Fantasy Football 2012: Early-Round Running Backs to Avoid Starting in Week 1
When choosing potential fantasy disappointments at the running back position entering Week 1, you must tread softly. Imagine drafting Ray Rice as your No. 1 fantasy RB last season and sitting him because he was facing his divisional foe, the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers.
That makes sense, right?
But it doesn’t, in hindsight. Rice rushed 19 times for 107 yards and a touchdown, adding a second score to four catches and 47 yards in the receiving game.
This past summer has been particularly eventful in terms of running back injuries and recovery news. With so many platoons in the modern NFL, it’s very tempting to start some reputable backs that may not be ready to fill the role that you’d expect them to as a fantasy owner.
If you have no alternatives, you’ll have to roll with the guys you picked up early in your draft. I’m not suggesting that you banish one of the following names to your bench in favor of Dexter McCluster or anything like that.
(Disregard that example if McCluster goes off for two or three all-purpose touchdowns in Week 1.)
Here are five running backs I would avoid starting Week 1 if I had other options.
5. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
Harry How/Getty Images
The fact that Mathews is on this list should surprise no one. I’m actually working under the assumption that he will not play in the Chargers’ Monday Night Football matchup with the Oakland Raiders.
According to Dan McLellan of CBSSports.com, Ryan Mathews took part in a limited practice session and remains “hopeful” he’ll play Week 1 against the Raiders.
Despite that progress, it is very improbable that Mathews’ collarbone will have healed itself in just four weeks’ time. Even if he does suit up for the opener, he will be doing so with only one preseason carry to his credit. It might take him a little time to find his rhythm.
Last time he faced the Raiders, Mathews carried the ball just six times for 34 yards with three receptions for 23 yards. He wasn’t injured; the Chargers attempted just 15 rushes as a team.
4. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Gore and the San Francisco 49ers will face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Packers have a high-powered offense that should put up points even against the NFL’s premier defense in 2011.
If the 49ers take to the air in order to keep up, Gore might see a marked decrease in his usability within Jim Harbaugh’s offense. That’s exactly what happened with Gore’s receiving statistics last season.
Frank Gore caught three passes in the first two games. He caught two balls in three of the next four games, followed by one reception in four of five games. Finally, he recorded one total reception in the team’s final five regular season contests.
The good news is that Gore played all 16 games last season. And he should this year, because he’ll be sharing the rushing load with a platoon of other backs including new acquisitions Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James.
3. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
This has less to do with the arrival of Michael Bush than it does with Matt Forte’s limited encounters with the 3-4 defensive scheme.
He left the Week 13 game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a sprained knee, but wasn’t particularly effective against the 3-4 defense before that.
In three games against the Chargers, Chiefs and Packers, Forte carried the ball 34 times for 71 yards. He recorded 11 receptions for 106 yards, but did not score a touchdown.
The Colts, now headed by former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, will be running the 3-4 defense in this game.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Maurice Jones-Drew has finally ended his holdout and returned to the Jaguars.
However, Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com reports that the NFL’s 2011 rushing champion will not instantly re-assume his starting role in the Jacksonville offense against Minnesota. That honor will go to Rashad Jennings.
Jones-Drew should play as a third-down back, which means he should get enough touches to be relevant this week. But he probably won’t have enough to make the impact of the No. 1 fantasy rusher that you drafted.
1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Remarkably, he's still under consideration for a return to action in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
According to NFL.com’s Brian McIntyre, Peterson’s a game-time decision, but if the electric runner does suit up, he will not get the full workload that he’s used to.
His backup, Toby Gerhart, is more than capable of handling the team’s primary rushing duties in Peterson’s absence, or taking on the majority of the carries with Peterson providing him relief.
Peterson is not on the PUP list, so it’s safe to assume he should be ready to play before the Vikings’ sixth game of the season. But that doesn’t mean the team will be ready to let him loose in Week 1.