Elite RB1 Bell Cow Backs
1. Ezekiel Elliott - DAL - I explained why I'm all in on Zeke early this offseason here
2. David Johnson - AZ- Johnson made the most of his opportunities as a rookie racking up 13 TD's despite starting only 5 games. In those 5 starts down the stretch Johnson averaged over 131 yards from scrimmage. DJ is an outstanding receiver out of the backfield and should have a safe floor even if Chris Johnson is more of a factor in the run game than we'd like.
3. Lamar Miller - HOU - I've been chanting #FreeLamarMiller for nearly 3 years so I'm happy to see him take his talents to Houston. Miller arrives to a Texans team that led the league in plays per game last season. Bill O'Brien's up tempo approach relies heavily on running the football. In 2015, Houston was 5th in the NFL in total rush attempts. They led the NFL in rushes in 2014 so there shouldn't be any concerns over Miller not getting fed the football. Heck, a mediocre RB like Alfred Blue had 4 20+ carry games in 2015.
4. Todd Gurley - LAR - Gurley is many analysts RB1 and I agree that he is a special talent. My ranking has more to do with the situation Gurley finds himself in. Gurley plays in a vanilla offense that has had offensive line struggles recently. Gurley plays in the NFC West and the Rams are comfortable working in Benny Cunningham in as a receiver. Add in a pretty extensive injury history for a 22-year old and I'll pass on Gurley as this top of the 1st round pick.
5. Adrian Peterson - MIN - If there is one person you don't bet against it's Adrian Peterson. In his age 30 season AP led the league in carries, rushing yards, and rushing TDs. Norv Turner said he still wants to give Peterson 20 carries per game again this year. Peterson slots in at #5 because of his limited use in the passing game compared to the other backs in this tier.
RB1 - Injuries Concerns
6. Le'Veon Bell - PIT - Bell will miss the first 3 games of the season due to skipping a drug test. Once he returns he'll be at the top of running back rankings on a weekly basis. If Bell falls to me at the 2-3 turn I'm taking him 100% of the time. Yes, he's missing 3 games but I am able to draft knowing that. Bell has had two pretty major knee injuries the past two years and for that reason it wouldn't surprise me if Pittsburgh lowers Bell's workload a bit.
7. Mark Ingram - NOR - Staying healthy has always been the issue with Ingram. Only once in his 5 year career has he played a full 16 games. A shoulder injury put Ingram on the IR this past season. Up until the injury in Week 13, Ingram was RB3 in PPR formats. His improvement as a pass catcher over the years makes him one of the more well rounded fantasy options at RB. Not to mention he plays in an outstanding offense.
8. Jamaal Charles - KC - Coming off his second ACL surgery I do believe they'll limit Charles workload a bit. Spencer Ware may become a TD vulture but Charles will still be a primary option in the passing game. Charles has never had a season where he's averaged less than 5.0 YPC.
High-End RB2 With Upside
9. Devonta Freeman - ATL - Tevin Coleman is due to get more work in the running game but that should have been expected. With that being said Freeman still has a hold on red zone and passing duties. Even with the lowered work load I still expect Devonta to gain around 800 rushing yards on the ground 60-70 receptions in the passing game. For what it's worth, Freeman has looked like the better back this preseason.
10. Doug Martin - TAM - Even though he's only played 4 seasons in the NFL it seems as if Martin may be one of those players who has already burned every fantasy owner. On the flip side, in the two years when Martin has been healthy he's put up 1,400 rushing yard campaigns. Tampa Bay's offense ran through Martin last year and since they rewarded Martin with a huge contract this offseason there is no reason to think it would change in the years to come.
11. LeSean McCoy - BUF - After a tumultuous departure from Philadelphia, McCoy looked rejuvenated last season in Buffalo. Buffalo led the NFL in carries in 2015 and with Karlos Williams coming in overweight and Jonathan Williams DUI it appears that McCoy's feature back role is safe for the time being.
