2019 College Fantasy Football: CFF Running Back Rankings

July 3, 2019 By John Laub
John Laub breaks out his CFF Running Back Rankings, profiling the top backs and outlining his winning draft formula for 2019 College Fantasy Football.

In NFL Fantasy Football Drafts, running backs dominate first-round selections with up to eight coming off the board among the top 12 picks. In College Fantasy Football, the supply of fantasy ball carriers is deeper, and owners tend to grab quarterbacks earlier so value opens up as the draft unfolds. While that won’t affect my CFF running back rankings much, it does change the way you should draft a team.

I always like to have a strong stable of runners on my roster. My preferred approach is to grab three of my top 12 ball carriers in the first five rounds. In the ITL CFF Mock Draft over the weekend, I implemented the plan, pounding the position in rounds Two, Three and Four, acquiring Michael Warren, II, D’Andre Swift, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who all are among my Top 10 runners in 2019. In the later rounds, I selected Anthony McFarland, Jr. and Stevie Scott as my backups. I was able to secure five studs who exceeded 1,000 yards rushing last season and all totaled double-digit touchdowns except for McFarland. Jr. I have provided my final roster for readers to analyze below:

I call my methodology the “Talented Three” team building. I want to monopolize the running back position and force my competitors to chase less valuable ball carriers, which allows me to find undervalued receivers. I hope all my readers attempt the “Talented Three” approach at least once this summer.

I have provided player profiles for my Top 24 CFF running back rankings. Enjoy my fellow CFF fanatics!


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2019 CFF Running Back Rankings

Summa Cum Laude

  1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

There are not many systems more valuable in college fantasy football than the Badgers’ running game. Over the past decade, Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon, and Corey Clement were all fantasy studs behind the Wisconsin offensive line, and Jonathan Taylor might be the best of a long list of celebrities in Madison, WI. A junior, Taylor has rushed for over 4,000 yards and scored 29 touchdowns. The accolades would even make Herschel Walker envious: 2017, Walter Camp Player of the Year, All-American Second Team, Big Ten First Team, and Freshman All-American; 2018, Doak Walker Award winner, unanimous All-American First Team, Big Ten First Team, and New Era Pinstripe Bowl MVP. Can Taylor be better in 2019? In the storied history of the game, only Ron Dayne has posted two seasons (1996 and 1999) over 2,000 yards. Ironically, the 1999 Heisman winner was the last Badger to capture the coveted award. At kickoff, Taylor is just outside of the Top 100 career rushing leaders and needs only 1,370 yards to surpass Cedric Benson in order to join the Top 10 all-time. The spirited Badger has one of the highest floors in college fantasy football with a ceiling that could challenge Barry Sanders all-time single-season mark of 2,628 yards. Fantasy footballers will be more than happy with a third-consecutive crusade over 1,900 yards.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,950 and 16

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 11 for 100 and 0

Total Fantasy Points: 312

 

  1. Travis Etienne, Clemson

Quarterbacks have captured eight of the last 10 Heisman Trophies; nevertheless, Travis Etienne is among the top contenders for the award in 2019 after rushing for 1,658 yards and scoring 26 times for the National Champion Tigers last year. In 15 games, Etienne eclipsed 150 rushing yards five times, surpassed the century mark eight times, and scored in every game except two. He established school records for rushing yards in a season, yards per carry (8.1) and rushing touchdowns (24). He was named Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year in the ACC while being named First Team All-American by ESPN and the Sporting News. Playing at 203 pounds last year, Etienne has focused on adding muscle in the offseason and wants to play at 213 pounds in 2019. The junior excels at breaking tackles and the added weight will be a greater challenge for defenders trying to corral Etienne. At 5-foot-10, the speedster is electric in the open field and can score on any play. He has a stupendous combination of size, speed, and power: He runs well between the tackles, excels on the perimeter and explodes up the field with breakaway speed. He gains yards after initial contact and runs with authority. The tantalizing Tiger is my No. 1 Devy prospect, and many NFL Draft analysts have Etienne atop their running back rankings. From a fantasy production standpoint, the only concern is that Clemson employs so many playmakers that his touches might be limited in blowout victories. Otherwise, Etienne is a top five college fantasy football prospect in 2019.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,600 and 20

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 9 for 80 and 1

Total Fantasy Points: 303

 

