Week 1 of the NFL regular season offered its share of surprises, and fantasy managers took notice. Though it remains too early to totally abandon one’s preseason notions about the running backs that didn’t come to fruition in the opening week, we saw several developments that merit closer examination. Those considerations inform our picks for which backs to start and which to fade for Week 2.
Running Back Starts
Antonio Gibson, Commanders at Lions
For all the Hard Knocks hype, the Lions had no answer for the Eagles’ running backs last week, allowing 147 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns. One game doesn’t mean Detroit will struggle all season, but these issues date back years. Meanwhile, Gibson saw ample touches last week as both a runner and receiver and should do so again in Week 2. All of which makes the Commanders’ running back a strong start.
Aaron Jones, Packers vs. Bears
Though the Packers offense never found its footing during Week 1’s loss to the Vikings, the ground game had an efficient outing. Head coach Matt LaFleur remarked on the lack of touches for Jones during the postgame press conference as well as the following day. Given Jones’ versatility as a runner and receiver, he could realistically double his touches against a Bears defense that remains untested and undermanned.
D’Andre Swift, Lions vs. Commanders
The same argument for Gibson applies in part to Swift. The Washington defense remains suspect in its current form, resulting 125 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns by opposing running backs last week. Meanwhile, Swift has taken centerstage on the Lions offense, notching 15 carries and another three touches on receptions for 175 combined yards and a score. Swift looks primed for another big game.
Running Back Fades
Darrell Henderson Jr., Rams vs. Falcons
After an 18-touch outing in the season opener, Henderson will rank as one of the top waiver-wire pickups in fantasy. However, the Rams haven’t dependably fed one back since Todd Gurley’s prime, and teammate Cam Akers won’t see just three carries and three targets again. Henderson still has fantasy value, but he almost certainly won’t see that kind of workload split this week.
Derrick Henry, Titans at Bills
After an offseason that saw A.J. Brown depart and other key pieces of the offense, the Titans have little to take the burden off star running back Henry. That doesn’t mean Henry won’t outperform last week’s 82-yard performance, but he’ll have to do the heavy lifting by himself. A matchup with the Bills defense does him few favors.
Javonte Williams, Broncos vs. Texans
While some fantasy managers had hoped the Broncos would more heavily feature Williams in 2022, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Melvin Gordon saw 14 touches — including several at the goal line — while Williams ended up with 18 touches mostly in the middle of the field. Perhaps Williams carves out a larger slice of the pie over the course of the season, but Gordon seems firmly in the team’s plans for now.