2016 Fantasy Rankings – Top 10 Running Backs
The smell of hamburgers, hot dogs, and fireworks are still in the air and that means we just celebrated our Independence Day and the start of fantasy football is closely approaching. Here at TFFGurus it means it’s time for our annual Top 10 positional rankings for you all. Now everyone has their own top 10 list and I mean everyone. From your barber to the guy who bags your groceries, everyone plays fantasy football and they all have their own opinion of WHO they think are the 10 best players at each position. The guys and I put together our list of the top 32 RB’s for our podcast which came out about a month ago. If you haven’t listened to it yet, please stop reading and click HERE! We will wait…
Ok, welcome back. We, for the most part, all saw eye to eye but every so often we didn’t and it wasn’t even close. It just goes to show you how different one person’s take can be on a player, a system or the team that the player plays for. Hell maybe you got burnt by this player last year or a few years in a row and you just can’t wash the taste of it out of your mouth. It has happened to every fantasy owner out there and it will happen to someone again this year.
This year just like the last we are going to break down the Top 10 players at each position. From today until the beginning of August we will be coming out with a new Top 10 list each and every Wednesday. On top of that, we are also going to be releasing a Top 10 IDP list to help quench the thirst of all of our IDP players out there. So a lot is going to be coming your way, so keep checking our twitter page or the website to see who we think are the Top 10 best players at their respected positions. So without further ado here is our 2016 Top 10 RBs.
- Le’Veon Bell – At the time of Bell’s injury, he had a stat line of 133 attempts with a 5 Y/A for 556 yards and 3 TD’s. Through the air, Bell added 24 rec with a 5.6 Y/R for 136 yards and no touchdowns. If Bell kept on this pace for the rest of the season and if we assume he would have ended with the same workload as 2014 he would have ended the season with a stat line of 290 attempts with a 5.6 Y/A for 1,621 Yards and 8 Tds. Through the air, he would have hauled in 83 rec with a 5.6 Y/R for 466 yards and 3 TDs. That would equate to a 274 point season for Bell, clearly making him the #1 RB of 2015. Bell is a 3 down back playing in one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. In 2016 all the targets that should have gone to Martavis Bryant (Suspended for the season) are going to have to go somewhere and I think Brown and Bell are going to be the biggest beneficiaries. Look for Bell to rebound from his knee injury back to his 2014 form and take back the mantel as the best RB in fantasy football.
- Adrian Peterson – AP is defying father time and somehow is continuing to play at an elite level. Last year if it wasn’t for a historic 5 game stretch by Devonta Freeman, AP would have claimed the RB scoring title and it wouldn’t have even been close. Peterson led the league in rushing yards, rushing attempts and tied for first in the NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns. AP is part of a very exclusive club of fantasy running backs who handle the majority of their team’s workload. These running backs are an endangered species in fantasy and we must make sure we preserve them! The fear with AP over the past few seasons has been his age and mileage. “When will he finally break down?” is the question fantasy owners keep asking themselves each year. No one can predict the future or really know when AP will begin to breakdown, but I am willing to take the risk because the reward could be winning the league title.
- Todd Gurley – Gurley sat out the first two games of the season to continue to heal up from an ACL injury that he suffered during his senior year at Georgia. Gurley struggled in his first ever NFL game only gaining 9 yards on 6 carries but that didn’t last long. Gurley quickly showed why he was considered the best running back in the 2015 draft class racking up 566 yards on 88 carries over the next 4 games. He also added 6 total touchdowns during that same span. Gurley was a beast in his rookie campaign racking up over a thousand yards, AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and was selected to the pro bowl. St. Louis’s poor offensive line is still a work in progress but with each passing offseason, Gurley’s ceiling rises and a few more seasons like the one we just saw and his name could be atop this list.
- Ezekiel Elliott – Zeke is the highest drafted running back since Trent Richardson who went 3rd overall to the Cleveland Browns back in 2012. Before that you have to go all the way back to 2008 when Darren McFadden, yes that same Run DMC who is Zeke’s teammate, was taken 4th overall (Spooky!) by the Oakland Raiders. Elliott was a standout performer during his 3 years at The Ohio State University and he played an integral part in their National Championship run in 2014. Elliott is a 3 down RB and what has fantasy owners so excited is that he gets to run behind the best offensive line in football that led Run DMC to a thousand yard season. The same offensive line that helped DeMarco Murray have one of the best fantasy seasons of all time. Elliott can run between the tackles, outside the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield (something he has been working on a lot in the offseason) and is great in pass protection. Rookie running backs are tough to gauge but with what we saw last year with Gurley and Johnson, I think Elliott is as safe a pick as ever to have a standout fantasy season and he is the front runner to be the offensive rookie of the year.