  1. Eno Benjamin, Arizona State

Last year, I drafted Etienne and Eno Benjamin back-to-back in rounds ten and eleven and won a CFF championship with a 11-0 record. Both will cost so much more in 2019: the two luminaries will be plucked among the top 10 players in CFF drafts across the nation. The Arizona State ball carrier set a Sun Devils’ single-season record with 1,642 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Benjamin also snatched 35 passes for 263 yards and scored twice. He earned Pac-12 First Team and AP All-American Third Team honors for his efforts. At 5-foot-10 and 201 pounds, the junior has inordinate vision and fantastic footwork, changing directions easily. With prodigious balance and leg drive, Benjamin has stupendous lower body strength and bounces off tacklers, gaining chunks of yards after contact. Elusive, he forced 94 missed tackles, produced 31 explosive runs and rushed for 81 first downs. Coach Herm Edwards must replace quarterback Manny Wilkins and first-rounder N’Keal Harry, which foreshadows a heavy workload for Benjamin, who should earn another 300 carries. Opponents will stack the box with nine defenders in order to slow Benjamin, but coach Edwards can counter with a senior-laden offensive line, including center Cohl Cabral, to blast open holes. Draft Benjamin with confidence and enjoy the weekly production.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,500 and 14

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 20 for 160 and 2

Total Fantasy Points: 282

 

  1. Michael Warren, II, Cincinnati

The Cincinnati ball carrier burst onto the college football radar last year with an eye-opening performance at UCLA with 142 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Astute college fantasy footballers plucked Michael Warren, II off the waiver wire, and inserted the Bearcats’ runner into starting lineups the rest of the year. He eclipsed 100 yards rushing seven times and scored a touchdown in 10 of 12 games. When the curtain closed on the crusade, Warren gained 1,329 yards and scored 19 times. He also caught 25 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. In high school, he rushed for over 7,600 yards and scored over 100 touchdowns, but only garnered three-stars from scouting services as a prospect. At 5-foot-10 and 218 pounds, he believes that his size and style, running low to the ground and bouncing off tacklers, is a huge advantage. A student of the game, Warren has studied Barry Sanders and Walter Payton and compares his running style to theirs. It might be a little bit of hyperbole, but any runner who mirrors his game after two Hall of Famers gains the attention of shrewd fantasy owners. Draft with confidence in 2019.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,450 and 15

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 30 for 270 and 1

Total Fantasy Points: 288

 

  1. Joshua Kelley, UCLA

Coach Chip Kelly returned to the PAC-12 last year, and the Bruins’ faithful are confident that he will guide the program back to the top of the conference. During his four-year tenure at Oregon, Kelly’s scheme produced a fantasy stud running back each season in his up-tempo, read-option offense: LaMichael James (2009-2011) and Kenjon Barner (2012). It took a while, but Kelly finally found his guy in the third game versus Colorado last year. Joshua Kelley, UC Davis transfer and walk-on at UCLA, finally earned a higher number of carries against the Buffaloes, rushing for 124 yards on 12 attempts. For the rest of the campaign, Kelley became the centerpiece of the Bruins’ ground game. He totaled the tenth most single-season yards (1,243) in school history and eclipsed 100 yards in six games. In the storied rivalry against USC, Kelley established a record for rushing yards (289) in a game by any back for either team. Having graduated high school in 2014, Kelley could have declared for the NFL Draft, but decided to return to campus one final season. College fantasy footballers could not be more ecstatic. While coach Kelly has not produced a winning season since 2012 with the Ducks, the Bruins should be better offensively than last season, and the team could win six games behind a stellar rushing attack around Kelley’s abilities.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,600 and 15

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 30 for 250 and 1

Total Fantasy Points: 311

 

  1. A.J. Dillon, Boston College

There is no question in regard to coach Steve Addazio’s game plan: He limits opponents’ possessions with a run-heavy assault, and A.J. Dillon is the centerpiece of the ground attack. Coming out of high school, Rivals.com ranked AJ Dillon as the No. 1 prospect in Massachusetts and No. 20 running back in the nation. Originally, Dillon announced on Twitter that we would play at Michigan but enrolled at Boston College instead.  At 6-foot-0 and 250 pounds, Dillon is a physical, downhill runner with very good athleticism. A thick-and-strong lower body, he is robust between the tackles with good vision and quick feet. In two seasons on campus, Dillon has dominated the ACC competition. As a freshman, he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the conference after totaling 1,589 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. As a sophomore, the bruising Eagle missed two games but still accumulated 1,108 rushing yards, scored ten times and earned All-ACC First Team. He became the first runner in Boston College history to post back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in each of his first two seasons on campus. In college fantasy football, there are only 10 or 11 regular season games and it is imperative to start well. The Eagles open the 2019 crusade with four home games in the first five weeks (Virginia Tech, Richmond, Kansas and Wake Forest) and travel to Rutgers on September 21. Easy pickings for Dillon and the rushing attack.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,450 and 14

