cobb back and Jordy on the outside. Eddie is also a true goal line back, whereas in the past guys like John Kuhn poached tds from their starters. Toss in Lacy being a sure handed receiver and he should have a solid, but unspectacular game. Last year some power backs such as Zac Stacy had success against the Hawks.
10. Aaron Foster, Houston Texans. I am not going to lie, each week this guy’s injury history freaks me out, but as I stated, this is purely only a weekly ranking system, not a long-term one. When healthy, Arian is a great runner/receiver combo out of the backfield and the Skins are not a juggernaut defensively. I may have ranked him higher, but need to see how he looks first in real action that counts.
11. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals. One of the more exciting players in all of football, he is a home run threat each and every time he touches the ball. They under-utilized him last year, so I will rank him just outside the top ten until they can show they really understand what talent they have in him. We also need to see how they divide the carries between he and Jeremy Hill now that Benjarvus is out of the mix, to no surprise in my opinion. Expect to see Gio higher ranked as the season continues, more so around where Andre Ellington lies, as they are players with similar skill sets in the running and passing games.
12. LeVeon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers. Since it sounds like he won’t be suspended until after the season due to his Marijuana/DUI arrest, that is one less thing to worry about in regards to his fantasy output. The only thing that worries me at this point really is how much the Chong to his Cheech affects his td numbers, LeGarrette Blount. Bell is a great receiver out of the backfield so he has even more value in ppr, which he showed last year. Cleveland has an underrated defense and can be difficult to run on at times, but Pitt showed they liked to pound the rock with Bell at times last year and losing a couple weapons out of their receiving core should give him more targets in the passing game. The wild card here is Blount and maybe week one will help clarify how much he cuts into Bell’s production.
13. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions. Bush showed this preseason that he still can break a long run of given the chance and can outrun defenders to the end zone. He is also very valuable as a pass catcher. The emergence of Joique Bell last year, along with a contract extension for him, shows how high the Lions are on him. Still, I see Detroit putting up a lot of offense against a putrid Giants defense and both backs carrying fantasy value.
14. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Bucs. The Carolina Panthers had a really good defense this year with Luke Kuechly tackling everything in sight. With Doug Martin coming off an injury-shortened season, it is yet to see if he can revert back to the form of which made him look like one of the best rb’s of the future in the league. The other down side is their new OC Jeff Tedford loves to use a committee approach with his backs as he did in his college days at Cal. He still is he number one back and is sure handed in the passing game which helps his yardage totals. It also looks like they will continue using him at the goal line as they did during he preseason.
15. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins. Morris is a solid runner who does not do much in the receiving game so he loses value in ppr leagues. He still racks up the yardage and gets the ball in the end zone. I don’t see RG tres running much as we know his injury history. A road game to Houston is not as tantalizing as it was last year with Jadeveon Clowney on board opposite J.J. Watt, so running on them should be more difficult now.
16. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers. This is definitely not a sexy pick, but he is playing the Dallas Cowboys and their soft defense minus DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee. Gore should be able to get plenty of good runs in against he, and reach pay dirt at least once. Carlos Hyde may cut into his production, but as we have seen in the past, Gore keeps proving us wrong into his 30’s now. The trend will continue until he shows otherwise. Added in the fact Colin Kaepernick has not looked good throwing the ball in the preseason, the Niners will pound it on the ground and control the clock against the ‘Boys when they get the lead.
17. Rashad Jennings, NY Giants. He looked very solid in preseason action in both the running and passing game. I would have him ranked even higher in ppr scoring. With David Wilson now retired from football, it’s Rashad and rookie Andre Williams, who has also looked good. I like the matchup versus the Lions, even though they have a good d line. I expect a lot of points to be scored in this game and Eli Manning has looked horrid throwing the ball in their new offensive scheme that was installed this year. Jennings has a good combo yardage game and may find the end zone once, unless they utilize the rookie Williams as their goal line back, which may be the case.
18. Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens. Sometimes it’s all about getting the start. The Bengals have a good defense, so this will be no walk in the park, but Ray Rice is suspended and Pierce gets the call. He has looked better in their new running game this year in comparison to Rice regardless. Look for Bernard to seize his chance this time around as he fumbled the opportunity somewhat last year.
19. Chris Johnson, NY Jets. I feel like he bounces back his year, I really do. I may really miss on that and he may prove me an idiot, but either way, they play the Raiders this week at home so he is as good of a RB2 or flex play as he may be all year. There at rumblings of some sort of committee approach with he, Chris Ivory, and Bilal Powell, but neither of those two scare me if I owned CJ2K this year. He catches the ball well still and can break the long ones off even if he has lost a step. He looked like he had some burst in him still during the preseason and I feel comfortable rolling the dice on him this week no question.
20. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams. Some people will say this is way too low for one of last season’is surprise waiver wire rookie pick-ups, but this is why my gut supports the evidence. I still think he is a good flex or RB2 play, but very risky as a number one. First, Benny Cunningham has looked better this far, but Stacy will still get the start and bulk of the carries. The thing is, the bulk may not be as heavy as first expected going into the season, at least for a week. Second, Sam Bradford went down for the year with an injury, and you can look at it as more running needed. This can also lead to more defenders loading up on the run daring them to pass. I just need to see how this thing works itself out with a backup QB and an emerging running back behind him. Plus a clear lack of WR’s for said backup QB to throw to. He does have a good matchup at home against the Vikings, but I will have to see how he does before ranking him higher next week. He is a receiving threat out of the backfield, so that does work in his favor too.
