Whole Nine Sports

Top 15 Fantasy Football Running Backs

Saquon Barkley
Thomas DiNapoli
Follow Thomas on Twitter @TNaps37
Follow Whole Nine Sports on Twitter @WholeNineSports

The workhorse. The bellcow. If you haven’t noticed, we’re talking NFL Running Backs here. What is one of the most, if not the most important position in fantasy football. Running backs are  the hardest to draft especially after the top tier. Have no fear, the top 15 is here.

Fair warning, some of the material may seem familiar from the Top 25 Fantasy Players of 2019 articles, but that’s just the nature of the beast. Running backs produce points, so therefore a lot of these players cracked that list too. With not much new information coming out and the numbers staying the same from last season, the analysis remains.

Saquon Barkley Fantasy

1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Not only is he the best Running Back, but he’s the best player in fantasy football. As stated before, the Giants offense will run through him. With no more Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon will be the guy, whether it’s Jones or Eli under center. Another thing is that this is Saquon’s backfield. Despite what you think of the Giants offense, they will score, and when they do Saquon will have a large part in it. He’s the best option on the goal line, as the Giants figured out last year with the failed Jonathan Stewart experiment. While all this makes sense, he had over 90 receptions last year, 10+ touchdowns, and over 2,000 yards. He was the top scorer amongst Running Backs. The numbers speak for themselves.

Ezekiel Elliott Fantasy

2. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

While he was 5th in fantasy points among Running Backs last season, Zeke will make a jump this year. Another “numbers speak for themselves” stat. In 2018 Dallas had a 6-1 record when Zeke rushed for over 100 yards and a mere 3-5 record when Zeke was under 100. If the Cowboys are smart, they’ll feed Zeke. Also, if they don’t want to pay Dak, they should get the ball to Zeke too make Dak look less valuable. Zeke had more yards than Saquon and an impressive 75+ receptions. He only had 6 touchdowns in 2018, which shows that Dallas may want to throw for touchdowns rather than hand it off. Either way, you can’t go wrong with Zeke.

Alvin Kamara Fantasy

3. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Fourth in fantasy points in 2018 behind Todd Gurley, Kamara will jump up a spot. No Mark Ingram means even more touches and receptions. Kamara put up better numbers in 2018 than he did in 2017 with more yards, more touchdowns, and a consistent 81 receptions. With Drew Brees getting older too, it has to be nice to finally have a great run game to lean on. He may not have a huge 40 point game, but in terms of consistency, Kamara is the real deal.

Christian McCaffrey Fantasy

4. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Second in fantasy points last year McCaffrey is a machine. He had over 1,000 yards rushing and over 100 receptions in 2018. Also, he is the primary running back and the most consistent receiver in the offense. If you’re in a full PPR format league, McCaffrey may jump up to number 3 on your list. But with the Panthers expectations not too high, the offense could struggle to score points. McCaffrey had a combined 11 touchdowns in 2018 and there’s no reason to expect any worse than that. The concern is now that opposing defenses will target him as their number one concern, passing and running, so he can take a step back. He’ll still produce though.

Melvin Gordon Fantasy

5. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers

Contract disputes. Uh oh. Let’s look at the numbers. He was 8th in scoring among running backs in just 12 games. Do not worry too much about Ekeler. That could actually help Gordon stay healthy for a full season. Gordon averaged 5.1 yard per carry in 2018, and had 10 rushing and 2 receiving touchdowns. Whoever he plays for, he’ll be a beast.

Todd Gurley

6. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

Third in fantasy points in 2018, Gurley shows he’s still got it. Problem is, CJ Anderson showed that the Rams Offensive Line has a lot to do with that success. That can mean the Rams try to work in  their new playmaker rookie Darrell Henderson a little more. Gurley had 17 touchdowns in 2018 and will most likely still get the goal line carries. Gurley should have another 1,000+ yard season but, don’t be surprised to see Gurley’s usage go down.

Le'Veon Bell Fantasy

7. Le’veon Bell, New York Jets

It is going to take a little time to get back into the swing of things for Bell, but one would have to imagine that the Jets will run a plethora of plays tailored to Bell. Bell’s success will lead to Quarterback Sam Darnold’s. The Jets are paying Bell so much, financially they Jets almost have to give him the ball 20+ times a game. Also, no one is really taking snaps from him. He also adds value as a great pass catcher. There will be some buyer beware, but at this point, he’s the biggest name on the board. In 2017, Bell had 9 rushing touchdowns, 2 receiving touchdowns and rushed for almost 1300 yards. Bell won’t complain about usage with that ticket he just signed. Again, buyer beware, but how can you pass up on him with the right value?