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 6 for 50 and 0

Total Fantasy Points: 240

 

Magna Cum Laude

  1. Patrick Taylor, Jr., Memphis

Since taking over at Memphis three seasons ago, coach Mike Norvell has guided the Tigers to consecutive AAC Championship games behind an explosive offense. In 2018, Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor both rushed for over 1,000 yards, and Henderson is now in the NFL. Taylor rises to the top of the depth chart and will garner the majority of carries for coach Norvell. In three seasons, the Senior playmaker has accumulated over 2,500 yards rushing, snared 47 passes for 382 yards and scored 34 touchdowns. At 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds, Taylor is a punishing ball carrier, who delivers the thunder in the ground game. A versatile competitor, he possesses a nice combination of size and speed with a mix of power and patience. In the classroom, Taylor has earned AAC All-Academic Team twice, and his parents instilled a sense of obligation to the community. After Hurricane Katrina, his family welcomed over 50 people, who were displaced after the devastation of the Gulf Coast, into their home. As an outcome, Taylor extends a hand to others and regularly visits children whenever asked by Braxton Brady, director of player relations at Memphis. Entering the 2019 crusade, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Taylor as the fourth best senior running back prospect in the Draft. The future is bright for the tantalizing Tiger and all those in his orbit.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,400 and 17

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 21 for 200 and 1

Total Fantasy Points: 289

 

  1. D’Andre Swift, Georgia

While Wisconsin annually produces elite offensive linemen and ball carriers in its punishing ground game, Georgia will not yield the top spot or take a back seat to any program. The Bulldogs also employ a dominant rushing attack every season. With Elijah Holyfield no longer on the team, D’Andre Swift steps into one of college football’s most prodigious positions. Without question, I am more bullish on the next Georgia superstar than most CFF experts and eager to acquire Swift on my fantasy teams at a discounted price. From Herschel Walker to Nick Chubb, I have enjoyed watching the Georgia ground game and expect the junior tailback to etch his name among the pantheon of great backs in Athens, GA. As a senior in high school, Swift led his team to a Class 6A State Title in Pennsylvania, rushing for 1,564 yards, catching 21 passes and crossing the finish line 34 times. He earned an invite to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and was rated as a 5-star prospect by PrepStar Magazine and 4-stars by ESPN and Rivals.com. As a freshman in 2017, Swift gained 618 yards rushing and corralled 17 catches for 153 yards. As a sophomore last year, he surpassed 1,000 yards rushing and totaled 32 catches. An underrated pass catcher, the junior has recorded 49 receptions for 450 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons on campus. Join me promoting hashtag #SwiftforHeisman this season…you will not be disappointed.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,600 and 12

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 35 for 310 and 2

Total Fantasy Points: 310

 

  1. Juwan Washington, San Diego State

At San Diego State, Donnel Pumphrey (2016) and Rashaad Penny (2017) surpassed 2,000 yards rushing in coach Rocky Long’s running game. Last year, college football fanatics expected Juwan Washington to step into the starting role for the Aztecs and replicate the success of the two former All-MWC runners. Missing four games due to a fractured clavicle, Washington could not live up to the hype: He rushed for 999 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Over his last 29 games, he has crossed the finish line 27 times: three on kick returns, one receiving and 23 rushing. The kickoffs for touchdowns have come on only 43 returns in three seasons. A speedster, the Senior has a great blend of power and quickness. At 5-foot-7 and 190 pounds, Washington is undersized; nevertheless, will be the bell cow in the Aztec’s ground game. If he remains healthy, the SDSU celeb could come close to the numbers of his former teammates.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,350 and 12

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 12 for 90 and 0

Total Fantasy Points: 228

 

