by Michael Nazarek/John Holler
Note: Below you will find a portion of our Fantasy Football Runningback
Rankings Analysis & Drafting Tips for 2019. If you'd
like to read all RB rankings analysis, please click HERE
to order our 2019 Pre-Season Draft Guide.
POSITION ANALYSIS - There was a time as recently as 10 years ago that, if you didn’t have a go-to featured back, your offense was in trouble. That remains the case to a certain extent, but the running back position has become one of specialization in recent years – a two-down main back, a primary backup to the main man and a third-down/receiving specialist. As a result, as much of a premium as was put on running backs in fantasy drafts and auctions in recent years because of their value – most first-round picks have always been dominated by running backs despite the proliferation of the pass game. An argument can be made that there are only seven or eight truly elite one-man shows in the league and that, while there are plenty of players who will fill big roles and put up fantasy points, the days of the dominant Adrian Peterson type back are becoming fewer and farther between – putting even more of a premium on those who are.
RB Draft Tips- Found exclusively in the Guide.
THE MASTERMIND'S BEST BET:Found exclusively in the Guide.
The following rankings are based upon PPR (point-per-reception) leagues!
1ST TIER (ELITE STUD RBs)
1) Saquon Barkley, NYG – The Giants caught a lot of flak for not drafting a quarterback with the second pick in the 2018 draft and the offense stunk for much of last season. But, none of that was Barkley’s fault. He accounted for more than 2,000 total yards, rushing 261 times for 1,307 yards, catching a whopping 91 passes for 721 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. Few rookies have ever stepped into the league and made the immediate impact that Barkley did as both a rusher and receiver. As the Giants move forward without Odell Beckham Jr., there will be a lot of pressure on Barkley to be the face of the offense. But, if his rookie season was any indication, he’s going to be a star in this league for years to come. STAT FACT: While Barkley scored more touchdowns on the road (8) than he did at home (7) as a rookie, he had most of his biggest rushing games in front of the home fans. Five of his six most productive rushing yards days came at MetLife Stadium.
2) Ezekiel Elliott, DAL – Few players have entered the NFL in as dominant a fashion at Elliott has in his three seasons in Dallas. As a rookie in 2016, he rushed 322 times for a league-leading 1,631 yards, caught 32 passes and scored 16 touchdowns in 15 games. Limited to just 10 games in 2017 due to a suspension, Elliott ran for 983 yards, caught 26 passes for 269 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He was back full-time last year and his dominance became even more pronounced. In 15 games, not only did he rush 304 times for 1,434 yards and six touchdowns, he caught 77 passes for 567 more yards and three TDs. As he enters his fourth season, the case can be made that Elliott is the most dominating running back in the league and, with more weapons around him, his ability to make big plays will only grow with time. STAT FACT: Only four players in NFL history have averaged more than 91 rushing yards a game for their career – Jim Brown (104.3), Elliott (101.2), Barry Sanders (99.8) and Terrell Davis (97.5).
3) Christian McCaffrey, CAR – Entering the NFL, McCaffrey had his share of detractors, those who wondered if his role in college at Stanford as an undersized multi-purpose back would translate to the NFL as a first-round pick – and the expectations that come with that. As a rookie, he looked like an impressive third-down back, rushing 117 times for 435 yards, catching 80 passes for 651 yards and scoring seven touchdowns. Those were good numbers, but not great – and not worthy of being a RB1. But, in 16 games last year with Stewart gone and McCaffrey now being the lead dog and he took off with it – rushing 219 times for 1,098 yards, catching 107 passes for 867 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns. He has established himself as one of the most dangerous weapons in the league and the Panthers know who to use him properly and get the most out of him. For the reservations some had coming in, especially those in non-PPR leagues, McCaffrey has lived up to every expectation to date. STAT FACT: No player has seen his production as evenly split as a rusher and receiver in his first seasons as McCaffrey. In 32 games, he has amassed 3,051 yards from scrimmage – 1,533 rushing and 1,518 receiving.
