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Welcome! Our rankings continue, this time with the top 40 running backs for fantasy football. For a look at our top 20 (and some definitions of terms I use here like DVOA), check out our top 20 article, and for our top 40, check it this article.
Tier 7: Meditations
41. D’Onta Foreman (Houston Texans) – I’m a big Foreman fan and it was really sad to see his season cut short by an Achilles injury last year. It’s not guaranteed that he’ll be ready for Week 1, but he’ll likely be back quickly, and that makes him an interesting flier, as it seems like the Texans aren’t exactly sold on Lamar Miller being their guy.
42. Robert Kelley (Washington Redskins) – Kelley is ranked here because I anticipate him being the primary backup to Chris Thompson as opposed to Samaje Perine. That could easily change, however, but given that Perine was pretty bad last year and Kelley has had a good camp, I’d expect him to open the season as the backup. He could have some value, he’s shown to be a solid back in the past, and I wouldn’t be overly shocked if the Redskins decided to focus more on passing to Thompson and let Kelley run the ball between the tackles a decent bit. Kelley’s ranking will likely change significantly once we have an idea of how this backfield will shake out, whether he ends up as the primary backup or loses that role to Perine.
43. Duke Johnson (Cleveland Browns) – Duke Johnson will be ranked a lot higher in the PPR running back rankings, but in standard leagues, he’s not all that useful, and I anticipate him being less useful as the Browns focus on giving handoffs to Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb more than Johnson. Still, even when he did run the ball, Johnson was effective, posting a 16.1% DVOA, but where he really shines is as a receiving back, and I expect him to maintain that role this year.
44. Corey Clement (Philadelphia Eagles) – Our own Alex Silverman wrote a while back on why Corey Clement could be really useful for you in a PPR league, and I like him as a sleeper. But in a standard league, his value goes down a bit, as he’ll likely be primarily playing as the backup to Jay Ajayi. Still, if Ajayi gets hurt, Clement has RB2 upside, and if Clement’s role is increased more than just as a passing down back and change-of-pace back, he’ll jump up the rankings quickly, he’s a very talented runner.
45. Samaje Perine (Washington Redskins) – With Derrius Guice out for the year, the starting running back job appears to be Chris Thompson‘s. I personally believe that Robert Kelley will emerge as the primary backup for Thompson, as Perine was pretty rough last year, posting a miserable -20.5% DVOA. Still, Perine got a lot of work last year, and the Redskins could easily elect to roll with him instead of Kelley, which is why they’re ranked so close, with a slight edge to Kelley. His ranking will likely change significantly once we have a better idea of how the workload will shake out.
46. Devontae Booker (Denver Broncos) – Personally, I’m a Royce Freeman believer, and that’s partly why I have Booker as low as I do. Could Booker get the majority of the work Week 1? Sure, that’s definitely possible, but even if he does I don’t expect him to hang onto the job for long. He’s had and lost the starting job too many times for me to have any faith in him, and he ended the year last year with a -9.2% DVOA. However, he’s still worth a grab in the later rounds on the chance that he gets the starting gig and hangs onto it—even if he’s not that good, being a starting running back in the NFL is worth something in fantasy.
47. Ty Montgomery (Green Bay Packers) – As I mentioned in the top 40 article, it’s impossible to know how the Packers’ backfield is going to shake out, but I’m of the mind that Montgomery is the odd man out. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams showed too much promise for the Packers to roll with a so-so running back like Montgomery. That being said, it’s entirely possible Montgomery gets some substantial work ahead of Williams while Jones is out (or later if an injury happens), and any starting running back in an Aaron Rodgers offense is valuable.
48. Bilal Powell (New York Jets) – I’d personally love to see Powell get the running back gig in New York to himself, but I’ve wanted to see that for years and the Jets apparently hate him. The Jets backfield is really muddled, with the additions of Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls this offseason and the drafting of Trenton Cannon (not to mention the fact that Elijah McGuire still exists, though he’s not healthy) makes drafting Powell risky at best, especially in standard leagues.
49. Nick Chubb (Cleveland Browns) – The Browns used a high second-round pick to draft Chubb, so I expect that he’s viewed as the future of the Browns backfield. I like his talent a lot, but I don’t anticipate him supplanting Carlos Hyde for the starting gig. I just don’t believe the Browns would go out and sign Hyde to a three-year, $15.25M deal just to bench him for a rookie. That being said, Hyde has had plenty of injuries in his past, which means Chubb is a valuable handcuff.
