Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs (4.0)

Just when you thought it was safe to post a final rankings midway through July

Le’Veon Bell gets suspended, Arian Foster is signed, a Dion Lewis has knee surgery…mass hysteria! With fantasy drafts already happening, it’s now or never to update the rankings. Rosters are closer to being set and depth charts are starting to seem clearer.

Here is my final Top 40 Fantasy Running Back list…until the next dramatic roster change.

1. Todd Gurley, Rams

Gurley leap vs Seahawks

Early candidate for the Hard Knocks draft bump goes to…

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 his usage in the upcoming season. The Rams offense hasn’t improved much in the offseason, outside of #1 overall pick Jared Goff. Will Gurley be prepared to handle defenses that fill 9 players into the box? Look to Adrian Peterson as an example of someone who wasn’t phased by it, and consider Gurley to be a younger and faster version of him.

2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.16.38 AM

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.

3. David Johnson, Cardinals

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.18.43 AM

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.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.20.30 AM

Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t have landed in a better situation. He’ll be running behind one of the best 2 offensive lines in the league…in a system that is most effective in play-action…and a quarterback who loves to check down. He isn’t afraid of the big stage, from what college fans saw vs. 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.

5. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.07.46 AM

Le’Veon, Le’Veon, Le’Veon *continues shaking head*

He is the best offensive football player in the league. 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.

…but of course a 3-game suspension makes it difficult to draft Bell early in the first round. You can’t let him get out of the 2nd though. Plan on handcuffing him to DeAngelo Williams.

6. Devonta Freeman, Falcons

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.21.30 AM

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 will get reps, but look for Freeman to be even more dangerous around the end zone this year. Coleman also wasn’t very dependable health-wise last season, but could set Freeman up by taking care of business between the 20’s.

7. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.10.31 AM

Fresh off the PUP list, but also simply fresher than most overall after an early season-ending injury. 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.

8. Doug Martin, Buccaneers 

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.22.53 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.26.14 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.27.20 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.28.46 AM

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. You should also feel optimistic by the fact that CJ Spiller has fallen down the depth chart and won’t be threatening Ingram for as many touches as last year.

12. Latavius Murray, Raiders

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.30.12 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.31.24 AM

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 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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.32.45 AM

The prospects of the Packers returning to their typical offensive form makes me much more optimistic about Eddie Lacy this season. With the caveat being that Jordy Nelson will bring back some normalcy for Aaron Rodgers, allowing 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 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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.34.32 AM

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. Shady McCoy should be depended on more, thanks to the release of suspended backup Karlos Williams, 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. Jeremy Langford, Bears

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.41.43 AM

The Bears running back situation was hyped as one to watch, with good reason because of John Fox’s reputation to use the back with the hot-hand. Jeremy Langford stepped out in front of the pack, with a solid performance against the Patriots. With continuity in schemes and philosophy, expect Langford to get similar reps on the ground and in the air as he did last year when he was the feature RB. His speed, catching skills, and an improved starting offensive line should help him elevate his production.

17. CJ Anderson, Broncos

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.35.31 AM

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.

18. Matt Forte, Jets

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.38.28 AM

The all-around back has averaged 1,589 yards from scrimmage per season over his 8-year career. He’s missed a lot of time in camp, due to a hamstring injury, but is expected to handle a steady workload in the running and passing game. The Jets converted 22 of 26 goal-to-go touchdowns, leading the league with 6.35 points per situation. Hopefully that’s a credit to their blocking and schemes, which would help Matt Forte’s inefficiency from the 3-yard line and in. He has only converted 17 of 58 tries from that distance.

19. Carlos Hyde, 49ers

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.43.44 AM

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 Carlos Hyde has zero real competition for the #1 running back job (save your Shaun Draughn responses). 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.

20. Jeremy Hill, Bengals

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.45.24 AM

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.

