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Fantasy Football Tiered Running Back Rankings (Standard)

If you’ve frequented RotoBaller over the last week, you’ll have likely noticed our rankings for the upcoming fantasy season. Our toolkit for 2016 has it all; standard rankings, PPR rankings, half PPR, and we’ve even got you covered if you participate in a two-quarterback league.

This piece, along with several others to follow, aims to act as a companion to the positional portion of those rankings. Here you’ll see every running back grouped into a tier of their peers. The tiers represent that particular group’s overall worth in terms of talent, ADP, and a whole host of other factors. Some have similar injury concerns while others are at peak draft value. Whatever the case may be, players within the same tier are of nearly equal value and should be viewed as such during your upcoming drafts.

Editor's Note: RotoBaller has the best Premium NFL Subscription for only $1.99 per week. We have all the preseason tools to help win your drafts, and in-season tools to win your seasonal and daily leagues: Draft Kit, Premium Rankings, ADP Sleepers Tool, Matchup Ratings for every player, Daily DFS Cheat Sheets, Lineup Picks, Expert Lineups, Stacks and Avoids. 

 

Tier 1 – Standard Running Back Rankings

  1. Le’Veon Bell, PIT
  2. Todd Gurley, LA
  3. Adrian Peterson, MIN

I don’t think it should come as a surprise to anyone who the most coveted fantasy running backs are for 2016. Bell, Gurley, and Peterson are not just three of the most talented backs in the NFL, but they also have the rare advantage of being the clear-cut starter on their respective teams. Finding a running back that isn’t in a timeshare is such a rarity these days that even the warts attached to these particular three players aren’t significant enough to scare anyone away from drafting them.

Yes, Le’Veon Bell is still recovering from knee surgery, yes, Todd Gurley only has one year of NFL experience under his belt, and yes, Adrian Peterson is now 31 years old. Their overall talent and team situations, however, are far too great for them to be anything but the top of the RB class. There’s a case to be made for putting any of the three of them in whatever order you see fit. For me, it’s Bell followed by Gurley and Peterson due to the strength of the Steeler offense and Bell having the best combination of age and talent. Like I said, they’re all close enough to justify taking them in any order so you can’t really go wrong here. Take the one you feel is safest at the beginning of the first round and consider yourself set at the RB1 position.

 

Tier 2 – Standard Running Back Rankings

  1. Jamaal Charles, KC
  2. David Johnson, ARI
  3. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
  4. Lamar Miller, HOU
  5. Doug Martin, TB

Unfortunately, the question marks at running back only increase in number as you head down the list and that’s even true as early as Jamaal Charles at the fourth RB overall. Charles, much like Le’Veon Bell, is also recovering from knee surgery. The only reason he’s not safely set in the same class as Bell, Gurley, and Peterson is because there’s a possibility that both Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West eat into Charles’ workload now that they’ve proven themselves in his absence. An injury plus a potential for a fewer touches than usual bump Charles down a peg but obviously not significant enough to scare you into avoiding him entirely.

The rest of this group has concerns that are of equal relevance to Charles’ injury and competition. David Johnson really only took off in the second half of the year which could easily make him this year’s C.J. Anderson. Even with that in mind, Johnson has shown he can dominate the fantasy scene and is an excellent offense provided Carson Palmer staying healthy. Ezekiel Elliott, despite being the most hyped rookie running back in forever, still is, well, a rookie. Rookies carry immense risk and the idea of having to take Elliott as early as the middle of the first round is a scary proposition. That being said, his talent is enough to take a shot on.

Rounding out this tier are the likes of Lamar Miller and Doug Martin, two backs that could easily end up being top five at the position if all goes according to plan. Miller is on a new team in Houston and recently had a career year in Miami. The best thing going for Miller is the fact that he was an excellent fantasy RB year last year despite the Dolphins not force feeding him the ball. That’ll be change while he’s on a Texans team that’s a lot more giving in their ground attack. Doug Martin had himself a solid year as well and should look to continue being the lead dog in an offense that’s only getting better with sophomore Jameis Winston under center.

