Favorable Running Back Matchups in Weeks 1 and 2
Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Week 1 vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 2 at Cincinnati Bengals
Alex Collins has a lot to gain at the beginning of the 2018 season. He can set the pace for the entire year and prove to coach John Harbaugh, the NFL and fantasy owners everywhere that he can be a reliable starting running back in the NFL. While I’m not entirely sold on his chances of retaining the starting role for the duration of the season, he will certainly be given the opportunity to prove he is worthy of that role.
The Ravens will face the Buffalo Bills (who were 32nd in the NFL with 22 rushing touchdowns allowed in 2017) in Week 1 and the Cincinnati Bengals (who were 30th in the NFL with 127.9 rushing yards allowed per game in 2017) in Week 2. We at Fantasy Sharks consider the Buffalo matchup to be a “Very Easy” matchup for Collins and the Cincinnati matchup to be an “Easy” matchup. My advice: If you draft Collins and he has two good weeks to start the year, sell high on him and get as much as you can in return.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, New York Jets
Week 1 at Detroit Lions
Week 2 vs. Miami Dolphins
The Detroit Lions were 31st in the NFL in 2017 with 18 rushing touchdowns allowed. The Miami Dolphins were tied for 22nd with 14 rushing touchdowns allowed. As a result, Isaiah Crowell has a promising chance of hitting paydirt at least once in the first two weeks of the season. Currently being drafted as RB41 in MFL10’s, Crowell has a shot at finishing as a low-end RB2 and vastly outperforming his average draft position (ADP) this season. As the No. 1running back on the New York Jets, he will see his fair share of carries and could even see some targets out of the backfield as well.
Crowell is a starting running back who is being drafted in the ninth round. Don’t hesitate to pull the trigger and take Crowell if he’s sitting there at that point in your draft. The worst-case scenario is you spent a late-round pick on a running back that didn’t work out. Unlike last season when Crowell was being drafted in the third or fourth round of drafts and utterly disappointed fantasy owners with his abysmal play, your team will not suffer if your ninth-round running back doesn’t work out. Crowell is the epitome of low-risk, high-reward heading into the 2018 season. Just make sure to keep an eye on his ADP over the next few weeks. If his ADP starts to creep into the sixth or seventh round, that might be a little too high for my liking.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Week 1 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 2 at Buffalo Bills
Melvin Gordon is one of a handful of premier fantasy running backs in the NFL. His progression as a receiver out of the backfield has increased his fantasy value exponentially. If he can duplicate his 50-plus reception, 400-plus receiving yards from last season, he should easily finish as a Top 10 fantasy running back and have a shot at cracking the Top 5 as well.
In three games against the Kansas City Chiefs the last two seasons, Gordon has tallied four rushing touchdowns and has averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 50 rushing attempts. I fully expect Gordon to hit the ground running (pun intended) and have a monster Week 1 against a deteriorating Chiefs defense that was 25th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed last season. It won’t stop there – his Week 2 matchup against the Buffalo Bills defense is a juicy one as well. As I mentioned above, the Bills allowed a league-worst 22 rushing touchdowns in 2017 and do not project to be any better in 2018. Gordon is primed to get off to a fast start this year and will be the backbone of many fantasy teams this season.
Week 1 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 2 at Washington
With Marlon Mack dealing with a hamstring injury, it’s hard to know if he will be healthy and ready to go when the season begins. Whether its Mack or Jordan Wilkins, Cincinnati and Washington were two of the league’s worst run defenses in 2017. Washington was dead last in rushing yards allowed per game (134.1), and the Bengals ranked 30th in that same category.
Mack is currently being drafted at the end of the seventh round in MFL10’s, and Wilkins is being drafted between the 12th and 15th round. With Mack’s status for Week 1 up in the air, I expect Wilkins’ ADP to steadily increase over the next two weeks, although not by that much, while Mack’s ADP might go down slightly as a result of his injury. As far as value goes, I prefer Wilkins at his 12th-round price tag over Mack at his late seventh-round price tag. Either way, whoever sees the majority of carries will make for a solid RB3 or Flex play the first two weeks of the season.