Running backs are usually the premiere position for fantasy owners as they can score both on the ground and in the air. 2016 features a smaller group of elite backs, but a sizable number of second and third-tier backs, all of which can help your team win.
The Top Five:
1 – Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
With the Le’Veon Bell suspension, it’s pretty clear in most rankings that Todd Gurley is the overwhelming choice for number one running back. After rushing for over 1,100 yards last season in only 13 games (3 of which he only had single digit carries!), he is projected to have an even better season in 2016.
2 – David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
I’ve wrestled with these rankings now for a couple of weeks, but I’m now convinced that if you’re drafting in the top 7 and value running backs, then take David Johnson if he’s there. He is going to get a lot of touches and could score around 15 times this season. If your league is PPR, then this is a no-brainer as he could catch 60 passes.
3 – LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
The Top Five is a hard list to be sure about, but I’m also sure about LeSean McCoy. He is going to be a major part of the Bills’ offense and should get a lot of chances to prove he belongs in the top 5 of any running back list.
4 – Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings
In Minnesota’s run-heavy offense, don’t be scared off by Peterson’s age of 31. He is still a freak and should be a franchise back again for fantasy owners.
5 – Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell is the best running back in football when healthy, but between coming off an ACL/PCL injury and the four-game suspension, you could argue that he’s even lower than number five. The other choices are Jamaal Charles, who is also coming off an injury, Lamar Miller, Devonta Freeman and rookie Ezekiel Elliot. I would take Bell over all of them at this point, but you’ll need a couple other backs to complement him, especially early in the season.
The Top Five Sleepers:
1 – DeAndre Washington – Oakland Raiders
Beware of Latavius Murray, but pay attention to DeAndre Washington as he could not only take carries away from Murray, but could possibly start. In the Raiders’ preseason opener, Washington ran well (as did Murray), but showed some great moves on his 25 yard run. At worst, this is still a guy worth drafting late.
2 – Bilal Powell – New York Jets
Powell will likely be considered a backup running back, but he is projected to get an even amount of carries with the aging Matt Forte. Powell also catches well out of the backfield and because of where he’s projected to get drafted, he could give owners a lot of value in the later rounds.
3 – Dion Lewis – New England Patriots
Don’t let him fall too low. Lewis didn’t play most of the season last year, but still rushed for almost five yards per carry and caught 50 passes. If he stays healthy, he could provide a lot of production for someone who should fall in most drafts. Lewis is perfect for PPR leagues and should be on your watch list.
4 – Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns
Most players from Cleveland will be looked over, but if you’re in a PPR league, Duke Johnson would be a perfect 8th to 10th round pick. He caught 61 passes last year and could see a lot of passes thrown his way again. Obviously, don’t draft him too high, but in the later rounds, he’s worth a look.
5 – Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins
Given Arian Foster’s age and health, it is likely that Miami will have another back that will split carries and possibly get more production than Foster. That running back will likely be Drake. Let him fall to near the end of your draft and if he’s there, take him. He might be the value pick of the year.
Part two will rank the second and third tier backs and talk about who to take and who to avoid.