Week 1 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Fantasy Football Running Back

The NFL is back and thus, so is fantasy football! Each week, we are going to give you the top running backs heading into their respective matchups. The running back position is a much-maligned position both on the field and within fantasy football. Even with “running backs don’t matter” and “zero-RB strategy” takes all over Twitter, having a strong running back will lead you to the promised land.

Week 1 is here and many offenses will likely be trying to ease themselves back into the fold of things. Plenty of running backs will have a handful of opportunities.

All rankings will be based on PPR formats.

Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: Week 1

RB1

1. Jonathan Taylor
2. Christian McCaffrey
3. Austin Ekeler
4. Alvin Kamara
5. Derrick Henry
6. Dalvin Cook

“Can they stay healthy?” That’s the question surrounding a few of the top fantasy football running backs this week. Jonathan Taylor ended the 2021 season as the top running back and not by a narrow margin. In four career games against the Houston Texans, Taylor averaged over 115 yards and a touchdown per game. Last year, he ran for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He should get back to it.

Christian McCaffrey has one of the highest ceilings in fantasy due to both his rushing and receiving abilities. Unfortunately, he’s played a grand total of 10 games in the past two years. Ekeler has been a reliable two-way back for his Chargers. Last year, he combined 206 rushing attempts with 70 receptions to go for 1,558 yards and a league-leading 20 total touchdowns.

Alvin Kamara may have a suspension in his future, so you probably got him at a good value. For this week, Kamara is facing off against Atlanta. The last time we saw Kamara, he went off for 146 yards on the ground against this Falcons team. If it weren’t for an injury, Derrick Henry would have been the rushing king. If he had continued his pace through his nine games through the full 17-game schedule, he would have been RB1 by more than 21 points. Finally, Dalvin Cook is another running back who has missed games in each of his five years in the NFL. Cook has struggled in his career in seven games. However, the Vikings offense looks better than it has been, so a strong game by Cook would do wonders for taking the division.

RB2

7. Najee Harris
8. Joe Mixon
9. D’Andre Swift
10. Aaron Jones
11. Saquon Barkley
12. Nick Chubb

What is the Steelers offense going to look like this year? While they don’t have to worry about winning in spite of Ben Roethlisberger, Najee Harris is going to have to carry them for a while. They do sport one of the worst offensive lines in football. In spite of that, Harris finished as RB4 last year. Just ahead of him will be his counterpart in this game, Joe Mixon. Mixon has been a top running back each year he’s been healthy and he finally has a revamped offensive line ahead of him. There are high expectations for the Bengals running back.

D’Andre Swift and Aaron Jones have each proven to be solid fantasy running backs thus far. Swift has never faced the Eagles in his career. In his 13 games last year (only four starts), he was targeted as a receiver 78 times. Saquon Barkley is back and hopefully, he’s fully healthy. Since his injury in Week 2 of the 2020 season, Barkley has played in 13 games and eclipsed 100 yards just once. Finally, Nick Chubb in Cleveland faces off against the Carolina Panthers. Cleveland is likely going with a run-first approach for a while since Jacoby Brissett isn’t exactly Deshaun Watson.

RB3

13. James Conner
14. Javonte Williams
15. Antonio Gibson
16. Travis Etienne Jr.
17. Elijah Mitchell
18. Josh Jacobs
19. Ezekiel Elliott

James Conner takes over the Arizona backfield as RB1 this season. Last year, he had to share time with Chase Edmonds (now in Miami) and he is still good enough to hold Eno Benjamin at bay. To start the year, the running back shares in Denver is going to be split 60/40 between Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordan. As for Antonio Gibson, it seemed like his job was all but gone before the freak shooting of Brian Robinson. This week, Gibson should be RB1 but he will likely fall off these rankings as Robinson gets healthy.

Jacksonville now has an offense that doesn’t have to worry about Urban Meyer. Travis Etienne Jr. is too good to keep off the field and the Achilles injury to James Robinson is often difficult to return from. Elijah Mitchell in San Francisco is going to be one to watch. With Trey Lance taking his first-ever start, Coach Shannahan will ease him into the role with hand-offs and easy throws to get him acclimated. Mitchell will benefit greatly. Both Josh Jacobs and Ezekiel Elliot could be looking over their shoulders this year. But for this week, they are still solid backs worth starting as RB2.

Possible Flex Plays

20. Dameon Pierce
21. Tony Pollard
22. Clyde Edwards-Helaire
23. Rashaad Penny
24. Nyheim Hines

Finally, deep in the barrel for flex plays. Dameon Pierce, after a strong preseason and the subsequent cutting of Marlon Mack, earns the RB1 job in Houston. The Texans are still a bottom-third team in the NFL but Pierce will get his in this offense. The Colts are a difficult defense, however. Tony Pollard has played second fiddle to Elliott in Dallas for a few years now. He’s gotten over 40 targets coming out of the backfield in each of the last two years and has shown he’s a playmaker when given the chance. Edward-Helaire is still RB1 in Kansas City despite taking a step back last year. His rookie year showed that he can make plays happen with the football. This year, the hope is that he can regain that form.

Rashaad Penny has a tough ask against Denver but his backup, Kenneth Walker III, will likely not be suiting up for this game as he’s dealing with an abdomen injury. Finally, Hyheim Hines is RB2 behind Jonathan Taylor but he’s etched out a legitimate role in the Colts offense. Expect his pass-catching abilities to be utilized this year.