21. Ryan Mathews, Eagles

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.46.38 AM

Ryan Mathews is the starting running back in Doug Peterson’s new Eagles offense, designating Darren Sproles to 3rd down and special teams situations (where Sproles is at his best). 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 for mostof 2015 though, and Peterson brings are well-structured running game that made Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware into viable fantasy options last season.

22. DeMarco Murray, Titans

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.47.38 AM

DeMarco Murray made the Cowboys relevant on the field again, with Pro Bowl seasons in 2013 and ’14, but fell into something weird with Philadelphia in 2015. Now he has a chance to prove it “was them, not him” 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?

23. Arian Foster, Dolphins

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 12.40.47 PM

There’s a lot of risk to selecting Arian Foster. He hasn’t played a full season since 2012, he just missed an entire season, and he’s playing in a new system…Fortunately, he’s playing in a very RB-friendly scheme under new Dolphins coach Adam Gase. Despite sitting out the first preseason game, Foster is expected to win the starting running back job and his 1,573 total yard/13 touchdown output in 2014 is too hard to ignore by the middle rounds of your draft.

24. DeAngelo Williams, Steelers

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.57.59 AM

In just 10 starts, Williams tied the league high for rushing touchdowns and totaled 1,274 yards from scrimmage. Deja vu, he’s starting the season for the Steelers again because of a Le’Veon Bell suspension. Best case scenario, you handcuff Williams to Bell in your draft. Based on the recent track record, Bell could get hurt again (like last year) and the Steelers offense won’t skip a beat with Williams carrying the rock.

25. Matt Jones, Washington

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.49.08 AM

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 reward Jones more opportunities, especially in the red zone.

26. Justin Forsett, Ravens

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.50.46 AM

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 a Fantasy force again, but he will have Javorius Allen and rookie Kenneth Dixon ready to step in if he can’t.

27. T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.52.59 AM

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 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 running.

28. Danny Woodhead, Chargers

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.54.36 AM

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 you can’t bank on Melvin Gordon bouncing back, but you can plan for Woodhead to get plenty of attention from the quarterback who threw more passes than anyone last season.

29. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.37.34 AM

Jay Ajayi started the summer as Miami’s clear #1 RB, with great potential for a breakout season. Then when the Dolphins signed the imm more proven Foster, everything changed. Foster isn’t as surefire a choice for the starting role as one would assume though. Ajayi started the first two games of the preseason, and Adam Gase may have tipped his hand with the reps he gave the 2nd year back.

30. Rashad Jennings, Giants

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.55.31 AM

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, Jennings is their #1 back.

31. Ameer Abdullah, Lions

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.56.55 AM

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 hand the ball off to Abdullah.

32. Melvin Gordon, Chargers

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.59.41 AM

It’s difficult to put a lot of 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 in games, 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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.01.53 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.03.27 PM

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. Chris Ivory, Jaguars

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.10.42 PM

The Jaguars aren’t looking like the punchline that they used to anymore. They have one of the best WR duos in football, and you could be saying something similar about their backfield as well. Chris Ivory was Top 5 in rushing yards and Top 10 in rushing touchdowns a year ago, and could be a dangerous goal-line weapon while splitting carries with TJ Yeldon.

36. Bilal Powell, Jets

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.06.36 PM

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. James White, Patriots

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 11.40.34 PM

Following the news of Dion Lewis’ need for a second knee surgery and no set timetable for a return, James White immediately emerged as a popular candidate to fill his role. In the final 5-game stretch of 2015, White averaged 5.6 receptions per game and scored a touchdown in 4 straight before the final game of the regular season. He’s been better utilized as a pass catcher out of the backfield and a makes for a reliable weapon between the 20s. There’s solid mid-round value for White if he is dubbed Bill Belichick’s opening day starter.

38. Frank Gore, Colts

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.07.52 PM

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.

39. Christine Michael, Seahawks

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 11.52.28 PM

Christine Michael has looked really good in preseasons of the past, but it never seems to translate to the regular season. His vision and decision have improved though, in his 4th NFL season, and that bodes well for the Thomas Rawls’ backup. Rawls runs hard and looks for contact, which increases his chances for another injury. Handcuffing Michael with Rawls would be extremely savvy in your upcoming draft.