 

Tier 3 – Standard Running Back Rankings

  1. DeVonta Freeman, ATL
  2. LeSean McCoy, BUF
  3. Mark Ingram, NO
  4. Eddie Lacy, GB

It may seem like this group is a significant drop-off from the previous two but I actually think that’s a misconception. DeVonta Freeman’s touchdowns last year may not be repeatable in 2016 but he still has enough talent to end up as a top 10 fantasy back. LeSean McCoy will now have four less games of Karlos Williams to worry about. Mark Ingram and Eddie Lacy may not be the most consistent fantasy assets but their respective offenses are enough to at least get them some scoring opportunities. I know Lacy had a disappointing 2015 but between his newfound offseason regiment and the players ranked below him, it’s hard not to tempt fate by drafting him as a top-12 RB and hoping for the best. Overall, this group of backs is more solid than you think.

 

Tier 4 – Standard Running Back Rankings

  1. Jonathan Stewart, CAR
  2. Carlos Hyde, SF
  3. Matt Forte, NYJ
  4. Thomas Rawls, SEA

Of all the tiers listed here this one might have the greatest balance of high floor and high ceiling. All four of these players are in offenses that can support them being reliable RB2’s while also having the potential to end up well into the top 10 at the position.

Jonathan Stewart had a very underrated season last year and should continue to take advantage of the departure of DeAngelo Williams. Carlos Hyde should have had himself a much better year if not for his lingering foot injury so expect him to roaring back in 2016. Matt Forte and Thomas Rawls might have some minor competition in their respective backfields but they’re also the favorite to lead the Jets and Seahawks in carries. Barring injuries, I can’t imagine any of these four players slipping out of the top 20 at the position. You’re not going to get any “oohs and ahs” by selecting any of these four but you’ll most certainly get decent enough return to justify making them your RB2.

Tier 5 – Standard Running Back Rankings

  1. Jay Ajayi, MIA
  2. Matt Jones, WAS
  3. Dion Lewis, NE
  4. Latavius Murray, OAK
  5. C.J. Anderson, DEN
  6. Jeremy Hill, CIN
  7. Ryan Mathews, PHI
  8. Jeremy Langford

Remember how I was just saying the previous tier has a bunch of players with high floors and high ceilings? Well, this next batch of rushers has all of those players’ upside without any of the safety. That’s exactly what makes them all low-end RB2s in terms of draft value.

I could dissect each and every one of them but they’re all kind of interchangeable in terms of their situation and talent levels. They are all either unproven or have a shaky role in their offense. Take Latavius Murray, for example. For whatever reason, the Oakland Raiders seem unwilling to fully commit to him as a feature back. Yet even with that in mind, Murray still has a great deal of talent and could be the kind of guy that breaks out in 2016 and becomes a low end RB1 instead of a borderline RB2. Or what about Jeremy Hill, someone who was insanely hyped last year only to become touchdown dependent and have Giovani Bernard cut into his workload significantly.

Obviously the concerns aren’t identical across the board in this group but those are the kinds of things you’ll have to worry about in selecting any of them. Upside is all fine and dandy but none of these players are particularly safe.

 

Tier 6 – Standard Running Back Rankings

  1. Frank Gore, IND
  2. Chris Ivory, JAX
  3. J. Yeldon, JAX
  4. Giovani Bernard, CIN
  5. Melvin Gordon, SD
  6. Justin Forsett, BAL
  7. Ameer Abdullah, DET
  8. Duke Johnson, CLE
  9. Danny Woodhead, SD

The leader of this pack has to be longtime veteran Frank Gore, a running back who seemingly refuses to let his career die. This isn’t exactly a stat loaded article but here’s a nice little factoid for you; Frank Gore hasn’t missed a single game in five seasons. Think about that for a second…the average NFL career lasts roughly three years and Gore hasn’t missed any time in almost twice that long. Pretty incredible if you ask me and that’s precisely why I believe he’s one of the most undervalued players in fantasy heading into 2016. You don’t need to draft him any earlier than he’s going but that’s exactly why he’s worth stashing. His value is perfect right now as a borderline RB2.

The rest of this group contains players who have the potential to win you your matchup coming off of your bench once bye weeks start rolling around. Their upside isn’t stellar or anything but they’re also solid RB3s who can be inserted into your lineup when you’re in a bind. Guys like Ameer Abdullah and Duke Johnson do possess considerable upside so stashing them instead of forcing your hand at taking a quarterback or tight end earlier than you need to can be the difference between making the playoffs and being on the outside looking in. That’s how you should approach this group of players.

