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2018 Fantasy Football Rankings Analysis: Running Backs (PPR)

RotoBaller's PPR rankings are updated and live! Click here to check out the rankings and get a leg up on the rest of your leaguemates with some early research.

Point per reception (or "PPR") scoring formats can give added value to pass-catching running backs who might not see a fantasy roster spot in standard leagues. For a position that often lacks depth in terms of serviceable starters, owners should always be aware of rushers whose proficiency through the air can solidify their fantasy backfield. For this article, I will be taking a look at Rotoballer's running back rankings for PPR leagues and providing some quick reactions with analysis to boot.


PPR Running Back Rankings

Tier Pos Rank Overall Rank Player Name
1 1 1 Todd Gurley
1 2 2 Le'Veon Bell
1 3 3 David Johnson
1 4 7 Alvin Kamara
1 5 8 Ezekiel Elliott
2 6 9 Dalvin Cook
2 7 10 Leonard Fournette
2 8 17 Kareem Hunt
2 9 19 Melvin Gordon
3 10 22 Saquon Barkley
3 11 24 Jerick McKinnon
3 12 25 Christian McCaffrey
3 13 27 Devonta Freeman
3 14 30 LeSean McCoy
4 15 38 Jordan Howard
4 16 41 Joe Mixon
4 17 45 Dion Lewis
4 18 46 Alex Collins
4 19 47 Kenyan Drake
4 20 50 Rashaad Penny
5 21 53 Mark Ingram
5 22 55 Chris Thompson
5 23 56 Derrius Guice
5 24 60 Jay Ajayi
5 25 61 Ronald Jones II
5 26 64 Royce Freeman
5 27 69 Sony Michel
6 28 75 Derrick Henry
6 29 77 Lamar Miller
6 30 81 Duke Johnson
7 31 92 Carlos Hyde
7 32 94 Tevin Coleman
7 33 96 Aaron Jones
7 34 101 Marlon Mack
7 35 102 Rex Burkhead
7 36 105 Nick Chubb
7 37 108 C.J. Anderson
7 38 109 Kerryon Johnson
7 39 110 Marshawn Lynch
7 40 111 Jamaal Williams
8 41 114 Isaiah Crowell
8 42 116 Bilal Powell
8 43 118 Tarik Cohen
8 44 126 Theo Riddick
9 45 134 D'Onta Foreman
9 46 140 Devontae Booker
9 47 141 LeGarrette Blount
9 48 143 Giovani Bernard
9 49 144 James White
9 50 145 Frank Gore
9 51 147 Ty Montgomery
10 52 156 Peyton Barber
10 53 158 Latavius Murray
10 54 160 T.J. Yeldon
10 55 162 Javorius Allen
10 56 168 Doug Martin
10 57 171 Chris Carson
11 58 173 Nyheim Hines
11 59 174 Jalen Richard
11 60 179 Mark Walton
11 61 180 Matt Breida
11 62 184 DeMarco Murray
11 63 186 Corey Clement
11 64 191 Jonathan Stewart
11 65 193 Wayne Gallman
11 66 195 Ameer Abdullah
11 67 197 Kalen Ballage
11 68 202 Chris Ivory
11 69 208 Charles Sims
12 70 216 Samaje Perine
12 71 218 Jeremy Hill
12 72 222 James Conner
12 73 229 Charcandrick West
12 74 239 Kyle Juszczyk
12 75 243 Robert Turbin
12 76 248 C.J. Prosise
12 77 252 Deandre Washington
13 78 256 Matt Jones
13 79 257 John Kelly
13 80 269 De'Angelo Henderson
13 81 282 Corey Grant
13 82 288 Jacquizz Rodgers
13 83 302 Rod Smith
13 84 310 Benny Cunningham

Tier 1

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

It should come as no surprise that the premier dual-threat backs in the NFL carve out a category at the top. David Johnson will look to return to 2016 form after recovering from a wrist injury that caused him to miss much of 2017, but owners should be careful as he has been missing time at practice due to an undisclosed injury. With teammate Mark Ingram missing the first quarter of 2018, there’s every reason to believe in Alvin Kamara getting off to a hot start this year and holding off on possible workload regression issues in his sophomore year. Despite a 27th ranked ease of schedule, Ezekiel Elliott is only a season removed from his 354 touch rookie year and will undoubtedly be the go-to guy in the Cowboys offense.

