Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs


(Photo / Fantasy Football Archive)

Justin Vadenais

This edition of my rankings is the running back position, one that will make or break your season this year and every year. It takes just one bad injury or recurring fumbling issue to turn your stud into nothing. Without further ado, here are the rankings:

Honorable mentions who should be considered as flex plays: Rob Kelley, Tevin Coleman, Dalvin Cook, Matt Forte, Ameer Abdullah, CJ Prosise

30) Danny Woodhead – Baltimore Ravens

After a brutal injury last season, Woodhead has shifted scenery from San Diego (now in LA) to Baltimore. In PPR leagues, Woodhead is even more valuable than standard because of his threat to receive out of the backfield. But he has proven himself as a runner as well. Behind Terrance West on the depth chart, I think he will still have a relevant fantasy impact.

29) Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints

I don’t expect Peterson to dominate the Saints backfield this year for several reasons. First, it’s the Saints, and no backfield ever gets the lions share of the carries. Tim Hightower stole plenty of touches from Ingram last year. Also, coming off of a serious injury, the Saints may not to overwork Peterson.

28) James White – New England Patriots

I expect Mike Gillislee to be the early down workhorse back, but White has certainly proved himself and earned a role in this offense. White is valuable because depending on matchups and gameflow he could get more touches than Gillislee on any given week, the beauty of the way the Patriots operate. It wins them games but can frustrate fantasy owners.

27) Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals

Always risky drafting a rookie running back, but Mixon certainly has the talent. The Bengals are certainly frustrated with Jeremy Hill’s lack of production these past 2 years. Giovanni Bernard will have his pass catching role, but Mixon will get most of the early down work. The question is just how much more productive than Hill will he be in his rookie campaign?

26) Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A story came out today that when Martin returns from his 3 game suspension, he may not have a starting job. But I am not so sure that I buy that. To me, he is the most talented back on the Bucs roster. I expect solid numbers if Martin does come back as the starter.

25) Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts

I’m not sure how Frank Gore is still going, but he is and he is a beast. His numbers won’t blow you away week to week, but he can get 50 yards and a TD on any given week. The Colts dont really have another threat to take the bulk of his touches either.

24) Terrance West – Baltimore Ravens

West is the lead back on the Ravens, and just for volume alone should be drafted as a flex-level player. He is fairly boom or bust, but he may improve with another season in the Ravens offense.

23) Adrian Peterson – New Orleans Saints

So, so, so disrespectful of me to have AP this low, but I’m just not sure about him this season. He is the most talented running back of this generation, no question about it. However, the Saints don’t ever use just one running back and he had a very gruesome injury last year. Be cautious drafting All Day this year.

22) Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panters

I love me some Christian McCaffrey. I think he is exactly the type of versatile weapon Cam Newton could use in this Panthers offense. I expect to see immediate results and fantasy productions. So far, word out of Panthers training camp is that McCaffrey is a phenomenal route runner who is a nightmare to try and cover in open space.

21) CJ Anderson – Denver Broncos

Anderson should start the season as the lead back, and I expect him to run hard to try and keep it. If he is able to hold off Jamaal Charles for the lead back role, I expect a solid fantasy season from CJ Anderson.

20) Ty Montgomery – Green Bay Packers

Montgomery was one of the more surprising breakout players last year and there is little reason to think that he won’t continue it this year. Green Bay doesn’t really have another running back to take carries away from Montgomery, who can also catch passes as well.

19) Mike Gillislee – New England Patriots

I think Gillislee has potential for a big season this year. Blount is gone and he is the closest think that the Patriots have to a workhouse power back. He will get the early down work and in an offense with so many receiving threats (Gronk, Cooks, Edelman, etc.), the running lanes could be WIDE OPEN for Gillislee.

18) Spencer Ware – Kansas City Chiefs

With Jamaal Charles in Denver, Ware should get a good amount of work in the KC backfield. Tyreek Hill may be more of a threat than Charcandrick West, as Ware has shown must more explosiveness than West.

