It goes without saying, but the quality with which you draft your fantasy football team is directly linked to the amount of success your team has that year. The entire draft is important, however, not all rounds are created equal in terms of high-impact talent.
Let’s take a look at which running backs will be worthy of selection in the top two rounds of your 2019 fantasy draft based on a 12-team league and a standard scoring format (PPR Rankings in parenthesis after team):
1. Saquon Barkley- NY Giants (1)- Eli Manning is dreadful at times and the Giants parted ways with Odell Beckham. Now Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Even Engram are nice, but make no mistake, defenses will be loading up to stop Barkley. Even with that thought thought process, his workload will be robust and he will produce elite numbers.
2. Ezekiel Elliott- Dallas Cowboys (3)- A Cowboys offense that lacked punch last year until the arrival of Amari Cooper was being carried by Elliott early in the year. With the return of Jason Witten and with Cooper and Randall Cobb manning the top two receiver positions, the Cowboys should have enough weapons to open some space for Elliott.
3. Christian McCaffery- Carolina Panthers (2)- The surrounding talent has dipped a bit with the departure of Devin Funchess and the lack of production recently from Greg Olsen. However McCaffery gets the ball a ton and rarely comes off the field. He began to find paydirt more as 2018 went on and really solidified himself as a high end RB1 for the next 5-8 years.
4. Alvin Kamara- New Orleans Saints (4)- With the departure of Mark Ingram, and some analysts questioning how well Latavius Murray fits, Kamara could actually see an uptick in touches. If that does indeed happen, the league needs to look out. Either way, Kamara still looks like a lock to produce at a Pro Bowl level.
5. Todd Gurley- LA Rams (6)- When the Los Angeles Rams offense is on, it’s incredible to watch. Guys are making big plays and it seems like it’s almost impossible to stop Gurley, Goff & Co. The Rams let CJ Anderson walk and don’t have a ton of proven depth behind Gurley, so he should be on the field for over 80% of their snaps. His health is a big concern, which is why he sits at the third spot.
6. James Connor- Pittsburgh Steelers (5)- Connor, who was a top three back last year, finds himself hurt by the departure of Antonio Brown and a drop in talent of those around him. While the offensive line is solid, Ben Roethlisberger isn’t getting younger and the verdict is still out on JuJu Smith-Schuster as the WR1 in the Steel City. The overall talent is there for Connor to really produce, but I think he takes a step back in 2019.
7. Le’Veon Bell- NY Jets (8)- While a year off gave Bell’s legs some needed rest, the surrounding talent on this Jets roster is nothing like that of the 2017 Steelers. Bell will post some solid numbers due to volume, but he’ll need to shake off some rust and get familiar with a new system, that’s why he falls to seventh.
8. David Johnson- Arizona Cardinals (7)- Talk about a disappointment. Last year, it was universally expected that Johnson would be a top fantasy back in 2018. Things unraveled quickly in Arizona and Johnson’s usage was often more than questionable, so it’s no wonder why they finished with the worst record in the NFL. Despite his poor 2018, expect him to bounce back and be a solid option for you in the late first to early second round. This spot would be too low if Johnson can return to form.
9. Melvin Gordon- LA Chargers (10)- Gordon is another “do-it-all back” with a nose for the endzone. Gordon catches the ball well and runs hard, and that led to him racking up 14 TD’s in just 12 games last year. If he could play a full 16 games, he could shoot up this list in 2020.
10. Joe Mixon-Cincinnati Bengals (9)- Mixon has had some trouble playing consistently, whether it be injury or Giovanni Bernard stealing some reps or being hampered by injury, but when utilized correctly, Mixon can be a force. Mixon can do it all, whether it’s running between the tackles, bouncing the ball outside or making plays as a receiver. If the Bengals can find consistency on offense with the new coaching staff, Mixon has the potential to be lethal.
11. Leonard Fournette- Jacksonville Jaguars (12)- Fournette, as of now, is THE guy in the Jacksonville backfield. TJ Yeldon and Carlos Hyde are now elsewhere. Fournette, if he can stay healthy and un-suspended (arrested recently, has had suspension problems in the past), would be higher on this list. Especially since he has learned how to catch the ball well enough to be a threat in the screen game.
12. Dalvin Cook- Minnesota Vikings (11)- Much like the guy directly above him on this list, Cook needs to turn in a healthy 2019 campaign. His first and second years were marred by injury, but he’s produced well when he’s been 100% healthy, and he’s done it well enough to make this list even with the health concerns. Cook very well could be the linchpin to the Vikings success in 2019.
JUST MISSED THE CUT:
Phillip Lindsey- Denver Broncos- Will he get the majority of the snaps over Royce Freeman or will it be the dreaded 60-40 split?
Sony Michel- New England Patriots- James White can dominate touches, but Michel gets most of the early down and goal-line work.
Nick Chubb- Cleveland Browns- He’ll be the “bell-cow” for the first eight games of the year, but what happens when Kareem Hunt returns from suspension?
Aaron Jones- Green Bay Packers- Will they consistently run the ball (unlike they did under Mike McCarthy)? Jones also has a new offense, so what will his role be?