4) Alvin Kamara, NO – A case can be made that Kamara can and should be the No. 1 running back in any fantasy draft despite not having a 1,000-yard rushing season. In 31 games in his short career, Kamara has rushed for 1,611 yards and 22 touchdowns and has caught 162 passes (81 in each season) for 1,535 yards and nine touchdowns. He did that while sharing time most of the time with veteran Mark Ingram. But, when Ingram became a free agent, the Ravens offered him more money and he signed away. Latavius Murray was signed to be the replacement and, while he proved his value in Oakland and Minnesota, it isn’t enough to keep Kamara off the field as much as it was during the Ingram days where he was the power guy who could close out drives and close out games. Kamara is likely going to see more action, which is saying something for a guy who has averaged 100 yards and a touchdown a game during his first two seasons. STAT FACT: He has averaged one touchdown a game through his first two seasons and, in 2018, he had as many games with more than one touchdown (six) as he had where he didn’t score a TD.
2ND TIER (VERY CLOSE TO ELITE STUD RB STATUS)
5) David Johnson, ARZ – In his second season in 2016, Johnson was dominant, rushing for 1,239 yards, caught 80 passes for 879 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, which prompted many fantasy owners to make him the No. 1 overall pick in 2017. However, in Week 1 of the 2017 season, he broke his wrist in Week 1 against Detroit and missed the remainder of the season. When he returned to action last season, the Cardinals were an offense in transition and the system was brutal – especially on the offensive line. With improvements made on the line in free agency and the draft and the implementation of a new Kliff Kingsbury system with rookie QB Kyler Murray at the helm, the team will be depending on Johnson to get much of the work done for the offense, especially early on. If he could score 10 touchdowns with that horrible offense last year, who knows what he can do if the offense shows its expected improvement. STAT FACT: In 16 games in 2016, Johnson had 10 games with 75 or more rushing yards and four games with 75 or more receiving yards. In 16 games last year, he had two games with 75 or more rushing yards and just one with 75 or more receiving yards.
6) LeVeon Bell, NYJ – The Steelers and Bell had a very public falling out after he became one of the most prolific running backs in the game. In the last three seasons that he played in 12 or more games, he top 1,250 yards, 75 receptions and averaged more than 2,000 yards a season in that span. He has been a dominant three-down back, but is facing a new challenge coming off a year away from the game and coming to a Jets team that doesn’t have nearly as many of the complementary talents around him as he had in Pittsburgh, but he is a dominating player who has proved he can be an elite two-way player whose value is high in all scoring formats, especially in PPR leagues. He is going to be playing with a chip on his shoulder and will have something to prove. Heading out of the AFC North may be a good thing for him, but his value might take a bit of hit because he doesn’t have an overpowering supporting cast like he did with the Steelers and it may impact the fantasy draft status/auction value in most leagues because of the questions of whether his game will translate to the Jets with the same amount of production he had routinely in Pittsburgh. STAT FACT: Despite being one of the games dominant running backs throughout his career, Bell has never had 10 rushing touchdowns in a season.
7) Melvin Gordon, LAC – There were some who had concerns about Gordon as a rookie when he played in 14 games, had 217 touches and didn’t score a touchdown. In the three years since, he has made up for that, scoring 38 touchdowns in the 41 games he has played since. He has proved to be a dual threat, rushing for 2,000 yards and catching more than 100 passes (eight for touchdowns) in the last two seasons. The biggest concern here has been injuries. While he hasn’t missed huge stretches of time, one of the reasons, he has just one 1,000-yard rushing season is that he has played all 16 games just once. Last year, he played in just 12 games, but still managed to rush for 885 yards and catch 50 passes for 490 yards while scoring 14 touchdowns. Most owners will ignore the injury history based on his production, but it is something that needs to be factored in because there may well be a time during the season that Gordon owners will be without him and will need him to be their bell cow running back. STAT FACT: In his last 16 games, Gordon has scored 18 touchdowns and has at least one TD in 12 of those games. Even more impressive is that two of the four games in which he didn’t score a TD were in Week 17 of the last two seasons, when most fantasy leagues are finished.
3RD TIER (SOLID #1 FANTASY RBs)
If you'd like to read all RB rankings analysis, please click HERE to order our 2019 Pre-Season Draft Guide.
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