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Running Back PPR Rankings - Tiers and Analysis

The expert rankers at RotoBaller are committed to providing you with the detailed fantasy football draft rankings and analysis that you need to formulate a plan as you proceed through your drafts - regardless of whether you are participating in Dynasty, Redraft, or Best-Ball leagues. Our rankings also include tiers, that supply a more detailed breakdown on which players to target for your rosters, along with the performers that you should avoid. We will continue to deliver updated rankings and positional analysis as the regular season continues its relentless approach.

This breakdown will focus on running backs in point per reception leagues, which compels owners to undertake a slightly different methodology in comparison to leagues that do not incorporate an additional point for each reception into their scoring. The tier 1 backs have captured five of the top six slots in current drafts, as trepidation by some owners concerning the potential shortcomings of value-diminishing committees has been offset by the enticement of runners who will commandeer extensive workloads.

Some owners are also utilizing their first 2-3 picks on the running back position, although strategies are divergent and often dictated by draft flow. Still, a consensus of Fantasy Football Calculator’s current ADPs reveals that nine backs are being selected in Round 1 of PPR leagues, with a total of 18 being selected by the conclusion of Round 3. Backs also appear prominently in our rankings, which include 21 different runners within our top 50. Here is a breakdown of our PPR rankings at this indispensable position.

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Running Back PPR Rankings

Position Tier Overall Tier Position Rank Overall Rank Player Name
1 1 1 1 Le'Veon Bell
1 1 2 2 Todd Gurley
1 1 3 3 Ezekiel Elliott
1 1 4 5 David Johnson
1 1 5 7 Alvin Kamara
2 2 6 10 Saquon Barkley
2 2 7 11 Melvin Gordon
2 2 8 13 Dalvin Cook
2 2 9 18 Leonard Fournette
2 2 10 19 Kareem Hunt
3 3 11 21 Jerick McKinnon
3 3 12 23 Christian McCaffrey
3 3 13 25 Devonta Freeman
3 3 14 28 Joe Mixon
3 3 15 29 Jordan Howard
4 4 16 38 Alex Collins
4 4 17 44 Derrius Guice
4 4 18 45 LeSean McCoy
4 4 19 46 Jay Ajayi
4 4 20 47 Rashaad Penny
4 4 21 49 Dion Lewis
4 4 22 51 Kenyan Drake
4 5 23 56 Derrick Henry
4 5 24 57 Duke Johnson
4 5 25 59 Royce Freeman
5 5 26 62 Mark Ingram
5 5 27 67 Ronald Jones II
5 5 28 68 Lamar Miller
5 6 29 72 Sony Michel
5 6 30 74 Chris Thompson
5 6 31 82 Rex Burkhead
5 6 32 84 Marlon Mack
5 6 33 85 Tevin Coleman
6 7 34 93 Isaiah Crowell
6 7 35 97 Tarik Cohen
6 7 36 100 C.J. Anderson
6 7 37 101 Kerryon Johnson
6 7 38 107 Jamaal Williams
6 7 39 108 Marshawn Lynch
6 8 40 114 Nick Chubb
6 8 41 115 Carlos Hyde
6 8 42 116 Nyheim Hines
6 8 43 120 Ty Montgomery
6 8 44 123 Theo Riddick
6 8 45 126 Aaron Jones
6 8 46 127 Bilal Powell
6 8 47 132 Latavius Murray
6 9 48 135 James White
7 9 49 150 Devontae Booker
7 9 50 151 Matt Breida
7 10 51 153 Austin Ekeler
7 10 52 158 D'Onta Foreman
7 10 53 159 Corey Clement
7 10 54 161 Giovani Bernard
7 10 55 167 Frank Gore
7 10 56 170 LeGarrette Blount
7 11 57 176 Chris Carson
7 11 58 188 Doug Martin
7 11 59 192 Chris Ivory
7 11 60 195 Peyton Barber
8 11 61 208 Spencer Ware
8 12 62 217 Corey Grant
8 12 63 219 T.J. Yeldon
8 12 64 224 Kalen Ballage
8 12 65 231 Javorius Allen
8 12 66 235 Mark Walton
8 12 67 239 Elijah McGuire
9 13 68 246 Travaris Cadet
9 13 69 255 Ameer Abdullah
9 13 70 258 Wayne Gallman
9 13 71 265 Chase Edmonds
9 13 72 266 Samaje Perine
9 13 73 268 James Conner
9 13 74 273 Charcandrick West
9 14 75 276 Charles Sims
9 14 76 277 Mike Gillislee
9 14 77 278 Jonathan Stewart
9 14 78 280 Jeremy Hill
9 14 79 281 Rod Smith
9 14 80 286 De'Angelo Henderson
9 14 81 288 Kyle Juszczyk
9 14 82 293 C.J. Prosise
9 14 83 300 Jalen Richard
9 14 84 304 Deandre Washington
9 14 85 309 Terrance West
10 14 86 313 Justin Jackson
10 14 87 320 John Kelly
10 14 88 323 Ito Smith
10 15 89 333 Mike Davis
10 15 90 334 Jonathan Williams
10 15 91 340 Jacquizz Rodgers
10 15 92 342 Donnel Pumphrey
10 15 93 346 Thomas Rawls
10 15 94 351 Robert Kelley
10 15 95 355 J.D. McKissic

