The opening week of the season is one of the hardest for putting together rankings (not as tough as next week, but we’ll worry about that when it comes). That’s especially true at running back, where committees are a mystery and matchups matter more than arguably any other offensive position. Our Week 1 fantasy RB PPR rankings have the added “bonus” of trying to account for how receptions can hurt or help a player’s value, which can really affect potential sleepers and busts on the start ’em, sit ’em bubble.
There’s a tendency by some PPR owners to overvalue targets. It makes sense, as backs who can routinely haul in around four or five passes per game give you a steady baseline, but if they do next to nothing on the ground and can’t get into the end zone, then you still might wind up with disappointing numbers. In Week 1, we don’t know exactly if things will be the same as previous years.
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Can you still trust James White (vs. Dolphins), J.D. McKissic (vs. Chargers), and Nyheim Hines (vs. Seahawks) to be pass-catcher extraordinaires? Perhaps we’ll see Damien Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson, Antonio Gibson, or Jonathan Taylor be more active in their teams’ respective receiving games. We might also see some new “third-down” backs emerge, such as Kenneth Gainwell (@ Falcons), Giovani Bernard (vs. Cowboys), and Elijah Mitchell (@ Lions). All are possibilities for breakout PPR seasons that begin in Week 1.
Of course, it’s tough to put any of them in your starting lineup when almost every RB is available. There are enough established backs who project to get a decent amount of carries and scoring chances. Few backs catch more than four passes per game anyway, and most who do are already elite (Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Austin Ekeler). Sometimes, you see a back run up eight-plus catches for 70-plus yards and pay off based simply on receiving numbers, but often you need something in the running game (or a touchdown) to supplement that. Otherwise, you’re still better going with a two-catches-on-a-good-day guy like Derrick Henry (vs. Cardinals), Nick Chubb (@ Chiefs), Gus Edwards (@ Raiders), or Harris (vs. Dolphins).
Again, we don’t know for sure how teams are going to deploy their backfields. Chase Edmonds (@ Titans) might be more of a three-down back for the Cardinals but still get taken out near the goal line. The same is true for Myles Gaskin (@ Patriots) in Miami and possibly Devin Singletary (@ Steelers) in Buffalo. Tough matchups for the latter two cloud their Week 1 outlooks, but either way, we know they’ll catch passes, so they still have flex value in PPR leagues.
In addition to the potential breakout PPR candidates mentioned above, we might also see the Jets’ Michael Carter or Ty Johnson (@ Panthers), Houston’s David Johnson (vs. Jaguars), Chicago’s Damien Williams (@ Rams), Vegas’ Kenyan Drake (vs. Ravens), and Baltimore’s Justice Hill (@ Raiders) emerge with prominent third-down roles. It’s tough to start any in Week 1, but they’re at least in flex consideration in deep leagues.
Surprises always happen in Week 1, and it’s important not to overreact in Week 2. But, again, we’ll worry about that when we get there. For now, we’ll do our best to figure out a good balance of safety and upside in Week 1. We’ll still largely focus on guaranteed touches, touchdown opportunities, and matchup projections, but receiving ability definitely matters, too. May the third downs be abundant and check-downs be plentiful.
Note: We’ll be updating these RB PPR rankings as needed throughout the week. so check back for the latest changes and analysis.
Fantasy RB PPR Rankings Week 1: Who to start, sit at running back in fantasy football
Rankings are based on full-point PPR scoring.
Individual analysis will be added early next week and updated throughout the week to reflect any changes to the rankings.
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