Sunday, September 2, 2018

2018 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Have (more) fantasy football drafts for the upcoming NFL season? With all of the roster moves over the past 24 hours, we have updated our 2018 fantasy football rankings. Here are our 2018 fantasy football running back rankings (standard scoring):

1. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (Bye: 12)

What a difference a year (coach) makes! Leading all running backs in fantasy points scored, Gurley compiled 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns, both of which led the NFL. Repeating those lofty numbers in back-to-back seasons may be unreasonable for Gurley (or any NFL player). That said, Gurley tops my standard rankings and is second overall in my PPR rankings to Le'Veon Bell.

2. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye: 7)

Referring to reports as "fake news," Bell has denied that he will report on Labor Day, but it's unlikely that he misses any regular-season games. A six-game 2015 season being the exception, the three-down workhorse has 1,200-plus rushing yards, 75-plus receptions and 600-plus receiving yards in three of his past four seasons.

3. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (Bye: 9)

Missing all but part of Week 1 last year, Johnson is two seasons removed from 2,118 yards from scrimmage, 80 catches and 20 touchdowns. The ambitious goals he set for himself in 2017 -- 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards -- remain his goals for 2018. The order may be debatable, but Johnson is a top-four fantasy back along side Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott and you could still argue that he's worthy of the top-overall pick.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (Bye: 8)

The 2016 rushing champion, Elliott served a six-game suspension in 2017 but led the league in rushing yards per game (98.3) with a larger workload (24.2 carries per game). With limited weapons in the passing game, Zeke and the Cowboys will face many eight-men fronts, but the former Buckeye should get north of 300 carries with a chance for another rushing title.

5. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (Bye: 9)

Over the past two years, a rookie running back -- Ezekiel Elliott (2016) and Kareem Hunt (2017) -- has led the NFL in rushing. Could Barkley extend the rookie streak to three straight? Arguably the most talented back to enter the league in years, Barkley has a rare combination of size (233 pounds) and athleticism (4.4 forty and 41-inch vertical) with elite college production (3,801 YFS and 43 TDs over past two seasons).

6. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars (Bye: 9)

Missing three games as a rookie, Fournette was less than 100 percent for several others but managed to finish as fantasy's RB8 (RB10 in PPR) in Jacksonville's run-first scheme. Down to his lowest weight (223 pounds) since high school, Fournette's drop in weight should help with explosiveness and durability. An NFL rushing champion-to-be based on my statistical projections, Fournette could be even more involved in the passing game in 2018 as well.

7. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (Bye: 6)

Due to efficiency (6.1 YPC and 10.2 Y/R) and 14 touchdowns (eight rushing, five receiving and one return), Kamara finished as a top-four fantasy back (RB3 in PPR) as a rookie. Even though that level of efficiency isn't sustainable (for anyone), Kamara was slated for a larger workload even before Mark Ingram was suspended for four games. An increase to 250-plus touches (from 201) could mean that Kamara repeats as a top-five fantasy back, especially in PPR formats.

8. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers (Bye: 8)

Yet to average 4.0 yards per carry in any season, Gordon rushed for 1,105 yards last year and added 58 catches for 476 yards, all of which were career highs. And after not scoring on 217 touches as a rookie, MG3 has scored exactly 12 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. Ex-Chargers HOFer LaDainian Tomlinson said "the first thing I thought about when Hunter [Henry] went down, is Melvin is going to have to become a weapon in the passing game. Hunter makes easy throws for Philip, easy first downs and easy red zone targets. Now somebody has to pick up that role, and that can be Melvin."

9. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs (Bye: 12)

The 2017 rushing champion, Hunt started and finished his rookie season strong with a bit of a slump in the middle. Racking up 100-plus YFS first seven games of his career, Hunt posted full-season numbers of 1,782 YFS, 53 receptions and 11 touchdowns.

10. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings (Bye: 10)

Before having his rookie season cut short by a torn ACL, Cook carried the ball 74 times for 354 yards (4.78 YPC) and two touchdowns with 11 catches for 90 yards. His start was equivalent to a 16-game pace of 1,776 yards from scrimmage, 44 catches and eight touchdowns. If he's able to stay healthy, Cook has top-five upside in what should be a run-heavy offense.

11. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (Bye: 8)

Missing two-plus games last season, Freeman still managed to finish as the RB13 after much better seasons in 2015 (RB1) and 2016 (RB6). Over the past three seasons, only Todd Gurley (4,599), Le'Veon Bell (4,522) and LeSean McCoy (4,396) have more yards from scrimmage than Freeman (4,357) and his 35 touchdowns are tied with Gurley for the most over that stretch.

12. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (Bye: 9)

Down to 218 pounds, Mixon is poised for bigger things in his sophomore campaign. The versatile back averaged just 3.5 yards per carry last season behind one of the league's worst offensive lines, but offseason upgrades at left tackle and center should help.

13. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (Bye: 4)

As a rookie, McCaffrey finished with 80 receptions, 1,086 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns as he scored the 15th-most fantasy points (ninth-most in PPR). How much will the signing of C.J. Anderson cut into a boost in opportunities for the second-year back? Coach Ron Rivera (unrealistically) said that it would be "ideal" for McCaffrey to get 25 to 30 touches per game. Of course, McCaffrey won't get 400-480 touches on the year, but his preseason usage (along with the comments) suggests a major increase in workload is ahead for his sophomore campaign.

14. Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears (Bye: 5)

A top-10 fantasy back in both seasons to start his career, Howard has rushed for 1,100-plus yards in back-to-back seasons. Through his first two seasons with the Bears, Howard has a franchise-high 2,435 rushing yards. [Matt Forte (2,167), Gale Sayers (2,098) and Walter Payton (2,069) are next on the list.] Some have concerns about Howard's ability as a receiver, but apparently new coach Matt Nagy does not belong to that group."

15. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (Bye: 11)

Averaging a career-low 4.0 yards per carry, McCoy was a do-it-all option for the Bills last season. Not only did he rush for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns, but he led the team in targets (77) and receptions (59). Coach Sean McDermott says McCoy looks "quicker, faster and more powerful than last year." While it's unclear what may result from the off-field incident earlier this summer, there remains potential for league discipline.

16. Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens (Bye: 10)

With double-digit carries in the final 12 regular-season games, Collins was just 27 yards shy of the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Although he didn't get his first reception until Week 8, he had multiple receptions in eight of the final nine games. Moreover, the second-year back had the eighth-most fantasy points among running backs from Weeks 8 to 17.

17. Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles (Bye: 9)

Getting limited regular-season touches (70 carries and 10 receptions in seven games), Ajayi averaged 5.8 yards per carry and 9.1 yards per reception in Philadelphia. Ajayi saw a postseason workload bump with 42 carries and six receptions over three playoff games and he's poised for a (much) larger workload heading into 2018 with LeGarrette Blount now in Detroit.

18. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans (Bye: 10)

Miller has two 1,000-yard seasons since 2014, but he was even less efficient in 2017 (career-low 3.7 YPC) than he was in 2016 (4.0). The Texans have one of the league's worst offensive lines (actually the worst if you go by PFF rankings) and the line won't be markedly better in 2018. On a positive note, Miller has shed a few pounds and entered training camp at his lowest weight since signing with Houston.

19. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (Bye: 8)

Compared to his rookie season (123 touches in 2016), Henry saw a significant bump in his workload (187 touches) in 2017. With DeMarco Murray out and Dion Lewis in, Henry should see another boost to his workload. Even with last year's increase, Henry (187) was still out-touched by Murray (223) last season. A big, bruising back (with excellent speed), Henry can wear down defenses as the game progresses.

20. Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins (Bye: 11)

Over the final five games of the 2017 season, Drake ran for a league-high 444 yards on 91 carries (4.88 YPC) with two touchdowns and added 17 receptions for 150 yards. While his December workload (21.6 touches per game) won't carry over into 2018 as the co-starter with Frank Gore, Drake could still finish as a top-20 fantasy back in 2018.

21. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (Bye: 6)

Even with rookie Alvin Kamara finishing as fantasy's RB4, Ingram set career highs in 2017 with 1,124 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 58 receptions and 416 receiving yards. Playing full 16-game seasons in back-to-back years, Ingram has rushed for 1,000-plus yards and scored double-digit touchdowns in consecutive seasons. Although he'll miss the first four games due to a PED suspension, that creates more fantasy appeal (to a certain degree) as there is a discount for his strong production from Weeks 5 to 16.

22. Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots (Bye: 11)

Burkhead scored eight touchdowns (in 10 games) as he rushed for 264 yards and added 30 catches for 254 yards in his debut season with the Patriots. Even though the Patriots used a first-round pick on Sony Michel, Burkhead currently tops the depth chart and has been my highest-ranked Patriots running back all summer. Dealing with a "slight tear" in his own knee, Burkhead's ADP has been on the rise given that Michel had a procedure on his knee earlier in camp.

23. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons (Bye: 8)

Even if he's the 2 to Devonta Freeman in the team's 1-2 rushing attack, Coleman has finished as a top-24 running back and exceeded 900 yards from scrimmage in each of the past two seasons with 19 total touchdowns since 2016.

24. Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders (Bye: 7)

After taking a year off, Lynch returned to the NFL and rushed for 891 yards and seven touchdowns and added 20 catches for 151 yards in 2017. Now 32 years old, there's the possibility another Oakland native assumes the lead-back role, but Beast Mode should still pace the backfield in workload and production.

25. Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans (Bye: 8)

With Lewis likely to be more involved on passing downs, Henry and Lewis should form a 1-2 punch for the Titans backfield. Even though I expect Henry to lead the duo in touches, I see somewhere in the neighborhood of a 55-45 split between the two backs. Lewis had 212 touches for the Patriots last season and finished as fantasy's RB12 (RB13 in PPR), but his week-to-week role should be even more secure in Tennessee.

26. Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos (Bye: 10)

It seems likely that Freeman will become the lead guy at some point during the season even if he doesn't begin the season in that role. A four-year starter for the Ducks, the 230-pound back rushed for 5,621 (5.9 YPC) yards and 60 touchdowns in his career while adding 79/814/4 receiving.

27. Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers (Bye: 7)

Due to other injuries at running back, only three running backs had more carries than Williams (122) from Week 10 on -- Melvin Gordon (137), Frank Gore (134) and LeSean McCoy (130). That said, Williams averaged only 3.6 yards per carry as a rookie. With Aaron Jones suspended the first two games and Ty Montgomery dealing with a foot injury, Williams will have a chance to pick up where he left off.

28. Isaiah Crowell, New York Jets (Bye: 11)

Only 25 years old, Crowell signed a three-year deal in free agency with the Jets this offseason. With 850-plus rushing yards in each of the past two seasons, Crowell does not necessarily get an offensive upgrade with his new club, but I expect at least similar production in 2018.

29. Sony Michel, New England Patriots (Bye: 11)

Expectations would be through the roof for most running backs selected in the first round. For the Patriots, however, it's anyone's guess how the workload will be allocated in any given week. Given his draft pedigree (and talent, of course), Michel figures to be heavily involved more often than not and it wouldn't surprise me if he finished as the team's most productive fantasy back (although I have Burkhead ranked ahead of him).

30. Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks (Bye: 7)

Penny had a good combination of size (5-11, 220) and speed (4.46 forty) before recently ballooning to 236 pounds. Gaining so much weight between the NFL Scouting Combine and the start of the regular season is alarming. Given his draft pedigree, Penny could eventually be used as a three-down back for the Seahawks. For now, however, Chris Carson is clearly ahead of him on the depth chart heading into the 2018 NFL season.

31. Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye: 5)

Tampa's leading rusher in 2017, Barber had 335 rushing yards (15th-most in the NFL) on 78 carries (4.29 YPC) from Weeks 13 to 17. Even though the Bucs used a high second-round pick on Ronald Jones, it's Barber -- not Jones -- that will enter the season as the team's starter. Coach Dirk Koetter recently said: "He's doing everything he should be doing right now, and I think if we went out there and gave it to Peyton 20 times, we'd like what he does. But we're not going to do that in a preseason game.''

32. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks (Bye: 7)

A sleeper pick in 2017, Carson was off to a promising start before his injury forced him to miss the final 12 games of the season. Even though the Seahawks drafted Rashaad Penny in the first round, Carson is still a potential breakout candidate. Penny has missed time with a broken finger, but Carson was already atop the depth chart prior to the injury.

33. Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (Bye: 6)

Without a 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush (2013, three times) and ranking last in rushing offense last year, the Lions traded up in the second round for Johnson. The SEC Offensive Player of the Year and conference rushing champion, Johnson rushed for 1,391 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns for Auburn last season. Ultimately, I expect Johnson to lead the backfield in production, but LeGarrette Blount will steal early-down work and goal-line opportunities while Theo Riddick will get plenty of work as the team's third-down back.

34. Carlos Hyde, Cleveland Browns (Bye: 11)

Playing a full 16-game slate for the first time in his four NFL seasons, Hyde set career highs in yards from scrimmage (1,288) and receptions (59) but a career low in yards per carry (3.9). The Browns used a top-33 selection on Nick Chubb, but Hyde sits atop the team's depth chart and is likely to get the most work amongst the team's backs.

35. Alfred Morris, San Francisco 49ers (Bye: 11)

With newcomer Jerick McKinnon tearing his ACL, Morris could lead the team in carries with Matt Breida continuing to serve as the team's backup running back. Shanahan was the coordinator in Washington in Morris' first two seasons -- 335/1,610/13 in 2012 and 276/1,275/7 in 2013. While Morris won't post that type of production, he instantly becomes fantasy-relevant.

36. Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins (Bye: 4)

Missing the final six games of the season, Thompson had 294 rushing yards, 39 catches for 510 yards and a total of six touchdowns through 10 games. Through Week 11 (his last game played), Thompson was the RB12 (RB10 in PPR) in fantasy football scoring. Even though he's said he won't be 100 percent until November, Thompson will be on the field Week 1 and should continue to handle the majority of the team's third-down snaps.

37. Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins (Bye: 4)

Playing a total of 10 games -- four with New Orleans and six with Arizona, it was a disappointing season for the future first-ballot HOFer. In his age-32 season, Peterson averaged just 3.4 YPC. With Derrius Guice (ACL) out for the season, however, Peterson should get sufficient early-down work to become fantasy-relevant in 2018. Making his debut in Washington's third preseason game, Peterson carried the ball 11 times for 56 yards.

38. Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos (Bye: 10)

With the Broncos releasing C.J. Anderson this offseason, Booker has a chance to enter the season as the starter even if he doesn't end the season in that role. The Broncos used a third-round pick on Royce Freeman, who should overtake Booker at some point during the season.

39. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals (Bye: 9)

Mixon missed a couple of December games, but Bernard was highly productive down the stretch. Gio had 507 YFS, averaged 4.75 YPC with 24 receptions and two scores across five December games. Still drafted outside the top-50 running backs (via FFC), Gio offers late-round value as a back that could return flex value.

40. Matt Breida, San Francisco 49ers (Bye: 11)

As a rookie, Breida had 126 touches for 645 yards from scrimmage (4.4 YPC and 8.6 Y/A) and three touchdowns. With McKinnon (ACL) out for the season, Breida and Alf get a boost heading into 2018.

41. Corey Clement, Philadelphia Eagles (Bye: 9)

Hauling in four receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl 52, Clement saved his best game of the season for last. Heading into 2018, the second-year back should back up/mix in with Ajayi on early downs while also splitting third-down work with veteran Darren Sproles.

42. LeGarrette Blount, Detroit Lions (Bye: 6)

Set to play for his third team in as many seasons, Blount is two years removed from leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns (18). Even though the Eagles ranked third in scoring offense last year, Blount had just two rushing touchdowns last season. That said, Blount's 18 touchdowns in 2016 occurred with the Patriots, where new Lions head coach Matt Patricia was defensive coordinator.

43. Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye: 5)

While he may lack the size (205 pounds) of being a workhorse back, Jones has elite burst and explosiveness and has drawn comparisons to Jamaal Charles. That's the good news. In terms of fantasy outlook, Jones is a distant second in the team's 1-2 punch with Barber. The second-round rookie averaged just 0.78 yards per carry more than me this preseason as he gained 22 yards on 28 carries.

44. Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears (Bye: 5)

Owner of one of the best nicknames (The Human Joystick) in all of sports, Cohen scored a rushing, receiving, passing and punt return touchdown in his rookie season. The versatile back had 454 YFS in his first seven games and just 269 YFS over his final nine. That said, Cohen has the potential for a better second season with the offense that has seen Tyreek Hill thrive coming to Chicago.

45. Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts (Bye: 9)

Mack had 583 YFS, 21 receptions and four touchdowns with an average of 3.8 YPC as a rookie in 2017. With Frank Gore now in Miami, Mack should lead the team's backfield, but his Week 1 availability is "not a slam dunk." Colts owner Jim Irsay talked Mack up saying he "could see [Mack] approaching 1,500 yards" on the year.

46. James White, New England Patriots (Bye: 11)

White hauled in 56 receptions for 429 yards and three touchdowns last season after posting a 60/551/5 receiving line in 2016. With Michel added to the mix, the Patriots have a versatile group of backs, but I'd expect White to get 50 receptions for a third consecutive season.

47. Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns (Bye: 11)

Through three NFL seasons, Johnson has exceeded 50 receptions and 500 receiving yards every year and he set career highs last season with 74/693/3 receiving. With both Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb replacing the free-agency loss of Isaiah Crowell, Johnson may get even fewer carries. Meanwhile, the addition of slot receiver Jarvis Landry could lead to fewer targets and receptions for the former Hurricane.

48. Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers (Bye: 7)

Before sustaining a Week 4 ribs injury, Montgomery had 59 touches (41 carries and 18 receptions), which was tied for eighth-most over the first three games of the season. Missing half of last season, Montgomery could be used more as a "hybrid player" in 2018, but it also wouldn't be a surprise if he were to get a much larger workload than I currently project.

49. Frank Gore, Miami Dolphins (Bye: 11)

Returning home to Miami, the 35-year-old Gore has been incredibly durable -- seven consecutive 16-game seasons. Remarkably consistent, Gore has finished as a top-20 fantasy running back every season except for his rookie campaign, although he has averaged less than 4.0 YPC in each of the past three seasons. Listed as the co-starter with Drake, it's possible that the veteran back once again exceeds expectations.

50. Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings (Bye: 10)

A top-20 fantasy back (standard-scoring formats) for three years in a row, Murray will need an injury to Dalvin Cook to extend that streak to four seasons. That said, Murray has 20 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons and could vulture some goal-line carries from Cook.

- Fantasy Football PPR Running Back Rankings

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