The first and second waves free agency are over, and a lot has changed since our first draft of running back rankings.
Some players signed elsewhere, others were released or traded. Oh, and Marshawn hung up his spikes…literally.
With shakeups in NFL backfields, that equates to an even bigger shakeup in our Fantasy Football rankings. Backups are now starters, starters are on better teams, and some teams improved themselves to make their running backs more valuable.
Lets see who ranks where, as you prepare way too early for your Fantasy drafts this summer.
1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
AP should still 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. The Vikings also upgraded their offensive line by adding former Bengals tackle Andre Smith and Chiefs guard Alex Boone. What they didn’t add was a a WR, so Peterson will still be heavily depended on.
2. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Le’Veon Bell, when right, is arguably the league’s best running back. In the 6 games Bell played (after suspension and before injury), he scored 6 touchdowns and averaged 115 yards from scrimmage per game. Given the health history, you would be wise to handcuff him with DeAngelo Williams. Either one in the Steelers’ backfield is a Top 3 back. The Steelers will be without Martavis Bryant too so you could picture Bell being used more in the passing game, even spread out with Williams in the backfield.
3. 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 that rate could have eclipsed AP in both yards and easily touchdowns. Unfortunately, the Rams haven’t upgraded anything else on their offense that would draw attention away from Gurley. He has next-level talent. Lets hope the Rams don’t run him into the ground.
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).The Falcons also added 3-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack to pave the middle of the line of scrimmage wide open for Freeman to bust through.
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. Now re-signed with the Buccaneers, will Martin still run hungry after his big payday? Will new head coach Dirk Koetter use him more or be as pass happy as he was calling plays for Atlanta not long ago?
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. The Cardinals did re-sign Chris, but DJ should be the #1 back…if Ariens was as smart as he wants us to think.
8. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
Before Free Agency opened at the start of March, I felt Houston would be the best landing spot for Lamar Miller. Look at Arian Foster’s numbers in Bill O’Brien’s first season. Now picture a healthier, younger, and faster running back in that scheme. Miller could be 1st round value in the 2nd round for you.
9. 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. You should also take into consideration that their new offensive line is being compared favorably with the Dallas Cowboys.
10. Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks
With Marshawn stepping aside, “Deputy Commissioner” Rawls (for The Wire fans) is officially the #1 man in the Seahawks backfield. Rawls averaging 118.6 yards per game and 5 touchdowns in 6 starts would justify it. You just hope he can last a full season running as hard at defenders the way he does.
11. Jeremy Langford, Chicago Bears
Jeremy Langford is the #1 man in Chicago now with Matt Forte’s skill set, and a so-far improved offensive line (adding Bobby Massie at tackle, moving Kyle Long back to guard). There’s question as to whether the Bears are looking to add another #1 quality back, as they attempted to sign Broncos RFA CJ Anderson and Top prospect Ezekiel Elliott looks mighty attractive. For now, you should like Langford in your lineup with Jay Cutler continuing to play in a play-action/read offense and the potential of the Alshon Jeffery/Kevin White duo stretching the field.
12. Matt Forte, New York Jets
I did not expect Matt Forte to land with New York Jets. He replaces Chris Ivory with very different strengths now has a backup, Bilal Powell, with a similar game. Forte had to fight through injuries in 2015 and still accumulated 1,287 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns in 13 games. He’s obviously the #1 back, but his value may fluctuate by the time the Jets figure out their quarterback situation.
13. 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. I don’t think anyone should worry about CJ Spiller taking his starting role anytime soon either.
14. 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. One would hope the Panthers try preserving Newton a little better and focus on handing the ball off to Stewart more.
15. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
I was puzzled to see DeMarco Murray get moved from Philadelphia, given their new HC’s reputation running the football. At least now we know who the #1 man in Tennessee is, and Mike Mularkey has publicly stated they will use the bell-cow back “extensively”.
16. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Jeremy Hill never rushed for more than 100 yards all season long, but he did accumulate the league high 11 rushing touchdowns…7 of which came after Week 10. We’ll see how new OC Ken Zampese distributes the ball in 2016. He was quarterbacks coach under Hue Jackson. The Bengals lost their #2 and #3 WRs in free agency without adding anyone to fill their places, which leads me to believe Giovani Bernard will get more work spread out.
17. 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, but he currently sits as New England’s #1 back with Donald Brown added to back him up.
18. Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars
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). Now in Jacksonville, he’ll be splitting carries with their 2nd year RB, T.J Yeldon.
19. Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens
I was rooting for Justin Forsett before the season started. His touches theoretically could’ve been through 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, as is the fact that the Ravens haven’t added anyone to challenge his #1 status…yet.
