My general strategy with running backs is to hammer the position early and often. Running backs are volatile and unpredictable; since even experts are wrong so often on running backs, I want to take as many shots as possible. Some will be flops, and you’ll wonder what you were thinking in hindsight. But the running back picks that hit can be league winners. I often remind myself in drafts; just when you think you have enough running backs on your roster, draft one more to be sure.
Running back rankings are based on PPR scoring. I will note adjustments to make in standard leagues when necessary.
Tier 11: So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance
61. Devin Singletary (Buffalo Bills) – My first Bill on the list, the rookie third-round pick has the highest upside, though not by much. A 13th percentile athlete at the combine, the 5’7″ 203-pound rookie is built like a bowling ball. With too much competition and a low ceiling offense around him, Singeltary just doesn’t have the breakout potential of other rookies in this class.
62. LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills) – Not only does McCoy have to compete with a third-round rookie, but he is joined by the immortal Frank Gore and versatile T.J. Yeldon. McCoy makes the list because of his elite past performance, but at 31 McCoy averaged 4 yards per rush in 2017 and 3.2 yards per rush in 2018, likely a sign of the end for the former great.
63. Darwin Thompson (Kansas City Chiefs) – Ahead of Thompson on the depth chart is Damien Williams who hasn’t topped 50 carries in a season, and Carlos Hyde who has bounced from team to team over the past year. Thompson is only 5’8″ but had a 74th percent SPARQ score and is good in the passing game, giving the sixth-rounder a different profile than fellow backup Hyde. In this Chiefs offense, and with this unknown backfield, Thompson has some appeal as a stash in deep leagues.
64. Benny Snell Jr. (Pittsburgh Steelers) – At this point in drafts, you should be looking for that home run swing, prepared to drop the pick after a week or two for the next hot waiver player. Every running back that has played for the Steelers in the Ben Roethlisberger era seems to average 20 points a game, so Snell is a shot at some upside if Conner falters. A poor athlete by combine standards, Snell looks like a professional workhorse type back that lacks much upside. But if he stumbles into snaps, Snell could produce in this fantasy-friendly offense.
65. Jerick McKinnon (San Francisco 49ers) – After signing a four year, $30 million dollar contract with $15.7 million guaranteed last year, Kyle Shannahan must have seen something in McKinnon that he planned on taking advantage of. Coming off an ACL injury, now McKinnon is in a fight for playing time. Tevin Coleman isn’t a workhorse and Matt Breida is always hurt, giving McKinnon a chance at a role. But I wouldn’t bet on a running back reliant on quickness like McKinnon bouncing back to 100% health immediately after a major knee injury, so I’m staying away.
66. Mike Davis (Chicago Bears) – Davis has been a solid veteran and could see some work in a good Bears running game. But I think it’s pretty clear that David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen will be given every chance to dominate backfield touches. Davis does have enough versatility to take advantage of an injury to either player, giving him some deep league appeal.
67. Kareem Hunt (Cleveland Browns) – I’ll likely never draft a player to sit on my bench during his eight-game suspension, wasting a valuable roster spot to chase breakout players on waivers. But there are enough league types where stashing Hunt is possible, so he does deserve to be ranked. Just don’t expect him to take over for the more athletically gifted Nick Chubb upon his return from suspension.
Tier 12: My Only Friend, The End
68. Chris Thompson (Washington Redskins) – Injuries have sapped the explosiveness of the once ultra-efficient pass catcher. He says he’s finally feeling healthy again, maybe he can produce a Dion Lewis-type year. But he likely is waiver-wire fodder outside of deep PPR leagues.
69. Kalen Ballage (Miami Dolphins) – I don’t know how Ballage fits into the offense, as he plays a similar role to the more talented Kenyan Drake. If Drake gets hurt, Ballage could play a big role. But I’m not valuing a backup on a poor offense very highly. He does have some PPR pass-catching ability, however.
70. Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati Bengals) – There has been some speculation that Bernard could see an increase in usage, especially in the passing game, under new coach Zac Taylor. Bernard is stuck behind the talented Joe Mixon, however, and is a free agent after this season. After the Bengals hammered late-round running backs in the draft this year, it is safe to assume Bernard’s future in Cincinnati is coming to an end.
71. Qadree Ollison (Atlanta Falcons) – A fifth-round rookie who backed up James Conner in college, Ollison is behind an injury-prone Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith, who failed to impress in his own rookie season. Ollison would need to beat out veteran Brian Hill, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Ollison see relevance if Freeman goes down. Ollison tested as a poor athlete, however, and is likely a better standard league player than PPR.
72. Gus Edwards (Baltimore Ravens) – The primary between the tackles backup to Mark Ingram, Edwards would have big volume potential in the Ravens run-first offense if anything were to happen to Ingram. He could see some use in blowouts as well, but only had 2 targets last year, limiting his PPR appeal.
73. Jordan Wilkins (Indianapolis Colts) – A fifth-round rookie from last year, Wilkins may have to battle Spencer Ware for the backup role in Indianapolis. Though his roster spot could be up in the air, the workload potential resulting from a Marlon Mack injury is intriguing. And I would take my chances on the younger player winning the camp battle at this young man’s position of running back.
74. Jordan Scarlett (Carolina Panthers) – Scarlett tested like a bottom barrel athlete at the combine, but Cameron Artis-Payne has had four years to show us something and has failed to deliver. Scarlett is simply a possible handcuff to McCaffrey, who would leave a gaping volume void in event of an injury. He still needs to win the backup role in camp first, however.
75. Myles Gaskin (Miami Dolphins) – The number three back in Miami isn’t a lucrative role, but Gaskin is the only one of the bunch to have a between the tackles running profile. The 7th round pick could see a role right away, albeit a limited one.
76. Jalen Richard (Oakland Raiders) – If anything were to happen to Josh Jacobs, Richard could slide right back into his volume passing role that produced 81 targets and 157 PPR points last year. But Jacobs is a pass game asset, likely spelling the end of Richard’s fantasy usefulness.
77. T.J. Yeldon (Buffalo Bills) – Yeldon could still find a way to continue his consistent fantasy floor, as he scored an impressive 12 PPR points per game last year, and has target totals of 78 and 68 targets within the last three years. But the crowded Buffalo backfield and his lack of significant upside relegate him to deep-league benches.
78. Corey Clement (Philadelphia Eagles) – Clement showed flashes last year, and coming off a knee injury he returns fighting for a backup role. But an injury to Miles Sanders or Jordan Howard could open up opportunities in what will be an explosive offense, making him worth a look in deep leagues.
79. Alfred Blue (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Leonard Fournette is an injury waiting to happen, and rookie Ryquell Armstead may not be ready to take on an every-down role in the event Fournette goes down. Blue always manages to find a way into touches and seems like the plodding type of up the middle back that the Jaguars would stubbornly give carries to.
80. Doug Martin (Oakland Raiders) – After Isaiah Crowell tore his Achilles, Jon Gruden came crawling back to one of his longtime favorites, and Martin will be competing for a backup job. I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see Martin vulture some touchdowns, and if Jacobs doesn’t prove capable of a workhorse role there could be some additional touches available.
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)