The running back position was the most unpredictable in 2015. Just 1 (Adrian Peterson) of the first 5 drafted (Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles, Le’Veon Bell and Eddie Lacy) were healthy or reliable.
That makes you wonder who is worth taking in the first round and who will give you better value later in your next draft.
1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
It’s hard to imagine AP won’t be the first running back taken in your league. He led the league in rushing for the 3rd time of his career, after almost an entire year off from suspension, and was tied for the league’s lead in rushing touchdowns.
2. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley only started in 12 games and still ranked 3rd in rush yards and 10 touchdowns as well. A full season at the rate he went could have eclipsed AP in both yards and easily touchdowns. Gurley will be a superstar in Los Angeles as long as he stays healthy, and hopefully the Rams find a quarterback that can alleviate the attention defenses will give him.
3. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
If you’re wondering if Le’Veon Bell is worth a first round pick again, the answer is “yes, yes he is.” In the 6 games Bell played (after suspension and before injury), he scored 6 touchdowns and averaged 115 yards from scrimmage per game. He’s as good an athlete as anyone in the league and Pittsburgh would be smart to preserve some of his mileage with a proven DeAngelo Williams. Either one in the Steelers’ backfield is a Top 3 back.
4. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
In his second season and with just 13 starts, Devonta Freeman led the league in total (rush/receiving) touchdowns (14) and rushing touchdowns (11), while ranking 5th in yards from scrimmage (1,634), 7th in rush yards (1,056) and 2nd in touches (338).
5. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Bucanneers
Count me as one of Doug Martin’s biggest doubters before the 2015 season, and I was very wrong. He only went over 100 yards on 4 different occasions, but he was consistent enough down the stretch to finish 2nd in rushing with 1,402 yards. His scoring was average with just 6 rushing touchdowns, but you can feel better after he lasted an entire season for the first time since his rookie year.
6. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles is coming off his 2nd early season ending injury, but he’s a proven scorer when healthy. In the 5 games he played in 2015, he averaged 108 yards from scrimmage with 5 total touchdowns. He may go later in most drafts, coming off the injury, but he will give you some of the best value if he can stay healthy.
7. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Ariens annoyed the hell out of me with his coy approach to using David Johnson. When he said the rookie wouldn’t see any carries, DJ2K (that’s what I’m calling him) scored 6 touchdowns in 5 weeks. Then when he got his chance in a starting role, Johnson went off on his opposition. The fact that Chris Johnson could lead the league in rushing for a time in the Cardinals system makes me more intrigued in the younger DJ2k in that spot. This ranking is based on the assumption Ariens plans to start DJ…They should considering he was the only one with any fight in their playoff game with Carolina.
8. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (FA)
Wherever Matt Forte lands in 2016, he’s going to be solid get for whoever signs him. Much like the 2015 Bears season, Forte had to fight through injuries and still accumulated 1,287 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns in 13 games. If he doesn’t re-sign with the Bears, I would expect either New England or Dallas to be great places for him.
9. Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (FA)
Like Forte, Lamar Miller is a free agent this offseason. He’s weighing whether or not to return to Miami and I think he’d benefit from Adam Gase’s play-calling. Whoever does pick him up will probably use him better than the last coaching regime in Miami. The Dolphins were 6-1 when they handed the ball off to Miller 13+ times. Miller young and underutilized, but has 19 touchdowns in his last 2 seasons and can score from anywhere on the field.
10. Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have a pretty awesome young core on the offensive side of the ball. In his first full season, Latavius Murray held his own with the 6th most rushing yards in the league. His usage was certainly there too as as he was 4th in touches and 3rd in carries. If Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are taking the tops off opposing defenses, Murray should take advantage of front 7’s on their heels.
11. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Mark Ingram started the most games of his young career before having it cut down by an injury. I think one factor in his sudden shut down were the playoffs being so far out of reach. 1,174 yards from scrimmage, 6 touchdowns and 50 receptions in 12 games is a solid showing for a higher PPR pick.
12. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
Jonathan Stewart had a slow start to 2015 while Cam Newton was doing most of the work. He exploded in Week 6 though for 2 touchdowns, and never looked back. Stewart has never gone a whole season healthy as a feature back, but the 13 he started last season were encouraging enough for an early-mid round pickup.
13. Thomas Rawls, Seattle
As a huge fan of The Wire, I’m tempted to call him “Deputy Commissioner Rawls”. But for now, Thomas looks like a front runner for the starting running back job in Seattle. If they were to move on from Marshawn Lynch, Rawls would jump up much further on this list. Rawls averaging 118.6 yards per game and 5 touchdowns in 6 starts would justify it.
14. DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers
I wouldn’t usually rank a backup running back so high, but this one tied the league high in rushing touchdowns (11) and 1,274 yards from scrimmage. Your best move would be to handcuff him to Le’Veon Bell, knowing what they both are capable of.
15. Arian Foster, Houston Texans
There are reports that Arian Foster may be released by the Texans, but Coach Bill O’Brien is still commenting on his progress working to get back. I’ll keep an eye on his status but despite turning 30 by the start of the season and not going a full season since 2012, his upside is worth a mid round pick. 1,573 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 2014 say so.
16. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Considering the money Seattle would save releasing Marshawn Lynch and their backup plan in Dep. Commander Rawls, I don’t see him in a Seahawks uniform next season. I do think Lynch might have another run in him though and would benefit great behind a veteran offensive line. Only a year ago, Lynch led the league in total touchdowns (17) and recorded the 5th most yards from scrimmage (1,673).
