Rush Rating: Week 1

NFL 2019 Week 1 Running Back Overview

by Jon Helmkamp (@JCWHelmkamp)

February 3, 2019 – the last time we saw meaningful NFL football. 212 days ago, the Patriots defeated the Rams in Super Bowl LIII in a shockingly low-scoring affair. Now, after 30 weeks and 2 days, a new season finally dawns tomorrow – and I cannot wait.

With the beginning of week 1, fantasy football enthusiasts have now completed their drafts and are beginning to look at their lineups. Deciding who to start and who to sit can be a tedious task outside the obvious RB1’s of the world. Looking at last year’s stats and the matchups of week 1, there are a few notable takeaways. 

The Good:

Dalvin Cook – vs Atlanta Falcons

Dalvin’s chart from last year is… odd. He had three categories above average, and four below average, with nothing in the middle. The offensive line in Minnesota is not good, but Cook battled injuries on and off for most of the season. When healthy and given a full workload, he showed what he can do. He had 19 carries for 136 yards and 2 TDs against Miami in week 14 last year. Of the 11 games he played, he saw between 9 and 11 carries seven times. Coming into this season fully healthy and looking electric, his Week 1 matchup against the Falcons is very favorable – they allowed 124.9 yards per game last season, 8th most in the league. I expect Cook to be busy early and often, and to capitalize on a good matchup. Line him up as a low-end RB1 in Week 1. 

Chris Carson – vs Cincinnati Bengals

No team was better at running the ball last season than the Seattle Seahawks. Rushing to the tune of 160 yards per game, Chris Carson was the featured back in that potent attack. He’ll be featured once again, and demonstrated the full ability to be a bell-cow last season (as long as he can stay healthy). Rashaad Penny will be present, especially in the passing game, but Carson still looks poised to carry most of the load. The Bengals, who are reeling in multiple ways, gave up the fourth-most rushing yards last season. In a home matchup at CenturyLink Field, with the full force of the 12th Man behind him, Carson is a lock for a solid game. On the season, I believe him to be an RB2, but he should bring Top-10 value to this matchup. 

Mark Ingram – at Miami Dolphins

Ingram has been criminally undervalued in fantasy drafts this offseason. He still has plenty of juice left in his legs, and is one of the most physical running backs in the game. Baltimore gave Ingram a 3-year, $15 million deal this spring, so they clearly like what he brings to the table. While Seattle led the league in rushing yards per game, Baltimore was second. Ingram has little competition outside rookie Justice Hill, but he should hold on to his starting role, at least to begin this season. Just like Carson, Ingram is in a run-first offense against a terrible defense. He should provide strong RB2 value in his first outing of the year.

The Bad:

Aaron Jones – at Chicago Bears

I love Aaron Jones. Like, if Aaron Jones lived in my town, I would figure out his favorite restaurant and spend a lot of time there hoping to see him. Alas, he doesn’t live here, so that’s not possible, but I have been a huge proponent for Aaron Jones all offseason. I think he finishes the year as an RB1 in all formats. That said, Week one, Thursday night, on the road against the best defense in the NFL is a tough spot to be in. I have several shares of Aaron Jones, and you better believe I’m playing him, but expectations have to be tempered. The Bears gave up the fewest rushing yards per game in the league last season – 80 YPG. It’s very possible that he gets off to a very slow start to the season, in which case, I’ll be looking to acquire him in a trade wherever I can. Jones is best served as an RB2/Flex play in the kickoff game to the new season on Thursday night.

Kenyan Drake – vs Baltimore Ravens

I feel like there are a lot of people holding on to Kenyan Drake love because he had a few amazing games two years ago. But, while he’s the starting RB in Miami, he’s just not very good. The two directions he was best at running last year were to the left tackle and off the left end, which happened to be anchored by left tackle Laremy Tunsil – who, by the way, was just traded to the Houston Texans. The team will have a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, new starting quarterback, and no longer has their stud left tackle. I want no part of that offense, and especially not Drake against a very strong Ravens defense that gave up the fourth fewest rushing yards per game last season at 82.9. I would sit Drake in this one if you can afford to do so.

Joe Mixon – at Seattle Seahawks

Let me start by saying that Joe Mixon is amazing. He is a stud, and if he was on a better team, he would be an unquestioned first rounder in fantasy drafts. The fact of the matter is that his team is terrible, and CenturyLink Field is a brutal place to play. Those fans will be hyped for the season to start, and if the Bengals fall behind early like I imagine they will, Mixon will find himself in a negative game script. The front seven for Seattle got a whole lot better with the acquisitions of Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah, and the presence of Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright could make it tough sledding. He’s a low-end RB1, borderline RB2 in the first game of the year.