CFF: 2019’s Top Returning Running Backs
Although we can get excited about incoming freshmen or next men up, It’s nice to look at the guys who are established at their spots and excelled at it a season ago. Last season we got to see guys like Benny Snell and Myles Gaskin go out strong while Darrell Henderson and Alex Barnes put their names in NFL circles in their breakout seasons. The 2019 season will approach quicker than you think so I would like to look at the top-10 returning running backs who have proven their worth in the past and we can rely on next season. There are some names who are left as honorable mentions. If you agree, disagree, or want to yell at me for my omissions, hit me up @justinheisey on Twitter.
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Top Returning Running Backs for 2019 College Fantasy Football
- DeAndre Torrey, North Texas
- Spencer Brown, UAB
- D’Andre Swift, Georgia
- JK Dobbins, Ohio State
10. Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
After being held on a leash for the opening weeks of the season. Elijah Mitchell came out guns blazing against Alabama and finished up with 93 yards. He went on to top 100 yards four times in his final nine games and averaged 7.0 yards per carry in the same time period. Although Trey Ragas remains at Louisiana, Mitchell is the better player and deserves the bulk of the carries.
Billy Napier devised offenses at Clemson with James Davis and CJ Spiller that were wildly successful for both and his offense at ULL has looked very similar. If the system stays the same, Louisiana looks the part of a farm school for running backs in the future.
9. Benny LeMay, Charlotte
Despite UNC Charlotte’s 33% win-percentage over the past four seasons, Benny LeMay emerged as the one silver lining heading into their future. LeMay took off for 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and his future looks bright with the 49er additions of USF-transfer Brett Kean and head coach Will Healy. LeMay is in for a larger role under Healy’s terrific offensive mind and a more talented quarterback in Kean who challenged Blake Barnett for the job in the previous preseason.
8. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s transfer from Illinois to Vanderbilt was noticed but he was very under the radar for his output. Vaughn finished up with 1,200+ yards last season and was virtually unstoppable in his performance against Baylor in the Texas Bowl. Kyle Shurmur is gone, but most full-FBS owners know the name Riley Neal from his success at Ball State and know that he will hold his own next season. Expect Vaughn to build off of his breakout season in 2019 as the marquee player for the Commodores.
7. Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State
Oregon State was an absolute train wreck in Jonathan Smith’s inaugural season. In fact, If I saw a running back going up against the Beavers I would pick him up in a heartbeat. The only thing the Beavers had going for them was Jermar Jefferson.
Jefferson took over in Week 2 after Artavis Pierce left the game against Southern Utah with an elbow injury. Jefferson took off for over 200 yards in his debut and finished up the season with 1,300+ yards on the ground as the featured back. Coach Smith made a gem out of Myles Gaskin and looks to favor Jefferson going into the future.
6. Patrick Taylor Jr., Memphis
Patrick Taylor Jr. finished with 1,000+ yards as the No. 2 back to the nation’s second-leading rusher Darrell Henderson. Taylor is the guy for the Tigers this year with the departure of Henderson and speedster Tony Pollard and I’m foreshadowing a huge season from the senior back. Memphis’ offense shouldn’t change much given Brady White returns as the quarterback and Mike Norvell remains the guy in charge of the team.
5. Joshua Kelley, UCLA
We all knew that UCLA was going to have a great running back when Chip Kelly took the job over. What we didn’t know was that UC Davis-transfer Joshua Kelley was the answer as to who that was. In games Kelley received more than 10 carries, he went for over 100 yards in six of the nine and scored in all but one of the nine. Kelley could potentially go in the first rounds of most drafts but has no shot of lasting after the second.
4. Michael Warren II, Cincinnati
Michael Warren II was quietly one of the most consistent backs in all of college football last season. He never rushed for under 60 yards in any game and he finished just two games of the 12 without scoring. He’s also a great pass catcher with 25 receptions for 200+ yards and benefits from having another fantasy stud at quarterback in Desmond Ridder. His weak AAC schedule sets up nicely for another strong season.
3. Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
Anyone who listens to the CFF: OnCampus podcast knew about Eno Benjamin long before he was the man in Tempe, Arizona. Although we didn’t advocate hard for him in the preseason, he was certainly talked about in 2018 given his 1,600+ yard season. Arizona State loses Manny Wilkins which only makes Benjamin more of a necessity for the Sun Devils’ offensive success.
2. Travis Etienne, Clemson
Travis Etienne was a hot name heading into last season and could leave Clemson as the greatest running back statistically in Clemson history. I have him at two due to the rise of Trevor Lawrence and that there are only so many points a team can score in 60 minutes. Etienne is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball and he’s in for another big year despite having an NFL caliber quarterback in the backfield.
1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Hey guys, Alex Hornibrook is finally gone. Jonathan Taylor has over 4,000 rushing yards on his career and will leave as the second leading rusher in Wisconsin history if he stays healthy behind only Ron Dayne. Graham Mertz comes in as one of the best quarterback recruits Wisconsin has ever had and if he’s as good as advertised then Taylor will finally have someone to prevent defenses from stacking the box on him every play.
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