By Chet Gresham – @ChetGresham
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For this endeavor, I will compare my rankings with composite ADP. Your mileage may vary depending on your league, but for the most part, these are players you can grab at or lower than their ADPs without much trouble.
Dalvin Cook, Vikings: ADP RB11, My Ranking RB8
Cook is one of the few backs who we can guarantee will receive lead-back work, including goal-line touches, and is the main receiving back on the team. The Vikings plan on getting more balanced between the run and the pass, which means they will run more this year. The reason he isn’t a smash first-round pick is due to his injury history and a shaky Minnesota offensive line. I’m not too worried about the line, as the unit is getting better and there are plenty of poor lines that also allow strong running back fantasy numbers. Opportunity is still the key to fantasy football, and Cook is going to get all the work he can handle.
Aaron Jones, Packers: ADP RB15, My Ranking RB9
Jones’ numbers have been great while on the field, and he goes into the season as the lead back. The dismissal of Mike McCarthy should also get offensive players into better positions, and new coach Matt LeFleur will look to get the ball to Jones through the air. He’s not guaranteed 300 touches, but not many backs are. I don’t see Jamaal Williams cutting into his workload nearly as much as he did last season, and Jones should be the every-down back without any specialist receiving backs to take work away.
Devonta Freeman, Falcons: ADP RB 19, My Ranking RB11
Freeman has looked great in camp and now won’t have Tevin Coleman siphoning touches. Ito Smith was next in line for Coleman’s job, but at this point, nobody has shown enough to take over the No. 2 job yet. That means Freeman should get every chance to stack up touches on one of the best offenses in the league.
Kerryon Johnson, Lions: ADP RB16, My Ranking RB14
Johnson has the skills to be the every-down back in Detroit, and coach Matt Patricia takes after his mentor Bill Belichick when it comes to pace and getting the ball to his running backs. The good news is that the Lions let Theo Riddick go and C.J. Anderson is the main backup. Anderson is completely fine as a player, but Johnson is better in most aspects. The idea that Anderson takes over as the goal-line back and Ty Johnson gets receiving work like Riddick is something to watch for, but I expect Johnson to see 16-18 touches a game, including plenty of receiving work.
Chris Carson, Seahawks: ADP RB24, My Ranking RB15
Carson will always be a little undervalued due to his seventh-round beginnings compared to Rashaad Penny’s first-round draft stock. The good news is that Carson has played phenomenally when healthy and put on a show to end last season, scoring eight touchdowns in his last nine games. This year, he should continue to lead the backfield on a team that wants to run the ball, but if Seattle does start getting into shootouts, Brian Schottenheimer has increased the running backs’ usage in the passing game this summer and says Carson has the best hands in the running back room. If we see any increase in receiving work for Carson, watch out.
Josh Jacobs, Raiders: ADP RB 20, My Ranking RB18
I don’t love Josh Jacobs and don’t expect the Raiders to put up big points, but he has been given the every-down role and has exceled as a receiver in camp. He’ll need those receiving chops to hold back Jalen Richard and because Oakland will likely trail and need to throw and Derek Carr is much better throwing to his running backs than wide receivers.
Sony Michel, Patriots: ADP RB25, My Ranking RB22
I was completely off Michel after his knee scope kept him out of the start of camp, but he has ramped up his practices and is also getting much more work as a receiver. He has been the unquestioned lead back in camp, and the Patriots will likely need him often due to a lack of receiving options. Michel finished last season on a tear and kept tearing it up through the playoffs into the Super Bowl. He has the trust of Bill Belichick, and if his knee can hold up, he will be a huge value.
Latavius Murray, Saints: ADP RB35, My Ranking RB25
It appears that Alvin Kamara isn’t going to see a big boost in work now that Mark Ingram is gone. Sean Payton says he is pleased with the balance he has had for Kamara and expects a similar role to last season. That gives Murray a lot of opportunity. After Ingram returned from his suspension last season, he had 159 touches to Kamara’s 184, including 15 to 12 inside the opponent’s five-yard-line. If Murray can keep Ingram’s touches, he is easily on pace for 200-plus touches, including a big chunk of goal-line work on one of the best offenses in the league.
Tevin Coleman, 49ers: ADP RB29, My Rankings RB26
Coleman has been the No. 1 running back throughout camp and doesn’t look to be relinquishing that job anytime soon. Matt Breida appears to be the No. 2 back and will still get a decent amount of work in a Kyle Shanahan offense, but his No. 1 back is always set up well for fantasy goodness as a goal-line and receiving back on top of his lead-back duties. There is a chance Breida can cut into Coleman’s work, but I think the situation as it is gives both backs a role that suits them best.
Miles Sanders, Eagles: ADP RB34, My Ranking RB27
I was down on Sanders early in camp, as he looked to be far behind Jordan Howard, but that news has flipped, as Sanders has come on strong, getting run with the first team and looking great. He is going to be part of a committee, but beat writer Eliot Shorr-Parks believes he’ll lead the backs in touches starting Week 1. If that happens, he should be able to gain more touches as the season progresses due to the fact he is the most talented back on the roster.
Rashaad Penny, Seahawks: ADP RB 32, My Ranking RB30
One of the reasons I like Chris Carson is because Seattle is dedicated to the run. The team is so dedicated that running backs had 451 carries and 85 targets last season, and Mike Davis, who is now in Chicago, had 146 touches. Nobody other than Carson and Rashaad Penny have been talked up during camp, and I expect those two to get the majority of all running back work. Penny could be on his way to 200 touches this season, and only 21 backs hit that number last year.
