2018 Preseason Rankings: Top 40 Running Backs (Where Does Alvin Kamara Fall, Injury Returns & More)

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:

  1. Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
  2. Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys
  3. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
  5. Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs
  6. Saquon Barkley – New York Giants
  7. Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints
  8. Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers
  9. Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars
  10. Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings
  11. Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
  12. Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears
  13. LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
  14. Jerick McKinnon – San Francisco 49ers
  15. Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
  16. Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
  17. Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles
  18. Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans
  19. Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens
  20. Derrius Guice – Washington Redskins
  21. Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins
  22. Lamar Miller – Houston Texans
  23. Ronald Jones II – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  24. Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons
  25. Rashaad Penny – Seattle Seahawks
  26. Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
  27. Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins
  28. Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns
  29. Sony Michel – New England Patriots
  30. Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts
  31. Carlos Hyde – Cleveland Browns
  32. Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos
  33. Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers
  34. Dion Lewis – Tennessee Titans
  35. Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions
  36. Bilal Powell – New York Jets
  37. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints
  38. Rex Burkhead – New England Patriots
  39. Isaiah Crowell – New York Jets
  40. Devontae Booker – Denver Broncos

Notes:

  • 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:

Position
Date Updated
Quarterback07/02/18
Running Back07/10/18
Wide Receiver 07/16/18
Tight End--
Kicker--
Defense--
2018 Preseason Rankings: Top 50 Wide Receivers: Who Should We Trust?, Where Are The Risks? & More
2018 Preseason Rankings: Top 15 Quarterbacks (Cousins Top 5, Where Does Garoppolo Fit & More)

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