2018 RB Rankings

Rankings assume a scoring of, rushing/receiving TD = 6 points, 10 yards rushing/receiving = 1 points, fumble = -1.

Tier 1

1 – Todd Gurley

Gurley had a monster 2017 season placing him #1 in fantasy points for running backs.  Gurley did it by being efficient (4.7ypc), benefiting from a very positive game script (Rams were #1), and seeing a lot of the ball (#4 in opportunity share amongst RB’s).  While Bell may see more opportunity, he is riskier due to the holdout and his lack of efficiency over the last two years.

Schedule Strength – Very Hard

2 – Le’Veon Bell

Bell sees the ball more than any other RB (#1 in Opportunity & Snap Share) making him a lock for good numbers, but he received the same volume last year and Gurley outscored him easily (53 fantasy points).  Bell’s efficiency has been declining year over year, add to that another hold out and there is more risk here than Gurley.

Schedule Strength – Average

3 – David Johnson

David Johnson scored more fantasy points in 2016 than Gurley did in 2017.  The best receiving back in the NFL, Johnson could easily catch 100 balls this year.  The only thing holding him back is an offense with a lot of question marks including the O-Line, which reduces his TD potential.

Schedule Strength – Average

Tier 2

4 – Ezekiel Elliot

In a standard league he is in Tier 1, but in PPR he doesn’t catch enough passes to be on the same level as the other Tier 1 running backs.  He will lead the league in carries behind arguably the best O-Line, but the offense will struggle to score points limiting his TD potential.

Schedule Strength – Hard

 

5 – Alvin Kamara

By far the most efficient RB in the NFL last year, in his limited sample size he scored touchdowns at a ridiculous clip.  Throw in a great offense and O-line, the potential for high efficiency in 2018 is possible, just not to last year’s levels.  Even with Ingram out for four games, the risk with Kamara is his opportunity, we know the efficiency will drop, but how many carries will Sean Payton give him?  He is probably seeing the least opportunity of any back in the top 10.

Schedule Strength – Average

Tier 3

6 – Saquon Barkley

Early round (NFL) rookie running backs are becoming less scary every year as they continue to produce in fantasy (Fournette, Elliot, McCaffrey).  Saquon should be next in line, running behind an improved Giants O-Line he should be a bell cow from the start.  What makes Saquon even more appealing is his receiving ability and tendency to break big plays.  There is always a risk drafting a rookie over proven vets, but Barkley is an elite prospect. (99% 40-yard dash and speed score)

Schedule Strength – Very Hard

7 – Kareen Hunt

Hunt went crazy to start 2017, but hit a dry spell throughout the middle of the season mainly due to a reduced workload, especially in the passing game.  Andy Reid has already talked about getting Hunt more involved on 3rd down which would bump up his opportunity, and it doesn’t hurt to be playing on what looks to be a very good Chiefs offense.

Schedule Strength – Average

8 – Melvin Gordon

Melvin Gordon is an inefficient runner (3.9 ypc, #21 in yards created per touch), but his opportunity is undeniable.  The Chargers continue to feed him on a solid offense year after year.  The fear is Austin Ekeler or Justin Jackson take a chunk out of his passing game work, but there isn’t much risk here.

Schedule Strength – Easy

Tier 4

9 – Dalvin Cook

Prior to tearing his ACL, Cook was on pace to the be the 5th best RB in fantasy scoring.  He is playing on a solid offense again this year which should provide him with plenty of TD opportunities, the only thing holding him back is he not an elite receiver like most of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 RBs.

 

Schedule Strength – Very Easy

 

10 – Leonard Fournette

In game speed, Fournette was the fastest player in the NFL last year.  His talent is undeniable, and he is going to get fed on a Jaguars team that expects to be playing in close games or from the lead.  (#1 in team carries in 2017) The downside with Fournette is his efficiency (3.9 yards per carry), his limited passing game ability (36 receptions), and a lingering foot injury in college that cost him multiple games in 2017.

Schedule Strength – Easy

11 – Christian McCaffrey

One of my favorite players to draft in PPR this year, McCaffrey led all running backs in targets in 2017 (113) as rookie.  The floor you get from McCaffrey as a receiver is what makes him intriguing, but what he gives you as a runner is still uncertain.  Last year he only received 117 carries, with Jonathan Stewart handling a majority of the workload.  With Stewart out, the Panthers brought in CJ Anderson to help share the workload.  If McCaffrey can beat him out for carries you are getting an elite RB, if not, you have a pumped up satellite back.

Schedule Strength – Average

12 – Devonta Freeman

In 2017, Freeman saw his receptions and efficiency drop as the Falcons offense struggled for most of the season.  Freeman sits in a 60/40 split with Tevin Coleman, making it important that he is on a good offense with a good offensive line (9th in 2017) allowing him to be very efficient with his carries.   Last year, Freeman was #16 in opportunity share amongst running backs, #20 in carries and #22 in receptions.

Schedule Strength – Hard

13 – Jerrick McKinnon

McKinnon is one of the hardest running backs to project for 2018.  An elite athlete out of college, McKinnon never really cracked the depth chart in Minnesota unless injuries occurred.  In free agency McKinnon signed a huge deal with the 49ers making him one of the top paid RB’s in the NFL.  Being an RB in a Kyle Shanahan offense (see Devonta Freeman) is a good thing, and if McKinnon can just capture the opportunity Carlos Hyde got last year with the 49ers (#10) and keep some of his efficiency your looking at a top 10 back.  The risk is, players like McKinnon who never handled the workload before have typically struggled when given it (i.e. Lamar Miller).

Schedule Strength – Hard

Tier 5

14 – Joe Mixon

Mixon is a talented running back who got stuck in a timeshare, behind a bad O-line, on an offense that ran the least plays in the NFL.   The O-Line was improved through free agency, and he might get more opportunity as a second year player especially with Jeremy Hill gone.  The downside is Giovanni Bernard is still there and was BETTER than Mixon last year.  You can bet on Mixon’s talent, but he is a risky upside pick.

Schedule Strength – Average

15 – Jordan Howard

Howard is in a lot of ways the opposite of Joe Mixon.  Howard is a between the tackles grinder who is dependent on volume, game script, and touchdowns to score his fantasy points.  Howard was already a poor receiver, but adding Tarik Cohen to the mix means he will catch less than 20 passes next year.  Expect some big games when the Bears are winning, but don’t be shocked by a few duds when the game script flips against him.

Schedule Strength – Very Easy

Tier 6

16 – Derrius Guice

Guice is an elite prospect who should be stepping into the starters role in Washington.  The risk with Guice is how much passing work will Chris Thompson take away from him.  Thompson will get his catches, but if Guice is as electric as his numbers (91st percentile speed score) and tape reflect, expect him to be on the field a lot for this Redskins offense.

Schedule Strength – Very Hard

17 – Kenyan Drake

Kenyan Drake came out of nowhere late last year to put up 20+ fantasy points in 3 straight games (Weeks 13-15).   Traditionally, Drake has been a receiving down back that got the occasional carry and was never considered a workhorse.  The big question is if the Dolphins will commit to Drake for early down work, and there signing of Frank Gore indicates they will not.   Drake is a good Zero RB target, but don’t be surprised if he is splitting work most of the year.

Schedule Strength – Easy

18 – Alex Collins

Collins was expected to lose his role in the NFL draft, but that did not happen.  The Ravens showed faith in their new lead back by not drafting an RB.  Collins will still lose work to Buck Allen, and Kenneth Dixon is healthy again, but Collins should be in line for the early down work.   Being the early down back is nice, but it makes you game script dependent and the Ravens are not looking good this year.

Schedule Strength – Average

19 – Lamar Miller

Lamar Miller has been a disappointment since signing with the Texans (3.7 YPC) but is the definitive starter with Donte Foreman coming off a ruptured Achilles.  With a healthy Desean Watson the Texans offense should take a leap forward providing more red zone touches for Miller.  It always helps a running back to have a mobile quarterback as well to keep the linebackers in check.

Schedule Strength – Average

20 – Dion Lewis

Lewis was one of the best runners in the NFL last year, placing 3rd in YPC, #3rd in juke rate, and #6 in evaded tackles.   On top of that, Lewis is a proven pass catcher (91.4% catch rate), something his backfield Derrick Henry is not.  Expect a timeshare in Tennessee, with Lewis catching more passes and Henry getting more carries.

Schedule Strength – Easy

21 – Derrick Henry

Henry will be splitting carries with Dion Lewis in a Titans offense that is expected to bounce back.  Henry doesn’t catch many passes which limits his PPR upside, but the O-Line he is running behind is one of the best in the league.  You could see 10+ touchdowns from Henry this year making him a great standard league target.

Schedule Strength – Easy

22 – Mark Ingram

Ingram is suspended the first four games due to PEDs.  If he regains his form from last year he is a steal this late, but if Kamara takes more work from him you could be holding a roster spot for a glorified handcuff.  I personally do not like drafting players suspended for 4 games, the waiver wire is loaded early in the season and this limits what you can do.

Schedule Strength – Average

23 – Rashaad Penny

Penny is a polarizing player for 2018.  His first round draft capital means he should get a lot of work in the Seattle offense, even though there are rumblings of Chris Carson starting the season with the first string.  The main challenge Penny is facing is not Carson, it is the Seahawks O-line which was historically bad last year.  Penny will get his carries, but his efficiency will be brutal.

