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NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Running backs

You have lineup questions. We have answers. At least we hope. Start 'Em, Sit 'Em is here to help fantasy managers make those pressing lineup decisions. And you know what is a good decision? Starting Patrick Mahomes. But that's too obvious, so you won't see that here. Instead here are some of the most-pressing questions. And, if you can't find a player you are looking for, please check out the latest NFL Fantasy lineup rankings.

Start 'Em

Javonte Williams
Denver Broncos DEN

This might seem like a risky decision, but after seeing Javonte Williams’ usage in his lone preseason performance, I think it's worth putting him in the lineup as an RB2 or FLEX. In limited August action, Williams carried the ball three times for 12 yards, but the real reason to get excited: He was targeted five times, catching four passes for 18 yards. During Sean Payton’s tenure with the Saints, running backs averaged 9.6 targets per game. Plus, last season, the Raiders allowed the third-most catches to backs (101). They also allowed the third-most fantasy PPG to the position (25.4). Williams is an RB2 with upside in this matchup.

James Cook
Buffalo Bills BUF

As the leader of the James Cook hype train, this is me putting my money where my mouth is. The Jets defense ranked in the middle of the pack against running backs in terms of fantasy PPG and receptions allowed last year. But they struggled against outside runs, which means we could see the explosive Cook break off some long runs in Week 1. Plus, if the Jets get pressure on Josh Allen, he could dump it off to Cook early and often. Despite the excitement around the Jets defense, there is too much upside to get away from Cook, who played over 70 percent of the snaps with the starters in the preseason. Start him as an RB2.

J.K. Dobbins
Baltimore Ravens BAL

I was not the biggest J.K. Dobbins supporter during fantasy draft season. But this matchup is far too good to avoid. Last season, the Texans allowed the most fantasy PPG (28.5), rushing yards (2,412) and touchdowns (22) to running backs. They allowed the most yards on outside carries (1,840) and the third-most on inside carries (1,068). Factor in that the Ravens will likely be playing from ahead, which tends to mean more rushing, and Dobbins is a safe RB2 with upside in Week 1.

Jahmyr Gibbs
Detroit Lions DET

Jahmyr Gibbs was an early-round pick (in the NFL draft and in fantasy drafts), but fantasy managers might wonder what to do with a rookie in his debut game. I'm starting Gibbs this week. If you used one of those valuable picks on him, you already believe in the talent. And it doesn’t hurt that the Chiefs allowed the most receptions to running backs last season (107). Gibbs should be heavily involved in the passing game, especially as the Lions try to keep up with the Chiefs' high-powered offense. The upside for Gibbs is far too high to sit him.

One potential Jonathan Taylor replacement ...

Raheem Mostert
Miami Dolphins MIA

Raheem Mostert is in play as an upside RB2 or strong FLEX option. Jeff Wilson Jr. has landed on IR (hand) and Mostert is set to be the clear lead back in the explosive Dolphins offense. Plus, he has a great matchup against the Chargers, who last season allowed the seventh-most fantasy PPG to the position -- including the second-most rushing yards (2,164). Mostert is always a big play threat and should have scoring chances aplenty in this offense. He is a strong candidate to elevate from your bench to your starting lineup if you are in need.

Sit 'Em

Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT

Najee Harris has been a fade for me this fantasy draft season and Week 1 is no different, as he faces perhaps the toughest run defense in the league. Last season the 49ers allowed the fewest fantasy PPG, rushing yards (991) and touchdowns (six) to running backs. Additionally, there was a lot of discussion this preseason about whether the more explosive Jaylen Warren is a threat to eat into Harris’ workload. In the preseason, they split snaps with the starters 16-12, per Fantasy Points’ Graham Barfield, with Warren playing more on third down. It's tough to bench an early-round pick, but the main appeal of Harris is his safe floor -- which I don't think he brings this week. I would get away if possible.

Rachaad White
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB

I was on an island having Rachaad White as a fade during fantasy draft season, so why not head into Week 1 in a similar fashion? White saw just six percent of his runs go for 10+ yards last season. The Bucs' offense is already banged up, and they seem like a lock to throw the ball significantly less this season (the area where White excels). They should run a slower-paced offense, and Baker Mayfield is not going to throw to the RB like Tom Brady, who was always atop the league leaderboard in backfield passes. The Vikings are not the scariest matchup, but I'm expecting the Bucs to be playing from behind. The Week 1 matchup just doesn't play to White's strengths.

Jamaal Williams
New Orleans Saints NO

The idea when drafting Jamaal Williams was that he would be a strong starting option the first three weeks with Alvin Kamara suspended, but this is a tough matchup. The Titans allowed the third-fewest fantasy PPG to running backs in 2022, which includes the second-fewest rushing yards (1,068) and fewest touchdowns (six). They also allowed the fewest yards specifically on inside carries, which is where the bulk of Williams' production came from last season. There are more appealing options in Week 1.

Deon Jackson
Indianapolis Colts IND
Evan Hull
Indianapolis Colts IND

With Jonathan Taylor starting the season on the PUP list, the Colts backup backs (Deon Jackson and Evan Hull) are both players I want on my rosters ... just not in my starting lineup (yet). In the preseason, we saw Jackson play two drives before handing off the third to Hull, a rotational split that a lot of teams employ. However, Hull looked very impressive and could eat into Jackson’s work (assuming he's even the true starter). This could be an all out hot-hand approach. The uncertainty makes it tough to trust either player, especially considering the Jags allowed the fourth-fewest yards on outside runs last year. There might be limited scoring chances here, and the Colts could be playing from behind. Plus, Zack Moss also has a shot to suit up, which would only make things murkier (Moss was downgraded to doubtful on Saturday due to his forearm injury). Get away from the Colts backs in this one.

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