2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers 2.0

Following free agency, the NFL draft, and unfortunately a few suspensions, there’s a disturbance in the balance of the force at wide receiver. #2’s change teams, top prospects get selected, and Martavis Bryant gets busted for violating the league’s substance policy.

With new players in the mix, the rankings have changed significantly since our original list. Checkout who’s moved where and joined the Top 40.

1. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

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Julio Jones led the league in catches (136) and receiving yards (1,871) last season and was neck-and-neck for best overall at the position with Antonio Brown. Helping put Jones over the top were some free agent additions that should give him more chances in the end zone. The Falcons signed All-Pro center Alex Mack to sure up the middle of their offensive line and give Matt Ryan more time to find Jones getting open. Then they picked up Mohamed Sanu, who should draw some attention away from Jones down the field.

 

2. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

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Odell Beckham Jr. has video game ability. In two seasons, he has scored nearly as many touchdowns (25) as games played (26). Down the stretch from Weeks 8-13, OBJ averaged 7 catches and 132 yards while scoring 8 touchdowns over that span. In the “Josh Norman incident” that eventually led to a one-game suspension, Beckham still caught 6 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. His quarterback, Eli Manning, challenged OBJ to get better. If this dude gets any better, he’ll easily be in the Julio/Antonio discussion…maybe better. Getting a healthy Victor Cruz back and adding Oklahoma slot WR to a group with Dwayne Harris should open things up for Beckham to excel to that level.

 

3. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Losing Bryant for the season doesn’t help Antonio Brown. Although Brown tied the league lead for receptions (136), was 2nd in yards (1,834), and scored a few more touchdowns than Jones (10), Bryant took a lot of pressure off of him to get open deep and over the middle. That’s not to say the running back combo of Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams won’t keep defenses honest, but they’ll be able to scheme for Brown better than in the past unless Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bay can step up in Bryant’s absence. Brown’s return ability is an X-Factor that will still set him apart from Jones and OBJ for production.

 

4. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

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Besides Brock Osweiler, DeAndre Hopkins is the next biggest winner from the Texans’ 2016 NFL Draft. They added a burner in Notre Dame WR Will Fuller, who will take the top off defenses while Hopkins works the outside and middle of the field. They also selected Braxton Miller from Ohio State, who will need some polishing while converting from QB to WR but will draw attention away from Hopkins in the red zone. The new Texans offensive weapons should help him build on the 111 catches, 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns he recorded in 2015.

5. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

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The Jaguars have had a great offseason so far, improving their defense mightily in the draft and free agency. They also added strength to their offensive line and Chris Ivory who should help the ascending Blake Bortles stay upright in 2016. That only helps Allen Robinson, who broke out in 2015 with 80 catches, 1,400 yards and a league leading 14 touchdowns.

 

6. AJ Green, Cincinnati Bengals

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AJ Green saw his #2 and #3 WRs, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, walk in free agency. They may not have had the talent of Green, but they did have similar builds and commanded attention. To replace them, the Bengals added New England WR Brandon LaFell and 2nd round pick Tyler Boyd from Pitt. It will be interesting to see how the new supporting cast benefits Green but you know for sure he’ll get most of Andy Dalton’s targets after a nice resurgence in 2015 for 86 catches, 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns.

7. Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins

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Jarvis Landry was Miami’s best player in 2015. In the right scheme, Landry could jump to former LSU teammate Odell Beckham Jr.’s level. Enter new head coach Adam Gase, who is committed to utilizing Landry’s freakish speed and catching ability downfield. Despite scoring just 5 touchdowns and another from returning, Landry recorded 110 catches last season 1,157 yards. If Ryan Tannehill can improve like Jay Cutler did under Gase, you can expect those touchdown numbers to do the same.

 

8. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

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Demaryius Thomas didn’t put up the double-digit touchdown totals that we were used to for the 3 seasons before. Part of that was thanks to a weird quarterback situation with deteriorating Peyton Manning and newbie Brock Osweiler. The other part was adjusting the scheme to run more to makeup for the quarterback issues. Thomas still caught 105 balls and racked up 1,304 yards. Whether it’s Mark Sanchez or 1st round pick Paxton Lynch throwing to him, I would anticipate Thomas’s touchdown numbers will normalize to 10+ coming off a Super Bowl winning season.

 

9. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks

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Doug Baldwin and Russell Wilson did some special things in the second half of last season. During that crazy Week 10-15 stretch where Wilson threw 21 touchdowns, 11 of them went to Baldwin. My optimism for Wilson in 2016 is the same for Baldwin as I hope the Seahawks coaching staff realizes they have something good chucking downfield. Baldwin only recorded 3 games for 100+ yards in 2015. I expect him to have plenty more this season.

 

10. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears

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The best wide receiver that could’ve hit free agency this offseason is staying with the Bears thanks to the franchise tag. He’s being a little suspicious by not joining the team for voluntary practices but it’s a serious “prove it” year if he wants to make #1 WR money with the Bears or another team. We saw both Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas do big things in similar circumstances in 2014. It’s not hard to imagine Jeffery to do the same when he averaged 105.6 yards and 8 catches for the 6 games he was healthy last season. Kevin White should also help draw coverage away from Jeffery this year too.

 

11. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

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There’s going to be a chain reaction of positives for the Cowboys offense after selecting Ezekiel Elliott 4th overall in the draft. When the Cowboys get their running game going, like they did in 2014 with DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo gets set up to make big plays passing and Dez Bryant is go-to target when he does. As long as he stays healthy, I would feel more confident in seeing the 2014 version of Bryant, who caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns, than the one that averaged just 44 yards per game in 2015.

 

12. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills

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If there’s a team I don’t feel great about in 2015, it’s the Buffalo Bills. Their head coach is in full “Sideshow Rex” mode and I’m worried he’s going to crash and burn the whole thing if they don’t come out hot to start the season. However, Sammy Watkins will do his best to make things interesting as one of the most athletic offensive weapons in the league. He turned just 60 catches into 1,047 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. If Tyrod Taylor can stay in one piece with his dual-threat style (same goes for RB duo LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams), those numbers should greatly improve as Watkins is far and away Buffalo’s best receiving option.

 

13. Brandon Marshall, New York Jets

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The Jets drafted a quarterback in the second round and Ryan Fitzpatrick is still a free agent. Start the clock on the Brandon Marshall time bomb. Marshall has bristled at any thoughts of bringing in other quarterback instead of Fitzpatrick and fans of his past 3 teams should know when negativity starts, a bad atmosphere in the locker room will follow. Marshall’s feelings aside, he did have arguably his best statistical season as a pro in 2015 – 109 catches, 1,502 yards and a league/career high 14 touchdowns. Do you trust a rookie who was very inconsistent at Penn State, Geno Smith or someone other than Fitzpatrick to help him repeat?

 

14. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

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Before having to miss all of 2015, Jordy Nelson was coming off the best season of his career. In 2 of the 4 seasons before his injury, Nelson recorded 13+ touchdowns. 3 of those 4 seasons, he racked up 1,250+ yards. His absence effected everyone in the receiving core. Randall Cobb didn’t benefit from Nelson drawing coverage away. James Jones was fine for a few touchdowns but wasn’t setting the world on fire. The younger receivers had moments too but kept getting hurt. If Nelson is right, it should feel like 2014 again (98/1,519/13) and that boosts Rodgers’s value.

 

15. Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders

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The Raiders upgraded their offensive line in Free Agency, in turn upgrading everything. They’ve been compared to the vaunted Cowboys line so if we go by that model, we project a stronger season for Latavius Murray. If Murray is running well, that sets up Derek Carr better. And if Carr is making big plays, that’s great news for 2nd-year WR Amari Cooper. It’s fair to assume the QB/WR combo is going to grow and expand on Cooper’s already lethal 14.9 yards per catch.

 

16. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

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Larry reached Legend status last year when he won the divisional championship game with 8 catches, 176 yards and the go-ahead touchdown. He was a monster in that game and back to himself during the season, as the Cardinals had him positioned all over the field to make plays. It helps that every skilled position player on the field can score from anywhere too.

 

17. Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars

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Allen Hurns and Robinson makeup one of the deadliest WR duos in football. While Robinson was putting up All-Pro type numbers, Hurns was taking advantage of the attention he drew – scoring a touchdown in 7 straight games, 9 total and recording 1,031 yards. Much like Robinson’s case, Hurns’s numbers should only improve as long as Bortles can be protected better.

 

18. Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City Chiefs

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Jeremy Maclin brought the surge in production from his final year in Philadelphia to his first season in Kansas City. Maclin ended the streak of WRs unable to catch a touchdown in Week 3 and added 7 more throughout the season. If Jamaal Charles can stay healthy, Maclin should be able to continue the arial success as defenses load the box to stop the run game.

