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Biggest Surprises of 2018 - Running Backs


The 2018 fantasy football season was filled with surprises, especially at the running back position. We saw some veteran resurgences, rookie surprises, breakouts, busts, and some truly impressive numbers out of the running backs this year.

Saquon Barkley finished as the top-scoring running back in PPR scoring this year with 385.8 points. Surprised? Sure, it was surprising to see him as the number one overall scoring running back, but based on his ADP, not exactly the type of 'surprise' I'm looking for.

For our purposes here today, we'll look at the running backs who completely defied expectations, for better or worse.

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2018 Top-12 Running Backs (PPR)

 

Phillip Lindsay - Denver Broncos

Rank: RB13 (222.8 PPR Points)

First on the list is none other than the undrafted rookie turned Pro Bowl running back, Phillip Lindsay. With all of the hype around Royce Freeman (who finished as RB47 in PPR) heading into the season, Lindsay was getting absolutely no love. Heck, many owners had probably never even heard of Lindsay until they saw him popping up all over their waiver wire claims. If you were lucky enough to grab him off the waiver wire, you basically got an every-week starter and someone who had become matchup proof and ultimately, a stud running back for fantasy.

Lindsay finished the season with double-digit carries in all but two games in 2018. One of those games was Week 3 at Baltimore, where he was ejected for throwing a punch at a defender. His receiving ability helped his production this year as he caught 35 of 47 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. He finished the season with 192 carries for 1,037 yards and nine touchdowns over 15 games. The production was real, the volume was there, and in the end, finishing as the RB13 was impressive and beyond any production that anyone was expecting from him. He was just the third undrafted rookie running back ever to finish with over 1,000 yards and the first undrafted rookie to land on the Pro Bowl in their rookie season.

From being snubbed at the 2018 NFL Combine to landing on the 2018 Pro Bowl, Lindsay is without a doubt the biggest surprise at the running back position this year.

 

Adrian Peterson - Washington Redskins

Rank: RB19 (189 PPR Points)

It only makes sense to follow up an undrafted rookie running back with a seasoned veteran like Adrian Peterson. Heading into his 12th season in the NFL, "All Day" clearly showed us that he still has some juice left in him. For a while, it looked like Peterson may not even get signed for the 2018 season.

After drafting Derrius Guice and having a pass-catching complimentary back like Chris Thompson, it took a pair of injuries for another running back to get brought in. After a failed attempt to revitalize his career in New Orleans, Peterson would get another shot in Washington. Peterson ended up playing 15 games in 2018, which in itself is pretty surprising for the 33-year-old. He finished with four games where he put up over 100 scrimmage yards and we also saw four games where he ran the ball over 20 times.

It's safe to say, Peterson was a surprise to most everyone this year, as he finished as the RB19 with 189 total points in PPR scoring. While Peterson was being drafted very late in some leagues, there's a good chance that he went undrafted in your fantasy drafts, making him, along with Lindsay, two of the most pleasant surprises of the 2018 season.

 

James White - New England Patriots

Rank: RB7 (276.6 PPR Points)

James White is a guy that continually gets overlooked for fantasy football purposes. Outside of his rookie season in 2014 where he played in just three games, he's had 50 or more targets each season. In 2018, he saw a whopping 123 targets, catching 87 of them for 751 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.

We all know the narrative that New England running backs are impossible to predict and a backfield to avoid for fantasy purposes. White continues to consistently get his share of volume out of the backfield and went under the radar heading into the 2018 season once again. Signing rookie running back Sony Michel (RB35 in PPR) had fantasy owners torn on whether or not it was finally time to invest an earlier draft pick in a Patriots running back, and made White even more of a value.

Michel was the first Patriots running back off the board last year, going in the 6th-7th round according to FantasyFootballCalculator. Meanwhile, White was going several rounds later, around the 9th round in most leagues. With an ADP like this, finishing as the RB7 in PPR scoring is beyond anything you could've asked for, and definitely a big surprise. Despite finishing the season this high, it still feels like White isn't quite getting the credit he deserves.

 

Leonard Fournette - Jacksonville Jaguars

Rank: RB40 (120.4 PPR Points)

While we did see some positive surprises this year, there are always those on the other end of spectrum. This year, it was the second-year running back in Jacksonville, Leonard Fournette. After posting over 1,300 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns in his rookie season over 13 games, Fournette came into the 2018 season as one of the guys with massive breakout potential and upside on the horizon. If you owned him this year, there's a good chance you burned either a late first-rounder or an early second-rounder on him.

While he was averaging roughly 15 PPR points per game, it's safe to say Fournette wasn't winning you anything this year as he played in just eight games. TJ Yeldon (finished as RB22 in PPR) had a quietly productive season this year and after trading a fifth-round pick to the Browns for Carlos Hyde, it was pretty clear that the Jaguars weren't planning on having Fournette much for the remainder of the season. Of course, there was the drama with Fournette getting benched and getting into it with the coaching staff as well.

Heading into the 2018 season, Fournette appeared to be one of the safer options at the running back position. Between that and the upside that a stud running back can bring to fantasy owners, his ADP made total sense. Surprises aren't always aren't always positive ones, and Fournette was definitely an unpleasant surprise this year.

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