X’s 2015 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

For X’s Fantasy QB rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/xs-2015-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings/

For X’s Fantasy WR rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/xs-2015-fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings/

For X’s Fantasy TE rankings, click here: https://xmarksthesport.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/xs-2015-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings/

X’s 2015 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings (8/17/15):

1. Le’Veon Bell, PIT

Starting the season with a two-game suspension takes a little air out of the balloon, but Bell’s fantasy stock remains extremely high. He got the ball a lot last year, finishing 3rd in the league in carries and 2nd among RBs in receptions. Bell had 25+ touches in seven games last year. That kind of workload makes him fantasy gold.

2. Adrian Peterson, MIN

This is an aggressive ranking for a 30-year-old RB coming off of a lost season, but Peterson is the exception to every rule. He did have 21 carries in his only game last year, and there’s no reason to expect for him not to touch the ball a ton. He had double digit rushing TDs in every season before last, and after the much less talented Matt Asiata rumbled for 9 rushing TDs last year, Peterson should be a threat for another 10+ TDs in 2015.

3. Marshawn Lynch, SEA

Last year Lynch set career highs in rushing TDs (13) and receiving TDs (4), and his 17 total TDs were most in the league. His 367 receiving yards were also a career high. Losing Max Unger from his offensive line doesn’t help, and Jimmy Graham could take away a handful of red zone opportunities from him this year. Despite this, Beast Mode remains a great bet for top 5 RB production.

4. Jamaal Charles, KC

Charles is highly efficient. He has averaged 5+ yards per carry in every season he has been in the league and his career average sits at 5.5 yards per rush. His consistency and explosiveness means a moderated workload shouldn’t hold him back. Charles’ 12 receiving TDs since 2013 leads all RBs. He benefits from playing with a QB who likes to throw TDs to non-WRs.

5. Eddie Lacy, GB

Lacy has developed into a strong three-down RB, which is great news for his fantasy outlook. He was one of three RBs last year to pick up 400+ receiving yards, while averaging 10+ yards per catch. That contribution in the passing game along with his rushing workload makes him a strong fantasy commodity. His 9 total TDs over his last eight games is a promising sign of things to come.

6. LeSean McCoy, BUF

McCoy fell short of sky high expectations last year, but he still has a very bright fantasy outlook. He is the only RB to have over 300 carries in each of the last two seasons. Playing under Rex Ryan, he’ll have a shot at making it three seasons in a row with 300+ carries. It may not always be pretty, but he should be a strong volume producer.

7. DeMarco Murray, PHI

Murray will not come close to the massive 449 touches he received last year. He is still the lead RB for a high-potential offense though, and is still playing behind a strong offensive line. Murray is a natural fit in Chip Kelly’s north-south running system, and the reduced touches greatly increase the chances of getting another 16-games season out of him. Even with limited touches, Murray’s stock remains high.

8. Matt Forte, CHI

Forte doesn’t expect a repeat of his record-setting 102-reception season from a year ago, but he should still be heavily involved as a receiver. Even before last year he was averaging 56.8 catches per year for his career, so don’t expect him to disappear from the passing game. His drop from 4.6 yards per carry in 2013 to 3.9 last year is somewhat concerning, but he’s in line for enough carries to overcome some inefficiency.

9. Jeremy Hill, CIN

Hill had five games last year with at least 20 carries. He ran for 100+ yards in each of those games, and went over 140 rushing yards in four of them. As long as the Bengals remain in games, Hill will be a major part of the offense. He finished last year by picking up 395 rushing yards in his final three games. If he picks up where he left off last year, he’ll be a fantasy stud.

10. C.J. Anderson, DEN

Anderson topped 80 rushing yards in six of his final eight games last year after coming out of nowhere to seize the starting job. Gary Kubiak prefers to have a go-to RB, whether it’s Justin Forsett in Baltimore last year or Arian Foster in Houston before that. Kubiak’s workhorse RB preference along with Peyton Manning being willing to throw a little less this year both bode well for Anderson.

11. Justin Forsett, BAL

It was impossible to see Forsett’s breakout 2014 campaign coming. He picked up 1266 yards on the ground after never having a season with even half of that total in his previous six NFL seasons. Marc Trestman says the Ravens will stick with a zone running scheme, which suits Forsett perfectly. He also wants Forsett even more involved in the passing game. There will be plenty of chances to prove last year was not a fluke.

