Fantasy owners are also looking for the next big thing, so which rookie could step in and make an immediate impact? Who could emerge by year’s end? Let’s take a look:
- Josh Jacobs – Oakland Raiders – The lone running back selected in the first round of the 2019 draft, Jacobs is positioned to carry the load for Oakland with Marshawn Lynch out of the picture. That alone puts him atop these rankings, but he’s also a three-down running back who will benefit from opposing defenses having to focus on stopping Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and others in the passing game. The fact that Jacobs has not yet signed his contract is a concern, and if he doesn’t report on time his stock/outlook is going to take a hit (and that could cause him to drop down these rankings a spot or two).
- David Montgomery – Chicago Bears – Could Montgomery be the early down runner, supplanting Tarik Cohen and forcing him into a change-of-pace/third down role? NFL.com compared Montgomery to Kareem Hunt prior to the draft, and of-the-field issues aside there is no doubt the type of impact he’s proven capable of on it. In a perfect situation Montgomery could be a three-down threat, though he likely won’t get that opportunity in Chicago.
- Darrell Henderson – Los Angeles Rams – There are significant injury questions hanging over Todd Gurley, who is battling an “arthritic component to his knee”. That alone tells you Gurley could be limited, in an effort to keep him effective all season long, and therefore it could mean significant opportunities for the third round draft pick. Last season he rushed for 1,909 rushing yards and 22 TD. Some could question his size (5’8”, 208 lbs.), but there’s no questioning the talent.
- Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles – You could argue that he has the highest upside of any running back on this list, but his opportunity for touches is questionable. The Eagles have a deep backfield, including the newly acquired Jordan Howard, and he also missed offseason workouts due to a hamstring injury (costing him opportunity to learn/develop) so Sanders likely will be part of a committee initially. Maybe it won’t be until 2020 that he becomes the lead back, but selected in the second round he could quickly prove how good he is if given the opportunity. For now we are going to drop him to fourth on the list, but he could easily rise to third if he gets up to speed quickly.
- Devin Singletary – Buffalo Bills – He may not play a role early in ’19, playing behind LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldson. Both of the veteran running backs are coming towards the end of their careers and Yeldon has never proven capable, so Singletary could get an opportunity by late in the year as Buffalo prepares for 2020 and beyond. Playing at Florida Atlantic he racked up 4,287 yards and 66 rushing TD (54 over the final two years) over a three year career. Being drafted in the third round Buffalo clearly views him as their potential running back of the future, and he should get a shot before the year is out.
- Darwin Thompson – Kansas City Chiefs – There will be questions about Thompson’s size and speed, but if Damien Williams struggles as the “lead back”, could he get an opportunity? In an Andy Reid offense sometimes all you need is a chance, and he should be able to carve out at least a complimentary role (with the potential for more).
- Damien Harris – New England Patriots – Does anyone really want to try and predict how the Patriots will deploy their running backs? Figuring out how the offense will attack has become one of the more frustrating things for fantasy owners, but at the same time that’s part of what makes them a difficult team to defend. Harris should be part of a committee, along with Sony Michel and James White, though it will be impossible to project significant touches each and every week with Michel likely leading the way.
- Justice Hill – Baltimore Ravens – Mark Ingram was brought in to lead the backfield, but after that there are going to be questions. While Gus Edwards produced when given an opportunity, would it really be surprising if Hill outproduced him and emerged as the primary understudy? He would benefit from Lamar Jackson opening up the offense, much like Edwards did a year ago.
- Benny Snell – Pittsburgh Steelers – James Connor is garnering a lot of attention, after stepping in for Le’Veon Bell a year ago, but as we noted in our running back rankings “over his final five games (which also had a 3 game absence mixed in) Connor averaged 53.4 rushing yards per game on just under 13 carries. Were the Steelers worried about workload, explaining why the spent a fourth round pick on Benny Snell Jr.?” It is a fair question, and Snell could easily eat into his touches and develop into a TD vulture.
- Bryce Love – Washington Redskins – A year ago Love was being discussed as one of the top running backs available in the draft. However an injury plagued year, including tearing his ACL in his final game, sent his stock plummeting. The Redskins could ultimately benefit from that, especially with questions facing top running back Derrius Guice. Love may not be ready for the start of the season, so it’s tough to project a significant impact this season, but the upside/potential is there.
Other Names to Monitor:
- Ryquell Armstead – Jacksonville Jaguars
- Myles Gaskin – Miami Dolphins
- Alexander Mattison – Minnesota Vikings
- Trayveon Williams – Cincinnati Bengals
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2019 preseason rankings: