The top fantasy football running backs to draft in 2019 – The Washington Post



Saquon Barkley could help your fantasy team run away with a title. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Here are my 2019 RB rankings, with notes on the top 24 plus three dozen more listed, as of Aug. 7.

It’s important to bear in mind that things can change rapidly during training camp and the preseason, particularly in the event of injuries and/or personnel moves. Thus I’ve embedded my overall rankings at the bottom, which will update frequently between now and the start of the regular season.

Note that I am defaulting to half-PPR scoring, so feel free to adjust players up or down a bit for standard or full-PPR formats. Best of luck to you in your drafts!

1. Saquon Barkley, Giants (bye: 11)

The Giants appear set to have a lousy offense, which is usually a major red flag for fantasy RB success. Barkley, though, appears to be such a rare, transcendent talent that the normal rules may not always apply. The other contenders for the top spot can be dinged in various ways, as well.

2. Alvin Kamara, Saints (9)

The only ding here is projected touches, with New Orleans bringing in Latavius Murray to play at least some version of the Mark Ingram role. Of the top dogs, Kamara is in the best offense and is the most efficient performer (per Football Outsiders’ 2018 rankings).

3. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers (7)

In stark contrast to Kamara, McCaffrey hardly ever came off the field last season, leading all RBs in snap percentage at a gaudy 91.3. A glance at his backups — uninspiring veteran Cameron Artis-Payne, fifth-round draft pick Jordan Scarlett, undrafted rookie Elijah Holyfield and someone named Reggie Bonnafon — suggests another massive workload is in store, but McCaffrey’s snaps have nowhere to go but down and improvements in Carolina’s receiving corps mean he likely won’t reach 107 receptions again.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (8)

I can’t drop Zeke any further just yet, in part because I strongly feel that he and Jerry Jones will figure something out and his holdout won’t extend into the regular season. It’s important to keep in mind that Elliott, who has two years left on his rookie contract, is in a much different position than Le’Veon Bell was in 2018, when he was eyeballing unrestricted free agency in just a few months.

5. David Johnson, Cardinals (12)

If he can manage a top-10 RB performance amid last year’s offensive train wreck in Arizona, he seems like a good bet to finish in the top five this year with Kyler Murray orchestrating Kliff Kingsbury’s fast-paced, unorthodox attack.

6. Le’Veon Bell, Jets (4)

Bell almost certainly won’t get the same volume of work he did in Pittsburgh, but touches should not be any sort of issue and I’m fairly bullish on Sam Darnold’s continued development and ability to lead a respectable Jets offense.

7. Joe Mixon, Bengals (9)

While the losses along Cincinnati’s offensive line are concerning, it’s more encouraging that a young offensive mind in Zac Taylor has replaced Marvin Lewis at head coach. Mixon took a huge step forward last year in terms of his comfort at the NFL level, and his skill set should ensure that Giovani Bernard remains no more than a change-of-pace back.

8. Todd Gurley, Rams (9)

One of the draft’s biggest mystery men. Are fears over Gurley’s knee and the addition of RB Darrell Henderson overblown, or is he far too much of a risk to take anywhere in the first two rounds? I’m sort of splitting the difference here with a ranking that reflects optimism toward him returning good value while likely not reproducing his eye-popping numbers of the past two seasons.

9. Dalvin Cook, Vikings (12)

I mean, if you’re worried about injuries, you can’t rank Gurley behind this guy, right? Fortunately for Cook, there’s no logical reason to think he’s doomed to never finish a season, and he’s set up nicely on a team that wants and should be able to run the ball with great frequency.

10. Damien Williams, Chiefs (12)

If we knew Williams would get the majority — or even a large plurality — of Kansas City’s RB touches all season, he’d push for a spot in the top five. It’s hard, though, to have such certainty about a player who’s never carried the ball more than 50 times in any of his five NFL seasons. This pushes Williams into the position being a very intriguing option for those who go WR in the first round.

11. James Conner, Steelers (7)

Pittsburgh has tended to favor bell cow backs, and Conner more than looked the part for much of last season. He appeared to wear down toward the end, though, and Jaylen Samuels looked good enough in Conner’s absence to have carved out a role this year.

12. Nick Chubb, Browns (7)

If Kareem Hunt weren’t set to join Cleveland’s backfield in Week 10, Chubb would be another strong candidate for top-five consideration. As it is, he’s worth taking in the second round for his potential to lead fantasy teams to strong starts, which has a ton of value. Chubb also might just be good enough to keep Hunt at stiff-arm’s length after his return from suspension.

13. Kerryon Johnson, Lions (5)

Johnson was already a darling of the fantasy smart set before Detroit released Theo Riddick. With the longtime pass-catching specialist out of the picture, Johnson is now positioned to pick up a significant chunk of extra work, even if C.J. Anderson proves to be an annoying TD vulture.

14. Aaron Jones, Packers (11)

This third-year back has the talent and situation to explode, but it remains to be seen if new Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur commits to him more than Mike McCarthy did. Jones also needs to prove that he can stay healthy and be more of a factor in the passing game before he climbs the fantasy RB ranks any further.