Schedule Strength – Average

24 – Sony Michel

I am higher on Michel than most because the upside is too good to ignore.  Traditionally the Patriots backfield is one of the top producers in RB fantasy points (#2 in 2017), meaning they can support multiple running backs.  Michel has first round draft capital which means a lot, the Patriots let Dion Lewis walk and drafted Michel as his replacement.  Between Burkhead, James White, and Michel one of them is going to be the between the tackles guy for the Patriots, and Michel is best suited for that role.

Schedule Strength – Very Easy

25 – Chris Thompson

Thompson was the best satellite back in the league last year (#1 in Yards per Touch).  In PPR leagues he provides a safe floor of 60+ catches and some big play ability.  His upside is dependent on breakaway runs/catches, which is hard to predict.  Consider Thompson a nice RB2 in PPR if you are going WR heavy early.

Schedule Strength – Very Hard

26 – Jay Ajayi

Ajayi is one of the last “Starting” running backs on this list.  He will be on a good offense with a solid O-line, but the Eagles believe in committees which will limit his opportunity.  Additionally, he is not very efficient, doesn’t catch the ball well, and has a degenerative knee disorder.

Schedule Strength – Hard

27 – Tevin Coleman

Coleman lacks opportunity (#34 in Opportunity Share) behind Devonta Freeman, but has breakaway speed potential and has historically been efficient with his carries.  With Freeman healthy you’re getting a flex at best, but if Freeman were to get hurt, you have a top 5 RB which is why Coleman is included in this Tier.

Schedule Strength – Hard

 

Tier 7

28 – Royce Freeman

Unlike other fellow rookie RB’s, Freeman will have to fight for his starting role with Devontae Booker.  Freeman projects as a three down workhorse, but on a mediocre offense, with an average O-line, and some competition for snaps, I’m fading him.

Schedule Strength – Easy

29 – Marlon Mack

With Andrew Luck back and a much improved O-Line, there are some fantasy points to be had in the Colts backfield and the safest bet is on Mack.  Mack’s role is uncertain, but he is the favorite for early down work with his only competition being 6th rounder Jordan Wilkins.  Mack is a risky pick with big upside.

Schedule Strength – Easy

30 – Tarik Cohen

Cohen was almost as efficient as Chris Thompson as a satellite back last year, but just didn’t see the same level of opportunity.  New coach Matt Nagy is talking him up early, expect increased opportunity and 60+ catches.  A nice RB2 you can get in the middle to late rounds in drafts.

Schedule Strength – Very Easy

31 – Ronald Jones II

I might be way off on Jones, but I see small back that historically has not caught passes.  He is explosive for sure, but he might be competing with Peyton Barber for early down work.  Not sure if he will see the opportunity he needs.

Schedule Strength – Hard

32 – Kerryon Johnson

At this point we are looking for upside, and Kerryon Johnson is exactly that.  His competition (Blount, Riddick) have defined roles that can both be taken (especially Blount).  Johnson is a 3 down back that does everything well and nothing great.  Expect him to quickly take Blount’s role and possibly catch more passes than expected behind an improved Lions O-Line.  The early weeks may be rocky, but big potential here.

Schedule Strength – Hard

Tier 8

 

33 – Marshawn Lynch

He’ll start hot as many old RBs due, but will fade quickly.

Schedule Strength – Easy

34 – Duke Johnson

Has a pass catching role in a 3 back committee, some value but little upside.

Schedule Strength – Average

35 – Isiah Crowell

Looks to be the starter on the Jets, but historically inefficient.

Schedule Strength – Easy

36 – Carlos Hyde

Chubb will steal his carries, Johnson his catches.  Might have a few good games but will be hard to predict.

Schedule Strength – Average

37 – Jamaal Williams

With Aaron Jones out 2 weeks, Williams will assume early down work, in week 3 who knows.

Schedule Strength – Average

38 – Ty Montgomery

Hard to call this backfield, but Montgomery has the passing game work locked down.

Schedule Strength – Average

39 – Rex Burkhead

Good back to pair with Sony Michel.  Patriots have shown they don’t trust him with early down work, but will have some value on such a powerful offense.

Schedule Strength – Very Easy

40 – Chris Ivory

This is a assuming no LeSean McCoy for 2018, making Ivory the starter on the worst offense in the NFL.

Schedule Strength – Average

Tier 9

Below are some targets to look at late in your drafts, upside is all that matters here

41 – Devontae Booker

42 – Theo Riddick

43 – Giovani Bernard

44 – Bilal Powell

45 – Chris Carson

46 – Nyheim Hines

47 – Matt Breida

48 – Nick Chubb

49 – Aaron Jones

50 – Peyton Barber

Leave a Reply