You don't bring a knife to a gun fight and if you're going to take home your fantasy championship, than you better make sure that your running back outperforms your opponents running backs. Running back has become a harder position to fill as many teams have gone from using a workhorse primary ball carrier to a committee of backs who specialize in different areas. Let's consider the running back rankings for week 1. As you're going through the rankings, watch for three tags:
a MUST START running back - he has the potential to have the strongest week of all the running backs,
a WATCH OUT running back- he has the potential to self-destruct and cause you stress
and a SLEEPER- a running back who could really surprise and play big.
1. Chris Johnson vs. Oakland
He blew us away with his speed and versatility. Things should not change in the opener against the Raiders. He could carry you to a win by himself.
2. Adrian Peterson at New Orleans
He tore it up against the Saints in the playoffs except he couldn't hold onto the ball. He has said that's behind him and we'll get to see tonight. A fresh AP is an unstoppable force.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Denver
MUST START. Jones-Drew has been out during the pre-season, which has caused many to be cautious. He doesn't appear on the Jaguars first injury report, so he's good to go. Denver's rush defense is terrible and Jones-Drew will punish them.
4. Frank Gore at Seattle
Gore is his team's workhorse back. If you look at last year, he scored 2 touchdowns in each of his games against them. Seattle will not have an answer for Gore.
5. Steven Jackson vs. Arizona
Jackson is the Rams only weapon right now on offense. In the game he played against Arizona last season, he went over 100 yards. Jackson will be the only bright spot on offense for the Rams in this one.
WATCH OUT. Rice is a phenomenal running back, who is continuing to improve. He will be facing a tough test in the Jets defense. The Ravens have also added some new targets in their passing game and might want to test them out.
7. Ryan Mathews at Kansas City
He has been hyped alot in fantasy circles. This game might not prove to us how good he can be in the long run, but should showcase what he will bring to the table this season. The Chiefs will probably be concerned more with Rivers and the passing game.
8. Rashard Mendenhall vs. Atlanta
Mendenhall came out of last season as a very hot prospect. The Steelers will be using inexperienced Dennis Dixon at quarterback in this game and that means the running game will be looked to carry things. He should get off to a good start against the Falcons.
Carolina loves to run the ball. They will continue to look to their backfield to carry the load, as the passing game comes along. Williams missed the game against the Giants last year but has been very successful against them in the past.
10. Ryan Grant at Philadelphia
The Eagles will definitely have their hands full with the Packers passing game and that should open things up for Grant on the ground. He will have a solid game but will not blow you away. You know what you're getting when you start Ryan Grant.
11. Matt Forte vs. Detroit
Forte still has the starting job in Chicago and had a nice pre-season. Going against the Lions will be a treat for him, as last season he went over 100 yards in both meetings. Watch how the Bears divide the carries going forward.
12. Ronnie Brown at Buffalo
Brown was having a great season before he went down with an injury in 2009. He scored two TD's and went over 100 yards in his only game against them last year. Expect similar results in this one.
13. Pierre Thomas vs. Minnesota
Thomas has really developed into a nice fantasy asset. He scored twice and came close to 100 yards combined rushing/receiving in their playoff win against the Vikings. He should play a key part in this game because the passing game will force the defense to stay honest.
14. Michael Turner at Pittsburgh
He is only this low because of the defense he will face this week. Turner was having a great season last year before it was cut short by injury. Expect a solid game with better ones to follow.
15. Shonn Greene vs. Baltimore
Greene is now the main man for the Jets. Yes, they have Tomlinson but he is purely on the down side of a great career. Greene will have a good game but expect a bigger breakout in the weeks to come.
16. Jahvid Best at Chicago
Best is lightning in a bottle and the Lions will hopefully let him loose in this one. It will be interesting to see the ways the Lions use him. Watch how he does against a good defense.
17. Cadillac Williams vs. Cleveland
Williams continues to put up solid numbers for Tampa Bay. The Browns are very weak on defense. It spells out a recipe for a nice game for Cadillac to keep on rolling.
18. Arian Foster vs. Indianapolis
Foster has quietly moved up RB rankings and draft boards. He looked like the real deal in the last two games of last season and has a good matchup here. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to maintain his production over the long haul.
19. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Carolina
The Giants have been using more of a timeshare between Bradshaw and Jacobs. Bradshaw, as the smaller back, has flashed more play making ability. He should put up the better stats in this matchup with the Panthers.
20. Cedric Benson at New England
Benson has completely turned around his career and become what the Bears thought they were getting. The Bengals show nice balance on offense and have a strong offensive line. Benson will put up a solid game.
21. Jamaal Charles vs. San Diego
Charles finally displayed his abilities in the final nine games of last season. In the one game he started against the Chargers last year, he put up close to 150 combined yards and a touchdown. Charles has become quite buzzworthy and will be a bright spot for the Chiefs in this one.
22. Beanie Wells at St. Louis
Wells should continue to improve in his second season. With the transition continuing with the passing game, Wells will benefit. He scored a touchdown in both meetings with the Rams last year.
