Welcome to week one FanDuelers. Here are my top 32 running backs for kickoff week for the NFL. Good luck with your teams!
1. Adrian Peterson – Min at Det — Peterson will remain at the top of the running back list until he shows he is human.
2. Jamaal Charles – KC at Jac – Charles goes into Jacksonville against a team who gave up the third most fantasy points and second most rushing yards per game in the last half of 2012. They have defensive minded coach in Gus Bradley but a very young defense. It should take them a while to come together and Charles should make short work of them until they do.
3. Doug Martin – TB at NYJ – The Jets have a tough defense but their lack of offense last season gave opponents plenty of chances to run the ball and wear their defense down. That doesn’t look like it will change much this season. Look for Martin to get plenty of touches both in the run and receiving game.
4. LeSean McCoy – Phi at Was – Last season McCoy touched the ball 43 times against Washington for 234 total yards. Most of those yards came via the pass with 15 receptions for 144 yards. With Chip Kelly now at the helm you and Washington can expect even more McCoy.
5. Alfred Morris – Was vs. Phi – Washington will come out of the gate running the ball with Morris and there is a good chance the Eagles won’t be able to stop him. They won’t want to put Robert Griffin III in too much danger having just returned from injury so they’ll run to keep the defense from pinning their ears back and teeing off on him. This preseason the Eagles defense looked putrid and they aren’t going to be able to stop much of anything early on.
6. C.J. Spiller – Buf vs. NE – Last season Spiller barely saw any touches against the Patriots but did finish the two games against them with 23 touches for 169 yards. The good news this year is he should be in line for that many touches for a single game. I’d much prefer EJ Manuel at quarterback for Spiller’s value, but his ability transcends his quarterback (see Fitzpatrick).
7. Ray Rice – Bal at Den – The last time the Ravens faced the Broncos, Rice rushed 30 times for 131 yards and a touchdown in the divisional playoff game. They will most likely take the ground attack approach once again to loosen things up for Torrey Smith deep and also to keep Peyton Manning off the field.
8. Trent Richardson – Cle vs. Mia – The Dolphins run defense is stout but they go on the road and face a fully healthy Richardson. It’s difficult to keep him out of the end zone week to week and the Browns offense under Norv Turner should be more explosive.
9. Steven Jackson – Atl at NO – Unless all of the running backs from the team facing the Saints have been brutally murdered in a pregame squabble with Whodatters then you start one of them. This time around it’s Steven Jackson who faces the worst run defense in the league from last year. They didn’t do much to improve in the off season wither so expect more of the same.
10. Marshawn Lynch – Sea at Car – The Panthers defense gave up the 7th most fantasy points to running backs last season. Lynch did face the Panthers and had a pedestrian 21 carries for 85 yards and no touchdowns but if I can get 20+ carries from Lynch against any team, the odds of him scoring a touchdown are great. He drops in PPR leagues but in standard it’ll be hard for him to fall from the top 10 this year.
11. Matt Forte – Chi vs. Cin – Forte has looked unstoppable in the preseason, but he does get a tough test week one against the Bengals who finished the last half of 2012 ranked in the top 5 rush defenses. The good news though is that they were one of the worst at stopping running back receptions, giving up 5.9 per game, the third worst in the league and Forte and new HC Marc Trestman are going to get their receptions on this season.
12. Stevan Ridley – NE at Buf – Ridley was as consistent as they come last season and against the Bills he averaged 102 yards rushing and 1.5 touchdowns. The ability of the Patriots to live in the other teams red zone and the Bills perennially poor run defense makes him a no brainer start.
13. David Wilson – NYG at Dal – Wilson is one of the more explosive running backs in the league and will get the bulk of the carries now with Andre Brown injured. The Cowboys gave up the second most rushing touchdowns last year and the fifth most fantasy points. You will start Wilson.
14. Frank Gore – SF – Last season Gore put a hurting on the Packers, both in the regular season and the playoffs. In those two games he rushed 39 times for 231 yards and two touchdowns while also catching three passes for 49 yards. He should be a safe play at home for the opener.
15. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jac – The Chiefs rush defense was on the poor side of poor last season giving up the sixth most rushing yards per game. This year they should have a better offense, which may keep their defense from being on the field all the time and/or getting beat down with the run since the opposing team usually had the lead. Maurice Jones-Drew looked like he was ready to play this preseason even though they didn’t let him do much, so you should throw him into the fire and see if he can swim.
16. DeMarco Murray – Dal vs NYG – Murray is a very good running back in a quality offense so when he’s healthy you will be starting him. Last season on opening day against the Giants he touched the ball 22 times for 140 yards. He’s a must start against a Giants defense who gave up the 25th most yards rushing last year.
