Bookmark this for later. The most important position in fantasy football is the running back. I created this post to help you draft with clear thinking. If you disagree, then HML on twitter @okpistol.
Use these tiers to have a game plan going into your draft. You aren’t going to bring the bag home without any preparation. So let’s get it!
Note: These are not rankings. These are my thoughts based on these players’ current average draft position – ADP. Also, this article is subject to updates as training camp rolls on.
Tier 1: GOD TIER
Simple guidelines here. If they are on the board, draft them. These four backs are viewed as the consensus top-4 in fantasy this season.
Saquon Barkley – New York Giants
- 2018 stats (385.8 FPTS, 261 CAR, 1307 YDS, 11 TD, 91 REC, 721 YDS, 4 TD)
- 2019 projections (357.5 FPTS, 269 CAR, 1257 YDS, 10 TD, 87 REC, 696 YDS, 3 TD)
Barkley is a damn near lock to go 1st overall across all fantasy formats. If Kamara and CMC are off the board, this is the easiest decision you will make all season.
Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys
- 2018 stats (329.2 FPTS, 304 CAR, 1435 YDS, 6 TD, 77 REC, 567 YDS, 3 TD)
- 2019 projections (308.3 FPTS, 289 CAR, 1279 YDS, 9 TD, 66 REC, 505 YDS, 3 TD)
If Zeke is on the field for Dallas this season, he is one of the safest picks in fantasy. Elliot led the NFL in rushing attempts per game in each of the past three seasons, and the Cowboys are poised to have a more creative offense under first-year Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore.
Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints
- 2018 stats (354.2 FPTS, 194 CAR, 883 YDS, 14 TD, 81 REC, 709 YDS, 4 TD)
- 2019 projections (332.7 FPTS, 194 CAR, 895 YDS, 9 TD, 86 REC, 754 YDS, 5 TD)
This may be the year Alvin Kamara finally eclipses 200 carries. Latavius Murray has replaced Mark Ingram and may vulture a few goal line opportunities but don’t fear: Alvin will score plenty of touchdowns for one of the league’s best offensive teams.
Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
- 2018 stats (385.5 FPTS, 219 CAR, 1098 YDS, 7 TD, 107 REC, 867 YDS, 6 TD)
- 2019 projections (347.1 FPTS, 213 CAR, 1042 YDS, 7 TD, 95 REC, 808 YDS, 5 TD)
After Toby Gerhart’s striptease of a career flamed out, it was up to a young Christian McCaffrey to reinvigorate the hopes of all white high school running backs across the nation. He has done exactly that. Through Week 16 of last season, McCaffrey was the best running back in fantasy and was on the field for 97 percent of Carolina’s snaps. This is the year’s sexiest RB pick outside of Saquon Barkley.
Tier 2: RB1s
This is the rest of the best. Nobody is trippin’ if you take DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, or Michael Thomas before these guys. I just wouldn’t want to enter Round 3 without a running back from my top-2 tiers.
Le’Veon Bell – New York Jets
- 2017 stats (341.6 FPTS, 321 CAR, 1291 YDS, 9 TD, 85 REC, 655 YDS, 2 TD)
- 2019 projections (271.1 FPTS, 247 CAR, 1047 YDS, 7 TD, 61 REC, 502 YDS, 3 TD)
Bell recently apologized to his 2018 fantasy
governors owners after holding out for the entire season. As the best player in the New York Jets offense, I believe Le’Veon will post another top 10 year amongst fantasy running backs. Adam Gase is actually a decent coach and has never had a back as good as Bell. Red Flags include: Sam Darnold turnovers.
David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
- 2018 stats (246.7 FPTS, 258 CAR, 940 YDS, 7 TD, 50 REC, 446 YDS, 3 TD)
- 2019 projections (274.7 FPTS, 248 CAR, 997 YDS, 7 TD, 60 REC, 569 YDS, 3 TD)
In a recent interview, Johnson stated that first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury wanted to run over 90 plays a game this season. If that happens David Johnson is a lock for another top-10 campaign. I expect improvement from the Cardinals’ offense with Kingsbury and Kyler Murray working together. The Arizona offensive line is the only variable that scares me when drafting David Johnson.
James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers
- 2018 stats (280 FPTS, 215 CAR, 973 YDS, 12 TD, 55 REC, 497 YDS, 1 TD)
- 2019 projections (267.4 FPTS, 231 CAR, 1047 YDS, 10 TD, 54 REC, 441 YDS, 2 TD)
For many owners, James Conner was a saving grace last season. Conner is now “the guy” in Pittsburgh and will go in the first two rounds in every 10 or 12 man league. I love Conner in the late second round. Be sure to handcuff him with second-year man Jaylen Samuels.
