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2018 Rankings Analysis - Running Backs in Standard Leagues

The yards are getting harder and harder to come by for today’s running backs in the NFL.

There were only nine 1,000-yard rushers in the NFL last season, the second-lowest amount over the past 15 years. The 2018 rushing champion, Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt, led the league with the lowest amount of yards (1,327) since 1990. This makes finding the right running backs more crucial than ever for fantasy football owners trying to win their leagues.

Here is a look at the top running backs in standard fantasy leagues heading into the 2018 season:

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2018 Running Backs Rankings - Standard Leagues

Position Tier Position Rank Overall Rank Player Name
1 1 1 Todd Gurley
1 2 2 Ezekiel Elliott
1 3 3 Le'Veon Bell
1 4 5 Leonard Fournette
1 5 7 David Johnson
2 6 9 Alvin Kamara
2 7 10 Dalvin Cook
2 8 11 Kareem Hunt
2 9 15 Melvin Gordon
2 10 18 Saquon Barkley
3 11 20 Devonta Freeman
3 12 23 LeSean McCoy
3 13 25 Jerick McKinnon
3 14 27 Jordan Howard
3 15 29 Christian McCaffrey
3 16 30 Joe Mixon
4 17 41 Alex Collins
4 18 43 Dion Lewis
4 19 45 Kenyan Drake
4 20 46 Mark Ingram
4 21 48 Jay Ajayi
4 22 50 Derrius Guice
4 23 53 Rashaad Penny
4 24 55 Ronald Jones II
4 25 56 Royce Freeman
4 26 58 Derrick Henry
4 27 62 Sony Michel
5 28 67 Lamar Miller
5 29 68 Duke Johnson
5 30 72 Chris Thompson
5 31 85 Carlos Hyde
5 32 86 Aaron Jones
5 33 89 Tevin Coleman
6 34 92 Marlon Mack
6 35 93 Nick Chubb
6 36 95 Marshawn Lynch
6 37 97 C.J. Anderson
6 38 98 Rex Burkhead
6 39 100 Jamaal Williams
7 40 106 Isaiah Crowell
7 41 107 Kerryon Johnson
7 42 110 D'Onta Foreman
7 43 113 Bilal Powell
7 44 120 LeGarrette Blount
7 45 124 Tarik Cohen
8 46 134 Devontae Booker
8 47 138 Frank Gore
8 48 142 Theo Riddick
8 49 145 Giovani Bernard
8 50 146 James White
8 51 147 Ty Montgomery
8 52 148 Doug Martin
8 53 149 Peyton Barber
8 54 151 Latavius Murray
8 55 158 DeMarco Murray
9 56 162 John Kelly
9 57 163 Jonathan Stewart
9 58 175 Chris Ivory
9 59 178 Chris Carson
9 60 179 Corey Clement
9 61 180 Matt Breida
9 62 182 Orleans Darkwa
9 63 185 Javorius Allen
10 64 189 Wayne Gallman
10 65 190 Ameer Abdullah
10 66 192 T.J. Yeldon
10 67 193 James Conner
10 68 200 Jeremy Hill
10 69 204 Samaje Perine
10 70 207 Charles Sims
10 71 211 Mark Walton
10 72 212 De'Angelo Henderson
10 73 213 Jalen Richard
11 74 219 Charcandrick West
11 75 220 Corey Grant
11 76 225 Adrian Peterson
11 77 233 Deandre Washington
11 78 237 Nyheim Hines
11 79 240 C.J. Prosise
11 80 243 Mike Gillislee
11 81 244 Mike Davis
11 82 249 Kalen Ballage
11 83 257 Matt Jones
12 84 263 Terrance West
12 85 268 Robert Kelley
12 86 270 Chase Edmonds
12 87 273 Justin Jackson
12 88 286 Jeremy McNichols
12 89 308 Ito Smith
12 90 293 Jacquizz Rodgers
12 91 298 Jeremy McNichols
13 92 304 Elijhaa Penny
13 93 314 Justin Jackson
13 94 329 Malcolm Brown
13 95 330 Thomas Rawls
13 96 333 Ito Smith

Tier 1

Gurley was 2017’s Most Valuable Player in fantasy football. He was tops among running backs in combined yards and touchdowns, second in rushing yards, second in receiving yards among RBs, and did all this despite sitting out the final game of the regular season. Gurley has proven he can stay healthy in the NFL after an injury-prone college career (four missed games in three seasons) and is one of the few workhorses left in the world full of running-back-by-committee situations.

