2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs 3.0

With the 2016 season just around the corner, it’s time to really hunker down and prepare for your upcoming draft.

We began ranking players by their position back at the start of February, because it’s never too early to start thinking about the next season. Then we updated the running back rankings after free agency, just before the NFL Draft. (Thank you, Cowboys, for dramatically changing things with Ezekiel Elliott)

Here we are now, with the best idea of what starting backfields will look like across the league before training camp. Coaching changes, game plan philosophies, offensive lines, plus new additions through free agency and the NFL Draft are all taken into account as we rank the Top 40 running backs by priority in which you should be drafting them.

 

1. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers

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Le’Veon Bell takes the #1 spot because when he’s right, he is the best offensive football player in the league. Both on the ground and in the air, Bell does it all. His 2014 season was proof of that as he totaled 2,215 yards from scrimmage (1,361 rushing, 854 receiving), 11 touchdowns and 83 catches. In the 6 games Bell played before his 2015-ending injury, he averaged 115 yards and scored 6 touchdowns.

Though his injury history is worth the concern, his motivation this year seems to be the next big pay day, which he has made note of multiple times this summer. A player that is hungry to earn more money than anyone else at his position is usually a good one to bet on.

2. Todd Gurley, Rams

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Besides the freakish talent, athleticism and stats from his rookie year (1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games), another thing Todd Gurley has going for him will be usage in the upcoming season. The Rams offense hasn’t improved much in the offseason outside of #1 overall pick Jared Goff. Whether it’s Goff or Nick Foles under center, both will be giving Gurley a high volume of reps on all-three downs in order to move the ball.

3. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

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I give Jamaal Charles a a slight edge over Adrian Peterson for the simple fact that he has a little more tread on the tires, despite and because of 2 season-ending. Before the 2015 season, Charles was a production machine. He totaled 5,049 yards and 39 touchdowns over the previous 3 seasons. Yes, another injury would be devastating, but the ceiling for a healthy Charles is too high to deny.

4. Adrian Peterson, Vikings

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Adrian Peterson has posted 10+ touchdown in 8 of the 9 seasons he has played, and has also averaged 1,689 yards from scrimmage in each of those seasons. You can’t expect him to give you receiving points anymore and he only plays on the first 2 downs, but even at age 31 you can’t let him go out of your first round. The Vikings have improved their line as well, and the only reason I don’t have him higher is because he is on the wrong side of 30.

5. David Johnson, Cardinals

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David Johnson (I refer to him as DJ2K) is going ridiculously high in most mock drafts for his incredibly high ceiling in the Arizona Cardinals offense. From the RB3 spot in their backfield, Johnson scored 6 touchdowns in his first 5 games. When given #1 reps, Johnson showed you why he is rated so high, most notably Week 14 against Philadelphia…29 carries for 187 yards, 3 touchdowns + 4 catches for 42 yards.

6. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

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Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t have landed in a better situation. He’ll be running behind one of the Top 2 offensive lines in the league…in a system that works best in play-action…with a quarterback who loves to check down. He isn’t afraid of the big stage, from what college fans saw him do against both Alabama and Oregon in the 2014-2015 College Football Playoffs. 41 touchdowns in his last 2 years at Ohio State shouldn’t be ignored either.

7. Devonta Freeman, Falcons

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In 13 starts, Devonta Freeman ranked 1st in total touchdowns, 5th in yards from scrimmage, 7th in rushing and 2nd in touches. He will have new Falcon/Pro Bowl center Alex Mack to run behind in 2016. Tevin Coleman should still get some reps, but look for Freeman to be even more dangerous around the end zone this year.

8. Doug Martin, Buccaneers 

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Doug Martin answered a ton of questions I had a year ago, including those regarding his health. It was the first time since his rookie year that Martin played all 16 games. While the numbers didn’t quite match those of 2012, he still ranked 2nd in rush yards and 4th in yards from scrimmage. Hopefully former OC Dirk Koetter, now at the helm, will help Martin break the plain of the end zone more often.

9. Lamar Miller, Texans

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Lamar Miller was such a curious case in 2015. The Dolphins were 6-1 when Miller got 13+ carries and winless when he didn’t. You can expect Bill O’Brien to give the 25-year-old plenty of action in his new digs. In the same system, Arian Foster recorded 1,573 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 2014. Miller, who has 19 touchdowns in the past 2 season, is much younger and faster than Foster was then. Fantasy owners should prepare for a monster year out of him.

10. Thomas Rawls, Seahawks

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In 6 starts last season, Thomas Rawls averaged 118.6 yards per game and scored 5 touchdowns. The Seahawks are ready to roll with Rawls as their #1 in the backfield and he should be an absolute force if he can stay healthy.

11. Mark Ingram, Saints

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Mark Ingram stepped up big for the Saints and Fantasy owners in 2015. He recorded career highs in yards from scrimmage, targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Proving he could be effective in the passing game made Ingram incredibly valuable in between the 20s, and he should build on that momentum within the red zone as well.

12. Latavius Murray, Raiders

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I may be a bigger fan of Latavius Murray than most, but I do believe he’ll be running behind arguably the best offensive line in football and the Raiders receivers will keep defenses on their heels. I also like how much usage Murray got in 2015, ranking 4th in touches, 3rd in carries and 6th in rush yards.

13. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers

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If there was one takeaway from the Panthers’ offseason, besides saying goodbye to Josh Norman, was their commitment to the run, as their notable moves were extending fullback Mike Tolbert and guard Chris Scott. In order to preserve Cam Newton, the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in the league, the Panthers will want to utilize Jonathan Stewart in the run game. From weeks 5-12, Stewart had 20+ carries in each game, averaging 86.7 yards per game and scored 6 touchdowns in that span (plus another the week after).

14. Eddie Lacy, Packers

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I have not bought into the Eddie Lacy hype, which is all based on his fitness, but the prospects of the Packers returning to their typical offensive form makes me optimistic. With the caveat being Jordy Nelson bringing back some normalcy for Aaron Rodgers, which allows everyone else (including Randall Cobb) to fall back into their roles, Lacy and the run game could be set up to take advantage of defenses that are too focused on covering deep passes. Maybe then Lacy will look like the back that recorded back-to-back 1,100+ rushing seasons and 20 touchdowns to start his career and NOT the one that was benched based on merit.

15. LeSean McCoy, Bills

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I am not totally sure how LeSean McCoy was named to the Pro Bowl last year, but recording EXACTLY 112 yards rushing in 3 of the 5 games from Weeks 6-10 might have something to do with it. Hopefully Shady’s 2nd year in Buffalo will be more productive but it’s starting to feel like the back-to-back seasons of 310+ carries prior are catching up to him. His value in the passing game can’t be overlooked as he continues to build chemistry with Tyrod Taylor on play-action and 3rd down.