17. Chris Ivory, New York Jets
The East Coast version of Marashawn Lynch started out hot in 2015, with 460 yards in his first 4 games. Then he only went over 87 yards 3 separate times the rest of the way. It was Ivory’s first time going over 1,000 yards though and his highest touchdown total (8), so one could say he’s trending up.
18. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Jeremy Hill went pretty high in most drafts, between the end of the 1st and 2nd round. Hill never rushed for more than 100 yards all season long, but he did accumulate the league high 11 rushing touchdowns…7 of those came after Week 10. His backup, Giovani Bernard, was much better between the 20s and he may be better built for it. We’ll see how new OC Ken Zampese distributes the ball in 2016. He was quarterbacks coach under Hue Jackson.
19. DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles
How does DeMarco Murray go from being the league’s leading rusher to barely running a third of that total the year after? For starters, being started just 8 of the 15 games he played…Doug Pederson comes in as head coach after calling plays for the 6th best running offense that also ranked 1st in rushing touchdowns. If Sam Bradford (or whoever’s the next Eagles QB) is going to be managed like Alex Smith, Murray should be better depended on.
20. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
Any worry you had about Shady McCoy’s mileage is warranted. He missed 4 games and ran 112 yards 3 times. Those were the only times he ran for 100+ and it’s kinda weird that it was exactly 112 each time. If you take him, have Karlos Williams on standby.
21. Dion Lewis, New England Patriots
Two things are encouraging about Dion Lewis: His extension that the Patriots gave him midseason and James White’s usage after his injury. Lewis showed he has playmaker ability and a nose for the end zone too. Hopefully injuries don’t continue to be an issue going forward.
22. T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars
T.J. Yeldon had a sturdy rookie season. He was fine. Fine doesn’t win games but he wasn’t really depended on to do it as the Jaguars were content throwing it like crazy. If the Jags improve their defense and Dante Fowler pans out next season, Yeldon will get more touches to maintain leads and control possession time.
23. Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens
I was rooting for Justin Forsett before the season started. His touches theoretically could’ve been threw the roof with Marc Trestman calling plays. Instead everyone in Baltimore got injured, and his 10 starts were less than stellar. His 320 total yards for Weeks 4 and 5 were encouraging though.
24. Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
Death, Taxes, and Danny Woodhead PPR. 80 catches in 2015 actually, and that wasn’t surprise as Philip Rivers lost his go-to guy Keenan Allen.
25. Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
Frank Gore getting multiple goal line chances in 2015 seemed like a dream. Without Andrew Luck getting it there regularly, that’s all it was. Maybe it’ll work in try #2, but the 5-time pro bowler isn’t getting any younger. He’ll be 33 in May and hoping to improve on a 1,200+ total yard 1st season in Indy.
26. Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys
Darren McFadden may have finished the season as the 4th leading rusher, but I’m not sure he’s destined to be the Cowboys’ #1 back and his lowly 3 touchdowns are why. He’ll move up if they don’t add any of the possible moving backs.
27. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
As we’ve pointed out multiple times on here, Eddie Lacy was the biggest bust of 2015. The Packers are hoping there was a fire lit under his ass, and maybe the improvement in the passing game getting Jordy Nelson back will help take pressure off the run game.
28. Jeremy Langford, Chicago Bears
Jeremy Langford has many of the same tools as Forte, like running, catching and blocking, and he also has breakaway speed. If Forte walks, and very well could, Langford will shoot up these rankings.
29. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
Gio went back to putting up similar yardage numbers that he had as a rookie, but unfortunately Jeremy Hill got most of the touchdowns down the stretch. 49 catches are nice for PPR though.
30. C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos (FA)
CJ Anderson is made a nice run late in the season, not as crazy as his 2014 campaign, and his post season work is redeeming him for the rocky start to 2015. His Super Bowl performance may decide whether the Broncos bring him back or if he gets paid well elsewhere. Worth following for sure.
31. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
I have no clue what’s going to happen to Carlos Hyde in Chip Kelly’s system but for now he’s #1 on the 49ers depth chart.
32. Karlos Williams, Buffalo Bills
Karlos Williams should be on-call and ready to go in case McCoy goes down. His streak of scoring a touchdown in each of the first 6 games of his career was promising too.
33. Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
So many people wanted Ameer Abdullah to be a big deal in his rookie season but Lions play-callers had other plans. With Calvin Johnson retiring, maybe they’ll actually run the ball with their best running back.
34. LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
Things we know about LeGarrette Blount:
- Best with the Patriots
- Free Agent in 2016
- Devastating in the red zone
- Tends to get in trouble
Maybe a late round flyer depending where he lands.
35. Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs
Pretty decent Jamaal Charles substitute, in the case you need one. Although Spencer Ware got admirable work as well, the two may switch places here in coming months when we see what KC does with their personnel.
36. Rashad Jennings, New York Giants
The Giants simply don’t run the ball very often…but when they do, Rashad Jennings is getting his number called. A career high in yards from scrimmage (1,159) didn’t hurt last year either.
37. Duke Johnson Jr., Cleveland Browns
In Hue Jackson’s system, Duke Jr. is your Gio Bernard. He was also a pass catching machine with 61 receptions in his rookie season.
38. Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles
Sproles is gonna Sproles, no matter who he plays for next season.
39. Bilal Powell, New York Jets
In the last 4 games of the season, Bilal Powell became even more dependable than Chris Ivory but with a very different game. During that span, he caught 25 passes. That was more than half his total for rest of the year.
40. Alfred Blue, Houston Texans
During Fosters’s absence the past two seasons, Blue has shown he can handle heavy workloads with some production. If Foster is released, Blue becomes much more relevant on this list…until Houston replaces Foster with someone else.