Tier 1

Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, Alvin Kamara

Bell resides atop our list, and will continue his ongoing presence as an exceptional point producer after he resurfaces on the field. His 2017 production kept him entrenched among the league leaders (1,291 rushing yards/85 receptions/11 touchdowns) and Bell has encircled his six-game season of 2015 (torn MCL) with finishes of RB1/RB3/RB2 during 2014-2016-2017, He also averaged 291 carries, 1,307 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground during that sequence, and his extensive workload will continue under new Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner.

Gurley led all backs in fantasy scoring during 2017, while exceeding 1,300 rushing yards, and accruing 19 touchdowns. He is just one year removed from a highly discouraging season, which prompted debate within the fantasy community concerning Gurley's ability to rebound last season. Now, the prevailing question is whether he should be the first or second pick in your drafts, as he will remain the centerpiece in Sean McVay's attack.

Elliott's 98.3 YPG led the NFL by over 10 yards per game in 2017, which placed him on pace to win the NFL rushing title with 1,573 yards if he had maintained that average over 16 games. He should procure more touches than any other back, while operating as the foundation of the Cowboys’ offense. This astronomical number of opportunities will provide him with a legitimate chance to match his 2016 output (1,631 yards/15 touchdowns).

The reappearance of Johnson provides owners with another highly desirable option who will serve as the focal point of Arizona's attack. His 2017 season was abruptly halted after a wrist injury in Week 1, which prohibited him from building upon the outstanding production that he accumulated in 2016.  Johnson led the NFL with 20 touchdowns that season, paced the league with 2,118 all-purpose yards, and was allotted the most targets (120), and receptions (80) at his position.

Kamara finished fourth overall in PPR scoring as a rookie, after finishing second with 14 touchdowns, averaging 6.1 YPC on the ground, leading all backs in both red zone targets (17), and receiving yards (826), and accomplishing all of this while  performing on just 44.7% of his team’s offensive snaps. Mark Ingram’s suspension entrenches Kamara’s value even further, and raises him into the fifth slot among backs in our rankings.


Tier 2

Saquon Barkley, Melvin Gordon, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt

Anticipation of Barkley's initial foray onto an NFL field continues to escalate, and his current ADP has secured him exclusive space among the league's most coveted fantasy options. Owners remain hopeful that his immense talent and the opportunity to stockpile touches in a workhorse role will pay gargantuan dividends. That should transpire, as he accumulates touches while functioning as a three-down back.

Gordon has achieved a top 10 ADP in the aftermath of his first 1,000-yard season (1,105). That placed him seventh overall in rushing, and helped him finish at an impressive RB5 in fantasy scoring. Last season’s 3.9 YPC is somewhat troubling, as is the fact that he has yet to reach attain 4.0 during any of his first three seasons. However, he is the unquestioned lead back within an explosive Charger attack that ranked fourth in 2017, which provides a tremendous opportunity that few backs can offer their owners.