All that being said, the key question remains as to which rusher to take with the first overall pick. Le'Veon Bell has played on 86-percent of his team’s running back snaps over the past two seasons, the most of any running back and one of only two players (Todd Gurley being the other, at 80-percent) to play on over 70-percent of their team’s snaps over that stretch. What's more, Bell also averaged 33.0 routes run per game, the most of all running backs, over his last two seasons. The market share in his offense is undoubtedly there, but there remain durability concerns after coming off of a massive 406-touch season and he will reportedly miss most of training camp. On the other hand, Gurley has established himself as the key cog that keeps the Los Angeles Rams offense on schedule, leading the league in percentage of total offensive yards (36.2-percent, Bell was second with 32.2-percent) and percentage of total offensive touchdowns (42.2-percent). Still, Gurley’s volume wasn’t as strong as Bell’s and the number of mouths to feed in Los Angeles could cut into his receiving work.

It's hard to go wrong with Bell or Gurley, but more conservative owners looking for the guaranteed volume are likely to lean more towards Bell while those who look for the highest fantasy ceiling will go with Gurley.

Tier 2

Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, Melvin Gordon

This year's fantasy running back group appears to be incredibly top-heavy, as the the caliber of starting rushers experiences a noticeable decline after RB-10. Fortunately, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, and Melvin Gordon round out the second tier of running backs that, when healthy, should solidify fantasy owners' RB1 spot.

On a small 71 touch sample size over his first three games, Cook proved how the one-cut vision and exceptional burst that defined his play at Florida State could translate to the NFL field. Now that Kirk Cousins will be the man under center in Minnesota and the defense has remained as dominant as ever, a strong case can be made that Cook's volume will translate into a truckload of fantasy points against the third easiest rushing schedule for running backs. Fournette might have found himself as a guaranteed top-five selection in 2018 but-for his recurring foot injuries. The Jacksonville Jaguars landed a huge upgrade for their offensive line when they added Andrew Norwell in free agency, who is one of the best offensive guards in football. Much like Cook, game script will ultimately favor running the football and give Fournette a huge number of opportunities.

While there are plenty of mouths to feed in Kansas City (including competition at running back in Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and Damien Williams), it is all but guaranteed that Hunt will be a major factor in taking pressure off of quarterback Patrick Mahomes in his first full season as the starter. His NFL-high 19 runs of more than 15 yards accounted for 521 yards, or 39.3-percent of his season total, but owners should watch to see if any discipline is handed down after Hunt supposedly punched a man at an Ohio resort. Gordon is likely to continue to be the volume hound he has always been much like last season when he totaled 342 touches, but his range of outcomes doesn't include a top-five running back finish as compared to some of the other running backs above him.

Tier 3

Saquon Barkley, Jerick McKinnon, Christian McCaffrey, Devonta Freeman, LeSean McCoy

If there’s an Ezekiel Elliott or Odell Beckham style of fantasy rookie in 2018, it’s obviously Saquon Barkley. Opportunity is everything in fantasy, and Barkley is going to get plenty of chances to use his once in a generation physical gifts and receiving prowess to generate points. Although his draft price sits squarely in the late first, this rookie rusher could be a league-winner right out of the gate.

Aside from Barkley, the third tier of running backs contains several questionable and/or volatile options at the position. Newly acquired San Francisco 49er Jerick McKinnon could be PPR gold, as dual-threat running backs have been shown to thrive in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s systems, but he has yet to truly operate as a first-down back or accumulate over 600 rushing yards in his four NFL seasons. Other problems include losses to overall talent in the offense, as is the case with the Buffalo Bills and LeSean McCoy, and potential committee backfields like with the Atlanta Falcons and Christian McCaffrey, who will end up splitting snaps with C.J. Anderson.

Tier 4

Jordan Howard, Joe Mixon, Dion Lewis, Alex Collins, Kenyan Drake, Rashaad Penny

Of all the running back tiers, this one features the most players that could defy expectations and push for top-10 finishes. The Chicago Bears spent the entire offseason building an offense in the Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles blueprint and many analysts expect the team to make a significant leap in 2018. You can bet Jordan Howard will be a reliable part of the Bears future offensive success, as he has averaged 4.61 yards per carry over his last two seasons while opposing defenses didn't have to worry about any other real threat on the field. The lack of passing-down work will ultimately limit his upside in PPR, explaining his lower ranking in that format.

Many owners have labelled Joe Mixon a bounce-back candidate, which is easy to say given his below-average 2017 season. Mixon played 14 games but carried the ball just 178 times for 626 yards while adding 30 receptions for 287 yards, scoring only four total touchdowns (all rushing). The flashes he displayed in 114 and 96-rushing yard performances in Weeks 12 and 17 respectively along with his average of over 4.0 yards per carry in his final four games certainly provide a glimmer of hope for the kind of player Mixon could be at his third round draft price.