17) Carlos Hyde – San Fransisco 49ers

Hyde has showed promise when healthy, having several big games, but that health is very much in question. I believe in Hyde, but it is bold to even have him this high in an offense as questionable as San Francisco.

16) Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars

It is always risky to draft a rookie running back. You could get rookie Melvin Gordon or you could get rookie Ezekiel Elliot. But Fournette looks like the real deal. I am totally comfortable drafting him as a 2nd RB this year, as he is on a Jags team on the rise.

15) Eddie Lacy – Seattle Seahawks

Lacy has met his weight incentive and seems motivated to succeed in a Seattle offense that seems motivated to get back to their ways of running the ball. There seems to be a recipe for success for Lacy in Seattle this year and I may go after him a few rounds into my drafts.

14) Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns

The comissioner of one of my leagues drafts Isaiah Crowell in every one of his leagues, more than a meme than a strategy. But Crowell was the lone bright spot of his 3-win shitshow and could have continued success again.

13) LeGarrette Blount – Philadelphia Eagles

I don’t love that the Patriots let Blount go, but I bet Eagles fans are. He could put in work in Philly. It should be interesting to see just how many carries he gets, but he should be the lead back and will have plenty of points up for grabs in his new home.

12) Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears

A lot of people are even higher on Jordan Howard. I have seen top 5 RB finish in some rankings. I think that is a little ludicrous for a rookie who was not the starter for the whole season. See Todd Gurley last year. Howard is talented but I’m not guaranteeing anything higher than where I rank him right now.

11) Todd Gurley – LA Rams

Speaking of Gurley, although he took steps back last year, I expect a rebound season in LA. Another year for Gurley and possible improvement for Goff may pave the way for good things to happen. But I just can’t call him a certain RB1 at this point.

10) Lamar Miller – Houston Texans

Miller had a solid season for the Texans last year. It wasn’t spectacular overall, but it is tough for a running back to have a great season with such a catastrophe at QB. Deshaun Watson should be an improvement that will at the very least prevent Miller from regressing.

9) Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders

BEAST MODE IS BACK. Oakland should be a very good team and I like Lynch to finish as a low RB1. Oakland can do a lot of different things on offense and so can Lynch. I expect him to score a lot of touchdowns, which is why I have him in the top 10.

8) Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins

Ajayi could have a sophomore slump, but I don’t think it will be all that dramatic if anything. Nobody in Miami is challenging him for carries anytime soon it wouldn’t appear. The guy had 200 yards in a game multiple times last year. That is special.

7) Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons

Freeman will be just fine as long as Tevin Coleman doesn’t take too much work from him, which he shouldn’t. There is room in the Falcons offense for them both to suceed. I just think Freeman will be more successful.

6) DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans

Similar to Freeman, I think the only way Murray dissapoints (besides injury) would be if Derrick Henry steals the show. He certainly didn’t last season except for a few plays here or there. Murray will start as the lead back and it should stay that way.

5) Melvin Gordon – LA Chargers

Gordon certainly has volume. He is getting all the carries all the time in LA. His numbers won’t blow you away as far as YPC, but they don’t have to. 25 carries for 80 yards and 2 one-yard TDs is still 20 fantasy points in a standard league. And that pretty much happens every week.

4) LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills

Shady is a dual threat running back, rushing and receiving for good yardage every week. Most of the top running backs have this dynamic receiving element in fantasy. McCoy will most likely miss a couple games, but if he can play in 12-13 games and be healthy for the playoffs, he will certainly be well worth a late first or early second round pick.

3) David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals

David Johnson might be the most dynamic running back for the multitude of ways he can beat you. He has speed, power, and excellent receiving skills. He should have another elite finish to this fantasy season.

2) Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys

We’ll have to see if Zeke is suspended and for how many games it would be, but he certainly is primed for another amazing season. As one of our friends always says “huh behind that o-line, I could rush for 1000 yards and 10 TDs”. Zeke can do much, much more.

1) Le’veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers

I think plain and simple Bell is the most talented and dynamic running back in the league, and I fully expect him to be fantasy’s best back. His role in the Steelers offense is so vast and extensive, he is unpredictable for defenses to plan against.

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