Cook appears to have recovered from the torn ACL that preempted an outstanding start to his rookie season. He had accrued the NFL’s second highest YPG average (88.5), and the third most rushing yards (354), before being sidelined, and the potential output that he could generate by perpetuating that production throughout an entire 16-game season has elevated Cook into the 13th slot in our rankings. The fact that Cook will operate as the RB1 within a potent Minnesota offense intensifies the appeal of drafting him even further.

Fournette spent much of his rookie season enduring a lingering foot issue that limited him in practice, and elicited questions concerning his availability during the year. But he still finished eighth in rushing yardage (1,040), fifth with an 80 YPG average, and third with nine touchdowns. Fournette presents one of the most appealing situations for owners, as he is among the select group of unchallenged workhorse backs, and will be stockpiling carries within a Jacksonville offense that led the NFL in rushing attempts (527).

Hunt led the NFL in rushing last season (1,327), averaged 4.9 YPC, and only seven backs garnered more receiving yards (455). Yet, the prospect of drafting him is not eliciting the same level of excitement as other backs who are being selected near his ADP. But concerns that Spencer Ware presents a deterrent toward Hunt receiving a significant workload are overblown. Ware’s effectiveness declined considerably when he received a sizable role in 2016, he also was not productive in the red zone (20 carries/3 touchdowns-inside the 10), and the concept of drafting Hunt should be prompting more enthusiasm with potential owners.


Tier 3

Jerick McKinnon, Christian McCaffrey, Devonta Freeman, Joe Mixon, Jordan Howard 

In March, I advised owners in early drafts to capture McKinnon for their rosters at the modest investment that existed with his ninth round ADP at the time. Now, what was once a modest ADP has ascended into Round 2. Many owners have accepted the risk involved with selecting a runner that has yet to exceed an RB17 season, in order to secure an explosive back who will be schematically placed in position to flourish by Kyle Shanahan.

McCaffrey’s potential for production became a polarizing topic one year ago, before he ultimately became the NFL’s most targeted back (113), led Carolina in receptions (80), and finished at RB10 in PPR leagues. Now, discussion surrounding McCaffrey has centered on the magnitude of his workload while sharing touches with C.J. Anderson, and how those opportunities might be distributed while functioning within Norv Turner’s offense. His current ADP (18) demonstrates the confidence that many owners have in his multidimensional capabilities, while that optimism is shared in our rankings, as he currently resides at RB12.

After leading all backs in offensive snaps (768/67%) and fantasy scoring in 2015, Freeman has managed to finish among the top 13 backs in scoring during the past two seasons despite a gradually declining snap count (604/58%-552/54%), and a significant transition from Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian as the architect of Atlanta's play calling. His situation remains among the least volatile among all backs, as he has averaged 1,452 total yards since 2015,  while being cemented as the Falcons’ primary rusher.

Anyone who deployed a fourth round pick on Mixon in 2017 witnessed 21 backs receiving more carries (178), while 29 generated more yardage (626), and 40 exceeded his disturbingly low 3.5 YPC. But few backs will enter the season with the convergence of appealing factors that this slimmed down runner can offer potential owners. Mixon should lead the Cincinnati backfield in touches by a considerable margin, has undergone a well-chronicled weight loss, and will benefit from upgrades on the Bengals’ offensive line (Cordy Glenn/Billy Price).

Howard finished second and sixth in rushing yards during his first two seasons (1,313/1,122), and has averaged 264 attempts during that span. But his accomplishments as Chicago’s primary rusher are offset by his shortcomings as a receiver (52 receptions/14 drops). This will make it difficult for him to match his previous snap count (654/578) in Matt Nagy’s newly-designed system. Tarik Cohen collected 71 targets on just 360 snaps, and looms as a candidate for greater involvement at Howard's expense.


Tier 4

Alex Collins, Derrius Guice, LeSean McCoy, Jay Ajayi, Rashaad Penny, Dion Lewis, Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry, Duke Johnson, Royce Freeman

Collins finished 11th in rushing yardage last season (973) by maximizing his 212 attempts (4.6 YPC). Most importantly, he remains affixed to the top of Baltimore's RB depth chart after the Ravens abstained from adding another runner to their stable of backs during the off-season. Guice’s blend of power and speed should allow him to confiscate Washington's RB1 role, while sustaining a highly productive season.

