Published On: Thu, May 3rd, 2018

Fantasy: Reviewing the RB landscape post draft

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It’s important to remember that these primers are not intended to be tiers for drafting. You can view our complete quarterback rankings here.

2018 Fantasy Primers

Top of the food chain

Todd Gurley, Rams – Sean McVay breathed new life into the Rams’ offense last season, but Gurley was the one who carried the team on his back during a near MVP-caliber campaign. With the improvements to the rest of their roster, expect more of the same from Gurley in 2018.

Le’Veon Bell, Steelers – The ideal fantasy recipe is when a player as supremely talented as Bell also leads the league in touches, which he did in 2017 with 406.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys – Despite missing six weeks last season, Elliott’s 17.7 fantasy points per game ranked second at his position. The Cowboys will need to lean heavily on him once again as they rework their receiving corps.

Sophomore stars

Alvin Kamara, Saints – Regression will come for Kamara, who was the star of the 2017 fantasy season. Luckily, an increase in touches should help him stay among the elite options at the position.

Leonard Fournette, Jaguars – The Jaguars commitment to the run game was real and Fournette capitalized en route to a top-eight fantasy finish among running backs. Had he played in all 16 games as a rookie, Fournette would have moved into the top four.

Kareem Hunt, Chiefs – A year after leading the NFL in rushing yards as a rookie, Hunt will now have to fend off a healthy Spencer Ware, who is a threat to steal touches and lower Hunt’s fantasy ceiling.

Christian McCaffrey, Panthers – No one was a bigger winner during the NFL draft than McCaffrey, as the Panthers failed to bring in a back to pair with him. The result could be a transcendent fantasy season if Carolina doesn’t decide to add a free agent to the mix.

Joe Mixon, Bengals – The Bengals have one of the easiest strength of schedules for fantasy backs, giving credence to those signalling a second-year breakout for Mixon.

Returning from injury

David Johnson, Cardinals – Johnson’s wrist is 100 percent healed, however, his offensive line is as fractured as ever. The Cardinals’ offense will run through Johnson, but his touchdown-upside will take a hit.

Dalvin Cook, Vikings – Cook looked the part of an NFL star before being lost for the season with a torn ACL. He returns to a Super Bowl contender that added Kirk Cousins to an already successful offense. Don’t sleep on Cook as a breakout candidate.

Chris Thompson, Redskins – Before suffering a broken leg, Thompson was on pace for 1,286 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those numbers will be impossible to replicate in 2018 after the team drafted Derrius Guice in the second round.

Past their prime?

LeSean McCoy, Bills – McCoy still has a good year or two left, however, it’s safe to ask whether his decline will be sped up by the disastrous state of the Bills’ offense. Don’t underestimate Tyrod Taylor’s impact on Buffalo’s rushing attack the last few seasons. Volume is McCoy’s best fantasy attribute moving forward.

Marshawn Lynch, Raiders – Beast Mode’s return to the NFL was, by all accounts, a success, and with no real replacement lined up, Lynch is positioned for another solid fantasy season.

Rookie wave

Saquon Barkley, Giants – If you were designing a running back prospect, Barkley would be it. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which he can’t turn his guaranteed workload into an RB1 fantasy season.

Sony Michel, Patriots – The Patriots normally find patchwork options to fill out their running back depth chart. If Bill Belichick is spending a first-round pick on a rookie rusher, Michel will be a major part of the offense in 2018.

Derris Guice, Redskins – The reasons for his draft day slide remain unclear, but fantasy owners have to love Guice’s landing spot in a Redskins offense desperate for a quality early-down ball carrier.

Rashaad Penny, Seahawks – Penny has a shot to earn a three-down role right away, but will his pass protection issues cause him to lose snaps as a rookie?

Ronald Jones II, Buccaneers – Jones is an explosive prospect who might be better suited to be the game-breaking part of a committee, rather than a true lead back.

Royce Freeman, Broncos – Opportunity is so important for running backs and Freeman finds himself thrust into an immediate starting job in an offense on the rise.

Kerryon Johnson, Lions – Unlike the other early-round picks, Johnson faces more competition for touches in Detroit, which will limit his early-season stats.

Underrated options

Melvin Gordon, Chargers – Gordon doesn’t receive the respect he should as a runner or receiver. He set career highs in almost every category last season and with the Chargers projected for another winning season, Gordon should continue to produce at a high clip.

Devonta Freeman, Falcons – After a down year in 2017, Freeman and the entire Falcons offense will be looking to rebound.

Mark Ingram, Saints – The Saints will continue to run a two-headed attack at running back with Ingram and Kamara, but the distribution of touches should be closer to an even split this season.

Jordan Howard, Bears – There’s no doubt Howard will benefit from all the upgrades on offense (coaching staff, receiving corps). It’s an increased role for Tarik Cohen in the passing game that should have Howard owners worried about his fantasy ceiling.

Jay Ajayi, Eagles – The Eagles maintained a balanced backfield last season, spreading the ball around all the way to their Super Bowl victory. However, Ajayi enters 2018 as the lone early-down back in Philly, which should give his stats a bump up across the board.

Leveling up

Kenyan Drake, Dolphins – Over the second half of the season, Drake was a top-10 fantasy back while averaging 17 touches per game. As long as the Dolphins don’t limit his workload in favor of newly acquired veteran Frank Gore, Drake should be a fantasy force.

Alex Collins, Ravens – Collins isn’t getting the headlines he deserves, despite an exceptional 2017 season that saw him rack up 1,160 combined yards and six touchdowns. The Ravens’ offense improved in the offseason, as did Collins’ fantasy outlook.

