Running backs have been devalued in the NFL with the emergence of the passing game over the years. I think this is going to change a little as more RBs come into the league. This year we saw Todd Gurley, Jeremy Langford, and David Johnson make immediate impacts with their teams. 2016 will add even more.
Even with all that said, the running back pool is not huge. There are a lot of questions, and these rankings will probably change between now and preseason.
1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings- He’s still on the top of the list. Peterson had a nice year: 1,400 yards and 10 TDs. He gives you a lot of stability.
2. Devonta Freeman, Falcons- He needs to work on his durability in the offseason. Is he a one-hit wonder? Too early to tell. One thing is for sure, the falcons need to upgrade their offensive line to keep running lanes open and Matt Ryan on his feet. Another WR would go a long way too.
3. Todd Gurley, Rams- Will probably be the #1 or #2 back off the board in 2016. He will benefit from an NFL offseason. Possibly a new head coach or offensive coordinator.
4. David Johnson, Cardinals- It was obvious to many that he was the best RB in Arizona. Not sure why it took injuries to get him on the field. At any rate, Johnson showed what he can do when given the chance. He is every bit the runner that Adrian Peterson is, and can catch out of the backfield. The only thing he needs to prove, is can he do it for 16 games?
5. Doug Martin, Buccaneers- Martin had a great year, racking up over 1,300 yards on only 273 carries. He was just as deadly as a receiver but took a back seat to Sims, which is good for Martin and his future. Less wear and tear on his body. He will be a free agent in 2016 unless he is hit with the franchise tag.
6. Matt Forte, Bears- Matt will also be a free agent in 2016 unless the Bears offer him new paper. With Jeremy Langford as a capable running back, Forte might be expendable. He had a down year in both rushing and receiving yards, partially do to a knee injury and the emergence of Langford. If he goes to Dallas or New England, his stock could rise a little.
7. Mark Ingram, Saints- Ingram proved to be a steady fantasy producer. His only problem seems to be durability. Mark runs so hard he runs himself out of the lineup. He will have to adjust a little if he wants to play 16 games. That being said, he is a beast who gets the goal-line touches.
8. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers- Le’Veon has all the talent, he just needs to stay on the field. Whether it is injury or suspensions, he has only played one full season. He is still young though, and should bounce back after his MCL injury. Bell will probably move up to the top 3, depending on how he looks in training camp.
9. Lamar Miller, Dolphins- Lamar is set to hit the free agent market unless the Dolphins use the franchise tag, or re-sign him. They need a new coach first, and that could impact Miller’s future in Miami.
10. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs. Charles had another early exit due to injury. He had an ACL injury in 2011, but this time around he is 29. KC’s offense starts and stops with this guy. With two bad wheels now, I would be very cautious with him going forward.
11. Latavius Murray, Raiders. Latavius had probably the quietest 1,000 yard season. Expectations were high for this RB, especially in the fantasy area. Not sure Murray lived up to his end of the bargain. He is a young and explosive runner who has great hands in the passing game.
12. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay- Lacy was pretty much a fantasy and reality bust in 2015. Partially due to injury/fitness, partially due to a bad offensive line. To be fair, Aaron Rodgers had an off season too with his production. Green Bay’s offensive line needs an overhaul in order to get Lacy back into the top 5.
14. LeSean McCoy, Bills- McCoy had an up and down season. One thing is for sure, the Bills run the ball first, and have the line to do it. LeSean is a top 5 back when healthy. His problem is, he doesn’t stay healthy.
On the horizon: Jeremy Langford, Bears- Should Matt Forte move on, Langford will be the #1 back in Chicago. John Fox and Adam Gase showed their priority is to run the ball.
Thomas Rawls, Seahawks- Marshawn Lynch is currently the starter, but that remains to be seen for 2016. Rawls has his own injury to overcome: A broken ankle near the end of the season. Rawls has youth on his side. He could come back even stronger. Depending on what Seattle does with Lynch, Rawls could end up at the #1 back.