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Dynasty Running Backs - Football Rankings Analysis

In dynasty leagues, running backs are always the most difficult position to gauge. They can be a great short-term investment, but can be a mind boggling issue when looking at their long-term value. The running back position is the most volatile due to injury and career length. Some of the best fantasy seasons from running backs only come in a three to four-year window. Others are able to produce for a longer period of time.

Grabbing a running back early in your dynasty draft could be beneficial in the long term, but building a dynasty roster requires multiple years of success. If you plan on going running back with your first pick, like me, make it count.

The expert rankers at RotoBaller will try and give dynasty owners some guidance heading into the off-season with our composite running back rankings. Our rankings are broken down into tiers so you’ll know how we feel about each of these players and their outlooks for 2018 and beyond. Be on the lookout for the rest of our positional analysis articles and more dynasty content throughout the offseason!

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Dynasty Running Back Tiered Rankings

Tier Rank Player Name Pos Aaron Pierre Kyle Steve
1 2 Todd Gurley RB 4 3 1 2
1 4 Ezekiel Elliott RB 5 6 3 5
1 6 David Johnson RB 6 7 4 6
1 8 Le'Veon Bell RB 11 8 7 7
2 10 Kareem Hunt RB 13 13 12 13
2 11 Alvin Kamara RB 8 11 20 12
2 14 Leonard Fournette RB 17 12 26 10
3 16 Melvin Gordon RB 18 22 19 11
3 17 Dalvin Cook RB 27 17 13 16
3 19 Jordan Howard RB 14 21 11 32
3 22 Devonta Freeman RB 23 34 17 21
4 28 Christian McCaffrey RB 16 18 54 30
4 30 Joe Mixon RB 35 33 27 25
4 36 LeSean McCoy RB 36 41 37 33
4 40 Derrick Henry RB 42 39 42 37
4 43 Mark Ingram RB 58 50 29 44
4 47 Kenyan Drake RB 50 57 55 51
4 50 Jay Ajayi RB 55 61 70 38
5 52 Carlos Hyde RB 60 54 92 35
5 63 Lamar Miller RB 53 77 103 45
6 66 Duke Johnson RB 94 72 47 75
6 75 Dion Lewis RB 99 103 76 41
7 80 Jamaal Williams RB 100 124 63 57
7 81 Tevin Coleman RB 83 70 125 68
7 85 Chris Thompson RB 138 79 61 83
7 86 DeMarco Murray RB 95 101 102 64
7 87 Alex Collins RB 161 104 52 47
8 91 Isaiah Crowell RB 118 95 87 66
8 99 Ameer Abdullah RB 104 92 80 125
8 102 Aaron Jones RB 119 97 62 131
8 104 C.J. Anderson RB 146 120 104 60
8 106 Samaje Perine RB 110 150 89 101
9 110 Jerick McKinnon RB 90 89 155 120
9 112 Tarik Cohen RB 123 111 115 109
9 114 D'Onta Foreman RB 121 114 111 116
9 118 Theo Riddick RB #N/A 117 138 102
9 120 Latavius Murray RB 102 125 #N/A 133
9 121 Giovani Bernard RB 144 115 122 103
10 123 Rex Burkhead RB 126 157 74 129
10 129 Marlon Mack RB 136 116 141 124
10 132 Ty Montgomery RB 111 129 123 159
10 134 Bilal Powell RB 112 156 171 94
10 139 Devontae Booker RB 162 163 143 96
10 141 Wayne Gallman RB 131 162 149 134
11 142 Marshawn Lynch RB 156 190 96 140
11 148 Orleans Darkwa RB #N/A 158 #N/A 147
11 153 Chris Carson RB #N/A 178 119 170
11 154 Danny Woodhead RB 155 194 132 142
12 155 Elijah McGuire RB #N/A 211 140 122
12 156 T.J. Yeldon RB #N/A 177 #N/A 139
12 157 Mike Gillislee RB 153 176 #N/A 148
12 164 Robert Kelley RB 154 169 198 123
12 167 James White RB 168 141 199 144
13 168 Doug Martin RB 151 172 182 151
13 169 C.J. Prosise RB 163 145 157 192
13 170 Jonathan Stewart RB #N/A 196 190 107
13 172 Peyton Barber RB 190 208 110 150
13 174 Jalen Richard RB 145 201 152 169
13 176 DeAndre Washington RB 164 160 153 195
13 177 Javorius Allen RB #N/A 181 156 #N/A
13 178 Alfred Morris RB 185 #N/A 109 216
13 181 Corey Clement RB 137 225 154 184
14 186 Jeremy Hill RB 147 182 #N/A 217
14 187 Matt Forte RB #N/A 193 #N/A 171
14 192 Matt Breida RB #N/A 184 #N/A #N/A
15 195 Charles Sims RB 166 215 #N/A 181
15 198 James Conner RB 180 197 #N/A #N/A
15 200 Frank Gore RB #N/A 189 197 187


Tier One

Todd GurleyEzekiel ElliottDavid JohnsonLe'Veon Bell

The best of the best, including my number one overall dynasty player. Todd Gurley is the guy I would want above all else heading into drafts this off-season. The talent is there, the offense and coaching staff will develop around him, and unlike my number two overall player, Ezekiel Elliott, the off-field issues don’t need to worry me. He overtakes Le’Veon Bell as my best all-around back as well. In 2017, Gurley had 87 targets, which was more than teammates Robert Woods or Sammy Watkins. Gurley is only 23 years old with lots of time left. Invest with confidence.