23. Joseph Addai at Houston
The running game has not been a strength for the Colts over the last two seasons. That should continue this year but Addai does bring some value. He ran for over 60 yards in each of their two meetings in 2009 and scored twice in one of those games.
24. C.J. Spiller vs. Miami
Spiller has made alot of noise over training camp and the pre-season. I'm excited to see what he will bring to the Bills in the regular season. The Bills have a crowded backfield but Spiller will make the biggest mark in the opener.
25. Jonathan Stewart at New York Giants
Stewart will play in the opener against the Giants but look for Williams to have the better game. The Panthers will probably take it easy with Stewart as the season begins and he recovers from his heel injury. Stewart will have some games later in the season that will win you some games.
26. Knowshon Moreno at Jacksonville
The Broncos will continue to ease Moreno back into the starting role. He is still recovering from his hamstring injury but will play in this game. Moreno will share the load in this game against the Jaguars.
27. Jerome Harrison at Tampa Bay
Harrison was awesome down the stretch and may have helped you win your league. He was going to be challenged by Hardesty but that is now out of the way (Hardesty was placed on IR). Harrison looks to have the job all to himself in the opener.
28. Ricky Williams at Buffalo
Since he returned to the League, Williams has put up solid numbers when called upon. The time share may be equal to start the season as Brown comes off his foot injury. Williams did have 85 yards rushing and a touchdown in the one game that Brown and him both played in against the Bills last year.
29. LeSean McCoy vs. Green Bay
McCoy is not Brian Westbrook yet. He has the potential for some nice games further into the season. I don't see that happening here in the opener against the Packers.
30. Tim Hightower at St. Louis
Hightower still has a role within the Arizona offense although it has grown smaller. If the game gets out of hand, Hightower might have some nice garbage time numbers. As a side note, he did rush for 110 yards in St. Louis last season.
31. Marion Barber at Washington
It's hard to know who is going to have the best game in the Dallas rushing attack because it's a three headed monster. Against Washington, he should see his fair share of touches. In their two meetings last year, he averaged over 90 yards combined rushing/receiving and scored a touchdown.
32. Darren McFadden at Tennessee
He has not lived up to the potential that he showed in college. McFadden does have the opportunity to show something with Michael Bush limited to start the season. If you have other options, they would probably be the better choice.
33. Justin Forsett vs. San Francisco
Forsett has been named the starter for the opener against the 49ers. Although between the 3 Seahawk running backs, he might not even receive the most touches in the game. This situation is very unsettling.
34. Clinton Portis vs. Dallas
Portis has carried the ball alot throughout his career, it makes you wonder how much he has left. Reunited with Shanahan, we can only dream of the success that he had back in Denver. Portis is the starter but hopefully not on your fantasy team.
35. Felix Jones at Washington
Jones is a playmaker but his body is like an eggshell. You love the big play ability he has but worry when he takes the big hit or really any hit. Jones will receive only 10-15 touches against Washington.
36. Kareem Huggins vs. Cleveland
Huggins has come out of nowhere to claim the backup spot in Tampa. He's worth keeping an eye on. In this game, I hope you're not starting him unless you believe Cadillac is going down in the first 5 minutes.
37. Peyton Hillis at Tampa Bay
Hillis might receive some carries this year. With Hardesty out, Hillis moves up the depth chart. Watch to see if he receives some goal line carries.
38. Laurence Maroney vs. Cincinnati
Remember when Maroney was relevant in fantasy, it seems like a decade ago. The Patriots spread the ball around so much in the rushing game. Maroney will put up the best numbers this week but who knows about next week.
39. Thomas Jones vs. San Diego
Jones is the primary backup to Charles. I believe he still has alot left in his gas tank. This week we won't see him much but remember him for down the road.
40. Reggie Bush vs. Minnesota
Bush has radical ups and downs. He did not play much in the playoff win over Minnesota but did score a touchdown. I expect this to be a down game for Reggie.
41. Darren Sproles at Kansas City
The Chargers finally realized that Sproles cannot carry their rushing load and that he has a specific role. Change of pace back, third down back and superb return man. Sproles had over 50 yards receiving in each of his games against the Chiefs last year and a receiving touchdown.
42. Ladainian Tomlinson vs. Baltimore
Tomlinson is obviously on the downward slope of his career. He will be asked to fill the receiving role out of the backfield. His effectiveness will be limited against the Ravens.
43. Correll Buckhalter at Jacksonville
Buckhalter will get touches throughout the year, as he did last year. Against the Jags, he will get a share of the touches with Moreno. Moreno though should get the better opportunities such as close to the goal line.
44. Brandon Jacobs vs. Carolina
Jacobs has fallen quite far down the list. His smash mouth running style is very awesome but career shortening. Jacobs will have better weeks than this one during the season.
45. Chester Taylor vs. Detroit
SLEEPER. Taylor has been a good running back throughout his career. He may be turning 31 but he doesn't have the wear and tear that other backs have. If Forte struggles at all, Taylor will step right in.