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Spencer Aguiar's 2019 PPR RB Projections and Rankings (Part One)


After a two-year span that saw running backs suffer diminishing value between 2016 and 2017, it appears as if the position is back on top. According to the ADP on Fantasypros.com, 15 of the top 30 players are ball carriers and being able to tier them off into the correct section will be vital for success. Listed below are my rankings and projections for the 2019 season, which will hopefully help you find some clarification if you are having any issues separating players into different ranks.

Scoring will be your typical 0.10 points per rushing or receiving yard, six-point TDs, and one-point per catch. Please note that there will be some small differences between the projections and rankings.

If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out my 2019 QB rankings for redraft leagues. All players have been updated to account for injuries and any other circumstances that may affect their offenses.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

2019 Fantasy Football RB Rankings

Be sure to also check out all of our fantasy football rankings, powered by our All-Star team of analysts, including Nick Mariano who has been a top-10 accuracy expert over the past two seasons.

Our Rankings Wizard is loaded up with rankings for PPR, Half-PPR, Standard, best ball and dynasty formats - including rankings tiers, auction values and the latest player news and stats. Set your league size - then sort, filter and download your rankings. All in one easy place - and it's all free!

 

Tier 1

#1 - Alvin Kamara

Projected Fantasy Points: 352.63

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
218 4.4 959.2 12 81 9.1 737.1 5

I have absolutely no hesitation when it comes to who the number one selection should be in fantasy drafts for 2019. With all the uncertainty at the top of the board, Alvin Kamara is the only option that can be penciled into a defined range.

Kamara produced a similar output in 2018 to his phenomenal rookie season, delivering 1,592 yards from scrimmage to go along with 18 TDs and 81 receptions. While we didn't see a massive increase in production between the two years, the 24-year-old was able to increase his rushing workload from 120 carries to 194, and there are a plethora of reasons to believe that number could increase by another 10 to 15 percent in 2019. For starters, Drew Brees' passing attempts have decreased for the last three seasons in New Orleans, and maybe more importantly, there is a slight volume boost available after the departure of RB Mark Ingram to Baltimore.

Kamara's 18 touchdowns last year could signify possible regression for most players, but not only is the third-year RB ranked second in the NFL when it comes to total carries inside the 10-yard line during the past two seasons, but his 2018 campaign only had him produce over his expected output by 1.4 scores. The increase in rushing attempts should allow Kamara to continue to hover around his ridiculous scoring average, and his upside figures to be 2000 yards from scrimmage and 20 TDs if all goes right.

 

#2 - Saquon Barkley

Projected Fantasy Points: 342.74

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
300 4.1 1230 9 83 7.8 647.4 3

Saquon Barkley's rookie season was full of record-breaking performances. Barkley recorded the most yards from scrimmage (2,028) by a first-year player in NFL history and also tallied the most receptions (91) by a rookie RB. His 15 total touchdowns set a franchise record, and his 1,307 yards rushing exceeded the most by a rookie in Giants history. However, despite all his stellar accolades, I do have the 22-year-old listed as my second-ranked player for 2019.

I'm not going to sit here and dissuade you from taking Barkley if your mind is already made up to select the do-it-all back first overall, but Barkley's output is at least somewhat up in the air when it comes to New York's questionable setup. I have the former Penn State product projected for 383 touches, so it is not like volume will be a concern, but his looks won't always be as ideal if the Giants can't find a way to prevent teams from stacking the box after the removal of Odell Beckham Jr. in the offseason. Golden Tate should help to create a rhythm once he returns from his four-game suspension, but I do believe he steals a handful of looks that would have gone to Barkley last season with the routes that he runs. Consider the 2018 Pro Bowler locked in for a top-three draft pick, but only you can decide how much the Giants' offense will detur you when it comes to where you ultimately rank him compared to the other tier-one options.