Elliott comes in right behind Gurley, but it is close. Hopefully Elliott has learned that his off-field behavior will cost his wallet and playing time. If those are in the past, he will challenge Gurley for that RB1 spot over the next several years. The offensive line in Dallas last year was not as strong as the previous two years, but still good enough for Elliott to be successful behind them. In the Cowboys three games before Elliott’s suspension, he ran for 390 yards and added six total touchdowns.

David Johnson has a lot to prove in 2018. His value has taken a hit not only due to his injury, but the strong crop of rookie running backs coming into the league in 2018 and from last year’s class as well. Johnson will need to prove that his performance in 2016 was no fluke. Considering Johnson was the RB1 in most drafts, people obviously bought in. Johnson had 407.8 PPR points in 2016, 82.4 more points than the number two running back Elliott.

Only five skill positions players amassed more than 300 PPR points last season, and one was Bell who did it for a second consecutive season. There are two things working against Bell this off-season, the unknown of his contract status and tenure with the Steelers, and how much he has been used since coming into the league. Just in 2017, Bell had 321 carries and 106 targets for 406 touches. Heading into Week 17, he was the only player who had more than 300 carries. In a dynasty league, I agree that you should be cautious drafting Bell. I was all in on Bell last season, predicting historic output. He didn’t quite reach that, but I am not all aboard this year. There are too many good running backs to get your hands on in either the end of the first or in the second round. Maybe Bell isn’t bluffing and sits out 2018.


Tier Two

Kareem HuntAlvin KamaraLeonard Fournette

Wide receiver bias in dynasty leagues shows us why there are only two running backs in the second tier. After those top running backs are off the board, owners would much rather invest in a good receiver. That may change with last year’s rookie class and their success, which is also the three main backs in this tier.

It was a tale of two running backs. Kareem Hunt was all the rage to start the season and Alvin Kamara was all the rage to end the season. In PPR leagues, Kamara finished over Hunt but the numbers are much closer than people may realize. Either way it goes here, you could be picking a guy who gave you more than 1,500 total yards and more than 10 total touchdowns. Both are strong picks.

Leonard Fournette also got off to a strong start, but injuries reared their head again for him at the end of the season. Had he been healthy all year, then he very well could have been the third rookie running back in the top five. In dynasty though, I am shying away from Fournette and his injuries. He was banged up his senior year at LSU and was still trying to recover from injuries, even as the playoffs wrapped up. He is a great talent, but don’t like him to hold up long term.


Tier Three

Melvin GordonDalvin CookJordan HowardDevonta Freeman

The safe bets in this tier are Melvin Gordon and Devonta Freeman. Freeman has averaged a RB6 finish for three years now while Gordon has finished as the RB5 and RB7 the past two years. That is what you would get from these two going forward. Both are situated in their offenses for the time being, have good QBs and can make an impact in the passing game and run game. They may not offer elite numbers anymore, but good for an owner who wants a bell cow and missed out on the top targets.

I did not give Dalvin Cook enough credit last off-season. I thought he would get lost in that Vikings backfield with nowhere to go. That did not happen though and he was one of the most electric players on the field before suffering an ACL tear. Here is the thing though, the Vikings may have a new QB in 2018, and a really good run game could help ease the pressure of someone transitioning to a new offense with new players. There was another time that a Vikings running back suffered a similar knee injury. All Adrian Peterson did was come back the next year to rush for 2097 yards. I’m not saying the same thing will happen with Cook, but athletes sometimes bounce back from these devastating injuries like nothing happened. Cook will be fine.

A new head coach and offense could work wonders for Jordan Howard who was wildly inconsistent last year. He had five games with 100 or more rushing yards, but also had six with less than 50 rushing yards, including three games with single digit yards. The new head coach in Chicago is the same guy who helped run an offense behind Hunt last season. If Matt Nagy can replicate any of the success he had in Kansas City with Hunt, Howard should be in for a good season.


Tier Four

Christian McCaffreyJoe MixonLeSean McCoyDerrick HenryMark IngramKenyan DrakeJay Ajayi

I probably have Christian McCaffrey much lower than others. I have him the lowest in our rankings at 54 overall. The biggest reason is, I don’t know what position McCaffrey will be playing in a couple years. He looked great as a receiver in 2017, but not so much as a runner. He only averaged 3.7 yards per carry last year and wasn’t as dynamic carrying the ball as he was catching the ball. He could move to the slot in 2019 if he doesn’t become more of a complete runner this season.

