Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs

Continuing along with the fantasy football rankings, I have the running back rankings after the jump.

As for the planned fantasy league on Yahoo, I am still on the fence about that. We had about seven or eight people who said they would be interested.

Some general notes about running backs in fantasy leagues: Many of the proven players carry some question marks, so you don’t necessarily want to follow the old advice of taking two RBs with your first two picks. Drafting one in the first two rounds is a good idea, but from there, look for value.

No. 1 fantasy backs

1. Todd Gurley: The 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year missed the first three games of the season, but when he took the field, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry on 229 attempts with 10 touchdowns. He’s expected to be the focal point of the Rams’ offense.

2. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta: Freeman started off the 2015 season strong but wasn’t as good down the stretch. Still, he had 1,056 yards rushing with 11 touchdowns and he should remain active in Atlanta’s offense.

3. Adrian Peterson: He averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 327 attempts with 11 touchdowns. The caveat is that he is 31 years old and it’s worth asking how much he has left in the tank. But chances are he has one more quality season in him.

4. LeVeon Bell: Between a suspension and an ACL injury, he played just six games last season. But considering that DeAngelo Williams averaged 4.5 yards per carry in his absence, there’s plenty of reason to believe Bell will be productive.

5. Ezekiel Elliott: The one rookie running back to covet in any format, Elliott will play behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. That line allowed Darren McFadden to average 4.6 yards per carry despite injuries to other key players.

6. Doug Martin: He averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 288 attempts with seven touchdowns. Martin has been inconsistent in his career and he hasn’t scored a lot of touchdowns. He’s more valuable in yardage-heavy formats.

7. David Johnson: He started slowly but peaked down the stretch, finishing with 4.6 yards per carry on 125 attempts with eight touchdowns. He’ll likely be the featured back for Arizona, even with the Cardinals bringing back Chris Johnson.

8. Lamar Miller: He was a frustrating player for fantasy owners last year, mostly because Miami’s coaching staff didn’t utilize him much. He signed with the Texans in the offseason, so there’s reason for optimism that he’ll get plenty of touches.

9. Jeremy Hill: He scored 11 touchdowns but averaged just 3.6 yards per carry on 223 touches. He has more value in leagues that emphasize touchdowns over yardage – in the latter formats, he may be more useful as a No. 2 back.

10. Thomas Rawls: Rawls played well when Marshawn Lynch missed time with injuries. He rushed for 5.6 yards per carry on 147 attempts. Injuries cut his season short, but Rawls is in line to be the featured runner now that Lynch has retired.

11. CJ Anderson: Anderson started slowly in 2015 because of a toe injury. But he took a more prominent role in the Broncos offense as the season progressed. He’s set to be the featured back, even with Ronnie Hillman and Devontae Booker in the mix.

12. Latavius Murray: He averaged 4.0 yards per carry on 266 attempts with six touchdowns. He showed he could handle the load and the Raiders offense is improving overall. He might be more valuable in yardage-heavy formats, though.

No. 2 fantasy backs

13. LeSean McCoy: His first season in Buffalo was disappointing as injuries limited him to 12 games. He has a chance to bounce back and could get plenty of touches with Karlos Williams being suspended for the first four games.

14. Jamaal Charles: He averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 71 attempts, but an ACL injury ended his season after five games. He needs to show he can not only come back from the injury, but hold off Charcandrick West to be the featured back.

15. Dion Lewis: He emerged as the best running back New England last season, but an ACL injury cut that season short. His pass-catching abilities make him the favorite to be the Patriots’ top back this year. Players in PPR formats should bump him slightly in their rankings.

16. Chris Ivory: He had the first 1,000-yard season of his career in 2015 and signed with the Jaguars as a free agent. His career carries aren’t high so he should have plenty in the tank. But it remains to be seen how the load will be split between him and T.J. Yeldon.

17. Matt Forte: He signed as a free agent with the Jets and will replace Chris Ivory. He’ll split carries with Bilal Powell, which may limit his touches, but perhaps he can get more out of those touches.

18. Eddie Lacy: He was a disappointment in 2015, scoring just three touchdowns. The biggest issue with Lacy is his need to get his weight under control. He’s shown promise in the past, but you may want to temper your expectations.

19. Melvin Gordon: He didn’t have the rookie campaign some may have expected, then injuries cut his season short. He’ll continue to split carries with Danny Woodhead. It’s too soon to give up on Gordon, but don’t reach for him.

20. DeMarco Murray: He struggled in his lone season with the Eagles and was traded to the Titans. His best years came with Dallas, in which he played behind a strong offensive line his last couple of seasons with that team. Proceed with caution.

21. Jeremy Langford: Langford’s role in the offense was limited last season, but the Bears appear confident that he can take over for Matt Forte. He has upside but is unproven as a featured back, so consider him a No. 2 fantasy back for now.

22. Ameer Abdullah: The Lions released Joique Bell and have high expectations for Abdullah. He didn’t get many touches last season but appears ready for an increased role. He’s not proven as a featured back, though, so treat him as a No. 2 fantasy back.

23. Rashad Jennings: He averaged 4.4 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns, but the hopes that he’d become the featured back didn’t materialize. But perhaps a new coaching regime will get him more involved in the offense.

