2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs 2.0

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

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


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

Chicago Bears v San Diego Chargers

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

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

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

Chris Ivory

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

DeAngelo Williams

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

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins

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

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

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

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans

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

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 3.07.43 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 3.11.52 PM

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

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 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

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 3.20.26 PM

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.

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

Stay tuned for 2.0 updates to the original 

Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers lists too.

Chicago Bears: Marshall Out, McPhee In. Now What?

Ryan Pace has made his first personnel moves to kick off his tenure as Chicago Bears GM.

It began with the trade of Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets for a 5th round pick.

Brandon Marshall vs. Vikes

In just 3 seasons with the Bears, Marshall ranked 11th for receiving yards (3,524) in Bears history, tied for 5th in touchdowns (31) and 8th in receptions (279). However, following an injury plagued 2014 season and accumulating off-field issues, Pace and new head coach felt it best to part ways with the former pro bowl receiver. The reception of this move has been polarizing among the team’s fan base, but the bottom line is that the Bears received compensation for an almost 31 year old wide receiver (Birthday – March 23rd) coming off multiple injuries and declining athleticism that they planned on releasing anyway. Marshall has also openly voiced how football is more of a platform than a passion, so at least he won’t have to fly cross country to record his weekly Showtime appearance. 5th round picks are no slouches either…unless you consider Carl Nicks, Richard Sherman, or Kam Chancellor as such.

The second big move came today as the Baltimore Sun reported that the Bears and OLB/DE Pernell McPhee have agreed to a 5-year/$40 million deal with $16 million guaranteed…also a 5th round pick.

Pernell McPhee

McPhee isn’t as sexy a name as Julius Peppers was when Lovie Smith rang his doorbell at midnight of the 2010 Free Agency start. McPhee’s skill set and versatility are VERY sexy though. Just 26 years old, McPhee is a pure pass rusher with experience as a defensive end and outside linebacker in Baltimore’s 3-4 system. He has also played end in a 40 front. McPhee has dealt with injuries to both his knees, but played in every game during the past 2 seasons. He recorded 7.5 sacks in 2014 while spelling for pro bowler Terrell Suggs, who was nursing an achilles injury.

The McPhee signing does 3 things:

1. It provides flexibility in the draft. The Bears needed an edge rusher and now they have one. A proven one. They put themselves in a position where they don’t have to draft a “need” but instead the best available player with 7th overall pick. That could be Alabama WR Amari Cooper. Bears could use another top-end pass catching talent. It could be Clemson’s DE/OLB Vic Beasley. You can’t have enough weapons to go after the quarterback on the field.

2. It gives new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio options in his unpredictable defense. McPhee has played every technique on the defensive line. He has stood up to rush the edge. He’ll even rush from the middle on 3rd down from a “chaos” look that you see with multiple 3-4 schemes. And chaos is good…That also opens things up for Fangio to assign positions to unknowns currently on the roster like Willie Young, Jared Allen, and Lamarr Houston.

3. It sets the tone for the type of players the Bears are looking for. The defense is in dyer need of a makeover. Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, both Chicago Bears all-timers, are on the outs due to age and recent injury history. The average age for defensive starters was 29 while more than half were 30+ years old. The 26 year old McPhee adds youth, but also has a recent Super Bowl ring as part of his resume from 2012. There are other free agents with winning experience who would also fit the needs of the Bears roster.

What’s Next? 

The new NFL year and free agency officially begins today at 3:00 PM CT. Teams had already struck deals with high target players over the weekend.

DT Ndamukong Suh to Miami (6 years $114 million, $60 million guaranteed)

S Devin McCourty stays with New England (5 years $47.5 million, $28.5 million guaranteed)

WR Randall Cobb stays with Green Bay (4 years $40 million, $17 million guaranteed)

WR Jeremy Maclin to Kansas City (Total and years aren’t confirmed, suspected $11 million per year)

TE Julius Thomas to Jacksonville (Expected multi-year deal, $9 million per year)

C Rodney Hudson to Oakland (5 years $44.5 million, guaranteed money hasn’t been confirmed)

Note: Guaranteed money is key with NFL contracts. Rarely does anyone make their entire contract total.

So let’s look at the Bears’ needs and the targets to address them.

Defensive Line

While McPhee can be plugged in as a 5 technique DE, and one would assume Lamarr Houston would fit at the other side, the Bears still need a space eater in the middle to play nose tackle.

Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton – Former Broncos NT under Fox, stellar run defender. Interest from Raiders, Colts, Washington, and the Bears

Dan Williams – Cardinals DT who didn’t get enough playing time. Ranked 8th vs the run by Pro Football Focus. Interest from Giants, Lions, and Washington

Corey Peters – Falcons DT and 5 year veteran. Rebounded well after achilles injury.