Joe Mixon was supposed to be one of the biggest stars of the 2017 draft class and did quite put it all together. He had to work through a committee with Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill, but that shouldn’t be an issue moving forward. Mixon finished the season strong, averaging four yards a carry or more his final four games of the season. All the right weapons are in place for the Bengals offense to be explosive in 2018, but will the coaching staff hold them back?

LeSean McCoy and Mark Ingram are the vets of this tier. Both turned in top 10 performances for running backs in 2017. Both could only have one more season in their current situations though. McCoy is getting old enough and has been used enough that you should temper expectations in dynasty leagues. He will still carry a RB1 price tag (some owner will treat him as such) but don’t let it be you. Ingram is coming off a great season. I would much rather have Ingram at his ADP instead of Kamara. Ingram had 12 rushing touchdowns in 2017, but if the Saints try to get Kamara more involved, he could take some of those away.

Derrick Henry will have a backfield all to himself in 2018, and he should. After his performance in the playoffs, Henry has earned the chance to be an every down back in Tennessee. I’m going to be skeptical though. Henry’s price is through the roof right now. On September 17th, his ADP was coming in at 49.33. As of January 18th, his ADP was up to 32.5. I just don’t want to invest that pick in a guy who could be the next Mark Ingram or maybe Trent Richardson. The good news, in games that Henry had double-digit carries, he averaged 4.76 yards per carry, higher than his season average. That price tag though.

Kenyan Drake and Jay Ajayi were teammates to start the season and now both are vying to be the RB1 for their teams. Drake doesn’t have much competition now and finished the year strong, but it’s almost certain the Dolphins would take a back in the draft or add one in free agency. Drake hasn’t proven himself over a full season, so the Dolphins will want to add some depth. The Eagles traded for Ajayi in hopes that he would regain the form he had in 2016, when he ran for 200 yards in a game three times. Owners that took Ajayi as a top five running back in dynasty leagues were burned last season. I wasn’t high on him last year and I won’t be high on him again. I expect Corey Clement to sneak up on him by Week 1. Ajayi will be the starter, but won’t receive the full workload.


Tier Five

Carlos HydeLamar Miller

Carlos Hyde and Lamar Miller could move up or down, but it will depend on how this off-season goes. Hyde will most likely be headed out of San Francisco and Miller could be cut so the Texans can save some cap space. Both could be useful backs still, but we won’t know more till free agency plays out. Hyde finished as the RB8, his best finish since begin drafted and showed he could be an asset catching the ball as well. Miller was not nearly as effective, finishing as RB16, and the Texans really like D’Onta Foreman. If you can save money on an aging back in the NFL, you typically do it.


Tier Six

Duke JohnsonDion Lewis

Duke Johnson is one of my favorite players to watch this off-season. Johnson finally rewarded owners who have been waiting for him to breakout, putting together the RB11 season in PPR leagues. If Johnson had received as many carries as Crowell this season, he would have finished right behind Alvin Kamara in total yards. He wasn’t as efficient as Kamara with his touches, but he was pretty high up there. If the Browns do go with Barkley, Johnson loses all his value. If they decide to pass, then Johnson should be viewed as a top ten running back with Isaiah Crowell out of the picture.

It was great to see Dion Lewis work his way back from two injury shortened seasons to start his Patriots career. Lewis could end up being a system running back, and money in free agency can sometimes lead players away from situations that could be better for them. Lewis was third in the NFL with 5.0 yards per carry in 2018. He should see plenty of suitors.


Tier Seven

Jamaal WilliamsTevin ColemanChris ThompsonDeMarco MurrayAlex Collins

I have Tevin Coleman much lower than my Rotoballer counterparts. The talent is absolutely there, but Freeman will block his true value. Coleman will have the opportunity to move on soon, and when he does, I’m sure I will move him up my rankings.

DeMarco Murray holds almost no value in dynasty football for me. I’ve said since last off-season that the Titans will absolutely move on, and Murray will not get a deal to be a bell cow elsewhere. Murray had a down year, averaging 3.58 yards per carry and only had one game with more than 100 yards.

Chris Thompson was having an excellent PPR season until he suffered a broken leg against the Saints in Week 10. If you are in a standard league, I would hold off on Thompson. His true value lies in work with the passing game. If you are in a PPR league though, Thompson could be a great, late-round buy especially with Alex Smith coming to town.

Jamaal Williams will be a part of one of the biggest off-season backfield story lines. Williams, Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery will again battle for carries in 2018. Montgomery could be on the move back to WR if the Packers move on from Cobb or Nelson, and it would leave just Jones and Williams. My strategy for the Packers backfield is simple. If you get Williams, get Jones. Own both of them so you are covered before and during the season.

Alex Collins was a waiver wire winner in 2017. Owners who bought into him were able to plug him in with RB2 type numbers. It will be interesting to see how this backfield plays out. Kenneth Dixon will be back and the Ravens also have Danny Woodhead and Javorius Allen. Collins has earned the right to be the starter, but don’t rely on him to win you any weeks.


More Dynasty 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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