Nick Chubb – Cleveland Browns
- 2018 stats (194.5 FPTS, 192 CAR, 996 YDS, 8 TD, 20 REC, 149 YDS, 2 TD)
- 2019 projections (236.6 FPTS, 247 CAR, 1174 YDS, 9 TD, 32 REC, 247 YDS, 2 TD)
Carlos Hyde was traded. Then, Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired. GM John Dorsey made all three of those decisions with Nick Chubb in mind. After a 3-carry, 105 yard outing against the Oakland Raiders, it was clear that Nick Chubb needed the ball in his hands. Chubb posted 5.2 Y/A last season and is a reliable pass-catcher. With Duke Johnson out of town, Chubb is one of the highest-upside running backs in this year’s draft.
Tier 3: The Pool of Uncertainty
You can’t win your draft in the first two rounds, but you can definitely lose it. Draft these players at your own risk.
Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers
- 2018 stats (275.5 FPTS, 175 CAR, 885 YDS, 10 TD, 50 REC, 490 YDS, 4 TD)
- 2019 projections (244.0 FPTS, 195 CAR, 901 YDS, 8 TD, 48 REC, 436 YDS, 3 TD)
I believe Gordon is more likely to sit out this season than Ezekiel Elliott. Gordon is a magnificent back but is somewhat injury prone. For him, it makes sense to secure a long-term deal before subjecting himself to a major injury. Gordon is slipping from a sure-fire top-15 pick to an ADP around 30. If you draft him, you MUST take Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson as insurance.
Todd Gurley III – Los Angeles Rams
- 2018 stats (372.1 FPTS, 256 CAR, 1251 YDS, 17 TD, 59 REC, 580 YDS, 4 TD)
- 2019 projections (249.5 FPTS, 207 CAR, 970 YDS, 10 TD, 44 REC, 401 YDS, 3 TD)
TG3 is the highest risk/reward player in fantasy. When healthy, he’s a top-5 RB week-in week-out. Todd can get you into the fantasy playoffs, but will he be on the field when you need him most? Nobody knows…
Tier 4: Fringe RB1s
By the end of the season, you may wish you had drafted one of these guys higher. The workload will be there but will the production follow?
Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
- 2018 stats (243.4 FPTS, 237 CAR, 1168 YDS, 8 TD, 43 REC, 296 YDS, 1 TD)
- 2019 projections (250.8 FPTS, 247 CAR, 1148 YDS, 9 TD, 46 REC, 343 YDS, 1 TD)
Mixon was RB10 in PPR scoring last season and is being drafted in the top-15 in 2019. I am biased against him for his off-the-field behavior, but he is one of the best fantasy backs outside of the league’s elite.
Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks
- 2018 stats (201.4 FPTS, 247 CAR, 1151 YDS, 9 TD, 20 REC, 163 YDS, 0 TD)
- 2019 projections (211.7 FPTS, 240 CAR, 1114 YDS, 8 TD, 28 REC, 217 YDS, 1 TD)
Pete Carroll thinks Carson may have the best hands on the Seahawks’ roster. That’s the type of hard-hitting news I like to hear leading up to a fantasy draft. Last year’s first-round pick Rashaad Penny will get some carries but that should not scare you away from Carson. The Seahawks are a power-run football team.
Mark Ingram – Baltimore Ravens
- 2018 stats (142.5 FPTS, 138 CAR, 645 YDS, 6 TD, 21 REC, 170 YDS, 1 TD)
- 2019 projections (189.1 FPTS, 220 CAR, 921 YDS, 7 TD, 32 REC, 242 YDS, 1 TD)
Ingram is one of the toughest players for me to value. Is he an RB1 or an RB2? How many carries will he get in Baltimore? How well will Lamar Jackson move the ball down the field? These questions will be answered as the season rolls along. I think Ingram has RB1 upside but is more likely to end the season as one of the best RB2s.
Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars
- 2018 stats (120.4 FPTS, 133 CAR, 439 YDS, 5 TD, 22 REC, 185 YDS, 1 TD)
- 2019 projections (225.4 FPTS, 249 CAR, 949 YDS, 8 TD, 43 REC, 356 YDS, 2 TD)
Suspensions and injuries have kept Fournette off the field for over a third of his NFL games. With Nick Foles at the helm, this could be the season Fournette gets back to top-10 fantasy production at his position. In his rookie season, Fournette was RB9 and the Jags reached the AFC Championship. Fournette could be a major steal in the third round of your draft.
