Week 1 RB Rankings, Projections and Analysis
Week 1 Running Back Sleepers
Week 1 Start N' Sit
Fantasy Football Advice from NFL players



RBs title bar graphic
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch
This is how we rank the RBs for Week 1 of the fantasy season. Our rankings aren't just based on name value or past performance - each week we take a comprehensive look at the match-ups and each RBs past performance and factor that into our projections. Just click on the links to read our rationale behind the ranking. The ratings are based on a standard non-PPR league where 10 rushing or receiving yards equal 1 point, rushing and receiving TDs equal 6 pts. and fumbles deduct 2 points.

Running Back Rankings
  1. Marshawn Lynch
  2. Matt Forte
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. LeSean McCoy
  5. Montee Ball
  6. Shonn Greene
  7. Adrian Peterson
  8. DeMarco Murray
  9. Frank Gore
  10. Alfred Morris
  11. C.J. Spiller
  12. Andre Ellington
  13. Le'Veon Bell
  14. Arian Foster
  15. Doug Martin
  16. Eddie Lacy
  17. Reggie Bush
  18. Ryan Matthews
  19. Zac Stacy
  20. Gio Bernard
  21. Knowshon Moreno
  22. Rashad Jennings
  23. Shane Vereen
  24. Chris Johnson
  25. Pierre Thomas
  26. Mark Ingram
  27. Joique Bell
  28. Stevan Ridley
  29. Fred Jackson
  30. DeAngelo Williams
  31. Ben Tate
  32. Bernard Pierce
  33. Darren Sproles
  34. Maurice Jones-Drew
  35. Toby Gerhart
  36. Jacquizz Rodgers
Titans RB Shonn Greene
Paying attention to the match-ups each week can help you identify less heralded players with the upside to surprise and help you avoid some potential land mines. This is our list of players we expect to surpass expectations, along with a few stud RBs who may fail to deliver:

Start
Marshawn Lynch
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch
Why do we love Marshawn Lynch this week? 1. an opponent with a lousy run defense (check) 2. a game plan that should be centered around keeping the opposing team's QB off the field (check) 3. a RB with a good personal history against the opponent (check) 4. home field advantage (check) 5. one of the top RBs in the league (check).

Frank Gore
49ers RB Frank Gore
The concerns about the 49ers offense are overblown, as are the worries that the wheels will come off Frank Gore due to his advancing age. Gore's 2187 carries and career-low 4.1 YPC average are legitimate concerns but we just don't see him breaking down the very first game of the season. He has a terrific match-up against a hapless Cowboys defense that's banged up and missing a couple key playmakers. Dallas allowed 129 yards a game last year and allowed opposing RBs to churn out 4.7 yards a carry. They may be even worse this year and we expect Gore to find some holes. This is a good week to activate him before the rookie Hyde bites too much into his carries.

C.J. Spiller
Bills RB C.J. Spiller
We're not big Spiller fans, as it's usually feast or famine with him, depending on how Buffalo divides the carries, but we think this is the year the Bills finally make him their bell cow back (at least until he gets injured again). You couldn't ask for a better match-up, facing the Bears and their 32nd-ranked run defense. Buffalo should eventually realize the diminuitive speedster's not built for 25+ carries a game but since they haven't realized this yet, he's a safe bet to receive the majority of work this week.


Sit
Eddie Lacy
Packers RB Eddie Lacy
Really, we're fond of Lacy and see him as the second coming of Paul Hornung but this is a match-up we'd prefer to stay far away from. As if it's not challenge enough facing the league's 7th-ranked run defense, Lacy has to play on the road in the hostile environment of CenturyLink Field. The last time the Pack travelled to Seattle their offense failed to get going and they lost a snoozer 14-12. We don't see them faring any better this time around. If you have another RB1 or an RB2 with a good match-up, we advise sitting Lacy.

Gio Bernard
Bengals RB Gio Bernard
There are several reasons we're not excited about Gio this week. The Bengals have historically had a tough time on the road in Baltimore, whose run defense is better than advertised. The Ravens allowed a miserly 3.8 yards a carry last year. Add this to the fact that Gio looked like the 2nd (or even 3rd) best RB on the squad this pre-season and you can understand our trepidations. Eventually, the Bengals are going to realize he's not an inside runner and platoon him with the rookie Hill. That probably won't happen this week but we still don't see Bernard having an impact in this game.

Zac Stacy
Rams RB Zac Stacy
Due to injuries and ineptitude Zac Stacy is once again the focal point of the Rams' rushing attack, after a pre-season filled with talk of a RBBC. We're not sold on him this week for a couple of reasons: we think the Vikings run defense, which was 12th in the league in YPC allowed, will be much improved due to the fire and brimstone of Mike Zimmer and we believe the Rams will be playing from behind most of this game with QB Shaun Hill now at the helm. Starting a RB on an anemic offense is not usually a recipe for success in fantasy.


Shonn Greene
Titans RB Shonn Greene
Since rookie Bishop Sankey's struggled with pass protection, Greene's been anointed the starter for week one. He gets the envious task of facing a Chiefs defense that struggled mightily defending the run last year. We can't really explain why we're so high on the one-dimensional back who's kind of like a Ford Pinto to Sankey's Dodge Charger. Suffice it to say that our Swami Sense tells us "the little engine that could" is going to blow up this week and put up around 125 yards and a TD. Be sure to check the Titans' website prior to game time though, as Sankey looked very good in the last pre-season contest, so it's possible Coach Whisenhunt changes his mind. If he does, we'd be equally comfortable starting Sankey due to the match-up.

Pierre Thomas/ Mark Ingram
Saints RB Mark Ingram
Both backs are sleeper candidates this week as they take on the hapless Falcons and their 31st-ranked run defense on the road. Ingram, who slimmed down in the off-season, has looked really good during the pre-season but he's a perennial fantasy tease who's underwhelmed so far in his career. This might be the year he actually breaks out but nevertheless we give a slight edge to Thomas. The Saints aren't your typical offense - their system includes a higher percentage of pass plays to RBs. The other reason we favor Thomas in this match-up is the Falcons beefed up the interior of their D-line, adding elite run-stuffer Paul Soliai and former Chiefs DT Tyson Jackson, but have a very inexperienced LB corps that includes a rookie and two second-year players.

Fred Jackson
Bills RB Fred Jackson
Father Time may be creeping up on Jackson but if there ever was a team to start him against this year, it's the toothless Bears, whose run defense was absolutely abysmal last year. The Bears ranked dead-last in the league, allowing an incredible 161.4 yards a game and conceding over 5 yards a clip to backs. They've added sackmeister Jared Allen and DE Lamarr Houston but we don't see that having much of an impact on a run defense that was weakest in the interior. There is some risk to starting Jackson, since it sounds like the Bills would like to entrust Spiller with more of the workload. He makes a nice flex start and is worth starting in leagues with 3 RBs.

Lions RB Reggie Bush
There's no better source of advice on fantasy RBs than the players who have to face them week-in and week-out. We're very grateful to the following NFL players and retired players who were kind enough to answer our questions and provide our readers with advice:

Clinton Portis
Retired NFL Running Back
Retired RB Clinton Portis

Brian Robison
DE Minnesota Vikings
Vikings DE Brian Robison

Tank Johnson
Retired NFL Defensive Tackle
Former NFL DT Tank Johnson

Shaun Smith
Retired NFL Defensive Tackle
Retired DT Shaun Smith