Chris Meaney breaks out his early Running Back Rankings for full-point PPR formats.
You could see as many as eight running backs get taken off the board in the first round of your fantasy football draft. In fact, it’s likely the first six picks of your draft will be running backs. You could make a case for any of the following to be the first overall pick: Saquon Barkley, Ezekiell Elliott, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara.
I lean Zeke as he had 43 more carries than the next closest back and he had 29 more touches than the next closest RB. It’s hard to imagine McCaffrey or Kamara finishing with more carries than Elliot in 2019. Now, Elliott may not have as many catches, but he’s fresh off a career high 95 targets, 77 catches and 567 receiving yards. His reception numbers actually improved with the addition of Amari Cooper as the offense flowed better in Dallas.
Zeke in 8 regular season games with Amari Cooper: 59 targets & 52 receptions: 7.3 targets per game & 6.5 receptions per game.
Zeke in 7 regular season games without Amari Cooper: 36 targets & 25 receptions: 5.1 targets per game & 3.5 receptions per game.
I believe Elliott will still be a big player in the passing game, and you can expect some positive touchdown regression from him as well. Elliott racked up 25 touchdowns in his first 25 regular season games, only to score nine in 15 last season (six on the ground).
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Before we get to the full running back rankings, let’s take a look at a few running backs that I value significantly higher or lower than current ADP.
Todd Gurley (ADP: RB 4 – My Rank RB 14 )
I’m not willing to take a chance on Todd Gurley in the first round and he may just be a pass altogether. I’d like to say if he’s there near the end of the second I’ll take a share or two, but I’d feel better about him in the third and he’ll likely be gone by then. Someone will take the shot on him because of course there’s a tremendous upside.
You could argue a top-five finish for Gurley in a limited role. He finished as RB1 in 14 games last season and he has 40 touchdowns in two seasons with Sean McVay. He could be fantasy relevant with 14 games or 10-15 touches a game. It’s very possible if you give Gurley 14 touches a game in this Rams offense he could be a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2. One thing’s for sure, the days of 20 carries and 25 touches, consistently, seem over.
At this rate, Darrell Henderson will be drafted before Gurley. Jokes aside, I’ve seen him go first overall in a rookie only draft and to an owner who didn’t have Gurley. As a Gurley dynasty owner, I’m looking to acquire Henderson or I may even flirt with the idea of trading Gurley to whoever ends up with him. It just doesn’t look good when you start talking about a knee injury and one he’s had issues with before.
Chris Carson (ADP: RB 25 – My Rank RB 19)
Chris Carson’s ADP is fair, but I just want to hammer home how much I like him. Also, I’m not crazy about Rashaad Penny, even with an expected step forward in year two.
Carson finished fifth in rushing yards (1,151), fourth in rushing yards per game (82), and third in rushing attempts per game (17) last season. It’s all about opportunity in fantasy football and Carson’s 246 carries were the seventh most last season behind Adrian Peterson and Jordan Howard who will both see a decline in 2019.
Carson also finished seventh in red zone rushing attempts and rushing touchdowns (9). Carson only grabbed 20 balls last season and he takes a hit in PPR formats, but Seattle’s 534 rushing attempts in 2018 were second to Baltimore. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Carson was the 30th RB off the board last season and he has an early ADP of RB 25. He has all the makings of finishing inside the top 15 of the running back rankings.
David Montgomery (ADP: RB 38 – My Rank RB 22)
David Montgomery’s fantasy stock started to climb the minute he was drafted by the Chicago Bears. The selection has certainly made us forget about Mike Davis and Jordan Howard who we’ll get to below. Seriously, though, look at Montomgery’s stock over the last month thanks to our friends over at Fantasy Football Calculator.
Montgomery ran for at least 1,100 yards in each of his past two seasons at Iowa State. He has a chance to put up the same kind of numbers Kareem Hunt did as a rookie under Matt Nagy in KC. Montgomery may only catch 25 balls, but he’ll be a red zone threat and he’s stepping into a situation where he can be the lead guy.
Howard’s 250 carries were the sixth most last season and he finished in the top 10 with 270 touches. Only Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley have more rushing yards than Howard’s 3,370 since 2016. Tarik Cohen will have the same role as last season as he only reached double-digit carries in one of his 16 games. It’s his 75 catches and 124 over his first two seasons that has us excited in PPR leagues.
Montgomery will have every opportunity to top 250 touches in his first season behind a great offensive line. Montgomery is RB 22 on Fantasy Football Calculator and his ADP on Fantrax will rise as drafts continue to happen. My guess is there will be a bit of a committee until Montgomery fully takes over, so if you don’t get him on draft day you may be able to buy low.
Latavius Murray (ADP: RB 46 – My Rank RB 34)
If you’re one of those people who like to avoid running backs at the top of your draft, then Latavius Murray is for you. He’ll probably only cost you a sixth or seventh round pick. Which is nothing, considering the upside.
Murray is a former 1,000 rusher and he has 26 rushing touchdowns in his last three seasons. He could fall into a hand full of touchdowns this season and carve out a similar role as Mark Ingram had with New Orleans. Murray won’t be as involved in the passing game, but he’ll be used in the red zone and when the Saints are up in games.
Eight to 10 carries a game is possible and we’ve already seen what he can do when given the bulk of the workload. It feels gross just saying that because you want to see Alvin Kamara at full health, but injuries happen.
Miles Sanders (ADP: RB 54 – My Rank RB 31)
Miles Sanders is the best running back in Philadelphia’s backfield and he has the most upside, but we’re dealing with Doug Pederson here so he’s down the running back rankings. In his three years as head coach, only Ryan Mathews and Josh Adams reached the 20-carry mark, and they only did it a combined five times. That’s five games out of 170 combined contests from those two along with Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement.
Assistant head coach Duce Staley backed it up this week when he said they would continue to use a committee…something they’ve been doing for awhile. Sanders is on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury and Howard is getting familiar with his new team. It’s not the best start for a rookie, so I’d be cautious in redraft leagues.
In fact, Howard is on the final year of his rookie deal and already has a head start with the offense. He’s basically free in drafts and has red zone appeal which gives him sneaky TD upside on what is a good team and good o-line. Not only does Pederson like to use all his running backs, he likes them all to be able to catch the football.
My prediction is Jordan Howard is your Week 1 starter, and Sanders may only be a 10-14 touch guy in year one.
2019 Running Back Rankings
|35||Ronald Jones II||TB||RB|
|70||Benny Snell Jr.||PIT||RB|
If you’re onboard with these running back rankings and want more from Chris, check out his full archive.
Chris Meaney is a contributor for FantraxHQ, covering fantasy football, baseball, and hockey. Chris covered NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB as a producer, writer, and host at FNTSY Sports Network. He was the lead host of the daily live shows, “Home Ice Advantage” and “Fantasy Sports Today.” Meaney has several years of radio and television experience both in the sports world and music industry. He’s written for The Athletic, Associated Press, New York Daily News, Fantasy Footballers, NBA Fantasy, Play Picks, NewCap Radio and more. You can follow him @chrismeaney.
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