5 Fantasy Running Backs that Could Crack the Top 10 in Scoringby Terry Goffena May 10, 2019 0 comments
The fantasy football season will be upon us before long, so it is never too early to start preparing for your draft.
Some teams have changed dramatically throughout the offseason via free agency, trades, and the draft. Players have landed in vastly improved situations and some players have been knocked down a tier due to these offseason acquisitions.
With all the change, the fantasy landscape will change as well. The top-10 running backs from last year will undoubtedly still be in the mix to stay in the top-10, but some players have the chance to sneak onto that list with the offseason shakeup.
Here are last year’s top-10 running backs in PPR:
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
James White, New England Patriots
Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
Here are five players that could crack the top-10 in 2019:
Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets
The most obvious choice to make the list is newly acquired New York Jets running back, Le’Veon Bell, who signed a four-year contract worth $61 million with $35 million guaranteed. The veteran runner should have fresh legs after sitting the entire 2018 season due to contract disputes with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He spent five seasons in Pittsburgh where he amassed 5,336 yards on the ground with 35 rushing touchdowns. He was largely considered the best back in the league not only for his rushing ability but also his receiving ability which led to Bell catching seven touchdowns and had 2,660 yards with the Steelers.
At 27 years old, Bell still has plenty of miles left on the tires and could still handle a heavy workload in New York. The last time we saw Bell on the field was back in January of 2018 against the Jaguars when he ran for 67 yards and a touchdown and also had 88 receiving yards with one touchdown. After a season off, it is hard to imagine that Bell has declined in his abilities. If anything, he should be well rested and chomping at the bit to get back into action.
There are certainly question marks surrounding Bell now that he is out of his familiar environment. No one doubts the talent of Bell, but there are people that think the numbers he put up were a product of the Steelers’ talent and system. He had a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, one of the best offensive lines, and dangerous options on the outside like Antonio Brown. James Conner stepped in for Bell and didn’t miss a beat on his way to becoming the sixth-highest scoring running back in PPR.
The talent in New York is quite the dropoff compared to Pittsburgh. Sam Darnold had a decent rookie season and the addition of Bell and wideout Jamison Crowder should only improve his confidence and production. The Jets acquired guard Kelechi Osemele and drafted USC tackle Chuma Edoga in the third round to protect Darnold and open holes for Bell.
Le’veon Bell may fall out of the first round for the first time ever and that could be the steal of the draft. If you have a pick close to the turn in snake drafts, you could snag two top-10 running backs with your first two picks.
Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Nick Chubb had a brilliant rookie campaign that could have been even better if the Browns had moved on from Carlos Hyde earlier in the season. Hyde was dealt after only six games with the Browns which led to Chubb taking over the backfield. In the final 10 games of the season, he went from averaging just over two carries a game to 17.6 carries per game and just under 29 yards per game to 82.3 yards per game. He finished the season with 996 rushing yards on 192 attempts and scored eight touchdowns. He also had 149 receiving yards and added two touchdowns through the air.
The Browns made a controversial decision to sign Kareem Hunt after he was released by the Chiefs when a video was released of him kicking a woman on the ground. It was an odd move considering the talent that Nick Chubb displayed last season. Hunt was suspended by the league for eight games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. This means Chubb will have control of the backfield for the first eight weeks and even then, Hunt will need time to get acclimated to the system and flow of the game.
Duke Johnson will also be in the mix but has been unhappy with his role in Cleveland and has requested a trade. The team has not granted his request but he could become a distraction in the locker room. This could further improve Chubb’s odds of being the every-down workhorse that you want on your fantasy team.
Chubb looks like a solid late first-round pick or early second-round pick and should return excellent value as an RB1.
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Davin Cook has had a bumpy ride in his first two seasons in the league. He has dealt with multiple injuries that have led to inconsistency and disappointment. In 2018, he played in 11 games but only managed to run for 615 yards and two touchdowns. His best contributions came through the air where he had 305 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He ended the season on a high note by racking up 520 scrimmage yards, 21 receptions, and three touchdowns in the final five games of the season.
Cook will have little competition for the lead back position aside from Alexander Mattison, the Vikings’ third-round selection out of Boise State. With Latavius Murray signing with the New Orleans Saints, Cook should have a firm grip on the early season touches while the rookie learns the ins-and-outs of the NFL. He will be especially valuable in PPR leagues due to his ability to handle passing down situations as well as running between the tackles on first and second down.
This top-10 expectation comes with the caveat of Cook staying healthy. He has the talent and is in the right situation to thrive in PPR leagues if he can stay on the field. He could wind up falling into the third round because of his injury history, but even if you select him in the second round you could end up with a top running back by the season’s end.
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
Kerryon Johnson was off to a tremendous start to his career until he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 11. Through the 10 full games and the game he was injured, Johnson rushed for 641 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 213 yards receiving and a touchdown through the air. That does not seem like a top-10 worthy running back, but he was only a rookie and was getting accustomed to the speed of the league as well as learning Detroit’s playbook.
Johnson had taken firm control of the backfield before his injury and there is no reason to think he won’t dominate the touches in his sophomore campaign. The Lions still have Theo Riddick as a third down back and change of pace runner but his role has been clearly defined during his time in Detroit. They also signed C.J. Anderson to deal but he shouldn’t vulture too many touches from Johnson.
Kerryon Johnson will be drafted as an RB2 and may end the season as an RB2. That will be perfect value and you can’t hate getting a fair return on investment. The allure to drafting Johnson is his clear-cut No. 1 role in the Lions’ backfield and his potential for RB1 production. Wherever you draft Johnson he will be worth the pick.
Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
Josh Jacobs was the best running back coming out of college this season and the first runner to be selected in this year’s draft. The Oakland Raiders took him with the 24th pick in the draft which implies their intentions to immediately make him the featured back. With the news that Isaiah Crowell tore his Achilles tendon, this only furthers the assumptions that this is Jacobs’ backfield. Oakland re-signed Doug Martin and he could push Jacobs for carries, but the young talent should be atop of the depth chart come week one.
Jacobs is no stranger to sharing the rock since he was often used as a rotational back during his college years. He also showed potential as a lead back during his senior season where he received more usage. He gained 640 yards on 120 carries and scored an improbable total of 11 touchdowns. His rotation in the backfield can actually be a good thing in his NFL career because he didn’t take a beating in college and will still have plenty of production left in his legs. He has incredible appeal in PPR formats due to his 48 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns during his college years.
The Raiders are heading into 2019 with a whole new outlook after a disastrous first year under Jon Gruden. They added Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and drafted Hunter Renfrow to bulk up the receiving core. The offensive line was also decimated with injuries last season and should be fully healthy headed into 2019. Jacobs adds a consistent weapon on dump-off passes out of the backfield for Derek Carr to utilize. This offense is on the upswing and could end up making the Raiders one of the top scoring teams in the league.
It is not insane to think about taking Josh Jacobs in the first 25 picks in fantasy drafts. He has all the tools to demand a second-round pick even if there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding him because he is unproven at this level. He could be a total steal in the third round if he ends up falling because of unfamiliarity by your fellow fantasy owners. Do not be one of those owners.