40. Derrick Henry, Titans

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.12.10 PM

It’s hard to leave the Heisman trophy winner off the list. Derrick Henry made his NFL debut with 74 yards and a touchdown, all in the 2nd quarter of Week 1 against the Chargers. His pairing with Murray is being referred to as the “Thunder and Thunder Offense”, which seems scary given lightning is supposed to warn of the thunder…and there appears to be know warning with this backfield.

More Position Rankings:

*Updated Rankings Coming Soon*

Running Backs (3.0)

Quarterbacks (3.0)

Wide Receivers (2.0)

Tight Ends (1.0)

 

Follow for more and ask questions on Facebook and Twitter

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.07.46 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.09.14 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.10.31 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.16.38 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.18.43 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.20.30 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.21.30 AM

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 

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.22.53 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.26.14 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.27.20 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.28.46 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.30.12 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.31.24 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.32.45 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.34.32 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.35.31 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.37.34 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.38.28 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.40.45 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.41.43 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.43.44 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.45.24 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.46.38 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.47.38 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.49.08 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.50.46 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.52.59 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.54.36 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.55.31 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.56.55 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.57.59 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.59.41 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.01.53 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.03.27 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.05.17 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.06.36 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.07.52 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.09.33 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.10.42 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 12.12.10 PM

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)

 

Follow for more and ask questions on Facebook and Twitter

What’s Next For Both Matt Forte and Chicago Bears

Running back Matt Forte informed fans Friday morning that his time in Chicago has come to an end. He posted a photo and a nice message to Bears fans stating that the Bears plan to move forward without him.

Shortly after, Bears GM Ryan Pace released a statement on the team’s decision and what Forte has meant to the organization.

Pace isn’t wrong about Forte, especially as an all-timer. Forte ranks 2nd in franchise history in both career rushing yards and receptions. Walter Payton is the only player ahead of him in both categories.

This isn’t a shocker though. The writing was on the wall for Forte once he started splitting touches with rookie running back Jeremy Langford. When Langford had an opportunity to start while Forte was injured for 2 games, he proved to be more than capable of being a lead back. Langford totaled 145 rush yards, 179 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns in back-to-back wins against the Chargers and Rams. The Bears are also in a position where they need to dedicate resources toward improving other positions on the field, mostly on defense and along the offensive line. So what’s next for both the player and the team?

Forte may be 30 years old, but he’s still a very good, #1 quality back. He can give a team competing for a championship next season an upgrade in not just rushing, but also receiving and blocking as well. Forte’s strength has always been in between the 20s, although he has recorded 10+ touchdowns in 2 of his last 3 seasons. One would think he would be better suited on a team paired with a back who has a nose for the end zone, which makes the New England Patriots very attractive.

Bill Belichick should be licking his lips at the prospect of landing a multi-tooled running back with a history of endurance. The Patriots are already committed to Dion Lewis for 2 more years, but just for $2 million in base salary. They’ll be looking to replace LeGarratte Blount for 1st and 2nd down carries anyway and Forte gives Brady an excellent option in the passing game, where the Patriots thrive. Lewis is proven to have a nose for the end zone and would compliment Forte nicely when they threaten to score.

Other teams to consider as landing spots for Forte:

Carolina Panthers – Jonathan Stewart is already in their backfield, with 3 years left on his deal, but he hasn’t played a full 16 game schedule since 2011 when he wasn’t the starter. Cam Newton almost counts as another running back, but I’m sure the Panthers would rather preserve their MVP franchise quarterback. Forte gives the Panthers the receiving dynamic that Stewart doesn’t really possess.

Denver Broncos – The Broncos are very likely entering the post-Peyton era. Whether Brock Osweiler is the quarterback or someone else, the Broncos offense needs a dependable back who can catch the ball. CJ Anderson bounced back strong down the stretch, Ronnie Hillman was meh, and Forte would be a great upgrade over both for a team wanting to stay competitive after winning the Super Bowl.

Dallas Cowboys – Darren McFadden was okay, but the Cowboys won just 2 games with him as the full-time back in 2015. Tony Romo is going to need someone to keep him alive all season long too if Dallas wants to compete in 2016. That means a running back who can block and catch, and also keep defenses on their heels. McFadden and Forte could make for a formidable duo behind one of the best offensive lines in football as well, which would be reassuring in the event Romo gets broken again.

Meanwhile, Langford should be getting first crack as the Bears starting running back. His game is very similar to Forte’s, as he can run, catch and block, but he also has breakaway speed that Forte always seemed to lack. They also appear to like Ka’Deem Carey for depth after he run much harder in 3rd down spots in his 2nd season with the Bears. A veteran on the cheap or a late draft pick would be valuable to provide competition and stability behind Langford. Keep in mind that John Fox loves using two running backs and giving the ball to the hot hand in games. See DeAngelo Williams & Deshaun Foster/Stewart with Carolina, then Knowshon Moreno & Ronnie Hillman/Montee Ball in Denver.

Free Agent RB options that make sense for Bears:

  • Chris Johnson (formerly Cardinals)
  • Bilal Powell (formerly Jets)
  • James Starks (formerly Packers
  • Matt Asiata (formerly Vikings)
  • Alfred Morris (formerly Washington)

Check back later for potential late round running backs the Bears could consider drafting. 

For more, follow along on Facebook or Twitter. 

Who The Bears Are 8 Games Into 2015

Following their win on Monday Night Football against the San Diego Chargers, the Chicago Bears are a 3-5 team. Your team is what your record is, which has the Bears placed 3rd in the NFC North and 3 games back behind the 6-2 Packers and Vikings. Being 0-3 in the division doesn’t help and the playoffs are the last thing on anybody’s mind, but finding their identity is more encouraging than you would expect.

The Bears are a much better coached team than they were the last 2 seasons. A Matt Forte quote from Week 1 seems to have held true for most of the season.

The benefit of good coaching is most evident in Jay Cutler’s play so far. It’s amazing that it took 7 years for the Bears to hire an offensive coordinator who would scheme to Cutler’s strengths. OC Adam Gase’s offense allows Cutler to get the ball out faster on quick hitting pass plays, roll out and throw on the run, and to also check in and out of play-calls at will. A commitment to the running game sets him up very well in play-action and limits the opportunities to turn the ball over. As of now, Cutler is just 20th in interceptions through Week 9 with 5. That’s half as many as Blake Bortles and Sam Bradford, and 8 less than league-worst Peyton Manning with 13. Andrew Luck is one pick behind Peyton.

Cutler isn’t perfect, of course. He has 4 fumbles on the season, that have come as the result of both poor blocking and an inability to protect the ball. Cutler has also thrown interceptions at costly moments, notably on a comeback drive against the Packers and in the Lions’ end zone. The difference this season, as opposed to those with Marc Trestman, Mike Tice, and Mike Martz calling plays, Cutler and Gase shake off the bad turnovers with a more aggressive attack. Case in point, following a pick-6 by Jason Verett on what appeared to be a misstep with Alshon Jeffery on the outside, Cutler answered with a touchdown in 3 minutes on 7 plays. In the four games prior, we’ve seen very similar drives giving the Bears chances to win at the end of regulation.

Zach Miller touchdown

The Bears are a project, but one that is improving as the season goes on. After starting 0-3 against a murderers row of Green Bay, Arizona and Seattle, the Bears are 3-2 in their last 5 games. Just a handful of unfortunate plays have resulted in the Bears losing by field goals to Detroit and Minnesota. It’s probably sad to find optimism from that, but it beats the average margin of 15.3 points per loss a season ago. The coaches and GM Ryan Pace are accountable of their players, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Rather than allow Jared Allen to take up snaps and be unproductive as a 3-4 linebacker, Pace moved him to Carolina for a 6th round draft pick and opened a spot on the roster for Sam Acho. While the Bears are paying Alan Ball $3 million to play cornerback, DC Vic Fangio has plugged in 8-year veteran Tracy Porter instead, who has proven to have better coverage and ball instincts. Porter is making $850,000 on a 1-year deal.

The coaching staff’s trust in young players has also been a positive sign for the team’s growth. Rookie safety Adrian Amos has started all 8 games this season and has provided some stability to what’s been a glaring need for years at the position. Amos is always where he needs to be and tackles well. After injuries to Ego Ferguson and the eventual release of Jeremiah Ratliff, 2nd round pick Eddie Goldman looks as good as advertised. 2nd-year defensive lineman Will Sutton has transitioned well from 3-technique to end. Then the inside linebacker position has been manned better with Christian Jones and Jonathan Anderson in place of Shea McClellan. Both Anderson (rookie) and Jones (year 2) were undrafted and spent time on the Bears practice squad.

Jeremy Langford’s performance against the Chargers was another case for optimism as the Bears move forward, possibly without Forte after this season. Not knocking Forte at all, but Langford has a very similar skill set running, receiving and pass blocking. Langford also has fresher legs, less mileage and an exceptional 2nd gear once he breaks the line of scrimmage. It will be interesting to see what Forte’s prospects are after the season. Whether a team closer to contending is willing to pay big or if he’s just more comfortable in Chicago, the Bears appear to be fine at the running back position.

The Bears are not a team with much depth. This comes from years and years of bad drafting and poor offseason signings, but the Bears don’t have much after either of their offensive or defensive starters. You know things are bad when the drop off from Bryce Callahan to Sherrick McManis at the nickel results in a game-tying Stefon Diggs touchdown against the Vikings, before losing to a Blair Walsh field goal in Week 8. A pleasant surprise at tackle has been Charles Leno Jr. filling in for former pro bowler Jermon Bushrod, and apparently keeping his starting spot. But if the Bears lose another interior linemen, they may have to start converting defensive tackles to the position…(sorta kidding).

Outside of the quarterback position, the difference between Jeffery and the rest of the Bears’ healthy wide receivers is probably the vastest. It’s a shame we haven’t had a chance to see Jeffery paired with 1st round pick Kevin White yet, which would have allowed Eddie Royal to be the slot receiver he was intended to be this season. Having to throw to Cameron Meredith, Josh Bellamy, and Marc Mariana isn’t particularly ideal for Cutler on key passing downs and important drives, but he’s had to do it. Marquess Wilson has been a bright spot though as a downfield option with quality speed.

Despite low expectations the rest of the way, the Bears are likable. There’s something to be said about the team’s resiliency when having to deal with so many injuries and adversity. Besides their 48-23 loss in Week 2 to the Cardinals, they’ve always had a chance to win. After going to the pro bowl in each of his two seasons as a guard (the first to do so since 1970), Kyle Long is developing into an excellent right tackle. Also moving over from guard, Matt Slauson has taken on line calls and has had to start as the 3rd string center with injuries to Will Montgomery and Hroniss Grasu. Both Slauson and Long have provided the leadership, along with Cutler, that seemed to be missing from the offense since Olin Kreutz departed from the team 5 years ago.

Big free agent signee Pernell McPhee is doing the same with the defense. When McPhee is pressuring the quarterback, good things tend to happen and he sets the tone for his unit as well. He ranks 6th among DL/OLB pressures on the quarterback with 31 (JJ Watt, 1st with 45) this season. For a fan base that talks a lot about having pride in being all “blue collar”, there’s definitely a workman like personality that the McPhee and the front 7 bring.

The next 3 games for the Bears will be quite a test. They face the two best defenses in the league, St. Louis and Denver, back-to-back and then have the Packers on Thanksgiving night. Realistically, the second half of the season will be for evaluation going into 2016, but the Bears are competitive, entertaining, and a lot less painful to watch than they were a year ago. Stay tuned to see if that keeps up…

For more, follow along on Facebook and Twitter