Not that Le’Veon Bell will likely ever be considered a source for a start ’em, sit ’em guide thanks to being a top-three fantasy football running back every year, but if Bell is on your roster, you better be worried.

Bell was a no-show to Monday’s practice, so that creates some drama for this week. If Bell doesn’t show by a specific day, he won’t play Sunday. And even when he does show up this week, which is likely, how much will Pittsburgh use him?

Remember this is the same Pittsburgh team that limited Bell in the early going in 2017, likely due to his hold out. Even if Bell does play, you better have some solid production from your other running backs.

Here’s the week 1 fantasy football start ’em, sit ’em guide for running backs.

LeSean McCoy should be valued higher in the 2018 fantasy football draft. Flickr/Keith Allison


LeSean McCoy vs. Baltimore Ravens

There’s been a loud narrative heading into 2018 about McCoy’s lack of fantasy football value. I’m not buying it.

His average draft position was ridiculously low when compared to other running backs who don’t occupy the ball as often as McCoy does. And this Buffalo offense has to have McCoy not only rushing the ball at a high level, but also catching it out of the backfield.

The Ravens are always stout on the defensive side of the ball, but the rushing defense hasn’t been great in recent years. While the pass defense has been a top-10 unit, the rushing defense has been middle-of-the-pack in the NFL.

McCoy has some injury concerns, but he’s still a high-volume, productive running back who can put up at least RB2 numbers in week 1.

Marshawn Lynch vs. Los Angeles Rams

Lynch should get a look this week at the running back position in fantasy football.

The Rams were bad last year against the run, allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to running backs, and ranking 30th in yards per rush attempt allowed in the NFL.

And while the Rams made plenty of splashes in the offseason with their acquisitions, I’m not sure they bolstered their rush defense. Their pass rush and secondary are legitimate top-10 units, but that rush defense didn’t improve. It may have gotten worse.

That leaves the door open for Lynch, who will occupy plenty of attention in Oakland’s gameplan. I’m not a believer in Lynch’s long-term fantasy value, but this is a nice matchup.

Peyton Barber vs. New Orleans Saints

Why not, right?

Barber was definitely the No. 1 option for Tampa Bay in the preseason and he appears to have a stranglehold on the starting position at the moment.

Jacquizz Rodgers doesn’t scare me as a vulture running back, so Barber should get plenty of volume against a New Orleans defense that has shifted its priority more to the pass defense. The Saints were leaky against the run and better against the pass in 2017.

That should continue in 2018.

I also believe this game will be closer than handicappers believe, making the game flow work more in Barber’s favor. He’s going to win the workload in the backfield, and he has shown flashes of decent play in the past.

As an RB2, there are worse choices.


Jay Ajayi vs. Atlanta Falcons

Does anyone really know how much work Ajayi will get this year?

He’s the starter in a backfield with Darren Sproles (who will dominate third-down work), Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood. All three have played a role in this offense before.

And when Ajayi had volume last year with Miami, he wasn’t very good. When his carries were cut in half over the same amount of games played previously with the Dolphins, his production went up. However, he still only tallied one touchdown on the ground last season.

His usage scares me. And Atlanta was a top-five defense in fantasy points allowed against running backs in 2017. The Falcons are going to force Nick Foles to beat them, so be careful with Ajayi as your starting running back in week 1.

Royce Freeman vs. Seattle Seahawks

Freeman won the starting job in Denver at the running back position, but that doesn’t mean he should get an automatic start in week 1.

Seattle is a top-half defense against the run and gave up 16.7 points per game to running backs in fantasy football last season, ranking ninth in the NFL.

And there’s just too many question marks around Freeman to truly trust him in that Denver offense. The Broncos have struggled on the offensive line, and how much leeway will Freeman get in week 1?

Let’s get some answers before trotting out Freeman in week 1 on fantasy football rosters.

Kerryon Johnson vs. New York Jets

Detroit is a wasteland for fantasy football running backs.

That’s why I’m not jumping on the Johnson bandwagon just yet.

He’s another rookie who will see some action in week 1. And he may be the best of the lot in Detroit. The problem is that he’s competing against too many players with experience to trust right out of the gate.

The Lions have used multiple running backs for years, making it difficult to consistently trust those players in fantasy football. This is a case where I’ll have to see it to believe it.

The Jets are a better defensive unit than people give them credit for, so just relax on Johnson at the moment and wait for more clarity.

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