As the NFL season rapidly approaches, we got our resident fantasy expert, Tyler, to share his top 10 fantasy players at each position. We’re moving onto the second of our four entries, so here are Tyler’s NFL Fantasy RB Rankings.
(All rankings articles are built with 0.5PPR and 4pt passing TD rules in mind. These are the default settings used in most fantasy leagues.)
1 – Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
If you don’t have the first pick in the draft, there’s no need to read this paragraph, to be honest. Although, it probably isn’t necessary anyway. Everybody knows that when he’s healthy, Christian McCaffrey is the best fantasy football asset, period. Last year was very disappointing, as he got injured on two separate occasions and was only able to start three games. In those three games, he was an absolutely dominant force and he was the number one player in all of fantasy in points per game. He is healthy and raring to go this year, now, so I don’t need to say much more. Don’t think about it. Don’t ask questions. If you’re able to draft him, draft him.
2 – Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
While it is unanimous that Christian McCaffrey is the 1.01, that doesn’t mean that the second-best is miles behind. That RB is Dalvin Cook. In standard leagues (where you get absolutely no reward for catching passes) you can make a case for the third RB to hop above him, but in half-PPR and PPR leagues, Cook has this spot locked down. The Vikings star is an elite runner of the ball, while also showing fantastic receiving ability too. Since becoming the starter in Minnesota, Cook has caught 40+ passes three seasons in a row. Those catches aren’t inconsequential, either, he averages 8.6 yards per reception over his career. On top of his great balance of running and receiving, his true bellcow volume is another key factor in his success. In three years he has played 39 games and had 695 rushing attempts. Not to mention the 31 rushing touchdowns. Cook is unreal and should be snapped up right after CMC in your fantasy drafts.
3 – Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
If you want to put emphasis on the ‘running’ in running back, let’s get you some different fantasy RB rankings and put Derrick Henry right at the top. He is the scariest half back in the league, at 6’3, 247 lbs, with a perfect blend of speed and brute strength. Last year he rushed for 2,027 yards, the fifth most in a season in NFL history. Henry is arguably the 1.01 in standard leagues due to his sheer dominance on the ground. You will never see this man get tackled without a fight. He’s incredibly fun to watch and the Titans offense should be even better with the addition of Julio Jones to the mix. Don’t overthink it, Henry is as safe a pick as there is. And on top of all those yards he gets, he has scored 33 rushing touchdowns in the last two seasons. A beast on the field and a beast in fantasy football.
4 – Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Similarly, to how Derrick Henry is elevated in a standard league, Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints is a PPR favourite. If you’re incentivising receptions, this is the guy you want to draft. When Kamara was drafted in 2017, he didn’t waste any time whatsoever and he instantly became one of the most prolific receiving backs we’ve ever seen. He has had 80 receptions every single year, which is absolutely invaluable in fantasy. Some people will be asking for Kamara to get more involved in the run game, but honestly, that isn’t necessary. Throw him 100 targets and then as long as there’s 160+ rush attempts, his efficiency will do the rest. He has also more recently earned a prominent role in the red zone and he has become a serious TD threat. Last season he netted a total of 21 touchdowns. Give me Kamara fourth overall every time.
5 – Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
Here is the first pick where I’m off the consensus. Most fantasy RB rankings have the same top 4, but very few jump to Aaron Jones as the fifth. The reason I love Jones so much is because his talent shows up both as a runner and receiver. He’s one of the most balanced RB’s in the NFL and has the MVP giving him the ball, which helps. Jones has now spent two seasons as the de facto starter at Lambeau Field and he has put up some impressive numbers. In 30 starts, he has rushed for 2,188 yards as well as turning 96 receptions into 829 more yards. Add 30 touchdowns to that and you’re in business. If you want some assurance of Jones’ upside, last year he finished as the 5th highest scoring RB in fantasy and in 2019 he was the RB2 overall. If you’re drafting from the second half of the draft, target Jones for a perfect balance of consistency and upside.