 

19. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Mike Evans saw his reception and yardage numbers rise in his sophomore season for Tampa Bay, but his touchdown total dropped by 75%. I’m going to go ahead and say that trading up to draft a kicker won’t fix that for Evans, but Year 2 of Jameis Winston may as long as his

 

20. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers

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Before going on IR after 8 games last season, Keenan Allen was on pace for 178 targets and 134 catches. He and Danny Woodhead are Philip Rivers’s safety blankets in the passing game, and that’s a good thing for Fantasy Football. Coverage should soften on him after the Chargers added Travis Benjamin and the best pass catching TE in the draft, Hunter Henry. Also worth considering is the fact that Allen had his most productive season (2013) when the last time Ken Whisenhunt was Chargers offensive coordinator.

21. T.Y Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

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T.Y. Hilton’s numbers over the first 3 seasons of his career had him on track for “Top 10 receiver” status. However his growth was stunted due to Andrew Luck’s struggles and eventual season ending injury. He caught just 5 touchdowns (4 in just 2 games) and topped 100 only twice. If Luck is right, Hilton may be a great value pick as your draft progresses. Theoretically, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett should stretch secondaries out for Hilton to take advantage downfield and over the middle.

 

22. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints

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In his sophomore season, Brandin Cooks proved to be the explosive player that we expected after he was drafted. He stayed healthy all season and racked up 84 catches, 1,138 yards and 9 touchdowns. His potential was most evident down the stretch, as he topped 100 yards and scored in 3 of his final four games. Drafting WR Michael Thomas from Ohio State will only help Cooks shake coverage, as will the growth of Brandon Coleman and Willie Snead.

 

23. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers

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We saw the best and the meh-est of Randall Cobb the past 2 seasons. Paired with a healthy Nelson in 2014, Cobb caught 91 passes for 1,287 years and 12 touchdowns. When thrusted into the #1 role after Nelson was ruled out in the preseason, Cobb caught just 79 passes (with the same number of targets) for 829 yards and 6 touchdowns.

 

24. Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders

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As mentioned regarding Cooper, the Raiders offensive line makes everyone else better and that includes Michael Crabtree. 2015 was Crabtrees best season since 2012, with 85 catches for 922 yards and 9 touchdowns. Those numbers should only improve as Derek Carr does.

 

25. Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos

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Emmanuel Sanders and Thomas have been one of the best WR duos in the league in the past but with a really big question mark at the quarterback position, it’s difficult to project what either wide receiver will do in 2016. With turmoil at the position in 2015, Sanders recorded 30 less catches, nearly 300 less yards, and 3 less touchdowns than in 2014. Most of the offense coming off a Super Bowl win is returning, except for the quarterbacks, and the Broncos added Russell Okung at left tackle. Sanders has the ability to be an excellent possession target, no matter who lines up under center.

 

26. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

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The Super Bowl runner-ups didn’t have a healthy #1 quality WR on the roster and Cam Newton still threw 35 touchdown passes. Now he gets his big bad red zone target, Kelvin Benjamin, back. Look for his rookie stat line of 73 catches, 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns to only grow in 2016.

 

27. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

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Golden Tate is the #1 WR in Detroit and picked up AJ Green’s #2, Marvin Jones. I hadn’t figured Tate to be a #1 but when thrust into the role in 2014 (with Calvin Johnson dealing with injuries), he had a Pro Bowl season catching 99 passes for 1,331 yards and 4 touchdowns. He continued being a quality PPR with 90 catches in 2016, and should be back in the spotlight this season in year 2 of the Jim Bob Cooter offense.

 

28. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

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I love Julian Edelman, but I start to worry if the wear and tear of being the grindy Patriots g0-to WR is catching up with him. He missed 7 games last season, missed 2 the season before and gutted through injuries for their Super Bowl run then. However, he’s the man you trust most in the receiving core and should benefit from the emphasis of double TEs with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett terrorizing defenses. You wonder if he’ll suffer though potentially without Tom Brady in the first quarter of the season.

 

29. John Brown, Arizona Cardinals

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John Brown recorded two definitive boom or bust games of the season last year. In Week 6 against the Steelers, he caught 10 passes for 196 yards. Two weeks later, he gave fantasy owners a goose egg with 0 catches on 3 targets. We learned more about how Bruce Arians will use information in the media and his lineup as decoys and misdirection, as Brown was clearly hurt in the game. When Brown is healthy, he’s one of the best deep ball threats in football. He’ll be a savvy WR3 pick following up his 65 catches, 1,003 yards and 7 touchdowns last season.

 

30. Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns

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First rookie on the list is Corey Coleman because he’s immediately projected to be Cleveland’s #1 WR and he’s the most explosive player at his position from the draft. The All-American out of Baylor finished 2015 with the most touchdowns in college football (20) and also won the Biletnikoff Award. The Browns drafted 5 WRs and some will make the roster, but Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins will be the guys taking pressure off Coleman to let him do big things.

 

31. Eric Decker, New York Jets

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Eric Decker was excellent in 2015 and plays like an excellent #2 wide receiver, having recorded 10+ touchdowns 3 times. I’m just not sure about the Jets’ quarterback situation. I don’t have much confidence in Geno Smith and even less in Christian Hackenberg. If they sign Ryan Fitzpatrick though, he shoots up the list.

 

32. Travis Benjamin, San Diego Chargers

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Travis Benjamin may not be the #1 man in San Diego like he was in Cleveland, but at least he has a much better quarterback throwing to him (Rivers > McCown + Manziel) and one who throws at a much higher volume. Rivers threw more passes than anyone in 2015 and Benjamin makes a better receiving option than Danny Woodhead. If by chance Allen were to get hurt again, he would easily have Top 20 value. Being a returner with a knack for scoring helps too.

 

33. Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions

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Besides scoring 10 touchdowns in 2013, Marvin Jones has never produced like a #1 wide receiver. He was still the highest valued unrestricted free agent WR and he landed in a Top 10 passing offense. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to be the #1 option in Detroit as Golden Tate has had enough experience in the role. As the #2 in the Detroit last season, Tate was targeted 128 times. Jones would love that kind of attention in his new uniform.

34. Tyler Lockette, Seattle Seahawks

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In his rookie season, Tyler Lockett was an All-Pro. Not necessarily for receiving, but because he was the best return specialist in football. He scored touchdowns on both kick and punt returns, then added 6 more through the air. Twice he scored multiple TDs and he’s capable of doing it many more times in 2016…especially if Wilson keeps chucking it like he did in the second half of 2015.

 

35. DeSean Jackson, Washington

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The 3-time Pro Bowler is coming off an injury plagued season, but his potential as a home run threat in 2016 improved immensely with the selection of TCU’s Josh Doctson in this year’s draft. With Pierre Garçon, Doctson and newly extended Jordan Reed commanding coverage, D-Jax should be freed up to burn opposing defenses down the field. It’s worth noting that Jackson has only played all 16 games twice in his 6-year career, but he’s very capable of monster games with Kirk Cousins vying for a long-term deal.

 

36. Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore Ravens

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Take 2 on Steve Smith Sr.’s farewell tour. Not too many people expected Smith to put up the 79 catches, 1,065 yards and 6 touchdowns that he did in 2015, moving to Baltimore. He’s a crazy person who runs on pride and physicality. There isn’t much logic to having him ranked here besides his penchant for defying odds and being the most proven WR weapon that Joe Flacco has on the roster this year. This season will be his swan song and you know he’ll try to make it count.

 

37. Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota Vikings

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Laquon Treadwell wasn’t the first to go but the Vikings may have selected the best all-around wide receiver in the 2016 draft. He won’t beat you with speed, but he’s the best pure route runner and will catch anything within his radius. Stefon Diggs will be cutting the top off defenses while Treadwell can be a PPR machine over the middle for Bridgewater.

 

38. Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles

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As it stands, the Eagles roster is not built to run very much, despite new HC Doug Peterson coming from a running system in Kansas City. Jordan Matthews is the #1 WR in Philadelphia and has better company with the addition of Rueben Randle and will be the best option for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. His catch numbers and yardage are trending upward his young 2-year career, and has scored 16 touchdowns over that time.

 

39. Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons

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Mohamed Sanu landed in a better situation than his former teammate, Marvin Jones. Coverages will lean Julio Jones’s way which should open things up on Sanu’s end. He’s also young and has all the measurables to do some big things, especially in the end zone.