12. Jonathan Stewart, CAR

The golden opportunity has finally arrived for Stewart. In his eighth NFL season, this will be the first year he does not have to share the backfield with DeAngelo Williams. Stewart played four games at the end of last year with out Williams and had two 100 yard rushing performances in that span – his first time hitting the 100 yard rushing mark in a game since 2010. Durability concerns persist (he has missed 20 games in the last three years) but if healthy he should easily get his second career 1,000 yard season.

13. Frank Gore, IND

Old reliable Frank Gore has gone over 1,100 rushing yards in five of the last six NFL seasons. Even going into his age 32 season, he still seems to have a fair amount left in the tank. Gore’s 5 total TDs from last year were the lowest he has ever had in a season in which he played at least 15 games. That was a reflection of the dysfunction the 49ers operated in last year. He should have plenty more opportunities to score in a much better offense and with no competition in the backfield.

14. Lamar Miller, MIA

Miller enters this season as the unquestioned lead back, yet there are still some minor concerns about his workload. He never received 20 carries in any game last year and has only had one game in his career with that many rushing attempts. This won’t be an issue however if Miller can maintain his 5.1 yards per carry from a year ago. He could be in line for an expanded role if he proves he can handle it without wearing down.

15. Latavius Murray, OAK

The Raiders appear ready to feature Murray in their backfield, which should excite fantasy owners. He possesses an ideal combination of size and speed, and that was on display last year when he ran for 112 yards and 2 TDs on just 4 carries against the Chiefs in Week 12. Durability is a legitimate concern here, as he has already suffered a torn ACL and a concussion in his young career. His upside is immense when on the field, and he is worth the risk.

16. Alfred Morris, WAS

Since they entered the league together, Morris has always been a far more effective RB with Robert Griffin III under center. As a result, Morris has seen steady decreases in his yardage in each of the last two seasons after an elite rookie campaign in 2012. His lack of contribution in the passing game and the presence of rookie Matt Jones limit his ceiling. If RGIII can somehow bounce back, Morris will too.

17. Chris Ivory, NYJ

The departure of Chris Johnson should mean good things for Ivory’s fantasy outlook. While he has never been a real feature back, Ivory did receive a career-high 198 rushing attempts last year and caught more passes (18) than he had in his first four NFL seasons combined. With Stevan Ridley coming off of a major knee injury and Bilal Powell best suited as a passing down back, Ivory has a good chance of exceeding 200 carries for the first time. He can be had in most fantasy leagues at a discounted price.

18. Joseph Randle, DAL

To be clear, Randle is not DeMarco Murray. He won’t come close to the massive production Murray provided for the Cowboys last year. Randle did show flashes in limited playing time which suggest he could be an interesting fantasy commodity. He is playing behind an elite offensive line and is the lead back in what should be a highly productive office. If Dallas doesn’t add another RB into the mix, Randle should easily establish himself as the head of this committee.

19. Mark Ingram, NO

Sean Payton said he wants the Saints to be able to score fewer points to win games. That would suggest an increased emphasis on the running game in New Orleans, and trading away Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills would indicate Payton is serious. This potential change in philosophy can only benefit Ingram, who is coming off of a career year. Ingram finished last season by scoring in three consecutive games for the first time in his career.

20. Andre Ellington, ARI

Operating as a lead back for the first time, Ellington’s yards per carry plummeted from a league best 5.5 in 2013 to a dreadful 3.3 last year (5th worst in the league among qualified players). Less is more for Ellington, as fewer touches this year should keep him fresh and yield a return to his signature explosive form. His lack of goal line work puts a cap on how high his fantasy ceiling can go.

21. Ameer Abdullah, DET

At the very least, Abdullah has pulled even with Joique Bell in the Lions’ backfield pecking order. He is far more explosive than Bell, and with Bell coming off of a mildly disappointing 2014 season it will be hard for the Detroit coaching staff to keep the rookie off the field. Abdullah has the look of a big play threat and even if he is not the Week 1 starter he would be my bet to lead the Lions’ RBs in scrimmage yards this year.

22. Doug Martin, TB

Injuries and ineffectiveness caused Martin to have fewer than 1,000 rushing yards combined in 2013 and 2014. All indications however suggest that he has had his best offseason in years, and looks leaner and quicker. He’s not exactly a favorite of the coaching staff, but the Bucs don’t have a better option for a lead back. So Martin should get the majority of the carries when healthy and hopefully he’ll regain some of his 2012 form.