Derrick Henry, Titans – The moment Henry owners had been waiting for was stolen from them when the Titans signed Dion Lewis. After playing in tandem with DeMarco Murray, Henry will now have to overcome another running mate, who might cap his fantasy upside.

Camp battles

Aaron Jones/Jamaal Williams, Packers – Jones got the starting nod a month into their rookie season but was unable to stay healthy despite a couple 100-yard performances. Williams took over lead back duties over the final eight games and was held under four yards per carry in seven of them. Fingers crossed the Packers anoint a single starter.

Lamar Miller/D’Onta Freeman, Texans – Miller’s yards per carry average has dropped each of the last three years and the writing is on the wall for Freeman to take over the starting job in Houston, but an Achilles’ tear could put his early-season availability in doubt.

Carlos Hyde/Nick Chubb, Browns – The high-priced free agent against the second-round rookie will be one of the more compelling camp stories. Unfortunately, some sort of split backfield, with Duke Johnson sprinkled in, is the most likely outcome.

Marlon Mack/Robert Turbin/Nyheim Hines/Jordan Wilkins, Colts – A four-way battle may seem a little silly, but Indy’s backfield is a wide-open competition. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the rookies, Hines and Wilkins, take on significant roles in Year 1.

Fresh start

Jerick McKinnon, 49ers – McKinnon is primed for a breakout after signing on to be the lead back on an ascending offense in San Francisco. The only question will be how much work McKinnon can handle, having never topped 202 touches in a season.

Dion Lewis, Titans – Mike Vrabel is bringing the Patriots’ way to Tennessee, which should work well for Lewis who was a low-end fantasy RB1 for New England last season.

Isaiah Crowell, Jets – Crowell will get his shot to be the early-down back in New York and could be a sneaky fantasy option in standard leagues.

LeGarrette Blount, Lions – The Lions are likely to employ a committee approach, with the veteran Blount serving in his usual part-time hammer role.

Frank Gore, Dolphins – Gore hasn’t missed a game since 2010 and has at least 960 rushing yards in each of those campaigns. Entering his age-35 season, it seems like he’ll finally step into a backup role, but are you willing to bet against him?

Elite handcuffs

Tevin Coleman, Falcons – Coleman is a rare breed of backup, who can routinely produce RB3/Flex numbers, as well as offering RB1 upside if his starter is sidelined with an injury.

Rex Burkhead, Patriots – Burkhead was set up for a huge season prior to the Patriots drafting Michel. Now, Burkhead will play a complementary role, while maintaining his monster upside if he gets a chance to start.

Chris Carson, Seahawks – After flashing as a starter, a broken leg cost Carson the rest of the season. The Seahawks addressed the running back position in the first round, but Carson’s fantasy potential remains if the opportunity presents itself.

Latavius Murray, Vikings – With Cook back atop the depth chart, Murray will hit the bench and wait for his turn after a surprisingly effective first season in Minnesota.

Spencer Ware, Chiefs – After being usurped by Hunt a year ago, Ware might be the one stealing fantasy value from his starter this season.

Giovani Bernard, Bengals – Rookie Mark Walton will add some competition to the Bengals’ backfield, but Bernard has shown time and again that he can produce when called upon.

Intriguing backups

Peyton Barber, Buccaneers – It remains to be seen if Jones will be able to handle a three-down role, so Barber might be able to carve out consistent touches in addition to being next in line if the rookie falters.

Devontae Booker, Broncos – A favorite of the Broncos’ coaching staff, Booker will likely end up ceding the starting job to his new rookie teammate. However, if Freeman stumbles or gets hurt, Booker would see action in what should be an improved Broncos ground game.

T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars – Yeldon is the immediate backup in a dominating run-first offense. If Fournette misses time, Yeldon instantly becomes an RB2 in fantasy. Keep an eye out for game-breaker Corey Grant, who should scoop up some of the touches Chris Ivory left behind.

Matt Breida, 49ers – Investing in a Kyle Shanahan backfield is always a smart move for fantasy owners. Breida or Joe Williams could get the call if McKinnon isn’t able to hold up to the biggest workload of his career.

Chris Ivory, Bills – Prior to last season, the Bills’ backup RB spot held some fantasy value. With McCoy turning 30 before the start of the season, it’s possible we see more of Ivory than expected in 2018.

PPR specialists

Duke Johnson, Browns – The biggest knock on Johnson’s fantasy stock won’t be the arrival of Chubb and Hyde, but rather receiver Jarvis Landry, who will soak up many of the slots targets Johnson saw in 2017.

Tarik Cohen, Bears – New head coach, and former Chiefs offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy has stated his plan to get the dynamic Cohen more touches this season, even going as far as to compare him to Tyreek Hill.

Theo Riddick, Lions – The Lions added Blount and Johnson, who project as early-down runners, leaving the receiving duties to Riddick.

Austin Ekeler, Chargers – The Chargers’ decision to draft Justin Jackson puts a damper on Ekeler’s handcuff potential, but he remains an elusive change-of-pace back.

Bilal Powell, Jets – Every season, Powell finds a way into fantasy lineups, if only for a few weeks. With the state of the Jets’ backfield, Powell should be a lock for passing-down work.

Looking for work

C.J. Anderson, free agent – If Anderson signs with a team like the Colts or Panthers, he could become fantasy relevant in a hurry.

DeMarco Murray, free agent – On the wrong side of 30, Murray is no longer the sustaining back he once was.

Adrian Peterson, free agent – Peterson performed surprisingly well for the Cardinals last season, but the 33-year-old’s best chance to continue his career would be as an injury replacement.

2018 Fantasy Primers

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