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Aside from quarterbacks, no other position has more depth than running backs. Even in half-ppr formats, workhorse and satellite backs alike can thrive on the fantasy gridiron.

Because fantasy owners have been treated with a plethora of talented options at this position, you can find top talent after the first few rounds of the draft (whether it be rookies or breakout candidates). However, nothing screams security like having an elite talent from the first few rounds who, barring injury, is likely to be a top performer at the position.

Our preseason rankings at RotoBaller will continue to shift as free agents sign with new teams and rookies get drafted, but for now here is my tier breakdown for running backs in half-ppr fantasy leagues heading into the 2018 campaign.

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Running Back Half-PPR Rankings

Position Tier Position Rank Overall Rank Player Name
1 1 1 Todd Gurley
1 2 2 Le'Veon Bell
1 3 4 David Johnson
1 4 6 Ezekiel Elliott
2 5 8 Leonard Fournette
2 6 9 Alvin Kamara
2 7 10 Dalvin Cook
2 8 16 Kareem Hunt
2 9 18 Melvin Gordon
2 10 19 Saquon Barkley
3 11 22 Devonta Freeman
3 12 25 Jerick McKinnon
3 13 26 Christian McCaffrey
3 14 28 LeSean McCoy
3 15 29 Jordan Howard
3 16 31 Joe Mixon
4 17 43 Dion Lewis
4 18 44 Alex Collins
4 19 47 Kenyan Drake
4 20 50 Mark Ingram
4 21 51 Jay Ajayi
4 22 52 Rashaad Penny
4 23 53 Derrius Guice
4 24 55 Ronald Jones II
4 25 56 Royce Freeman
5 26 62 Duke Johnson
5 27 64 Derrick Henry
5 28 68 Chris Thompson
5 29 69 Sony Michel
5 30 71 Lamar Miller
5 31 88 Carlos Hyde
5 32 91 Aaron Jones
5 33 92 Tevin Coleman
6 34 94 Marlon Mack
6 35 96 Nick Chubb
6 36 98 Rex Burkhead
6 37 100 Marshawn Lynch
6 38 103 Kerryon Johnson
6 39 105 C.J. Anderson
6 40 107 Jamaal Williams
6 41 108 Isaiah Crowell
7 42 112 Bilal Powell
7 43 115 D'Onta Foreman
7 44 122 Tarik Cohen
7 45 127 LeGarrette Blount
7 46 133 Theo Riddick
7 47 136 Devontae Booker
7 48 139 Frank Gore
7 49 145 Giovani Bernard
7 50 146 James White
7 51 147 Ty Montgomery
7 52 150 Peyton Barber
8 53 152 Latavius Murray
8 54 155 Doug Martin
8 55 165 DeMarco Murray
8 56 173 Jonathan Stewart
8 57 174 Orleans Darkwa
8 58 177 Chris Ivory
8 59 180 Matt Breida
8 60 181 Javorius Allen
8 61 183 Chris Carson
8 62 185 Corey Clement
8 63 188 Nyheim Hines
9 64 189 Wayne Gallman
9 65 190 T.J. Yeldon
9 66 193 Ameer Abdullah
9 67 196 Terrance West
9 68 201 James Conner
9 69 202 Jeremy Hill
9 70 207 Charles Sims
9 71 209 Jalen Richard
9 72 211 Samaje Perine
9 73 213 Mark Walton
9 74 217 De'Angelo Henderson
10 75 218 Robert Turbin
10 76 219 Adrian Peterson
10 77 224 Charcandrick West
10 78 233 John Kelly
10 79 236 Deandre Washington
10 80 239 Corey Grant
10 81 245 C.J. Prosise
11 82 248 Mike Davis
11 83 254 Kyle Juszczyk
11 84 258 Kalen Ballage
11 85 259 Mike Gillislee
11 86 265 Matt Jones
11 87 276 Rod Smith
11 88 281 Robert Kelley
11 89 284 Chase Edmonds
11 90 293 Jacquizz Rodgers
11 91 298 Jeremy McNichols
11 92 304 Elijhaa Penny
11 93 314 Justin Jackson
11 94 329 Malcolm Brown
11 95 330 Thomas Rawls
11 96 333 Ito Smith

Tier 1

Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott

Todd Gurley returned to his rookie season form after a big slump in 2016, with over 2,000 total yards and 19 total touchdowns. Gurley was the highest scoring running back in half-ppr formats last season. With the Rams bolstering their defense in the offseason and quarterback Jared Goff having a host of weapons to keep defenses honest, Gurley has the potential to match his 2017 form again in 2018 and become a dominant fantasy force for the second consecutive year. There is a strong case to be made for Bell ahead of Gurley, but either option is expected to excel in the 2018 season.