 

Tier 7 – Standard Running Back Rankings

  1. LeGarrette Blount, NE
  2. Arian Foster, MIA
  3. Rashad Jennings, NYG
  4. DeMarco Murray, TEN
  5. Derrick Henry, TEN

This shaky, albeit smaller group than the previous two hosts five players that are essentially stuck in a timeshare at best. You’ve got LeGarrette Blount who will have to compete with young upstart Dion Lewis for meaningful touches, Arian Foster who literally just signed with the Dolphins to back up Jay Ajayi, Rashad Jennings who has a multitude of backs to split time with, and the tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry who are going to be a thorn in each other’s side all year in Tennessee. None of them possess a considerably amount of upside given their individual team issues but that doesn’t mean they can’t be useful if all goes well. Basically, these are players that are a step above those you would automatically cut when you need to make a pickup.

 

Tier 8 – Standard Running Back Rankings

  1. Alfred Morris, DAL
  2. Darren McFadden, DAL
  3. Buck Allen, SD
  4. Charcandrick West, KC
  5. Spencer Ware, KC
  6. DeAngelo Williams, PIT
  7. C.J. Prosise, SEA
  8. Devontae Booker, DEN
  9. Chris Johnson, ARI
  10. Charles Sims, TB
  11. Isaiah Crowell, CLE
  12. Jordan Howard, CHI

When you’re talking about the very end of the top 50 running backs, you’re essentially just hoping for a dart throw to hit bull’s-eye in one shot and that’s okay. You might not cut someone like Rashad Jennings from the previous group right away, but you most certainly can get rid of Buck Allen if it’s clear the Ravens aren’t going to utilize him in any sort of significant manner. That’s essentially what this last bunch is, a couple of backs who are just barely worth a stash until you need to make a move. Besides, we’re talking about actual backups here anyway. None of these players are the starter on their respective teams and really only have considerable value for those looking to handcuff their top back.

 

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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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We're through three weeks of the NFL season, but we'll never get to a place where we can ignore the streamer game at the kicker position in fantasy football. Even though we have three games of data for each team, kicker projections are very elastic week-to-week and it's too early to draw definitive conclusions.  Things... Read More


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Can Russell Wilson Still Cook?

In a 2022 free agency that witnessed many a splash trades; Russell Wilson was perhaps the pinnacle. Wilson was the proclaimed savior to a Denver Broncos team that was ‘only missing a quality quarterback to take it to the next level’. Wilson was finally saved from a stifling Seattle Seahawks offense that did not allow... Read More


Trevor Lawrence - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Getting Dubs In Duval: Analyzing The Jaguars In Fantasy Football Going Forward

The Jacksonville Jaguars might be good. Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are, but after beating the Chargers 38-10, the Jaguars look dangerous. The team has scored 22 or more points in each of its games this season, which is notable since in 17 games last season, the team hit that mark just twice. And... Read More


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2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Centers (Part 3)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


Alex Burns' 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball Rankings and Draft Analysis

I know what you're probably thinking."Fantasy basketball rankings in September? We haven't even begun training camp. Does he have nothing better to do with his time?" While I do find myself suffering from significant boredom during the NBA offseason, I want to clarify one thing: It is NEVER too early to begin discussing fantasy hoops.... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Centers (Part 2)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Centers (Part 1)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Forwards (Part 3)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Forwards (Part 2)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Forwards (Part 1)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Guards (Part 3)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Guards (Part 2)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


2022-23 Fantasy Basketball - Early ADP Analysis: Guards (Part 1)

A key part of doing a fantasy draft is avoiding players who are overvalued while finding gems buried down the ADP leaderboard. The wrong pick can completely tank your season. The perfect steal can give you a magnificent advantage. Today, let's talk about some players whose ADPs makes little sense given their projections--for the good... Read More


Steph curry NBA dfs lineup picks daily fantasy basketball advice

Draft Room 101: Keys to Building a Contending Roster

Ask anybody that plays a fantasy sport what the best part of the season really is, and most of them will say it's the draft itself. Almost all of us know why too. Not unlike when you were a kid and got to be a captain for dodgeball on the playground, picking your own team... Read More


fantasy basketball offseason trades free agents NBA sleepers

Enough Already: Third-year Players To Give Up On In Fantasy Basketball

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