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Earlier, I began my tiered analysis of prospective NFL rookies with a look at the quarterback draft class. In this space, I will break down each tier of my rookie rankings by position, continuing with running backs.

With a class a deep as this, tier breakdowns are critical for identifying value in dynasty drafts. But they're also incredibly challenging once you get beyond the first tier because the talent levels of RB5 through 16 is higher than most years.

Running back rankings, specifically, are likely to change because of the NFL Combine results. For the time being, they should give dynasty owners a sense of what to look for in upcoming rookie drafts.

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Pre-Combine Rookie RB Rankings

RANK TIER NAME SCHOOL HEIGHT WEIGHT
1 1 SAQUON BARKLEY PENN ST 5'11" 223
2 2 DERRIUS GUICE LSU 5'11" 212
3 2 NICK CHUBB GEORGIA 5'10" 228
4 2 RASHAAD PENNY SAN DIEGO ST 5'11" 220
5 2 SONY MICHEL GEORGIA 5'11" 222
6 3 RONALD JONES II USC 6'1" 195
7 3 ROYCE FREEMAN OREGON 5'11" 231
8 3 JOSH ADAMS NOTRE DAME 6'2" 225
9 3 KERRYON JOHNSON AUBURN 6'0" 212
10 4 AKRUM WADLEY IOWA 5'11" 195
11 4 JARVION FRANKLIN WESTERN MICH 6'0" 225
12 4 JUSTIN JACKSON NORTHWESTERN 5'11" 200
13 4 KALEN BALLAGE ARIZONA ST 6'2" 227
14 5 MARK WALTON MIAMI 5'9" 205
15 5 ITO SMITH SOUTHERN MISS 5'9" 195
16 5 JOHN KELLY TENNESSEE 5'9" 205
17 5 CHASE EDMONDS FORDHAM 5'8" 203
18 5 PHILLIP LINDSAY COLORADO 5'8" 190
19 6 BO SCARBOROUGH BAMA 6'2" 232
20 6 NYHEIM HINES UNC 5'9" 197
21 6 RALPH WEBB VANDERBILT 5'10" 202
22 6 D'ANGELO BREWER TULSA 5'9" 190
23 6 RYAN NALL OREGON ST 6'2" 237
24 6 KAMRYN PETTWAY AUBURN 6'0" 235
25 6 MARTEZ CARTER GRAMBLING ST 5'6" 204

 

Tier 1

There isn't much that needs to be said about Saquon Barkley. He's currently projected as a top-10 NFL draft pick and is coming off of a season with over 1,900 yards from scrimmage. But for a little extra security, he demonstrated strong receiving capabilities by averaging more than four receptions per game.

The only knock on Barkley is potential concerns with his 40 time since he ran a 4.63 at the high school combine, but reports from Penn State are that he has significantly improved that time.

Tier 2

Rashaad Penny is arguably the most underrated RB prospect in the class. Penny led the nation in rushing yards while averaging more than seven yards per carry on 289 carries.  In addition to being a huge contributor in the running game, Penny added more than one reception per game and returned kickoffs for an average over 30 yards per attempt.

Sony Michel has the chance to be a great RB so there isn't a ton to nitpick, but his best seasons were when he was utilized in an ancillary role rather than his one season as the lead. And while he blew up for 16 TD in his final season, he didn't contribute at the highest level any year prior. He's still among the best offensive prospects, but concerns about his ideal usage put him at the bottom of my tier two rather than top three in the class, as many see him.

Tier 3

Royce Freeman has three seasons with workhorse usage and two seasons with two receptions per game. He has two seasons over six yards per carry and his career average is nearly six yards per carry. To top it off, Freeman left no doubt about his ability to score by amassing 64 career TD.

Josh Adams only had one productive season, but he's frequently lumped in with the top RBs in the class. And while that final season was impressive with high efficiency and some usage in the passing game, he only showed that for one season which isn't the case for all of the other backs in this class.

Tier 4

Justin Jackson was a prospect that I didn't get to preview because his draft stock is currently projected low, but he's had a highly productive career and was used as a workhorse. Jackson had four seasons over 1,000 yards rushing and averaged more than two receptions per game for his career.

Ballage played well at the Senior Bowl, but generally under produced during his college career.  He never had a workhorse RB season with more than 200 carries and, while he was effective in the passing game, he only average two receptions per game. Had he been more of a workhorse this would be plenty, but he wasn't used enough to promote himself as a great receiver to alleviate all usage concerns. There is a chance that Ballage climbs up my tiers post-combine, but, for now, he's a lower-level tier four back.

Tier 5

Chase Edmonds is a highly productive small school RB. He started off his career with three seasons over 200 carries with each of them over six yards per carry. He dealt with injuries for his final season and suffered an ankle injury during the Shrine Game practices so potential for future injuries are a real concern. If he'd been completely healthy, Edmonds would likely be in tier four, but he's an ideal late round flier.

I'm almost certain that I'm the lowest on John Kelly among all dynasty players. He appears to have a quality skill set, but he usage and production is unimpressive. He averaged only 4.8 yards per carry and never topped 200 carries. In my preview, I identified him as a mid-to-late second round pick, but I'd avoid him until the late third based on the currently available data.

Tier 6

Ralph Webb is an unheralded prospect from a school not typically known for football, but he spent four years being a workhorse. Three of his four seasons featured him receiving over 200 carries and the other season, he finished with 192. His efficiency leaves much to be desired as he's never eclipsed six yards per carry for a season, but he also had double digit TDs for his final two seasons. He's not worth a draft pick, but if he's picked up to a thin depth chart, he could be a priority waiver add.

A RB from Alabama is not typically seen as a low-level prospect, but Bo Scarborough hasn't proven that he's an NFL-caliber RB and his draft stock plummeted this season.

 

More 2018 Dynasty League Strategy


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.