Fantasy Football: Rookie runners steal the show on opening weekend

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Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt stiff arms the Patriots’ Duron Harmon as he runs for a 4-yard rushing touchdown during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 7, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Have we just entered The Year of the Rookie Running Back?

My Magic 8 Ball says, ‘‘Outlook good.’’

Kareem Hunt got the ball rolling — literally — with a fumble on his first carry Thursday. Then he proceeded to wipe the memory of Spencer Ware off the minds of every Chiefs fan with a monster three-touchdown, 246-total-yard shellacking of the Patriots.

Hunt is not just the leader in the clubhouse for Rookie of the Year honors, but the rest of the league might be playing catch-up for weeks in the Fantasy MVP race.

But Hunt isn’t the only shining star from the RB Class of 2017. Leonard Fournette had an impressive debut, as well, notching his first 100-yard outing and touchdown as a pro against the usually stingy Texans defense. There’s little doubt the Jaguars’ offense will revolve around Fournette going forward, especially now that receiver Allen Robinson has been lost for the season.

With the Bears, Tarik Cohen served notice that he has no interest in being groomed for ‘‘the future.’’ The first-year player dazzled, breaking out for a 46-yard run and answering the question, ‘‘Who is left to catch Mike Glennon’s passes?’’ With a game-high eight receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown, Cohen should be at the top of everyone’s waiver-wire priority list — especially in PPR leagues.

Meanwhile, as the perennially underrated Frank Gore begins to show his age, Marlon Mack’s young legs are clearly ready to carry the load for the Colts. The rookie equaled Gore’s 11 combined touches Sunday, and he reached the end zone twice (though he was robbed of one of the touchdowns). Mack is a decent consolation prize for those who don’t land Cohen.

Though he didn’t produce big fantasy stats, it’s clear that Christian McCaffrey is going to be featured prominently as a runner and high-volume receiver with the Panthers.

Chris Carson averaged more than six yards per carry in his debut for the Seahawks, and he might prove to be the most viable fantasy option in their muddled running-back committee in the coming weeks.

The Bengals have bigger problems than figuring out their three-headed backfield, so Joe Mixon’s days in the spotlight might have to wait a bit. Rest assured, though, that it’s only a matter of time.

All this, and we still hadn’t seen what Dalvin Cook had in store for his owners — and Vikings fans — on Monday.

Indeed, the outlook looks quite good for this rookie class.


Catch ‘em while you can

Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears: Run, don’t walk, to your waiver wire. Cohen doesn’t just represent handcuff value for Jordan Howard; the rookie is obviously the more dynamic back of the two. With 103 combined yards and a touchdown, including a team-high eight receptions, Cohen looked like a backup who doesn’t intend to be a backup for long.

Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: The former Northern Illinois receiver was a training-camp and preseason sensation, and he carried that over to his NFL debut. Golladay reeled in two touchdown passes among his four receptions against a solid Cardinals secondary. Though Golden Tate remains Matt Stafford’s go-to target, the 6-4 Golladay has a chance to continue shining in the red zone.

Jesse James, TE, Steelers: He might be listed as the second tight end on the Steelers’ depth chart, but James was Big Ben’s No. 1 target in the red zone Sunday. Those in need of tight-end reinforcement should not ignore his six-catch, 41-yard, two-touchdown outing.

Don’t be fooled

Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs: If we didn’t have 11 years of history to review, Smith’s opening-night performance would merit immediate fantasy consideration. But that was only his sixth 300-yard game ever, and Thursday was his first outing with at least three passing touchdowns since the 2015 opener. Avoid the mediocrity.

Jermaine Kearse, WR, Jets: Wondering who’s going to catch passes in New York? The early answer is the former Seahawk, who reeled in a game-high seven receptions on nine targets (albeit for just 59 yards). But, really, who wants the leading receiver on a pass-challenged team?

Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars: Just lost Robinson? Sure, Lee and Allen Hurns will see an increase in targets. Much like the Jets, however, this passing offense is best left to someone else.

Follow Ladd Biro at the Fantasy Fools blog (, on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).

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