To start this years Rankings I’ve chosen what I, and many others, believe to be the most important position, Running Back.
A top tier starting Running Back has historically been the go to 1st choice for most fantasy teams. A stud ball carrier can really be the difference maker for an owner, a consistent high number of touches and ability to break free against defenders is crucial to having a solid season.
Running Backs tend to be the safest bet to always provide a solid output, but they also can prove to be risky. With lots of workload comes the potential for injury, as well as contract disputes, which can result in players losing draft value sometimes.
We witnessed last year the first ever full season hold out from a RB with Le’Veon Bell refusing to sign his franchise tag. This year the watch is on Melvin Gordon of the LA Chargers, as well as how will Todd Gurley fair coming off his knee injury late last season. Christian McCaffrey looks to be in prime position to continue to move up draft boards, and Saquon Barkley is the most common favorite to go #1 overall. While both of them land safely in my Top 5 I’ve put together a less conventional list that may differ in opinion from some of my contemporary experts.
So without any more hype I present my first Fantasy List of 2019 the Top 10 RB’s
#1 Le’Veon Bell – New York Jets
Just last year Le’Veon Bell was the clear cut number one draft choice for many fantasy teams even with him threatening to hold out the whole season, he was that good, and still is. A lot of fantasy teams are sleeping on Bell this year, mostly for two reasons: the fact that he’s missed a whole season of football has a lot of people skeptical, and his new locale makes a lot of people feel his performance will decline.
Now, Let me convince you otherwise.
Both me and my co-admin Chris Marlin agree that Le’Veon Bell is the No. 1 fantasy choice. Bell has been arguably the number one overall back every year he was in Pittsburgh. His ability to get to the second level with ease, catch passes out of the backfield and just sheer workload he was able to handle makes him a clear cut number one for anyone, now to shatter those concerns.
Bell is NOT coming off an injury, in fact he’s coming off an entire full season of workouts, training, non contact play. To say he is FRESH is an understatement. Taking a year off for a Running Back, especially one still in their prime, is only going to add years to their legs.
As for his new team, the New York Jets, Bell finds himself in probably the GREATEST situation of all Running Backs, he has a young QB that will rely on him to make plays out of the backfield in the passing game, as well as set him up for draw plays. I expect Bell to excel in first year Jets coach Adam Gase’s offense. He finds himself as the lone star in a backfield on a New York team that is hungry for its first playoff appearance since 2010.
My stat-line prediction for Le’Veon Bell: 1,200 yards rushing to go with 800+ receiving yards and 17 total TDs.
#2 Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey EXPLODED in his first year as a feature back, leading all Running Backs in receptions with 107 he posted a total of 1,965 yards from scrimmage falling behind only Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott for the NFL lead.
McCaffrey ended the season with 13 (8th in NFL) total touchdowns on 326 (3rd in NFL) touches. To say he’s a difference maker is not giving the kid enough credit. McCaffrey has added a new dynamic to the Panthers offense, one they haven’t really had since the one-two punch of Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. That being said McCaffrey has been putting out the work of what used to require two players, so I guess you could say he’s a 2-in-1 athlete for Carolina.
He enters only his third season in the league and is already the crutch for Cam Newton to lean on, I consider McCaffrey to be a bright light in an otherwise average Panthers team. If you have the opportunity to grab this explosive guy I would not hesitate at the opportunity, he could be your MVP, especially with the Panthers unlikely to have a division lock by the fantasy playoffs he could be your Championship game bell-cow.
My stat-line prediction for Christian McCaffrey: 1000/1000 yard year with 22 total touchdowns.
#3 Saquon Barkley – New York Giants
Most fantasy experts have Saquon listed as their undisputed #1, and it’s hard to argue that. Coming off an insane rookie year where he set an NFL rookie record, and lead the league in scrimmage yards, with 2,028, and finished second in Rushing yards behind Ezekiel Elliot. However, the craziest thing for me was the fact that he never fumbled once last year in the 352 times he touched the ball..
On a New York Giants club that lacks any real threat outside Barkley, I feel we could see his production have a slight decline. It’s all dependent on how well the offensive line can block for him, and if Eli Manning can at least pretend to make this team seem less one-dimensional. Barkley now has a year of game film for ball clubs to review, he is without a doubt one of the most dangerous RB’s in the NFL, and teams will prep for him accordingly.
