The Running Back position can make or break your fantasy team. Taking the wrong one in the early rounds can leave you in a hole. Here are my 2018 rankings based on my team projections and assessing usage. These projections are based on the player’s history and usage with the team (if applicable), historical trends for the team and players of draft position and age (for younger players especially) and the projected depth chart for teams.
If you want to skip ahead to a list–with individual stats projections–you can go to the final page. (These rankings will be updated as injuries and more information emerges.) Otherwise, here are my tiers and a breakdown of the position.
Gurley was the #1 overall back last year in Sean McVay’s offense, is in his prime, is a playmaker in both the running game and passing game, and should be the first pick in most drafts. Bell hasn’t reported to camp and if that concerns you, it’s not unreasonable to bump him down a tier. For now, we’ll assume he will be in the lineup in week 1.
Ezekiel Elliott will be the offense for Dallas this year. The suspension is behind him, and he’s averaged 104.6 rushing yards per game for his career. The only thing that keeps him from being the #1 overall pick is his relatively lower usage in the passing game compared to other top backs. In non-PPR leagues, he’s right there.
David Johnson is coming back from injury that cost him all of last year. The good news is that it was not a leg injury. He returns and will be the focal point of an offense that no longer has Carson Palmer. Expect big numbers if healthy as he wants a new contract.
Saquon Barkley projects as a workhorse, and we’ve seen recent cases of highly drafted rookies making an impact. I expect him to challenge for the total yards title. Alvin Kamara, meanwhile, is due for a bump because of the Mark Ingram suspension. The only concern is that he’s never handled a high workload before, but he was so explosive as a rookie that can put together a Chris Johnson-like sophomore campaign.
Leonard Fournette would be in Tier 2 but for more receptions. He is likely to be among the league leaders in rushing touchdowns and should move even more into a workhorse role in Year 2 for a team that will rely on defense and ball control.
Kareem Hunt has some downside risk in that the backfield depth is better this year (Damien Williams should supplant Charcandrick West, and Spencer Ware returns) but he’s part of an explosive offense. Dalvin Cook has questions coming back from the knee injury but looked like a feature back as a rookie. Devonta Freeman continues to rack up rushing touchdowns, and will look to rebound from a slightly down 2017 where he missed two games. He’s still only 26.
LeSean McCoy turned 30, an age when some backs start to decline. He’s also not in the best offensive situation when it comes to quarterback, so there’s some downside risk. Add in the off-the-field issue lurking, and there are question marks. That’s offset by McCoy being one of the best backs in the league in recent years, which is why his price is worth the gamble outside the top 10 at the position.