Edits made on 8/28/2019 @12:30 PM.
Tier 1: Elite – The no-doubt top four running backs in fantasy for 2019.
1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants – 5’11”/233, Bye 11
Saquon finished #1 in fantasy as a rookie last season by a razor-thin margin of 0.3 points over Christian McCaffrey. It will be hard to reproduce what he did last year, but barring injury, no running back is in line to see more work than Barkley in 2019.
2. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints – 5’10”/215, Bye 9
In Mark Ingram’s absence last season, Kamara was the top running back in fantasy. Ingram, now in Baltimore, is gone for good and he’s been replaced by Latavius Murray. I’m not worried about him taking too many snaps. Kamara is going to go off in 2019.
3. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers – 5’11”/205, Bye 7
I wanted to rank McCaffrey top five last year, but chickened out. He finished #2 in PPR. All indications point to a similar season again this year.
4. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys – 6’0”/228, Bye 8
The best running back in the NFL comes in at four. Why? Because this is PPR, for one. For two, he’s holding out and it’s unclear when he will return to the field. I believe he will play, but there’s enough doubt that he’s my last option of this tier.
Tier 2: RB1s – The rest of my favorite picks to be top-end fantasy options this year. They aren’t quite elite and have more questions around them than that first group, but will be high-quality starters that will help you win a lot of games.
5. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers – 6’1”/233, Bye 7
Last year’s RB6 in PPR despite missing three games. In my opinion, Conner is one of the safest running backs in the league as far as workload is concerned and, having another year of experience under his belt, Conner will likely outperform last year’s numbers.
6. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals – 6’1”/220, Bye 9
Last year’s RB10 in PPR, Mixon hasn’t reached his full potential yet. His offensive line is bad, but he had success despite that last year, and with a new offensive-minded head coach in town, Mixon is going to be deployed in new, creative ways that will set him up for further success.
7. Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets – 6’1”/225, Bye 4
Bell is too good to let slip any further than this. After a year off the field, he will be running with a fresh set of legs in an offense which will feature him heavily. I expect things to be business as usual for Bell in 2019.
8. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals – 6’1”/224, Bye 12
Last year’s RB9. Arizona might have the worst offensive line in the NFL but Johnson plays in an offense that wants to throw the ball 50+ times per game, so he will be a PPR machine, even if running the ball is difficult.
9. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns – 5’11”/227, Bye 7
Chubb very well might be one of the five best running backs in the game, however, Kareem Hunt will join Chubb in Cleveland’s backfield in week 10. Hunt was on pace to finish in the top five last year before getting cut by Kansas City. Will Chubb’s production be negatively affected?
10. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams – 6’1”/224, Bye 9
Maybe having Gurley this low is an overreaction, but I want him more as an RB2 or a borderline RB1 at most. He’s still one of the most talented backs in the game but it appears his workload will be limited due to the arthritic knee and his production will be limited as a result.
11. Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions – 5’11”/211, Bye 5
Detroit wants to run the football and they have a very talented running back with dual-threat ability to do it. Johnson averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 118 carries as a rookie before getting injured, and averaged a combined 85.4 yards per game despite only starting seven games.
12. Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders – 5’10”/220, Bye 6
My early pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Jacobs is crazy-talented but was underutilized at Alabama. He has everything you look for in a modern running back though; fast, good vision, runs with power, and is a great receiver. Sign me up.
Tier 3: RB2s – In 2018, RBs 13-24 were separated by 51.3 points but seemed to group together in tiers within that range. For example, RBs 14-19 were separated by only 17.2 points, and the gap between 20-24 was even smaller at 8.5 points. With that said, much of this order is a matter of preference. The following is the order which I’m targeting the running backs in this tier.
13. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings – 5’10”/210, Bye 12
Lucky 13. Cook has top-10 upside but has missed 17 games with injuries in his first two seasons. Is 2019 the year he stays healthy and realizes his potential?
14. Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts – 6’0”/210, Bye 6
It’s looking like Mack is headed for a three-down role this year, which really sucks for my Nyheim Hines prediction from back in April. Alas, Mack is one of my favorite breakout candidates this year, even without Andrew Luck, after his 1011 total yards and 10 TDs in only 12 games in 2018.
15. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers – 5’9”/208, Bye 11
After two seasons of battling back and forth with Jamaal Williams, it appears Aaron Jones has secured the lead back job in Green Bay. Despite only playing 12 games last year, Jones finished as an RB2 (24th). With a new coaching staff in town, I see Jones’ workload increasing in 2019.
16. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers – 6’1”/215, Bye 12
Gordon was last year’s RB8 despite missing four games with an injury. His workload is huge, but he is holding out currently and there is no timetable for a return. If he returns before the season kicks off, this ranking shoots up. Ten spots all the way up to 6th, to be exact.
17. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears – 5’10”/222, Bye 6
The rookie from Iowa State appears to be in line for a lot of work in Chicago this year. A legit dual-threat, Montgomery has three-down upside and has been generating a lot of buzz this preseason and in training camp. I feel very comfortable with him as my RB2 option.
18. Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens – 5’9”/215, Bye 8
Baltimore has a good offensive line and Ingram is a dual-threat running back who will be the primary in an offense that is going to run the ball a lot. The change of scenery will do Ingram good and he will have a rebound season from last year where he finished RB32.
19. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons – 5’8”/206, Bye 9
Freeman has been a top-end fantasy running back throughout his career, but has had some troubles with injuries, most notably last season, where he missed 14 games. He’s healthy again, and no longer has Tevin Coleman stealing snaps. This pick could be a steal.
20. Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins – 6’1”/211, Bye 5
At the time I’m writing this, Drake is injured, and it is possible he won’t be ready for the opener. That’s fine. He will still be the primary offensive weapon in Miami upon his return and was the #14 running back in PPR last year.
21. James White, New England Patriots – 5’10”/205, Bye 10
A surprise top-12 PPR running back in 2018, White is the only running back in New England whose role feels secure regardless of who is receiving the bulk of the carries week-to-week.
22. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars – 6’0”/228, Bye 10
I’m not a big Fournette fan. He’s a career 3.7 YPC runner and has had problems with injuries, missing 11 games in his first two seasons. As pure running backs, I like the next two guys on this list better, but they’re going to share more carries and have less upside as receivers.
23. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks – 5’11”/222, Bye 11
RB15 last year despite missing two games, Carson is going to see a smaller role in Seattle’s offense to make way for a larger one for 2018 first-round pick, Rashaad Penny. Still a viable RB2 to begin the year, at least.
24. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans – 6’3”/247, Bye 11
Henry was a massive disappointment most of last season. He wasn’t even rostered in most of my leagues the week of his massive 238-yard, 4 TD performance week 14 last year. I’m a bit of a Henry truther though, and his ceiling is obviously high, but I’m approaching with caution.
Tier 4: RB3s and Flex Options – This is a tier full of low-end starters, essential handcuffs, committee backs, and high-caliber third-down backs. These are solid flex options and great depth players to fill out your rosters with.
25. Sony Michel, New England Patriots – 5’11”/215, Bye 10
Michel is a good running back, but he has a history of injuries, dealt with injuries last year, and had knee surgery this offseason. Rookie running back Damien Harris has looked good in preseason so far, and will push for a lot carries. He might end up better than Michel…
26. Philip Lindsay, Denver Broncos – 5’8”/190, Bye 10
A borderline RB1 from last year (finished 13th), Lindsay is in line for less carries in 2019 with coaches wanting a more even split between him and Royce Freeman, a third-rounder from the 2018 draft. I also question how likely it is that Lindsay will average 5.4 YPC again.
27. Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears – 5’6”/191, Bye 6
An RB1 from a year ago, Cohen appears to be in line for a smaller workload in 2018, judging by comments made by his head coach recently. He will still be a PPR machine, however, and is too talented and versatile to keep off the field. A down year is to be expected, but he’s still viable.
28. Duke Johnson, Houston Texans – 5’9”/210, Bye 10
After getting his wish and being traded, Johnson steps into a much larger role than anyone expected with the injury to Lamar Miller. The offensive line in Houston is awful and Johnson has never been a feature back, but he will be at least a solid weekly flex option in PPR with RB2 upside.
29. Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs – 5’11”/224, Bye 12
So, Williams had a few good TD-dependent games late last season, and suddenly we’re supposed to buy-in to a 27-year-old running back who’d been a non-factor his whole career up to that point? I’m passing on Williams at his ADP and am waiting for the Darwin Thompson breakout instead.
30. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles – 5’11/211, Bye 10
Sanders is an exciting player. The rookie second-rounder out of Penn State is an electric athlete and steps into a perfect situation where he will split carries with veteran Jordan Howard behind a very good offensive line. Philly looks primed to be one of the best rushing teams in the NFL.
31. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers – 5’10”/200, Bye 12
Ekeler was a borderline RB2 last year, finishing 25th. He was a weekly flex option even with Melvin Gordon on the field, but his value is even higher if Gordon continues to hold out.
32. Tevin Coleman, San Francisco 49ers – 6’1”/210, Bye 4
I hate San Francisco’s backfield this year. They have four solid running backs who will all have some role in this offense, which is a giant Pats-like middle finger to us fantasy enthusiasts out here. Reunited with Kyle Shanahan, Coleman is my favorite of the group though.
33. Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks – 5’11”/220, Bye 11
I briefly commented on Penny in the Chris Carson blurb. He will have a much more significant role in year two than he had as a rookie, and is one of the essential backups to target in 2019.
34. Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins – 5’11”/225, Bye 10
A potential steal, Guice was one of the best running backs in the class of 2018 but tore his ACL in the preseason, and missed his entire rookie year. He has finally returned to the field and is ready to get back at it in year two.
35. Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos – 6’0”/238, Bye 10
For where these guys are being drafted, I would rather have Freeman than Phillip Lindsay this year. Freeman is going to see a large statistical jump from 2018 and should see most of the goalline work.
36. Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles – 6’0”/224, Bye 10
Howard has gone over 1000 combined yards in each of his first three seasons, but his production has steadily declined each year he’s been in the pros. Now he’s in Philly splitting carries with a rookie I believe will win out as the lead back by season’s end.
37. Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams – 5’8”/208, Bye 9
The third-round rookie and backup to Todd Gurley is going to see a lot of touches this season and will likely emerge as a solid flex option with upside if Gurley were to miss any games.
38. Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins – 6’1”/220, Bye 10
At 33-years-old in 2018, Peterson went over 1000 rushing yards for the eighth time in his career. That won’t happen again in 2019 with Derrius Guice returning to action.
39. Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints – 6’3”/230, Bye 9
Murray is a former Pro Bowler and finished RB38 last season while playing a lot in place of an oft-injured Dalvin Cook. He’s behind Alvin Kamara on the Saints depth chart now and is going to likely be used in a Mark Ingram-lite role.
40. Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs – 5’8”/200, Bye 12
This is a player to either draft late, stash away, and wait, or to watch the waiver wire like a hawk to ensure you pick him up. When the rookie takes the starting job from Damien Williams by force, you have an immediate RB2-caliber player on your fantasy squad.
Tier 5: Waiver Watch List – Most of these players, with the exception of a few, will go undrafted. For the most part, these are guys who are merely an injury away from being thrust into a starting role, members of a crowded committee, or aging former stars who might still have a little left in the tank. I have only included 16 names in this tier, so this is not an all-inclusive list.
41. Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns – 5’11”/216, Bye 7 (Suspended)
42. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys – 6’0”/209, Bye 8
43. Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts – 5’9”/196, Bye 6
44. Damien Harris, New England Patriots – 5’11”/213, Bye 10
45. Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings – 5’11”/221, Bye 12
46. Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 5’11”/208, Bye 7
47. Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins – 6’2”/231, Bye 5
48. Matt Brieda, San Francisco 49ers – 5’10”/190, Bye 4
49. TJ Yeldon, Buffalo Bills – 6’1”/223, Bye 6
50. Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 5’11”/225, Bye 7
51. Jaylen Samuels, Pittsburgh Steelers – 6’0”/225, Bye 7
52. Benny Snell, Pittsburgh Steelers – 5’10”/224, Bye 7
53. Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills – 5’7”/203, Bye 6
54. Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans – 5’8”/195, Bye 11
55. Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers – 5’9”/205, Bye 4
56. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills – 5’11”/210, Bye 6
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