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41. C.J. Anderson (Carolina Panthers) – Anderson logged just over 1,000 rushing yards last year, but only 862 effective yards thanks to a -6.9% DVOA. Now, he moves to the Panthers which should actually be a better situation for him, as being with a mobile quarterback like Cam Newton will open up defenses a little more. The Panthers were able to extract 681 yards and six touchdowns out of the ghost of Jonathan Stewart last year, so one would expect Anderson to be able to do better, but given that an already-bad Panthers offensive line has gotten worse with the loss of Andrew Norwell, fantasy value is going to be trick for Anderson. This is especially true in PPR leagues, as Christian McCaffrey will take virtually all the passing down work, meaning Anderson will not see many passes come his way.
42. 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 Johnsonalongside 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, and that’s worth something in PPR leagues.
43. Aaron Jones (Green Bay Packers) – Jones was pretty impressive when he was out there for the Packers, and there’s a really good chance that he’ll be challenging Jamaal Williams for the starting gig, but considering he has a two-game suspension and how fluid that backfield will be, he’s a risky pick. If you told me he had the job from day one as “the guy,” he’d be a lot higher.
44. Adrian Peterson (Washington Redskins) – With Derrius Guice out for the year, the Redskins decided that they wanted someone better than Samaje Perine out there, and Peterson is that guy. Peterson wasn’t particularly good last year, finishing with a -21.9% DVOA, but he’ll get some work, which should have value. I anticipate that he’ll be the primary between-the-tackles guy ahead of Perine and Robert Kelley, however he takes a bit of a hit in PPR leagues as Chris Thompson is most likely to get the passing-down work out of the backfield.
Tier 7: Get Up With It
45. 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.
46. Ty Montgomery (Green Bay Packers) – 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.
47. 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.
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 McGuirestill exists, though he’s not healthy) makes drafting Powell risky at best, especially in standard leagues. In normal circumstances, Powell would get a boost in PPR but I have no idea how this backfield is going to shake out, which makes him risky.
49. 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. That may change, however, if Burkhead’s knee injury gets more serious than it currently is.
50. 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.
51. 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.
52. Jordan Wilkins (Indianapolis Colts) – o 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. Javorius Allen (Baltimore Ravens) – While I expect Alex Collins to have the majority of the carries in the Ravens’ offense, I expect Allen to be in on the passing-down situations, giving him some interesting value in PPR leagues. He didn’t do exceptionally well as a receiver last year, posting a -16.7% DVOA, but he should get some decent volume.
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. It is worth noting that Penny currently has an injury, though he’s expected to be back hopefully by Week 1 but certainly by Week 2.
55. 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.
56. 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. He’s especially going to be tough to own in PPR leagues given his lack of involvement in the passing game.
57. Samaje Perine (Washington Redskins) – With Derrius Guice out, I expect the newly-signed Adrian Peterson to get most of the between-the-tackles work with the Redskins, but keep an eye on Perine, as Peterson has been known to get hurt in the past, so Perine could see a path to carries in this offense eventually.
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. 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.
60. 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).