16. CJ Anderson, Broncos

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You have to appreciate the love C.J. Anderson got from others in the league, including Tom Brady, after shining in the playoffs and Super Bowl. He was a great story when he broke out in 2014 and even better when he averaged 80.4 yards and scored 4 touchdowns in his last 5 games (end of regular season until he lifted the Lombardi trophy). Then the Broncos awarded Anderson for his efforts by matching Miami’s offer sheet. No question, he’ll be depended on in high volume as the Denver offense transitions from the post-Manning/Osweiler era.

17. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins

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If you’ve been following along, this is big jump for Jay Ajayi. He was ranked 40th in the last version of these rankings because I wasn’t sure if Miami would give him more competition. The closest thing to real competition appears to be their 73rd overall pick, Kenyan Drake from Alabama, but he appears destined for 3rd down and change-of-pace status in the immediate future. So that makes Ajayi the new Frankenstein running back for Adam Gase, and you can look at Matt Forte, CJ Anderson, and Knowshon Moreno as references for success.

This should also give you some Ajayi optimism…sorta.

WHAT A BEAST!

18. Matt Forte, Jets

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Speaking of Matt Forte, it’s going to be so weird to see him a uniform that isn’t navy and orange. After concluding a tenure in Chicago that is considered only behind Hall of Famers Walter Payton and Gale Sayers, Forte is now a New York Jet. He’s the football definition of an all-around athlete (running, blocking, catching, even passing) and averages 1,589 yards from scrimmage per season.

The hope was that he could be a role player for a championship ready team, but the Jets seem to have taken a step back from continuity by not bringing Ryan Fitzpatrick back. Based on circumstance, Forte could get a ton of touches running and catching from any of the Jets QB contingent (Smith, Petty, Hackenberg).

19. Dion Lewis, Patriots

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It’s so hard to rely on New England Patriots running backs because Bill Belichick is so unpredictable in who he wants to use. However, he seems to have found a lethal weapon in Dion Lewis, who broke onto the scene in 2015 with 4 touchdowns in 6 games before a season-ending injury. Lewis’ nose for the end zone and versatility in the pass game made the Patriots confident enough to extend his contract during the season too. With Jimmy Garoppolo likely starting the first 4 games of the season, expect him to rely heavily on Lewis in both the run and passing game.

We also know how much Brady loves throwing to his running backs in uptempo situations too…

20. Jeremy Langford, Bears

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It pains me to drop Jeremy Langford in these rankings, but the drafting of Indiana running back Jordan Howard makes his status as a bell-cow back a bit less likely. In both Denver and Carolina, John Fox had always gone with the hot-hand in the running game and that could push Langford elevate his play in training camp, then carry it over to the regular season. This is the one backfield situation that you’ll want to keep an eye on before the season starts, as Langford has his leg up on the competition.

Whoever gets the starting job though will be getting TONS of work, as we saw in 2015.

21. Carlos Hyde, 49ers

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The 49ers brought in Chip Kelly as their new head coach and that was really the only change they made on the offensive side of the ball. That also means zero real competition for Carlos Hyde as the #1 running back on the depth chart (save your Shaun Draughn responses, unless he wins the job). Hyde had a very promising start to 2015, rushing for 168 yards and scoring 2 touchdowns, but then adversity and injuries ended any optimism for the 49ers and his season by Week 7. 2016 will be a serious PROVE IT year for both Hyde and Kelly.

22. Jeremy Hill, Bengals

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Like Hyde, Jeremy Hill started 2015 with tons of promise by awarding those who drafted him high with 2 touchdowns. Then he frustrated them with immense inconsistency until Week 10, despite a 3 TD performance in Week 4 (good for you, if you started him). We found out down the stretch that Hill’s game does not translate particularly well between the 20’s but can be devastating in the red zone. He scored 11 of his 12 touchdowns from within 10 yards of the end zone. Maybe the touchdown totals should have him ranked higher, but his split-back status should give you pause to draft him high.

23. Ryan Mathews, Eagles

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Without question, Ryan Mathews is the starting running back in Doug Peterson’s new Eagles offense, designating Darren Sproles to 3rd down and special teams situations. The 2011 Pro Bowler filled in fine when DeMarco Murray went missing, scoring 6 touchdowns in 13 games and averaging 5 yards per carry. The Eagles were a complete mess though, for a lot of 2015, and Peterson brings are well-structured running game that made Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware into viable fantasy options last season.

24. DeMarco Murray, Titans

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DeMarco Murray made the Cowboys relevant on the field again, with Pro Bowl seasons in 2013 and ’14, but fell into something weird in Philadelphia in 2015. Now he has a chance to get back to that level in 2016 with the run-happy Tennessee Titans. The question is how much use will he get in a backfield that includes receiving back Dexter McCluster and reigning Heisman winner Derrick Henry.

25. Matt Jones, Washington

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High on the over-valued list is Matt Jones, who has assumed the #1 running back role in Washington with Alfred Morris now in Dallas. In 13 games last year, Jones scored just 4 touchdowns (3 rush and 1 receiving). Their offense was clicking much more when Kirk Cousins was finding his receivers deep and Jordan Reed in the end zone. Perhaps another year in the system and confidence from coach Jay Gruden will award Jones more opportunities, especially in the red zone.

26. Justin Forsett, Ravens

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Justin Forsett was one of the best stories of 2014, filling the void Ray Rice left by earning his first Pro Bowl invitation and recording career highs in total yards (1,529), touchdowns (8) and receptions (44). The Ravens offense hit a serious snag as both Forsett and Joe Flacco went down after 10 games. Forsett can bounce back and return to being the a Fantasy force again, but he will have Javorius Allen and rookie Kenneth Dixon to ready step in if he can’t.

27. T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars

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TJ Yeldon was steady in his rookie season, but never put together the monster game that people expected. The Jaguars were regularly playing from behind and were forced to pass most of the time. While the addition of Chris Ivory may appear as a bad sign for Yeldon’s reps, it could actually prove to be the opposite. Yeldon will be forced to earn a starting role in camp, could learn from the veteran back, and will be depended on more in passing downs. If the Jaguars’ passing attack can strike first against opponents, they’ll be able to control the clock and pace with Yeldon carrying the rock.

28. Danny Woodhead, Chargers

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For as long as Philip Rivers is playing quarterback and head coach Mike McCoy is influencing the Chargers offense, Danny Woodhead will be a fixture in Fantasy Football. The Chargers don’t have a vaunted defense and it’s hard to expect that Melvin Gordon will bounce back, but you can plan for Woodhead to get plenty of attention from the quarterback who threw more passes than anyone last season.

