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Week 1 Running Back Depth Charts for Fantasy Football


With the NFL season underway, it is time to take a close look at the landscape of the league and determine where true fantasy football value lies. Owning and starting the right running backs can be a big difference maker in your week to week matchups.

We are here to help you plan your running backs strategy, and to target the right RBs on each NFL team. Below are our 2015 fantasy football running back depth charts as we approach the start of the NFL season and the bulk of the Week 1 games.

For each team you will find the primary running back (RB1), the secondary running back (RB2), the third running back (RB3), and waiver wire potential. Players listed under “Waiver Wire Watch” have accrued value in recent weeks and should be eyed as possible waiver wire pickups throughout the season.

 

2015 Running Back Depth Charts for Week 1

AFC EAST: Fantasy Football Running Backs (RB)

Baller Stability Rating Team
Name
Primary
Running Back
Backup or
Handcuff
Longshot
Candidates
Waiver     Wire Watch
Solid Patriots LeGarrette Blount Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden James White Brandon Bolden
Solid Jets Chris Ivory Zac Stacy, Stevan Ridley Bilal Powell  N/A
Solid Bills LeSean McCoy Karlos Williams Bryce Brown Karlos Williams
Solid Dolphins Lamar Miller Damien Williams, Jay Ayaji LaMichael James Damien Williams

 

It's now certain that LeGarrette Blount will be entering the season as the starter. Blount did not play Week 1, and we saw Dion Lewis shine and become a solid waiver wire option based on his performance last night. The Patriots were thought to potentially use Brandon Boldin on passing downs with Tom Brady, but Lewis gets the nod here moving forward, especially in PPR. Now that Jonas Gray has been cut, the backfield in New England is a little less crowded.

Since the last update, Chris Ivory's star has only risen as the Jets coaches have alluded to using him as a 3-down back. It's unlikely that really comes to fruition, but it's good news nonetheless that he'll be the main starter coming out. Stevan Ridley still projects to take some carries away once he's healthy. The Jets have a handful of competent, albeit not great tail backs who could all foreseeably play this season.

The Bills RB situation has gotten so much worse since July. Every single RB they have under contract is injured. However, the starting role seems to be locked in with LeSean McCoy. Karlos Williams has come up a bit (enough to gain dynasty value) and since the last time of writing, he's now almost definitely locked into the second role. Williams will also receive goal line duties, making him worth a look in most formats in  light of McCoy's health.

Lamar Miller is the main back here. Damien Williams is now fighting with LaMichael James for the 2nd job, but still holds the lead. Jay Ajayi will not be available until at least Week 1o with a recent rib injury.

 

AFC WEST: Fantasy Football Running Backs (RB)

Baller Stability Rating Team
Name
Primary
Running Back
Backup or
Handcuff
Longshot
Candidates
Waiver     Wire Watch
Solid Broncos C.J. Anderson Ronnie Hillman Juwan Thompson Ronnie Hillman
Solid Chiefs Jamaal Charles Knile Davis Charcandrick West Knile Davis
Solid Raiders Latavius Murray Roy Helu Michael Dyer  N/A
Solid Chargers Melvin Gordon Branden Oliver, Danny Woodhead Donald Brown Branden Oliver, Danny Woodhead

 

C.J. Anderson has won the job here and could do some big things this season in Denver. The Broncos will likely be running the ball much more to preserve Peyton Manning and Anderson will be the main beneficiary of that. Ball's out, so it's worth taking your chances with any of the other backups. Hillman has been particularly praised recently.

Jamaal Charles might be spelled a little more often this year by Knile Davis than last year but otherwise the developments have been minor. De'Anthony Thomas was moved full time to WR making the 3rd spot a battle between the two SPARQ athletes Charcandrick West and Darrin Reaves. Now that Reaves is out, it's all West's, but it's doubtful that he sees any impact time this year.

It seems more and more like Latavius Murray will be getting a lot of carries this year. Roy Helu figures to be the main passing down back,d despite being 3rd on the depth chart. Richardson was cut and now cedes all backup roles to Roy Helu. Oakland is a pass-first offense, rendering the backs less valuable here.