50. Doug Martin (Oakland Raiders) – Martin has and continues to be a frustrating player to own in fantasy. He was terrible last year, ending the season with an awful -22.5% DVOA, good for dead-last among running backs with at least 100 carries last season. Now, he’s the backup to Marshawn Lynch and is little more than a somewhat valuable handcuff, given that, if Lynch gets hurt, he’ll be behind a better offensive line and in a better offense than he was in with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
51. Theo Riddick (Detroit Lions) – In the past, Riddick has been a worthwhile flex option in PPR leagues but not worth much in standard leagues. Now, with the addition of Kerryon Johnson alongside LeGarrette Blount, Riddick’s value may decrease even more. Still, he’s a good pass-catching running back, so he might still get some work.
52. Jordan Wilkins (Indianapolis Colts) – So here’s the thing—Marlon Mack is probably getting the starting job with the Colts. But don’t be shocked if Jordan Wilkins waltzes into a few carries himself. He’s reportedly looked really good in training camp and is generating a lot of buzz. It might all be nothing, but he’s worth a flier late in drafts.
53. LeGarrette Blount (Detroit Lions) – Blount went to basically the worst team possible for his skill set in the Lions, as Jim Bob Cooter enjoys his receiving backs and Blount can’t catch a pass to save his life. I would expect him to reprise the role he had in Philadelphia as the short-yardage back, which means he’ll get some touchdowns, but the Lions are not the Eagles—they have one of the worst offensive lines in football—so don’t expect last year to repeat itself.
54. Chris Carson (Seattle Seahawks) – I’m expecting rookie Rashaad Penny to get the gig in Seattle, but like I said in his entry, Pete Carroll is a strange man who makes strange decisions, and if he decided to YOLO his running back choice and bench Penny for Carson, I wouldn’t be overly shocked. Carson’s shown some flashes in the past, and for whatever it’s worth, he finished last year with a 7.0% DVOA, but I’m expecting him to be the backup guy to Penny.
55. Latavius Murray (Minnesota Vikings) – Now that Jerick McKinnon is gone, Murray presents himself as a pretty valuable handcuff. Dalvin Cook will obviously be the primary back in Minnesota, but if Cook were to get hurt (like, you know, he did last year), Murray will almost certainly have the job to himself (I doubt Mack Brown is going to challenge him for it).
56. Matt Breida (San Francisco 49ers) – So here’s a quick list of the top-five running backs with at least 100 carries in DVOA last year: Alvin Kamara, Dion Lewis, Alex Collins, Todd Gurley, and Matt Breida. No, you didn’t read that wrong. Breida ended the season with a 13% DVOA, ahead of guys like Ezekiel Elliott, Mark Ingram, and Le’Veon Bell. Now look, I’m not saying Breida has a ton of value, he’s likely second-fiddle to Jerick McKinnon, but if something happens to McKinnon, Breida has a lot of upside.
57. James White (New England Patriots) – White will be what he’s always been—a worthwhile add in deeper PPR leagues and that’s about it. He’s not supplanting Rex Burkhead or Sony Michel in the pecking order any more than he was going to supplant Burkhead or Dion Lewis last year.
58. Kalen Ballage (Miami Dolphins) – Ballage is someone to pay attention to. As it stands, he’s in the mix to be Kenyan Drake‘s handcuff (though that could also go to Frank Gore), but the reports out of camp have been really positive, and if Drake goes down with an injury, don’t be shocked if Ballage challenges Gore for the starting role and has some success in the Dolphins’ offense.
59. Kenneth Dixon (Baltimore Ravens) – Dixon has been hyped as a potential star running back for the Ravens for a long time now, but I think that’s about dead with the rise of Alex Collins. Will Dixon get work? Yes, but I don’t think he’s going to be much more than a change-of-pace back with Javorius Allen as the passing-down back. I’m a believer in the idea that Collins earned this gig last year and that John Harbaugh isn’t giving it away easily.
60. Austin Ekeler (Los Angeles Chargers) – I expect Ekeler to be the primary backup to Melvin Gordon rather than Justin Jackson. Let’s not forget that Ekeler was a top-20 back in three weeks last year (including a #3 finish in Week 10). Still, as it stands, Ekeler is a handcuff to Gordon, just one that could be a good fantasy option if Gordon gets hurt.