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Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey lead Week 1 fantasy football running back rankings

Dalvin Cook (33) of the Minnesota Vikings is my top fantasy football running back for Week 1. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI
Dalvin Cook (33) of the Minnesota Vikings is my top fantasy football running back for Week 1. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry top my Week 1 fantasy football running back rankings for 2021.

James Robinson, Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones, Jonathan Taylor and Najee Harris round out my top 10 options for Week 1.

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Plenty of other running backs with great matchups this week are available outside of the elite names. Try to find a player who will get a lot of carriers, targets in the passing game or goal line work and has a good Week 1 matchup.

Trey Sermon is among my other favorite starts this week.

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TOP SHELF

Dalvin Cook should never leave your fantasy football team's lineup, but he could give your squad a major boost in Week 1.

Cook's Minnesota Vikings face the Cincinnati Bengals at 1 p.m. EDT Sunday in Cincinnati. The Bengals were one of four teams to allow more than 2,000 rushing yards to running backs last season. They also tied for allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to the position.

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The Vikings return a talent-rich offense in 2021, but Cook remains the engine of the attack. Look for Cook to score at least two touchdowns and total at least 100 rushing yards in Week 1.

Cook totaled at least 100 yards from scrimmage or a touchdown in 10 of his 12 games last season and should provide elite production again this season.

Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers was the No. 1 overall pick in most fantasy football drafts. When he is healthy, McCaffrey is arguably the most-explosive running back in the game due to his ability as a runner and pass catcher.

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He is my No. 2 option this week as he faces the New York Jets in what I expect to be a high-scoring game. Look for at least 120 yards from scrimmage and a score from the Panthers star.

SNEAKY PLAYS

James Robinson was one of fantasy football's breakout stars last season. The Jacksonville Jaguars running back was expected to compete with rookie Travis Etienne for carries in 2021, but Etienne's season-ending injury will result in increased usage for Robinson.

Robinson is my No. 6 running back for Week 1 and can be used as an RB1 in any format. The Jaguars face the Houston Texans, who allowed the most rushing yards and the second-most fantasy points to running backs in 2020. Look for at least 100 rushing yards and a score from Robinson in his 2021 debut.

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LONGSHOTS

Rookie Trey Sermon isn't likely to start when the San Francisco 49ers battle the Detroit Lions in Week 1, but he should get enough work to warrant RB2 or flex consideration. The Lions allowed the most fantasy points to running backs in 2020 and should struggle again against the 49ers' juggernaut rushing attack.

Sermon is a bit of a risky play, but worth a shot if you are in a deep league and expect the 49ers to dominate in Week 1. He is my No. 21 option at the position.

Week 1 fantasy football running back rankings

1. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings at CIN

2. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers vs. NYJ

3. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints vs. GB

4. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns at KC

5. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans vs. ARI

6. James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars at HOU

7. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals vs. MIN

8. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers at NO

9. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts vs. SEA

10. Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers at BUF

11. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers at WFT

12. Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers at DET

13. Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team vs. LAC

14. Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons vs. PHI

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15. Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins at NE

16. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs vs. CLE

17. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks at IND

18. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles at ATL

19. Damien Harris, New England Patriots vs. MIA

20. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants vs. DEN

21. Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers at DET

22. Ty'Son Williams, Baltimore Ravens at LV

23. Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns at KC

24. Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos at NYG

25. Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals at TEN

26. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders vs. BAL

27. Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams vs. CHI

28. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears at LAR

29. James Conner, Arizona Cardinals at TEN

30. Phillip Lindsay, Houston Texans vs. JAX

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