Elliott ruined a chunk of his sophomore season because of his off-the-field antics, costing himself six games and possibly a second-straight rushing title. He ran for 983 yards and seven touchdowns in only 10 games, though, and added 26 receptions for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Do not have such a short memory that you forget that this guy galloped for 1.631 yards and 15 touchdowns during his 2016 rookie campaign.

Sometimes holding out and missing most of training camp and the preaseason hurts a football player. Not Bell. He did not show up until September 1st last year and still racked up 1,291 rushing yards, 85 catches for 655 receiving yards, and scored 11 touchdowns, which is good considering he may report that late again this year. The Steelers ride Bell harder and longer than most offenses ride their top tailbacks, so look for him to be among the leaders in touches, targets, total yards and touchdowns as long as he does not pull a Ricky Williams and get suspended again.

Fournette is the centerpiece of Jacksonville’s offense and has nobody behind him on the depth chart that is any threat to his spot in the catbird seat. He rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns during his sterling rookie season despite missing three contests. It would have been nice if the Jaguars upgraded the skill-position players around him (Blake Bortles is back? Donte Moncrief? Austin Seferian-Jenkins?) so defenses could not stack the box against him. Fournette has the ability to run for 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns despite the astounding lack of talent surrounding him, however.

2017 was a lost season for Johnson, who was ranked as one of the top four players overall in fantasy football because of the spectacular 2016 season he had (1,239 rushing yards, 80 receptions, 879 receiving yards, 20 total touchdowns). He fractured his wrist early on and needed season-ending injury which ultimately ruined his year and intensified the ulcers inside his fantasy owners. Johnson will still carry Arizona’s offense on his back and be one of the best players in fantasy football, although you should be concerned that with both quarterback Carson Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians retiring the Cardinals offense might take a step back in 2018.

Tier 2

Kamara was a rookie wunderkind who took the NFL and the fantasy football world by storm last season. With the combo of Sean Payton orchestrating the offense and Drew Brees passing and handing off to him, Kamara piled up 728 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground and 81 receptions for 826 yards and another five scores. As long as Payton manages his workload properly, Kamara should be a sophomore superstar and not suffer a sophomore slump.

Cook was on his way to a Rookie of the Year award when he tore his ACL and went from being one of the top 10 players in fantasy football to being no good to anybody until 2018. He galloped for 354 yards and two touchdowns in one month and will be the bellcow back in Minnesota’s formidable offense this year, provided there are no complications during his comeback.

Hunt capped his rousing rookie year by winning the rushing title and being arguably the fantasy MVP of the first half of the season. The sledding got tougher for him as the season slogged along, though. He did not score a touchdown during an eight-game period between October and November and his fantasy value was on the verge of completely falling into an abyss until he rebounded with five touchdowns and a couple 100-yard rushing efforts over the final four games.

Gordon finished seventh in the rushing race with 1,105 yards last season, scored a dozen touchdowns and had a career-high 58 receptions for 476 yards. The linchpin of Los Angeles’ rushing attack had his third straight season of averaging less than four yards per carry, though, so even though his numbers have increased each year it is only because the volume of his touches has increased. Only three times did Gordon fail to get at least 70 combined yards in a game in 2017.

Barkley has a much better chance to be the next Todd Gurley than he does being the next Trent Richardson. His track star big-play ability, his Tesla-like way of slamming into his highest gear in record time, and the way he makes defenders whiff on tackles due to his shifty moves and sharp cuts easily installs him as the top rookie running back entering the season. He will breathe new life into Eli Manning and the Giants offense and become the franchise running back for millions of fantasy squads.