 

#3 - Christian McCaffrey

Projected Fantasy Points: 334.80

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
212 4.2 890.4 7 96 8.1 777.6 5

Christian McCaffrey set the league on fire during his second season. The former Stanford product gained a whopping 1,965 yards from scrimmage to go with 13 touchdowns and a record-breaking 107 receptions - the most in history for a running back. His yards per carry jumped from an unimpressive 3.7 during his rookie season to a stellar 5.0, and his 29 carries inside the 10-yard line and 16 touches inside the five ranked him fourth and fifth in the NFL, respectively. We usually wouldn't expect to see another player stealing goal-line looks from Cam Newton, but the Panthers made it a point of emphasis to prevent their QB from taking extra hits and rewarded their star back in the process.

The issue for the 5'11" back entering 2019 is that head coach Ron Rivera has already been quoted that "McCaffrey will yield goal-line work to the backup." That is less than optimal news for the 23-year-old, and the emergence of receiving threats D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel might even further cut into some of his passing-catching production this season. Add into the mix that tight end Greg Olsen is fully recovered from his foot injury and there are some concerns to be had this season. All these points are slightly nitpicky, but we have to differentiate the top of the board somehow. McCaffrey remains locked in as a top-three selection during Ezekiel Elliott's absence, although I would move him down to fourth the moment Zeke signs with the Cowboys and reports to the team.

 

#4 - Ezekiel Elliott

Projected Fantasy Points: 345.93

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
324 4.5 1458 11 69 7.7 531.3 2

After the development of Ezekiel Elliott's presence in the passing game during the 2018 season, we no longer have any holes for the 24-year-old from a fantasy perspective. Well, let me rephrase that. There are no holes to his actual play. There could be some holes in his wallet or pocket as he waits for the Cowboys to pay him.

Elliott's write-up doesn't require a lengthy synopsis to figure out where we stand with his value. If he reports, he is my overall RB2, but until that happens, we are forced to slot him into the bottom end of this tier and wait for the chips to fall as they will. I'd anticipate him working out a deal before the season starts and will continue to grab him fourth or fifth overall when placed against the wall at those selections. If Elliott's holdout is something that you can't stomach taking a gamble on quite this early in drafts, I am fine selecting Davante Adams in front of Zeke, but that is about the only other alternative I would consider as of right now. Jerry Jones sees the Cowboys as a contender and will be hard-pressed to allow this to linger on throughout the year.

 

Tier 2

#5 James Conner

Projected Fantasy Points: 306.94

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
254 4.4 1117.6 11 63 8.6 541.8 2

Who needed Le'Veon Bell? The Steelers sure didn't with the rise of James Conner in their offense. Running behind an excellent offensive line in a potent offense, Conner averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 215 attempts during 13 games and added an additional 55 receptions for 497 yards. Those numbers are impressive given the uncertain nature Conner had to deal with all season of whether or not Bell would return from his holdout, but now that he has the offense all to himself, we should be in store for an even better 2019.

Jaylen Samuels will be there to serve as a passing-down complement to Conner and will have some standalone value himself in PPR leagues, but 300+ total touches for Conner is the bare minimum of what we should be anticipating for the third-year RB. His 17 carries inside the five-yard line placed him third in the league, and that came despite missing three games due to an ankle injury. The upside is there for the ascension into tier one, but he will just miss out and be our poster-boy for the group two choices.

 

#6 David Johnson

Projected Fantasy Points: 303.16

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
266 4.2 1117.2 8 64 9.6 614.4 3

David Johnson's numbers look reasonable enough when you study just his total output in 2018. The 27-year-old provided 1,386 yards from scrimmage, adding 10 total touchdowns and 50 receptions. While those figures are nothing to scoff at, they weren't quite what you were hoping to see if you spent a top-three selection on the former 2016 Pro Bowler. To make matters worse, Johnson only topped 80 yards from scrimmage once during his first seven contests and delivered his worst yards per carry average (3.6) and yards per catch (8.9) of his career. At the end of the day, most of his tribulations can be chalked up to an inferior supporting cast and suspect play calling on offense.

This year, the Cardinals have overhauled their staff, bringing in new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and number one overall pick Kyler Murray. The duo should provide the team with an innovative and wide-open structure, and Murray's dual-threat nature should help keep plays alive and create extra opportunities for Johnson to thrive once again as a pass-catcher. His targets dropped by 44 last year compared to his 2016 season, but that total should be chalked up more to the ineptitude of the old coaching staff than any red flag towards the Northern Iowa product. It seems likely that Johnson is ready for a bounce-back season, but Arizona will need to revise his looks in the passing game if he wants to reach these expectations.

