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Rookie RB Rankings - Redraft and Dynasty

We spent all off-season trading for top first round picks and hyping this running back class. Most felt it was just as good, if not better than the 2017 class. The draft came and went however and I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed by landing spots for a majority of guys. A lot of rookie draft big boards have changed quickly.

Part two of my Rookie Rankings Series will detail both redraft and dynasty rankings for this year’s RB class. Which RB will be able to offer the most value in 2018 and which RB has the highest ceiling over the next several years?

To go with the rankings, I offer a write up on a majority of the players and why you should or should not be looking to target them in your draft.

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Running Back Rookie Rankings

Redraft Dynasty
RB1 Saquon Barkley NYG RB1 Saquon Barkley NYG
RB2 Ronald Jones TB RB2 Derrius Guice WSH
RB3 Rashaad Penny SEA RB3 Nick Chubb CLE
RB4 Sony Michel NE RB4 Rashaad Penny SEA
RB5 Derrius Guice WSH RB5 Ronald Jones TB
RB6 Royce Freeman DEN RB6 Sony Michel NE
RB7 Nyheim Hines IND RB7 Royce Freeman DEN
RB8 Kerryon Johnson DET RB8 Nyheim Hines IND
RB9 Nick Chubb CLE RB9 Kerryon Johnson DET
RB10 Kalen Ballage MIA RB10 Kalen Ballage MIA
RB11 Mark Walton CIN RB11 Mark Walton CIN
RB12 Chase Edmonds ARI RB12 Chase Edmonds ARI
RB13 Trenton Cannon NYJ RB13 Ito Smith ATL
RB14 Jordan Wilkons IND RB14 Trenton Cannon NYJ
RB15 David Williams DEN RB15 Jordan Wilkons IND
RB16 John Kelly LAR RB16 Justin Jackson LAC
RB17 Ito Smith ATL RB17 John Kelly LAR
RB18 Bo Scarbrough DAL RB18 Bo Scarbrough DAL
RB19 Justin Jackson LAC RB19 David Williams DEN
RB20 Boston Scott NO RB20 Boston Scott NO
RB21 Nick Bawden DET RB21 Nick Bawden DET
RB22 Keith Ford BUF RB22 Keith Ford BUF
RB23 Davin Coleman HOU RB23 Demario Richard ATL
RB24 Dimitri Flowers NYJ RB24 Justin Crawford ATL
RB25 Ryan Green NYJ RB25 Malik Williams ATL
RB26 Reggie Bonnafon CAR RB26 Dimitri Flowers NYJ
RB27 Phillip Lindsey DEN RB27 Ryan Green NYJ
RB28 Detrez Newsome LAC RB28 Josh Adams PHI
RB29 Mike Boone MIN RB29 Davin Coleman HOU
RB30 Roc Thomas MIN RB30 Detrez Newsome LAC
RB31 Akrum Wadley TEN RB31 Jordan Chunn DAL
RB32 Jordan Chunn DAL RB32 Akrum Watley TEN
RB33 Josh Adams PHI RB33 Justin Stockton SEA
RB34 Shaun Wilson TB RB34 Phillip Lindsey DEN
RB35 Justin Stockton SEA RB35 Shawn Wilson TB
RB36 Martez Carter WSH RB36 Darren Williams KC
RB37 Darren Williams KC RB37 Martez Carter WSH
RB38 Ray Cawry CIN RB38 Mike Boone MIN
RB39 Demario Richard ATL RB39 Roc Thomas MIN
RB40 Justin Crawford ATL RB40 Reggie Bonnafon CAR
RB41 Malik Williams ATL RB41 Ray Cawry CIN

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (RD1, DY1)

I’m not going to write much here, because we already know it. Barkley is my rookie RB1 regardless of the type of league you are in. I am worried his 2018 may not be as outstanding as we all hope, but he should outperform all running backs in this class both in the short and long term. I haven’t seen a rookie draft where Barkley didn’t go 1.01 and there's no need to overthink it.

Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Bucs (RD2, DY5)

I was shocked when I saw this pick in the second round. I thought for sure it would be Derrius Guice, but we will cover that more in a minute. Jones makes it all the way to rookie RB2 in redraft because he is going to play right away and will have a good workload to boost his stats. His offensive line in Tampa should be okay and he will play with an offense that has loads of potential. Having receiving threats like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Cameron Brate will help to open lanes for Jones. He is an amazing athlete and could be in for a special season.

He does take a bit of a fall in my rankings when moving over to dynasty, however. The reason is that I think Chubb and Guice are more talented long-term options that fell into an unpredictable situation. Jones will still carry a lot of value for me, but I think we need to take Jameis Winston’s contract situation into consideration. If he has another disappointing season in 2018, the Bucs could move on from him. If that happens, the offense could struggle in 2019. A rookie QB could keep Jones from reaching his full potential and because of that, I do have some concerns. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen and Winston and Jones are playing together for a long time.

Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks (RD3, DY4)

Penny was my rookie RB3 heading into the draft, and while most hate where he landed, I love it. He gets a slight nudge down in dynasty because I have another back jumping him by next year, but he still ranks right up there. For 2018, Penny is going to be a focal point of that offense, helping on the ground and through the air. The offensive line will be better than many expect. Not great, but enough to make Penny a solid contributor. The Seahawks have mentioned this off-season, both before and right after the draft, that they want to get back to running the football, and Penny will be the guy carrying the rock a majority of the time.