12. Eddie Lacy - GB - P90 Eddie lost some weight this offseason but he still seems quite big and is lacking some of the burst he had his first two years in Green Bay. He's the lead back in a potentially top tier offense so he'll have plenty of scoring opportunities. It's a contract year for Lacy so that should be extra motivation to regain his 2013-2014 form. If he's slow out the gates James Starks, who looked great last year, will likely make this a frustrating timeshare again for fantasy owners.
High Floor RB2
13. Latavius Murray - OAK - Murray is set to get a large workload behind an offensive line that should be one of the better units in the league. Due to his upright running style Murray struggles to work through contact and get the extra yard or so at times but he's the definition of a home run threat.
14. CJ Anderson - DEN - I'm still a believer in CJ Anderson's talent but it seems as if it's always something with CJ. Being the lead back in a Gary Kubiak offense is a tremendous situation to be in. With a questionable QB situation currently the Broncos will be relying on the run game more than they did during the Peyton Manning era.
15. Gio Bernard - CIN - Despite always sharing a backfield Bernard has been a Top 20 back in fantasy every year. He's an excellent weapon out of the backfield who may be relied upon more this coming year with the departures of Marvin Jones and Mohammad Sanu in Free Agency and with Tyler Eifert on the shelf to start the year. Bernard is due for some TD regression as he only hit pay dirt 2 times in over 200 touches. He might not be a sexy pick but he's a reliable RB2.
16. Ryan Mathews - PHI - Mathews should be in line for a career season. He's easily the most talented RB on the Eagles roster and should be the linchpin of Doug Pederson's run heavy offense. However we haven't heard too much praise coming out of Eagles camp this offseason and Mathews is already nursing an ankle injury. I'm willing to bet on talent in the middle rounds of my draft and think Mathews is a nice risk/reward at his current 6th round ADP.
17. Matt Forte - NYJ - Forte had an incredible stretch in Chicago and now finds himself in a potent Jets offense. Forte still has some gas left in the tank but I'm concerned this will be more of an RBBC situation than it appears. Forte signed a 3-year, $12M ($9M guaranteed) deal this offseason. One day after the Forte signing the Jets locked up Bilal Powell, who looked spectacular at the end of 2015, to a similar 3-year, $11.25M ($6M guaranteed) deal. Forte and Powell have similar skill sets with Powell having a little more juke and juice in his legs. I still expect Forte to get more work than Powell but not enough to be a RB1.
18. Carlos Hyde - SF - Hyde shouldn't have much of a problem getting used to Chip Kelly's offense as he's had success running out of the shotgun in the past. Hyde is the best player on offense for the 49ers and being in Kelly's offense gives him a tremendous ceiling but I'm just not sold how often the game scripts are going to be in Hyde's favor. The 49ers might have the worst roster in the NFL and will surely be trailing the majority of games this season. Not that Hyde can't work as a receiver out of the backfield but it appears Shaun Draughn is the primary back in passing situations. My concern is that Hyde will have 12 carries for 60 yards in the 1st half and not see much run in the second half because their trailing 24-3.
19. Jeremy Langford - CHI - Langford is probably the biggest climber on the list since I last published my rankings. I think Langford is a marginal talent but he seems in line for a great deal of work. Through two weeks of the preseason the Bears first-team offense has run 39 plays. Langford has been in for 36 of them. Coach John Fox recently said Langford, "Made a step forward" and that he, "continues to impress and get better." If you go WR heavy early I think Langford is a perfect RB to target in the middle rounds.
20. Thomas Rawls - SEA - Rawls spent all offseason recovering from a fractured ankle. It's a good sign he's off the PUP list and is practicing but it sounds like he'll only see limited action in Seattle's 4th preseason game. I'd obviously like to see if Rawls is the same wrecking ball that burst onto the scene filling in for Marshawn Lynch in 2015 but we'll have to draft without that knowledge. As we try to sift through coach speak and beat writers reports it sounds like Rawls will still be the starter but Christine Michael should receive a noticeable workload too. I'm not drafting Rawls at his current ADP but will take a look if he falls a round or so.