Matt Breida, 49ers: ADP RB50, My Ranking RB37
Last year, the 49ers ranked 11th with 469 looks – rushes and targets – for their running backs, and that was with Alfred Morris and Jeff Wilson getting 197 touches. Breida was the star of the backfield but missed two games and often played through injuries. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 153 carries and managed to finish 27th in fantasy points per game for running backs despite many in-game setbacks. His trouble with nagging injuries is a concern, but as the No. 2 back, he won’t have as much work between the tackles and should see more receiving work based on his usage in camp. His ability fits his role quite well, and I expect him to be a solid flex play all season.
Damien Harris, Patriots: ADP RB51, My Ranking RB37
The Patriots love using their running backs. Seattle led the league in running back usage percentage last season, but New England led the league in running back usage with 562 looks. Those numbers were split between Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead, so it isn’t like you can just give Harris 200 looks and call it a day, but Michel, who I have listed above, is someone you have to be a little worried about due to his knee, which is why they drafted Harris. James White was pushed into a bigger role than the team wanted last year due to Michel’s slow start to the season, and Rex Burkhead can’t seem to stay healthy. The Patriots didn’t play Michel in their first preseason game, which shows me they want to keep him healthy for the season and feel good about where he is. He is risky due to questions of playing time, but I don’t think Burkhead suits up on game day and White is relegated to his receiving duties while Harris and Michel lead the way, with Harris being the better receiver. If you get Michel, Harris is a handcuff I would prioritize.
Devin Singletary, Bills: ADP RB52, My Ranking RB42
I don’t love Singletary in this Bills offense, but he has been getting a bunch of work with the first team and looked strong in his first preseason game. He also has some old fogies ahead of him on the depth chart at the moment. His path to a starting job isn’t nearly as hard as many other backs, and at his ADP, he is worth the risk.
Justice Hill, Ravens: ADP RB58, My Ranking RB44
I love Hill’s ability and expect him to be a part of the Ravens’ offense from Day 1, but he isn’t going to dethrone Mark Ingram as the lead back unless Ingram is hurt. The good news is that Hill should be the receiving back and will be allowed to show his stuff in open space, which should get him more looks as the season goes on. Lamar Jackson will still run instead of dump off to his backs, but he’s not going to run as often as he did last year, and getting the ball to Hill is likely going to be a more efficient strategy for Jackson.
Darwin Thompson, Chiefs: ADP RB62, My Ranking RB46
Thompson has the ability to be a huge fantasy player in Kansas City’s offense, but the odds are stacked against him to get enough touches to be consistent. The good news is that Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde aren’t exactly the Mount Rushmore of running backs and it won’t be impossible to climb over them with his ability, and his ability is what we’re drafting here.
Alexander Mattison, Vikings: ADP RB56, My Ranking RB 48
I like Mattison’s tape, and I expect that he would be a solid player if Dalvin Cook were to go down with another injury. That makes him an elite handcuff, especially considering Cook’s injury history.
Tony Pollard, Cowboys: ADP RB63, My Ranking RB50
Pollard should have standalone value even if Ezekiel Elliott starts in Week 1, but we just don’t now how Pollard will be used. I want to have Pollard on my team to find out though. Without strong tight ends and slot receivers, I believe Pollard would be the best player to gobble up those targets underneath, but, again, it’s hard to know. His possible elite value comes if Elliott misses any time. I don’t expect Elliott to sit out all season, but there is a chance his holdout bleeds into the regular season, which would push Pollard into prime fantasy stardom.
Justin Jackson, Chargers: ADP RB60, My Ranking RB51
What is Melvin Gordon going to do? I have no idea, but if he misses time, I want Justin Jackson on my team. Jackson appears to be the goal-line back and will share work with Austin Ekeler. How that sharing is broken down we can’t be sure, but Ekeler’s skill is in space, whereas Jackson’s is between the tackles. Jackson’s ADP is good, and he should have plenty of value if Gordon sits, but Ekeler will have more value if Gordon plays. That means Ekeler is the safer pick by far, but that’s also why his ADP is higher.
Chris Thompson, Redskins: ADP RB72, My Ranking RB54
Thompson is someone I feel is a sneaky good pick late this season. He was recovering from injuries last year and never could completely get healthy. He appears to be back to 100 percent now and neither Adrian Peterson or Derrius Guice are even close to him as a receiver.
Chase Edmonds, Cardinals: ADP RB78, My Ranking RB52
I believe in the Cardinals’ offense for fantasy, and Chase Edmonds would be the top dog if David Johnson were to miss time with an injury. He would be tough to keep on the bench in shallow leagues, but if you have large benches, he needs to be sitting there ready to go.
Andre Ellington, Bucs: ADP RB114, My Ranking RB68
Andre Ellington is familiar with Bruce Arians’ offense, and the Bucs’ top two backs aren’t good receivers. I did think Bruce Anderson could make a play for the receiving work in Tampa Bay, but right now, it appears Ellington is in the lead for third-down work. The upside isn’t the same as a backup on a strong offense, but in PPR leagues, Ellington could easily end up being a good flex play. Also, check out WalterFootball.com’s otherFantasy Football Rankings.
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