21. CJ Spiller, Buffalo Bills. If CJ can bounce back from a disastrous season a year ago, he will be a steal for this lucky enough to get him as a RB2/Flex player. Week One will give us a glimpse of what player he will be this year. He is a big play threat all over the field running and receiving. The Bears D was not good last year and was especially terrible versus the run. The thing is, EJ Manuel scares nobody throwing the ball and I fully expect Buffalo to fall behind early in this one, rendering the run useless as they try to play catch up. At least CJ will stay in the game on passing downs, but he does split time with Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown will get into the mix also.
22. Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns. Ben is the clear cut starter now as he was battling Terrance West during training camp. It’s not a good matchup on the road against the Steelers, but Tate can catch the ball fairly well if they get behind and have to pass the ball. West will spell him occasionally, but not as much as originally expected, at least right away. Tate has shown to be a good runner when given the chance.
23. Joique Bell, Detroit Lions. Even as the backup to Reggie Bush, Bell offers value as both a runner and receiver. In what should be a high scoring game on Monday night, look for bell to be a great Flex play and low end RB2.
24. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers. I need to see how the mix of Mathews, Woodhead, and Donald Brown shakes out before getting a clear understanding of this so called three-headed monster at running back for the Chargers. Mathews is the starter so he will get the highest percentage of work running, but his receiving will be down and hopefully he gets the goal line carries. I don’t particularly like the matchup at Arizona, though their D has taken a couple hits as of late.
25. Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars. Not a good matchup on the road against an Eagles squad that could get up big early. Toby is the starter and has pretty much no competition behind him at RB, so as long as he stays in on passing downs, he may end up having a decent, flex-type game.
26. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots. Let me be clear about this up front, if this was a ppr rankings list, he would be about halfway higher, but it isn’t so I probably still have him too low and will catch some flack for it. Vereen is a great receiver out of the backfield and is a great flex play against the Dolphins this week. I just personally like my RB’s to run the ball more if it is not a ppr league and it’s tough to say If Stevan Ridley still gets the bulk of the carries or how much a guy like James White is in the mix. Bill Belichek is a crafty coach, so I am playing it safe this week when it comes to the Pats RB’s.
27. Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans. Yes, he is a rookie and is technically behind Shonn Greene on the depth chart. Really? Shonn Greene?! I think Sankey got overvalued and now undervalued all in the span of a few weeks. He may not have a huge at at KC in his debut, but he is a playmaker in both facets of the game. He will move up the rankings as the season progresses.
28. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts. There is a very good chance Trent bounces back in a big way this year for the Colts. It’s a new year after last years debacle, to put it lightly. I just am not sure if week one at Denver is the best measuring stick for him, though there should be plenty of points, he has shown that he can catch the ball in the past, so that helps. Also, with Donald Brown gone, his overall touches should increase.
29. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints. It is tough to say how this backfield plays out in the regular season. The Saints spread it out to all of their backs and receivers. On any given week somebody can have a big game running or receiving. Thomas had 77 receptions last year and with Darren Sproles gone, there is even more to go around. There still are Mark Ingram and now Khiry Robinson expanding his role in the offense. It should be a high scoring game in Atlanta, so at least Thomas and Ingram should both have Flex/Low end RB2 status.
30. Maurice Jones-Drew, Oakland Raiders. He is the starter, but he is the starter for the Oakland Raiders with Matt Schaub at QB. On the road against a decent Jets run D might not be the ideal scenario for starting him, so a Flex is probably the only way he should crack your lineup. They are going to mix in Darren McFadden and use more of a committee approach until one of them inevitably gets hurt.
31. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons. A high scoring game against the Saints and Devonta Freeman is not out scoring Action Jackson. Yet. He may still have another decent season left in the tank or so, at least barring injuries. Being part of a high octane offense does not hurt either.
32. Knowshon Moreno, Miami Dolphins. I still am betting on Knowshon over Lamar Miller even in week one and Lamar being the starter of some sort. I think Moreno gets more overall touches in this particular game as they might fall behind the Patriots and be in pass-first mode. This favors Knowshon as he is a proven pass protector and picks up the blitz well. He also is a good receiver out of the backfield.
33. Jonathon Stewart, Carolina Panthers. The Carolina backfield does not offer much fantasy value as Cam Newton gets a large amount of rushing yards and scores. He does have injured ribs now though, and I would be shocked if they risk him running more than they have to. Especially at the goal line where he will be subjected to free hits at the QB. Stewart has looked good in limited preseason action and is a great player when healthy, which is almost never. DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert are in the mix too, with the latter primarily likely to steal
This weeks ranking were a little more in depth than the norm as I did not have a chance to post overall ranking going into the season. This gave me a chance to explain some of my projections in depth, even if it was just for a week. Again, some will hit, some will fail miserably. I really hope this helps clear up some questions if you have any and sort out some of those tougher flex or RB2 questions.