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Early Fantasy RB Rankings

Written by Ashton Moore

In today’s world of short attention spans and over-saturation of Fantasy Football sources, I’m going to save both of us the trouble of creating something too lengthy to read through and create. If you have any comments, concerns, questions, slander, or would just like some elaboration on certain players, feel free to @ me (@ashhole1056) and we can settle this on the Twitter streets for all the world to see. Here are my sparknote-compatible thoughts on the top 20 Fantasy RB’s this upcoming season:

1. Todd Gurley, LAR- The NFL’s most effectively utilized RB deserves the top spot. Mcvay ran his entire offense through Gurley and prospered off it, so there is little reason to believe he would cut down on it this year. As long as Gurley stays healthy, he should be a threat for 2000 yards/ 17+ TDs yet again.

2. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL- The way Dallas has decided to shape their offense this offseason tells you all that you need to know. Selecting Connor Williams in the 2nd to shore up the lone weakness within the OL means they plan on maintaining a consistent ground and pound offense that will consistently feed Zeke. Clear favorite to lead the league in carries. Be ready for the PA passes off this as well, the type of WRs the Cowboys have brought on fits well with this style of play. Very high yardage, carry, and TD potential here.

3. Le’veon Bell, PIT- I’m expecting a decrease in production for Bell for no other reasons than the fact he accumulated 431 touches last year, and the departure of Todd Haley. Feel how you will about the man, his style/attitude, and his relationship with players, but the Haley has garnered more than enough success throughout his career to be acknowledged as a top OC and play-caller. If you need any evidence of how an offense tends to suffer when a top OC leaves look no further than the difference in the Atlanta Falcons last year from the historic offense they fielded the year before. Bell is an incredibly unique talent and that in itself will be enough to keep him in top 3 RB territory, but if you start to see instances of a sputtering Steelers offense this year, point towards the coaching staff.

4. Alvin Kamara, NO- The Ingram suspension just opens the floodgates for Kamara and his potential. Payton had already begun to run the offense through Kamara in the second half last year to begin with, and now this bevy of touches becoming available for the first 4 games is enough to put Kamara firmly amongst the RB elite. His receiving numbers are just as intriguing as his rushing and with the Saints offense, he is a legit candidate for a 2000 yard/14 TD type of year

5. David Johnson, ARI- New QB, new system, new wrist, there are a few red flags here that make me wary of DJ this year. Granted if he stays healthy, there’s little reason to not see 1400–1600 yards and 11–13 tds this season. He’s an amazing athlete who can prosper if given the proper utilization, but I’m hesitant to sign off on him as a top back once again. Just too many changes for my taste.

6. Saquon Barkley, NYG- The fact NYG went Barkley at #2 tells you all you need to know, this man is getting the rock. Considering Eli Manning is 38 years old and will only become even more immobile than he already is, Barkley will be used often to keep Eli off his back. This team has sorely missed a go-to RB since the days of Tiki Barber, and doubt they plan on slowly easing in the second overall pick. 325+ touches is in Barkley’s near future in my opinion and he has the talent to do some amazing things with each of them.

7. Kareem Hunt, KC- Prepare for a KC explosion of offense this upcoming season, and last years league leading rusher will surely prosper from it. KC’s prioritization of adding RBs makes me suspicious of what exactly type of utilization Andy Reid plans on scheming for the RB position this season, but Hunt’s talent and surrounding talent is too promising to drop Hunt too far on the rankings. Expecting about 1500 total yards and 11–13 TDs.

8. Leonard Fournette, JAX- The man has all the opportunity in the world to take on the league’s top spot at the RB position, but man…. It’s hard to ignore the injury tally that continues to grow for this violent and aggressive runner. He could have a Jamal Lewis-2003 level year if he is capable of staying healthy throughout due to the Jags lack of a passing game and historic defense, so I can’t fault you for going high on him in the draft, but I’m likely staying away.

