It’s fantasy football week one, which means the first of sixteen weeks of agonizing over every single lineup decision. We at Football Absurdity want to help you with some of the hardest decisions you have every week, at each position. In this edition of Start or Sit, we look at three running backs who are in the RB2 conversation. These guys are fringe starters, and you may need to decide between one or more of them. No matter how you ended up here, we hope you walk away knowing whether you should start or sit Marlon Mack, Tevin Coleman, or Josh Jacobs?
Start or Sit Marlon Mack at Los Angeles Chargers?
About two weeks ago, this was a no-brainer start for Marlon Mack. He was the starting running back for an Andrew Luck-led Colts offense. I don’t know if you know this, but Andrew Luck retired, and everything changed for Indianapolis. The Colts put their trust—and $30 million—into Jacoby Brissett to take the reins on this offense that had them poised to be Super Bowl contenders with Luck. Without Luck, things will likely take a huge step back… though not as far back as many hope. Back in 2017, when Brissett had to start, the quarterback had to overcome bad play-calling and a bad offensive line. Now, the Colts have Frank Reich and one of the best OL in the league, so it is less for Brissett to overcome.
Back in 2017, the Colts trotted out a 500-year-old Frank Gore who mustered just 3.7 yards per carry behind that trash offensive line. That is an absolute floor for Marlon Mack. He is a better player and running behind a better offensive line, with a better play-caller. Gore ended the season as the #19 fantasy football running back. That’s the floor for Mack this season.
As for the opponent, the Chargers boast a stout defense based on rushing the passer. In 2018, they allowed the tenth-most fantasy football points to running backs. They were worse as the season went on, allowing 34.4% more fantasy football points than the average NFL team over the last five weeks of the season. They present a good matchup for Marlon Mack this week.
Start or Sit Tevin Coleman at Tampa Bay?
The 49ers backfield started this offseason as a complete mess. It was Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Jerick McKinnon, Raheem Mostert, and Jeff Wilson. Now, the 49ers have only Breida, Coleman, and Mostert, which precipitously cleaned up the situation. The 49ers running game only has to worry about Breida and Coleman splitting touches since Mostert’s a special teamer. A 49ers rushing attack split up two ways still has significant potency for those in it, so don’t fret about Tevin Coleman quite yet.
What did the 49ers do on a per-attempt basis last season? Let’s assume they do roughly the same on a per touch basis and get Coleman about fifteen touches. The 49ers offense garnered the fourth-most yards per touch for their running backs last year, at 5.67 YPT. Let’s assume that Coleman gets three of the five RB receptions per game, and that puts his floor at 3 receptions and 85 yards, or 10 fantasy points. Touchdowns were the only bugaboo for the offense last year, and the addition of Jimmy G will fix that right up.
The Buccaneers won’t put up much of a fight, either. The changes in their defense should be a net neutral for their running back defense. That Bucs defense was dreadful last season, allowing the sixth-most fantasy football points to running backs last year. However, they handsomely rewarded teams that went straight at the defense at an even better rate. Only the Bengals and the Chiefs allowed more fantasy points per touch (0.932) than the Bucs last year. Despite the split backfield, Coleman will feast this weekend.
Start or Sit Josh Jacobs versus Denver?
Josh Jacobs likely went between Marlon Mack and Tevin Coleman in your fantasy football drafts, In week one, you should jumble up that order. I won’t mince words: the Raiders are a mess. We all saw it on Hard Knocks, and little has changed since then. The Oakland offensive line is supposedly better, but I’ll believe it when I see it. I certainly don’t want to put faith in it in week one with better options on the table.
In short, the Raiders running backs last season scored the eleventh-fewest fantasy points in the league. Their 1,473 rushing yards sat squarely in the middle of the pack last season, and their 839 receiving yards will end up getting split between Jalen Richard and Josh Jacobs this season. In short, Josh Jacobs has an aggressively middling situation for fantasy football production.
The Denver defense, however, isn’t middling against the run for fantasy football. Denver’s 0.77 fantasy points per touch ranked tenth-lowest in the league last year, and the defense should be as good or better this year. The only saving grace is the truly awful YPC the Broncos allowed last year, as they let opposing running backs rip off 4.78 yards per carry. That’s the shining hope for Josh Jacobs this week in his first game in the NFL. He doesn’t have the best matchup this week, and he doesn’t carry the best opportunity, either. Let’s also not forget that the Raiders will be without their only above-average player who isn’t Josh Jacobs, Antonio Brown. Jacobs is not a player you want to lean on in his career debut in this less-than-ideal situation.
Tevin Coleman, Marlon Mack, and Josh Jacobs all sit in the fantasy football RB20 to RB30 range. For this week, however, they have vastly divergent opportunities this week. Marlon Mack and Tevin Coleman sit above Josh Jacobs for me this week, with Mack edging out Coleman in what should be a shoot out in Los Angeles.
Other fantasy football week one start or sits:
Start or Sit Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford, or Jimmy Garoppolo?
Start or Sit Will Fuller, Alshon Jeffery, or Dede Westbrook?
(Header Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/painting-with-pixels/48055461662/in/photolist-2gduNws by Jack Kurzenknabe under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en)