When receptions can increase the floor of a running back's fantasy production, owners should be taking note of several players that operate as pass-catchers for their backfield. Tennessee Titans running back Dion Lewis is one such player, who sits squarely at RB-17 in our rankings mostly due to his receiving ability. Alex Collins, on the other hand, quietly finished with the ninth-most yards per carry (4.6) and tenth-most rushing yards per game (64.9) among all running backs in 2017 and rejoins a Baltimore Ravens team with significant upgrades on offense. With committee concerns still looming, owners will need to monitor Collins closely this offseason to see how the backfield shapes up.

The late season stretch for Kenyan Drake was nothing short of stellar, with 91 carries for 444 rushing yards and 17 catches 150 receiving yards over the Miami Dolphins final five games. That being said, Miami has chosen not to name a starting running back, instead saying "it is going to play out over time", and owners should be inclined to believe that the Miami coaching staff will find ways to take critical snaps away from Drake as the season progresses.

Seattle Seahawks first round running back Rashaad Penny has already received praise from head coach Pete Caroll, who envisions him as a three-down back. At San Diego State last year, Penny forced 80 missed tackles and had the second-best elusive rating of this class on his way to rushing for almost 2,300 yards and 23 touchdowns. However, his deficiencies in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield could limit his work, especially on third-down.

Tier 5

Mark Ingram, Chris Thompson, Derrius Guice, Jay Ajayi, Ronald Jones II, Royce Freeman, Sony Michel

Four-game suspension aside, Mark Ingram is coming off his best statistical season in his seven-year career. He was the seventh best running back last year in fantasy football for PPR formats and returns to a New Orleans offense that will afford him the volume for fantasy success. At his sixth round draft price, you get a player for twelve games who can still finish as a top-15 back. Before breaking his leg, Chris Thompson's 7.81 yards per touch was more than Alvin Kamara who averaged 7.73 yards per touch. With an overall lack of threats in the receiving game and a historically conservative Alex Smith under center, Thompson will likely be asked to shoulder much of the team's receiving work and return significant value in PPR formats.

After being shipped off to the Philadelphia Eagles, Jay Ajayi gained 408 yards on just 70 attempts (an average of 10 per game). The 5.8 yards per carry is especially promising, but the lack of rushing touchdowns (only one for Philadelphia) reflects how he was in a backfield rotation with LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement. With Blount out of the picture, expect around 15 touches per game and solid RB2 numbers in 2018.

Last season was especially noteworthy for rookie running backs, as four managed to finish in the top-10 for PPR scoring formats (including two in the top-four). Given the hype surrounding the 2018 NFL Draft and its class of prolific rushers, can any besides the obvious first choice of Saquon Barkley make an immediate fantasy impact on their team?  Washington Redskins running back Derrius Guice should see immediate starter snaps given his overall talent and recently touted receiving ability.

Among the other notables are Tampa Bays' Ronald Jones II, Denvers' Royce Freeman, and New England's Sony Michel, who are all likely to compete for starting snaps given the lack of depth at running back for their teams. All will be drafted after round seven in fantasy drafts, but Michel might have the most upside given his selection in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and ability to take over early down work in a high-powered offense. New England also has the second best schedule for running backs, if fantasy owners needed another reason to be high on him.

Tier 6

Derrick Henry, Lamar Miller, Duke Johnson

Hype for Derrick Henry was at an all-time high after DeMarco Murray was released Murray this offseason. Unfortunately, that quickly dissipated when the team signed one of the best pass blockers in Dion Lewis to a four-year contract. While Henry should remain the early down bruiser for the Tennessee Titans and faces the fifth-easiest schedule for rushers, owners should expect something in the same realm of 12 touches per game and a heavily touchdown-dependent fantasy scorer from this third round pick.

Pending the health of sophomore rusher D'Onta Foreman, Lamar Miller could be a huge steal for fantasy owners given the resurgence of the Houston Texans on the offensive side of the ball. Miller is one of the few running backs who has consistently seen 250-plus touches over the last four years and averaged 14.9 PPR points per game with quarterback Deshaun Watson, compared to just 9.9 PPR points per game with quarterback Tom Savage. While his sixth round draft price might be considered a little steep by some, owners will be getting what is likely one of the last viable starting rushers for fantasy purposes.

In terms of pure red zone efficiency, Duke Johnson had a staggering 81-percent catch rate on passes within opponent's 20-yard line and could be a sneaky pickup in the eighth round of drafts. With him having been inked to a three-year extension, you can bet that his workload in the passing game will continue to make owners in PPR extremely happy despite concerns of losing touches to Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb.

