by Ray Kuhn
Welcome back to NFL football, though we have a ton of questions. We have just completed our drafts so rankings and research are freshly done, but how much and what does that really mean?
Without any preseason games and an off-season like none other, it’s hard to know what we will truly get in Week 1. There are hypothesis a plenty so let’s start there. We are now back in our routines and rhythms of an NFL game week, so let’s see what information is out there. If all else fails, look to what you perceive to be the sure thing and take plenty of notes for next week. This season, perhaps more than any other, will be one of reaction balanced against the fear of overreaction.
Now, let’s jump into how our options rank for the week:
- Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers – vs. Las Vegas
- Saquon Barkley – New York Giants – vs. Pittsburgh
- Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings – vs. Green Bay
- Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – at LA Rams
- Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals – vs. LA Chargers
- Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints – vs. Tampa Bay
- Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – at Denver
- Josh Jacobs – Las Vegas Raiders – at Carolina
- Aaron Ekeler – LA Chargers – at Cincinnati
- Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers – at Minnesota
- Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles – at Washington
- Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks – at Atlanta
- John Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers – at NY Giants
- Nick Chubb – Cleveland Browns – at Baltimore
- Kenyan Drake – Arizona Cardinals – at San Francisco
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Houston
- David Johnson – Houston Texans – at Kansas City
- Jonathan Taylor – Indianapolis Colts – at Jacksonville
- Todd Gurley – Atlanta Falcons – vs. Seattle
- Le’Veon Bell – New York Jets – at Buffalo
- Raheem Mostert – San Francisco 49ers – vs. Arizona
- Mark Ingram – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Cleveland
- Devin Singletary – Buffalo Bills – vs. NY Jets
- James White – New England Patriots – vs. Miami
- Cam Akers – Los Angeles Rams – vs. Dallas
- Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions – vs. Chicago
- David Montgomery – Chicago Bears – at Detroit
- Melvin Gordon – Denver Broncos – vs. Tennessee
- Sony Michel – New England Patriots – vs. Miami
- Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears – at Detroit
- Chris Thompson – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. Indianapolis
- Jordan Howard – Miami Dolphins – at New England
- Antonio Gibson – Washington – vs. Philadelphia
- Ronald Jones – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – at New Orleans
- Latavius Murray – New Orleans Saints – vs. Tampa Bay
- Kareem Hunt – Cleveland Browns – at Baltimore
- Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts – at Jacksonville
- James Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. Indianapolis
- Boston Scott – Philadelphia Eagles – at Washington
- J.K. Dobbins – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Cleveland
- With regards to Kenyan Drake, it appears at least one issue has cleared up. A few weeks ago there was a scare regarding the Arizona running back as he was spotted in a walking boot, but all appears to be in order. Drake was out of the boot pretty quickly and he also has been practicing in full. Facing the 49ers and their tough defense will be a tall order for Drake, but he is unquestionably the man in Arizona’s backfield. Overall, it was hard to argue with Drake’s success after being traded to the Cardinals, but again the bulk of that production came in three games. While you have to start him, your expectations should be kept in check. However, Drake did rush for 110 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries while also adding four receptions for 52 yards in his first game the Cardinals last season. Two weeks later, he followed that up with 67 yards on 16 carries as he found things a little more difficult.
- Where did this come from? The Jaguars traded Leonard Fournette a week ago, and we thought we had things figured out. But now with Ryquell Armstead heading back to the reserve/COVID-19 list things are right back to being up in the air. Instead of Devine Ozigbo, who we previously thought would be next in line, un-drafted rookie James Robinson appears to be at the top of Jacksonville’s depth chart. Last season Robinson averaged 123 rushing yards a game on 22 carries, but that came at Illinois State, not the NFL. We haven’t gotten a look at either running back, but both should probably be on your roster for the first week of the season if there is space. At this point, if you must go with one, it has to be Robinson, but who really knows. The running back to own here, especially in PPR leagues, is Chris Thompson. We have to remember though that his role remains unchanged by the upheaval in the Jaguars’ backfield as he will be mostly used as a pass catcher.
- Another backfield that is probably best left to your bench is Detroit’s. They brought the newly signed Adrian Peterson into the fold last week, and the intention is for him to have a real role for the Lions, but at this point it is unclear what that might look like in Week One. Even still, Peterson gained just 898 yards with five touchdowns last season, so how much of a factor will he truly be? Then that brings us back to how the off-season began with Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift competing for carries. Swift has missed a lot of practice this summer with an undisclosed injury, and as a rookie there is a learning curve there, so that brings us back to Johnson. But let’s keep in mind the Lions thought so much of Johnson that they drafted Swift in the second round and then signed Peterson. At times we did see flashes of potential from Johnson, and he did miss eight games with a knee injury, but he only averaged 3.6 yards per carry.
- Another rookie running back who struggled last season was David Montgomery. Unlike Johnson, he made it through the entire season, but he was also the victim of poor quarterback and offensive line play. Things should be better for Montgomery this season, but until he is healthy and out on the field it will remain unclear. While he gained just 889 rushing yards last season, Montgomery did finish seventh in broken tackle rate and sixth in broken tackles last season. The other issue, is will Montgomery be playing Week One? He is battling a groin injury, and at this point, his status is unclear. For now, Montgomery is ranked as if he is playing, and if not Ryan Nall might be in line for more work. We can’t forget Tarik Cohen, but with just 64 carries last season, he doesn’t stand to benefit much from Montgomery’s absence but he will have a real role in the passing game.
- There is a lot of buzz and expectations surrounding J.K. Dobbins in Baltimore’s backfield. The rookie was drafted in the second round after a successful season for Ohio State last year, and Baltimore is already talking about him having a large role in their offense. With Dobbins potential emergence, you would expect that to have a negative impact on Mark Ingram, but I’m not sure that should be the case. Last season Ingram only gained 1,018 yards on the ground with 10 touchdowns as for the majority of last season, he was between 12 to 16 carries a game. With that being said, there is enough room in Baltimore’s offense for both Ingram and Dobbins, with Ingram being the more dependable option; at least for now.
- If I have to pick one rookie to back this season, it’s going to be Cam Akers. In college he was a strong three down back, and he joins a strong team in the Rams. Thus far he has been sharing first team reps with Malcolm Brown, but the upside sticks with the most talented player and that is Akers.
Make sure to check out all of our Week 1 rankings: