There's nothing I like more than reading fantasy rankings in the offseason while gearing up for fantasy football to start. This season I've decided to take a crack at creating my own rankings at each position starting with the Running Back position. The running back seems to be unappreciated up until the last couple of years. Running backs are seemingly becoming more versatile, being used in the running game as well as passing threats.
My job is to get you up to speed with the guys you should be looking at heading into your fantasy draft this season. So lets get right into my rankings!
1. Ezekiel Elliott - Dallas Cowboys
I have Elliott ranked 1st overall for a variety of reasons and if you've seen my timeline on Twitter, no its not because I'm a Cowboys fan. To start, Elliott is already a Top 5 running back in fantasy. He finished 5th among running backs in both standard and PPR formats in 2018. Along with that is the enormous workload that Elliott gets. He finished 1st in carries among running backs with 304 and ranked 5th in targets among running backs with 95. He's also durable, having played all his games aside from the suspension season in 2017. Elliott is the safest running back to grab this season. If you have a shot at getting him, you should try to.
2. Saquon Barkley - New York Giants
Saquon Barkley had a fantastic rookie season last year. He finished with 1,307 yards last season with 15 total touchdowns that allowed him to finish ranking 2nd in both PPR and Standard league scoring. He ranked 2nd and 3rd in carries and targets too with 261 carries and 121 targets. You could also argue that Barkley should be chosen number 1 overall and you'd be right in doing so. For me though, the issue comes into the offense that he's in which makes his value take a hit. Eli's older, the Giants O-line isn't good, they traded Odell to Cleveland and the WR corp looks like it took a step back in the talent department. With Barkley's workload likely to increase as well as the attention he'll get from opposing defenses, #2 is just fine for me.
3. Christian McCaffrey - Carolina Panthers
His new nickname should be Baby Hulk the way he's been able to transform his body this offseason to get ready for an increased workload. Doubted last season because of his size, McCaffrey quieted the haters by stomping his way to finishing 1st in PPR scoring and 3rd in Standard scoring last season. He got the most snap shares out of all running backs last season marked at 94.5%, which allowed him to gain 1,098 yards rushing and 867 yards receiving with 13 total touchdowns to boot. Cam Newton is back throwing the football and there's no one behind McCaffrey that can steal work from him. If you see him on your board if you're picking 3rd, don't let him slide past you.
4. Alvin Kamara - New Orleans Saints
The Saints running back is certainly deserving of his ranking in the Top 5 among running backs this season. He can literally do it all. Catch. Run. You name it. The only thing he can't seem to do is carry the load by himself. He's always shared the workload since he was drafted by the Saints. This time around though, Mark Ingram finds himself in Baltimore and Kamara's backup is former Vikings running back Latavius Murray. I do see Kamara getting an uptick in both carries and targets out of the backfield this season as opposed to the 194 carries (ranked 16th among running backs last season) and more targets since Murray isn't known for his receiving prowess. If these things happen and Kamara can hold up, you could be looking at him finishing higher than 4th in PPR and Standard like he did last season.
5. Todd Gurley - Los Angeles Rams
A lot of noise, speculation and rumors have surrounded Mr. Gurley this offseason in regards to his knee. From Insiders to Analysts and everyone in between have weighed in on this topic too. Some have even pushed Gurley out of the 1st round in fantasy drafts. While I'm a bit leery of what's going on, I can't just knock him down that far. Gurley has been, by far, the best running back in fantasy over the last two seasons. He's finished 3rd in PPR and 1st in Standard league scoring last season and scored a crazy 21 total touchdowns last season. Even with a reduced workload that's being projected, he could still put up Top 10 running back numbers. As always, if you're concerned about his knee but plan to draft Gurley anyways, come back around and grab rookie handcuff Darrell Henderson to cover yourself.
6. David Johnson - Arizona Cardinals
Johnson had it rough last season with a new offense being called and his number not being called nearly enough. Despite that, he still managed to finish 9th in PPR scoring and 10th in Standard (don't ask me how). Now he'll be in an offense that's hoping to get "90-95 plays called a game", Johnson could have the potential to return to his 2016 form. Johnson already commands a 83.1% snap share for the Cardinals that ranks 5th among running backs so the work is there. Combine that with his versatility as a passer and his tough running skills, the resurgence of David Johnson could really be a thing this year.
7. Melvin Gordon - Los Angeles Chargers
Melvin Gordon is a running back with tremendous upside because of how he's used by the Los Angles Chargers. The issue with Gordon has always been his health. He is almost guaranteed to miss a handful of games. He only has 1 season where he played all 16 games so far in his career and while he hasn't missed more than 3 or 4 games per season coming into his 5th year, that's the major taboo with Gordon. Despite the missing time, Gordon still manages to produce Top 10 running back numbers in fantasy, finishing 8th in PPR and 6th in Standard scoring. Gordon can produce, just know that he'll likely miss a few games for you as seems to be the case more so than not.
