SportsGuyRy’s 2018 Fantasy Football Rankings
Running Back Edition (11-20):
*Photo provided by Cincy Jungle – USA Today Sports*
Welcome back! In my last post we started to analyze who I perceived to be the top 10 fantasy running back options going into the 2018 season -> Top Ten RBs.
Let’s continue to go through the next 10 running backs and analyze what there is to like and not like about them. As I noted before, once we get into the 15-20 range at running back, there is a relatively steep cliff from a talent perspective.
Let’s take a look:
- Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – #13 ranked RB to end 2017 with 147 points (10.50 per game)
*Photo provided by WTMJ.com*
Devonta Freeman is one guy who I’ve always looked at and am constantly amazed that he continues to do what he does. His first year in the league was meh, but since then, he’s continued to impress. From his tough run attitude to his ability to catch and make people miss – Freeman will always be in the discussion as a top fantasy running back. So why is he ranked 11?
Last year we did see a decline in production from him. Typically a top back in fantasy, he fell down to 13 last year. Part of that was injuries, missing two games last year but diving deeper, his yards per carry was down from the previous year and his receptions dropped significantly from the prior two years. Last year was his first year not surpassing 1000 rushing yards since getting the full-time gig in 2015. His TD production was down as well while Coleman pouched a few. Now that I mention Coleman, he’s in a contract year and he’s always a threat to eat into production.
All that said, Freeman is still a high upside player with the ability to be a great fantasy contributor. He will be in year two of the same offense which will help, but the reasons above show why he’s outside of my top 10 rated players at this position.
- Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals – #34 ranked RB to end 2017 with 94 points (6.71 per game)
*Photo provided by Cincy Jungle – USA Today Sports*
Okay – I will admit, this is somewhat a homer pick for me. I’m a big Oklahoma Sooners fan so I’ll always believe in my Sooners. However, the argument in favor of Mixon is compelling. Follow me here.
Mixon is coming into his second year and first year as a full-time starter – likely only losing carries to Gio Bernard rather than a three-headed meh that Jeremy Hill led last year. On 176 carries, he ran for 626 yards (3.52 per carry). He added 30 receptions for another 287 last year. All of this on part-time work and an offensive line who’s ability matched that of my ability to pick up chicks when I was in high school – quite poor. He wasn’t really set up to succeed last year.
Going into 2018 – the Bengals added Billy Price in the draft and Cordy Glenn via trade. While the right side of the line leaves much to be desired still, the left side improved significantly. They also had the addition by subtraction of Jeremy Hill being gone.
Some concerns here is his ability to always pick the right hole and trust it, durability concerns and did the offensive line improve enough to allow him to be successful…? Mixon has the stuff – speed, strength, versatility and size to be dominant. As his surroundings continue to improve, so will he.
- Jerick McKinnon – San Francisco 49ers – #24 ranked RB to end 2017 with 111 points (6.94 per game)
*Photo provided by 1500ESPN*
Jet was always going to be a tricky one for me to evaluate. Being a Vikings fan, I see the production or lack thereof he had here in Minnesota. At the same time, I also see the upside he has and abilities he possesses to be a solid versatile threat. Throw in an offensive genius that gave the previously mentioned Freeman the best year of his career and you have McKinnon ranked at 13.
The positives: Jet has great quickness and speed. We all saw at the combine that he was a workout warrior. He can move, make people miss, run through folks and catch the ball really well. In this offense, he has a ton of opportunity to break out.
The concerns: He had an opportunity to be the lead guy when Peterson went down for the Vikings in 2016 and what he did was split carries with Asiata for 794 total yards, 4 total touchdowns while playing 15 games (1 injury). 2017 was another chance after Cook went down to take reigns over Latavius Murray and ended up splitting carries with him for 991 total yards and 5 total touchdowns.
The ranking here is on upside. If he can stay healthy and Shanahan can work his magic schematically, Jet is in for a huge year fantasy wise.
- Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – #9 ranked RB to end 2017 with 162 points (10.13 per game)
*Photo provided by Sports Illustrated*
Jordan Howard is another individual that’s tough to rank here. On one hand, Howard had an amazing rookie year where he ranked second in total rushing yards, having a 5.21 yards per carry average and picked up 29 receptions for 298 yards.
Last year however, his yards per carry were down to 4.07 and although his touchdowns went up to 9, he took a step back in receiving yards. Part of that is due to the addition of Tarik Cohen who’s a jack of all trades back that I foresee eating into his play time.
All that being said, he still rushed for 1100+ yards last year on a “down year” and has a very comparable skill set to Kareem Hunt, who’s offensive coordinator last year is now the Bears head coach – Bill Nagy. I’d like to continue to see Howard do well in this offensive system as they’ve added weapons now that are actually a threat in the passing game unlike last year. Late second, early third is a great spot for Howard to fall to on draft day.
- Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers – #15 ranked RB to end 2017 with 133 points (8.31 per game)
*Photo provided by ClutchPoints*
How will the Panthers running back room like without either DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in there for the first time since 2006. It looks like McCaffrey (CMC) is going to be atop the depth chart by season start.
The slight but ultra-quick and an underrated powerful CMC is going to turn some heads this year. Last year, while splitting carries with an aging Stewart, he turned 117 carries into 435 yards (3.72 per carry). At the surface that isn’t great. However, if we dive deeper, you’ll see once he got a feel for the pro game, he really established himself. After week 9 last year, he averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
And we haven’t even gotten into the best part of his game yet. Last year he turned in 80, yes, you read that correctly, 80 receptions. That provided an additional 651 yards. He totaled 7 touchdowns last year, 5 coming by reception.
He won’t ever be a power back and he’ll likely get poached for goal line carries by the likes of CJ Anderson or Cameron Artis-Payne. However, there’s enough production here for him to carry the load and be effective.
- Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – #25 ranked RB to end 2017 with 108 points (6.76 per game)
*Photo provided by Zimbio*
I’ve been waiting for a long time to do a write up on Derrick Henry when he had a chance to be the bell cow back. With the departure of Demarco Murray, it really opens up the opportunity for Henry to show us what he’s got.
In his two year career, he has 4 starts and 286 carries to his name. He’s averaged 4.31 yards per carry in his career and 5 touchdowns a year. He’s also averaged 12 catches for 136 yards per year in his limited opportunities. Lastly, he’s the type of runner that gets stronger as the game goes on. Looking at his stats, the more carries he receives, his yards per carry goes up significantly. He wears defenses down and grinds them to a pulp.
It will be interesting to see how he’s used going forward as a bell cow. Can he handle the workload? How much will Dion Lewis eat into his work? Can the receivers take the next step (Corey Davis), to provide a legitimate balanced attack to free up players in the box? I’m not sure.
What I do know is Henry is the ultimate height-weight-speed guy being 6’3” 245lbs running a 4.5 40. He’s not someone I want to try and tackle.
- Derrius Guice – Washington Redskins – Not ranked last year
*Photo provided by Redskins Wire – USA Today*
I was a big fan of what Derrius Guice was able to do in college. A tough nosed runner who was skilled enough to eat into Leonard Fournette’s production at LSU, Guice has a chance to really take the league by storm as a rookie. He’s on a team that doesn’t have a legitimate threat at running back currently (no disrespect to Perine – much love), a team that has a pretty good offensive line and an offensive minded head coach who can get creative. He has a decent supporting cast with Alex Smith and some weapons on offense.
So where does that leave us with ranking him? I’m pretty high on him but I have my reservations. To be honest, he doesn’t seem very trustworthy or bright. I’m not sure I want to spend a third round selection on a guy who’s said some of the things he said during his interviews. His talent is there but can he get out of his own way is my question. If he can focus on his game and play to his ability, he has the potential to be a top 10 guy. Until I see that, we’ll leave him at 17.
- Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens – #18 ranked RB to end 2017 with 130 points (8.67 per game)
*Photo provided by Ravens Wire – USA Today*
Talk about coming out of nowhere. Alex Collins came in last year as a product from Arkansas that Seattle gave up on after one year when they didn’t have a ton of options at running back. He goes to Baltimore and takes over the starting job and ran with it.
Baltimore has to be ecstatic to have received a waiver wire pick up that averaged 4.59 yards per carry on 212 carries for 973 yards. He started 12 games and really carried a lot of smart or lucky, depending on who you ask, fantasy owners to the playoffs after nabbing him off waivers. So was it a fluke? Can he repeat?
I suppose we can’t know yet but what we do know is he’ll likely be entering the season as the lead back. Although he may face some heat from Kenneth Dixon who was injured last year, I can’t foresee him losing his lead back role. The Ravens actually added some talent at receiver in Willie Snead, John Brown and Michael Crabtree as well as some tight ends in Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst. They brought in Lamar Jackson to compete with Joe Flacco at some point and my boy Orlando Brown to work opposite Ronnie Stanley on the line.
This will be an interesting year for the Ravens and I’m excited to see how it plays out with some changes coming. One thing I see as stable is Collins contributions from the running back position.
- Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles – #33 ranked RB to end 2017 with 95 points (6.79 per game)
*Photo provided by Eagles Wire – USA Today*
Jay Ajayi was a big pick up for the Eagles last year. He came in and helped provide the Eagles with a three-headed attack in Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement. Since then, Blount has moved onto the Detroit Lions, leaving Ajayi and Clement as the duo. They still do have Darren Sproles who might factor in as well.
Knowing this information, it looks like Ajayi could be in for a big year. After joining the Eagles last year, Ajayi averaged 6.39 yards per carry for 408 yards. He also had some big catch and runs as well. With Pederson as the head coach, it bodes well for him to have solid production. He only had one touchdown with the Eagles but with Blount gone now, he will likely resume all goal line carries.
The biggest risks here are injuries as he’s never had a full 16 game season in his three year career and utilization. We know Pederson likes to use multiple backs but given the talent of the other guys around him, he should be able to take the reins and be the lead dog.
- Ronald Jones II – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Not ranked last year
*Photo provided by Bucs Wire – USA Today*
My comp coming out of college for Ronald Jones II has always been Jamaal Charles. His running style is almost as if he’s gliding rather than running. He has a great ability to slash through the hole and make people miss. He’s also very capable of catching the ball and creating yards after catch.
Unfortunately for Jones, he’s not a burner. He ran a 4.65 at the NFL combine. Where he lacks in straight line speed, he makes up for in burst and explosion. He’s going to have all the opportunity in the world with the Buccaneers as the other backs on the roster are Jaquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims.
So can he take the lead back role and run with it? Can he stay healthy given his 5’11” 205lb frame? Only time will tell but he’s got all the tools and the opportunity to turn in a very productive rookie season.
As you may have noticed already, there are a couple of notable names not mentioned as of yet in these rankings. The two most notable ones are LeSean McCoy and Mark Ingram. Maybe they crack my top 21-30 list but given McCoy’s legal situation he finds himself in and Ingram’s suspension, they were bound to fall on this list.
Tune in to my next post to find out if they break the top 30 or not. Once we get through the top 30 running backs – I will feature my top 30 wide receiver rankings in similar fashion, breaking them up into three separate posts.
Thanks for reading!