Tier 7

Carlos Hyde, Tevin Coleman, Aaron Jones, Marlon Mack, Rex Burkhead, Nick Chubb, C.J. Anderson, Kerryon Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Williams

Too many fliers canvas this tier to discuss every single one in depth, but a few notable backfields and players stand out.

Predicting the most fantasy relevant back in Cleveland and Green Bay will be a tall task for analysts this offseason. Carlos Hyde would seem slated to receive lead back duties, but former Georgia running back Nick Chubb has a skill set that threatens to eat into that workload (not to mention the extension signed by Duke Johnson). In Green Bay, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams each showed flashes of what a lead back could do in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense, but Ty Montgomery is still hanging around to threaten either from being treated like a true three down back.

C.J. Anderson has always been one of the most efficient runners on first and second down while playing behind a fairly poor offensive line. If he fills the Jonathan Stewart role in Carolina, owners could be getting a volume-based, top-24 upside running back in the eleventh round of drafts.

For your deep sleeper, Detroit Lions rusher Kerryon Johnson is going in the eleventh round of drafts. As a player who should have guaranteed snaps and has been praised as an every-down player, let the hype train begin.

Tier 8

Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Tarik Cohen, Theo Riddick

How productive the New York Jets backfield will be is anyone's guess, but smart fantasy owners would do well to remember the exceptional production from Isaiah Crowell's 2016 season. His 3.18 yards after contact were the third-highest among running backs with at least 100 carries and his 16 runs of 15 or more yards ranked fourth, though the Jets will likely be an anemic offense as a whole. For Bilal Powell, owners should expect a similar stat-line to last year with a slight uptick in receptions in the realm of 35-40 catches, meaning he certainly has a role to play on a roster in PPR leagues.

The difference in draft capital required to select Tarik Cohen (RB-43, ADP at round seven) and Theo Riddick (RB-44, ADP at round 11) is staggering. Although Cohen certainly has the potential to benefit from head coach Matt Nagy moving him around the field, it's difficult to project how much passing work he will get with the newly acquired wideouts Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel making the receiving core much more talented. If Riddick proves to be a lock for third-down work despite Legarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson receiving praise, he could be a game-dependent flex play.

Tier 9

D'Onta Foreman, Devontae Booker, LeGarrette Blount, Giovani Bernard, James White, Frank Gore, Ty Montgomery

It is debatable whether tier nine represents the last tier of rushers that could be worth taking in redraft leagues. D'Onta Foreman doesn't appear to be completely recovered from his devastating Achilles injury last season, while Devontae Booker failed to prosper with starting reps in Denver and could easily be supplanted by rookie rusher Royce Freeman.

The reality for Legarrette Blount is that any starting snaps he gets a hold on will likely be relinquished quite early on in 2018. It's possible that new head coach Matt Patricia wanted Blount from his days in New England, but drafting Kerryon Johnson in the second round pretty much indicates the role they see for him.

Giovanni Bernard and James White are two receiving backs to keep an eye on, as their thirteenth and fourteenth round ADPs respectively mean owners can get them at a discounted cost major and major reception upside if they can bounce back from fairly poor showings from last season.

35-year old veteran Frank Gore could pose a threat to Kenyan Drake's snaps, but father time is undefeated. Gore's 3.77 yards per carry with the Indianapolis Colts over the last three years shouldn't inspire much hope for his fantasy prospects in Miami.

Predicting Ty Montgomery's success in this Green Bay Packers backfield is nearly impossible. After being given the starting job to start 2017, Montgomery lost that role when he injured his ribs early in the season. His tenth round price means some might be willing to take a shot in the dark, but I would imagine he plays backseat to one of the other running backs in that rotation.

Tier 10

Peyton Barber, Latavius Murray, T.J. Yeldon, Javorius Allen, Doug Martin, Chris Carson

Can any of these backups carve out enough of a role to be fantasy-relevant? Peyton Barber, T.Y. Yeldon, and Javorius "Buck" Allen are a couple of names that could get more receiving work with their lead backs being predominantly one-dimensional rushers.

Tier 11

Nyheim Hines, Jalen Richard, Mark Walton, Matt Breida, DeMarco Murray, Corey Clement, Jonathan Stewart, Wayne Gallman, Ameer Abdullah, Kalen Ballage, Chris Ivory, Charles Sims

Tier 11 and onward brings us into deep sleeper territory. Some high upside names to consider in late rounds of fantasy drafts are Philadelphia's Corey Clement (RB-63, ADP at round 10), San Francisco's Matt Breida (ranked RB-61, ADP at round 14), and New York Giant Wayne Gallman (ranked RB-65, ADP undrafted).

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.

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