Flex/RB2 With Injury
21. Duke Johnson - CLE - I wrote about my expectations for Duke here.
22. Jeremy Hill - CIN - I'm expecting the Bengals offensive game plan to shift more towards the run this year. New OC, Ken Zampese, knows Andy Dalton's limitations and outside of AJ Green the WR corp is less than stellar. Hill is a powerful downhill runner who is looking to rebound from a 'disappointing' sophomore season where he saw his YPC drop from 5.1 to 3.6. Hill is proven around the goal line and for that reason will always have fantasy value. His has 21 TD's through his 1st two years in the league.
23. DeMarco Murray - TEN - Murray looked great in his preseason debut that included a 71-yard TD run. The Titans will have a run heavy attack that will put a lot of weight on Murray's shoulders. If it weren't for rookie RB Derrick Henry limiting Murray's upside I would have DeMarco a few spots higher.
24. Danny Woodhead - SD - Believe it or not Woodhead has been a Top 20 fantasy RB both of his healthy seasons as a Charger. In those two years (2013 & 2015) Woodhead averaged 1,062 yards from scrimmage, 78 receptions and 7.5 TD's. Woodhead is Philip Rivers safety value in the passing game and has RB1 upside in PPR if Gordon has a setback from his knee injury.
25. Jonathan Stewart - CAR - J-Stew deserves more love than this because he's a really good back but I just have a hard time taking him at his ADP. It just seems like an uninspiring pick because Cam Newton steals 6-8 possible TD's a year and Stewart has his long track record of injury history. Carolina will never have better game scripts last year and Stewart was still just a run of the mill RB2.
26. DeAngelo Williams - PIT - This may seem as an ambitious ranking for someone who may only start 3 games but just listen to me for a second. DeAngelo was the RB1 in all of fantasy football last year in Le'Veon Bell's absences. Think of drafting Williams as getting an extra 1st round pick for 3 weeks right out the gate! Even after Bells suspension you still have the most valuable handcuffs in the game. That boost Williams can give you to start the year can be the difference between making or missing the playoffs. The risk is worth the reward.
27. Dion Lewis - NE - Lewis still isn't off the PUP list after tearing his ACL last October. When healthy Lewis was RB1 in PPR formats. I love what Lewis adds to the New England offense but I'm proceeding with caution at this point. I'd let someone else draft Lewis at his ADP and take James White late. White had some huge games down the stretch filling in for Lewis.
28. Frank Gore - IND - Shockingly enough the Colts brought in zero competition for Gore this offseason. Gore's career is coming to a close but he should still see enough touches to put up RB2 production.
29. Melvin Gordon - SD
30. Rashad Jennings - NYG
31. Jay Ajayi - MIA
32. Justin Forsett - BAL
33. Ameer Abdullah - DET
34. Charles Sims - TAM
35. Isaiah Crowell - CLE
36. Chris Ivory - JAX
37. Derrick Henry - TEN
38. LeGarrette Blount - NE
39. Matt Jones - WAS
40. Arian Foster - MIA
41. Bilal Powell - NYJ
42. TJ Yeldon - JAX
43. Theo Riddick - DET
44. Tevin Coleman - ATL
45. Chris Thompson - WAS
High End Handcuff
46. Christine Michael - SEA
47. Alfred Morris - DAL
48. Chris Johnson - ARI
49. DeAndre Washington - OAK
50. Spencer Ware - KC
51. James Starks - GB
52. Mike Gillislee - BUF
53. Devontae Booker - DEN
54. Shaun Draughn - SF
55. Darren Sproles - PHI
56. Shane Vereen - NYG
57. Javorious Allen - BAL
58. Devontae Booker - DEN
59. Jerick McKinnon - MIN
60. Terrance West - BAL