29. Rashad Jennings, Giants

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Rashad Jennings had his most productive season in New York last year. He totaled 1,159 yards from scrimmage and had a serious uptick in rush attempts, but only hit pay dirt 4 times all season. The Giants are better known for throwing the ball and Shane Vereen had twice as many targets as Jennings (81 to 40). For now, though, Jennings is their #1 back.

30. Ameer Abdullah, Lions

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Ameer Abdullah was high on many lists, last season, as a strong sleeper pick coming out of the draft. Unfortunately, the Lions had different plans. Abdullah would start games with a big run or a string of big downs, but then he wouldn’t see a single rush or target his way again. Theo Riddick was actually getting Woodhead-esque work as games progressed, finishing the season with 80 catches on 99 targets. If the Lions want to find balance though, they’ll want to had the ball off to Abdullah.

31. DeAngelo Williams, Steelers

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I would highly recommend handcuffing DeAngelo Williams with Bell, or stashing him in the case that he has to be a starter again. In just 10 starts, Williams tied the league high for rushing touchdowns and totaled 1,274 yards from scrimmage.

32. Melvin Gordon, Chargers

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There isn’t much reason to put much stock in Melvin Gordon, but the Chargers are giving him every chance to bounce back. They were never totally healthy at offensive line in 2015 and they could be poised to get ahead of teams early on, capable of controlling the pace by handing off to Gordon. If he’s the starting running back in San Diego, he’ll have more value than most running backs in the league.

33. Duke Johnson Jr., Browns

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Duke Johnson Jr could very well be Hue Jackson’s new Giovani Bernard. When he received more game reps, Johnson became a strong PPR threat and finished with 61 receptions. The Browns may be playing from behind a lot in 2016 and that gives him a significant edge over Isaiah Crowell.

34. Giovani Bernard, Bengals

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Gio Bernard recorded a career high in rushing yards, but had most of his touchdowns “vultured” by Hill. It was clear that Bernard is a better running back and he is capable from scoring from anywhere on the field. After the recent departures of Andy Dalton’s #2 and #3 receivers, there’s a good chance Bernard could be spreading out more as well.

35. Jordan Howard, Bears

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I include Jordan Howard here because there’s a possibility he breaks Bears training camp as their #1 running back. It will be a volatile situation, more than likely, but Howard possesses the size, speed and ability that could win the starting job…or at the very least, get plenty of opportunities in the red zone.

36. Bilal Powell, Jets

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Bilal Powell could be a huge sleeper this season, as he showed to be a PPR stud down the stretch in 2015. After returning from injury in Week 10, Powell averaged 5.3 catches per game. There’s also no telling how Forte will hold up for the whole season and Powell has a much better nose for the end zone.

37. Frank Gore, Colts

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Right now, Frank Gore is the #1 running back in Indianapolis but how long does 33-year-old running back have to maintain that role. In 2015, Gore finished with the lowest amount of rush yards after completing a full 16-game season and his 7 touchdowns were recorded in just 5 games.

38. Karlos Williams, Bills

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Remember when Karlos Williams scored touchdowns in each of first 6 games? That was awesome…Williams is another player to keep close, with strong possibilities that McCoy goes down. He also seems to get plenty opportunities in the red zone, regardless of McCoy’s health status, but dealt with the injury big himself in his rookie season.

39. Chris Ivory, Jaguars

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Chris Ivory tied for the league lead in carries within the 5 yard line and finished with career highs in touchdowns (8) and rushing yards (1,070) and for the season. Now he’s in Jacksonville, likely to split carries with Yeldon and running in an offense that tends to play from behind a lot. That could see the workload he earned in 2015 for his first Pro Bowl diminish quite a bit, but there’s potential for Jacksonville to be in his sweet spot (5 yards out) a lot because of the passing game.

40. Derrick Henry, Titans

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It’s hard to leave the Heisman trophy winner off the list, especially when the running back ahead of him had such a disastrous 2015 season. Henry is a total workhouse too, who gets stronger after every run. Although the Titans invested a lot to acquire Murray, Henry could be getting plenty of carries in the red zone and could earn more reps throughout the season as well.

More Position Rankings:

Running Backs (2.0)

Quarterbacks (2.0)

Wide Receivers (2.0)

Tight Ends (1.0)

 

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2016 Fantasy Football Rankings – Running Backs

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

NFL: Cleveland Browns at 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

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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)

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans

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

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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

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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

Chicago Bears v San Diego Chargers

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

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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)

Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts in an AFC divisional playoff game

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

Hyde

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

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

Ameer.jpeg

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

LeGarrette

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

Charcandrick

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

USP NFL: NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS COWBOYS S FBN USA TX

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

Cleveland Browns v San Diego Chargers

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

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

Sproles is gonna Sproles, no matter who he plays for next season.

39. Bilal Powell, New York Jets

Bilal

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

Blue

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.

Anyone too high or too low? Was anyone left out? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter

For more position rankings:

Quarterbacks / Running Backs / Wide Receivers

Fantasy Football Awards 2015

Has your Fantasy Football withdrawal kicked in already? Are you already thinking about next year’s draft? Yeah, me too…That’s why I’ll be frequently updating my draft boards on MichaelPiff.com starting next week.

But first…

We have some awards to hand out from the 2015 season!

 

This season was wild. Injuries, suspensions, surprises, Gary Barnidges, backup quarterbacks, drama and more drama…We’ll look at all the impact players, and some of the worst, that dictated your fantasy season this past season.

 

MVP

CamVP

Cam Newton, Panthers

Every year you do your Fantasy draft, who usually goes off the board first?…Running backs. Then someone drafts Aaron Rodgers (probably Andrew Luck this year too) ridiculously high and some wide receivers will round out your first round. Quarterbacks don’t typically start to go in bulk until the 4th round and Cam Newton wasn’t even being considered until the 8th. His average draft position was 77.1 overall, average round was 8.4.

Those who rolled with Newton, and weren’t afraid of the lack of hype around his wide receivers, reaped ALL the benefits of #1 scoring quarterback in football. He finished the season leading the league in total touchdowns with 45 (35 passing, 10 rushing) and added 4,473 yards from scrimmage (3,837 passing, 635 rushing). Newton’s stretch from Week 11-15 (19 total touchdowns) likely helped carry you to your league’s championship too.

Next Best: Carson Palmer

Hard not to consider Carson Palmer as an MVP as well since he regularly gave you at least 290+ yards and 2-3 touchdowns through the air.