 

40. Victor Cruz, New York Giants

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Victor Cruz makes this installment of the Top 40 after hearing he is 100% healthy. The Giants added Sterling Shepard for the slot receiver role and we know what OBJ can do, but that just gives Cruz the Rueben Randle targets. It’s doubtful he has the same wheels, but Cruz had a nose for the end zone in 2012 and could find it again without double coverage.

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

More Position Rankings:

Running Backs (2.0)

Quarterbacks (2.0)

Wide Receivers (1.0)

 

2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks 2.0

On the day of the 2016 NFL Draft, let’s revisit the current Fantasy quarterback landscape. One of the biggest moves in Free Agency came at the position, but there were other moves that both helped and hurt the value for multiple QBs. See who rises or falls as you prepare WAY TOO EARLY for your draft this summer.

1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

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Save your Super Bowl 50 hot takes. It’s highly probable you reached your Fantasy Championship last year because you had Cam Newton starting down the stretch. The 13 touchdowns he threw in weeks 12-14 would suggest so. The offseason moves the Panthers made prior to this week would suggest they are committed to continue running with him and Jonathan Stewart. Letting Josh Norman walk freed up $14 million more of cap room to work with. Let’s see what else is added to Newton’s offense, on top of a returning Kelvin Benjamin.

 

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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(For now, Brady stays here until we know for sure that his suspension will hold up for the season)

Last year’s biggest steal for many (before his suspension was lifted) just added another scary red zone target in Martellus Bennett. Tom Brady was a magician last year with a depleted receiver group, yet threw the 3rd highest touchdown total of his career (36) and averaged 298 yards per game. He’ll be 39 as the 2016 season starts, but there wasn’t much evidence of him slowing down yet.

 

3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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Okay, I’ve come to my senses. Aaron Rodgers is good at football, I know. I still wouldn’t recommend spending a 1st or early 2nd round pick on him, but adding Jared Cook to Rodgers’ arsenal helps in the red zone. The Packers aren’t particularly known for 2-TE looks, but they have that option now from 25 yards and in. If Eddie Lacy meets his “comeback” hype too, the Packers offense could be devastating and that would benefit Rodgers owners the most.

 

4. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

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Carson Palmers numbers were very similar to Tom Brady’s last season. The Cardinals also brought the band back together, re-signing Jermaine Gresham, Chris Johnson, and Jaron Brown. They are 5 deep in quality WRs, and the Top 3 stack up with any group in the league. As long as the 36-year old can be held upright, you should get the consistent 2 touchdowns and 290 yards per game at least.

 

5. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

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Russell Wilson’s 21/2 TD-to-INT ratio from Week 10-15 are exactly why you put him in the Top 5. He put up his highest touchdown total in 2015 (34), which was 14 more than the season prior. What makes you hesitant is his annual slow start. Since being drafted in 2012, Wilson has averaged 1.3 touchdowns and 210.25 yards per game through through first 5 weeks of the season. What’s nice is that he hardly turned the ball over, but you’re hoping Seahawks play-callers stick to the formula they found last season, attacking downfield with Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.

 

6. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

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In his first two seasons, Blake Bortles was the most sacked quarterback in the league. Improving his touchdown total by 24 (35 in 2015) was pretty encouraging though, as was finding chemistry with two of the game’s most consistent receivers. The Jaguars added some offensive line help picking up former Steelers tackle Kelvin Beachum and improved their defense by signing Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson. Having Chis Ivory in the backfield too should also help forcing opposing defenses to fill the box. It’s safe to assume #BortlesKombat will continue to heat up.

 

7. Eli Manning, New York Giants

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Eli Manning, of all people, has challenged Odell Beckham Jr. to improve for next season. I guess a quarterback and captain is responsible for that, but Beckham continued to be the best thing going for the Giants offense having scored 25 touchdowns in 2 seasons. Manning seems to finally be getting a healthy Victor Cruz back and Dwayne Harris made solid strides as the #3 guy. Coming off the highest touchdown total of his career (35), Manning should build on it with another year of OBJ and the same offensive play-calling should make.

 

8. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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Drew Brees missed his first game since 2009 last season and still finished the season with 32 touchdowns and  4,870 yards (324 yards per game). He’s younger than Brady but might have a bit more wear-and-tear. However, the extension Sean Payton received makes me think he’s going to come out firing with his QB this year. Brees has an elite deep option in Brandin Cooks, two other solid receivers in Brandon Coleman and Willie Snead, a new red zone threat in Coby Fleener and two effective pass catching running backs…Things are looking bright.

