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Fantasy reassessment through Week 2: Running backs

What fantasy RBs have gone above and beyond their projections and which haven’t lived up to the hype?

 Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium. Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In a season with no preseason games, much of the NFL is still determining who they want to rely on in their offenses and who they have to rely on even if they don’t want to. And when you add in injuries, the fantasy football landscape you had in your projections for the season is very much changed.

So far, we’ve had some brutal injuries to stud running backs:

Saquon Barkley is out for the season with a torn ACL. Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman will take the work and don’t have a great path toward fantasy excellence.

Christian McCaffrey has a high-ankle sprain that will keep him out 4-6 weeks. Mike Davis appears set to get the bulk of the work and should be useful for fantasy.

Raheem Mostert has a sprained MCL and won’t play in Week 3, but the timetable for his return is up in the air. His counterpart Tevin Coleman has a MCL sprain as well, but will miss “multiple weeks” according to Adam Schefter. This sets up more work for Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson.

Marlon Mack is out for the season and Jonathan Taylor has taken over as the every down back.

Below, we’ll take a look at some fantasy running backs and where they are through two weeks.

Pleasantly surprised

Aaron Jones, Packers

We knew Jones was a stud with a ceiling as high as the best backs in the league, but we also worried about his usage after the Packers drafted running back A.J. Dillon and continued to give Jamaal Williams plenty of snaps. It also seemed unlikely he could keep up his huge touchdown efficiency, but he’s scored four touchdowns through two games now and has seen 42 touches and 46 looks. The volume isn’t going to be record breaking, but it is going to be good enough to keep him as a top-tier play most weeks. Next up — @NO, ATL, BYE, @TB, @HOU

Kareem Hunt, Browns

The Browns are giving Hunt a big workload as the No. 2 back on the team so far this season. He has averaged 15.5 looks per game to Nick Chubb’s 17 and he leads Chubb in PPR scoring. A lot will depend on game flow as to which of these backs come out on top in fantasy each week and that’s a pretty big change from where both were drafted in most fantasy leagues. His numbers will fluctuate and Chubb will have more touchdown opportunities, but Hunt is here to stay as a RB2. Next up — WSH, @DAL, IND, @PIT, @CIN

They are who we thought they were

Jonathan Taylor, Colts

As the RB9 so far in PPR leagues, Taylor is ahead of where he was drafted, but that is due to Marlon Mack’s season-ending injury. We knew Taylor was a stud and if Mack wasn’t there when we drafted, he would have been a Top-10 pick. Behind one of the best offensive lines in the league and with a quarterback who likes to throw to his running backs, Taylor is set up beautifully for fantasy points. Next up — NYJ, @CHI, @CLE, CIN, BYE

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

Elliott has looked great so far this season, and ranks third in running back fantasy points. He has 53 touches through two games, so there’s been no fall off in his workload. He also has nine receptions, which is ahead of his pace last season and right around his pace in 2018 when he finished with 77 receptions. With Barkley and McCaffrey hurt, Zeke is the No. 1 fantasy back moving forward.

Jeesh, what’s wrong with him?

Derrick Henry, Titans

Henry has 200 rushing yards and 15 receiving yards on 59 touches through two games. His lack of touchdowns has pushed him way down the fantasy leaderboard, but his usage remains extremely high. I doubt people are ready to sell, but with those kinds of opportunities, he’s going to start finding the end zone sooner than later.

Joe Mixon, Bengals

Mixon ended last season with a strong second half and came into 2020 with high expectations with Joe Burrow there to get the offense moving. Unfortunately, he’s still having trouble getting into the end zone and he’s not getting third-down work. He’s shown his ability to catch is more than adequate, but the team seems set on Giovani Bernard as the third-down back. I believe there are better things to come for Mixon as Burrow gets into a groove, but he’ll need his opportunities increased for a true breakout.