23. T.J. Yeldon, JAX

Fantasy owners of Yeldon may have to be patient at the beginning of the season, as he may not emerge as the leader of the backfield in Week 1. His coaches are high on him, and his understanding and ability in pass protection will earn him more playing time early. He has the potential to develop into an every down back before the season is over which makes him highly intriguing.

24. Rashad Jennings, NYG

Jennings touched the ball a lot in his first eight games with the Giants (22.5 touches per game). However, he dealt with knee and ankle injuries during the year and sputtered to a forgettable finish over the final four weeks. Jennings has the skill set to be a three-down back, but Shane Vereen’s presence will drastically cut into his passing down work. Jennings will retain the lead back job but the Giants’ backfield has morphed into much more of a committee than last year.

25. LeGarrette Blount, NE

There may not be a fantasy player who will carry more week-to-week value than Blount. The Patriots are very opponent-specific, when it comes to game plans. When they feel like they can punish the other team on the ground, Blount will have high value. When they decide to exploit the other team’s secondary, Blount’s value will fall sharply. Fantasy owners should expect a roller coaster ride, but Blount’s work on early downs and in goal line situations make him a decent fantasy asset.

26. Carlos Hyde, SF

Frank Gore’s departure means Hyde will certainly get more work than the 5.9 carries per game he received last year. Hyde should claim the majority of the early down work. The addition of Reggie Bush and the return of Kendall Hunter limit his fantasy potential. Hyde will look to build off his season best 55 rushing yards he picked up in the last game of his 2014 rookie season.

27. Arian Foster, HOU

Foster will be a complete roll of the dice for fantasy owners this year, but could pay major dividends if all goes well. His groin surgery is expected to keep him out for roughly half of the season, although there is huge variation in his timetable to return. Foster received 20+ carries in nine of the thirteen games he appeared in last year, so we know the Texans will ride him when he’s available. But with this groin surgery being the latest in a litany of soft tissue injuries for him, Foster just simply isn’t reliable.

Note: Arian Foster moved from #41 to #27 as of 9/4 due to more optimistic timetable for his return from groin surgery.

28. Devonta Freeman, ATL

Going back to college, we’ve never really seen Freeman featured in anyone’s backfield. So even though he seems to have the inside track for starting duties in the Falcons’ backfield, it’s tough to envision him getting a large workload. He has flashed good hands in the passing game which helps his case. But he will have to improve on last year’s 3.8 yards per carry to have any real consistent fantasy value.

29. C.J. Spiller, NO

In his three years playing with Drew Brees, Darren Sproles caught 232 passes – averaging 5.3 catches per game. Spiller projects to be the passing down back in the Saints’ offense, and he has a quarterback and a coach who enjoy getting the RBs involved in the passing game. He likely won’t  quite match the receiving numbers Sproles put up in New Orleans, but this was a great spot for him to land in. His recovery from recent arthroscopic knee surgery is worth monitoring.

30. Melvin Gordon III, SD

The Chargers have high hopes for Gordon long-term, but he projects as a RB who might struggle early on with his transition to the NFL. Coaches have noticed that he can be indecisive in the backfield, which may be OK in the Big Ten but not so much in the pros. He has had trouble in pass protection in camp and is sharing the backfield with a third down ace in Danny Woodhead. He can be a special runner but expectations should be tempered in year one.

31. Tre Mason, STL

Last year, Mason went from not playing in the first four games to getting 17+ touches in seven out of of the final twelve games. With highly touted Todd Gurley II still recovering from an ACL tear, the Rams’ backfield will belong to Mason to start the season. Gurley’s eventual return hurts Mason’s overall fantasy value, but Mason will be a solid player to own early on.

32. Isaiah Crowell, CLE

Crowell was part of a committee last year with Terrence West and (at least for a while) Ben Tate, but he scored twice as many rushing TDs (8) as either of the other RBs. The coaching staff’s preference for Crowell inside of the red zone gives him the upper hand in this year’s committee in Cleveland. Ball security has been a concern for him, but if he holds onto the ball he should be the #1 RB for the Browns by a slight margin.

33. Alfred Blue, HOU

Blue was last in the NFL last year in yards per carry for any player who ran the ball at least 100 times. While he should improve on his dismal 3.1 yards per rush from his rookie season, he is doubtful to be an efficient back. The good news here is the Texans will commit to the run no matter who is in the backfield. With Arian Foster out indefinitely, Blue will be a high-volume RB for at least the first month or two of the season.

