Running backs are the crux of any good fantasy football team, and Week 1 is like any other this year in that there is not a variety of quality options from which to choose at the moment.
Credit that to the transition of the league not just from running to passing, but also from featured-back roles to committee approaches. That's good for the depth of the position, but as far as finding the right starters goes, it can be a gut-wrenching process.
Week 1 is chock-full of intriguing matchups for the position, but here are three that stand out as the absolute best options from a fantasy perspective.
Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons (at New Orleans Saints)
One of the biggest surprises of the offseason came when Steven Jackson joined the Atlanta Falcons to give the team a serious threat on the ground.
It also created a new viable starting back for fantasy owners after Jackson fell off the face of the earth in a committee with the St. Louis Rams last season.
Jackson is a solid start any week with defenses focused on somehow stopping Matt Ryan and the aerial attack. He's an especially viable option against a New Orleans Saints defense in a state of transition after finishing last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game.
Rob Ryan is implementing a new 3-4 base defense, but it's going to be a work in progress this early in the season with most of the pieces accustomed to a 4-3. Jackson should run wild with no issues.
Projected Stats: 25 rushes, 122 yards, one touchdown
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (at Jacksonville Jaguars)
Jamaal Charles had a major bounce-back year in 2012 and is set to keep the ball rolling with an easy matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1.
Jacksonville gave up over 140 yards per game on the ground last season and surrendered the second-most rushing touchdowns, with 19. There wasn't enough of an attempt at improvement to indicate that will be much better this year.
What does look much better is the fantasy forecast for the Kansas City Chiefs offense under new head coach Andy Reid. Charles is going to be a workhorse, but he'll also play an even bigger role in the passing game with new quarterback Alex Smith.
Charles rushed for over 1,500 yards last season, with his highest output being 233 yards against the aforementioned Saints defense. Don't expect that, but Charles will flirt with 200 total yards in Jacksonville.
Projected Stats: 23 rushes, 163 yards, one touchdown; three receptions, 25 yards
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at New York Jets)
The New York Jets allowed over 130 rushing yards per game a season ago. They attempted to plug one of the holes in the ship with rookie tackle Sheldon Richardson, but it's going to take more than that to slow down the "Muscle Hamster."
Martin carved apart any and all defenses last year, with over 1,900 total yards as a rookie. That's scary considering he was rarely used on third down, where the team intends to use him more this season, per Ira Kaufman of The Tampa Tribune.
With Martin on fresh legs and the Jets defense attempting to piece everything together, Martin is the best option at running back to start the season.
While it won't be a career day, Martin is going to score in bunches as the workhorse.
Projected Stats: 29 rushes, 156 yards, two touchdowns; four receptions, 51 yards
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