6 – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Once an absolute fantasy animal, Ezekiel Elliott left a bitter taste in fantasy managers’ mouths last year. He got off to a good start through the first five weeks of the year, but then Dak Prescott got injured and the Cowboys offense got a flat tyre. While Prescott was healthy, that Dallas team was an absolute fantasy goldmine. Zeke was putting up solid numbers and would have had an infinite supply of opportunities to put up fantasy points. After the injury to Dak, things changed for everybody. For no one more than the 26-year-old RB. With a healthy QB and a fully fit offensive line (people forget they got hit hard with injuries last year, too) I expect to see a much better display from Elliott this year. In a standard league, you could honestly argue for him at 4 overall. If everyone’s healthy, his talent can take over. He had two top 5 finishes in a row in 2018 and 2019 and this year he’s poised to try and make it back into that elite range.
7 – Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
One of the most talented runners in the league, Nick Chubb is an absolute pleasure to watch. Football fans appreciate his ability as much as fantasy owners. They don’t have to experience the frustration that comes along with him, though. Chubb is an absolutely incredible half back, nobody will argue that, but he comes as part of a package. Yes, I’m referring to Kareem Hunt. The Cleveland Browns [very successfully from a non-fantasy perspective, I should add] deploy Hunt as a pass-catching threat on third downs and – the one that really annoys fantasy owners – red zone threat. Chubb will drive down the field, rushing for 75 yards and looking frankly unstoppable, and then Kevin Stefanski will call him over to the sideline and his teammate will score a 5-yard touchdown. It’s incredibly frustrating. Remove Hunt from this offense and Chubb is a top 5 pick, until then, I have him slightly on the outside looking in.
8 – Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Without a doubt the hardest player to place in fantasy RB rankings this year, in my opinion, let’s talk Saquon Barkley. This is an absolutely incredible football player, with truly unlimited potential, at the 8 spot in my rankings. The single simple reason is that I can’t guarantee he will be at 100%. There are already question marks over his availability in week 1, which is never a good start. Last year his ACL tear happened all the way back in the second week of the season. If we aren’t sure he’s definitely starting week one, that is cause for serious concern. He realistically couldn’t have had longer to recover, so if he isn’t ready, that means the pick is a little riskier than you’d like. If Saquon plays 15 games of football this year, he is an absolutely guaranteed RB1. Are you willing to take the risk and get him at a discount?
9 – Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
There are some players who hasn’t ever been considered truly elite for fantasy, but have always been a hotly contested commodity in drafts. Well, this year, one of them is rising up to the value he probably deserves. Austin Ekeler has launched himself all the way up to the early 2nd round in fantasy drafts and can you blame people? Last year Ekeler got banged up and missed some time, but he’s back and ready to return to the Chargers offense. An offense, by the way, that looks poised to absolutely take off. Last year Justin Herbert burst onto the scene out of nowhere and elevated expectations drastically. And, in the post-Melvin Gordon world, Ekeler is the true alpha. We just want to see him stay healthy and continue to feature prominently, both in the run and the pass, and he will be a great fantasy RB as he has been for multiple years now.
10 – Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
We’re finishing off with a true fan favourite pick from last year, Indianapolis Colts second-year running back Jonathan Taylor. Why is he a fan favourite, you ask? Everyone seems to love him because last year, people drafted him way higher than you should realistically draft an RB who has no clear workload, but it worked out. It paid off in the second half of the year in a big way. This season, he should have a more defined role that will get him the type of volume we want to see. A full season of bellcow Jonathan Taylor would be incredibly valuable. However, there are still too many talented RB’s to assume he will be getting the full share. Indy have a great offensive line and a solid offensive scheme, so if JT can continue where he left off last season, he’s earned the right to be considered an RB1 entering his second season. If anybody questions your pick of Jonathan Taylor, send them the highlights from Week 16, when he rushed 30 times for 253 yards and 2 TD’s.