Week One Fantasy Football Start ‘Em/Bench ‘Em: Running Backs

As we know, in fantasy football, it’s all about playing the matchups. Whether you choose to sit a player due to a poor matchup or play someone else because their matchup is just too great to pass up, the weekly decision between who to start and who to sit can be a tough one. It can be even tougher heading into Week 1, because there are plenty of breakout players who you really want to get in your lineup, but it may not be the best move. Fortunately, we’re going to break down the best starts and sits of this week concerning fantasy football running backs. Let’s jump into it with none other than the most talked about rookie in the NFL.

Start ’em: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Week One Start 'Em/Bench 'Em: Fantasy Football Running Backs
Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott is ready to dominate | Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

So, here’s the moment. The Cowboys didn’t draft Ezekiel Elliott to let him ride the bench, and he draws a defense in the New York Giants, who allowed 121.4 yards per game in 2015 to opposing running backs. The Cowboys are at home, have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and actually having Dak Prescott under center with his ability to run may open things up a bit for Elliott. Regardless, there’s no reason to consider sitting Elliott, so he’ll qualify as the most obvious “start” selection on this list.

Sit ’em: Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks

Week One Start 'Em/Bench 'Em: Fantasy Football Running Backs
Running back Thomas Rawls of the Seattle Seahawks rushes for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos | Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

There’s good news, and there’s bad news for Seahawks fans. The good news is that Thomas Rawls is back and ready to go for Week 1. The bad news is that the Seahawks are going to ease him into the action, and rely a bit more on Christine Michael this week. This means that Rawls, who was a favorite for many fantasy players early on in the preseason, will be a player you’ll seriously need to consider sitting this week. It will be tough to do, but here’s to hoping that you have a strong option on your bench to fill the void.

Start ’em: Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders

Week One Start 'Em/Bench 'Em: Fantasy Football Running Backs
Latavius Murray makes a run for it | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

While the New Orleans Saints have improved their defense in some ways from 2015 to 2016, there’s no denying that this unit has a massive uphill climb. They allowed the second-most yards-per-game on the ground last season at 129.8, and Latavius Murray is the clear-cut No. 1 running back in Oakland. While some will say that Murray could lose touches to DeAndre Washington, we shouldn’t expect it to happen in Week 1, as Murray should have a huge season opener against the Saints. Head coach Jack Del Rio has his running back, and he will get him as many touches as possible.

Sit ’em: Matt Jones, Washington Redskins

Week One Start 'Em/Bench 'Em: Fantasy Football Running Backs
Matt Jones looks to the end zone | Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

While Matt Jones is back practice this week, he originally began practice by wearing a non-contact jersey as Alex Butler of UPI.com reported. Unfortunately, that’s not what you want to read heading into the first regular-season game of the season. Jones will go up against the physical Pittsburgh Steelers defense and could see limited touches potentially in this game. Regardless, it’s much safer to take the wait-and-see approach with Jones. If he looks good in Week 1, go ahead and plug him into your Week 2 lineups.

Start ’em: Ryan Mathews, Philadelphia Eagles

Week One Start 'Em/Bench 'Em: Fantasy Football Running Backs
Ryan Mathews is tackled in the end zone by Stephone Anthony the New Orleans Saints | Rich Schultz /Getty Images

Ryan Mathews is flying majorly under the radar this season, but it’s hard to understand exactly why. He has a great opportunity to take over and prove that he can be a featured running back in the NFL. While having Carson Wentz under center isn’t the most ideal situation, his matchup against the Cleveland Browns more than makes up for it. The Browns allowed the third-most rushing yards per game at 128.4 in 2015, and there’s not much that we should expect to change heading into 2016. Mathews is a great sleeper player this week in your flex, and possibly even as high as an RB2.

Sit ’em: Jeremy Langford, Chicago Bears

Week One Start 'Em/Bench 'Em: Fantasy Football Running Backs
Jeremy Langford considers his chances of starting | Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Jeremy Langford seems to be the clear-cut starter for the Bears, but this comes down to way more than that. With Langford and the Bears on the road against the talented Houston Texans, this matchup essentially has disaster written all over it. The Texans ranked No. 10 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game last season at 99.8. The Texans will be a strong team this year, and the Bears could find themselves playing catchup quite a bit on Sunday. Unfortunately for Langford, that spells bad news, as his fantasy production will likely take a major hit.

Statistics courtesy of ESPN and Pro-Football-Reference.