Tier 3

McCoy is the one and only weapon in Buffalo’s offensive arsenal, and with either A.J. McCarron or rookie quarterback Josh Allen running the team in 2018, the Bills will likely be leaning on “Shady” more than ever. McCoy will be 30 when the season starts, which is normally never good for tailbacks who have logged plenty of carries over their careers.

Freeman still has Tevin Coleman taking 40 percent of his touches and is beginning to build a concussion history that has to concern fantasy owners. 1,000 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns are still realistic marks for Freeman, however. McKinnon is a feast-or-famine player that could make or break fantasy squads this year. He is penciled in as San Francisco’s top runner and could be a huge part of an explosive offense led by Jimmy Garappolo because of his above-average pass-catching prowess, yet he has never scored more than five touchdowns in a season and has not proven that he can handle being a No. 1 back over an entire season.

Howard has been a fantasy force throughout his first two seasons despite being surrounded by CFL-caliber talent. If Howard can post back-to-back 1,000-yard years with no help, think of what he can do if quarterback Mitchell Trubisky takes his game to another level and takes the Bears offense from below-average to average.

McCaffrey and Mixon had disappointing rookie seasons, but their fantasy futures are still as bright as the pyrotechnics at a Metallica concert. Despite rushing for only 435 at just a 3.7 yards-per-carry clip, McCaffrey was able to be a help in PPR leagues because of his 80 receptions. He needs to improve on breaking tackles (no plays over 40 yards in 2018). Mixon was handed Cincinnati’s top tailback spot on a silver platter and did not do much with it, but he should be No. 1 on the depth chart again and has a revamped offensive line blocking for him this season.

Tier 4

Collins was one of the biggest surprises at the position in 2017, coming out of nowhere to bless fantasy owners with 973 rushing yards. Baltimore spent more time and money upgrading its receiving corps than its backfield this offseason, so he should be a safe starter heading into the new year. Lewis took millions to leave Tom Brady and New England and split time with Derrick Henry in Tennessee. The move probably will not help his fantasy value, nor Henry’s. Ingram will miss the first four games of the season due to violating the NFL’s drug policy, so his stock could not be lower even though he is coming off a career year.

Tier 5

Duke Johnson set personal bests with 74 receptions for 693 yards while scoring a career-high seven total touchdowns, and he cashed in this offseason for $15.3 million. But with Cleveland signing Carlos Hyde and drafting Nick Chubb, do not think for a minute Johnson will be an every-down back. Thompson has become one of the most exciting players in the NFL and is one of the top three running backs when it comes to catching passes out of the backfield, but he is much more valuable in PPR leagues than he is in standard leagues and has to return from a broken leg.

Tier 6

"Beast Mode" a.k.a. Marshawn Lynch has rushed for 1,000 yards six times during his illustrious career and had 891 yards in his triumphant return to football in 2017, but newly-signed Doug “Muscle Hamster” Martin could cut into his carries. Oakland may lead the league in clever nicknames, but probably not rushing yards.

Anderson is not explosive and has only rushed for seven scores in the past two seasons, but he is an upgrade as Carolina’s early-down back over the ankle-twisting Jonathan Stewart. Mack is the frontrunner to be Indianapolis’ top tailback. He has not shown me much, but a healthy Andrew Luck could help Mack stumble into more touchdowns than you would expect.

Tier 7

Crowell got a raw deal in a Cleveland offense that would stop running the ball in the second halves of games when they started trailing. He has not missed a game in four years and is primed for his first 1,000-yard season as long as his Jets do not spontaneously combust on offense. Detroit just refuses to give quarterback Matthew Stafford a running back capable of a 1,000-yard year. Blount should score eight touchdowns for Stafford and the Lions, but do not bank on more than 700 rushing yards.


Updated Tiered Rankings and Analysis


Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.

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