8. LeVeon Bell - New York Jets
Maybe it's just me that's more concerned about Bell this year. We all know how dynamic a running back he was when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The issue now resides in the fact that the Jets are anything but the Steelers. The offense was bad last season, the WR corp doesn't have an "Antonio Brown" type of player and the offensive line was ranked 26th in the league last year per PPF. While the Jets have made strides to fix the wide receiver corp and the offensive line this offseason and QB Sam Darnold looks to build off his rookie season, it just doesn't look like a good enough spot for Bell to be in from the outside looking in. Bell's talent is undeniable. The talent around him... not so much.
9. James Conner - Pittsburgh Steelers
James Conner was the Steelers unsung hero last season after Le'Veon Bell gave the Steelers his butt to kiss during ongoing contract disputes. Conner came in and led the ground attack for the Steelers to the tune of 973 yards rushing, 497 yards receiving and 13 total touchdowns to finish 6th in PPR and 7th in Standard scoring. Not bad for a guy's first outing. The Steelers will turn to Conner to control the ground game once more this coming season and his rushing attempts and targets should increase now that 165 of them have vacated to Oakland in the form of Antonio Brown.
10. Nick Chubb - Cleveland Browns
Nick Chubb is a guy who is getting vastly underrated this offseason. He was stuck behind Carlos Hyde for the beginning of the season before the Browns shipped Hyde to Jacksonville and gave Chubb the reigns. Chubb immediately went and ran for 996 yards in just 10 games. He also ended the season with 10 touchdowns. Had he started the other 6 games ahead of Carlos Hyde, his numbers would have been even better. Chubb does need to be more involved in the passing game though. He only had 29 targets last season and with Duke Johnson there and Kareem Hunt looming after his 8 game suspension, many are shying away from Chubb. If you're savy, you grab Chubb and can either ride the wave during the first half of the season and trade him or hope that Kareem Hunt stays out of Chubb's way once he returns.
11. Joe Mixon - Cincinnati Bengals
Joe has the opportunities in the offense and the team is building itself back up to be a contender in their division. The o-line is getting additions and Tyler Boyd's breakout-ish type of season last year helps add to the passing attack. The problem is, like Melvin Gordon and a few others, is that he misses time due to injuries. He could be used a bit more in the passing game too (ranked 17th in targets with 55). Mixon has showed the promise on the ground though and finished as a Top 10 back in both Standard and PPR formats (9th/10th). He just needs to stay healthy and stay on the field.
12. Marlon Mack - Indianapolis Colts
Mack shares similarities with running back Joe Mixon. He showed his worth last season when he was given the lead back role after missing the start of the season. He had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns but only played in 10 games in 2018. Mack can dominate in a pass heavy offense as the leading ground and goal line carrier but, like Mixon, he needs to stay on the field for a whole season.
Not to be left out, I have a couple of guys that could possibly crack my the Top 12 if they were in better positions whether it has to do with health reasons or their opportunities just aren't as great as the ones that made the list. Check these guys out that I have just outside the Top 12.
Devonta Freeman (ATL) - Freeman has had his share of injuries the last couple of seasons. This will likely scare the average fantasy owner off because he's a riskier player due to the missed time. This is one of the reasons why he didn't make the Top 12, however, Freeman is a in a good spot to rebound this season. A dual threat running back in his own right now paired with Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter who loves to pass the ball could be a match made in heaven for fantasy owners Freeman could be worth the risk.
Damien Williams (KC) - Even though Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy came out and said that Williams will be their starter, some fantasy owners aren't taking the bait. With uncertainty as to the truth to these comments because of the team picking up Carlos Hyde this off-season and drafting another running back, it certainly looks murky. Williams does have the upside if he can get the work but only gamblers may be willing to spend that 2nd or 3rd round pick to get him.
Derrick Henry (Ten) - The Titans front office finally woke up and decided to give Derrick Henry the rock. Unfortunately, it might aready be too late as the promise of giving Henry a workload fitting of a starting running back and then not doing so may have soured on fantasy owners. Even after Henry's fantasy explosion over the last 5 weeks of the 2018 season, some aren't convinced that Henry will be the bell-cow despite the evidence that he can dominate when he is... I mean... Just ask the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Aaron Jones (GB) - Matt Lafleur opening his trap earlier this off-season to say that the Packers would continue to run a RBBC between Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams was the worst thing to do for Jones' fantasy value. He's proven that he can be the lead back, can operate in the passing game, and has a recommendation from Aaron Rodgers himself. Averaging 5.5 ypc for the second season in a row, it's clear that Jones needs to see the field but as long as the Packers coaches are going to run a RBBC, it'll keep a lid on Jones fantasy value.
These running backs are my cream of the crop and while nothing is set in stone in fantasy football, these are the guys that I can think can dominate with the amount of opportunity and potential that they have in their respective offenses. But what do you think of my list? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @IAmHyperion_FPH and we can discuss. Always love talking fantasy football.