Next up on our rankings is the running back. Depending on your league, these might be the most valuable of the positions. I run a “balanced” scoring league: All TDs are 6 points. 1 point is awarded per 10 yards rushing and receiving. It’s very similar to standard as far as RBs go.
1. Le’Veon Bell- In my world, the #1 RB needs to be the best runner and receiver combo. Bell is by far, the best combo runner. Yeah, there is that 3 game suspension. You add DeAngelo Williams to cover that. These backs only need 80-90 combined yards to have a nicely productive day. That should come easy for a runner like Bell.
2. Todd Gurley- Despite having a rookie QB, Gurley should be poised for a monster season. In his rookie season, he put up 1294 total yards and 10 TDs. That is a lot of production for a first year player. Gurley only had 21 receptions but averaged 9.0 yards per catch. That needs to be expanded on, and should be.
3. Adrian Peterson- Still one of the best, maybe the best pure runner in the league. AP doesn’t get a lot of passes thrown his way, but he doesn’t need it. Hand him the ball 25 times a game and he will get you 100+ yards. Production. Reliability. Save for the year he went down, Peterson is the safest pick in the draft.
4. Ezekiel Elliott- I don’t ever remember ranking a rookie so high. Running backs are a little easier to call than WR or QBs. Then there is that monster Dallas line to run behind. My biggest concern with Elliott is that he might be tired when it comes time for the playoffs. He’s only used to playing about 12 games.
5. David Johnson- Arizona finally got a stud running back. Johnson is probably one of the most explosive runners with the ball in his hands. A home run threat any time he touches the ball. He only had 5 starts last year but averaged 4.6 per rush, and over 12 yards per catch. 12 total TDs and over 1000 combined yards.
6. Lamar Miller- I’m not sure anyone had an odder season last year in the NFL. Miller had a great preseason and was clearly “the guy”. It took his 6th game to get to 20 “touches”. I drafted him and waived him at one point. Was lucky enough to get him back. Now he is on the Texans and should never look back. They have a top 5 wide receiver and a young QB. Look for Miller to have a career year.
7. Doug Martin- Martin has all the traits of a solid fantasy player. Speed, agility, toughness. That being said, there have been times where his production dropped off. Could be the team was not that good. Last year he rebounded, no doubt was at least partially motivated by his contract which was up. Jameis Winston has been a capable passer in his rookie season, and that should keep defenses from crowding the line.
8. Matt Forte- Matt Forte unfortunately went to the Jets in free agency. If it was up to me he would have retired with the Bears. Look for him to put up a solid year in New York. He has a veteran QB, and 2 solid wide receivers. He will continue to rack up lots of combined yards, and probably set a career record in TDs scored.
9. Mark Ingram- He battled hard last year to stay in the lineup. His running style makes that difficult. Ingram is a power runner, and as such tends to take a lot of punishment. He is the featured back though, and is leaned heavily upon by the Saints. Despite having 50 receptions for 405 yards in 2015, he has yet to score a receiving TD. Probably not an RB1, but a nice RB2 to have on your team.
10. Jeremy Langford- As a rookie, Langford compiled 816 yards from scrimmage, and 7 total TDs. This was in a very limited role as Matt Forte’s backup. He did take a screen pass for an 83 yard TD. He’s got all the tools to be an RB1 in the league. He just needs to prove it. The biggest question is how tough will Chicago’s offensive line be? Kyle Long has a rotator cuff injury, and they are already on their #2 center.
11. CJ Anderson- He should probably be ranked a little higher, but as “the man” last year, he took a step back from what he did in 2014. Anderson is on the edge of being an RB1, but needs to build on the production he has had in the past. Having a rookie QB might not help his immediate situation.
12. Devonta Freeman- Devonta burst on the scene last year as Atlanta’s featured back. At times he put up video game like numbers. Reality caught up to him later in the season. Still, 14 total TDs and 1600+ total yards is too good to ignore. He’s young, and Matt Ryan needs all the help he can get. If you get him late in the first round, or early in the second, he could be a steal.