  1. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt

The Commodores are loaded at the skill positions with Ke’Shawn Vaughn, WR Kalija Lipscomb and TE Jared Pickney. Coach Derek Mason just needs to find a quarterback to replace Kyle Shurmur. Whoever wins the job will surely rely on Vaughn. A Nashville native, Vaughn earned the 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Football in Tennessee as a high school senior in 2014 and enrolled at Illinois. In both seasons for the Fighting Illini, he earned varsity letters, rushing for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. After a disappointing sophomore crusade, he transferred from Illinois and remained on the sideline for a year. In his first season as a starter at Vanderbilt, Vaughn gained 1,244 rushing yards—second most in school history—and recorded 12 touchdowns. He exceeded over 95 yards rushing per game in SEC contests and finished first in the conference averaging 7.9 yards per attempt. In the Texas Bowl versus Baylor, the redshirt Senior cruised to 243 rushing yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries. At 5-foot-10 and 218 pounds, Vaughn possesses game-breaking speed with astonishing vision and contact balance, bouncing off tacklers with guile and fortitude. The Commodores’ speedster rates among the top senior RB prospects before the season kicks off, and he wants to open the eyes of NFL teams. In the recent ITL CFF Mock Draft, I acquired Vaughn as my third runner in the fourth round, and I could not be more excited.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,400 and 14

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 10 for 90 and 1

Total Fantasy Points: 249

 

  1. Max Borghi, Washington State

The negative narrative states that coach Mike Leach’s system does not produce fantasy-worthy runners. The positive storyline proclaims that Max Borghi is a special talent and will transcend the pass-happy system. There is a middle ground: In ppr-scoring leagues, Borghi is going to be a stud, and in standard-scoring formats, his value is clearly suppressed because many of his points are attributed to his pass-catching ability. As a high school senior, the Denver Post designated Borghi as Colorado’s outstanding senior football player, scholar and citizen, and he was rated as a 3-star prospect by ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com. He enrolled early at Washington State and participated in the Crimson-Gray Spring Game in 2018. He did not disappoint the Cougars’ faithful last year. Borghi was named PAC-12 Freshman of the Year honorable mention after catching 53 passes for 374 yards and scoring 12 times. He also carried 72 times for 366 yards. With James Williams and his 83 catches, graduating, Borghi will now be the lead back for coach Leach and is expected to see a significant increase in touches. The sensational sophomore is undervalued in early CFF drafts and should be scooped up before the price skyrockets this summer.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 700 and 9

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 70 for 500 and 6

Total Fantasy Points: 280

 

  1. Salvon Ahmed, Washington

I am so excited to stay up late on the East Coast and watch PAC-12 games this fall. In 2019, four PAC-12 running backs adorn my Top 12, and three more members make my Top 20 in college fantasy football. Over the past four seasons, the Washington Huskies have relied on Miles Gaskins to govern the ground game. Well, a new chapter commences in Seattle, Washington. Coach Chris Peterson’s teams always run the football, and Salvon Ahmed is the next man up. Over the last two campaigns, the junior ball carrier performed well as Gaskin’s caddy with 996 yards rushing, 34 catches for 247 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has played in all 27 games, starting three last year. As a senior in high school, Ahmed was named to the PrepStar magazine’s Top 150 Dream Team and rated as ESPN’s No. 106 overall prospect in the nation. A speedster, Ahmed might be the fastest player in the PAC-12. He registered a 4.43 40-yard dash at the Husky Combine in 2018. Coach Peterson will find mismatches for Ahmed to exploit in space, and the Husky home run hitter will take advantage of slower linebackers and safeties. In 2019, Ahmed will battle for All-PAC-12 First Team honors.

2019 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,300 and 14

Receptions, Yards, and TDs: 25 for 200 and 2

Total Fantasy Points: 271

 

Cum Laude

  1. Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State

There are varying opinions on the forecast for Jermar Jefferson in 2019. As a freshman last year, he rushed for 1,380 yards, averaged 5.8 yards per attempt and scored 12 times. At 5-foot-10 and 216 pounds, the bruising Beaver also garnered Freshman All-American honors by many media outlets. I am purchasing as many shares as possible this summer.

  1. Zack Moss, Utah State

An All-PAC-12 Second Team member last year, the Senior became only the fourth runner in school history to record two 1,000-yard seasons in 2018. Coach Kyle Whittingham must replace four offensive linemen but will rely on his two seniors (Moss and QB Tyler Huntley) to move the chains. Do not overlook Moss during drafts.

  1. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State

A redshirt freshman last year, Chuba Hubbard earned significant carries and experience when Justice Hill, who was drafted by Baltimore in April, went down with an injury. He gained 740 yards, scored seven touchdowns and was named a finalist for the Cornish Trophy as the top Canadian NCAA student-athlete. In the four games as the primary ball carrier, Hubbard averaged over 100 rushing yards and 5.4 yards per carry.