I think Penny will end up being one of the better running backs in this class. The Seahawks will address the offensive line again next season and when you have a threat like Russell Wilson playing QB, it makes the running back's job much easier. Yes, there may be some bumps along the way and you may find some inconsistencies from Penny and the offense at first, but wait through those because he truly will help running the ball and catching the ball.

Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns (RD9, DY3)

Chubb is the reason I have Penny falling a spot in the dynasty rankings, because this was a great landing spot for him. Let’s be real, as long as Carlos Hyde is on the Browns roster and healthy, Chubb is not going to hold a ton of value. That may be only for 2018 though, as the Browns have an out after the first year. I personally don’t think they should have spent a high pick on a running back when they have two good ones already, but they did and Chubb loses some value because of it.

So let’s just say the Browns do release Hyde after one season in Cleveland and this becomes Chubb’s backfield. New Browns OC Todd Haley has had the pleasure of creating game plans with Le’Veon Bell as his running back, so he knows how to work a balanced scheme. Now, Chubb is not Bell by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s important to point out Haley’s track record. Having Chubb and Duke Johnson as the backs in a loaded Browns offense in 2019 will give him plenty to work with. The Steelers have been one of the premier offenses for several years now, and Haley will bring that to Cleveland with this new cast. Expect Chubb to be right in the thick of things.

Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins (RD5, DY2)

One of the biggest disappointments of the 2018 draft was watching Guice continue to fall to the back half of the second round. Most declared him as the sure fire RB2 in this draft and others said they thought Guice could be the best RB in this class. There was enough to spook NFL teams in to passing him bye and making him the sixth back taken this year. Considering how far he slid, the landing spot really didn’t turn out to be that bad. In redraft leagues, I have some skepticism that he really explodes out of the gate. He will see third down plays go to Chris Thompson who steals some PPR work and Jay Gruden hasn’t been the friendliest running back coach either. I still expect enough however that I would be comfortable taking him in the top five in rookie drafts.

Dynasty is where it’s at as Guice should easily move past Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine by the halfway point of the season and hopefully in 2019, he has earned enough trust from the coaches to have a bigger role as a runner and pass catcher. You will also want to keep in mind that the Redskins will be running an offense with a lot of new key players in 2018. Guys like Alex Smith and Paul Richardson may take some time to also settle in, giving the first portion of next season mixed results. I do know this, Guice will be running angry for a really long time, and I want guys who have something to prove on my team.

Sony Michel, New England Patriots (RD4, DY6)

The Patriots had to do it. There are enough people that already hate them, but they had to go an alienate all the Michel fans who were waiting to draft him with their first round pick. At first, this landing spot did not sit well with me. There is one thing New England is known for and it is their ever changing game plan for the running backs. One-week Rex Burkhead is your hero, the next its Dion Lewis and after that, James White. Heck, I am still convinced the Patriots beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl because of White’s terrific play. With that said though, I did some soul searching and changed my mind.

There is one thing the Patriots have always been good at. It’s using players for what they need then moving on. Tom Brady is really the only Patriot to escape the front office game plan of trading someone when their value is highest to turn a profit. I see the next three years of Belichick running Michel with no regard for touch limits. The Patriots will use him up to get Brady his next couple of Super Bowl titles and then when the time is right, which will be right before his knees are shot, they trade him to another team for picks and ride away winning again.

In dynasty though, that doesn't set well with me. Brandin Cooks is gone, Rob Gronkowski could be gone next season, we don’t know when Tom Brady will finally realize he’s older than 40 and that is a lot of change coming soon. We are about to find out how good the front office really is in New England and I have to wonder if Michel is really the long term plan, or the short term weapon to win a couple more titles before the window closes on that dynasty. Did I mention the knees yet? Yeah, never good to have that as a running back.

Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos (RD6, DY7)

Freeman has to be one of the biggest winners of the draft. I saw this kid falling into a horrible situation because he would go after several of the top backs. Instead he goes to the Broncos and will fight for the staring spot right away. Freeman stays pretty consistent in my rankings. I see him getting a legit shot to earn has much playing time as possible in 2018 and could do something with it. His path to playing time and offense he is playing with make him an enticing pick in rookie drafts. Will that hold up though?

With Freeman, I see a runner that doesn’t want to make defenders pay for trying to bring him down. Freeman could end up being a guy that doesn’t offer a ton of yards after contact and is brought down easily. If that is who he turns out to be, then the Broncos need to get a much better line to create some big holes to run through. I think Oregon running backs have typically been seen as these types of runners due to the offense they play in, but I believe it to be true with Freeman. I don’t see him being consistent enough to offer great fantasy value.

Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (RD8, DY9)

As a Lions fan, I really hope I am wrong about this, but I just don’t see it with Johnson. I really don’t see why the Lions decided to not only pass on Guice, but actually move up to draft Johnson. I don’t have much faith in him for redraft or dynasty. The Lions have several running backs they will use in 2018 including LeGarrette Blount, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. You know that running back committee approach that the Patriots use, where every back could be in for a big week? Well, the Lions have basically tried to make themselves into the Patriots with their front office, head coach and other philosophies. Now only if they could replicate the wins, but that’s unlikely. Matt Patricia has said he will use all the backs to their strengths this season and you could end up seeing a time share that limits everyone outside of Blount who will probably still hold a lot of TD upside.

Long term, I don’t like the fit either. Johnson excelled at Auburn by running through the guards. He’s not the biggest back, but he was very successful and played bigger. The Lions though see him as a guy that could run outside the tackles though. I have concerns about taking a kid who has done so well in college with a style of play and changing that right away when he enters the NFL. Johnson looks more like a running back that will always work out of a committee because he does some things well, but not anything great.


More NFL Draft 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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