- David Johnson – Like Gurley, Johnson saw limited time at the beginning of the season but unlike Gurley, almost no one knew who he was. Johnson was an afterthought in most fantasy circles after the Cardinals came out and named CJ?K the starter. It wasn’t until everyone in the Cardinals backfield was injured that the organization turned to the rookie out of Northern Iowa to help them out in week 12. All Johnson did from week 12 until the end of the season was post a stat line of 442 yards on 90 carries, add 4 rushing Td’s & hauled in 17 catches on 28 targets for 216 yards & 1 Rec Td. From week 12 to the end of the regular season David Johnson scored 95.8 fantasy points or 19.16 points per week. To put that into comparison, if Johnson had the same amount of rushing attempts over the season as Todd Gurley at his Y/A of 4.65 which DJ ended the season with, Johnson would have rushed for 1064 yards. Now if you take that and add in all the other numbers he ended the year with, Johnson would have finished with 220 fantasy points. That would have been good enough for third best at his position right behind Adrian Peterson. Johnson has a ton of red flags going into the 2016 season. Is he a one hit wonder? Will CJ or Andre Ellington eat into his carries? We have all seen this before but if he isn’t a flash in the pan, then Johnson could be something special. Time will tell on this one.
- Doug Martin – Martin bounced back in a massive way last year posting his second 1400+ yard season in his short 4 year career. As every fantasy owner knows Martin suffered badly from a rebuilding Tampa Bay team and produced two back to back terrible seasons in which Martin did not surpass 500 yards on the ground in either one. In a contract year, Martin came back with a vengeance in 2015 posting a career high in Y/A of 4.9 and ended the season with 209 fantasy points which were good enough for 3rd best at his position. This year the biggest fear for fantasy owners in choosing Martin is that now that he got paid will he revert back to the running back that was the biggest bust in fantasy. Martin is a wild card for sure but we see no reason why he should slow down. Winston is back behind center with another year under his belt and the signing of JR Sweezy who is a great run blocker should only help create more running room for Martin. We like Martin to once again be a top 5 RB come season’s end.
- Jamaal Charles – Charles like Bell was injured early in the 2015 season and it was a massive blow to all fantasy owners around the world. At the time of his injury (torn ACL), Charles had 364 yards on 71 carries a 5.1 Y/A, 4 touchdowns and added 177 yards on 21 receptions and 1 touchdown through the air. That was good enough for 84 fantasy points and we were only 5 games into the season. There was almost no way he was going to stay on that pace but even if Charles had a little dip in production, Charles would have easily finished with a 200+ point fantasy season. Charles plays for one of the heaviest run first offenses in the NFL and he has shown he can come back from an ACL tear and regain elite level performance. I said this on our podcast that I needed to see it before I could rank him in my individual top 10 but Charles is a bonafide stud running back. If he can come back strong and healthy, he has as good a shot as any to win the rushing title in 2016.
- Lamar Miller – New scenery and a team that is ready to utilize the talented running back out of Miami, is what has this next candidate coming in at #8 on our list. Miller was never used properly in Miami and for 4 years fantasy owners were caught yelling at their tv screens as the Dolphins routinely mismanaged his carries and snaps killing his fantasy value. Miami finished dead last in rushing attempts last year. Miller now finds himself in Houston around a revamped offense that added Brock Osweiler through FA and drafted Will Fuller, Braxton Miller and Tyler Ervin (love this guy). Not to mention an offense that has the best young wide receiver in the game: DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans are a run heavy offense handing the ball off 472 times last year which was the 4th most in the NFL. If Miller can see half that (236 which would be a career high!) I am pumped as a fantasy owner and to think he might slip to you late in the first round is a great value. We all agree that Miller finally is in the right situation to utilize his skill set and it should mean big things in the world of fantasy this Fall.
- LeSean McCoy – McCoy is the lead running back in the 2nd heaviest run first teams in the NFL. The Buffalo Bills handed the ball off 506 times last year and in only 12 games McCoy saw 203 of those snaps. McCoy missed 4 games last year due to injury but in every game, he played he never had less than double digit carries. There is no doubt that if he hadn’t missed those 4 games that McCoy would have had a 1k+ yard season and would have found the end zone more than 3 times on the ground! We are banking that in 2016 he stays healthy, is able to raise his touchdown numbers and he will continue to be a weapon in the passing game. Of course, McCoy comes with some red flags: Karlos Williams showed he can perform at a high level when his number is called upon and that he is injury prone. When healthy McCoy is the Bills’ best running back and they know it. If he can stay healthy, McCoy could have the production to finish the season as a top 8 running back in fantasy.
- Mark Ingram – I love the hard running style of Mark Ingram. What I don’t like is how often he gets hurt and how often the Saints throw the ball especially around the goal line. Ingram has only played in all 16 games once in his career and that was all the way back in 2012. Over his career, Ingram has missed a total of 18 games and this past season he was lost in week 12 to a shoulder injury that needed offseason surgery to fix. Ingram really improved as a pass catching back in 2015 and he hopes he can continue to improve in the passing game and finally kick the injury bug which has jumped up and bit him these past three seasons. Ingram has the talent, the offensive scheme and this year he has the goal line carries to himself after New Orleans moved on from Khiry Robinson this offseason. Ingram should see a spike in touchdowns, yards, and receptions if he can stay healthy. The only problem is it’s a big IF.
Well there you have it, our top 10 Running Backs list of 2016! Like always, please let us know what you think. Do you agree with our list or do you think someone should have been higher or lower? Let us know your thoughts and come back next Wednesday when we will be releasing our Top 10 Wide Receivers of 2016 list.