  1. Keaontay Ingram, Texas

If you have listened to the CFF: On Campus Podcast or gazed at my player rankings, I am very upbeat on Keaontay Ingram this season. A prodigious high school prospect, Ingram played in all 13 games last season and totaled 878 yards from scrimmage and scored five times. At 6-foot-0 and 215 pounds, the sophomore is a shifty runner with good patience and vision, and projects as the feature back in one of the most electrifying offenses in the nation. Do not sleep on Ingram.

  1. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

In his first two years at Ohio State, J.K. Dobbins has strung together consecutive highly productive crusades. He established a freshman school-record with 1,403 yards rushing and totaled another 1,053 yards as a sophomore. Finally, Dobbins will no longer share the workload in the Buckeyes’ backfield and wants to average more than seven yards per carry, which is great news for college fantasy diehards.

  1. Najee Harris, Alabama

How talented was the stable of running backs at Alabama last year? Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris were both selected in the NFL Draft, and Najee Harris was third on the depth chart. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Harris is an explosive playmaker, who gained 783 rushing yards while averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Coach Nick Saban’s backfield is still loaded with stars, but Harris is first in line for carries and should easily exceed 1,000 yards rushing and ten touchdowns.

  1. CJ Verdell, Oregon

The Ducks have an embarrassment of riches on offense: Five returning starters on the O-line and QB Justin Herbert, a future first-round draft pick, leading the team. Last year, CJ Verdell was the only freshman in the FBS with over 1,000 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards. At 5-foot-9 and 209 pounds, the redshirt sophomore added weight in the offseason and believes the extra muscle will provide a bigger punch upon contact without losing speed and quickness.

  1. Kylin Hill, Mississippi State

As offensive coordinator at Penn State, Bulldogs’ coach Joe Moorhead featured All-American RB Saquon Barley, and at Mississippi State last year, Kylin Hill spearheaded Moorhead’s running game. A dual-threat ball carrier, Hill rushed for 734 yards, grabbed 22 receptions for 176 yards and scored eight times. The hybrid playmaker is one of the underrated runners in the SEC and should not be overlooked by college fantasy footballers.

  1. DeAndre Torrey, North Texas

Most college footballers do not realize that DeAndre Torrey produced 18 touchdowns last season and was named All-Conference USA Second Team as a runner and All-Conference USA honorable mention as a kick returner. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry and gained 977 rushing yards. Torrey is one of the most exciting runners in the nation.

  1. Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State

When Jalin Moore’s career came to end after a season-ending injury last year, Darrynton Evans was elevated into the lead role and became a waiver-wire star down the stretch of the campaign. He earned All-Sun Belt First Team after rushing for 1,187 yards and scoring eight times. In the Summa Cum Laude Mock Draft, I selected Evans in the seventh round as my third running back and am thrilled.

  1. Spencer Brown, UAB

At 6-foot-0 and 230 pounds, Spencer Brown is a punishing runner who maintains a high motor throughout games. He is one of the most consistent runners in the nation: He has recorded back-to-back 1,200-plus yard crusades, and last year, earned All-Conference USA First Team honors and Conference USA Championship Game MVP.

  1. Jashaun Corbin, Texas A&M

I might be making a gaffe ranking Jashaun Corbin so low compared to other CFF experts. I have seen the Aggies’ ball carrier rated among the Top 10 CFF RBs by many respected analysts in 2019. He is clearly a terrific No. 2 runner on CFF teams; nevertheless, I am finding value with other players this year. If Corbin falls beyond the fourth round, grab him before your competitors do this summer.

 

Fantasy Projections Based On: 
Rushing & Receiving Yards: 1 point every 10 yards
Rushing & Receiving Touchdowns: 6 points each
Receptions: One point each catch

 

Did you enjoy John’s 2019 CFF RB Rankings? Get more from the Gridiron Scholar’s Game Plan: 2019 CFF Rankings | 2019 CFF Mock Draft | Group of Five Rankings | Devy League Rankings

Plus, check out all of our other great College Fantasy Football content!


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John Laub :With his Masters in history and professional experience as an educator, John Laub is uniquely qualified to research, analyze and discover new insights and trends in college and professional football. Laub has played fantasy football for thirty years and published articles for FootballDiehards.com for well over 20 years. He won $10,000 in 1993, defeating nearly 15,000 owners, and published Audibles: Winning is Everything in the 1990s. He is co-host of the DFSDudes and CFF: On Campus PodCasts. He truly is The Gridiron Scholar.