Chris Carson could pilfer more touches than originally anticipated in Seattle. However, owners should resist the proverbial panic button regarding quotes from coaches and beat writers, while remembering that the Seahawks deployed their first-round pick on Penny for a reason. Conversely, it is wise to tread carefully when considering McCoy, whose 2,185 career carries, talent deficient supporting cast, and potential for suspension are too problematic to ignore.

Ajayi should become a reliable commodity while functioning as the lead back on a Philadelphia offense that ranked third in rushing last season. Drake could theoretically be allotted similar RB1 responsibilities. But the additions of Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage, coupled with the reality that Drake did not surpass nine carries in a game until Damien Williams was injured last season provides rationale for tempering your optimism.

Lewis could have entered draft season as a popular RB2 with low-end RB1 potential after generating a career-best 896 yards and six touchdowns. But his ceiling has been suppressed by the inevitability of splitting touches with Henry, whose path toward thriving as a highly productive workhorse received a mammoth obstruction due to the arrival of Lewis. Johnson may approach last year’s target total (93), which was the fourth highest among all backs. But he is unlikely to replicate last year’s 82 carries working in Cleveland’s crowded backfield. Freeman will contend with Devontae Booker for touches, while the 245 carries that were allotted to C.J. Anderson last season remain available.


Tier 5

Mark Ingram, Ronald Jones, Lamar Miller, Sony Michel, Chris Thompson, Rex Burkhead, Marlon Mack, Tevin Coleman

Ingram’s suspension and potential for further issues with Sean Peyton will make it difficult to match last season’s 1,540 total yards and 12 touchdowns. Jones has a clear lane toward an extensive workload, while Miller will begin the season functioning as Houston’s lead back essentially by default. Michel's knee issue has a presented sudden barrier in his attempt to secure New England’s RB1 duties. Guice is not a threat to Thompson’s pass-catching role, but the newcomer’s presence will reduce the ceiling on Thompson’s workload as a rusher.

Burkhead appeared destined to obtain a similar workload to what he received between Weeks 8-14 last season, when he was allotted double-digit touches in five contests, and scored six times. Now, his role could expand due to Michel's injury. The outlook for Indy's offense has improved considerably with the promise of a healthy Andrew Luck, and Mack could accrue sizable numbers if he can seize the Colts' RB1 role. Coleman likely begins his final season with Atlanta, and may not reach last year's snap count (425/41.4%).


Tier 6

Isaiah Crowell, Tarik Cohen, C.J. Anderson, Kerryon Johnson, Jamaal Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Nick Chubb, Carlos Hyde, Nyheim Hines, Ty Montgomery, Theo Riddick, Aaron Jones, Bilal Powell, Latavius Murray, James White 

This tier is comprised of rushers that could deliver respectable output, with the potential to amass sizable numbers if their touch totals increase as the season progresses.


Tier 7

Devontae Booker, Matt Breida, Austin Ekeler, D’Onta Foreman, Corey Clement, Giovani Bernard, Frank Gore, LeGarrette Blount, Chris Carson, Doug Martin, Chris Ivory, Peyton Barber  

This collection of backs will face formidable competition for touches. But their value will rise rapidly if any number of factors merge to launch them into expanded roles.


Tier 8

Spencer Ware, Corey Grant, T.J. Yeldon, Kalen Ballage, Javorius Allen, Mark Walton, Elijah McGuire   

The backs in this tier are located at RB61-RB67 in our rankings, and offer potential late round targets for your final roster spots.


Tier 9

Travaris Cadet, Ameer Abdullah, Wayne Gallman, Chase Edmunds, Samaje Perine, James Connor, Charcandrick West, Charles Sims, Mike Gillislee, Jonathan Stewart, Jeremy Hill, Rod Smith, De'Angelo Henderson, Kyle Juszczyk, C.J. Prosise, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Terrance West 

This members of this group are worthy of consideration as final round fliers.


More Draft Rankings 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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