Kenrick Ellis – Jets NT. Great 2 down run stopper.

Vince Wilfork – Patriots NT, 5-time pro bowler and proven winner with plenty and knowledge to share. Devin McCourty is trying hard to get him back.

Wilfork GIF

Inside Linebackers

In Fangio’s 3-4 scheme, there are two ILBs…one being the “Mike” (middle) linebacker and the other being the “Jack” backer who lines up weak side of the line. Opponents’ run games will be funneled inside for the most part and while the NT eats up space and OL, the ILBs will be responsible for finishing the plays tackling.

Bruce Carter – Cowboys LB who filled carried a lot of weight with Sean Lee out. Aggressive and uber-athletic. Would be a huge steal away from the Packers who are targeting him.

Brandon Spikes – Former Bills defensive captain yet was treated like a 2 down defender under Jim Schwartz. While he may be on back end of career, provides the violent thump a Fangio LB needs.

Mason Foster – Buccaneers LB who doesn’t fit in Lovie’s Cover 2, but is better built to take on anything funneled to the middle. Bears already linked to Foster.

Nate Irving – Broncos LB that Fox is obviously familiar with but coming off a knee injury. Still in high demand and being pursued by Cardinals. Powerful and prototype for 3-4 ILB.

Nate Irving INT


While the Bears do have Kyle Fuller and former pro bowler Tim Jennings, they weren’t all that great with them after the first month. Health reasons have proven you can’t have too many, and Jennings may be better suited for the nickel as he gets older.

Davon House – Packers CB expected not to return, well versed in Fangio’s system as the he was DC for Dom Capers previously. Excelled as slot defensive back last season.

Perrish Cox – 49ers CB who has off-field issues but obviously experienced with Fangio. Great instincts in coverage and reading receivers hips. Doesn’t allow much spacing.

Darrelle Revis – Obviously a big fish to catch in a small pond, but come on…Revis Island.

Darrelle Revis


A glaring need for years with the Bears defense, the Bears already missed out on my first choice, Devin McCourty. Don’t necessarily need a playmaker but someone who is at least dependable.

Rahim Moore – Another former Fox defender who was very solid in 2014. Not as flashy as Earl Thomas but fits the “dependable” mold that would make the Bears comfortable.

Antrel Rolle – Giants safety that Bears are linked to. Very vocal about being reunited with University of Miami teammates Andre Johnson and Wilfork. Wouldn’t necessarily rule that out for Bears.

Da’Norris Searcy – Bills safety with run-stop and coverage skills. Young and wasn’t really an every down player, but certainly looked the part.

Mike Adams – Colts safety who does a solid job. Older player but could fit for a year or two and get it done.

Mike Adams

Wide Receiver

Obviously there’s an opening for another split out receiver after the Marshall trade. As mentioned earlier, drafting one is a likely possibility but why not add someone with experience. The preference for the Bears would be a speedster, somebody who can take the top off a defense. They didn’t have that guy last season and it made the Jay Cutler led offense predictable. Marshall and Alshon Jeffery weren’t burning past anybody for a much needed deep threat. But anyone with dependable hands would also do…before the draft.

Torrey Smith – Ravens receiver who has proven to be a risk/reward option for the past few years. Has dropping issues but can certainly stretch the field though and compliment Jeffery well.

Andre Johnson – Very similar career as Marshall production-wise, without the baggage. Doesn’t fit the burner mold but super dependable route runner. I’d blame his lack of touchdowns on his quarterbacks more than him.

Michael Crabtree – Former Heisman candidate that has shown promise but hasn’t met the ridiculous standards we all set for him. Change in scenery and pairing with Jeffery and Martellus Bennett could help him breakout.

Michael Crabtree

Running Backs

The Bears do have Matt Forte, but it wouldn’t be outrageous to start looking beyond the pro bowl “everything” back. Forte will be in the last year of his deal and at the very least will need a backup this season. Bears look to be very run-heavy this coming season, so a 2-back system would be beneficial to not go overkill with Forte touches.

Ryan Matthews – Chargers RB that has had difficulty staying on the field, but solid power runner when given opportunities. Not sure how much Matthews will garner on the market, but would make a great compliment to Forte and can make it an audition to take over after his contract is up.

CJ Spiller – Very similar situation to Matthews in terms of injury history and needing an audition, but a much better pass catcher and versatile offensive weapon. Spiller is also no stranger to the 2 back system.

Knowshon Moreno – Another back with injury history that could also be affordable because of that. Made his money with Dolphins after playing in Adam Gase’s RB-by-committe system and obviously familiar with Fox.

Knowshon Moreno

Of course there are more needs and other options the Bears could go with. Feel free to recommend your suggestions and follow along the Free Agency action with me on Twitter.