NFL Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 1: Running backs sleepers, matchups, and more

The NFL is back, and fantasy football lineups are being set. Which RBs made the list of the top start 'em and sit 'em options for Week 1?

One of the most nerve-wracking things in fantasy football is making lineup decisions. You have to consider so many different variables. The great news is that the team at Pro Football Network is here to help. Not all matchups are equal, but here are our top start ’em, sit ’em running back plays for Week 1.

Week 1 Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em: Running Backs

Which running backs are starts heading into Week 1?

Start ’em | Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers

Mostert is in line to start at running back for the 49ers this season. Yet, all summer, rookie Trey Sermon has garnered the attention from fantasy managers, and understandably so.

For his career at Ohio State, Sermon had 339 rushing attempts for 2,076 yards, 22 touchdowns, and caught 36 balls for 391 receiving yards and another 3 scores.

However, Mostert has an explosive element to his game that Sermon doesn’t have. The 49ers under head coach Kyle Shanahan have leaned heavily on its running backs since his arrival in 2017. RBs in his scheme have averaged 32.2 opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets) and 160 total yards per game.

The 49ers’ matchup against the Lions in Week 1 has the potential to be a fantasy football bonanza. Detroit’s defense allowed the most PPR fantasy points to running backs last season. While they made improvements this offseason, it’s still a work in progress. Mostert can be deployed as an RB2 in Week 1. Meanwhile, Sermon can be used as an RB3 or flex option.

Start ’em | Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

Earlier this year, the Cardinals signed James Conner to a one-year, $1.75 million contract. Since his breakout season in 2018, Conner has only been active in 23 games, averaging 13.6 PPR fantasy points per game. This makes him difficult to trust in the Cardinals’ offense.

On the other hand, Edmonds is positioned to have a breakout season. Pro Football Network’s NFL Insider Adam Beasley wrote in his Five At 5 column earlier this summer that Edmonds is set to be the RB1 over Conner.

Edmonds was superb last season in a complementary role in the Cardinals’ uptempo offense. The only other running backs who averaged higher fantasy points per opportunity than Edmonds (1.02) last season were J.K. Dobbins (1.04), D’Andre Swift (1.11), Nyheim Hines (1.16), James White (1.20), and Alvin Kamara (1.29).

The 25-year-old RB is positioned to see the largest opportunity share of his career in 2021. Edmonds faces a rebuilding Titans defense that allowed the seventh-most PPR fantasy points per game (25.7) to opposing running backs last season. He can be viewed as a high-end RB3 or flex.

Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em in Week 1: Running Backs

These running backs should be left on your bench in Week 1.

Sit ’em | D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

Lions head coach Dan Campbell mentioned publicly that Swift will play this week against the 49ers. The second-year RB missed a lot of time last month with a lingering groin issue. This is a suboptimal situation for fantasy managers in Week 1.

I understand the appeal considering what Swift flashed last season. He had a splendid rookie campaign, starting in four of 13 games. Swift had six games with 15 or more opportunities and averaged 19.5 PPR fantasy points in those games.

Swift’s matchup against the 49ers is less than ideal, however. San Francisco’s defense allowed the sixth-fewest PPR fantasy ppg (20) to running backs last season. Furthermore, Swift will also be competing for touches with Jamaal Williams.

The former Packers running back is very capable as a runner between the tackles and as a receiver. Williams was the first player in Packers’ history to finish with 450+ rushing yards and 200+ receiving yards in each of his first four seasons. In PPR formats, Williams finished as an RB3 or better in 69% of his career games, including 11 RB1 finishes.

It’s difficult to trust Swift in Week 1. If you have other options, my recommendation is to consider them.

Sit ’em | Tevin Coleman, New York Jets

The biggest surprise entering Week 1 was the RB depth chart of the Jets. Highly touted rookie running back Michael Carter is fourth behind Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, and La’Mical Perine. The rookie’s fortunes can change as the season progresses. Still, it would be prudent to avoid starting any of the Jets’ running backs against the Panthers this week.

You should take a wait-and-see approach to see how new Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur divides the opportunity share among the team’s running backs. The Panthers’ defense is an ascending defense with an abundance of young talent. Carolina is one of my recommended D/ST streamers for Week 1.

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