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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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