Melvin Gordon showed exactly why I wasn't a huge fan of him in his first pre-season action, the indecisiveness within his game. Since then, it's only been further confirmed that the Chargers will employ a running back by committee approach, making Gordon's value much less than his ADP. Although he still figures to be the lead back, this adds a lot of value to Danny Woodhead and potentially Branden Oliver too. There are simply too many good running backs on this team to get behind a rookie starter.

 

AFC NORTH: Fantasy Football Running Backs (RB)

Baller Stability Rating Team
Name
Primary
Running Back
Backup or
Handcuff
Longshot
Candidates
Waiver     Wire Watch
Solid Ravens Justin Forsett Lorenzo Taliaferro Javorius Allen  N/A
Solid Steelers Le'Veon Bell DeAngelo Williams Dri Archer  N/A
Solid Bengals Jeremy Hill Giovani Bernard Rex Burkhead, Cedric Peerman Giovanni Bernard
Questionable Browns Isaiah Crowell Duke Johnson Glenn Winston Duke Johnson

 

No one is really threatening to touch Justin Forsett's spot, however there's been a little talk of Lorenzo Taliaferro taking some carries. That shouldn't matter on a team that's likely to throw to Forsett over 80 times this year. Allen will have some value in case Forsett goes down, but it's almost impossible that he sees anything more than a passing down role over Taliaferro. Now that Taliaferro is also injured, that's just going to give Forsett more carries to work with early in the year.

There's nothing to see on the Steelers. Le'Veon Bell is the starter. DeAngelo Williams is the backup. Dri Archer is a gadget weapon. The roles are clearly defined.

Another clear cut situation with some slight room for improvisation. Jeremy Hill is the starter and potential 3-down back. Giovani Bernard will still see time as a passing down specialist and potentially see 5-7 carries of his own per game. Beyond that, it's just low-value backups. Giovanni Bernard could be a sneaky pickup if he's sitting around the waiver wire in the coming weeks.

Terrance West was traded to the Titans, removing him from a competition he had no chance of winning in the first place. Isaish Crowell seems firmly in place to start early in the year, with Duke Johnson backing him up and potentially challenging him for carries. Duke was a solid sleeper pick in this year's draft with a ton of upside. If he's sitting around on the waiver wire, give him a nice long look.

 

AFC SOUTH: Fantasy Football Running Backs (RB)

Baller Stability Rating Team
Name
Primary
Running Back
Backup or
Handcuff
Longshot
Candidates
Waiver     Wire Watch
Solid Colts Frank Gore Josh Robinson Vick Ballard  N/A
Questionable Texans Alfred Blue Arian Foster, Chris Polk Jonathan Grimes Alfred Blue
Questionable Titans Bishop Sankey Terrance West Dexter McCluster, Antonio AndrewsDavid Cobb Terrence West
Questionable Jaguars T.J. Yeldon Denard Robsinson Toby Gerhart T.J. Yeldon

 

Another clear situation. Frank Gore's the starter on a high powered offense. With Dan Herron cut, Josh Robinson moves into the #2 spot suddenly gaining some redraft value as the backup in a high powered offense. Ballard remains in play for some touches, but minimal at best.

So what we know is that Arian Foster will be starting when he returns. What we don't know is how long it'll take for him to return exactly and who is his backup. In a recent article about the Texans' running backs, I predicted that Chris Polk would win the job but Alfred Blue's only issue with being the main player had to do with his lack of disciplined running. Since then, Blue has only strengthened his hold on the starting job and showed that he has progressed enough to potentially be the lead while Foster rehabs.

More and more love has come out for David Cobb out of the Titans camp. Until Bishop Sankey actually fails in an NFL regular season game it's unlikely for Cobb to take real touches from him. To make matters better for Sankey, Cobb is now on injured reserve for at least half of the year. However, the Titan's just traded for Terrance West which might impact Sankey's usage. Still, it looks more and more like Sankey's job to lose, which very well may be the case.

TJ Yeldon was named the starting back in a depth chart released by the Jaguars onTuesday, as the rookie was listed ahead of third-year RB Denard Robinson. Yeldon only saw limited action in the preseason due to a hand injury. Apparently, what he showed was enough to convince the coaching staff in Jacksonville of his worth. Yeldon is a powerful back with definite star potential and the Jags are looking to develop their young talent as quickly as possible. Look for Yeldon to receive a ton of touches from an incompetent Blake Bortles. Toby Gerhart could also factor in a minor role, potentially serving as a goal line back. Yeldon's hold on the job remains tenuous.