James Conner

8. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell’s replacement in Pittsburgh made a lot of people very happy on the waiver wire in 2018. He finished 6th among Running Backs in fantasy points in 2018. In 2018, Conner just missed 1,000 yards. In 2019, he’ll get over that number with ease. He also showed versatility with 55 receptions and 13 combined touchdowns. is a very good season. Remember,  he didn’t even play all 16 games, he only played 13.  With him having the keys to the backfield, expect even more touches. It would be a very Mike Tomlin thing to try and prove a point that they don’t need Bell so, Conner will get a huge workload.

Joe Mixon

9. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Just cracked the top ten in points scorers in 2018. We’re getting into split backfields here but, Giovanni Bernard is just is not as good as Mixon and shouldn’t vulture too many carries away from him. Mixon had 8 touchdowns and over 1,400 yards in just 14 games last season. He’s wonderful value for the middle to end of the second round. He has a new Head Coach in Zac Taylor was the Rams quarterbacks coach last season, as well. His eyes saw that Goff, while limited, is very good when the run was established. Expect to see Taylor trying to feed Mixon to get Andy Dalton going.

David Johnson

10. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

Believe it or not, DJ finished 9th in fantasy points in 2018. Not bad for the worst offense in 2018. A new coach and a new Quarterback should only benefit him. Between his great 2016 season and his bad 2018 season, he only carried the ball 35 less times. He is the focal point in the desert.

Nick Chubb

11. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

In his rookie season, with Hue Jackson as his coach for some of it, and being the back behind Carlos Hyde for a while, Chubb was just four yards under 1,000 for the season. He also had 8 touchdowns to go with it. Chubb is a in a loaded offensive, but this team is going to score. As prolific as their pass catchers are, the pass should be set up by the run in Cleveland. Chubb is going to be a breakout star.

Devonta Freeman

12. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons

The two-time pro bowler spent the 2018 on the shelf. Entering his age 27 season in 2019 Freeman has plenty of value. His 2017 season saw a dip in production, but this is 2019 and there’s no Tevin Coleman to take away touches and receptions. In 2015 and 2016 he had 1,000+ yard rushing seasons and 11 rushing touchdowns in each. Freeman used to be on the top of everyone’s charts. WHile he may not be there, he’s going to have a bounce back year.

Leonard Fournette

13. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

Another player plagued by injuries in 2018, 2019 will be an interesting season for Fournette. Let’s not forget his very good 2017 season. He rushed for just over 1000 yards, 9 rushing touchdowns, and 36 receptions. Injuries are always going to be a concern, but he’s the best playmaker in Jacksonville. Nick Foles works well off the run, and Fournette is their lead guy. Expect him to return to his rookie form.

Dalvin Cook

14. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

This guy can’t seem to stay on the field, but his ceiling is so high. The Vikings offense is a little bit of a question mark, but Kirk Cousins should look to hand the ball off. Cook has a career 4.7 yards per carry, showed an ability to catch the ball with 40 reactions in 11 games. The fear is he’ll be the Zach Wheeler of fantasy. All the potential in the world, but just can’t seem to put it all together at once. But Wheeler had a career second half of 2018, so if you’re a Cook owner, hope he goes on the run he’s more than capable of.

Damien Williams

15. Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs

The new guy in KC. Last season, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Once he got the starting duties he did not disappoint. He had over 4.6 yards per carry in all three games, and in two had at least 6 receptions. He’s the guy in Kansas City, and while they are not a run first team, we all saw how great their offense was when Kareem Hunt was featured. There’s no reason Williams won’t get the chance to shine.

Fantasy Football RBs

Honorable Mention: Patriots Running Backs

If you get the right one in right week, you’ll look like a genius. Sony Michel seems like the goal-line guy, while James White and Rex Burkhead are more receiving backs. That said, the Patriots do alternate series with their Running Backs, so you may have to be luckier than good. The Patriots do use their running backs a lot as White was 7th among scoring. Once one got touches, he reaped the benefits (as I did as he was on my fantasy team. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I won one of my leagues last year.). If you have room, grab a Pats RB.