To help prepare for the upcoming NFL season, I’ll be providing a preview of each position. In this edition I’ll cover the Top Three Running Backs, Best Value Pick, Sleeper Pick and Potential Bust. To stay consistent I’ll be referencing the Expert Consensus Rankings from FantasyPros. I’ve found from experience that the consensus rankings give a better overall picture of fantasy football rankings. This particular ranking provides the aggregate ADP (Average Draft Position) from FantasyPros experts while projected stats are coming from ESPN since they show 2015 season stats along with projected 2016 season stats.
Top Three Running Backs:
- David Johnson, Cardinals (RB2, 5.5 ADP)
Analysis: As we head to the 2016 season there doesn’t appear to be a clear cut top overall running back for fantasy like we have with Antonio Brown at wide receiver and Rob Gronkowski at tight end. There were several players in the running for top spot, I ened up going with David Johnson based upon having a pass catching skill that sets him apart from others. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim went as far as to say “I mean, probably the best receiving back I’ve seen.” That’s a bit much but he has received comparsions to a bigger Marshall Faulk and has tremendous upside. In PPR leagues Johnson will provide a huge bonus as he averaged 12.7 yards per catch in his rookie season with 36 receptions for 457 yards. This year he’ll be the feature back for the Cardinals and should see plenty of action, with his upside I list Johnson as the top overall running back. GTD Suggested Round: 1st Round, Top 5 Pick
- Todd Gurley, Rams (RB1, 3.3 ADP)
Analysis: I went back and forth on my top running back choice between Cardinals David Johnson and Rams Todd Gurley. It’s a matter of preference in your fantasy draft and based on your draft pick. If you’re in a PPR league Johons is the pick but if playing in standard leagues I very well may choose Gurley and his explosiveness. Gurley had a monster four game stretch during Week 4 through Week 8 last season with 566 yards and three rushing touchdowns over 88 carries, good for a ridiculous 6.4 yards per carry. Gurley is a safe top five pick in drafts. GTD Suggested Round: 1st Round, Top 5 Pick
- Devonta Freeman, Falcons (RB7, 15.0 ADP)
Analysis: With the third ranking I’m looking for a player that can do a little bit of everything, Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. Freeman was one of the biggest fantasy pickups in early 2015 as he then took the league by storm in Week 3 with 30 carries for 141 yards rushing, three rushing touchdowns along with five receptions for 52 yards. On the season he finished with 1,056 rushing yards, 578 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns. Freeman averaged 18.7 carries and 6.9 targets per game once he became a full time starter last year for the last 14 games. Look to grab Freeman early in the 2nd round of drafts,especially in PPR leagues. GTD Suggested Round: Early 2nd Round
Best Value Pick:
Thomas Rawls, Seahawks (RB14, 34.9 ADP)
Analysis: Thomas Rawls filled in admirably for former Seahawks star running back Marshawn Lynch as he dealt with injuries for most of 2015. Rawls himself had his season cut short in Week 14 with a broken ankle and appears to be ready for Week 1 this season according to head coach Pete Carroll. Although he didn’t provide much in the passing attack for the Seahwawks he was impressive on the ground with a 209 yard rushing game against the 49ers and 169 yards against the Bengals. Rawls went in the early 4th round (38th overall) in one of my recent drafts which I think is a fair spot compared with his 34.9 ADP and solid value as an RB2. GTD Suggested Round: 4th round
Devontae Booker, Broncos (RB51, 155.8 ADP)
Analysis: I’m a big college football fan and my Saturdays in the fall consist of college football all day long. When flipping around channels late night when PAC12 games are played on the west coast, one player in particular jumped out at me, Utah running back Devontae Booker. Booker can do it all on the field, over the past two seasons he totaled 2,773 rushing yards over 560 carries, 21 rushing touchdowns. He also added 80 receptions for 624 yards, two receiving touchdowns and even threw a 25-yard touchdown pass in 2015. Broncos are high on Booker, general manager John Elway even recently mentioned they had Booker ranked as the second highest graded running back in the draft and felt he was a steal in the fourth round. Booker did suffer a torn meniscus in late November but appears to be fully healthy for 2016, he has big upside should CJ Anderson struggle early on for the Broncos. GTD Suggested Round: 10th Round
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (RB8, 16.5 ADP)
Analysis: Jamaal Charles when healthy has been one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL over the past few years with 5.5 yards per carry on 1,320 carries for his career. Charles is nearly 30-years-old and coming back from his second torn ACL and has a history of head injuries and ankle problems. Here’s an excerpt from a SB Nation fantasy update on August 31:
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles’ return to the field from a torn ACL is reportedly progressing a bit slower than the team had hoped for this summer, according to ESPN’s Adam Teicher. So much so that Charles has yet to gain back his role as the Chiefs’ featured running back and is usually the third running back in line to get reps with the starters.
Charles is a risky first round pick, even as a second round pick based on this progress but there is big upside if he can somehow come back healthy in the next couple weeks. I’d avoid Charles in the first couple rounds of drafts. GTD Suggested Round: 3rd Round
I’ll be releasing a new position preview daily, be sure to come back and check Game-Time Decision.