 

NFC EAST: Fantasy Football Running Backs (RB)

Baller Stability Rating Team
Name
Primary
Running Back
Backup or
Handcuff
Longshot
Candidates
 Waiver      Wire Watch
Volatile Giants Rashad Jennings, Shane Vareen Andre Williams Orleans Darkwa Andre Williams
Solid Eagles DeMarco Murray Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles Kenjon Barner Darren Sproles
Volatile Cowboys Joseph Randle Darren McFadden, Christine Michael Lance Dunbar Christine Michael
Questionable Redskins Alfred Morris Matt Jones Chris Thompson, Trey Williams Matt Jones

 

That's right, Rashad Jennings is no longer a certainty for the primary role. After talking up Shane Vereen for nearly all of the offseason, the Giants finally gave him some real work against the Jaguars and it was more work than Jennings got. It's looking a lot more like Vereen and Jennings might actually split. Andre Williams will be on the outside looking in as he comes to vulture touchdowns and occasionally handle short yardage work. He'll be the bane of every Giants running back owner's existence this year.

As expected, DeMarco Murray, last year's leading rusher, will be starting. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles will sit behind, spelling him at times and rotating for some special packages, I'm sure. There's going to be analysts out there telling you that Murray's workload will be an issue this year. Philadelphia ran the ball 474 times last year, even 50% of those carries would be the 10th most rushing carries last year. There's a ton of talent in this backfield. If either Mathews or Sproles starts to see some work, they should be scooped up immediately.

We're still no closer to a real certainty about what's going on in Dallas. Although coaches have mentioned Joseph Randle as the starter, they've also hinted at wanting to put Darren McFadden on the field along with him. Lance Dunbar has seemed to lose the battle for touches. Everyone's going to ask if they should pick up Christine Michael now that he's been traded to here. The answer is an emphatic YES. Even if his talent has yet to show itself on the field, a lottery ticket with that kind of upside is always worth more than the middling players you might be holding onto over him.

It's starting to look more and more like Matt Jones will see first team playing time along with Alfred Morris. He's one of my biggest deep sleepers this year and it's very important for your fantasy season that you're aware of him. Deeper, we get Trey Williams, who after some impressive preseason performances potentially has the chance to land on the 53 man roster. He's got a high NFL ceiling but has a lot to develop in his mental game to reach it.

 

NFC WEST: Fantasy Football Running Backs (RB)

Baller Stability Rating Team
Name
Primary
Running Back
Backup or
Handcuff
Longshot
Candidates
Waiver Wire Watch
Solid 49ers Carlos Hyde Reggie Bush Mike Davis, Jerrod Hayne Reggie Bush
Solid Seahawks Marshawn Lynch Fred Jackson Thomas Rawls  N/A
Questionable Cardinals Andre Ellington David Johnson, Chris Johnson Stepfan Taylor  N/A
Questionable Rams Tre Mason Todd Gurley Benny Cunningham, Isaiah Pead Benny Cunningham

 

Carlos Hyde is the definite starter but there's still a chance for Reggie Bush to take more touches than people expect. He continues to see time with the first team and the coaches have been nothing but positive regarding Bush. He's also been the primary passing down back, making him a gold mine sleeper in PPR formats. Deeper down, both Mike Davis and Kendall Hunter seem to be forgotten about for the 2015 season. Jerrod Hayne's seen a lot of hype this preseason, but it's unlikely he touches the field as a RB anytime soon.

The starter will be Marshawn Lynch. His backup will be newly signed RB Fred Jackson. Thomas Rawls will be buried behind them. Nothing to see here, folks.

With the signing of Chris Johnson this situation only gets harder to figure out. The roles will be shared and split amongst the players here as Ellington battles CJ2K for touches while also battling David Johnson for catches. Actually, they're all battling for catches on top of that. Realistically, Ellington should be the best option on the ground but it's hard to know what the Cardinals coaches want to do right now. The team has stated that it would like to limit Ellington's work load after he wore down last season. The Johnsons will likely act as support forces, with Ellington taking the lead.