I still forsee Barkley being the best back available at number 1 but I think McCaffrey and Bell may be in a better position to excel this year than he is, which is why I have him ranked at number 3 for my ‘Top 10’. He WILL have a great year nonetheless, I predict Barkely to lead the league in Rushing somewhere between the 1,600-1,700 range, but I think his receiving production dips as the Giants will struggle with QB and O-Line play. I think he could barely make or miss 2,000 scrimmage yards this year, but will get over 15 TD’s. Regardless he will be a safe draft choice… If he can stay healthy behind the Giants offensive line.
My stat-line prediction for Saquon Barkley: 1,975 Scrimmage yards and 16 total touchdowns
#4 Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints
With Mark Ingram suspended for the first four games last year Kamara had the opportunity to prove he could be a lone star back for the first time in his young career. The offseason choice to let Mark Ingram walk, proves that this New Orleans organization has full faith in the Tennessee product.
While Kamara failed to crack the 1000 yard mark in rushing and receiving he never let his fantasy owners down averaging 18.2 PPG for standard league and 23.2 for PPR’s.
If you find yourself in a PPR this is the most consistent guy to grab only letting his weekly output dip below 10 points ONCE last year. Kamara finds himself locked in as the starter this year with only Latavius Murrary threatening to take carries away as a spell back.
Murray definitely will not be like Mark Ingram so I predict Kamara to have his best season to date. I predict the bull nose back to post his first 1000 yard rushing year and lead the league in total touches. I for-see a slight dip in his 18 endzone trips from last year but he picks that slack up with more yards and touches.
My stat-line prediction for Alvin Kamara: 1,100 rushing yards and 17 total touchdowns,
#5 Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
Elliot claimed the NFL rushing title last year, putting up a league best 1,434 yards on the ground to go with 567 yards through the air. He didn’t impress with his end-zone numbers only hitting pay dirt a total of 9 times. This is why I have him further down than others on my list, this Dallas team is not efficient at moving the ball or closing out drives finishing at 22nd in the league for points scored.
It’s the team Elliot finds himself on that restricts him. Elliot has a low ceiling but a high floor since he is such a dynamic player. If Dallas had a better offense Elliot could potentially move up my draft board. The fact that Elliot IS the Cowboys offense is whats scary, a suspension, or injury could ruin his fantasy potential and your team. In my opinion Elliot is a high risk medium reward player. He will get lots of volume and have a lot of potential to post another top rushing season, but I don’t see him being a vital threat in fantasy this year. I would go for Deandre Hopkins or Julio Jones before taking Elliott as you can get a safer pick in the second round.
Elliot was 5th amongst Running Backs last year in fantasy points, putting up 252 for standard leagues and 329.1, which is why he is 5th on my list. I see Elliott continuing to be a top back, but also having a production dip as the Cowboys continue to struggle offensively, and defenses gameplan against Zeke.
My stat-line prediction for Ezekiel Elliott: 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 10 Total Touchdowns
#6 James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers
James Conner became the Steelers light in an otherwise dark, drama filled, tunnel of a season last year. One that saw them miss the playoffs for only the third time this decade and the first time in the past five years. The fact that the Steelers did not collapse in the running game is a testament to Conner.
Averaging 74.8 YPG last year Conner missed out on a thousand yard season merely due to missing three games with a lower leg injury. It’s no surprise the Steelers we’re so willing to let Le’Veon Bell walk in free agency as Conner, behind Pittsburgh’s stout O-Line, put up a numbers very similar to that of his predecessor:
- 2017 Bell – 4.0 YPC / 129.8 YPG / 15 TDs
- 2018 Conner – 4.5 YPC / 113.0 YPG / 13 TDs
With only more to build on, and less distractions in the Steel City now that both Bell and Antonio Brown are gone, James Conner has the chance to lead the steelers backfield into the future. My only concern is if he can stay healthy having already missed time last year with injury. If he can finish the season I predict Conner to crack the 1000 yard mark and post another double digit TD season.
My stat-line prediction for James Conner: 1,125 rushing yards with 570 receiving yards and 14 Total TD’s
#7 Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
Can we stop focusing on how the season ended last year for poor Todd? He has been top dog the past two years and a clear piece in the Rams recent offensive success. This LA team does not make it to the Super Bowl without him, dont even try to argue that.
Gurley has been a matchup nightmare for defensive the past two seasons that it’s hard not to give him a Top 5 ranking but because of his low floor potential he could be a 2nd round steal. Melvin Gordon said in an interview early this spring that “Todd’s fine” stating that he talks to Todd regularly and everyone his sleeping on last years fantasy stud. Gurley was #1 last year in standard leagues averaging 19.56 PPG and came in 3rd in PPR’s with an average of 23.25 per game.
