For the newest installment of Fantrax’s fantasy running back depth charts series, we’re going to delve into the NFC East. I’ve already ranked the top 100 fantasy running backs in the NFL, but why not break this down by division (we’re in the clicks business, baby. Don’t ask questions!)? Between the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, and the Washington Football Team, the NFC East offenses are no joke this year. I’ve got some hot (but correct!) takes for y’all today.
A quality running back is a scarce fantasy asset. It’s for this reason that my favorite strategy is to draft a running back with my first 4 picks…regardless of league style (redraft, dynasty, etc.). I aim to find value at other positions like WR and QB, because if I miss on a bet at those positions, I can always trade one of my RBs for a roster weakness during the season. When those RB injuries hit during the season (they always do), league-mates will be knocking down your door to get what you already have!!!
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NFC East RB Depth Chart
RB4: Ezekiel Elliot
RB46: Tony Pollard
The rumors of Zeke’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. As bad as Zeke was at times last year, it wasn’t some personal problem. The reason Zeke was so great is that he’s fast, agile, has great vision, power, and can catch out of the backfield. Let’s just say he’s slowed down a tick (he hasn’t). As long as he still has those other attributes, the unquestioned first-string running back in a Dallas offense, which has an elite QB, is going to eat. That first-string RB: Zeke Elliot.
Zeke will get catches out of the backfield. He’ll get goal-line carries. Elliot will be used to control the clock. Last, but not least, he’ll be a beneficiary of not having to run against a stacked box, because defenses aren’t afraid of Andy Dalton. As bad as his naysayers say he is, he finished last year as RB11, racking up over 1300 all-purpose yards and 8 total touchdowns. The potential for over 1700 all-purpose yards for Zeke this year is there. Assuming he stays healthy, I’ve projected Elliot to finish the season as RB4 overall. Welcome back, Zeke!!!
RB20: Saquon Barkley
Stand back!!! The takes are hot!!!
I have Saquon Barkley ranked at RB20 in my running back rankings. Quite the contrast from the consensus I see from other experts (around the top 5). The Giants made a humongous bet on Barkley with where they drafted him. They’re also likely to sign him to a new contract (Christian McCaffrey type of deal). That said, the Giants are going to protect their investment. I’m thinking a RB by committee is likely for the Giants (Booker is his handcuff), especially while they ease him into the offense. On top of that, Barkley has always been a home-run type of runner. Those long runs will come fewer and further between in his first year back. I expect flashes of his talents and plenty of goal-line opportunities, but to draft Barkley with your first-round pick will leave you disappointed.
RB19: Miles Sanders
We just finished talking about a former Penn State running back in Saquon, now we’re talking Miles Sanders. Another home run type of runner. He’s the kind of back that can pound you for three yards at a time, and just when you think he’s going to have a lackluster game, he breaks away for a 30-yard run. He can also catch out of the backfield. He’s a three-down back and doesn’t really have any established competition to take his snap share. I’m not scared of Johnson or Gainwell.
Last year, Sanders finished the season as RB21 with over 1000 all-purpose. yards and 6 touchdowns. His two biggest hurdles are injuries (which I don’t project) and the fact that Jalen Hurts is a hell of an athlete. That means Hurts is likely going to take some touches away from Sanders. The goal-line touches. Touches you care about most in fantasy. It’s annoying but that’s the way it is. The bright side is that last year the Eagles had no problem moving the ball with Hurts at the helm, so Sanders will have his fair share of receptions and red zone opportunities.
RB15: Antonio Gibson
RB42: Jaret Patterson
Ahhh, my hometown team. The team I love so much, despite not giving me any optimistic feelings since RG3 was dazzling the league. As much as I want to be overly optimistic, ’tis my duty to the good people of fantasy football, to provide you unbiased opinions. People want to assume an Antonio Gibson workhorse role since he finished RB13 last year, but I think he’ll get a very similar workload to last year (which is fine, he’ll still do damage).
There’s a strong possibility his turf toe will linger since he opted not to have surgery. Further, Gibson will split receiving roles with JD McKissic again, and also share some carries with Lamar Miller and a rookie signing in Jaret Paterson who made his name in college last year with an insane 409-yard and 8-TD game. In fact, this is another hot take, but I have Patterson as RB42. I think Patterson has the tools to be a real star. He reminds me of Kareem Hunt. The dude is electric. The league has long been gravitating toward RB by committee and I don’t think Gibson will escape that.
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