SportsGuyRy’s 2018 Fantasy Football Rankings
Running Back Edition (21-30):
*Photo provided by Blitz Fantasy Life*
As we wrap up the final 10 players on my top 30 fantasy football running backs for 2018, I just want to thank you all for sticking with me on this journey through my first three articles. The positivity and constructive criticism has been much appreciated as I find my way through this writing and analysis bit.
The last article we went through the 11-20 running backs for this year and as you saw toward the end of that list, we were beginning to see the decline in talent at the running back position. Not to say those guys at the end of the list were bad, but more risky than anything. There will be some more of the same here. Obviously ranking into the 20’s and 30’s is quite hard. I typically put these players in a “tiered” category in which you would take the back that best fit your team based on bye weeks, your willingness to be risky, etc.
And… Here… We… Go!
- Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins – #34 ranked RB to end 2017 with 94 points (5.88 per game)
*Photo provided by Dolphins Wire – USA Today*
Maybe Kenyan Drake should be higher. Everything in his production in his career proves he should be a surefire starter. The production I’m talking about is in the 16 games he played in 2017, 6 of which he started, he produced 412 yards on 133 carries which is good for 4.84 yards per carry. He added 32 receptions for 239 yards and a total of 4 touchdowns. In 2016, all he did with his limited opportunities was put up 5.42 yards per carry.
So why is he 21? Why isn’t he in the top 20 over guys like an unproven Ronald Jones II for example. There are a couple of reasons. One is the additions the team made this offseason. They brought in the timeless Frank Gore who will, for whatever reason, steal carries from him. They also added Kallen Ballage in the draft who has some talent as well. You’ll find out more about him in my deep sleepers article later this summer.
I don’t love his surroundings either. The offensive line lost Pouncey and is waiting for Tunsil and James to continue to develop on the edges. Couple that with Tannehill’s return to the lineup, DeVante Parker’s disappointing first few years and the loss of Jarvis Landry – There’s not a ton to be excited about on this offense (outside of Kenny Stills – Obviously). With all that being said, if Adam Gase is a good coach at all, he should be riding Drake as far as he will take them.
- Rashaad Penny – Seattle Seahawks – Not ranked last year
*Photo provided by King5.com*
For whatever reason, I was a big Rashaad Penny fan in college. I know he played in the Mountain West Conference which is less competition than the power conferences but anytime someone can put up 2248 rushing yards, averaging 7.8 yards per carry and rushing 23 touchdowns – that’s impressive. Last year he also added 135 yards receiving which isn’t all that impressive but it’s something.
He’s a tough nosed runner with the ability to break tackles. He actually reminds me a bit of Kareem Hunt coming out last year. So Hunt put up one of the best running back fantasy seasons last year so why isn’t Penny higher? His situation is vastly different.
For starters, Penny ran for 289 attempts last year which is a big workload over 13 games. He’s on a Seattle Seahawks team with a very crowded backfield (Carson, Davis, McKissic, Prosise). I believe he’s better than all these guys but theres the threat and minimal room for error. He’s going to a team with an AWFUL offensive line that features one good player in Duane Brown and a bunch of meh after that.
With all this said, I like Penny. I think he can be productive. And I’d be willing to take a chance on him if the timing was right. Late fourth, early fifth would be a decent spot for Penny here.
- Sony Michel – New England Patriots – Not ranked last year
*Photo provided by NESN.com*
It would have been interesting for both Sony Michel and Nick Chubb if both of them had featured roles within their own teams. That didn’t happen because they both played for the championship contending Georgia Bulldogs. Of the two, Michel’s talent should translate best here.
Michel had an interesting college career. He came in as a sophomore with 218 carries for 1136 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also added 270 receiving yards for another 3 touchdowns. His junior year, he took a step back in most statistical categories outside of yards per carry. His senior year he put up his most rushing yards with 1227 and by far his most touchdown output with 17 total. His receiving took a big step back with 9 receptions for 96 yards.
So let’s go to his situation. He’s playing with the greatest quarterback in NFL history who’s lost some weapons this year. He’s on a team that has always played a committee approach at running back. His competition is Jeremy Hill (meh), Rex Burkhead (impressive), James White (clutch) and Mike Gillislee (meh). Does this mean he can take over, at the very least, the early down work? I think so and I think Belichick knows he can really be a difference maker if they let him run with the opportunity.
- Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – #6 ranked RB to end 2017 with Not ranked last year 205 points (12.81 per game)
*Photo provided by Blitz Fantasy Life*
I’m sure all the Saints fans seeing this are thinking I’m insane having Ingram this low. I agree. He shouldn’t be this low. He is however because he’s suspended for four games to start the season for cheating. That’s enough to push him down the list to take chances on other players. However, if you’re in a spot where you can afford to draft him and get depth, it could pay dividends in the long run.
In 2017, Ingram rushed for 1124 yards on 230 carries which averages to 4.89 yards per carry. He also added 58 receptions for 416 yards. He provided the Saints with 12 touchdowns. Let’s not forget, he did all of this while splitting carries with an equally productive Alvin Kamara.
Ingram has been playing well as of late and just came off his best year of his career but missing four games is huge and allowing Kamara to really carve out a lions share if he produces well in Ingram’s absence could really hurt his fantasy stock.
- Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – #14 ranked RB to end 2017 with 142 points (8.88 per game)
*Photo provided by Lombardi Ave*
To be completely honest, I’m not a huge fan of Lamar Miller. The reason he’s on this list is because he plays for an offense that’s projected to be very productive and his biggest in house competition is a sophomore player coming off an achellis injury in D’Onta Foreman.
Miller is coming off his most inefficient season since becoming a starter in 2013. In 2017 he used 238 carries to gain 888 yards for 3.73 yards per carry, which that average is the lowest total in his career. It’s actually the first time he’s averaged less than 4 yards per carry in his career. He’s also seen his touchdown total decline each of the last 2 years, ending last year with 3 rushing. Where he did improve was in the passing game adding 36 receptions for 327 yards and 3 receiving touchdowns.
He did lose his “starting” role to D’Onta Foreman for 3 total games last season which may be more of what’s to come. Miller has the talent and abilities to play at a high level, so his potential puts him in the top 30 however he has a short leash and I wouldn’t trust him as anything more than a flex/reserve.
- Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions – Not ranked last year
*Photo provided by AL.com*
Has Detroit finally found their running back of the future? Since the days of Barry Sanders, the Lions haven’t quite found their footing at the running back position. From Kevin Jones, Kevin Smith, Reggie Bush, Jahvid Best, Ameer Abdullah, Mikel Leshoure, etc. They haven’t found someone who they can rely on consistently to tout the rock.
In comes Kerryon Johnson to be the next to give it a whirl. It won’t be handed to him either. The Lions have Abdullah back, their third down specialist in Riddick and they brought in the power back specialist, Blount. He will need to fend off these guys and he has the skills to do it. The Auburn product is an athlete with great burst and a powerful running style despite his slight frame. He has speed and quickness with a punch to break tackles. There’s a ton to love about the kid.
Some concerns I see on his Auburn film are that he loves contact. That’s not an awful thing but when you’re playing with the big boys in the NFL, and his 6’0 210lb slight frame, he could leave him prone to injury given his more upright running style. (To be clear, they had the same concerns about Adrian Peterson and Le’Veon Bell which didn’t become a concern). He also needs to be more patient and wait for his hole to open up.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about him and I feel he went relatively unnoticed to a situation where he could really carve out a great role for himself in his rookie season. I’m high on him and think he could provide great value at this juncture of the draft.
- Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – #22 ranked RB to end 2017 with 123 points (6.79 per game)
*Photo provided by USA Today*
Tevin Coleman is an interesting player each and every fantasy draft. A guy with all the tools to be a great fantasy player, stuck on the wrong side of a platoon. Coleman possesses the typical things you love in a running back. He’s a very fast back running a 4.40 40 yard dash with the ability to catch and run. He plays for a great team with weapons everywhere and a great offensive line. He’s also been productive in his career. In his 40 career games (6 starts), he’s rushed for 1540 yards which is 4.27 yards per carry. He’s also added 734 yards through the air on 60 receptions.
At the surface these seem like solid numbers. Diving deeper however shows that last year was the most action he’s seen in one season to date. That should be a good thing, but unfortunately, some metrics didn’t go in his favor. Last hear on 156 carries he rushed for a career low average of 4.03 yards per carry. That ended up giving him his career high 628 yards, but he was down from his 4.41 and 4.51 yards per carry in the two previous seasons. He also only caught 27 balls last season which is down from 31 the season before. In those four extra catches in 2016, he was able to add in 122 more yards.
