Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings: RB

Christian McCaffrey makes his triumphant return for the Panthers, D’Andre Swift looks to hit the ground running with the Eagles and Najee Harris steels himself for a tough setup in Cincinnati.

Other Positions: Quarterback | Receiver | Tight End/Kickers/Defense

Updated 9/11 at 10:45am ET. Removed JK Dobbins. Listed Kenyan Drake over Mike Davis based on Ian Rapoport’s midweek report that Drake has signed on to be the “de facto starter” when Dobbins is on the sidelines.

Week 1 Running Backs

RB Notes: Everyone is sick of hearing it, but Christian McCaffrey will win championships if he stays on the field. He’s healthy right now, and no other back has CMC’s arsenal of not only high-value touches, but high-volume touches in extreme quantity. … Jonathan Taylor did some of his best work in 2021 against a Texans defensive line that isn’t noticeably better this season. Taylor’s only real threat for 2022 is if Nyheim Hines’ supposed bigger role materializes. Consider me a skeptic. … You’ve already read this fact, but Derrick Henry was ninth in rushing last season … through eight games. The run has become more important in Tennessee. … The Chargers wanted to lighten Austin Ekeler’s load, but it remains very unclear whether either rookie Isaiah Spiller or journeyman Sony Michel will rise to the challenge. Neither back should eat Ekeler’s money-making touches on third down and in the red zone. … Dalvin Cook’s 2022 aims to grow more logically. We know that Kevin O’Connell will be more focused on the EPA than Mike Zimmer. That, combined with a workload that should remain substantial, makes Cook a legitimate candidate to finish No. 1 overall if he stays healthy.

Alvin Kamara was underrated as a 25-touchdown player for last year’s Saints offense that lacked weapons. With reinforcements in hand for 2022, Kamara can return to his 15-touch happy spot, one that features linebackers and 5-6 weekly receptions. The Falcons are an enjoyable first matchup. … “D’Andre Swift is an Austin Ekeler season waiting to happen,” I tell myself for the millionth time. … I fear touchdown regression for Joe Mixon, while the Bengals’ continued lack of third-down commitment is notable. Regardless, Mixon’s baseline is too high to rank outside the top 10, including in the receiving department. I wish Mixon played every third down, but he does enough third falls. … Speaking of baselines, Najee Harris is a threat to lead the league in touchdowns again. We just hope it’s not empty. With Mitch Trubisky missing time under center for now, goal line carries could be frustratingly sporadic. Touchdown road ‘dogs vs. the Bengals, Harris’ Week 1 setup is bad. … Saquon Barkley remains the poor man’s CMC. If he stays healthy, few can boast his upside and scoring touch.

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I started the week with Nick Chubb very low, in the RB15-16 range. Now it feels a little too high. Moving Jacoby Brissett’s mail will be a tall order. Chubb, of course, has seen taller. I’ll bet on talent for now. … The projected usage of the Packers backfield is something of a black box, but I find it impossible to predict less than 60 receptions for Aaron Jones. How much of a factor he remains at the goal line is another story. AJ Dillon already outscored him 21-15 inside the 10 last season and 10-6 inside the five. Coach Matt LaFleur talked about two “1A” backs. Jones gets the ranking advantage based on history right now, but Dillon is probably closer than we’d like to admit. … Keep Leonard Fournette’s head on a swivel. There are growing signs that Rachaad White will be given a legitimate role as the No. 2 back. … Rashaad Penny was the best running back in football last season (albeit with a soft schedule). Ken Walker (hernia) is still not practicing. The Seahawks lack better options than the running back. I’m connecting the RB2 dots for now.

Ezekiel Elliott is looking to prove he’s healthy and rejuvenated, but the Bucs’ running back line is an awful week one matchup. … The Elijah Mitchell case looked troubled all summer, but he stayed healthy while his would-be steals were unimpressive. Now the biggest threat is Trey Lance derailing the Niners offense. … The Week 1 classes involve some leaps of faith, as well as some testing of the summer narratives. I’m betting big on Rhamondre Stevenson, betting that a running back has actually gained an increased run on all three downs. Apologies if this seems patently silly leading up to Week 2. … There’s not much else to say about the Rams’ backfield other than to see it on the field. I think this coaching staff likes Cam Akers more than Darrell Henderson, but that Sean McVay won’t hesitate to flip that script if Akers still doesn’t look fully recovered from his torn Achilles. … We don’t know how pass-heavy the Eagles will remain, except that they’re not suddenly going to lead the league in pass attempts. We know that neither Kenneth Gainwell nor Boston Scott had an impressive summer behind starting quarterback Miles Sanders, which led to Trey Sermon being claimed off waivers.

Maybe that’s ridiculously low for Josh Jacobs against a Chargers defense that was laughably bad last season. I’m betting on a pair of offseason narratives: That the Chargers’ D will be noticeably better, and that new coach Josh McDaniels has zero faith in Jacobs in what could come down to an extended committee. … This is on the conservative side for Travis Etienne, though a suitable hedge with James Robinson (Achilles) indeed active. If J-Rob is the preferred pass protector, that would take Etienne off the field in some high-value fantasy situations. … I know this might be too low for Antonio Gibson with Brian Robinson on the shelf. It’s just that it’s hard for me to dispute how clear this coaching staff has made it that they want to lighten Gibson’s load. … I feel like I’m buying too much into the Michael Carter summer blackout, but it’s gotten harder to trust Breece Hall as an immediate RB2. … It wouldn’t be surprising if this was the last time all season Dameon Pierce is in the 30s instead of the 20s. … JK Dobbins (knee) is practicing. I might not really know where to rank him until Sunday morning. Currently it is “just in the top 36 FLEX”.

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