Bell is still holding out on his new deal, but regardless of his contract situation he should be in line for an extremely heavy workload going into the 2018 season. Last season, Bell had 406 touches on the ball and ended up with over 1,900 yards and 11 touchdowns. Bell has been a fantasy stud every year that he has been healthy or not suspended, making him a top pick. This is especially true in half-ppr and ppr formats, as Bell's 85 receptions give him an extremely high floor and ceiling. The Steelers are a high scoring team, making Bell a perfect candidate to lead running backs in scoring in 2018.

Coming off of an injury that derailed his 2017 season just as it began, David Johnson will look to earn himself a new contract and rejoin the ranks of the fantasy elite in 2018. Johnson actually scored more points in 2016 than Gurley did in 2017 in half-ppr, if you can believe it. Although he carries a bit more risk due to his injury and offensive situation, Johnson is still an elite running back on a team that will feature him for the entire season with the receiving upside to crack the 1,000 rushing 1,000 receiving yards barrier.

Elliott only played in ten games last season, but when he was on the field he showed that he was a force to be reckoned with. Eliott almost had 1,000 rushing yards in only ten games and almost matched his receiving total from the entire previous year. Despite his clear skill and athletic prowess, I have Elliott ranked below the consensus because of the overall state of the Dallas offense. With a lack of other weapons in the team and the losses of tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Dez Bryant, it seems that every team will be keying in on Elliott this year, making him a volume back with decent upside but a difficult path to elite fantasy performances.

Tier 2

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

Yes, I know. In half-ppr, Leonard Fournette is considered by the fantasy community to be a less-than-elite option due to his "lack of pass-catching ability." In his rookie season, Fournette only caught 36 passes for 302 yards last year (but remember, this was after only playing thirteen games). Fournette had ten touchdowns and over 1,300 total yards in his rookie season, and played the majority of the games as the only offensive weapon on the Jaguars. With the team adding to their offensive line and expecting positive regression from their receivers, Fournette should have all of the opportunity in the world to smash past his 2017 stats in both rushing and receiving, making him a very solid player to have in half-ppr formats.

This is probably the lowest you will see Alvin Kamara ranked in half-ppr formats. I'm not denying that Kamara has elite talent - the NFL offensive rookie of the year had over 1,500 total yards, averaged 6.1 yards per carry (and 10.1 yards per receptions) and had 13 total touchdowns. However, that kind of efficiency is likely to regress due to teams having more knowledge on how to stop Kamara. With the presence of Mark Ingram (even with his suspension), it's hard to see Kamara getting the lion's share of touches; I prefer to have workhorse backs on my rosters, but Kamara has undeniable league-winning upside in 2018 that makes him a definite top-ten selection at the position.

Yes, Dalvin Cook only played four games. Latavius Murray is still in town. However, you have to trust the talent of Cook in this situation. Cook had 354 rushing yards in the four games that he played in 2017 and also had 11 receptions for 90 yards. It is no doubt that Cook will be the team's workhorse back in 2018 and assume a three-down workload, making him a high-upside half-PPR play despite his lower floor than the rest of the elite running backs.

Kareem Hunt electrified the NFL in the first half of the 2017 season, but a seemingly inexplicable mid-season dip in form has left fantasy owners confused entering 2018. Hunt still led the league in rushing yards, but the return of veteran Spencer Ware and presence of satellite back Charcanderick West could eat into his workload. Additionally, the Chiefs are expected to become more pass-happy with the installment of new quarterback Pat Mahomes II and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. In half-ppr formats, it is difficult to project Hunt above other talents with clearer paths to fantasy dominance.

Melvin Gordon has yet to crack the 4.0 yards per carry mark in the NFL in his three professional seasons, but with over 1,500 total yards and 12 touchdowns for a Chargers team that looks to only get better in 2018, Gordon is a workhorse back who will get receptions and touches week-in and week-out. This makes him a very solid if unspectacular fantasy play who will likely perform at least at the same level as he did last year with the potential to improve his yards per carry and become more efficient in 2018.

After being selected second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, Saquon Barkley is expected to inherit a very large workload entering the 2018 season. Barkley has one of the best combines and college resumes in recent history and is known as a dual-threat running back who is electric catching out of the backfield. Barkley could have an incredible rookie season, catapulting him into the elite tier of running backs after 2018. Veterans Jonathan Stewart and Wayne Gallman should not feature in any decent capacity, and the draft capital sunk into Barkley as well as the offensive weapons at quarterback Eli Manning's disposal should make Barkley an instant fantasy stud. 