 

9. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

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After adding Donald Penn, the Raiders offensive line is now one of the best in all of football. When he wasn’t under pressure, Derek Carr had a passer rating of 96.4 last year. That and the 32 touchdowns he threw should improve as his chemistry with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree do as well.

 

10. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Losing Martavis Bryant hurts the Steelers offense a lot. He is a top tier talent and Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t necessarily his best during his 5-game suspension last season, 7 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Roethlisberger’s longtime go-to tight end also retired. However, the Steelers upgraded at the position by signing Ladarius Green and they still have Antonio Brown, plus  Le’Veon Bell returns. I don’t know if you can trust Big Ben to stay in one piece all season, but his knack for 3+ touchdown games and average of 328 yards per last season make him Top 10 worthy.

 

11. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

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Which Andrew Luck will we get this year? The one who went 2-5 and threw just 15 touchdown passes last season, or the one who threw 40 the year before? The Colts didn’t add much to their offensive line to protect him but they do still have speedsters T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief to throw downfield to. It will be interesting to see how Luck bounces back.

 

12. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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Philip Rivers could be had for great value. With a healthy Keenan Allen through 8 games, Rivers averaged 344 yards and 2 touchdowns per game. Then Ken Whisenhunt rejoined the Chargers staff, who helped Rivers get his groove back in 2013, and they added the Cleveland Browns’ #1 receiver, Travis Benjamin. If everyone stays healthy, the Chargers could have a very high powered offense.

 

13. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

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Andy Dalton had a great season before his injury last year. 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions are much better than the 19 and 17 before then. His #2 and #3 receivers, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, left via free agency but it doesn’t hurt to have weapons like AJ Green, Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard. Brandon LaFell also joins the Bengals offense and possibly a first round quality receiver too from this year’s draft.

14. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

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Matthew Stafford is coming off his 2nd 30+ touchdown season of his career (32), but he’s going to be doing so without Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. The Lions did their best to fill the need at WR by picking up Marvin Jones, the best WR on the market after Alshon Jeffrey was franchised tagged, and Golden Tate has proven he can shine without Megatron. What’s also encouraging are the 17 touchdowns Stafford threw in the final 6 weeks of the season. His two running backs, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, are strong in the passing game as well.

 

15. Kirk Cousins, Washington

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I’m not sure how Kirk Cousins is supposed to feel about getting franchise tagged and then seeing Josh Norman get a $75 million contract after. If he wants to get paid more somewhere though, it would be in his best interest to play like the guy who threw 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions over his last 3 games. He finished the season with a 101.6 passer rating and a healthy Jordan Reed can only help that continue in 2016.

 

16. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

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It’s taken a long time but it finally appears the Chicago Bears are putting a proper offense around Jay Cutler. The franchise tagged the best WR in free agency, Alshon Jeffrey. They sured up the right side of their offensive line by adding tackle Bobby Massie and kicking Pro Bowler Kyle Long back to guard. They also get to find out what Kevin White is made of. Continuity in offensive scheme and better coaching should keep the arrow pointing up for Cutler.

 

17. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

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We go from one Adam Gase project to the next. Ryan Tannehill was on a steady track, improving on touchdown totals for his first 3 seasons, but took a step back in 2015 with a coaching staff that really didn’t seem to know what they were doing. He can throw and he can run. His new head coach specializes in utilizing quarterbacks with Tannehill’s talent in play-action, minimizing their mistakes. His Top WR, Jarvis Landry, also looks ready to explode.

18. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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Matt Ryan should be much higher, but his 2015 season makes it very fair to doubt his abilities. With arguably the best WR in football, Julio Jones, and an emerging star at running back, Devonta Freeman, Ryan only threw 21 touchdowns last year. Only once did he throw 3 or more touchdowns in a game. Only ONCE in his career has thrown 30+ touchdowns in a season. Too often did you see him turn the ball over on scoring drives or get stopped because of his own inaccuracy. The Falcons upgraded his protection this year by adding Alex Mack at center and replaced Roddy White with Mohamed Sanu. It’s now or never, Matty Ice.

 

19. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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While Marcus Mariota started out hot, Jameis Winston may have finished the 2015 season looking like the better rookie quarterback. Despite losing 5 of his last 7 games, Winston’s numbers improved after a 5 touchdown performance against the Eagles. He also gets back the best RB that was available in free agency, Doug Martin, and hopefully Mike Evans finds a cure for “the drops”. It will be interesting to see how the team handles itself without Lovie Smith and with Dirk Koetter in charge.