17. Reggie Bush – Det vs. Min – We saw Bush get tons of passing targets in preseason and that should be the norm during the regular season as well. The Vikings run defense remains one of the better units in the league, but they were near the bottom in allowing receptions and yards to backs last year. It will be tough stopping Bush from getting his through the air.
18. Lamar Miller – Mia at Cle – Miller’s value was a little squashed this preseason by the Daniel Thomas hype from the Dolphins camp, but it was more of a motivational ploy to keep Miller sharp than anything. He is the undisputed starter and a talented one at that. Last season the Browns ranked 23rd in rushing yards allowed and 26th in receptions allowed to running backs. Miller should get plenty of work.
19. Chris Johnson – Ten at Pit – Johnson had a good game against the Steelers last season with 23 touches for 114 yards, but he didn’t score and Pittsburgh remains a tough place to play and will often get the best of opposing running backs. They only allowed two players to top 100 yards rushing all last year and gave up just 3.8 yards per carry. Johnson is tough to sit, but don’t expect a huge game.
20. Darren Sproles – NO vs. Atl – You can count on Sproles to get you some receptions even on off games, so unless you are in an 8-team league you’ll be starting him. He hasn’t had great luck against Atlanta in recent history, but these are usually high scoring affairs and you want him in your starting lineup.
21. Arian Foster – Hou at SD – San Diego was tough on running backs last season giving up just 83 yards per game. Add that to the fact that Foster most likely won’t get a full workload after not playing in the preseason and you have a scary proposition for a top tier play.
22. Shane Vereen – NE at Buf – The Vereen hype is loud and happens often and for good reason, especially early in the season with Rob Gronkowski out. Vereen will be used all over the field and should see plenty of receiving targets to make up for the loss of Gronk and Hernandez. Add the fact that the Bills have a ton of trouble against running backs and you have a recipe for fake points.
23. Darren McFadden – Oak at Ind – McFadden and the Raiders have looked pretty pitiful this preseason so it’s hard to endorse him, but he does get a good matchup against the Colts who gave up over 5 yards a carry and 14 rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs. If you own him you’re starting him.
24. Ahmad Bradshaw – Ind vs. Oak – He’s still returning from foot surgery and running with the second team in practice, but as the week goes on he should be able to step up a bit. His matchup against Oakland is a juicy one. Matt Forte and Michael Bush obliterated them in the third preseason game and if Bradshaw looks good to go he’ll be a quality start.
25. Daryl Richardson – StL vs. Ari – I wish I could get on the Richardson train because I think the Rams offense should be much better this season and if one of their running backs could get 20+ touches a game they would for sure be useful in fantasy, but I’m not sure Richardson is the guy. The Cardinals finished last season as the second worst run defense in the league, but that had a lot to do with the offenses inability to keep their defense off the field. They should get a little more rest this year with Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians leading the offense.
26. Ryan Mathews – SD vs. Hou – Last season Houston gave up the least amount of fantasy points to running backs in the league. They were the only team to hold Adrian Peterson to under 100 yards after week 5 and pretty much ruined his chances of breaking the rushing record. They also didn’t allow one running back to top 100 yards rushing on the road. Mathews will have a tough road to hoe even though he has looked good in preseason.
27. Eddie Lacy – GB at SF – I’m a big fan of Lacy this season and think he has the ability to put up numbers on any defense as long as they are worried about Rodgers and company beating them down field. But of course this is San Francisco at home against a rookie on the road. Lacy’s touches may be limited if they can’t get him going early, but I’m still starting him at flex unless you are just stacked.
28. Giovani Bernard – Cin at Chi – Bernard faces a tough defense on the road for his NFL debut. The Bears ranked 4th best in fantasy points given up to running backs last season and Bernard will split carries with Green-Ellis to start the year. It’s tough to know exactly how much work he’ll get, but his ability makes it tough not to flex him.
29. Chris Ivory – NYJ vs. TB – The Bucs put the hurt on running backs last season and led the league in rushing yards allowed and tied for the smallest yards per carry allowed. And the only two running backs to top 100 yards against them were Alfred Morris and Adrian Peterson. Chris Ivory has yet to round into form as a Jet and is barely a flex play at this point.
30. Montee Ball – Den vs. Bal – Whoever is the main guy in Denver should get plenty of opportunities for fantasy points, but it might take some time before we really know the pecking order in the Broncos’ backfield. For now Ball is my favorite with him most likely seeing more goal line work.
31. DeAngelo Williams – Car vs. Sea – Williams will be the starter for the Panthers, but Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton will take away goal line work and some 3rd down work. Add to that the Seahawks top 10 run defense and you may be asking for trouble.
32. Ben Tate – Hou at SD – Arian Foster won’t get a full workload, so Tate will see more than normal touches, but it’s hard to predict with any certainty so he’s just a flex play for needy teams.