With the NFL kicking off this week, we finally have some regular choices to make as fantasy football managers. What wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs should I start? Who is the best choice for my Flex position? Should I pick up a player on the waiver wire before they break out on Sunday?
Sometimes, these decisions can be pretty tight. You end up with two different players very close in ranking that you are choosing between to start. These players may even be playing the same position. Your choice could be the difference between a win and a loss, and we all know that has to be taken seriously.
With this in mind, we are going to compare and contrast the situations in Week 1 for two division-rival running backs: James Cook and Raheem Mostert. In the AFC East — a division that will be a tight race all year — both of these backs will look to get their team off on the right foot. But which back will get your fantasy team on the right path this week? Let’s find out!
James Cook Fantasy Outlook This Week
Cook is set to be the leading back in a very talented Buffalo Bills offense this season. The second-year pro out of Georgia didn’t quite burst onto the scene his rookie season. He finished with 110 total touches, 687 total yards, and three touchdowns in 2022.
— NFL (@NFL) December 24, 2022
Last year, Cook shared a backfield with Devin Singletary the whole season and Zack Moss for a chunk of it. On top of that, Josh Allen, ran the ball 124 times himself. Both Singletary and Moss have now moved on, and the running back room has Cook at the top with free agent signings Damien Harris and Latavius Murray behind him.
While I do like the prospects of Cook as the lead back, there is a bit stacked against him in Week 1. Cook’s opponent, the New York Jets, has one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. They will be tough for any opponent this year.
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The Bills have generally had a committee approach to running backs the last few years. While Cook may be the lead back, Harris and Murray could both see touches in this game.
Josh Allen is still the signal-caller, and he will steal a goal-line touchdown with his feet from time to time. In fact, 29% of the Bills total carries a year ago came from Allen. You never know when the skilled QB is going to call his own number and frustrate fantasy managers with Bills running backs on their roster.
Raheem Mostert Fantasy Outlook This Week
Mostert is definitely on the wrong side of 30 when it comes to running backs. Entering his ninth year in the NFL at age 31, Mostert isn’t a player you gamble on long-term.
But, we aren’t worried about the long term here — we are worried about Week 1. When it comes to Sunday, there is a lot to like about Mostert.
The Miami Dolphins, like the Bills, field a very powerful offense. While the Bills finished fourth in total touchdowns last season, the Dolphins weren’t far behind at ninth overall. This talented group is just as capable of putting up points.
Mostert is set to be the main player in the Dolphins’ running game. Fellow RB Jeff Wilson Jr. is starting the year on the IR, and rookie De’Von Achane, who is making his debut, missed 18 days of practice with injury leading up to Week 1.
If Mostert is going to get the bulk of the carries, it is great news for his managers. The team travels west to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers and likely has plans for a well-balanced attack. The Chargers are not the top defense in the NFL, but they are not slouches either. They have playmakers all over the field.
Mostert averaged 12 carries a game last season — not very impressive, but this was with Wilson and Chase Edmonds in the mix. Mostert only saw 46% of the carries a season ago. With the current RB room, he could very easily see a number near 70% on Sunday.
Which of These RBs Should You Start?
While neither option is one I would start as my RB1 or RB2 on my team, both Cook and Mostert are fair options in Flex spots in Week 1, but who should you start if you have both on your roster?
For my money, I would go with Mostert. The veteran back has a better path to opportunities in his matchup this week. With some injuries in the Dolphins’ backfield and a rookie who missed time while still learning the offense, Mostert is more likely to see touches.
In the end, opportunity is king. I still think Cook could have a solid game against the Jets, but his chances of success are just a bit lower than the Dolphins’ RB. Until we see Cook getting prominent touches in Buffalo, we have to go with Mostert.