24. Jonathan Stewart: He had a respectable 2015 campaign, but missed three games with injuries. Quarterback Cam Newton runs the ball often and Stewart has battled injuries throughout his career, so his ceiling is limited.

No. 3 fantasy backs

25. Mark Ingram: He averaged 4.6 yards per carry in 12 games last season. The problem with Ingram is he has never proven to be a featured back. His track record and the Saints’ tendency to split carries among several backs limits Ingram’s ceiling.

26. Carlos Hyde: Hyde was considered a sleeper in 2015 but was limited to seven games because of injuries. The upside was Hyde averaged 4.1 yards per carry on 115 attempts. But the Niners’ offense wasn’t good last season, so temper your expectations.

27. Matt Jones: Washington allowed Alfred Morris to depart as a free agent, so Jones is in line to be the team’s featured back. But he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. He’s a riskier pick than Langford or Abdullah, so don’t think of him as a No. 2 fantasy back yet.

28. Gio Bernard: The Bengals utilize Bernard more as a pass-catching back, where he shines (49 receptions last season). He averaged 4.7 yards per carry, too. He’s more valuable in PPR formats – in those leagues, he might warrant No. 2 fantasy back consideration.

29. Jay Ajayi: Lamar Miller’s departure opens the door for Ajayi to be the featured back in Miami. He didn’t get much work in the offense last season, but perhaps that will change. For now, consider him a No. 3 fantasy back with sleeper potential.

30. Ryan Mathews: Early indications are that Mathews will be the top back for the Eagles. He actually played better last season than DeMarco Murray. But his injury history makes him a risky pick.

31. Isaiah Crowell: Cleveland appears to be going with Crowell as their top back, but he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry on 185 attempts. Perhaps new head coach Hue Jackson can open things up for Crowell.

32. Danny Woodhead: Most of his work comes as a pass catcher – he had 80 receptions and six receiving touchdowns last season. PPR formats are where he has the most value – in those leagues, he’s arguably a No. 2 fantasy back.

33. Frank Gore: Indianapolis appears to be going with Gore for another season. But he’s 33 years old and averaged just 3.7 yards per carry this year. Maybe Andrew Luck’s return to the lineup will help, but don’t expect much.

34. Darren McFadden: He was a bright spot for Dallas last year, but it does help playing behind a quality offensive line. He’ll cede most of the workload to Ezekiel Elliott this year, but might get utilized in passing situations, making him a solid pick in PPR formats.

35. Charcandrick West: He averaged four yards per carry on 160 touches with five touchdowns. Jamaal Charles will return, but West showed enough last season that he could get an increased role.

36. Justin Forsett: A broken arm ended Forsett’s season early, but he hasn’t logged a lot of touches in his career and might have another productive season left in him. Because he is 31 years old, he’s better considered as a flex option.

Top bench options

37. T.J. Yeldon: Some thought he might become the featured back in Jacksonville, but Chris Ivory signed with the team. But perhaps Yeldon gets enough work to become a flex option.

38. Bilal Powell: He played well down the stretch in 2015 but is likely to play second fiddle to Matt Forte. But he may produce well enough to be a flex option.

39. DeAngelo Williams: You shouldn’t expect Williams to produce like he did last season now that Le’Veon Bell is healthy, but you may want to handcuff him to Bell.

40. Charles Sims: He averaged 4.9 yards per attempt on 107 touches and caught 51 passes. Martin owners may want him as a handcuff.

41. Theo Riddick: He caught 80 passes last season but didn’t get many rushing attempts. Still, he’s the guy you want to handcuff to Ameer Abdullah, or you can consider him in PPR formats.

42. Derrick Henry: The Titans drafted him in the second round and it’s possible he gets plenty of goal-line touches. It remains to be seen if he can be an every-down back, though.

43. Chris Johnson: He experienced a resurgence in Arizona before injuries ended his season. Players who want a handcuff to David Johnson should consider CJ.

44. Tre Mason: He’ll be the backup to Todd Gurley, so if you want Gurley’s handcuff, Mason is your guy. Don’t expect much otherwise, given that he averaged just 2.8 yards per carry.

45. Matt Asiata: The main reason you want Asiata on your roster is if you draft Adrian Peterson and need a back to handcuff to him. But it’s possible he gets more touches if the Vikings opt to limit Peterson’s workload.

46. Tevin Coleman: Given that Devonta Freeman didn’t play as well down the stretch last season, it’s possible the Falcons give more touches to Coleman. He did average 4.5 yards per carry on 85 touches in 2015.

47. Christine Michael: He’s bounced around several teams and will be back with the Seahawks. He may be the primary backup to Thomas Rawls, which gives him fantasy value as a handcuff.

48. Ronnie Hillman: He’ll be with the Broncos for at least one more season, but as Devontae Booker gets healthy, Hillman could lose touches. Put Hillman ahead of Booker for now, though.

49. LeGarrette Blount: Although Blount isn’t listed that high on the Patriots’ depth chart, he’s been effective for them. You only want him for your fantasy bench, though.

50. Fozzy Whittaker: Jonathan Stewart’s injury history means Whittaker is somebody to keep an eye on. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry, but that came on just 25 attempts. Still, he’s the next Panthers back to consider after Stewart.

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.