If it were up to Fantasy managers, every team would have one running back playing every single snap every single game.

Yeah right. We'd have so many running back injuries even Kyle Shanahan would shake his head at us.

Smartly, real football coaches use multiple running backs to help them win games. That's what they're supposed to do. We might not like it, but we shouldn't fault them for it. Unless they're using an old, over-the-hill running back -- then we can fault them.

There are plen-tee of unsettled backfields all over the league, but there were a number of developments in the first week of the preseason that could go a long way in determining who might be gaining ground on partial or meaningful offensive roles.


James Cook played just seven snaps but impressed as a rusher nonetheless. His first run was just for five yards but he flashed insanely quick feet and terrific vision to choose a lane and shift through tight space. His next carry wasn't as complicated -- he just outraced a bunch of Colts on a left edge run for an eight-yard touchdown. Then after his O-line blew some blocking assignments, Cook hit the pause button when a defender was in front of him but he shook off a tackle and added five more yards to his last run of the game.

We knew he had speed, and we knew he could catch. I liked the physicality on his last run and the vision and footwork on his first run. No one else in the Bills running back room can match his speed and versatility, and if he can play with some power too, then Cook might evolve into the best Buffalo back we've had in years.

A Bills running back had at least 194 touches in each of the past three seasons. Cook averaged 0.95 Fantasy points per touch last year in PPR. Do the math and that would have made him at worst a low-end No. 2 running back last season. I'd suggest he'll be even more efficient with more touches.

I'd draft Cook: 55th or later in PPR, 60th or later in non-PPR
I'd draft Damien Harris: 110th or later as TD-dependent bench depth


The Steelers' first drive felt like a rehearsal for their passing game: 10 snaps, seven throws. On the 10-play drive, Najee Harris saw the field four times with no runs and one catch for negative yards. He looked large, and you could kind of tell in his movements that he wasn't sudden, but he also wasn't playing at full speed when he didn't have the ball.

Jaylen Warren, meanwhile, had the other six snaps. Two of his runs were stunted by the Bucs defense but one was a gem where Warren flashed some excellent footwork, slaloming around three different Bucs and picking up 10 yards after first contact. He clearly doesn't have the power Harris has, but he seemingly has the quickness Harris doesn't have.

Ten preseason snaps are just way too little to assume that a larger split than expected is coming in Pittsburgh, but it's more likely Warren eats into Harris' third-down reps than Harris becomes a bellcow. That doesn't mean Harris is a bad Fantasy pick because he could still bowl for touchdowns and pick up targets himself, but it does limit his ceiling.

I'd draft Harris: 35th or later in PPR, 28th or later in non-PPR
I'd draft Warren: 140th or later, particularly in PPR, as a potential bye-week flex


Perhaps no running back, rookie or otherwise, had as good of a start to the preseason as Roschon Johnson. Note: I said start, not game. He busted through three tackles on his first carry -- all within five yards of the line of scrimmage -- and pulled away from the Titans for a 24-yard jaunt. His next several runs featured him taking on contact and either squirting or falling forward for extra yards. His lateral agility to avoid tackles was great for a guy his size and his power is already on the level of many NFL starters.

Once the Titans backup defenders started keying in on him, he struggled. Each of his last seven runs were for three or fewer yards. It should also be noted that Johnson played one first-half snap.

This clearly didn't change anything about how the Bears feel about him. Johnson got first-team reps in their first practice after their game against Tennessee. That was new -- he barely played with the starters during their June minicamp, nor did he line up with them much in training camp.

Forward-thinking Fantasy managers will target Johnson in drafts and patiently wait for his opportunity. Maybe he becomes the thunder to Khalil Herbert's lightning. Maybe he overtakes Herbert and becomes the Bears' best back this season. He has that kind of upside -- just commit to him for at least six weeks if you draft him.

I'd draft Johnson: 100th or later in all formats
I'd draft Herbert: 80th or later in all leagues.
I'd target both: If I preferred waiting on running backs on Draft Day -- picks in Rounds 7 through 9 should get me both guys.


While I thought Brian Robinson looked a little slimmer, and while it seemed clear Antonio Gibson played the passing-downs role in their preseason game against the Browns, I just did not love what I saw from them.

Robinson started and was used in motion from out wide into the backfield on a couple of snaps to help quarterback Sam Howell figure out whether he was playing against zone or man coverage. But Robinson didn't start picking up chunk gains until the Commanders faced off against the Browns' second-team defense on their third drive. At that point, he gashed them for runs of 13 and 6 yards.

Gibson started the second series for Washington and was an ankle tackle away from a big play. His nice run up the gut came against the Browns' backups on the third drive too.

I was hoping to find some steals in the Commanders running backs, but for now, it's hard to get excited about a running back duo who might struggle to find favorable matchups this year against their tougher NFC East rivals plus teams in the NFC West and AFC East. Tack on a suspect quarterback situation for Washington and defenses won't have to make tough choices against these guys. I love Robinson and Gibson in Week 1 against the Cardinals, but after that, they may never live up to whatever upside we have for them.

I'd draft Robinson: 80th or later in non-PPR, closer to 90th in PPR
I'd draft Gibson: 100th or later in PPR, 110th or later in non-PPR.


Kenneth Walker didn't play against Minnesota. Rookie Zach Charbonnet was in on 15 snaps. The Seahawks dialed up a pair of targets for him to go with four carries, lining him up out wide one time. It felt like he was processing what he saw slowly, which is pretty common for rookie running backs. That meant Charbonnet didn't move with much juice and needed an extra second to decipher what his eyes were telling him.

No one should hold this against him, nor should they if he does this again in either or both of his next two preseason games (though you should look for him to improve on this before Week 1). He feels like a mortal lock to handle passing downs work for the Hawks this season and a good effort on a pass pro rep in this game is a shred of evidence that he could become a protector for Geno Smith as the season rolls.

I'd draft Charbonnet: 85th or later in PPR, closer to 90th in non-PPR
I'd draft Walker: 55th or later in non-PPR, 60th or later in PPR.


The Vikings opted to rest their starters at Seattle, opening up an opportunity for second-year back Ty Chandler to play 29 snaps, almost as many as he played in three 2022 preseason games combined. And he looked explosive when he planted his foot in the ground and took off. Chandler not only moved smoothly but also did a nice job of avoiding defenders thanks to his impressive agility and kept his feet churning when hit for extra yards.

That's not all Chandler did. He caught all four passes, three of which appeared to be checkdown/dump-off passes. Not only did he seem natural catching the ball but he turned upfield and make defenders miss on a couple of the grabs. And if that's not encouraging enough, then this is: He sat back in pass protection five times and was good on all of them.

"Any time he had the ball in his hands, very rarely tackled by the first defender that was in space. Catching the ball. And then picked up really where he left off as far as his ability when the lights come on to sometimes turn into a different guy," Coach Kevin O'Connell said after the game. "As calling plays there for him here and there in the first half, I found myself wanting to get him touches. That's always a good thing. ... He's making things happen."

Before the preseason game the Vikings visited with Kareem Hunt, and they huddled with Mike Davis after. Any addition would crush the potential value of Chandler as a sleeper, but his explosiveness is a change from Alexander Mattison's skill-set, who has ranked among the least explosive running backs in the league in each of the past two seasons (11 runs of 16-plus runs out of 208 carries). I wonder if Chandler is worth stashing just in case he winds up taking touch share away from Mattison sooner than later.

I'd draft Chandler: 130th or later strictly as an early-season upside prospect
I'd draft Mattison: 45th or later in non-PPR, 53rd or later in PPR -- and I'd pick up Chandler with him unless/until the Vikings sign someone else.