Tier 5: The 10-Foot Poles
I prefer to minimize decision-making when it comes to setting my lineups. Under no circumstances do I want to rely on these players from week to week. However, one of them will likely make me eat my words.
Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
- 2018 stats (9.1 FPTS, 14 CAR, 68 YDS, 0 TD, 5 REC, 23 YDS, 0 TD)
- 2019 projections (219.4 FPTS, 207 CAR, 885 YDS, 7 TD, 45 REC, 351 YDS, 2 TD)
Freeman’s fantasy outlook should look better than ever now that Tevin Coleman is in the bay. However, he just can’t seem to replicate his 2015 and 2016 Pro Bowl seasons. I can’t justify drafting him as a top-20 RB until proven otherwise.
Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers
- 2018 stats (171.5 FPTS, 133 CAR, 729 YDS, 8 TD, 26 CAR, 206 YDS, 1 TD)
- 2019 projections (214.9 FPTS, 186 CAR, 943 YDS, 8 TD, 37 CAR, 287 YDS, 1 TD)
Overhyped and underwhelming every season. It’s the same old story, same old song and dance with Aaron Jones. The upside is undeniable and first-year coach Matt Lefleur likes to run the ball. In 2018, the Titans were 9th in rushing attempts per game. Maybe year three will be Jones’ breakout year. I just don’t like the risk here.
Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings
- 2018 stats (152.0 FPTS, 133 CAR, 615 YDS, 2 TD, 40 REC, 305 YDS, 2 TD)
- 2019 projections (260.0 FPTS, 238 CAR, 1095 YDS, 7 TD, 59 REC, 449 YDS, 2 TD)
Until Dalvin can manage a full season, I will not draft him. He played 4 games in Y1 and 10 games in Y2. Cook is explosive and has home-run speed, but I prefer to let someone else make the decision on him in Y3.
Tier 6: The Scottie Pippen Tier
You already have your set-it-and-forget-it RB1. These are the RB2s you should draft to create one of the best rosters in your league. Pair one of these players with one of my top-8 RBs and your whole league will be texting you with trade offers.
Josh Jacobs – Oakland Raiders
- 2019 projections (211.8 FPTS, 211 CAR, 920 YDS, 6 TD, 41 REC, 342 YDS, 2 TD)
In terms of ADP, Jacobs is the top rookie across all positions. Head Coach Jon Gruden has placed rookie of the year expectations upon him, and I believe Jacobs is more than capable of winning the award. Jacobs is from my hometown and was a QB in high school. Now he’s a 3-down back and will be lined up out wide, in the slot, and in the backfield for the Oakland Raiders.
James White – New England Patriots
- 2018 stats (276.6 FPTS, 94 CAR, 425 YDS, 5 TD, 87 REC, 751 YDS, 7 TD)
- 2019 projections (206.8 FPTS, 72 CAR, 302 YDS, 3 TD, 74 REC, 649 YDS, 4 TD)
In 2018, White went from being known as a former Super Bowl hero to a top-10 fantasy commodity. White is a safe, high-floor option for your fantasy team thanks to his elite pass-catching abilities. I don’t expect White to end the year as RB7 again, but you can’t go wrong here if you need another reliable running back.
Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions
- 2018 stats (139.4 FPTS, 118 CAR, 641 YDS, 3 TD, 32 REC, 213 YDS, 1 TD)
- 2019 projections (238.3 FPTS, 218 CAR, 1029 YDS, 6 TD, 52 REC, 373 YDS, 2 TD)
Kerryon was my top sleeper in 2018 and I drafted him in all three of my leagues. He ended the season playing just 10 games due to injury but posted an impressive 5.4 Y/A and caught 32 passes. With Theo Riddick’s departure to Denver, there should be even more opportunities for Johnson to have a breakout season.
Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts
- 2018 stats (178.1 FPTS, 195 CAR, 908 YDS, 9 TD, 17 REC, 103 YDS, 1TD)
- 2019 projections (207.8 FPTS, 233 CAR, 1061 YDS, 8 TD, 28 REC, 201 YDS, 1 TD)
In 2018, Mack scored 10 TDs in 12 games and eclipsed 85+ yards on the ground in half of his outings. The Colts should be one of the AFC’s best teams this season and Mack owners will benefit if this holds true. Mack took the lead role by storm in the second half of last season and will look to carry that momentum into the Colts’ 2019 campaign.
