Updated 9/11 at 10:45 AM ET. Removed J.K. Dobbins. Ranked Kenyan Drake over Mike Davis based on Ian Rapoport's mid-week report that Drake was signed to be the "de facto starter" when Dobbins is sidelined.
Week 1 Running Backs
RB Notes: Everyone is tired of hearing it, but Christian McCaffrey will win leagues if he stays on the field. He is healthy right now and no other back possesses CMC's arsenal of not just high-value touches, but high-volume touches in extreme quantity. … Jonathan Taylor did some of his best 2021 work against a Texans defensive line that is not appreciably better this season. Taylor's only real 2022 threat is if Nyheim Hines' supposedly larger role materializes. Consider me skeptical. … You have already read this fact, but Derrick Henry was ninth in rushing last season … in eight games. The run has only grown more important in Tennessee. … The Chargers wanted to lighten Austin Ekeler's load but it remains highly unclear if either rookie Isaiah Spiller or journeyman Sony Michel will be up to the challenge. Neither back should eat into Ekeler's money-making touches on third down and in the red zone. … Dalvin Cook's 2022 is all about being deployed more sensibly. We know Kevin O'Connell will be more EPA-focused than Mike Zimmer. That, combined with a workload that should remain voluminous, makes Cook a legitimate candidate to finish No. 1 overall if he stays healthy.
Alvin Kamara was woefully miscast as a 25-touch player for last year's weapons-bereft Saints offense. With reinforcements in hand for 2022, Kamara can hopefully return to his 15-touch happy place, one that features goal-line carries and 5-6 weekly receptions. The Falcons are a delectable 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 a third-down commitment is notable. Be that as it may, Mixon's baseline is too high to rank outside the top 10, including in the receptions department. We wish Mixon played every third down, but he does play enough third downs. … Speaking of baselines, Najee Harris is a threat to once again lead the league in touches. We just hope they aren't empty. With Mitch Trubisky wasting time under center for the time being, goal-line carries could be frustratingly sporadic. Touchdown road ‘dogs vs. the Bengals, Harris' Week 1 setup is poor. … Saquon Barkley remains the poor man's CMC. If he stays healthy, few boast his pass-catching and touchdown-scoring upside.
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I started the week with Nick Chubb too low, in the RB15-16 range. Now it feels a little too high. Carrying Jacoby Brissett's mail is going to be a tall order. Chubb, of course, has seen taller. I will bet on the talent for now. … The Packers' projected backfield usage is something of a black box, but I find it impossible to predict fewer than 60 receptions for Aaron Jones. How much of a factor he remains at the goal line is another story. AJ Dillon already out-carried him 21-15 inside the 10 last season and 10-6 inside the five. Coach Matt LaFleur has spoken of having two “1A” backs. Jones gets the rankings advantage based on history right now, but Dillon is probably closer than we would like to acknowledge. … Keep your Leonard Fournette head on a swivel. There are increasing signals Rachaad White will be given a legitimate role as the No. 2 back. … Rashaad Penny was the best running back in football down the stretch last season (albeit against a soft schedule). Ken Walker (hernia) isn't practicing yet. The Seahawks lack better options than the run. I am connecting the RB2 dots for the time being.
Ezekiel Elliott wants to prove he is healthy and rejuvenated, but the Bucs' run-erasing line is an awful Week 1 matchup. … The Elijah Mitchell case appeared troubled all summer, but he stayed healthy while his would-be touch stealers stayed unimpressive. Now the biggest threat is Trey Lance running the Niners' offense off the rails. … Week 1 ranks involve some leaps of faith, as well as some testing of summer narratives. I am betting big with Rhamondre Stevenson, gambling that a play-making back really has earned increased run on all three downs. My apologies if this looks certifiably silly by Week 2. … There is nothing more to say about the Rams' backfield other than we need 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 run heavy the Eagles will remain, other than they aren't suddenly going to lead the league in pass attempts. We do know that neither Kenneth Gainwell nor Boston Scott had an impressive summer behind lead back Miles Sanders, leading to a Trey Sermon waiver claim.
Maybe this is laughably low for Josh Jacobs against a Chargers run defense that was laughably bad last season. I am betting on a pair of offseason narratives: That the Chargers' D will be markedly better, and that new coach Josh McDaniels has zero allegiance to Jacobs in what could end up a sprawling committee. … This is on the conservative side for Travis Etienne, though an appropriate hedge with James Robinson (Achilles) indeed active. If J-Rob is the preferred pass protector, that would remove Etienne from the field in some high-value fantasy situations. … I know this could be far too low for Antonio Gibson with Brian Robinson on the shelf. It is just hard for me to shake how clear this coaching staff has made it that it wants Gibson's load lightened. … I feel like I am buying too much into the summer Michael Carter obfuscation, but it has grown more difficult to trust Breece Hall as an immediate RB2. … It would not be surprising if this was the last time all season Dameon Pierce is in the 30s instead of the 20s. … J.K. Dobbins (knee) is practicing. I might not truly know where to rank him until Sunday morning. For now it's “just inside the top 36 FLEX.”