Welcome to our Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Running Back edition for Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season. In this column, we highlight what looks to be a new feature back in Baltimore. Plus, a former must-start in Denver who appears to be falling out of favor.
* 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.
Start-Sit [ RBs | WRs]
Follow the Heavy on Fantasy Facebook page for all the latest rankings, updates, & insight!
RB: Start ‘Em
Start of the Week: James Robinson at HOU
It seemed as if everyone was selling their James Robinson stocks this offseason. However, Travis Etienne’s injury has once again catapulted J-Rob to the top of the running back rankings. I’m not convinced that Carlos Hyde will legitimately eat into his workload — a workload that saw Robinson average 20.6 touches per game last season. The Texans surrendered 31.8 points per game to opposing running backs in 2020 (second-most in NFL), including a league-high 1.3 rushing touchdowns per contest. Robinson owned 76.9% of Jacksonville’s total red zone rushing attempts as a rookie (highest in football).
Raheem Mostert vs. DET
Trey Sermon is the Niners back to own over the long haul. Hell, a healthy Jeff Wilson may very well factor into the backfield later on down the road. However, for now Mostert’s the guy in San Fran and it would be wise to milk as much out of him while you can. A matchup vs. Detroit is a nice place to start. No defense surrendered more fantasy points (32.2) and total touchdowns (29) to the running back position last season than the Lions.
Kareem Hunt at KC
Nick Chubb is an obvious plug-and-play option in your lineups this week. Yet, so may be his fellow backfield mate, Kareem Hunt. The team’s preferred receiving option out of the backfield, Hunt saw 51 targets come his way in 2020, scoring five receiving touchdowns. The Chiefs allowed 769 receiving yards to running backs last season — one yard off the NFL lead. They also surrendered five receiving touchdowns to the position (tied third-most).
Sleeper: Ty’Son Williams vs. LV
After a devastating run of injuries, the Baltimore backfield looks to belong to Ty’Son Williams — at least for now. The additions of Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman and (likely) Latavius Murray can easily alter things in the coming weeks. However, Williams will probably get the chance to strut his stuff in Week 1. And Thankfully for him, he’s got quite a promising matchup. The Raiders allowed the third-most rushing touchdowns (18) and fourth-most fantasy points to running backs last season.
RB: Sit ‘Em
Sit of the Week: Zack Moss vs. PIT
Moss has been the preferred Bills back for fantasy owners this summer. Yet, ESPN’s NFL insider Dan Graziano has hinted that it will once again be Devin Singletary leading the charge. Moss eclipsed 59 yards rushing in just two games last season and found the endzone as a rusher in only three. Pittsburgh ranked in the top-10 in rushing yards allowed to the position in 2020 (85.3 yards per game). They were also just one of three teams to allow 20 points per game or fewer to the position group.
Melvin Gordon at NYG
Gordon’s time as Denver’s lead-back looks to be nearing its end — if it’s not already over. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has likened rookie Javonte Williams to Alvin Kamara of all people. Head coach Vic Fangio has noted that the team is “not at all against playing him in any situation at any time in the game,” via Denver Post. The Giants are sneaky stingy on defense, especially on the interior. They allowed the 11th-fewest rushing yards per game to running backs last season.
Buyers Beware: D’Andre Swift at SF
Swift’s stock is puzzlingly low. Getting a player who totaled 10 touchdowns in 13 games last season as a low-end RB2 is a steal. However, as far as his outlook in the opener, you may want to steer clear. San Francisco allowed just three receiving touchdowns to running backs last season (tied for fourth-fewest in NFL). They also ranked in the top-eight in points surrendered — and that was without Nick Bosa in the lineup.
Start-Sit [ RBs | WRs]