NFL FANTASY FOOTBALL: Week 1 sleeper running back

Why play things safe when you can look like a genius playing sleepers?


So, you’re starting David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, eh? That’s not too shabby, but wait until you see what these guys are going to do in Week 1… 

Best bet: Matt Breida, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Carolina Panthers)

The San Francisco 49ers brought in Kyle Shanahan as head coach this offseason along with a new, and we mean really new,  general manager in John Lynch. The excitement in the bay area is palpable. Their 53-man roster included all nine of their draft picks, five undrafted rookie free agents, and a smattering of used parts to hold them together. 

The thing is, no one knows just what to expect from the San Francisco offense. Lynch famously said he didn’t think veteran running back Carlos Hyde fit the style of a Shanahan attack. Hyde took the challenge and is reportedly thriving in his RB1 role. Rookie Joe Williams was widely rumored to be Hyde’s backup. He became one of the hottest sleeper picks. Unfortunately, an injury kept him off the final roster. 

Enter Matt Breida. Breida is one of the UDFAs, he is a speed runner to complement Hyde’s power rush. Before Williams’ injury, there was some buzz that Breida could be the RB2. Now, everybody is excited about all four running backs, but especially Breida. But Kyle Shanahan still did not show off the full offensive repertoire in preseason games and has kept details to himself when asked about roles and styles. 

Fortunately, Carlos Hyde cannot contain himself about the new scheme. Hyde is absolutely loving the Niners offense. He told local reporters that the difference between last season’s offense and what we will see come Sunday is like night and day.  He lauded Matt Breida’s speed and talent. Hyde calls their running tandem a “thunder and lightning attack”. 

But the most important thing that Hyde said was that Matt Breida will be used just as much as Hyde in the 49ers offense. For what it is worth, Hyde seems perfectly okay with that. And since I picked up Matt Breida in the 14th round of my NFL Fantasy draft, I’m okay with it, too! 

I seem to remember Kyle Shanahan making pretty good use of a second running back in Atlanta, too. All Tevin Coleman did was score touchdowns. The thought of it makes Matt Breida my running back sleeper of the week, set to run and catch his way to 105 total yards and a touchdown against Carolina. 

Good bet: Shane Vereen, New York Giants (at Dallas)

Shane Vereen returns to the Giants completely healthy and ready to top the 750 total yards he racked up in his first season with the Giants. He is the third-down and passing down back in an offense that has a shaky offensive line and a cautious quarterback. Check-down passes looked like the primary plan of attack for the Giants last season. It’s possible that Vereen will have more total yards than any other Giants running back. This week, he runs for 30 yards, takes in eight catches for 60 more yards and a touchdown. 

Worth a bet: DeAndre Washington, Oakland Raiders (at Tennessee) 

Two things work in Washington’s favor this week: The Raiders want to make sure Marshawn Lynch doesn’t get hurt before their home opener in Week 2, and this looks like it will be a shootout for the closest thing Oakland has to a passing back. 44 yards rushing, 64 yards receiving and a touchdown. 

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Pat Opperman

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Pat recently retired from real life to watch sports and write. Look for references to games and events from ancient times as memories of an earlier Age of Sport tend to pop into his head.

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