23 Jul Fantasy Football: Pre-Training Camp RB Rankings
By: Mike Stromme – @stromme_93
Alright, ladies and gents, it’s officially that time of year! Time to get ready to start to think about fantasy football.
A few things to keep in mind:
These rankings are pretty straight-forward, and geared towards basic full-point PPR formats.
These rankings are fluid, and will be updated throughout the rest of the offseason/preseason whenever I see fit (injuries, trades, etc). I don’t see too much happening between now and Week 1 from a roster movement stand-point that would impact the names on this list, but you never know. Let’s just hope nobody goes down with a catastrophic injury like a torn ACL or something, get arrested, or suspended between now and then. But hey, there’s always going to be something… Trust me, there’s always something!
These rankings are generally just going to be a straight-forward list. For further analysis, tune into The Best Damn NFL Show Ever and Ever, with my co-host, Lou Landers. We will be LIVE on-air every Tuesday evening at 6:30 P.M. EST on The SportsCrew Radio Network. The upcoming show can be listened to right here.
The stats beside my RB ranks are MY personal projections, not the respective player’s stats from last season. File any complaints or grievances to @stromme_93 on the Twitter machine.
1) David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: (Rushing: 349-1,535-15, Receiving: 80-918-7)
2) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: (Rushing: 324-1,590-11, Receiving: 76-766-3)
3) Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys: (Rushing: 368-1,730-17, Receiving: 42-456-3)*
In a vacuum, these three running back are the three best players in fantasy. They’re all studs, especially in PPR formats. When you draft David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, you’re essentially rostering a RB1 and WR2 IN THE SAME PLAYER. They’re both that electric and vital to the success of their respective teams. If you have the first or second pick in any draft, regardless of format, draft one of those two without hesitation.
Despite heavy speculation and numerous off-field indiscretions, there’s no official suspension handed down to Ezekiel Elliott as of publish. The word around the industry is that he should see some sort of suspension. In my opinion, ‘Zeke needs to be suspended more than four games for him to fall out of this tier. Fantasy owners can piece together 2-4 weeks of production from the likes of Darren McFadden, Jacquizz Rodgers, Terrence West or other temporary running backs of that ilk.
*Ezekiel Elliott’s stats are projected over 16 games.
4) LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills: (Rushing: 241-1,136-9, Receiving: 50-405-3)
5) DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans: (Rushing: 245-1,127-7, Receiving: 55-388-4)
These two seperate themselves from the other RB1s due to their ability in the passing game. Not only are they elite running backs from a talent/opportunity standpoint, they’re also no slouches in the passing game. They’ve each shown strong ability in the passing game, which gives them an edge over the remainder of the RB1 field.
6) Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears: (Rushing: 274-1,340-7, Receiving: 37-382-2)
7) Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers: (Rushing: 260-1,094-8, Receiving: 36-301-3)
8) Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons: (Rushing: 248-1,091-8, Receiving: 54-355-3)
9) Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars: (Rushing: 312-1,310-10, Receiving: 28-239-2)
10) Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins: (Rushing: 239-1,122-10, Receiving: 24-168-1)
11) Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams: (Rushing: 266-1,036-10, Receiving: 20-158-1)
12) Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders: (Rushing: 244-1,049-8, Receiving: 38-306-3)
Here are the low-end RB1/high-end RB2s. For the most part, each of these guys should reach 250-300 touches in one way or another.
This tier doesn’t come without risk. Can Howard repeat his stellar rookie campaign? Or is a sophomore slump looming? These types of things happen, just ask anyone who took Todd Gurley in the first round last season. Which Melvin Gordon will we get? 2015 Melvin? 2016 Melvin? Or some sort of weird hybrid Melvin? Will Steve Sarkasian feature his running backs as much as Kyle Shanahan did? Probably. But, what if he doesn’t? Rookie running backs are never a sure thing, there’s a 2015 Melvin Gordon for every 2016 Ezekiel Elliott. Will the Dolphins run the ball as heavily as they did in the second half of 2016? Will Miami’s offensive line hold-up as well as it did in the second half of last season? Will a pass-first, West Coast offense open things up for Todd Gurley? Will Marshawn Lynch be rested or rusty after a year away from the game?
