My last fantasy article was focused on quarterback and wide-receiving duos. Now, it is time to talk fantasy football running backs.
Take note that these rankings are based on a points per reception (PPR) scoring format when overall touches help boost fantasy production.
Check out who made my top 20 count — including a couple of rookies — and who did not.
1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Barkley finished his rookie season as a fantasy stud after he averaged an astounding 127 total yards per game and scored 15 times. These yards came as a result of Barkley recording 261 rushing attempts on top of 91 receptions.
Because Eli Manning (minus Odell Beckham Jr.) will continue to heavily lean on Barkley again this year, this makes him No. 1 in my book. Sit back and watch Barkey’s fantasy spoils roll in big-time this year.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Elliott has averaged more rushing yards per game than any other running back since his 2016 rookie debut. This is quite amazing. He is also skilled as a receiver too, and he achieved career-highs with 95 targets and 77 receptions in 2018. This should not stop. Elliott is a true bell cow back who plays nearly every snap which equates to him scoring tons of fantasy points on a weekly basis.
3. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Have you seen how ripped McCaffrey has become this offseason?
Well, now you have. CMC is preparing to rack up a bunch of touches that will result in fantasy points galore in 2019. Unbelievably durable, McCaffrey more than doubled his rushing yards last year for a total of 1,098. He also caught 107 of his 124 targets for 867 yards. All of this yardage resulted in 13 touchdowns. This helps make his case in 2019 as McCaffrey continues to serve as the centerpiece on Carolina’s offense.
4. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Kamara is pure electricity to watch in action. Minus Mark Ingram, Kamara should see a spike in his overall workload. It is feasible to expect Kamara to cross the 1,000-rushing yard marker for his first time, while he remains plenty effective as a receiver. In his two years in the league, this two-time Pro Bowl back has averaged over 100 targets per year and has maintained an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Let’s just hope newly signed running back Latavius Murray won’t vulture too much of Kamara’s goal line work.
5. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
I’m big on Gordon after he ranked 6th in running back fantasy points last year. And, that happened with him playing in only 12 games. If he can stay healthy, he easily stands to outscore the 14 total touchdowns he accomplished in 2018. Plus, Gordon picked up his pace and rushed for a career-best 5.1 yards per tote last year. Even with Austin Ekeler acting as an occasional sidekick, Gordon should remain a legit RB1.
6. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
Like Gordon, Conner needs to stay in one piece. If so, he should deliver the fantasy goods. He proved to be plenty valuable as a receiver and rusher and averaged a total of 113 yards per game last season. This came along with 13 touchdowns scored in 13 games. The Steelers offense is now without Antonio Brown, so that may result in even more looks for Conner from Big Ben.
7. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Some might balk that I do not have Chubb ranked within the top five. Though we must note that Chubb will eventually be joined by Kareem Hunt after he serves his eight-game suspension. Last year, Chubb really took off when he became the lead back and he finished his rookie season with 996 rushing yards and a total of 10 touchdowns.
Look for Chubb to provide a solid boost to your fantasy team right out of the gate in 2019.
8. LeVeon Bell, New York Jets
Bell burned any who drafted him last year after he decided to sit out and not play for the Steelers the entire season. But, that is ancient history. Bell will hopefully return in the fabulous football shape he was in 2017. Though, it is difficult to rank him much higher than eighth because he will be playing with an entirely different offense and a new quarterback. Provided he returns in top form, Bell should become Sam Darnold’s go-to man.
9. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
Mixon is a talented player, so it was great to see him pick up his pace from his sluggish rookie year and gain 4.9 yards per carry. This resulted in him averaging 83.4 yards per game and scoring eight rushing touchdowns. The young running back should also continue to improve in the passing game after he recorded 43 catches for 296 yards and one score last year. He should be available in mid-to-late Round 2 but has the upside to produce as a higher-end RB1.
10. Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Gurley deserves a spot somewhere in this ranking and No. 10 seems about right. The Rams have come clean to say that they are going to have to lighten Gurley’s workload this year. With that being said, fantasy owners should not expect him to touch the ball the 22.5 times per game he averaged last year. And, those 21 touchdowns he scored in 2018 would be a stretch for him to repeat in 2019. Keep an eye on his knee condition as fantasy drafting gets closer.
11. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
I would love to rank Johnson higher than this and I hope he proves me wrong in 2019. He is so skilled in the backfield and hopefully, the Cardinals will better utilize him to his full abilities this year. With a new head coach and quarterback in place, it is difficult to assess what type of numbers Johnson will put up. With question marks hovering, Johnson will fall to Round 2. But, he might just finish as a top-five back when all is said and done.
12. Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos
Lindsay was a hot waiver wire target when it became apparent the Broncos favored playing him over Royce Freeman in his rookie year. This does not look to change after Lindsay lit up the field at a pace of 5.4 yards per carry.
He should continue to be the Broncos workhorse on an offense that houses a quarterback (Joe Flacco) who has never been shy to hand the ball off a lot.
13. Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
I’m throwing a dart here and getting this Raiders rookie running back in the mix quickly. Jacobs should inherit the lead duties if he has a successful training camp. He was selected 24th overall after tallying 887 scrimmage yards and 14 touchdowns in his last year at Alabama. Jacobs arrives in Oakland with fresh legs and should benefit from an offense that will be more balanced with the presence of wide receiver Antonio Brown.
14. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Cook needs to stay healthy to rise up the ranks in fantasy football. Because he has yet to play a whole season, he could be quite the steal for those who wait until later to draft him. Provided he remains in one piece, Cook should see the lion’s share of the touches now that the aforementioned Murray is no longer stealing the work. When on the field throughout two seasons, Murray did average a reputable 4.7 yards per attempt.
15. Sony Michel, New England Patriots
Some folks would rather go to the dentist versus draft a Patriots running back in fantasy. Though, Michel, who was a first-round pick, proved to evolve as the lead back towards the latter part of the season. He managed throughout 13 games to rack up 931 rushing yards and six touchdowns. For this, he makes a strong case moving forward. However, Michel will once again be joined by James White, who recently endorsed himself as a great fantasy choice.
16. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
I am a big fan of Carson’s bruising running style. At times last season, Carson was an absolute animal on the field, after leaving his defenders out in the dust. Or by him simply jumping over them like this.
For his efforts, Carson finished 2018 with the 13th-most running back fantasy points. What stops me from ranking Carson higher for this season is the pesky presence of second-year running back Rashaad Penny. We never know when head coach Pete Carroll is going to pull a switch-a-roo and start using Penny who the team reached for at 27th-overall last year.
17. Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins
Guice will return to get his fantasy stock on the rise after getting robbed of his rookie season. The Redskins drafted him 59th-overall after he averaged 6.5 yards per attempt and scored 32 times combined at LSU. Guice will now join veteran running back Adrian Peterson where time will tell whether Guice will eventually oust the veteran out of his workload.
18. Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
If the Lions can trust Johnson as a bell cow back, he has a high ceiling to produce. Last year, under Matt Patricia’s coaching, the team took its sweet time to give the keys to the car to Johnson. But when he took over, he toted the rock at 5.4 yards per attempt. Unfortunately, Johnson played in only 10 games after suffering a knee injury. I would like to promote Johnson higher here, but C.J. Anderson joining the team as a goal-line vulture makes me nervous.
19. Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens
This should be an interesting fantasy year for Ingram who has joined such a run-heavy offense. Because the Ravens have such a thick roster at running back, including rookie Justice Hill, it is difficult to fully endorse Ingram. There is also the mobile Lamar Jackson at quarterback. We all know he is never shy to take the run game into his own hands. Let’s see how training camp plays out to get a better feel for Ingram’s projected workload.
20. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
There is a lot of fantasy hype already surrounding Montgomery, who is currently buried in depth behind Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis. But, Montgomery might just find his way into better positioning. For this, he warrants a later-round stash pick. Montgomery was hand-chosen by the Bears who traded up for him in the third round. And from the tone of this report, it would appear that head coach Matt Nagy is very pleased with his new rookie.
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