Welcome to our Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Running Back edition for Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season. In this column, we highlight a breakout rookie looking to take hold of the 49ers‘ backfield. Plus, a former NFL touchdown leader in Green Bay ready to redeem himself after a disappointing season debut.
* Reminder: Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em is intended to present you with the non-obvious choices for your fantasy lineup. We dig deep into player matchups, scoring trends, and other factors to best help you with your fantasy decisions. Superstars such as Christian McCaffrey will not be found in this column. If you’re looking for players of that caliber check out our weekly fantasy football running back rankings.
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RB: Start ‘Em
Start of the Week: Aaron Jones vs. DET
The Packers as a whole struggled in the opener. Jones was no different. Green Bay abandoned the run early, as the Pro Bowl touted the rock just five times. Don’t expect the Packers offense, nor Jones, to continue their struggles in Week 2. The Lions allowed 4.7 yards per carry in the opener and 28.9 points to the position. Jones averaged 27.6 points in his two games against Detroit a season ago.
D’Andre Swift at GB
Many fantasy owners were burned when pregame reports tabbed Jamaal Williams as the Lions starter — which proved true. However, everything beyond that was a farce. Swift out-snapped Williams by 31 snaps last Sunday and led the team in targets with 11. Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn loves to feature running backs in his passing game, evident by Austin Ekeler’s 108 targets for the Chargers two years ago. Plus, with limited talent out wide, Swift and TJ Hockenson will continue to serve as Detroit’s top receiving options, which should be music to owners’ ears in a game where the Lions will need to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers. If they manage to do so and slow the pace down, Green Bay allowed 177 rushing yards in Week 1 — third-most in the NFL.
Najee Harris vs. LV
The bad news, Harris finished as RB45 in Week 1. The good news, he was the lone Steelers running back to touch the football in any facet — totaling 17 touches and receiving three targets. The Raiders surrendered the third-most rushing touchdowns to running backs last season and continued their trend of generosity to the position this past Monday, allowing two touchdowns to Baltimore’s makeshift backfield.
Kareem Hunt vs. HOU
Hunt was a start for us last week and rewarded our faith with a rushing touchdown. The Texans allowed the most rushing touchdowns (21) to running backs in 2020. We’d like to see his target share increase and Houston would be a great place to start, as they allowed the fifth-most receiving yards (723) to the position a season ago.
Sleeper: Ronald Jones vs. ATL
Jones is available in 14% of Yahoo leagues as I write this. Do yourself a favor, scoop him up if he’s still sitting on your waiver wire. No running back is a guarantee in Tampa’s pass-happy offense, but coach Bruce Arians has named RoJo the starter for Week 2, via ESPN. It’s easy to forget due to Leonard Fournette’s brilliant postseason run, but Jones was actually RB13 through 14 weeks of play last season. The Falcons allowed 111 rushing yards to running backs last week — and that’s after subtracting Jalen Hurts’ 62 yards from the total.
RB: Sit ‘Em
Sit of the Week: Mike Davis at TB
Davis manned 75% of the offensive snaps in Week 1. However, he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on 15 attempts — far from a shocking statline, as Davis is a career 3.7 yards per carry rusher. To make matters worse, Davis gets a Bucs defense in Week 2 who limited Ezekiel Elliott to 33 yards on 11 carries (3.0 average) in the opener. Note: Keep an eye on Cordarrelle Patterson, who operated as Atlanta’s No. 2 back in Week 1 and averaged a team-high 7.7 yards per carry on seven attempts.
Mark Ingram at CLE
In a surprising turn of events, Ingram out-attempted Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson 26-to-11 in the ground game. However, that was with Houston playing with a lead. How often is that going to occur this season? Probably not much, and likely not against a Browns team who were besting the Chiefs for the better part of four quarters in the opener. The positives, Ingram has red zone upside and could stumble into the endzone in any given week. The not-so-positive, his volume is bound to be sporadic and Cleveland allowed the eighth-fewest rushing yards to running backs in 2020.
Buyers Beware: Eli Mitchell at PHI
Raheem Mostert is done for the season, which means the San Francisco backfield is Mitchell’s to own… and Tre Sermon’s, and JaMycal Hasty’s, and Kerryon Johnson’s and whoever else Kyle Shanahan randomly decides to throw in there on any given week. Mitchell clearly impressed in Week 1, and his 19 attempts were 17 more than any other 49ers running back. However, as we noted in our waiver wire/early running back rankings, “scrap his 38-yard touchdown scamper from the books and he averaged 3.6 yards per carry on the day.” Sermon is likely the back to own here long term, but expect Mitchell to push for the team-lead in touches once again in Week 2. Still, the Eagles limited Atlanta to just 62 rushing yards in Week 1 and the 10th fewest fantasy points to the position a season ago.