20. 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.
21. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
LeSean McCoy’s status (and ranking here) is a little up in the air. The Philadelphia D.A.’s office is still investigating Shady’s case, where he was arrested for assaulting multiple off duty police officers. The ruling there could effect his standing in the NFL. Football wise, 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.
22. C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
CJ Anderson 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 convinced the Broncos to match an RFA offer from the Miami Dolphins, and he currently stands as their #1 running back. Anderson also doesn’t have to look over his shoulder for Ronnie Hillman, who remains on the FA market.
23. Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
Frank Gore will be 33 in May and hoping to improve on a 1,200+ total yard 1st season in Indy. At least you know he’s the go-to guy, with Jordan Todman and Robert Turbin added to back him up, as Andrew Luck tries to bounce back from a dreadful 2015 season. Gore in the red zone is almost as attractive in 2016 as he was in 2015.
24. Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
Death, Taxes, and Danny Woodhead PPR. 80 catches in 2015 actually, and that was no surprise when Philip Rivers lost his go-to guy, Keenan Allen. The Chargers improved their WR depth by adding Travis Benjamin and hope their young RB Melvin Gordon improves under the returning OC, Ken Whisenhunt. Woodhead still continues to shock the world with plenty of #pointage to warrant a higher pick than most #2 backs, and even some #1s.
25. Arian Foster, Free Agent
Despite turning 30 by the start of the season and not going a full season since 2012, Arian Foster’s upside is worth a mid round pick, depending on the team that signs him. His 1,573 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 2014 suggest so. Foster appears to be high on Miami’s radar, but would fit nicely in a low pressure RB situation anywhere. Definitely something to keep an eye on.
26. Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys
Darren McFadden may have finished the season as the league’s 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 does have some competition now after the Cowboys signed Alfred Morris to a 2-year deal. Whoever gets the #1 spot of the 2 will be running behind one of the Top 3 o-lines in football.
27. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
Gio’s yardage in 2015 was very similar to his breakout rookie season, but unfortunately Jeremy Hill got most of the touchdowns down the stretch. As I noted earlier, his role may be increasing significantly with a lack of WR depth behind AJ Green. I see Bernard as a better complete back than Hill, but we won’t know how either back will be used until they put the pads back on.
28. 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 James Starks re-signing will provide real competition this summer. Maybe the improvement in the passing game, getting Jordy Nelson back and adding Jared Cook, will help take pressure off the run game too.
29. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers haven’t really done anything to their roster…at all. Right now, Carlos Hyde is their #1 running back and there isn’t anyone out there to challenge him for the spot. Health concerns and whatever Chip Kelly does (or doesn’t do) have me puzzled as to how you can value him.
30. 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. Joique Bell won’t be in his way, and the additions to Marvin Jones and Jeremy Kerley don’t scream “high power passing attack” to me.
31. Karlos Williams, Buffalo Bills
Karlos Williams should be on-call and ready to go in case McCoy goes down (or to jail). His streak of scoring a touchdown in each of the first 6 games of his career was promising too.
32. T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars
I was surprised by the Jaguars’ decision to add Chris Ivory because 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. Now that the Jags have spent some serious coin to improve their defense, the running backs will get more touches to maintain leads and control possession time. If Ivory’s mileage the past couple seasons have caught up with him, Yeldon could benefit greatly from that.
33. 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 Chiefs seem to think highly enough of West after tendering his exclusive rights as a free agent.
34. 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. All their money was spent on the defensive side of the ball this month too.
35. Matt Jones, Washington
After letting Alfred Morris go, Washington appears to be all in on Matt Jones. He has big play potential but only averaged 3.7 yards per carry and fumbled the ball way too often to be comfortable with. If he remains the #1 back through training camp, he’ll be worth a late round pickup.
36. Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys
Speaking of Alfred Morris…he could easily flop spots with Darren McFadden, if he does so on the Cowboys’ depth chart.
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 doubt there…The question is whether or not he’ll be a 3rd down guy with special teams prowess, or relied on even more in Doug Pederson’s system. It seems pretty evident the Eagles want to draft a running back.
39. Bilal Powell, New York Jets
In the last 4 games of the season, Bilal Powell became even more dependable than 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. He’ll now rotate in with Matt Forte, who would benefit more from splitting carries at this stage of his career.
40. Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
We have too small a sample size to know how valuable Jay Ajayi is, rushing for 187 yards and 1 touchdown on 49 carries, but the Dolphins don’t appear to be content as they continue looking at free agents. As for now, Ajayi is Miami’s #1 back on the depth chart. We’ll see how long that lasts though.