 

#7 Le'Veon Bell

Projected Fantasy Points: 288.58

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
259 4.3 1113.7 6 73 7.7 562.1 2

I've been extremely pessimistic on Le'Veon Bell all summer, but I am starting to come around as the season approaches. The most important question comes down to: "How is Adam Gase going to use his new prized possession in New York's offense compared to his role in Pittsburgh?" It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the answer is "not as aggressively," but there should still be enough volume for him to produce as a borderline first-round selection in fantasy drafts.

Before touching on some of the positives, let's address the concerns. Since becoming a head coach, Gase's teams have run an average of 116 fewer plays per season than Pittsburgh, and it doesn't help Bell that the Jets featured one of the worst offensive lines in 2018. However, despite all the negatives, we need to make sure we don't entirely deflate his projections to fit a preconceived narrative.

Similar to David Johnson, the extent of his value will come down to how many attempts per game they are willing to give him through the air. It would be naive to expect Bell to approach anywhere close to his 7.1 targets of 2017, but I have cautiously raised my projections in recent weeks, giving him a new total of 5.7 per game. I don't believe that is an unreasonable amount for an offense that upgraded their offensive line, and it is a safe enough forecast to avoid the doomsday scenario of the sinking ship that would be under 5 attempts per contest. There is an upside to the Jets that Sam Darnold and the offense can fire on all cylinders and help Bell reach overall RB1 status, but we need to try and take into account all scenarios - both the good and the bad. I feel like my prediction for his 2019 season is fair and have him ranked 12th overall in PPR leagues.

 

Tier 3

#8 Leonard Fournette

Projected Fantasy Points: 280.31

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
275 4 1100 12 51 8.1 413.1 1

Leonard Fournette couldn't have provided a much worse season than he did in 2018. In only eight games, the 24-year-old produced a measly 3.3 yards per carry, accounting for 624 yards from scrimmage and six TDs. Those standards would be inadequate for anyone, but Fournette's off the field issues mixed with his nagging injuries turned the season into a lost cause.

You have to be careful when comparing things that haven't happened yet, but this feels like the exact situation we were in a few seasons ago with Todd Gurley. After producing only 3.2 yards per carry during his second season, Gurley slipped down into the deeper portions of the second round and was viewed as a potential headache given all his question marks. As things turned out, the Rams back put together a historic campaign, producing over 2,000 yards from scrimmage to go along with 19 touchdowns and 64 catches - catapulting him up to the number one selection in last year's draft.

Yes, I understand those two situations don't appear to be parallel because of what Los Angeles has become in recent years, but before turning into a powerhouse in 2017, the Rams finished 2016 dead last in the league when it came to points per game (14.0). Jacksonville's 15.3 points per contest placed them 31st in the NFL last season, but the addition of Nick Foles and emergence of Dede Westbrook has that offense looking like it could be ready to burst themselves.

Fournette probably won't turn into the most efficient back in the league overnight - which is indicated by me projecting him to rush for only 4.0 yards per carry, but his 16 touchdowns in 21 career games demonstrate his ability to carry the load in the trenches, and the continuous discussion by the coaching staff during the offseason of his pass-catching acumen proves that he has the potential to be one of the rare three-down workhorses in the league. Fournette has produced 58 catches in 21 career games, so it is not like he has been inept during his first two seasons, but the former LSU star has sneaky potential to approach 60+ catches in Jacksonville's newly vamped offense. Fade him at your own risk, but I am all in at his current ADP of 27th overall.

 

#9 Todd Gurley

Projected Fantasy Points: 258.06

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
229 4.3 984.7 9 49 9.1 445.9 2

Todd Gurley is a massive-risk/massive-reward option. At his best, we are looking at the top back in football. Unfortunately, if things go wrong, well... who really knows what we are in store for in 2019.

I am not overly concerned about the actual prognosis of his knee, even though I probably should be more worried, but I do fear that the Rams will find ways to script him out of some contests throughout the year. I'm not sure if that means taking him out of games where they are substantially ahead or perhaps resting him down the stretch during your most critical fantasy matchups, but the one thing I do know is that Gurley would have to fall to me in drafts before I would be willing to pull the trigger. That takes him out of the equation in round one and makes him someone I am hoping to grab later in the second round if possible.

