2016 Fantasy Football Rankings - Running Backs
It was a hell of a down year for the running back position last year. Between CJ Anderson, Eddie Lacy and Jeremy Hill being disappointments, Jamaal Charles getting hurt and a startling lack of depth at the position it left many fantasy owners scrambling. There may be some overcorrecting at the position as a result and there may be some values on draft day that last year’s nightmare make possible. These are mostly PPR rankings and nobody is greatly affected as far as standard rankings outside of Danny Woodhead and Duke Johnson. Let’s get to the rankings shall we.
1. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals - Including playoffs, totaled 123.4 yards/game in rookie starts. He averaged 131.6 total yards per game with five all-purpose TDs in five starts at the end of the season. He then compiled 206 total yards and an additional score in two playoff games. Bruce Arians is a huge fan of this guy, and health willing he’s a damn good first round pick.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys - Yes I know, I know. He’s a rookie. We’ve never seen him do it yet. What’s the history of rookie running backs? Listen, I respect the caution when it comes to Ezekiel Elliott but when you combine this line with Zeke’s ability, he feels like a sure thing to me. The Cowboys had Ren and Stimpy playing QB for the most part last season and were STILL 5th in the league in yards per carry. I don’t think Ezekiel Elliott has “transcendent” ability but he’s a damn good prospect who’s entering the most run friendly offense in football. This has the potential for fireworks.
3. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams - He’s not going to catch a lot of passes so that limits his ceiling a little. Last season Gurley crossed 100 yards and/or scored a touchdown in ten of his last 12 games. And let’s be frank: who else is going to move the ball for the St. Louis Rams?
4. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans - Imagine my delight when Miller left the Dolphins. First, I’m a Jets fan. Second, it was infuriating watching him go to waste in Miami. The Texans have the most rushing attempts in the NFL the last two seasons. Yards per carry for Miller the last three years (5.1, 4.5, 4.4). FREE LAMAR!
5. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs - I don’t think we speak of Jamaal Charles enough from an all-time greatness standpoint. That’s a topic for another time. That said, he was on pace for 1,731 yards and 16 touchdowns before his injury last season. He’s rebounded from a torn ACL before, and I expect him to do so again.
6. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings - Led the league in rushing yards on the most attempts. I don’t see Minnesota’s MO on offense changing much so the volume will still be there. He’s a rock solid RB1.
7. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers - Last 16 games for Le’Veon Bell: 2,114 total yards, 13 touchdowns and 79 receptions. When healthy, he’s the most complete running back in the NFL. Four-game suspension makes drafting him tricky.
8. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints - Ingram was the third best fantasy RB last season through 12 weeks. He also caught 50 passes and if that pass game usage continues, his floor is very safe.
9. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons - I won’t have any shares of this guy as I don’t think he’s that good. With that being said, his production last year and his situation can’t be argued. He is going to get a ton of work in the pass game and on the goal line. He was the only running back in the league with 1000+ rushing yards and 500+ rushing yards.
10. Lesean McCoy, Buffalo Bills - After his hamstring injury early in the year, McCoy looked like apex Philly McCoy. The quickness and mouth dropping lateral agility were back. He had 1200 total yards and six touchdowns last year. He’s also going to see so many carries.
11. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers - Scared money don’t make money.
12. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 1673 yards and seven touchdowns. Will he do this again now that he got paid? He is in an up and coming offense that was eighth in rushing attempts last season.
13. Matt Forte, New York Jets - In the first six weeks of the season; Forte was second in fantasy points at RB. After his injury, he posted a 4.57 YPC and 18 catches in his last five games. Bilal Powell will eat into some of his work but Forte fits Chan Gailey’s offense perfectly and the Jets ran the fifth most plays in the NFL last year.
14. Dion Lewis, New England Patriots - In the six full games Lewis played last season, he averaged 17.5 points a game in PPR scoring, fifth best in fantasy last season, or just slightly less than Le'Veon Bell's 17.8 per game. His 16-game pace stats were 120-587rushing and 85-931 receiving. He’s a definite injury risk but a very high upside PPR play if he can avoid it.
15. CJ Anderson, Denver Broncos - Over the final 12 games of the year, CJ Anderson averaged 5.56 YPC. The Broncos also fed him the ball for an average of 21.0 touches per game in the three wins. I think he’s the quintessential post-hype pick and can win people leagues with his current third round ADP.
16. Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks - In six starts, he led the NFL in rushing yards per game (108.0) and posted a blistering 5.7 YPC. He also has enormous TD upside. Ignore the C-Mike hype until he does something on the field worth hyping.
17. Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders - Murray should receiver upwards of 300 carries again. His real life play left a lot to be desired but his volume might render this moot again. If he plays better behind one of the best lines in football, he may be an extreme value when we look back at it at the end of the season.
18. Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers - In two healthy seasons with San Diego, Woodhead has posted finishes of RB11/RB19 (non-PPR) and RB3/RB12 (PPR) while leading Chargers backs in snaps in both years. Good for at least three catches a game usually and gets the redzone work. Philip Rivers trusts this guy and so should you.
19. Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns - Johnson had the eighth most single-season receptions (61) by a running back in league history en route to a top 25 RB finish last season. While the Browns are technically improved, they should still be a lot of tick while behind on the scoreboard and that means more pass attempts. I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnson caught 80 passes.
20. Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts - In the final five games Andrew Luck played in, Frank Gore had more than 90 total yards in four of them. I know he’s old as hell but he’s also really cheap in drafts right now. Why not take a shot?
21. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers - He’s about as interesting as wonder bread but he has a pretty good yardage floor and ceiling. He’s just not going to catch any passes or score many TDs. No need to be overzealous in drafting this guy.
22. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers - He might lose work to Shaun Draughn in those many games the Niners get blown out in because of comeback mode. He has big time ability but his situation is sketchy especially given that he’s essentially a two down back on arguably the worst team in the NFL.
23. DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers - I’m not suggesting you reach for this guy. In the time Le’Veon missed last year, Williams was the RB3 in that time period. Assuming the playoffs start in week 14 in your league, Williams will help you in 30.7% of the fantasy season. That shouldn’t be taken lightly.
24. Matt Jones, Washington - I’m not a big fan of his ability, but he might be 2016’s answer to 2015 Latavius Murray. The volume might make all the other concerns moot.
25. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals - Safe floor, but touchdowns keep his ceiling low as well. He’s a low end RB2/high end flex.
26. Ryan Mathews, Philadelphia Eagles – On 126 totes last year, he averaged 5.08 YPC and scored seven touchdowns. We know all about his injury history and that aspect is usually baked into his ADP.
27. Rashad Jennings, New York Giants - 86 touches for 521 yards over Giants final 4 games last year. Jennings also averaged 4.4 YPC for the season and it seems like the Giants are going to rid themselves of that goofy ass four headed crap monster at RB. He’s worth a cheap ninth round pick to see what he’s got.
28. Jeremy Langford, Chicago Bears - I don’t think the guy is particularly good but he is the #1 back on an offense that should be top half of the NFL. And the last MSU RB I said that about was Le’Veon Bell. Not that the nugget is particularly relevant but I thought I’d share.
29. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals - Bad sophomore year and he’s not going to catch many passes. He could rebound but I wouldn’t place too much faith in that happening.
30. Arian Foster, Houston Texans - If he wins the job and stays healthy all year, he will obliterate the ROI. Those ifs are bigger than China.
31. Charles Sims, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - If Doug Martin misses any kind of significant time; Sims could win lots of people money.
32. Bilal Powell, New York Jets - In the games he played last year, Powell averaged 10 PPR PPG. And see Sims, Charles for what could happen if Forte was to go down.
33. Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers - He’s in what’s supposed to be a good offense. If he takes strides, he should have plenty of opportunities to put up points.
34. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans - That’ll be a no for me, dawg.
35. Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions - Not going to score a lot and not going to see a lot in the passing game. Add to this the fact that it’s hard to rely on a Detroit Lion.
36. Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars - I would just rather avoid Jacksonville’s entire backfield, but Ivory does offer some TD upside in theory.
37. LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots - 30 Patriot games. 23 touchdowns.
38. Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens - If it isn’t Kamar Aiken in Baltimore, keep it away from me fantasy wise.
39. DeAndre Washington, Oakland Raiders - Sneaky PPR flex perhaps. He could be in for a lot of third down work.
40. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans - He’s a really intriguing talent who would probably be a lot higher on this list if I felt the Titans had any idea what the fuck they were doing. Murray’s injury history is something to watch though. If he misses any time, Henry would do numbers in the same backfield as Marcus Mariota.