13. Jeremy Hill- He took the starting job away from his running mate Giovani Bernard, but didn’t have the stellar season we all thought he was headded for. His production actually went down slightly, although he ended up with 12 total TDs. Which runner will you get? It’s kind of a dice roll. If you grab Hill, grab Bernard a round or two later.
14. LeSean McCoy- His production has steadily been going down since he put up 2100 total yards in 2013. If he stays healthy, and on the field, he is the perfect compliment to Tyrod Taylor. Durability has always been a concern though. That being said, “Shady” is as talented as a RB you will find in the league.
15. Melvin Gordon- Had an average, or maybe slightly less, rookie year. Was definitely not all his fault. Upgrades were made to San Diego’s offensive line, and Gorden looked good in preseason. Is it a mirage, or is it a sign of things to come? Gordon is young and hungry, and could end up being a top 10 fantasy contributor. Or not.
16. Jay Ajayi- Jay will get the first crack and being “the guy” in Miami. In Adam Gase’s offense, that is a good guy to be. He will have to hold off veteran RB Arian Foster, who is a tackle away from retirement. I have not been particularly impressed what I have seen so far.
17. Jamaal Charles- He came back strong after his first knee injury, will he do the same after his latest knee injury? Remains to be seen. Charles is one of the best all purpose runners in the modern NFL. He will get the ball a ton in Andy Reid’s offense–if healthy.
18. Latavius Murray- Though he had 1298 combined yards, Latavius just wasn’t the projected runner he was billed to be in 2015. He only hit the endzone 6 times. Still, he is young, so there is still potential. Potential gets you killed in fantasy football. Well, not literally.
19. Eddie Lacy- Basically ate his way out of a starting job in 2015. When on track, Lacy is a powerful runner. Like most power runners though, durability becomes a huge issue. Toss in his lack of conditioning, and that is a one-way ticket to bustville. Late in the 2nd round or early in the 3rd is probably your safest place to pick Lacy up.
20. DeMarco Murray- It is not Murray’s fault he had a monster 2014 in his “walk” year and signed a huge deal with another team. A team that totally got the wrong player for their system. Murray is a power runner and needs to be in that type of scheme. Tennessee is the perfect place for him to rebound.
21. Thomas Rawls- Rawls showed he is more than capable of being an NFL running back. Until he broke his ankle. He had a 200 yard and a 169 yard performance in 2015. Thomas racked up 900+ yards, and 5 TDs in only 7 starts. Ankles are tricky though. A break is usually better than a ligament tear. If he can come back at least 75-80%, he will be a steal. RB2 with the chance to be an RB1.
22. Jonathan Stewart- Stewart is kind of a finesse runner in a power runner’s body. That being said, he battles to stay on the field. When healthy, and right, he is a top 10 fantasy player. Problem is he is rarely healthy for long. Has not scored double digit TDs since his 2nd year in 2009.
23. TJ Yeldon- Quietly racked up 1000 yards from scrimmage in his rookie campaign. I’m not totally sold on his abilities as a full time runner. Chris Ivory will steal more than his share of carries from the young runner.
24. Matt Jones- The Redskins have moved on from Alfred Morris and are set to hand the reins over to Jones. Not convinced Jones has the consistency to be an RB1 in the league. Has been battling injuries in the preseason.
25. Carlos Hyde- I thought Carlos was going to be the next “Frank Gore”. I was wrong. He has great hands and is an agile receiver. He has the speed and quickness to be an effective runner. Is it San Francisco’s line? Whatever it is, it has not materialized in NFL production. RB3 might be the safest bet for Hyde.
26. Ameer Abdullah- Was flashy at times in 2015. Looked like he was poised to be the featured back for the Lions. The Lions have had all kinds of problems running the football though. Not just Abdullah. That being said, Ameer has the raw talent, and explosiveness that might warrant a late round pick on.
27. Duke Johnson- Duke is another NFL enigma. He might be a better receiver than running back. In limited duty Johnson piled up 913 yards from scrimmage but only hit the endzone twice. Cleveland’s offensive line might not be the stoutest. RG3, could help open up things in the running game if he returns to his rookie form.
That’s it for NFL runners. Stay tuned for the pass catchers.