9. Melvin Gordon, LAC- I was not a Melvin Gordon believer, I’m still not a Melvin Gordon believer, but damnit he keeps producing. If he stays healthy he will get the ball in an offense that relies on his style of running to continually provide consistent yards/scoring. His receiving ability keeps him involved as well. I wish I could knock the guy more than that, but I got nothing. One of the safer RB’s available in the draft but doesn’t have the overall ceiling to warrant a spot higher than this for me. Expecting a 1200–1400 year with 11–13 TDs.

10. Dalvin Cook, MIN- Cook is a tricky ranking for me due to his injury and pretty good (not spectacular) season he put together in the 4 games he was available, but I can’t ignore the overall talent he had coming out of college as well as the situation he currently has in Minnesota. If he can keep healthy, I can see a Melvin Gordon-type of producer these next few years. This offense will be a consistent threat with Cousins throwing to a talented group of playmakers, and will need a RB capable of continually churning out yards and first downs. 1200–1400 11–14 is quite possible barring durability.

11. Jordan Howard, CHI- Chicago is a breakout offensive candidate for me this season. I

expect new head coach Matt Nagy to bring over a very similar offense to what the Andy Reid tree has been producing these past few years. The Bears will incorporate a wide open spread offense with Howard getting a heavy workload through it. I expect Tarik Cohen to handle more of the receiving opportunities, but Jordan Howard has the potential to be dominant in the red zone this year. Nagy will be looking to spread open the field with quick passes and use Howard to gash through the dime defenses that Chicago is likely to see throughout the year. If Howard stays healthy, he has a very good opportunity to replicate the type of season Kareem Hunt had last year when he lead the league in rushing.

12. Devonta Freeman, ATL-Tevin Coleman’s presence is unsettling for me, especially considering he’s entering a contract year and is going to be given his fair share of touches on his way out. This could limit Freeman’s potential considering the Falcons are invested in Freeman long-term (he signed a 5-year $41.25 contract last summer). The fact that he is also recovering from knee surgery makes it more likely for Atlanta to be conservative with Freeman in 2018. His history of production is hard to ignore, so I cannot put him much lower, but he is absolutely someone I’m expecting to be a disappointment for those who invest a high pick in him this year.

13. Lesean McCoy, Buf- As much as it hurts to say this, I think the days of a dominant Shady McCoy are behind us. Buffalo’s whole rebuilding process hurts no player more than it hurts McCoy. A decimated offense, more specifically the offensive line, means nothing but bad things for Shady going forward. With a stagnant passing game surrounding him, look for defenses to key on McCoy more than ever, which will give him less running room to work with this year. He has always had a penchant for getting banged up throughout the season, and I have a feeling this is the year they either catch up with him. The writing is on the wall for a disappointing season for him in 2018, and the fact he eclipsed 2,000 career carries (Google that milestone harbinger to see why that is concerning) tells me Shady is someone to stay away from this season. However, if he ends up getting traded at some point, which I anticipate could happen (my money is on SF), McCoy could be a top 10 RB once again.

14. Alex Collins, BAL- Alex Collins was a surprisingly productive runner last year. John Harbaugh liked to use Collins often once he realized the caliber of RB he had at his disposal. He had 14 carries in week 8, which was his lowest touch total from week 7 to week 15 last season. His aggressive running style correlates with the mentality that Baltimore prefers to play with, and I anticipate Collins being used more throughout 2018. He is an injury risk because of his running style, so there is a level of caution that comes into play with my projection for Collins. Overall, if you’re looking for a RB with good talent and a very good workload opportunity, Collins fits the mold of someone you want to target. The possibility of Lamar Jackson taking over the reins at some point this season and adding that extra offensive threat only increases Collins’ attractiveness to me.