Biggest Bust of the Year

Lacy Bust

Eddie Lacy, Packers

I can’t fault players who miss time or underperform due to injury. The top tier of the running backs almost all suffered this, besides Adrian Peterson. Eddie Lacy wasn’t hurt though. Lacy was a Top 5 pick in most leagues, and he gave you just 3 rushing touchdowns and 758 yards on the ground in 15 games. He was out of shape, missing curfews, and just simply…bad. If any of his 3 games of 100+ yards helped you, I imagine it was because you were desperate at running back. It took Lacy until Week 11 to do so.

Next Worst: Dez Bryant 

I’m probably breaking my injury rule here, but you likely picked Bryant late 1st or early 2nd round, held on to him while he was injured, and got just 3 touchdowns and 401 yards in 9 games for your patience. Tony Romo or not, Bryant is supposed to be a game changer…not THAT.

 

Draft Steal

Devonta Steal

Devonta Freeman, Falcons

If you paid close attention to the Falcons in the offseason, you were weighing your options of taking rookie Tevin Coleman or 2nd year RB Devonta Freeman as one of your flier picks. If you picked Freeman, you CHOSE WISELY. Freeman went 119th overall on average, 2 rounds or so after Coleman, and he gave you 1,639 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns (most in the league). He also helped you stack up some wins from Weeks 2-6 with 10 touchdowns (9 rushing, 1 receiving).

Next Best: Tom Brady

If you picked Tom Brady before his suspension was lifted, you got him at backup value in later rounds. If you took him after, you still enjoyed his #RevengeTour with 36 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.

Waiver Wire Pickup of the Year

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers

DeAngelo Williams, Steelers

While Le’Veon Bell served his 2 game suspension to start the year, DeAngelo Williams filled in with 204 yards and 3 touchdowns (all in one game). After Bell went on IR following Week 8, Williams gave you high-end RB1 production, averaging 125 yards from scrimmage and finishing tied with Freeman for the league’s lead in rushing TDs.

Next Best: Gary Barnidge

Might gut went with Gary Barnidge initially, but Williams’s value after Bell went down was just too strong…Barnidge was certainly the breakout player of the year, posting 1,043 yards and 9 touchdowns on 79 catches at the age of 30. Before this year, Barnidge’s career totals were 604 yards, 44 catches and 3 touchdowns over 7 years.

Comeback Player of the Year

DMartin Comeback

Doug Martin, Buccaneers

I’ll admit it. I wrote off the Muscle Hamster. After recording nearly 2,000 yards yards from scrimmage his rookie season, the guy barely hit half of that total over the next 2 years because of injuries, bad offensive lines and worse offensive coordinators. Bucs OC Dirk Koetter figured it all out though and made Doug Martin into the league’s 2nd leading rusher, picking up 1,402 yards on the ground. For someone who went in the 9th round on average in most fantasy drafts, I think you’d take that.

Next Best: Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the definition of a journeyman quarterback. 6 teams in 10 years, never making the playoffs and a career high of 24 touchdown passes in both the seasons he started all 16 games…until this year. Surround his beard with 2 excellent possession receivers, a quality offensive line, and 2 viable running backs and Fitzpatrick turns into FitzMagic throwing 31 touchdowns. He threw multiple touchdowns in 12 of his 16 starts…Who figured Geno Smith getting punched in the face would benefit them so well?

 

Rookie of the Year

Gurley Rookie

Todd Gurley, Rams

It’s hard not to picture Todd Gurley being drafted in your first round next season. In 12 starts, the rookie out of Georgia 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground (2nd highest in the league). Gurley was the Rams’ only source of offense, which explained some of the slow down in production down the stretch as opposing defenses keyed in on him. Expect Gurley to just get stronger and scarier now that he’ll have a full offseason without rehabbing an injury.

Next Best: Jameis Winston

It’s easy to compare Jameis Winston with Marcus Mariota, both rookie QBs with Heisman trophies in their mantles. Winston separated himself from Mariota with big play ability, ranked 2nd in yards per completion (13), and was more consistent for scoring in the 2nd half of the season.

 

Best Lineup

QB: Cam Newton, Panthers – 3,837 yards, 35 TD passing / 636 yards, 10 TD rushing

WR:  Antonio Brown, Steelers – 1,834 yards, 136 catches, 10 TD

WR: Julio Jones, Falcons – 1,871 yards, 136 catches, 8 TD

WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans – 1,521 yards, 111 catches, 11 TD

RB: Adrian Peterson, Vikings – 1,485 yards, 11 TD rush / 30 catches, 222 yards receiving

RB: Devonta Freeman, Falcons – 1,061 yards, 11 TD rush / 73 catches, 578 yards 3 TD receiving

FLEX: Odell Beckham Jr, Giants – 1,450 yards, 96 catches, 13 TD (15 games)

TE: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – 72 catches, 1,176 yards, 11 TD 

K: Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots – 33/36 FG, 52/52 PAT

DEF – Denver Broncos – 52 sacks, 14 INT, 16 fumble recoveries, 5 TD

 

Rising Lineup

QB: Kirk Cousins, Washington 

WR: Allen Robinson, Jaguars 

WR: Doug Baldwin, Seahawks 

WR: Brandin Cooks, Saints 

RB: Todd Gurley, Rams 

RB: David Johnson, Cardinals 

FLEX: Lamar Miller, Dolphins 

K: Brandon McManus, Broncos 

DEF: Minnesota Vikings 

 

Who are your picks for our Year-End Fantasy Awards? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter! Stay tuned for year-round Fantasy Football info for next year’s draft!

 

 

 

 

NFL Week 6 Fantasy Mailbag

The Arizona Cardinals are playing like a Madden team on Easy Mode right now. If you started a whole lineup of Cardinals players last weekend, I have a feeling you would have done pretty well…

QB – Carson Palmer: 11/14, 161 pass yards, 3 TD

RB – Chris Johnson: 103 yards

RB – Andre Ellington: 63 yards, 1 TD

WR – Larry Fitzgerald: 5 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD

WR – John Brown: 4 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD

TE – Darren Fells: 2 catches, 25 yards, 1 TD

Flex – David Johnson: 3 carries, 6 yards, 2 TD

DEF – 2 Forced Fumbles, 4 INT, 1 Sack

K – Chandler Catanzaro – 6/6 PAT

I don’t know if the Cardinals will sustain these video game numbers all season, but I don’t see it slowing down this weekend in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have the worst pass defense in the league at this point, so Carson Palmer owners should be pumped. St. Louis boasted the only viable defense Arizona faced and beat them at home, however…

Quick Hits

  • Tonight the Atlanta Falcons take their 5-0 record to the Super Dome, and hope to stay undefeated with the help of Devonta Freeman. In Freeman’s last 3 games, he’s averaging 179.6 yards from scrimmage per game (539 total). He’s also leading the league in touchdowns with 8, 7 over those last 3 games, all on the ground. Freeman faces a Saints defense that is allowing the 3rd most rush yards in the league.

