1. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys @ Denver Broncos
Now that we know Elliott will be in Dallas' backfield for the foreseeable future, fantasy owners can rejoice and ride the fantasy train to success. While initially a matchup against the Denver Broncos might raise some concerns, Denver's run defense isn't one to be feared. Last season, the Broncos' run defense surrendered 4.3 yards per carry last season. Now, with a depleted defensive line, they'll face one of the toughest offensive lines in all of football.
Elliott should have plenty of holes to run through and that should add up to play of yards. The biggest question will surround play calling and if Dallas gains some sense and gives the ball to Elliott inside the five-yard like, as opposed to three consecutive passing attempts and not taking advantage of a dominant offensive line. His matchup and talent give him the edge over Bell in Week 2.
2. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers v. Minnesota Vikings
For whatever reason, whether it's Pittsburgh's traditional struggles on the road or his holdout from the preseason, Bell finished Week 1 as a major disappointment in fantasy. While the Cleveland Browns defense is underrated, 47 total yards on 13 targets is an unacceptable number from one of football's best athletes. Now he'll face off against the Vikings, who allowed 4.2 yards per carry last season, but held the New Orleans Saints rushing attack to 60 yards on 21 carries in Week 1.
It presents some concerns, but Bell is far superior to New Orleans' three-headed backfield and Pittsburgh's offensive line holds an edge over New Orleans as well. Bell faces a less favorable matchup than Elliott that pushes him down to this spot in the fantasy rankings, but a heavy workload and his work as a running back and receiver will keep him as an elite fantasy play even when the matchup isn't ideal.
3. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills @ Carolina Panthers
It will be an ugly season in Buffalo, but this offense will live and die on the shoulders of McCoy. We saw it last week when Buffalo gave him 27 touches in a game where it turned away from him near the goal line and he missed a few minutes with an injury. But McCoy is cleared for this matchup and Buffalo certainly won't be shy with him if it gets near the goal line as it did last week, which should provide another boost for fantasy owners after he totaled 159 yards last week.
Carolina possesses a stout defense that held Carlos Hyde to 45 rushing yards on Sunday. But that number is deceiving, it could have been much higher if San Francisco stuck to the running game and handed the ball off to a back who averaged five yards per carry and hauled in six receptions for 32 yards. McCoy will see 20-plus touches in this game no matter the score. Workload will consistently make McCoy a top-four fantasy running back, especially in PPR leagues, on a weekly basis regardless of the opponent he faces.
4. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers v. Miami Dolphins
When you watched Los Angeles' first two drives against Denver, you would have believed Gordon would finish with a monster performance. In less than a quarter, Gordon collected 42 total yards and a touchdown. But across the remainder of the game, Gordon totaled 37 yards and wouldn't find the end zone for a second time. Los Angeles decision to focus more heavily on the passing game hurt Gordon, but he also averaged just three yards per carry.
Looking ahead, Gordon's volume of touches alone makes him a consensus top-10 fantasy running back and his matchup in Week 2 propels him into the top five. Last season, Miami's defense allowed the highest yards per carry last season (4.8). While the Chargers offensive line isn't especially stout, Gordon's talents and slight improvements made along the line this offseason will allow him to take full advantage of this matchup and turn in an elite performance.
5. Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders v. New York Jets
While the fantasy community initially held concerns about the amount of touches Lynch would get this season, it seems Oakland holds no reservations about featuring him in its offense heavily to start the season. Lynch finished Sunday's game with 19 total touches for 92 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry on the game. While he didn't find the end zone, that is a larger result of chance and circumstance than any potential game plan to limit Lynch's opportunities inside the five-yard line.
In Week 2, Lynch should once again see a heavy workload in a very winnable game for Oakland. The Raiders are the easy favorites in this matchup and should get out to an early lead, which would allow them to spend the game running the ball and eating up the clock so they can start the season 2-0. A week after McCoy gashed the Jets' defense, Lynch should be in for another strong performance this week.
6. Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers
After a week off due to Hurricane Irma, Ajayi and the Dolphins will kick off their season in Week 2 with a trip to Los Angeles. It provides a tough matchup to an offensive line that encountered issues last season and entered 2017 with similar concerns about the group. So facing a Chargers front seven that limited opponents to 3.8 yards per carry in 2016 could cause some problems, though Denver utilized the run game heavily against Los Angeles in Week 1 with 36 rush attempts for 140 yards.
Ajayi will have a heavy workload on his side as the featured back in an offense that will ask Jay Cutler to play conservative and allow the running game to set up big plays in the passing game. He should see some work in the passing game and with his role as the face of Miami's running game, he should put up enough numbers to turn in a good fantasy outcome for owners in season-long leagues and DFS.
7. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars v. Tennessee Titans
Fournette proclaimed the NFL to be "really easy" after his first preseason game and received constant mockery and jokes. After his dominant performance against the Houston Texans, where he carried Jacksonville's offense with 29 total touches for 124 yards and his first career touchdown. The extensive workload already makes Fournette a premium fantasy back, especially given the amount of goal-line carries he received.
Sunday's matchup will prove to be a little tougher for Fournette. Tennessee's defense allowed the fifth-fewest rushing touchdowns and 12th-lowest yards per carry (4.0) last season, which will make things more difficult for Jacksonville's offensive line and the success of the running attack. But even more importantly, Tennessee is a better opponent than Houston and the game should be much closer, which could reduce the amount of touches Fournette receives. That said, he will always remain the focal point of this offense and his talent helps make him a top-10 fantasy running back.
8. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons v. Green Bay Packers
9. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs v. Philadelphia Eagles
10. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams v. Washington
11. Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons
12. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings @ Pittsburgh Steelers