15. Derrick Henry, TEN- There wasn’t a single more frustrating offense to watch for me last season than the Titans’ “Exotic Smashmouth” scheme that Mike Mularkey attempted to establish. All I received was weekly dosage of disappointment from a team loaded with offensive weapons. I hope that Matt LaFleur comes to Tennessee with enough common sense to utilize the Titans top weapon, which is Derrick Henry. When given the opportunity, Derrick Henry has shined. Feel free to watch the Titans’ come from behind victory against the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs last year. Henry has the talent and history of production (for the love of God, please look at this man’s stats) dating back to high school to warrant a ton of touches, but it remains to be seen if he will actually receive the amount of touches he deserves. The Dion Lewis acquisition is concerning. Granted, I see Lewis as more of a 3rd down back rather than a Demarco Murray replacement when it comes to workload. Not sure what type of offense the Titans will want to go with, but Henry has top 10 potential this year if he is used correctly.

16. Christian McCaffrey, CAR- McCaffrey (Run CMC) is one of the more unique weapons in the league. He is a skilled RB, but I really feel he is at his best when used as a receiving threat and mismatch out of the backfield. He can even be used as an H-back as well. If you’re league is PPR, I would use a high pick on McCaffrey. I feel like Carolina has worked all offseason to get CMC involved more in the offense in different ways, and they have big plans for him. CJ Anderson is likely going to take a good amount of red-zone rushing TDs away, so you be wary of that. I think CMC will do enough damage in receiving to make up for it.

17. Tevin Coleman, ATL- Coleman is a talented runner that has been held back by opportunity and his durability. I think he plays very well in his contract season and continues to produce even in a workload share. The Devontae Freeman knee situation is another factor that excites me even more for Coleman. If Coleman can stay healthy, he has championship winning potential for your fantasy team if you draft him. I’m personally buying in on Coleman this year.

18. Joe Mixon, CIN- Mixon’s talent is there, so hopefully his supporting cast will be there for him as well. I am skeptical with that offensive line though. Cincinnati has had a history of having a correlation between their offensive line performance and how their the offense typically ranks overall. There is enough playmakers surrounding Mixon to keep defenses from keying on him on a weekly basis. If Dalton can get the offense churning effectively in 2018, look for Mixon to be a direct benefactor. He is a high reward guy if everything clicks, and he has the type of talent to make things happen on his own. It would be helpful if the offensive line can play well up front. He is capable of having a big year.

19. Rashaud Penny, SEA- The Seahawks’ investment in him and the FB position tells me they are planning on focusing on the running game in Seattle. Penny was a surprise first round pick for me, but apparently he was seen as an elite talent in a few NFL circles. His talent is obviously there, but he didn’t strike me as a transcendent caliber player that will be able to shine through any situation presented to him during the draft process. Seattle’s offensive line gives me hesitation to think that they will have a consistent and effective running game. The opportunity should be there for Penny all year, but how much he does with it remains to be seen. He fits the “good talent, great opportunity” candidate that I personally look for, so I wouldn’t be too worried with taking a flier on him around the 4th round. Any earlier than that is a risk in my opinion. The offensive line still needs work in order for him to be a top 10 guy, and because of that, I’m anticipating a possible Joe Mixon-level rookie year statistically due to similar circumstances. He definitely has Kareem Hunt level potential this season if Seattle can

work some magic with the offense line.

20. Jerick McKinnon, SF- I’ve fallen for the “wide open workload” RB trap before with players like Paul Perkins, Jeremy Langford, and Rashad Jennings in the past. I have a feeling McKinnon could be an addition to that list in the near future. Coming off a 3.8 ypc season where he had every opportunity to seize a lead back role with Dalvin Cook going down with injury in Minnesota, Mckinnon found himself outplayed by Latavius Murray. He never really made an advancement past “role player” in an offense starving for someone to carry the load in the running game. So here we are now in San Francisco with Kyle Shanahan searching for that same void to be filled in an offense that will surely offer a bevy of touches to its lead back. If Mckinnon does seize this opportunity, I can see him producing some nice stats given his talent level if he is given a full workload worth of opportunity. I have enough faith in Shannahan to make the SF RB1 a valuable asset on fantasy teams. I’m just hesitant to think McKinnon will be that guy when it’s all said and done.



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