Gurley will continue to be the Rams backfield leader whether his knees hold up is the only question, Gurley was diagnosed with an arthritic knee, which raises concerns for a RB of his stature. Can he handle another workhorse season like last yeat? After locking him up with a huge contract last offseason, L.A. is not likely to be giving up on Gurley anytime soon. It’s a shame to see Gurley’s draft stock drop so significantly after leading the NFL in Rushing and Total Touchdowns last year with 17 and 21 respectively.
My state-line prediction for Todd Gurley: 1,200 yards on the ground to go with 600 yards receiving and a TD total of 18
#8 Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers
He belongs in the Top 5 and if he wasn’t in the midst of a contract dispute and posing the threat to pull a 2019 Le’Veon Bell he would be. However, it’s because of this uncertainty that he drops to No. 8 on my list. If things change before the draft look to see some of these rankings change around to make room for Gordon near the top of this list.
Coming off his best season in terms of averages, Gordon was on pace to set new highs in yards and TD’s if he didn’t battle injuries down the stretch. That aside, Gordon is healthy again and ready to tote the rock this year. Who for, remains the question. Remember last year when people were still drafting Le’Veon Bell No. 1 or 2, even with his threat to sit out the whole year? Look to see similar with Gordon. People will still take the risk for a back like him, and with good reason.
Gordon finds himself in a high octane offense, one that puts up lots of points and gives him the opportunity to touch the ball throughout the game. He doesn’t quite get the same kind of action that McCaffrey, Barkley, and Kamara see in the passing game, but he is productive nonetheless averaging 50 catches in each of his three NFL seasons. Last year Gordon hit pay-dirt 14 times in only 12 games… just think about that for a moment. He averaged more than one TD per game last season tying for 4th in the league without finishing the year.
Gordon ended the 2018 campaign with 226 fantasy points in standard leagues and 275 in PPR. Remember with time missed last year Gordon averaged 18.83 in standard and 22.91 in PPR. That, is dominance; again the only reason he falls this low on my list is purely for concern he sits out the whole year.
(if he plays) My stat-line prediction for Melvin Gordon : 1,800 yards from scrimmage and 19 Total Touchdowns, again the only reason he falls this low on my list is purely for concern he sits out the whole year.
#9 David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
Have we forgotten about David Johnson? I know I haven’t. The only Cardinal player, other than Larry Fitzgerald, to have any reason being on a fantasy team last year, Johnson didn’t meet expectations. This, however, is difficult to blame on D.J. himself, he ran behind one of, if not, the worst O-Lines in the NFL. Yet he still posed the best offensive production in the desert contributing to 10 of Arizona’s 24 offensive TD’s.
Johnson has high expectations for himself, which, in order to be successful in this league, you need to have. We are now two years removed from his 1,239/879, Rushing/Receiving year in which he total 20 TD’s for Arizona and he believes he can get the 1000/1000 year he’s been wanting. In a new explosive and fast paced offense, Johnson, will have every chance to make that happen.
Led by Rookie Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury and Rookie QB Kyler Murrary, the Cardinals are going to need all the support and talent Johnson can muster in order to improve on their league worst 14.1 PPG last year. My stat-line prediction for David Johnson may not be what he wants but closer to what he will get.
My stat-line prediction for David Johnson: 945 yards rushing 1025 yards receiving with 15 TTDs.
#10 Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts
Mack was another young rusher who showed great promise but had his season cut short due to injury. With the amount of volume Running Back’s get these days, it’s hard not to understand an injury bug striking. With that Mack proved to bring hope to an Indy backfield thats lacked consistency since Edgerrin James.
Mack ended his year with 908 yards in 12 games, had he finished the year he was on pace for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. Not a huge factor in the passing game Mack may drop out of my Top 10 had this been a PPR rankings only; but, it is not, and with that I digress. Marlon Mack will be the primary early down bell-cow and Nyheim Hines will handle the pass catching duties.
In an offense that ranked fifth in scoring last year with 27.1 PPG Indianapolis will continue to be a force to reckon with as long as Andrew Luck stays healthy. If he does and the Colts are running on all cylinders again, do not hesitate taking Mack in the 2nd round where he will surely be available and primed to add depth and stock to your RB stable.
My stat-line prediction for Marlon Mack: 1,160 Rushing Yards and 13 Total TD’s