Damien Williams – Kansas City Chiefs
- 2018 stats (98.6 FPTS, 50 CAR, 256 YDS, 4 TD, 23 REC, 160 YDS, 2 TD)
- 2019 projections (233.8 FPTS, 165 CAR, 786 YDS, 7 TD, 51 REC, 411 YDS, 4 TD)
Last season Williams had 23 catches on 24 targets. He’s been an excellent pass-catcher since his Miami days but will he be a 15 carry per game kind of guy? With Carlos Hyde and exciting rookie Darwin Thompson in the fold, I’m not as high on Williams as many. Williams’ versatility will make him a valuable player and a strong flex play at worst to start the season.
Tier 7: The Bull Market
Their purchase price might be inflated, but these are potential league-winners. If you already have RB depth, draft them anyway. You can use them as a flex, upgrade them into your starting lineup, or trade them for that last top-tier player you need.
David Montgomery – Chicago Bears
- 2019 projections (192.9 FPTS, 201 CAR, 881 YDS, 6 TD, 34 REC, 279 YDS, 1 TD)
BEAST. Montgomery will be the player you thought you were getting when you drafted Jordan Howard the past two seasons. The Iowa State standout can do it all. He can make you miss, catch passes, and will try to run you over. The only thing keeping Montgomery from RB1 territory is Tarik Cohen.
Tarik Cohen – Chicago Bears
- 2018 stats (233.9 FPTS, 99 CAR, 444 YDS, 3 TD, 71 CAR, 725 YDS, 5 TD)
- 2019 projections (175.0 FPTS, 80 CAR, 333 YDS, 2 TD, 59 REC, 551 YDS, 3 TD)
Oh yeah, the other Chicago running back. Tarik Cohen is one of the most explosive players in the NFL and Bears’ coach Matt Nagy will find him plenty of touches. I love Cohen as a top-tier flex play this season. You will find starter-level value in Cohen and Montgomery.
Darrell Henderson – Los Angeles Rams
- 2019 projections (123.0 FPTS, 121 CAR, 537 YDS, 4 TD, 24 REC, 206 YDS, 1 TD)
Henderson has been struggling in training camp, but hey, that’s normal for rookies. I think Henderson is a candidate to play a Tarik Cohen/Alvin Kamara type of role in his rookie season. If you want to learn more about him look no further than the YouTubes…
Derrius Guice – Washington Redskins
- 2019 projections (153.0 FPTS, 165 CAR, 708 YDS, 5 TD, 26 REC, 221 YDS, 1 TD)
Guice would have been the second rookie RB off the board in 2018 drafts had he not suffered a torn ACL. While his status is still uncertain for Week 1, we can expect Guice to play a major role in the Redskins’ offense. Veteran Adrian Peterson was 5th in the NFL in rushing attempts last season, which should be a good indication of Washington’s desire to run the ball. I believe Guice is worth a gamble should you need help at the RB position.
Tier 8: Buy Low, Sell High
You know the name so you panic-drafted them. After that one big scoring week, TRADE THEM. You do not want to rely on them week-to-week.
Phillip Lindsay – Denver Broncos
- 2018 stats (222.8 FPTS, 192 CAR, 1037 YDS, 9 TD, 35 REC, 241 YDS, 1 TD)
- 2019 projections (189.3 FPTS, 178 CAR, 876 YDS, 6 TD, 35 REC, 254 YDS, 1 TD)
Lindsay was one of the best waiver-wire pickups of 2018. Unfortunately, John Elway placed a ceiling on Lindsay’s fantasy value by thinking Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback. With Royce Freeman and Theo Riddick stealing snaps and Flacco at QB, Lindsay’s stock has taken a major hit since the end of last season.
Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans
- 2018 stats (201.3 FPTS, 215 CAR, 1059 YDS, 12 TD, 15 REC, 99 YDS, 0 TD)
- 2019 projections (204.6 FPTS, 249 CAR, 1172 YDS, 10 TD, 17 REC, 124 YDS, 0 TD)
The former Heisman winner is a major touchdown regression candidate in 2019. Similar to the aforementioned Phillip Lindsay, Henry’s value is capped by the mediocre quarterback play of either Marcus Mariota or Ryan Tannehill. To be frank I have never been a Derrick Henry-buyer and that will not change anytime soon. The Titans’ 3x Pro Bowl LT Taylor Lewan is suspended the first four games of the season and the rest of the AFC South has only improved.
Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles
- 2019 projections (148.2 FPTS, 151 CAR, 586 YDS, 4 TD, 32 REC, 259 YDS, 1 TD)
Sanders was the highest-rated RB in the class of 2016 but was forced to watch Saquon Barkley do Saquon Barkley things at Penn State. After a standout season in Happy Valley, the Eagles took Sanders with a 2nd-round pick. He’s shined in training camp and is expected to play a big role for the Eagles in 2019. However, Philly still has Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams on their roster and the Eagles are not known for producing valuable fantasy RBs under Doug Pederson.
Tevin Coleman – San Francisco 49ers
- 2018 stats (193.6 FPTS, 167 CAR, 800 YDS, 4 TD, 32 REC, 276 YDS, 5 TD)
- 2019 projections (163.9 FPTS, 170 CAR, 771 YDS, 5 TD, 27 REC, 236 YDS, 2 TD)
I don’t understand why some think Coleman is going to have a breakout year. When analyzing Coleman’s 2018 production, you have to factor in that Devonta Freeman only played 2 games last season. With a healthy Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, the 49ers’ backfield screams running back-by-committee. The only upside here is Coleman’s relationship with Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, who was the Falcons’ Offensive Coordinator prior to joining San Francisco. I’m staying away from the 49ers backfield in 2019.
Tier 9: Delete That Trade Offer You Sent Me
You wound up stuck with these guys because you took a QB in the 4th round. Now you’re trying to pawn them off in Week 6 because you’re 3 games out of the playoffs. Someone in your league is going to offer you one of these players without fail.
Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins
- 2018 stats (206.2 FPTS, 120 CAR, 535 YDS, 4 TD, 53 REC, 477 YDS, 5 TD)
- 2019 projections (202.3 FPTS, 144 CAR, 656 YDS, 4 TD, 54 REC, 449 YDS, 3 TD)
Honestly, what are we still doing here? Take backup Kalen Ballage with a late-round flier and you’ll thank me later. That is all.
Lamar Miller – Houston Texans
- 2018 stats (172.6 FPTS, 210 CAR, 973 YDS, 5 TD, 25 REC, 163 YDS, 1 TD)
- 2019 projections (180.3 FPTS, 213 CAR, 925 YDS, 5 TD, 30 REC, 229 YDS, 1 TD)
Miller is nothing more than a conservative flex play at this point in his career. The Texans just traded for the disgruntled Duke Johnson who will undoubtedly get his fair-share of touches in the Texans’ offense. Miller should be a last resort for you at running back.
Sony Michel – New England Patriots
- 2018 stats (139.1 FPTS, 209 CAR, 931 YDS, 6 TD, 7 REC, 50 YDS, 0 TD)
- 2019 projections (176.7 FPTS, 233 CAR, 1063 YDS, 9 TD, 9 REC, 75 YDS, 0 TD)
One of my Super Bowl prop bets was over 0.5 catches for Sony Michel and I did not win that bet. With third-round rookie Damien Harris stealing carries and James White doing most of the receiving work, I expect only a marginal increase in production from Michel this season. Sony is more known for his knee issues than his on-the-field play and is a Patriot running back. Major stay away.
Jordan Howard – Philadelphia Eagles
- 2018 stats (180.0 FPTS, 250 CAR, 935 YDS, 9 TD, 20 REC, 145 YDS, 0 TD)
- 2019 projections (124.1 FPTS, 161 CAR, 661 YDS, 5 TD, 16 REC, 110 YDS, 0 TD)
It is time we realize that Jordan Howard is not a relevant fantasy player. Howard has little money guaranteed on his current deal and may be cut from the Eagles roster at some point this season. If I still haven’t convinced you, Howard averaged just 3.7 Y/A in Chicago last season. Miles Sanders is the only Philly RB you want in 2019.
Tier 10: Handcuffs
If you took the number one back on the depth chart, here are the handcuffs you should acquire. You are an incompetent manager if you let someone else roster them.
Disclaimer: You probably won’t want to draft Kareem since he can’t play until at least Week 10. Just keep an eye on him.
Kareem Hunt – Cleveland Browns
Latavius Murray – New Orleans Saints
Rashaad Penny – Seattle Seahawks
Alexander Mattison – Minnesota Vikings
Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson – Los Angeles Chargers
Jaylen Samuels – Pittsburgh Steelers
Kalen Ballage – Miami Dolphins
Duke Johnson – Houston Texans
Adrian Peterson – Washington Redskins
Tony Pollard – Dallas Cowboys