Gurley's upside presents you a player that can give you two of the top backs if you started your draft with Kamara, Barkley or McCaffrey, although his current ADP of 14 means he probably isn't falling far enough for that to become a possibility.

 

#10 - Dalvin Cook

Projected Fantasy Points: 256.16

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
241 4.4 1060.4 7 54 7.8 421.2 2

Can Dalvin Cook stay healthy? After playing only 15 games during the first two seasons of his career, I am not so sure we can safely say yes. But at an ADP of 19th overall, that sounds like about the right range to pull the trigger and find out.

The addition of Kevin Stefanski as the full-time offensive coordinator should help turn the Vikings into a run-first team, and Cook's potential places him as a breakthrough tier-one type RB if all goes right. That is asking a lot from someone who has had his first two seasons cut short by injury, but the opening is clearly there given his vision and pass-catching prowess.

 

#11 - Joe Mixon

Projected Fantasy Points: 257.52

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
270 4 1080 10 48 7.4 355.2 1

Not much seems to be breaking right for Joe Mixon during the offseason. Guard Clint Boling retired, newly drafted offensive lineman Jonah Williams injured his shoulder and is expected to miss the season and now A.J. Green, the one player that could provide some openings in the secondary for Mixon to break loose, appears to be out a few games after injuring his ankle. It is far from an ideal start, but Mixon has enough skill to overcome some of the obstacles facing him.

New head coach Zac Taylor was a protege under Sean McVay, and we all know what McVay was able to turn Toddy Gurley into from a fantasy perspective, but that upside might be capped in 2019 with all the issues surrounding the team. My major problem with Mixon is that his ADP of 17th overall is earlier than I would care to draft him, so unless he falls to me deep into the second round, I am probably a bystander to his talent this season.

 

Tier 4

#12 - Devonta Freeman

Projected Fantasy Points: 246.02

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
223 4.4 981.2 9 45 8.2 369 2

Devonta Freeman is perhaps the most obvious rebound candidate in fantasy football after his injury-plagued 2018 season that saw him rush just 14 times for 68 yards. Head coach Dan Quinn has called Freeman's offseason "outstanding," and at just 27 years of age, there is no reason to believe that the sixth year back has experienced any decline to his game.

For fantasy teams that start WR heavy in drafts, Freeman is the perfect RB1 because of the regular contributions he provides while healthy, but don't discount his ability when it comes to being able to lead you to a fantasy title if everything clicks. Before last seasons disappointment, Freeman had provided 35 touchdowns during his previous 45 contests and had been a steady contributor in the passing game, averaging 54.33 receptions during that time span. The upside is there for more, but Freeman's floor is through the roof if he can stay healthy.

 

#13 - Damien Williams

Projected Fantasy Points: 244.86

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
194 4.3 834.2 10 44 7.6 334.4 4

The talks around Damien Williams having to split carries in Kansas City's offense shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. This was never going to be a one-man show, and head coach Andy Reid is doing all of us a favor with his coachspeak because it should now make Williams’ ADP acceptable to pull the trigger.

Williams is not Kareem Hunt and shouldn't be expected to produce like him either, but what we do have here is a quick back that is going to be the primary option on the most explosive offense in the NFL. Darwin Thompson has a chance to work in as a change-of-pace back, and Carlos Hyde should play the short-yardage role, but Williams is capable of approaching 240+ total touches, and we all know how valuable a touch can be on Kansas City's offense. The 27-year-old is beginning to become a value as he slides down the board and is probably now properly priced at his ADP of 26th overall.

 

#14 - Nick Chubb

Projected Fantasy Points: 233.95

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
266 4.5 1197 9 31 7.5 232.5 1

I like Nick Chubb as a player and believe he has the potential not only to lead the league in rushing yards but also touchdowns, but I'm having a hard time understanding the number of times I've seen him go inside the top-eight picks in drafts.