While every back in this tier has major upside and SHOULD deliver on the promise of high-end RB production, each and everyone has some warts.
13) Lamar Miller, Houston Texans: (Rushing: 256-1,126-7, Receiving: 38-226-2)
14) Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals: (Rushing: 232-1,090-8, Receiving: 15-123-1)
15) Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots: (Rushing: 227-1,068-14, Receiving: 9-49-1)
16) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns: (Rushing: 222-1,006-8, Receiving: 27-201-1)
17) Bilal Powell, New York Jets: (Rushing: 237-1,067-4, Receiving: 46-347-2)
In today’s NFL, it’s really hard to find more than a select group of running backs that are guaranteed to stay on the field for all three downs, all four quarters for 16 games a year. It just doesn’t happen anymore, and those “bellcow” running backs are becoming ever more scarce as the years go by.
Each of the running backs in this tier have tremendous upside and skill. However, their upside is relatively capped due to the fact that the guy(s) behind him on the depth chart will eat into their collective number of touches. The hindrance of time shares and “running back by committees” is what holds back most of these running backs.
That being said, don’t hesitate to draft these running backs due to their situations; each of their floor value’s start out as a dependable RB2. From there, the possibilities are endless.
18) Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers: (Rushing: 189-868-7, Receiving: 30-285-2)
19) Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings: (Rushing: 205-860-5, Receiving: 31-256-2)
20) C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos: (Rushing: 194-890-7, Receiving: 24-200-1)
21) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (Rushing: 216-907-4, Receiving: 17-151-1)*
22) Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers: (Rushing: 203-872-5, Receiving: 20-166-1)
23) Jacquizz Rodgers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (Rushing: 156-639-2, Receiving: 51-363-3)
24) Paul Perkins, New York Giants: (Rushing: 190-838-4, Receiving: 28-303-3)
25) Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers: (Rushing: 144-648-5, Receiving: 39-320-3)
26) Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs: (Rushing: 172-757-5, Receiving: 33-377-2)
27) Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions: (Rushing: 149-700-4, Receiving: 26-276-2)
In this tier, you’re aiming to get a RB with two of the following three attributes: 200-250 touches, 1,000+ all-purpose yards and 5-10 all-purpose touchdowns. In PPR formats, the sneaky way to go is to grab a running back with receiving upside.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised how a running back’s receiving ability gets over-looked far too often on draft day, even in PPR formats. Remember, the “R” is for reception. It’s a simple moniker to remember, but many people over-look that aspect when drafting their second/third RBs.
*Doug Martin’s stats projected over 12 games.
28) Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints: (Rushing: 164-757-6, Receiving: 33-227-2)
29) Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans: (Rushing: 165-748-8, Receiving: 13-122-1)
30) Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins: (Rushing: 170-695-6, Receiving: 32-242-2)
31) Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints: (Rushing: 171-693-5, Receiving: 24-190-1)
32) Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons: (Rushing: 128-563-6, Receiving: 21-277-2)
33) C.J. Prosise, Seattle Seahawks: (Rushing: 75-428-3, Receiving: 38-451-4)
34) James White, New England Patriots: (Rushing: 104-385-3, Receiving: 69-647-6)
Tier 6 is essentially Tier 5 without nearly as much clarity and many more question marks. Each running back in this tier has the potential to grab a spot in the next tier (or higher). However, there’s too many issues regarding the number of touches and snaps each player will see. Perhaps training camp will clear these issues with injuries, performance or possible suspensions. But for now, draft these guys with cautious optimism.