Freeman Week 6

  • In the last 3 weeks, Browns TE Gary Barnidge has recorded 20 receptions for 319 yards and 3 touchdowns. His pass catching total in that time is HALF of his entire career total, and he’s 30. Barnidge’s production has attributed to his quarterback’s incredible run as well. Josh McCown is averaging 384 yards and 2 touchdowns over his last 3 games, but now runs into a buzz saw with Denver coming to town. The Broncos pass defense is tops in the league with the kind of pass rushers that always seem to bring McCown back to Earth. Barnidge will be his best option to survive as the Broncos allowed 60+ receiving yards to Eric Ebron, Travis Kelce and Clive Walford.

Barnidge Week 6

  • The #TomBradyRevengeTour heads to where it all started this weekend. I imagine the Colts had this game circled on their calendar in the preseason, expected it to be Brady’s first game after a 4-game suspension, and would try to settle whatever score they had over a football they thought wasn’t inflated enough…In reality, the Colts are dealing with Wyatt Earp on his rampage in Tombstone. They’ve only won when their franchise quarterback has sat out and Brady is throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions coming in with fully inflated footballs. Brady is also throwing to two matchup nightmares in Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Edelman is averaging 99.75 yards per game, 8.5 catches, and has 3 touchdowns as well. 

Mail Time!

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I start with Duke Johnson Jr, especially in PPR. Denver is very good against the run, yes, but they are susceptible to pass catching backs. Isaiah Crowell got his numbers last week against Baltimore, but Johnson had as many touches and was the feature back down the stretch. I expect Cleveland to be trailing and throwing. The Duke is their man in that scenario.

Next I lean toward Ronnie Hillman, partially because Ameer Abdullah is in the winless Jim Caldwell’s doghouse for fumble issues. Hillman goes against a horrendous Browns run-defense that is allowing 5 yards per carry. If neither Hillman or CJ Anderson can get it going against Cleveland, I would then recommend looking elsewhere.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 10.58.17 AM

When the Chargers are trailing, Danny Woodhead is getting a majority of the workload from Melvin Gordon. I know you’re fully aware of what the Packers are capable of scoring-wise, so you should expect Woodhead to get plenty of work. I don’t trust Abdullah’s usage at this point in the season like I do Theo Riddick’s.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 10.58.42 AM

As I pointed out earlier, the McCown thing has been fun but he’s in for a rude awakening this weekend. While the Falcons defense is improved, the only decent quarterback they’ve faced is Eli Manning (that was a struggle for me to type). Drew Brees has thrown 335+ yards in 3 of his 4 games and seems to have figured something out with Willie Snead and Ben Watson downfield. Go with the proven player in a better matchup this weekend, Breesus. If McCown can match his production from the past 3 weeks against Denver, then I’ll start to believe in his hype.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 10.59.03 AM

Really aren’t making this easy, are ya?

Hillman is your best option against a bad Cleveland run defense. Already said why I don’t like Abdullah. Golden Tate could burn the Bears secondary, which has improved in coverage recently, but I don’t like Stafford against their pass rush. And Pierre Garcon has a one-way ticket to Revis Island.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 10.59.23 AM

QB: Is Blake Bortles available? He’s probably better than all four in a spot start going up against Houston. Out of the 4 though, at least McCown done something worth writing home about in recent weeks. Tyrod looks doubtful this week, so I would prioritize McCown (1) then Mariota (2).

WR: Already mentioned why I don’t like Pierre this week, and really it’s now or never for Jordan Matthews. In their first meeting, Matthews had 8 catches, 105 yards and 1 TD against Philly. I don’t know if he’ll get the same numbers, but the gameplan is there…as opposed to Garcon vs. a stellar Jets pass D.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 10.59.40 AM

(1) – Breesus.

(2) – Sammy Watkins says he’s planning to return, and I believe him. I would also go with him over Martavis. Shaky quarterback situation, but at least he’s the #1 pass option. Both he and Bryant are taking on tough pass defenses, and Bryant has to work his way into a WR group with Antonio Brown and Michael Vick’s new favorite target, Darius Heyward-Bey.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 11.00.05 AM

Alshon Jeffery is FINALLY getting work in practice, which is encouraging to me. If he plays, he’s a must-start with the way Jay Cutler is playing as of late…If he doesn’t go, Rueben Randle (if healthy) is your next best option. Stevie Johnson becomes even less valuable with Antonio Gates back (and Philip Rivers’ obsession with Gates). And Torrey Smith is currently stuck in the worst offensive dumpster fire in the league.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 11.00.18 AM

Not a great passing matchup for either quarterback at all. I see both quarterbacks having to make more plays with their feet than their arms, but I also see Russell Wilson benefitting more from Marshawn Lynch returning for play-action. That, plus the defensive backs that Cam will be throwing against, gives Cam the slight edge.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 11.00.35 AM

There really isn’t a team in the league who doesn’t have viable fantasy options. I mentioned San Francisco being a dumpster fire, but they do have Carlos Hyde finding life again against a tough Giants defense.

Bad teams also always adjust their identity as the season continues, which allows the emergence of diamonds in the rough. As the Jaguars went on their slow death march a year ago, they committed to running the ball and Denard Robinson became a consistent 100 yard rusher for at least a month. And as team’s with bad defenses consistently have to play from behind, there’s always a wide receiver benefitting from the “catchup” mentality with garbage time targets and yardage.

Players individually are a different story. I gave up on Jonathan Stewart after 3 weeks of no production, and I don’t blame other owners for doing the same with CJ Anderson. When a top half draft pick doesn’t give you much return after the first quarter, you either try to flip him, or relegate him to your bench and wait for him to turn it around.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 11.39.51 AM

RB: Crowell’s game against Denver is way less effective than the Duke’s. That alone has me leaning toward Miller, and I like your thinking. New play-calling and a new attitude can’t hurt Lamar Miller’s usage.

WR/T: I am no longer a James Jones hater like I was for the first 3 weeks of the season. His 5 touchdowns with Rodgers tossing them makes him WR2 value for anyone. Then I go with Tyler Eifert against a Buffalo defense that his given up too much against tight ends this season…If your league gives points for returning yards, Jarvis Landry shoots the top of your group.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

NFL Week 5 Fantasy Mailbag

We’re now a quarter of the way into the season but for most of you, we’re actually 30% of the way there as your Fantasy league’s regular season probably goes through Week 13.

In no way am I adding any pressure on you to turn things around or anything. Relax.

Bailey sleep gif

Here are your best performers so far at each position so far. 

Quarterbacks

5. Tyrod Taylor (BUF) – 988 pass yards, 8 TD / 4 INT, 111 rush yards

4. Carson Palmer (AZ) – 1,155 pass yards, 10 TD / 3 INT

3. Andy Dalton (CIN) – 1,187 pass yards, 9 TD / 1 INT

2. Tom Brady (NE) – (Week 4 Bye) 1,112 pass yards, 9 TD / 0 INT

1. Aaron Rodgers (GB) – 995 pass yards, 11 TD / 0 INT, 107 rush yards

Rodgers Week 4

Running Backs

5. Matt Forte (CHI) – 367 rush yards, 1 TD, 133 rec. yards, 13 catches

4. Mark Ingram (NO) – 204 rush yards, 2 TD, 203 rec. yards, 22 catches

3. Adrian Peterson (MIN) – 372 rush yards, 3 TD, 92 rec. yards, 9 catches

2. Jamaal Charles (KC) – 306 rush yards, 4 TD, 151 rec. yards, 20 catches, 1 TD

1. Devonta Freeman (ATL) – 252 rush yards, 7 TD, 196 rec. yards, 17 catches 

Devonta Week 4

Wide Receivers 

5. DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) – 31 catches, 409 rec. yards, 3 TD

4. Antonio Brown (PIT) – 34 catches, 478 rec. yards, 2 TD, 70 return yards

3. Travis Benjamin (CLE) – 16 catches, 328 rec. yards, 4 TD, 214 return yards, 1 TD

2. Larry Fitzgerald (AZ) – 30 catches, 432 rec. yards, 5 TD

1. Julio Jones (ATL) – 38 catches, 478 rec. yards, 4 TD

Julio Jones Week 4

Tight Ends

5. Charles Clay (BUF) – 21 catches, 255 yards, 2 TD

4. Tyler Eifert (CIN) – 16 catches, 222 yards, 3 TD

3. Jason Witten (DAL) – 25 catches, 238 yards, 2 TD

2. Travis Kelce (KC) – 21 catches, 293 yards, 2 TD

1. Rob Gronkowski (NE) – 16 catches, 308 yards, 4 TD

Gronk Week 4

Mail Time!

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Starting with your WRs…

Sammy Watkins is still listed as Questionable and being considered day-to-day. I wouldn’t bank on him going this weekend, nor do I like Michael Crabtree against the Broncos defense. Denver’s pass defense is currently tops in the NFL…Eddie Royal, on the other hand, goes against the league’s worst pass defense when it comes to allowing WR touchdowns. The Bears also appear to be getting Alshon Jeffery back, which will only soften the coverage on Royal. So yeah, Royal.

While I don’t love starting anyone against the Seahawks defense, Andy Dalton (aka “ADalt” in my Fantasy world) has been too good to sit this season. Dalton is throwing 300+ yards and multiple touchdowns in all of his games so far, and Seattle has faced only 1 decent quarterback so far.

I know Bruce Arians is dubbing Chris Johnson as the #1 running back in Arizona, but I’m not sure how much weight that holds when he has Andre Ellington back. Detroit’s run defense has only given up more than 50 yards once, and that was to Adrian peterson…With Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick out, I think the Cowboys are in big trouble going against New England. The #BradyRevengeTour is going call for a lot of scoring and a lot of red zone opportunities for the Patriots running backs again. If his usage in the 2nd half of Week 3 is any indication, LeGarrette Blount is going to get his.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.06.47 AM

If Andy Reid’s play calling wasn’t so conservative, I would lean toward Alex Smith. But Andy Dalton hasn’t done anything to warrant benching him yet, and I’m very eager to see what he can do against the Legion of Boom. The Bears have also somehow figured out how to get to quarterbacks after cutting ties with Jared Allen (weird).

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.07.04 AM

RB: Ronnie Hillman – He’s basically a co-starter with CJ Anderson getting the same amount of touches and more production. And he’s actually reached the end zone…Tevin Coleman’s taking a backseat to Devonta Freeman and his Jim Brown-like numbers. And just no on Ryan Matthews. No.

WR: Emmanuel Sanders – If the Bears weren’t enough proof, that Raiders secondary is BAD. Sanders is also getting ALL the Peyton Manning passes, and you’re not going to get that kind of production with your other options. Then I go with Kendall Wright. The Bills have an incredible front 7 but are incredibly susceptible to the pass. Wright’s averaging 10.5 yards per target too.

I’m not an odds maker, but I would keep betting on Todd Gurley while he’s healthy.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.07.28 AM

Two reasons I like Pierre Garcon the most. (1) Even if Desean Jackson comes back this weekend, he’s not going to be 100% and only takes pressure off Garcon. (2) Kirk Cousins loves throwing to Garcon and you have to think Washington will be playing catchup against the high power Falcons offense.

I like Sproles in the flex if you get return yard points. If you have better running back options, play them…but you get the feeling he’s going to get as many chances as possible to make the team that let him go pay for it.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.07.49 AM

(1) Derek Carr is either going to show us all how good he can be, or he’s going to get his ass kicked by the best pass defense in the league. If Alex Smith is your best available option, you can try him…however, I like Jay Cutler even better in his game against the KC D that’s giving up the most passing TDs in the league.

(2) The upside is higher with Latavius Murray. He may have been put in timeout but if the Raiders want to have a chance against the Broncos D, I think he’s learned his lesson. Cardinals front 7 is too good for me to feel comfortable starting Abdullah ahead of him, despite the strong showing he had against the Seahawks.

(3). If I’m picking 3, I’m not playing Carlos Hyde. The Giants run defense is one of the best in the NFL and this is what the 49ers offense looks like:

Tire Fire

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I know Breesus, King of the Drews, just threw his 400th touchdown but Carson Palmer is far more trustworthy this season at this point.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 12.26.41 PM

TJ Yeldon finally eclipsed 100 yards and his next matchup should make Fantasy owners hungry. The Bucs are giving up the 3rd most rushing yards and a touchdown to running backs in 3 of their first 4 games. Given the matchups and Jack Del Rio’s benching trigger finger, I feel much better about Yeldon.

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I would go with neither of the Kearses. Seattle WRs are more unpredictable than Belichick running backs and retired defensive players are retired defensive players…Snead got more snaps than any Saints WR last week and I say roll with the Waiver Flavor of the Week.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

Fantasy Cheat Sheet 2015: Running Backs

Typically, the first handful of spots in your draft go to the running back position. This year is no exception…

As you prepare to make your picks, here are my Top 40 running backs and where I recommend you take them in your upcoming draft. 

1. Marshawn Lynch, SEA

Danny McCray, Marshawn Lynch

2014: 1,306 rush yards, 367 receiving, 37 receptions, 17 TDs

Marshawn is why the Seahawks offense works. He also just got paid some more, so he’s motivated to ball out.

Pick 1st Overall

2. Jamaal Charles, KC

Jamaal

2014: 1,033 rush yards, 291 receiving, 40 catches, 14 TDs

Probably the best when healthy, but that hasn’t been a consistent quality of his as of late. Worth the gamble if he’s available. Always finds the end zone.

Pick Early 1st round

3. Le’Veon Bell, PIT

LeVeon

2014: 1,361 rush yards, 854 receiving, 83 catches, 11 TDs

Best running back in the league but out for the first 2 games due to suspension. Worth picking if you can because he’ll be huge for down the stretch, both rushing and receiving.

Pick Early 1st Round

4. Matt Forte, CHI

Forte

2014: 1,038 rush yards, 808 receiving, 102 catches, 10 TDs

Won’t catch nearly as many passes, but the Bears are going to run the ball a lot this season and he is still one of the best. Cutler will use him in play-action and he’ll set up wide at times too.

Pick: Has Early 1st Round value but seems to be falling to late 1st, early 2nd

5. Adrian Peterson, MIN

Vikings running back Peterson celebrates touchdown during NFL football game against Packers in Minneapolis

2014: Spent most of it suspended

Another year older, AP’s still one of the best in the game and will be the focal point to the Vikings offense. Also fresh after not playing, but you don’t know if another legal issue will come up. Not likely, but the red flag is there now.

Pick Middle 1st Round

6. Eddie Lacy, GB

Lacy

2014: 1,139 rush yards, 427 receiving, 42 catches, 13 TDs

Lacy is solid, but started slow with the Packers offense last season. Packers also depend way more on passing which keeps the ball out of his hands more than you’d like. Might be relied upon more with Nelson.

Pick Middle-Late 1st Round  

7. DeMarco Murray, PHI

DeMarco

2014: 1,845 rush yards, 416 receiving, 57 catches, 13 TDs

Murray was the league’s leading rusher last year and should get a lot of touches with the Eagles because their quarterbacks are so bad.

Pick: Late 1st, early 2nd

8. Jeremy Hill, CIN

Jeremy Hill, Donte Whitner

2014: 1,124 rush yards, 215 receiving, 27 catches, 9 TDs

Hill will have a big increase in workload this season and has Giovani Bernard to complement him. Expecting more handoffs to him as the Bengals try to get Andy Dalton right again.

Pick: 2nd Round

9. LeSean McCoy, BUF

LeSean

2014: 1,319 rush yards, 155 receiving, 28 catches, 5 TDs

McCoy is expected to be ready for Week 1. He’ll get a lot of carries but is in a crowded backfield with Fred Jackson and Boobie Dixon. Health is also going to be an issue for him with so many carries in his career already.

Pick: 2nd round

10. Arian Foster, HOU

Foster

2014: 1,246 rush yards, 327 receiving, 38 catches, 13 touchdowns

As of now, there is no timetable for Foster’s return from groin injury. He is someone who should be available on waivers, but will definitely help you late in the season…best case scenario. 

Pick up on waivers and stash him on IR if need be.

11. CJ Anderson, DEN

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs

2014: 849 rush yards, 324 receiving, 34 catches, 10 TD (all second half of season)

Anderson is the lead candidate for Denver’s #1 running back spot and Manning loves him. New head coach Gary Kubiak’s zone-run scheme is why Foster and Forsett produced so well the last few seasons.

Pick Late 2nd Round

12. Justin Forsett, BAL

Forsett

2014: 1,266 rush yards, 263 receiving, 44 catches, 8 TDs

Forsett is the #1 guy in Baltimore and should benefit from a lack in WR depth for Flacco. His receiving numbers will get a boost too with Marc Trestman running the offense

Pick: 3rd Round

13. Frank Gore, IND

Gore

2014: 1,105 rush yards, 111 receiving, 11 catches, 5 TDs

Gore could be huge in the Colts high power offense. With defenses worrying more about Luck throwing deep on them, less attention will be paid to Gore and that means serious gashing.

Pick: 3rd Round

14. Alfred Morris, WAS

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2014: 1,074 rush yards, 155 receiving, 17 catches, 8 TD

Morris hardly ever catches the ball but he is important to the Washington offense as nobody has any faith in RG3. Solid health-wise as well.

Pick 3rd or 4th Round

15. Mark Ingram, NO

Ingram

2014: 964 rush yards, 145 receiving, 29 catches, 9 TD

Ingram is very good but he is usually getting injured. Should get a lot of red zone opportunities but also will split passing situations with CJ Spiller.

Pick: 4th Round

16. Melvin Gordon, SD

Gordon

2014: Hesiman Trophy Candidate

I don’t normally like drafting rookies high in Fantasy, but Gordon is the clear starter for the Chargers ahead of Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead. Starting RBs tend to do well in Mike McCoy’s offense.

Pick: 4th – 5th Round

17. Latavius Murray, OAK

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders

2014: 424 rush yards, 143 receiving, 2 TD, 429 returning

Latavius showed he is fast and can score from anywhere on the field, but also hasn’t proven he can stay healthy yet.

Pick: 4th, 5th round

18. Andre Ellington, AZ

Ellington

2014: 660 rush yards, 395 receiving, 46 catches, 5 TDs

Ellington can score a lot of points but he can’t stay on the field. He has already had some hamstring troubles in camp.

Pick 5th Round

19. Lamar Miller, MIA

Lamar

2014: 1,099 rush yards, 275 receiving, 38 catches, 9 TDs

Lamar goes into the season as the #1 guy in Miami and proved how solid he can be with Tannehill running a read option offense. Stays healthy too.

Pick: 5th round

20. Jonathan Stewart, CAR

Stewart

2014: 809 rush yards, 181 receiving, 25 catches, 4 TDs

Stewart is a strong option when healthy. This the first time he won’t be splitting carries with DeAngelo Williams and doesn’t have anyone else to challenge him on the depth chart. Expect the workload to be heavier too with Benjamin out.

Pick: 5th round

21. LeGarrette Blount, NE

Blount

2014: 547 rush yards, 54 receiving, 10 catches, 5 TDs

It’s really tough to trust New England RBs because Belichick will just go with whoever he likes most that day. Blount turned out to be the hot hand after Patriots picked him up late last season but will miss Week 1 due to suspension. Could be solid 3rd RB.