Tre Mason will start the season, but Todd Gurley is still expected to take the job when he's ready to. The Rams plan to ease Gurley in, giving Mason some early season value but he'll still be almost definitely losing the job as soon as they feel like Gurley isn't hurting himself by playing. Benny Cunningham will remain as the third down back, but has the potential to play a big role week 1 as Mason is now recovering from his own injury.

 

NFC NORTH: Fantasy Football Running Backs (RB)

Baller Stability Rating Team
Name
Primary
Running Back
Backup or
Handcuff
Longshot
Candidates
Waiver Wire Watch
Solid Packers Eddie Lacy James Starks John Crockett James Starks
Questionable Lions Joique Bell, Ameer Abdullah Theo Riddick Zach Zenner  N/A
Solid Bears Matt Forte Jeremy Langford Ka'Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers,  N/A
Solid Vikings Adrian Peterson Jerick McKinnon Matt Asiata  N/A

 

Eddie Lacy will continue having the ball handed to him by Aaron Rodgers. James Starks will continue to take a few snaps here and there as the Packers aim to keep Lacy healthy. John Crockett, and all other backs that might be here, will not have any value unless Lacy goes down. Watch out for touchdown vulture and battering ram John Kuhn.

I don't care what blurbs are coming out about Bell -- Ameer Abdullah's talent and performances should show that he will end up being the starting back sooner or later for this Detroit Lions team. However, the stubbornness of the coaching staff has kept them from declaring so. Joique Bell should still be seeing some amount of carries this year but should ultimately be taking the change of pace role. Theo Riddick will be the pass catching back. Zach Zenner could potentially take over for Joique if he struggles.

Matt Forte is in no danger of losing his job before the season starts. 2015 draftee Jeremy Langford has the inside track to become the backup to Forte but there's no guarantees with his lacking abilities that he'll be doing more than taking whatever carries that Forte leaves for him. Ka'Deem Carey and Jacquizz Rodgers line up the remaining spots. Neither player has a secured roster spot and Carey no longer has any connections remaining with the Bears ownership. For the second preseason in a row, Senorise Perry is looking like the best choice for the #2 backup but remains deeper.

Yet more clear cut situations. Adrian Peterson will start, Jerick Mckinnon will back him up, and Vikings fans will question why Matt Asiata is ever on the field when the others are not.

 

NFC SOUTH: Fantasy Football Running Backs (RB)

Baller Stability Rating Team
Name
Primary
Running Back
Backup or
Handcuff
Longshot
Candidates
Waiver Wire Watch
Questionable Saints Mark Ingram C.J. Spiller Khiry Robinson C.J. Spiller
Questionable Falcons Tevin Coleman Devonta Freeman Terrone Ward  N/A
Solid Panthers Jonathan Stewart Cameron Artis-Payne Fozzy Whittaker  N/A
Volatile Buccaneers Doug Martin Charles Sims, Bobby Rainey Mike James Charles Sims

 

Mark Ingram is getting a little better opportunity to perform now that C.J. Spiller has suffered an injury that's keeping him from practicing. Spiller on the other hand is losing this battle with every day of practice he misses. There's still a real chance that Khiry Robinson sees action this season. Don't count out Spiller in the passing game, though. He's a pure pass catching back and should sync up well with Drew Brees' style of play.

Tevin Coleman has been named the starter over Devonta Freeman in Atlanta. There's been little elaboration to that report and it is not clear to what extent the carries will be split. However, the speedy Coleman now becomes a very attractive RB option for a pretty low value. Of course, the Falcons run game is not to be trusted regardless.

So far, Jonathan Stewart has made it through the preseason without getting injured. There are still two weeks left though, so watch out. If he does make it out alive, he's starting. Cameron Artis-Payne has had some hype from the Panthers about potentially becoming a lead back should anything happen to Stewart, but his skill set might show them otherwise.

Doug Martin is the current projected lead back but this team looks like a running back committee from the outside. Charles Sims and Bobby Rainey have both seen first team reps along with Martin so this situation has not gotten any clearer. Sims was a very sneaky pick in the draft and even sneakier as a waiver wire pickup, if available. He's looked much better than Martin in camp and could take over duties early in the season if Muscle Hamster fails to produce early and often.

 

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