35) Gio Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals: (Rushing: 131-550-3, Receiving: 50-455-3)
36) LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles: (Rushing: 168-789-7, Receiving: 10-76-1)
37) Matt Forte, New York Jets: (Rushing: 145-537-5, Receiving: 31-265-1)
38) Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns: (Rushing: 122-559-1, Receiving: 35-333-2)
39) Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts: (Rushing: 173-657-3, Receiving: 27-187-2)
40) Rob Kelley, Washington Redskins: (Rushing: 172-729-5, Receiving: 16-109-1)
41) Danny Woodhead, Baltimore Ravens: (Rushing: 104-403-3, Receiving: 46-398-2)
42) Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions: (Rushing: 70-323-1, Receiving: 57-378-3)
For the most part, the roles of these running backs are fairly clear. It’s just that, they’re only going to provide one specific role; either as a pass catcher, or as a short-yardage/goal-line running back. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it means these running backs will be game script-dependent on most weeks. It’s not necessarily the sexy pick to grab one of these backs, but the selection will sure come in handy in certain spots.
43) Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys: (Rushing: 232-1,038-10, 25-274-2)*
44) Joe Williams, San Francisco 49ers: (Rushing:151-646-5, Receiving: 31-210-2)
45) Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers: (Rushing: 157-618-6, Receiving: 9-68-1)
46) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers: (Rushing: 120-592-4, Receiving: 9-76-1)
47) Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks: (Rushing: 105-473-6, Receiving: 14-113-1)
48) Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs: (Rushing: 111-499-3, Receiving: 20-225-1)
Each and every running back in Tier 8 has high-upside, but they also have a tough path to a healthy amount of touches. It would take an outstanding camp or an injury for these guys to warrant more than a speculative bench
spot on your roster.
That being said, each of these running backs are worthy of a spot on your roster until at least Week 6. Jordan Howard would have been in this tier a year ago.
*Darren McFadden’s projection is projected over 16 games as the starting RB in Dallas. Divide his projection by the number of games Ezekiel Elliott is suspended for when the suspension is handed out and that’s the real projection.
49) Donnel Pumphrey, Philadelphia Eagles: (Rushing: 132-568-4, Receiving: 20-180-1)
50) Terrence West, Baltimore Ravens: (Rushing: 111-447-2, Receiving: 20-140-1)
51) Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles: (Rushing: 72-324-2, Receiving: 44-333-3)
52) D’Onta Foreman, Houston Texans: (Rushing:133-544-4, Receiving: 10-67-1)
53) Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints: (Rushing: 56-235-2, Receiving: 50-484-4)
54) Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings: (Rushing: 98-413-5, Receiving: 28-198-1)
55) Robert Turbin, Indianapolis Colts: (Rushing: 124-482-3, Receiving: 16-132-1)
56) James Connor, Pittsburgh Steelers: (Rushing:94-387-3, Receiving: 21-171-3)
57) Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos: (Rushing: 97-409-3, Receiving: 20-169-1)
58) Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks: (Rushing: 80-365-5, Receiving: 14-108-1)
The pickins are getting rather slim, but each of these running backs have some sort of value in their own special ways. Mind you, each back in this tier has some flaws, but there’s still production and upside to be had. Still, the majority of the running backs listed above are lottery picks and should be some of the last names on your roster.
*Kenneth Dixon’s stats projected over 12 games.
59) Shane Vereen, New York Giants: (Rushing: 106-454-2, Receiving: 47-398-3)
60) Jamaal Charles, Denver Broncos: (Potential passing-down RB, roster security questionable).
61) Dion Lewis, New England Patriots: (Could take James White’s role as passing-down RB).
62) Zach Zenner, Detroit Lions: (Rushing: 120-492-5, Receiving: 22-194-1)
63) Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants: (Rushing: 96-384-5, Receiving: 14-124-1)
64) Jonathan Williams Buffalo Bills: (LeSean McCoy Handcuff).
65) Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders: (Potential passing-down RB, possible Marshawn Lynch handcuff).
66) T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars: (Potential passing-down RB, Leonard Fournette handcuff).
67) Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals: (Potential Goal-Line RB, could push Mixon for his role).
68) Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys: (Could see significant time if McFadden goes down during a possible Ezekiel Elliott Suspension).
69) Chris Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: (Next in-line behind David Johnson).
70) Damien Williams, Miami Dolphins: (Next in-line behind Jay Ajayi).
This is, without a doubt, the bottom of the barrel. These backs should only be owned in deeper formats. Mind you, some of these players DO have some value, but they should be available on the waiver wire if/when you need them.
None of these players should be on your radar in 10 and 12 team standard formats.