So maybe last year was just an off year. Maybe it was him slowing down a bit. Either way, it doesn’t look good. Not to mention, when you couple the declining averages and less touchdowns with the fact we have a healthy Freeman, it’s tough to completely trust him to produce. However, he’s the ultimate back up player to have. With all the tools and surroundings he has, if Freeman were to go down, he’d easily jump into RB1 conversation.
- Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos – Not ranked last year
*Photo provided by Sporting News*
What’s there not to love about Royce Freeman? He had a VERY productive college career that saw him put up 6435 total yards and 64, yes, SIXTY-FOUR touchdowns at Oregon. He now plays for an offense that features two solid receivers with depth behind them, a quarterback who we are all very familiar with in Minnesota and an improving offensive line with the addition of Veldheer this offseason.
But not everything is sunshine and rainbows for Freeman. He does face competition from a player who’s shown he can play some in this league in Devontae Booker. Early word in camp is Booker is leading the pack right now before training camp. He also has a lot of miles on those tires of his with over 1000 total touches in college. If he can fend off Booker and stay healthy, I feel he could be a good value pick at this juncture of the draft.
- Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – #21 ranked RB to end 2017 with 127 points (7.94 per game)
*Photo provided by FanSided*
I was surprised going back through last season’s fantasy stats to find out that Duke Johnson ranked as the 21st best fantasy back last year. Obviously, players from Cleveland are bound to go unnoticed a bit but to be 21st was a shock to me. I was expecting the breakout to come from Isaiah Crowell and here Johnson outproduces him from a fantasy perspective.
What he did last year was turn in a 4.24 yards per carry for 348 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. He also turned in SEVENTY FOUR receptions for 693 yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. These are great stats for the 5’9” third down back that cashed in this offseason off of his success. The line stayed about the same from last year which is above average and their Quarterback and Receivers improved significantly with Baker Mayfield/Tyrod Taylor – Josh Gordon – Jarvis Landry all coming in (Gordon played partially last year).
I suppose this could be a good and bad thing. It should open up more in the running game having these weapons but it also could lessen Johnson’s production. Many of those short, quick dump passes may now go to the master of those routes, Landry. They MAY not be down significantly all the time meaning they can stick to the traditional run game longer in games. They brought in Georgia’s Nick Chubb to handle the early down work and signed Carlos Hyde as well. There’s depth in the RB room unlike last year.
All in all, I think Johnson is in for a good season but there are some barriers he will have to navigate through to produce like he did last year.
- Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts – #47 ranked RB to end 2017 with 65 points (6.79 per game)
*Photo provided by Colts Wire – USA Today*
I wonder where Mack’s ranking would be if he had the opportunity to start last year rather than Frank Gore plodding his way through his 3.7 yards per carry average for 961 yards. Gore is in his twilight years and the Colts rode him as long as they could last season.
This left Mack waiting in the wings and getting very part time work. Getting about a third of the carries (93) he turned them into 358 rushing yards for 3 rushing touchdowns. He added 225 receiving yards for 1 receiving touchdown. His yards per carry were slightly higher than Gore’s (3.85 vs. 3.7) and his touchdown production was more.
There’s a lot to like about Mack. He’s got a 6’0”, 210lb frame, coming from a productive South Florida career where he turned in 4100+ yards and 33 touchdowns. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash but plays faster. He can catch and run and has a wiggle in his game to make folks miss. He has big play written all over him.
But with that, he also has bust plays come in more often than big ones. He looks for the homerun each time he carries the ball and often gives up on the blocking development and bounces the run to the outside. He also has some added competition in Jordan Wilkins (Sleeper) and Nyheim Hines. It’s his job to lose in camp but if he can hold onto it, with Andrew Luck returning and an improved offensive line, he could be in for a good season.
This wraps up my top-30 series at the running back position. As you noticed in the rankings, there’s a significant cliff once you get into the mid-late teens. My advice is ensure you get yourself two of those top 15-20 guys unless you’re just getting steals at the receiver position that you can’t pass up.
One player you’ll notice isn’t on this list is LeSean McCoy. It’s tough to rank him given his legal issues he finds himself in. I do not like ranking players in these situations as it’s completely up in the air what will happen. Hopefully these issues are resolved before the season starts and if he’s not suspended for any amount of time, he’d slide right into the 11-15 range given Buffalo’s situation.
My next series will be on Wide Receivers. I will likely be doing a similar format of three articles, ten receivers per article for a top 30 series.
Stay tuned and as always, thanks for reading!