Week 1 Rankings: Top 40 Running Backs

Which running backs would we expect to get off to a strong start?  Who faces a difficult matchup?  Whose health brings question to their potential value?  Let’s answer all the questions as we look at our Week 1 rankings:

  1. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles – at Cleveland
  2. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Cincinnati
  3. Arian Foster – Houston Texans – vs. Miami
  4. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders – vs. San Diego
  5. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears – vs. Indianapolis
  6. Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Carolina
  7. Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks – at Arizona
  8. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans – vs. New England
  9. Kevin Smith – Detroit Lions – vs. St. Louis
  10. DeMarco Murray – Dallas Cowboys – at New York Giants
  11. Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills – at New York Jets
  12. Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams – at Detroit
  13. Rashad Jennings – Jacksonville Jaguars – at Minnesota
  14. Ahmad Bradshaw – New York Giants – vs. Dallas
  15. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers – at Green Bay
  16. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Atlanta
  17. Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons – at Kansas City
  18. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Jacksonville
  19. Trent Richardson – Cleveland Browns – vs. Philadelphia
  20. Willis McGahee – Denver Broncos – vs. Pittsburgh
  21. Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – at Tampa Bay
  22. Stevan Ridley – New England Patriots – at Tennessee
  23. Shonn Greene – New York Jets – vs. Buffalo Bills
  24. Reggie Bush – Miami Dolphins – at Houston
  25. Darren Sproles – New Orleans Saints – vs. Washington
  26. Peyton Hillis – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Atlanta
  27. DeAngelo Williams – Carolina Panthers – at Tampa Bay
  28. Donald Brown – Indianapolis Colts – at Chicago
  29. Beanie Wells – Arizona Cardinals – vs. Seattle
  30. Isaac Redman – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Denver
  31. Toby Gerhart – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Jacksonville
  32. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Cincinnati Bengals – at Baltimore
  33. Cedric Benson – Green Bay Packers – vs. San Francisco
  34. David Wilson – New York Giants – vs. Dallas
  35. Ryan Williams – Arizona Cardinals – vs. Seattle
  36. Ben Tate – Houston Texans – vs. Miami
  37. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – vs. Washington
  38. Ronnie Brown – San Diego Chargers – at Oakland
  39. Roy Helu – Washington Redskins – at New Orleans
  40. Evan Royster – Washington Redskins – at New Orleans


  • Last season the Miami Dolphins defense allowed just 8 rushing TD on the season (tied for the third fewest).  Yes, it’s a new season and yes, I would expect Arian Foster to still put up very good numbers for the opening week.  However, it’s hard to project him as the top option given the matchup.
  • Mikel Leshoure is out…  Jahvid Best is out…  As long as Kevin Smith is healthy (and all reports are that he is), he should be in line for a big day against a St. Louis Rams defense that allowed 152.1 rushing yards per game in 2011 as well 17 TD.  While we all know he’s a risk given his injury concerns, if you need a one week fill-in he’s a pretty good bet.
  • Chris Johnson has looked bad in the preseason, hurting his stock.  Plus, wouldn’t you think that there’s a good chance the Titans are playing from behind early?  That could mean fewer rushing attempts in Week 1.  I would still consider him a RB1, as he should play a factor in the passing game, but he’s not a Top 5 option this week.
  • Doug Martin has won lead back duties and, while it’s impossible to think LeGarrette Blount isn’t going to play a role, Martin should be in store for a solid NFL debut against a Panthers defense that was subpar against the run in 2011.  While the passing game in Tampa Bay should be improved this season, Martin could very well be the key to the offense.
  • How healthy is Adrian Peterson?  How often is he going to get the ball early on this season?  The answer to those two questions really will determine his value.  Until we have a better idea, you’d be best suited to consider him a RB2.
  • In Fred Jackson’s only game against the Jets in 2011 he posted 120 total yards (82 rushing and 38 receiving).  Yes, New York’s defense should be good, but don’t shy away from Jackson.
  • I don’t believe that Michael Turner is going to have a good season overall.  Between his age and the shift to a more passing oriented attack (wouldn’t you if you had Roddy White and Julio Jones) you have to think that Turner is likely going to be limited this season.  That said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get off to a good start against the Chiefs.  Consider him a mid-level RB2 for this week, but it likely won’t be that way normally.
  • We’ll have to track the injury status of Jonathan Stewart and Trent Richardson before settling in on their final spot on these rankings.  Stewart is a little bit of a more curious case, given the Panthers depth in the backfield.  Even if he plays, they could easily just spread the carries around instead of depending on him.  If he were the lead back he would be a Top 15 option.  Instead, he’s more of a low-end RB2/FLEX play because of the uncertainty at this point.
  • There has been a lot of talk of late about Jonathan Dwyer significantly eating into the carries of Isaac Redman.  Time will tell, but those whispers definitely suppress Redman’s value for this week.
  • Cedric Benson and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are going to have value most weeks, but they both draw incredibly difficult matchups in Week 1.  They are FLEX plays for this week, at best.
  • Roy Helu or Evan Royster??  Anyone?  Anyone?  It’s tough to count on either one right now.