When you look at my projections, I have not skimped on my prognostications for him in 2019. Over 1,400 yards from scrimmage, 10 total touchdowns and 31 receptions all seem like reasonable totals to project, but I have to know what someone is forecasting him at to view him as a top-10 selection in PPR leagues? Sure, give him a massive boost in standard and a nice improvement in half PPR, but even if he rushed for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns, he still wouldn't crack my top seven RBs this season. Those numbers aren't out of the realm of possibilities in Cleveland's explosive offense, but I can't comfortably project an all-time season for any player in the league. Consider me out at his current ADP because of the lack of targets he will receive in the passing game, but Chubb is one of the most talented backs in the NFL and should be a better real-life player than PPR performer.

 

#15 - Chris Carson

Projected Fantasy Points: 235.32

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
242 4.2 1016.4 10 36 8.8 316.8 1

Chris Carson is the perfect guy to follow Nick Chubb in my rankings because I believe both players will have very similar seasons, yet one is going inside the top 20 selections while the other can be had in the middle of the fourth round.

Carson has been the talk of Seattle's training camp, seamlessly earning the bulk of the workload to begin the season over Rashaad Penny, but the praise he has received with his pass-catching ability is what makes the 24-year-old jump to a new level of production possibilities.

Most people took it as a joke when head coach Pete Carroll started saying that Carson "had the best hands on the team," but his first two years in the league really haven't dispelled that notion. I realize he has only had 27 receptions in his career, but he has finished both seasons at above an 83% catch rate. Seattle doesn't have a ton of passes up for grabs in their run-first style, so when the team claims Carson is going to garner over 50 looks in 2019 through the air, it raises an eyebrow. I'm not so sure that number is possible given their lack of aggressiveness, but somewhere in the vicinity of 45 does seem reasonable, which is why I am willing to project Carson to bring in 36 catches this year. Like Chubb, he will see more of an increase in leagues that don't reward a full point for a catch, but he is one of my favorite values on the board at his ADP of 43rd overall.

 

#16 - Kerryon Johnson

Projected Fantasy Points: 229.42

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
200 4.7 940 6 54 7.3 394.2 1

I am in two frames of mind when it comes to Kerryon Johnson. I was all in when you could grab him in the fourth round of drafts before the release of Theo Riddick, but his ADP has skyrocketed since Riddick's departure, and he currently sits at 28th overall.

I understand the thought process behind it and wouldn't talk anyone out of pulling the trigger if their mind was set on the second-year pro, but his price tag is just a little too rich for my blood at this point. I have him ranked 35th overall, so we aren't talking about a massive disparity, but the end of the third and beginning of the third feels like a gigantic jump when you consider who else you can take in that range.

 

#17 - Aaron Jones

Projected Fantasy Points: 218.98

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
219 4.8 1051.2 7 37 7.8 288.6 1

It is definitely possible that my projection for Aaron Jones ends up looking silly if the team decides to give him the vast majority of the carries, but I still have Jamaal Williams slotted in to be a threat to Jones' touches and believe we see Jones suffer some regression in touchdowns.

Aaron Rodgers' 25 scores were the lowest total of his career for a season where he played at least 15 games, and Jones was the beneficiary of a ton of those vultures. His nine total touchdowns exceeded his expectation by 4.7 scores so even if we see Jones accumulate around 100 more touches, his production shouldn't be quite as reliable. With all that being said, I still have Jones as my last pick of the third round, but I would be careful not to overdraft him and take away a portion of his upside.

 


#18 - Josh Jacobs

Projected Fantasy Points: 201.48

Attempts Average Yards Touchdowns Receptions Average Yards Touchdowns
228 4.4 1003.2 6 36 8.1 291.6 0

Despite being projected slightly below David Montgomery in my projections, I have decided to give Josh Jacobs a slight boost in my rankings because of the cleaner path to touches he has in front of him in Oakland.

Everyone gushes over his intangibles, but my favorite characteristic of Jacobs is his grittiness with the ball in his hands. His consistent pass-catching nature gives him a higher floor than most others in this range, and there is upside that we see Jacobs catapult himself into an upper-tier RB before this season is over. Round four is where I'd feel comfortable pulling the trigger, but that might be an optimistic ask in most drafts.

*For the rest of my RB projections, read Part Two to see Tiers 5 and beyond.

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