Pick: 6th Round

22. Todd Gurley, STL

Gurley

Rookie

Gurley can be the best athlete in all of football but he was injured last season for Georgia and he’s likely going to miss all of the preseason because of an ACL injury. Hard to feel confident about drafting him, but the potential is too high to pass up.

Pick: 6th Round

23. TJ Yeldon, JAX

Yeldon

Rookie

Doesn’t have as high an upside as Gurley, but Yeldon has the best shot at being the feature back in Jacksonville. If converted QB/WR Denard Robinson could break out like he did last season, Yeldon should do well as a full-time back.

Pick 7th Round

24. Joseph Randle, DAL

NS_12CowboysSeahawks56.jpg

2014: 343 rush yards, 23 receiving, 4 catches, 3 TDs

Randle is first in line for feature back duties behind the best OL in football. He leads Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar who are also fighting for carries. Randle also has a shoplifting problem, but can be helpful as a backup on your roster with high upside.

Pick 7th Round

25. Carlos Hyde, SF

Hyde

2014: 333 rush yards, 68 receiving, 12 catches, 268 return yards, 4 TDs

San Francisco is an absolute mess and is probably the worst team in the NFL. They also don’t have a set depth chart yet and Hyde is splitting carries with Reggie Bush. He didn’t really do much last season to get anyone excited about this year but he’s one of the last possible #1 RBs left, while expected to get most of the workload. 

Pick 7th Round or later

26. CJ Spiller, NO

Spiller

2014: 300 rush yards, 125 receiving, 19 catches, 306, 2 TDs

Spiller is in a better place than Buffalo. He will be used on 3rd down and will be a better version of Pierre Thomas if Ingram gets hurt. Also gets return points but has his own health issues. He’s currently coming back from arthroscopic knee surgery.

Pick 8th Round

27. Rashad Jennings, NYG

Jennings

2014: 639 rush yards, 226 receiving, 30 catches, 4 TDs

Jennings and Shane Vereen are both playing with the first team. If healthy, Jennings is a solid RB2 or Flex player.

Pick 8th Round

28. Isaiah Cowell, CLE

Cowell

2014: 607 rush yards, 87 receiving, 9 catches, 8 TDs

Cowell is Cleveland’s best option at RB with Terrence West not far behind and Duke Johnson coming off a hamstring injury. With a choice between Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown at quarterback, Cleveland will want to run the ball a lot.

Pick 8th round

29. Ameer Abdullah, DET

Abdullah

Rookie

Abdullah is getting a lot of praise in camp, but is also in the mix with Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. He’s probably the most talented of the 3, but Stafford just called the Lions backfield a “running back by committee” situation. We’ll see who the hot hand is come Week 1.

Pick: 8th round

30. Chris Ivory, NYJ

Jets vs Patriots

2014: 821 rush yards, 123 receiving, 18 catches, 7 TDs

Ivory is a poor man’s Marshawn Lynch with his downhill running style and will be depended on for the bulk of the workload with Steven Ridley still rehabbing an ACL injury.

Pick 8th Round

31. Tevin Coleman, ATL

Coleman

Rookie

Coleman has been neck-and-neck with Devonta Freeman for feature back touches for the Falcons. Coleman is the more complete back though with pass catching and return capabilities. With the two sidelined and set to return from injury this week, I like Coleman’s chances better with them on even ground.

Pick 9th Round 

32. DeVonta Freeman, ATL

Freeman

2014: 248 rush yards, 225 receiving, 30 catches, 2 TDs

Freeman had the best shot at starting for the Falcons until he joined Tevin Coleman on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Has a year of experience under his belt, but Coleman is expected to be a full-package back when he catches up.

Pick 9th or 10th 

33. Joique Bell, DET

Joique

2014: 860 rush yards, 322 receiving, 34 catches, 8 TDs

Bell is coming off an injury in camp but is still the most accomplished in the Lions backfield.

Pick 9th Round

34. Giovani Bernard, CIN

Bernard

2014: 680 rush yards, 349 receiving, 7 TDs

Gio is expected to be part of a 1-2 punch with Hill. He’ll get 3rd down and passing play reps for sure. Depending on Hill’s durability as a full-time starter, Gio can get some of his workload back.

Pick 10th Round

35. Tre Mason, STL

Mason

2014: 765 rush yards, 148 receiving, 16 catches, 5 TDs

Depending on Gurley’s health, Mason could be a boom or bust with a late pick. He’s as talented as anyone when given a shot and good insurance if Gurley misses time.

Pick 10th round

36. Doug Martin, TB

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Oakland Raiders

2014: 494 rush yards, 64 receiving, 13 catches, 2 TD

I don’t trust Tampa RBs. They don’t stay healthy, they turn the ball over, and they always seem like regular waiver wire pickups (and drops). Martin is only ranked here because he’s slated as their lead back, but he’s only disappointed people since his rookie year.

Pick 11th Round 

37. Shane Vereen, NYG

Vereen

2014: 391 rush yards, 447 receiving, 52 catches, 5 TD

The Giants still aren’t very good on defense which forces their offense to pass more. Vereen is one of the better pass catching RBs and that’s exactly why they brought him in.

Pick 11th Round or higher

38. Darren McFadden, DAL

Darren McFadden

2014: 534 rush yards, 212 receiving, 36 catches, 2 TD

If he can get on the field and fully healthy, he could be a late sleeper behind the Dallas OL. McFadden’s getting toward the end of his career so you shouldn’t bank on that.

Pick 12th or higher

39. Fred Jackson, BUF

Washington Redskins v Buffalo Bills

2014: 524 rush yards, 501 receiving, 65 catches, 3 TD

F-Jax has been the Bills version of Dirty Harry for the last few seasons. At this current time, he is the only healthy back out of McCoy, Dixon, Bryce Brown, and Karlos Williams. Although McCoy is expected to be ready Week 1, Jackson would make a strong start in a run-heavy system.

Pick 12th Round or later

40. Reggie Bush, SF

Bush

2014: 297 rush yards, 253 receiving, 40 catches, 2 TD

As I mentioned before, SF is an absolute mess. On top of that, Reggie is now playing in one of the best defensive divisions in football. If they’re forced to play catch-up with that horrible defense, Reggie should get the ball more than Hyde.

Pick 12th Round or higher

Do your rankings look different? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter! Stay Tuned for Wide Receiver rankings tomorrow.

Also…

Quarterbacks Cheat Sheet

Wide Receivers Cheat Sheet

Tight Ends Cheat Sheet

Defenses & Kickers Cheat Sheet