15. Melvin Gordon, Chargers (12)

I’m a bit more worried about this holdout because Gordon is in the final year of his rookie deal, and Los Angeles might be more prepared to trade or simply call his bluffthan Dallas is with Elliott. The Chargers also appear to have much better depth of talent than the Cowboys do, making it that much more likely that they don’t cave, which could extend the standoff.

16. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars (10)

He’ll need to stay healthy and in the good graces of Jacksonville management, but there’s a lot to like here. With Nick Foles giving the Jags a sorely needed dose of QB competence in place of Blake Bortles, the team should be better at moving the ball and de-stacking the box for Fournette, who is reportedly being prepped for a greater role in the passing game.

17. Devonta Freeman, Falcons (9)

Freeman is in a better spot than Fournette in terms of surrounding offense and expected role, but he strikes me as a greater injury risk, given that he’s smaller and has had over twice as many NFL touches. He appeared to benefit from Atlanta letting Tevin Coleman walk in the offseason, leaving the less accomplished Ito Smith as the No. 2.

18. Josh Jacobs, Raiders (6)

We didn’t hear much about Jacobs in Episode 1 of “Hard Knocks,” forcing the fantasy community to hope the next installment offers a little more intel on Jon Gruden’s plans for the Alabama product. It seems safe to assume, though, that Oakland didn’t spend a first-round pick on Jacobs not to use him extensively, making him a solid RB2 prospect.

19. Marlon Mack, Colts (6)

Not that D’Onta Foreman figures to challenge Mack on the depth chart, but Indy’s quickness in adding the former Texan hardly allays suspicions that Mack will be mired in some sort of committee that includes Nyheim Hines on passing downs. Andrew Luck’s lingering calf injury also gives pause, but as the primary back on a good offense, Mack is well-positioned to be a consistent fantasy producer.

20. Derrick Henry, Titans (11)

This 6-foot-3, 247-pound behemoth started lighting it up down the stretch last season after Tennessee finally unleashed him, and the Titans appear ready to pick up where it left off in that regard. Henry, whose receptions have gone 15-17-18 in his three seasons, still projects as an early-downs back, putting him in a somewhat precarious position on an offense that might well be in the league’s bottom half.

21. Mark Ingram, Ravens (8)

If Lamar Jackson can keep the chains moving, Baltimore might be able to run the ball so ridiculously often that it might not matter much that Ingram is in a committee. That’s assuming he actually is, with the likes of Gus Edwards and rookie Justice Hill. If Ingram is the clear lead back on a competent offense, he could be a major steal at his draft position.

22. James White, Patriots (10)

It’s generally a losing play to proceed with any confidence about what New England will do with its RBs, but it’s also hard to see White losing the trust of Tom Brady as a preferred receiving option, especially given Rob Gronkowski’s retirement and the lack of depth at WR.

23. Chris Carson, Seahawks (11)

As with Ingram and Baltimore, Seattle is so committed to the ground game that it might not matter much if Carson splits time with Rashaad Penny. It will matter if Penny overtakes Carson on the depth chart, of course, so this camp battle bears close attention.

24. Lamar Miller, Texans (10)

As mentioned, D’Onta Foreman is no longer in Houston, making Miller’s position more secure unless a trade happens. The eighth-year back is painfully boring to many in the fantasy community, but for those just looking for a reliable RB in the middle rounds after going for upside early on, boring could be beautiful.

25. Sony Michel, Patriots (10)

26. Kenyan Drake, Dolphins (5)

27. Phillip Lindsay, Broncos (10)

28. Tarik Cohen, Bears (6)

29. David Montgomery, Bears (6)

30. Latavius Murray, Saints (9)

31. Miles Sanders, Eagles (10)

32. Tevin Coleman, 49ers (4)

33. Royce Freeman, Broncos (10)

34. Rashaad Penny, Seahawks (11)

35. Darrell Henderson, Rams (9)

36. Austin Ekeler, Chargers (12)

37. Matt Breida, 49ers (4)

38. Peyton Barber, Buccaneers (7)

39. Jordan Howard, Eagles (10)

40. Derrius Guice, Redskins (10)

41. Nyheim Hines, Colts (6)

42. LeSean McCoy, Bills (6)

43. Jerick McKinnon, 49ers (4)

44. Dion Lewis, Titans (11)

45. Kalen Ballage, Dolphins (5)

46. Ronald Jones II, Buccaneers (7)

47. Ito Smith, Falcons (9)

48. Adrian Peterson, Redskins (10)

49. Duke Johnson, Browns (7)

50. Damien Harris, Patriots (10)

51. Justice Hill, Ravens (8)

52. Chris Thompson, Redskins (10)

53. Mike Davis, Bears (6)

54. Jaylen Samuels, Steelers (7)

55. Carlos Hyde, Chiefs (12)

56. Justin Jackson, Chargers (12)

57. Jalen Richard, Raiders (6)

58. Giovani Bernard, Bengals (9)

59. Devin Singletary, Bills (6)

60. Alexander Mattison, Vikings (12)


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