by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It seems like the majority of the league goes with a committee approach in the backfield, doesn’t it? That makes the true workhorses that much more valuable (something you can see by the ranking of Saquan Barkley, who has yet to play a single snap in the NFL). Of course usage isn’t the only question, as we have numerous top options returning from injury, which could easily have an impact on their performance.
Who are the top options? Who should we be targeting? Let’s take a look:
- Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
- Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys
- Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
- David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
- Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs
- Saquon Barkley – New York Giants
- Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints
- Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers
- Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars
- Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings
- Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
- Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears
- LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
- Jerick McKinnon – San Francisco 49ers
- Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
- Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
- Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles
- Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans
- Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens
- Derrius Guice – Washington Redskins
- Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins
- Lamar Miller – Houston Texans
- Ronald Jones II – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons
- Rashaad Penny – Seattle Seahawks
- Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
- Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins
- Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns
- Sony Michel – New England Patriots
- Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts
- Carlos Hyde – Cleveland Browns
- Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos
- Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers
- Dion Lewis – Tennessee Titans
- Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions
- Bilal Powell – New York Jets
- Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints
- Rex Burkhead – New England Patriots
- Isaiah Crowell – New York Jets
- Devontae Booker – Denver Broncos
- The Top 4 options are fairly clear-cut, though the order is a little bit debatable. If Johnson were not coming off an injury it would be easy to imagine him being pushed as high as #2. It’s easy to forget how great he was in 2016, when he rushed for 1,239 yards, caught 80 passes for 879 yards and totaled 20 TD. With the Cardinals turning the page on their offense, don’t be surprised if Johnson emerges as the top running back by year’s end (though you shouldn’t have to select him as such).
- Alvin Kamara is going to be a hot selection this season, but will the Saints be willing to give him more carries (120) or will his value be tied to his receptions (81 on 100 targets) and TD (13 total TD) once again? A significant jump in carries may be a stretch, never having more than 12 in a game, and that’s going to make it difficult for him to replicate last year’s success. That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be among the better options, but pushing him into the Top 5 is a tough sell.
- There’s once again going to be a lot of hype surrounding Joe Mixon, but he’s going to continue to lose touches to Giovani Bernard. With Jeremy Hill moving on in the offseason the opportunity is there, but his 3.5 yard/carry average and the risk in his touches does drag him down to more of a RB2 type.
- The hope was that this would be the year that Derrick Henry took control of the Titans’ backfield… Then they went out and added Dion Lewis. Henry should be the leader of the backfield, and Lewis does have an injury history, so don’t shy away just know the risks and value him accordingly.
- Over the final month of the season the Ravens’ Alex Collins averaged 4.1 yards per carry and scored 4 TD, which would be enough to put him on radars. He added 14 catches for 135 yards, strengthening his case, and he’s been dubbed the team’s starting RB. There’s definitely value in adding him as a RB2.
- With Jay Ajayi in Philadelphia Kenyan Drake averaged 4.8 yards/carry (550 yards and 114 carries) for 3 TD over the final eight games of the season. Throw in 29 catches over the final two months and there’s an awful lot to like. He’s not a lock, but once you get past the Top 15-20 names are there any “guarantees”? The fact that he’s shown he can do it and has a chance to be the lead back gives him a lot of stock.
- Which running back will hold the most value for Cleveland? Will it be Duke Johnson, Carlos Hyde or Nick Chubb? The fact that it’s going to be a committee is going to hurt them all, dropping them into RB3 territory.
- The Denver Broncos backfield could be a disaster, or it could be Royce Freeman’s show from Day 1. There’s risk, but as a RB3/FLEX option you could do a lot worse.
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 preseason rankings: