With the NFL Draft done and the vast majority of free agents already signed, it’s time for the fantasy football community to turn their eye towards rankings and projection. Running back is arguably the most important position in fantasy, as it’s hard to find multiple players capable of carrying your team. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the fantasy football running back rankings (hopefully) heading into training camp.
Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
1. Christian McCaffrey
It’s hard to imagine any world where Christian McCaffrey is not the consensus RB1 at the start of the season. Following an absolutely historic 2019, McCaffrey is in the perfect position to repeat his remarkable season. While he probably won’t be THAT dominant for a second straight season, he’s still the unquestioned starter and the focal point of the offense. McCaffrey is game script proof and having Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback can only be a good thing. Don’t overthink it, he’s the best player in fantasy.
Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: High-End RB1
2. Saquon Barkley
3. Ezekiel Elliott
4. Alvin Kamara
5. Dalvin Cook
6. Kenyan Drake
7. Joe Mixon
All of these guys have a decent shot at finishing the year as the overall RB2. However, for now, Saquon Barkley is the safest bet. The New York Giants running back is a three-down player with no notable competition, and Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett clearly want to build their offense around his talents. The Dallas Cowboys might not run as much with Mike McCarthy running the show, but the added scoring opportunities should still make Ezekiel Elliott a top fantasy option.
Alvin Kamara doesn’t have the same type of workload as the other backs on this list, but he’s so dangerous that it doesn’t matter. Kamara was wildly efficient over his first two years in the league and battled injury last year. He actually scored fewer touchdowns than you’d expect, given his workload, so he’s actually due for some positive regression heading into 2020. Dalvin Cook has yet to play a full 16-game season but is one of the best running backs in the league when on the field. Trading away Stefon Diggs means that the Vikings will run the ball even more, which is good news for Cook.
If “Arizona Cardinals Starting Running Back” was a single player last year, they would’ve finished as a clear RB1. However, David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, and Kenyan Drake all split time as the starter. Now that Drake has a clear handle on the job, he should be one of the top options in fantasy. Joe Mixon’s fate is closely tied to Joe Burrow’s development, but his workload is so high that he should be a solid starter even if Burrow struggles out of the gate.
8. Nick Chubb
9. Miles Sanders
10. Josh Jacobs
11. Austin Ekeler
12. Derrick Henry
Nick Chubb would be a lot higher on this list if it weren’t for the presence of Kareem Hunt. Last year, both players split the workload, although Chubb was clearly the primary starter. It’s entirely possible that this becomes more of a 50/50 split, which obviously would hurt Chubb’s overall production.
As of this posting, the Philadelphia Eagles have not signed a running back in free agency. If they go into the season with Miles Sanders and Boston Scott as their primary running backs, Sanders should have a huge season. However, the team has been publicly linked to Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy, which is obviously bad news for Sanders. If the Eagles add another back, Sanders is probably looking at an RB2 finish.
Josh Jacobs has the skillset to be a three-down workhorse, but the Raiders don’t appear interested in using him in that fashion. The team re-signed Jalen Richard and drafted pass-catching specialist Lynn Bowden in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He’ll receive the majority of the carries, but he probably won’t get the passing work to earn a top-six finish.
In a similar vein, Austin Ekeler is going to see his passing work decrease without Philip Rivers in town. Historically speaking, Tyrod Taylor doesn’t throw to running backs and Justin Herbert is a massive unknown.
Derrick Henry has regression written all over him. His massive workload from a season ago doesn’t bode well for his future production, and his touchdown production is due to go down. Additionally, he doesn’t make plays in the passing game and Ryan Tannehill is due for some regression of his own. He’ll still receive enough carries to be fantasy-relevant, but he won’t come close to matching last years numbers.
13. Clyde Edwards-Helaire
14. Todd Gurley
15. Leonard Fournette
16. Chris Carson
17. Raheem Mostert
18. J.K. Dobbins
For the sake of this exercise, I’m assuming that Clyde Edwards-Helaire beats out Damien Williams for the starting job. Andy Reid historically likes to use a workhorse running back, and anyone taking snaps in Kansas City’s offense is going to be a fantasy star. Even if Edwards-Helaire doesn’t win the Week 1 starting job, it’s only a matter of time before he’s the guy in the backfield.