Make sure to check out the rest of our Week 1 rankings:

Haven’t drafted yet? Make sure to check out our 2012 preseason fantasy football rankings:

Week 1 Rankings: Top 20 Tight Ends
Week 1 Rankings: Top 25 Quarterbacks


  1. Brandon says:

    Looking at the better option for my Flex spot. Shonn Greene or Dangelo Williams.

    Greene I think has a tough matchup against the new Bills D Line, and well of course Dangelos value is hit or miss based on how the carries go. If Stewart is out though is Williams a top 15 option like Stewart would have been?

  2. Rylee Nance says:

    Who should i start???? Demarco Murray Against the Giants D, or Fred Jackson against the Jets D.

    Both have good defenses but i’m never sure if i want to commit with a Cowboy player.

    • Honestly, I have them back-to-back on the rankings so it is safe to say that it is razor close. I’d lean towards Murray, slightly, but I would say go with your gut. They should be close.

  3. Rylee Nance says:

    Also Fred Jackson is projected to get more points too.

  4. Thomas says:

    I don’t know why everyone is so down on Turner this year.

    He was a beast last year and the addition of being more vertical offensively just means he has more room to run. He also battled a groin injury during the later half of the season.

    He has no reason to suck this year unless he’s just out of shape which I don’t think he is.

    • His age and the beating his body has taken is definitely part of it. I’m not saying he’s going to suck, but I wouldn’t expect a repeat performance.

    • S says:

      I think people are going crazy downgrading Turner. Is he a 1600 yd guy? No. But I doubt his talent suddenly falls off a cliff. He’s still gonna be a high volume guy with goal line carries in a good offense. He’s still a solid RB2.

      • I agree he can be a RB2, which is where I have him this week (#17). Reports I read did have him a step slow in camp, though, so he is going to be a player we need to watch closely.

  5. Triz says:

    You may remember I have some problems at RB, especially with Mathews out – those I’m currently benching in parentheses

    QB: E Manning (Luck)

    RB: (Mathews) Bradshaw, Donald Brown, (CJ Spiller, Mike Tolbert, Vick Ballard)

    WR: Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Steve Johnson (Percy Harvin, Titus Young) (playing a WR in the flex)

    TE: Gronkowski
    K: Akers

    D/ST: Ravens

    Someone has dropped Gerhart and I see he’s doing all right on your list, though below Bradshaw and Brown. Should I drop someone and pick him up?

    Second question – defense! Should I be dropping someone and playing a difference defense this week since the Ravens face the Steelers? The available team with ESPN’s highest projected points is the Vikings; highest available from your rankings are the Bills.


    • Question 1 – You could. I like Ballard, but I would probably rank Gerhart above him anyways and he has a better chance to make an impact.

      Question 2 – Ravens are playing Cincinnati, not the Steelers…lol I like Baltimore (I have them ranked #8 for the week), but I do like the Bills more (I have them ranked #4). Problem is who you would even drop to get them. Tolbert is probably unnecessary, or you can just stay the course. both are viable options.

      • Triz says:

        I’m still hoping that Luck will go crazy, and I will look like a genius for picking up him, Brown and Ballard! (Of course, YOU would really be the genius, since I followed your advice lol).

        But maybe Tolbert for Gerhart? Or, like you suggested, Tolbert for the Bills D? It’s just even with Mathews out I have 2 RBs above Gerhart in your rankings, and lots of WRs to play in the flex spot, so I probably wouldn’t play Gerhart this week, and I WOULD play the Bills D this week for sure.

        But maybe Gerhart or Tolbert would be more valuable going forward?

        I’m so confused, and football hasn’t even started yet!

        • I like Gerhart more than Tolbert for the entire season, only because it is hard to predict how many carries Tolbert will get (behind Stewart and Williams). I think I would prefer having him on your bench, only because he has the potential to be your #3 RB if Peterson gets hurt (ahead of Brown).

          That said, if you prefer to use a WR as your FLEX (and you definitely have the options to do that), go with the D for this week.

          It all depends on the strategy you want to employ…lol But, considering you already have a viable defense and Week 1 is so unpredictable, I’d probably go Gerhart.

  6. Brandon says:

    Michael Bush off the list for a reason? Forte top 5 and playing the colts you think Bush would crack top 30

    • He has the potential, but it really depends on how many carries he’s going to get. There’s a lot of risk in taking a “secondary” back. Could he vulture a TD? Possibly, but I wouldn’t call it a definite.

      He’s right there, though.

  7. blchiodo says:

    who would you start in a flex position when you can play a wr/rb/te. Issac Reddman, Jermichael finley or jonathan stewart? 3wr starters, 2 rb starters, not te starter slot.

    • I’d probably go Finley. Redman and Stewart are both banged up and likely won’t receive the bulk of the carries in Week 1 (at least there is the threat of it).

      Finley is an elite talent who should make plays.

  8. joseph says:

    So Beanie is number 2 in reps today!? Should I start Ingram?

  9. blchiodo says:

    Would start jermichael finley or alfred harris now that he’s starting in WAS? Flex wr/rb/te. PPR league

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>