Tier 3

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

Devonta Freeman has been a solid rusher since taking over the starting running back job in 2015. However, after finishing as the top scoring running back in 2015, Freeman has finished 6th and 13th in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The transition to a Steve Sarkisian run offense and presence of Tevin Coleman makes him a solid RB2 with a lack of elite upside.

Jerick McKinnon presents good value in a Kyle Shanahan offense where the satellite back was paid big money to move from the Vikings to the 49ers this offseason. Although McKinnon has never been a true workhorse, he could finally get the opportunity to do so; however, the risk of entering a committee is there due to McKinnon's lack of success with a big workload at the pro level.

One player with intriguing upside is second-year running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey will surely be one of the first options in the receiving game, but his rushing inefficiencies from last year and the presence of C.J. Anderson in the backfield make him a decent RB2 in half-ppr formats with upside if he gets more work on the ground.

In 2016 and 2017, McCoy had himself two solid 1,000 yard seasons, even scoring 14 touchdowns in 2016 and eight in 2017. However, with the state that the Bills offense is in right now, McCoy could be the only option on one of the worst teams in the NFL, making him a risky RB2 entering his age-30 season.

Jordan Howard has impressed tremendously on the ground since entering the league in 2016, with two straight 1,000 yard seasons. However, with new head coach Matt Nagy preferring backs capable of receiving the ball at a high level, it remains to be seen if Howard carries the same upside that he had coming into last season.

A severe under-performer last season, Joe Mixon enters 2018 with a fresh slate and workhorse role on a Cincinnati team that has supposedly shored up its offensive line. Furthermore, Mixon expects to have a full workload ahead of the likes of Giovanni Bernard and Mark Walton, making him an RB2 with solid upside this year.

Tier 4

Dion Lewis, Alex Collins, Kenyan Drake, Mark Ingram, Jay Ajayi, Rashaad Penny, Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones II, Royce Freeman

With Mark Ingram set to miss the first four games of the 2018 season, look for his value to take a hit. However, his skill and the presence of the New Orleans ground game makes him a perfect buy-low candidate who can be a very successful performer at the position in half-ppr formats, even with a shared backfield containing rookie of the year Alvin Kamara.

While this tier is littered with potential workhorse backs such as Kenyan Drake and Jay Ajayi, here is where you should be targeting rookies entering roles with little competition who could be breakout players in 2018. These include Rashaad Penny, Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones II, and Royce Freeman - all four of these running backs are entering light backfields and have the potential to be workhorse backs in a copycat league that values young runners. One of them could be this year's Kareem Hunt - so take a chance on them if you can over guys with questionable paths to touches like Dion Lewis.

Tier 5

Derrick Henry, Chris Thompson, Sony Michel, Lamar Miller, Duke Johnson, Carlos Hyde, Aaron Jones, Tevin Coleman

Players to consider from Tier 5 include Lamar Miller, who is a solid but unspectacular RB2 with no competition for touches (as D'Onta Foreman remains unable to play and could start the year on the PUP). Miller should get a consistent workload and is entering a contract year, making him a good mid-round value, albeit one with limited upside.

Sony Michel is another name to get excited about - the Patriots first round pick is entering a crowded backfield but should be in line for the majority of the touches going into 2018. Michel is a capable receiver and, if he can fix his fumbling issues, might have the best shot of any rookie to be a top player at the position - however, he carries the risk of entering Bill Belichick's carousel of running backs.

Finally, Aaron Jones might be the Packers' running back of the future, making him a worthy draft selection in the late middle-rounds with the upside of working in one of the most productive offenses in football. However, be warned: Jones has competition from Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery, and we could see a situation where no back is able to carve out a clear-cut workload for the team in 2018.

Tier 6

Marlon Mack, Nick Chubb, Rex Burkhead, Marshawn Lynch, Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Williams, Isaiah Crowell

Keep attacking rookies in this tier, as the veterans have had years to wow us but will only provide mid-level value on limited touches. Although Nick Chubb and Kerryon Johnson enter crowded committees, the draft capital that teams spent to acquire them should signal their potential usage and subsequent upside in 2018, making them solid mid-round investments.

Tier 7

Bilal Powell, D'Onta Foreman, Tarik Cohen, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, Devontae Booker, Frank Gore, James White, Ty Montgomery, Peyton Barber

This is the handcuff tier, where a lot of unspectacular names with some upside reside late in your drafts. The best picks of the bunch appear to be Tarik Cohen and Ty Montgomery, as the two have a shot at significant work (specifically in the receiving department) and could carve out significant half-PPR value due to their skillsets. Other names to consider who fit this mold are Theo Riddick and James White, but these running backs are in crowded committees and might struggle to see consistent third-down usage.

 

Updated Tiered 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.