 

20. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

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It’s really tough to feel confident in Tony Romo as the #1 Fantasy quarterback on your roster. The backfield situation looks better with a committee of Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris and a healthy Lance Dunbar. If those guys get going, you might get the 34-TD Romo. If they don’t, then you have to worry about another season ending injury. Health will be key for both Romo and Dez Bryant in 2016. If by chance they draft Ezekiel Elliott though, you can feel a lot better about the Cowboys in general.

 

21. Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans

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There was one quarterback signing in the offseason that made serious waves and that was Brock Osweiler to Houston. He traded throwing to Demaryius Thomas for DeAndre Hopkins and an offensive scheme that earned Brian Hoyer a 100+ passer rating in 5 of his 11 games started. It’s hard to predict how good Osweiler will be after such a small sample size. He threw 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 7 games with Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as his options. Do Hopkins, Cecil Shorts III, Jalen Strong and fellow signee Lamar Miller help him improve those numbers?

22. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

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“Is Joe Flacco a elite?” – One of my favorite Twitter jokes in sports.

Flacco’s never thrown more than 27 touchdowns in his career. He followed up his highest season total with a season-ending injury and just 14 TDs in 10 games. The Ravens are committed to Flacco though, extending him for another 3 years in the offseason. He’ll have Steve Smith Sr. playing his final season and wanting to go out with a bang. They also added Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson to improve the receiving corps and prepare for for the annual Dennis Pita injury.

 

23. Marcus Mariota, Tenesse Titans

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Marcus Mariota had probably the most impressive start to his career you could ask for, throwing 4 touchdowns in the opener against his rookie counterpart, Jameis Winston. He’d match that total again vs. the Saints while adding 371 yards. However, he was shut out in the TD column 5 times and was only healthy for 12 games. Trading for DeMarco Murray shows the Titans are very committed to the run for 2016, which should help take pressure off Mariota in his sophomore season and set up his passing game better.

 

24. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

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Alex Smith is a very good game manager, at this point in his career and he can at times be a decent waiver pickup when your #1 guy is on a bye. Twice in 2015, Smith threw 2 touchdowns and ran for another and he was finally back to finding wide receivers in the end zone again (that’s progress, considering the year and half long streak of not throwing TDs to WRs). Smith will also be getting Jamaal Charles back, who is monster when catching the ball out of the backfield.

25. Teddy Bridgewater

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In year 3 of the Teddy Bridgewater era, the Vikings bulked up their offensive line by adding Andre Smith and Alex Boone. After being sacked 44 times last season, that’s a welcomed upgrade for Bridgewater. He’s thrown only 14 touchdowns in each of his first 2 seasons and the Vikings have yet to improve their receiver depth, but more attention to Adrian Peterson by defenses should open things up for Bridgewater this time around.

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

More Position Rankings:

Running Backs (2.0)

Quarterbacks (1.0)

Wide Receivers (1.0)

Piffcast: The Eleventh One – NFL Draft 2016

It’s Draft Week in Chicago and Eric Edholm (Shutdown Corner on Yahoo! Sports) joins the Piffcast to preview it. We talk about his process in preparing for the draft, the best overall player, trading up for the “Big 2” quarterbacks and who will be available later.  We discuss who could slide as well, and what the draft experience is like in Chicago. (31:30 mark, if you want to jump ahead)

TJ and I also go back and forth on Chicago baseball (he’s a Cubs fan, I’m a White Sox fan), moving to the city, some ideas we have for the show, and how we want to promote the things our listeners are doing. We want to hear from you! Let us know if you’re working on anything cool!

Feel free to react as you listen on Facebook or Twitter. Subscribe on iTunes here.

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

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

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

Gurley

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

Devonta

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

Hamster

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

DJ2K

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

Lamar

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

Latavius

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

Rawls

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

Ingram

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

Stewart

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

DeMarco

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

Hill

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

Dion

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

Forsett

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

Woodhead

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

Foster

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

McFadden

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

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

Lacy

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

Hyde

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

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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

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

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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

Charcandrick

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

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. All their money was spent on the defensive side of the ball this month too.

 

35. Matt Jones, Washington

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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

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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

Bilal

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

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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.