It would have been near impossible for the rookie running back crop to repeat its incredible opening week. While Kansas City rising star Kareem Hunt had a second straight monster game, some of the other first-year backs struggled to find the success fantasy owners were hoping for in Week 2. Here’s how all the rookie runners followed up their debuts:
Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
Week 1: 17 carries for 148 yards, 1 TD; 5 receptions for 98 yards, 2 TDs
Week 2: 13 carries for 81 yards, 2 TDs; 3 receptions for 28 yards
After a record-setting debut, Hunt had another outstanding performance, even against a pretty stout Philadelphia Eagles defensive line. The rookie out of Toledo remained the workhorse in the Kansas City backfield — no other running back even registered a carry on Sunday. Hunt showed speed on his 53-yard burst to the end zone late in the third and then power just a quarter later, giving his team a two-score lead and, as his celebration showed, putting Philly to bed.
Big day for Kareem Hunt:
First game at Arrowhead ✅
First touchdown at Arrowhead ✅ pic.twitter.com/UV3xvrzj5D
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) September 17, 2017
Hunt is the undisputed workhorse on a team that relies on the run more than most other offenses around the league, and Hunt’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield has been an important part of the game plan as well. He’s an absolute fantasy stud.
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Week 1: 22 carries for 127 yards; 3 receptions for 10 yards
Week 2: 12 carries for 64 yards; 2 catches for 0 yards
It was tough sledding for Cook. He shared the backfield with Case Keenum in Week 2 instead of regular starter Sam Bradford, who missed the game with a knee injury. The extent of Bradford’s injury remains unknown, and Mike Zimmer’s strange quote didn’t shed any light, either.
It’s not that Cook was ineffective — over five yards per carry shows that he was able to find some room and he had a touchdown reversed on replay and was vultured on the next play — but rather the Vikings’ offense as a whole couldn’t get anything going downfield. Once the Pittsburgh Steelers began to pull away, Cook’s opportunities dried up. It’s not as if Bradford’s a huge weapon, but his presence is really important to keep the defense honest. Cook will be just fine, but having Bradford back in the lineup will help the rookie RB even more.
Week 1: 26 carries for 100 yards 1 TD; 3 receptions for 24 yards
Week 2: 14 carries for 40 yards, 1 TD; 2 receptions for 21 yards
Like Cook, Fournette was generally limited as his team got blown out against the Tennessee Titans. Still, it was a solid fantasy week for Fournette. This year’s No. 4 pick scored late in garbage time, but fantasy doesn’t discriminate when it comes to game situation. The former LSU star will have tough weeks like this, especially given the Jaguars’ difficulties throwing the ball, and he won’t always score late touchdowns to salvage said weeks. Still, he’s the centerpiece of this offense, and because of that he’s worth a start week-in and week-out regardless of how the team does around him.
[Watch on Yahoo: Ravens vs. Jaguars live from London Sept. 24]
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Week 1: 13 rushes for 47 yards; 5 receptions for 38 yards
Week 2: 8 carries for 10 yards; 4 receptions for 34 yards
McCaffrey continued to play second fiddle to Jonathan Stewart in the Carolina backfield, though neither had much success on the ground against the Buffalo Bills. The Panther offense hasn’t really gotten going so far this year, and losing Greg Olsen to a broken foot isn’t going to be easy to overcome. But those targets have to go somewhere, and McCaffrey is as good a candidate as any. Want a good sign from McCaffrey in Week 2? No fumbles. Let’s see if he can breathe some life into this offense.
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
Week 1: 8 rushes for 9 yards; 3 receptions for 15 yards
Week 2: 9 rushed for 36 yards; 1 reception for 5 yards
The Bengals have been absolutely putrid this season. The offense hasn’t scored a touchdown. The offensive coordinator was just fired. And Mixon hasn’t lived up to his pre-draft hype either; the second-round pick has shared snaps with Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Mixon was thought of as one of the most pro-ready backs in the draft, and his skill set should translate nicely. But until he gets the touches some of his fellow rookies are getting, he’ll struggle to make any impact on the fantasy scene. Of course a new coordinator could very well help, and if the Bengals do decide to turn to Mixon more often, he has the ability to put up impressive numbers on the ground and in the passing game. But through two weeks, the opportunities required to be a viable fantasy option haven’t come Mixon’s way. Keep an eye on him under Bill Lazor, who will serve as the team’s new OC. The time to buy low on Mixon is running out.
*Chris Carson has taken over the Seattle Seahawks backfield. Eddie Lacy was a healthy inactive, and Carson showed why he’s the guy to have at that group. A seventh-round pick in April, Carson racked up 20 carries for 93 yards and added a catch for seven yards in a ragged win over San Francisco. If he’s unowned in your league (currently available in 61% of leagues), you must stick in a waiver claim for him. He’s too good — and he’s getting too many opportunities — for you to not do so.
*Operating in an offense bereft of playmakers, Tarik Cohen built off a solid debut with a decent second act. He reeled in a team-high eight catches (on nine targets, tied for second-most on the team) for 55 yards. He only had 13 yards on the ground, but if he continues to see this volume through the air, he can be an important part of any fantasy team. Lead back Jordan Howard is off to a slow start and had his arm in a sling after a blowout loss to the Bucs. Cohen made a big mistake fumbling after picking up a bouncing punt deep in his own territory, but on a young Bears team, he’s going to get ample opportunity to learn and redeem himself. And in fantasy, opportunity matters more than anything.
*Washington Redskins running back Samaje Perine carried the ball 21 times for 67 yards on Sunday in a game that saw Rob Kelley exit with a rib injury. Perine, owned in 23% of leagues, will likely be the early down choice if Kelley misses time, while Chris Thompson would be the passing down back.
*The New Orleans Saints’ backfield is a bit muddled with Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram competing for early down carries, but it appears rookie Alvin Kamara is carving out a role in the passing game. He caught three of seven targets on Sunday, including a 38-yard reception. Kamara is a solid pickup and owned in just 37% of leagues.
This is truly an exciting year for rookie running backs, and not just in fantasyland. These guys can really run, and several of them are also factors in the passing game. While the next few weeks will be key for a few guys who went early in most fantasy drafts — Cook with/without Bradford, McCaffrey without Olsen, Mixon with a new offensive coordinator — others have already established themselves as must-starts every week.