Todd Gurley isn’t the player he once was, but his situation is perfect. Atlanta doesn’t have any other starting-caliber running backs, and Gurley obviously has a history of success in both the running and receiving game. He obviously comes with some injury risk, but he should be a great fantasy option as long as he stays on the field.
The Jacksonville Jaguars do not want to keep Leonard Fournette, but nobody else wants him, either. As long as he remains in Jacksonville, he’ll see the majority of the early-down carries and is actually due for some positive touchdown regression. However, he’s not a natural pass-catcher and some of his 100 targets from a season ago are going to go to Chris Thompson.
Chris Carson should remain the starter in Seattle, as Carlos Hyde is primarily there to fill in for the injured Rashaad Penny. As long as he can hold on to the ball, Carson should be a high-volume starter in a run-heavy offense.
I’m higher on Raheem Mostert than most. Kyle Shanahan can make anyone fantasy-relevant, and I’m projecting Mostert to be the primary starter in 2020. With Matt Breida out of town and Tevin Coleman battling injuries in recent seasons, Mostert should have plenty of opportunity with one of the best offensive minds in football.
The Baltimore Ravens are one of the most analytically-inclined teams in the league, and they wouldn’t have selected a running back as early as they did if they weren’t going to use him. Mark Ingram is getting up there in age, and J.K. Dobbins has a decent shot of earning a large role right out of the gate. Baltimore’s running attack is second to none, and I’m projecting Dobbins to get the majority of the carries. As long as he’s the one touching the ball, he’s going to be a weekly start.
19. Le’Veon Bell
20. David Johnson
21. James Conner
22. Ronald Jones
23. Devin Singletary
24. James White
The New York Jets upgraded their offensive line, so Le’Veon Bell should be more efficient than he was a season ago. That said, he’s still getting up there in age and probably won’t ever return to his Pittsburgh level of play. Also, Adam Gase is still his coach, which is never good for fantasy.
David Johnson clearly isn’t the player he once was, but he’s the only man in town and Bill O’Brien will desperately try to prove that he made the right choice by taking on Johnson’s contract.
James Conner could easily outplay this ranking, assuming Ben Roethlisberger can stay healthy and productive. However, it’s dangerous to bank on both Roethlisberger and Conner staying on the field, considering their recent injury histories. Ronald Jones isn’t an exciting player by any stretch of the imagination, but he still projects to see the majority of the carries in a high-powered offense.
Devin Singletary is going to be the starter in Buffalo, although Zack Moss will eat into some of his work. The New England Patriots have arguably the worst group of pass-catchers in the league, so James White should see plenty of work in the passing game.
25. Jonathan Taylor
26. Aaron Jones
27. Sony Michel
28. Marlon Mack
29. Matt Breida
30. Derrius Guice
31. David Montgomery
I’m projecting Jonathan Taylor and Marlon Mack to split the workload fairly evenly, at least out of the gate. If Taylor wins the starting job in Week 1, he will soar up these rankings and Mack will plummet. Aaron Jones is due for an absurd amount of touchdown regression, and will probably see fewer scoring opportunities overall. The 2019 Packers were not as good as their 13-3 record would indicate, and the team only got worse in the offseason. Additionally, second-round pick A.J. Dillon will probably eat into the workload as the team embraces a full-on backfield by committee.
The New England Patriots have a good offensive line, and the team appears to be building a run-first offense. There won’t be many scoring opportunities, but Michel should have a decent workload. Matt Breida is more talented than Jordan Howard and is capable of making more plays in the passing game. Both guys will receive work, but Breida will probably see more touches.
Derrius Guice has all the talent in the world but struggles to stay healthy and is playing in an atrocious offense. The good news is Ron Rivera loves to use running backs, so he offers some decent upside. David Montgomery is the only man in town, but his play left a lot to be desired in 2019, and Chicago’s offense projects as one of the worst in the league.
The Rest of the Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
32. Zack Moss
33. Kareem Hunt
34. Tevin Coleman
35. Jordan Howard
36. D’Andre Swift
37. Kerryon Johnson
38. Melvin Gordon
39. Phillip Lindsay
40. Cam Akers
41. Darrell Henderson
42. Duke Johnson
43. Ke’Shawn Vaughn
44. Boston Scott
45. Justin Jackson
46. Latavius Murray
47. Mark Ingram
48. Damien Williams
49. Alexander Mattison
50. Tarik Cohen
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