Andre Ellington will be out 1-3 weeks with a Grade I partial tear of his PCL. The PCL is behind the ACL and much tougher, but it is still a ligament and a torn ligament is always threatening to tear more. If Ellington only misses Week 2, watch his practice time very closely. That is hard with RBs, simply because they don't need as much practice, so his second week of rest can just be practice before exploding in Week 3. I would be more concerned if Ellington practiced all of next week, to be honest.
C.J. Spiller is slated to debut in a Saints jersey for Week 2, like, for real, for real.
LeGarrette Blount will debut after his Week 1 suspension and should take over the brunt of rushing duties for New England.
As per usual, for every situation that became more clear, there were others that raised more questions. We are still working with tiny sample sizes, so bear with us. Here are all of the volatile RB situations across the NFL, from the jobs at most risk to the least:
Tier 1: They are renting the job until the real primary back returns.
Chris Johnson and David Johnson, Cardinals: CJ0k is the classic boom-bust RB. He has electric speed and is always a threat for an 80-yard TD run in a phenomenal offensive scheme, but there is a lot of run to the line and fall down, mixed with dancing around in the backfield for three-yard losses. CJ can have 110 yards on 12 carries; he can have 30 in 15, but he is the primary for Week 2. He's a solid RB3 to use at flex in standard leagues against an untalented, though well-coached Bears defense.
David Johnson's snap count should go up as a receiving back and this is a more long-term option for fantasy relevance in PPR formats. Ellington's absence will give him the shot at more targets to become a bigger player in this offense even when Ellington returns.
Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham, Rams: Cunningham had an amazing performance against the Seahawks, which may earn him the larger share of touches and targets. But Todd Gurley will get the job once he is healthy. We don't know when that is at all, but in the meantime, expect a timeshare that you don't want in your 12-team league lineups.
Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes, and Chris Polk, Texans: Arian Foster could be out three more weeks or eight more weeks. No one knows. What we do know is that all three of these RBs are sharing the ball in Houston and doing nothing with it. Blue led all Texans in carries with nine, but that was less than half of their 20 rushes. The only guy who is rosterable may be Grimes in deep PPR formats. Otherwise, let them be someone else's problem.
Deangelo Williams, Steelers: I believe in Williams' physical ability, but not in his football IQ. He performed very well against a Patriots defense, which is vunerable up the middle. He will get a lot of work: like, RB1 levels of volume, as Dri Archer played zero role in Week 1. But he's more of a desperation flex in standard leagues for volume's sake; in PPR, gamble on a boom-bust or slot WR. When Le'Veon Bell returns in three weeks, Williams is nothing more than a handcuff.
Tier 2: Bad primary back with a threatening handcuff
Isaiah Crowell, Browns: Crowell is not good. He is not startable outside of a desperation flex spot in 14-team leagues because the touches should still be in the 12-15 range. Johnson has the talent to take this job. Add that Johnny Manziel will be starting Week 2 and need to use checkdown options and Johnson is a decent deep league flex gamble in PPR with the long-term upside of being the bellcow within a month.
Bishop Sankey, Titans: If you own Sankey, trade him now because you will want to drop him soon. He simply isn't good and Terrance West is worse. What Sankey has is a great offensive-minded head coach who will give him the ball for RB2 volume, but don't believe his career game. When David Cobb returns, the Titans will be fed up with Sankey and West.
Tier 3: Great RB with a threatening handcuff
C.J. Anderson, Broncos: He has turf toe, which is a difficult injury to forecast. Moreover, Ronnie Hillman outperformed him in Week 1. Gary Kubiak is stubborn, in a good way, with RBs. Anderson will have to play his way out of the primary role and playing hurt could do just that. Hillman remains a must-own in all formats, whether or not Anderson is owned until Anderson plays well while healthy. This situation is more injury-dependent than a timeshare right now, as this is a bellcow system; and, until further notice, Anderson is the bellcow.
Tier 4: Role-based timeshares
Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar, Cowboys: Randle is the primary back with all of the carries with passing down snaps to boot; Dunbar is Dallas' primary passing downs and no-huddle back. Randle is a solid RB2 with RB1 upside every week behind this great O-line, especially with Dez Bryant's injury greatly hurting their passing game. Dunbar is a low-end RB2 in PPR for the time being. In blowouts, Dunbar can disappear from games, but Dallas won't be having those any time soon. Darren McFadden is terrible. He's nothing more than a handcuff to these two and not sure he would be more than a deep flex play if given the opportunity.
Demarco Murray and Darren Sproles, Eagles: This is not a fool-me-once situation with Sproles. Reviving Sproles as an all-around offensive weapon all over the field is what Chip Kelly has always wanted to do. Now he has the QB who is self-actualized in the need for the easy throw to this great playmaker in space. Sproles looks like an RB2 in PPR for the rest of the season with a greater role than any receiving back other than Danny Woodhead and C.J. Spiller. Murray was bad on Monday, and the schedule doesn't get better, facing the Cowboys and Jets over the next two weeks. He isn't benchable, but his volume will be very swingy and his yards per carry doesn't have the high enough potential to be a top-8 RB in standard leagues. There is no question that Kelly will utilize him in the red zone, so his two TDs were not a fluke; that was a gameplan which can get him Michael Turner type fantasy stats, at worst.
Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell, Lions: Bell is the starting back, but Abdullah has more explosive potential and a larger role in the offense. Bell is a boring RB2 in standard who is TD-dependent in PPR; Abdullah is an RB2 in all formats, maybe top-15 in PPR, no matter who the opponent because Matthew Stafford is great at getting easy balls to a man he needs and tends to fixate on the easiest need to meet.
Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon, Chargers: Both of these RBs are startable every week, but Woody is preferable. He may not lead the team in rushing yards over the season, but he is the primary receiving back in a Philip RIvers offense and that is insta-RB2-worthy in PPR. Gordon had a checkdown pass to Gordon in the red zone, but everything else was all Woody, as it was in 2013. Woody's floor is 50 catches; his upside is in the 80s. And he will lead the team in rushing TDs, so that makes him an RB2 in all formats, whereas Gordon goes down to a flex in PPR.
Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, Saints: Ingram will likely not see six catches again this season, let alone eight, when Spiller is playing, and Spiller is due to debut in Week 2. Spiller is Woody without the goal line carries and more big play potential. Ingram splitting carries with Khiry Robinson was likely the Saints giving Ingram rest because they needed him on passing downs. We should view Ingram as an RB2 in all formats, as a 15-18-carry primary rusher who gets a lot of goal line opportunities and Spiller as an RB2 in PPR because of his 4-6-catches per week with double digit and long run after the catch TD potential. Robinson is Ingram's rushing handcuff, though; and any time missed by Spiller elevates Ingram near RB1 territory.
Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, Bengals: See the Saints situation, but with more carries and more TD opportunities for Hill to keep him in the RB1 range. Bernard will get his 8-10 carries per game with a wealth of targets. This offense is more devoted to the run than the Saints, so this is a rare case where there should be plenty to go around. Hill remains an RB1 in all formats; Bernard a flex play in standard and solid RB2 in PPR.
Tier 5: Bad situations, but the job is theirs
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars: The line sucks and his team will be playing from behind so much that, regardless of his RB2 talent, the volume should stay closer to the flex levels. Yeldon is way too low-volume and TD-dependent, but--hey!--no one else on that roster will take his job.
Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, Giants: Jennings is volume-dependent and Vereen's pass-catching abilities keep him off the field. That said, Vereen just isn't going to actually get the targets and yards for PPR relevance. Jennings is a bad flex play in standard; Vereen is PPR stash. If Jennings were to get hurt, Vereen's usage should go up to legit flex range in PPR and Andre Williams would be an RB3 like Jennings.
Tevin Coleman, Falcons: Coleman didn't start on Monday night, but he outcarried Devonta Freeman 20 to 10. That's a bellcow if I ever saw one. Freeman has flex appeal in PPR where the Falcons should look to play from behind, but nothing more than a handcuff in standard leagues. What keeps Coleman out of the RB2 range is a bad offensive line and a defense that will give up points to have Atlanta playing from behind, where he will share time with Freeman. He really needs to steal this job and dominate the snap count to be a significant fantasy producer from week to week.
As the season goes on, we will have more usage data to chart who owns what shares of the offense, but the sample size is still small, so we have to combine that with some logic filters.
Week 2 RB Depth Charts
|Primary||Handcuff||Goal line||PPR Option|
|Bears||Matt Forte||Langford/Rodgers||Jacquizz Rodgers|
|Bengals||Jeremy Hill||Giovani Bernard||Giovani Bernard|
|Bills||Lesean McCoy||Karlos Williams|
|Broncos||C.J. Anderson||Ronnie Hillman|
|Browns||Isaiah Crowell||Duke Johnson||Duke Johnson|
|Buccaneers||Doug Martin||Charles Sims|
|Cardinals||Chris Johnson||David Johnson||David Johnson|
|Chargers||Melvin Gordon||Danny Woodhead||Danny Woodhead||Danny Woodhead|
|Chiefs||Jamaal Charles||Knile Davis|
|Colts||Frank Gore||Josh Robinson|
|Cowboys||Joseph Randle||Darren McFadden||Lance Dunbar|
|Dolphins||Lamar Miller||Damien Williams|
|Eagles||Demarco Murray||Mathews/Sproles||Darren Sproles|
|Falcons||Tevin Coleman||Devonta Freeman|
|49ers||Carlos Hyde||Jarryd Hayne|
|Giants||Rashad Jennings||Andre Williams||Shane Vereen|
|Jaguars||T.J. Yeldon||Denard Robinson|
|Jets||Chris Ivory||Bilal Powell|
|Lions||Ameer Abdullah||Joique Bell||Joique Bell||Joique Bell|
|Packers||Eddie Lacy||James Starks|
|Panthers||Jonathan Stewart||Cameron Artis-Payne||Mike Tolbert|
|Patriots||LeGarrette Blount||Dion Lewis||Dion Lewis|
|Raiders||Latavius Murray||Taiwan Jones|
|Rams||Tre Mason||Benny Cunningham|
|Ravens||Justin Forsett||Buck Allen|
|Redskins||Alfred Morris||Matt Jones|
|Saints||Mark Ingram||Spiller/Robinson||C.J. Spiller|
|Seahawks||Marshawn Lynch||Fred Jackson|
|Steelers||Deangelo Williams||Jordan Todman|
|Titans||Bishop Sankey||Terrance West|
|Vikings||Adrian Peterson||Jerick McKinnon|
Where the handcuff column has two names listed, it is a situation where the team's PPR option would not likely become the lead rusher were the primary to go down. Goal line alternatives are largely unknown, but more teams will have names added to this chart as the season rolls along.