34. Shane Vereen, NYG 

As he was in New England, Vereen figures to have a larger impact in the passing game than in the running game. Ben McAdoo has suggested that Vereen is not just a third-down RB in his eyes, which suggests he could be on the field with Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams split out wide. Expect Vereen to have more receiving yards than rushing as he’s done in each of the last two seasons.

35. Joique Bell, DET

Bell did run the ball more effectively in the second half of last season than the first, averaging 4.4 yards per carry over his final eight games compared to 3.2 per carry over his first seven. Disappointingly, he didn’t have any 100 yard rushing games (only hitting 90 rushing yards once) and failed to catch 50 passes for the first time since 2011. Ameer Abdullah seems to be rapidly ascending meaning Bell is unlikely to see the 257 touches he got a year ago.

36. Bishop Sankey, TEN

It’s concerning that the first RB taken in the 2014 NFL draft couldn’t distinguish himself from a crowd of uninspiring backs last year. The Titans didn’t invest heavily in the RB position this offseason, but did bring in some fresh blood in David Cobb and Antonio Andrews. The coaches and front office have to be hoping Sankey establishes himself as the lead back this year, and therefore he’ll be given every opportunity. However, there haven’t been any in-game signs to suggest Sankey will make that jump.

37. Giovani Bernard, CIN

Due in large part to the emergence of Jeremy Hill, Bernard saw fewer than 10 carries in three of the Bengals’ final four games last year. He did manage 18 receptions over that same time span. That usage rate is likely a good barometer for what to expect in 2015. Bernard is a big play threat, so he can retain some value as a backup RB if he can get 12-14 touches per game.

38. Todd Gurley II, STL

Still on the mend after finishing his college career with a torn ACL, Gurley is expected to miss at least the first couple of games of the season. It’s anyone’s guess as to when he will make his NFL debut, but expect him to be eased into the mix as the Rams take a cautious approach with their top draft pick. Gurley will be an interesting player to stash for the second half of the season, but do not expect early fantasy dividends.

39. Danny Woodhead, SD

All reports about Woodhead’s recovery from last year’s nasty leg injury have been very positive and he should be good to go. Despite Melvin Gordon III joining the backfield, Woodhead should see a significant amount of snaps. Operating in a similar role in 2013 with the Chargers, Woodhead got 11.4 touches per game. His 76 receptions and 6 receiving TDs were both 2nd among RBs in 2013.

40. Ryan Mathews, PHI

The Eagles will not run DeMarco Murray into the ground the way the Cowboys did. In an effort to keep Murray fresh and available, expect Mathews to manage at least 10-12 carries even in a backup role. Because the Eagles run a fast-paced offense and like to run the ball, Mathews (though fairly injury-prone in his own right) is one of the top handcuffs in all of fantasy.

41. Tevin Coleman, ATL

Coleman only has the unproven Devonta Freeman in front of him, so there should be playing time available for him. He was highly productive in his final year of college and has the look of a constant home run threat. Toe surgery and a hamstring injury in the offseason have brought up durability concerns, so there may be a relatively low cap for his workload.

42. Duke Johnson Jr., CLE

The advantage Johnson has is that the coaching staff in Cleveland has already spent a year having their periodic frustrations with Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. Working with a clean slate, Johnson is the favorite to be the passing down back and could carve out an even more prominent role. A training camp hamstring injury doesn’t help his early season fantasy stock.

43. Reggie Bush, SF

Nagging injuries and reduced effectiveness caused Bush to see his rushing total drop 709 yards from 2013 to 2014 in just three fewer games. Joining a backfield featuring Carlos Hyde, Bush figures to have a marginal role in the 49ers’ ground game. Bush has caught at least 40 passes in seven of his nine NFL seasons, and his presence in the passing game remains key to his fantasy value.

44. Darren McFadden, DAL

For the first time in his seven years in the league, McFadden played in all sixteen games in 2014. It took a restricted workload (less than 10 carries per game) for him to finally make it through a whole season. He has already dealt with hamstring injuries in training camp, reminding fantasy owners of his history with soft tissue injuries. Moving from Oakland to Dallas brightens his fantasy outlook, but not by a lot.

45. Matt Jones, WAS

Jones announced his presence in a big way with an impressive preseason, and could be in line for a decent amount of regular season work right away. Alfred Morris is a non-factor in the passing games (37 receptions in 48 career games), so there is an immediate path to some playing time for Jones. Given that Morris is in the final year of his rookie deal, and Jones is the pick of the new regime in Washington, Jones could force a bit of a committee situation in the Redskins’ backfield.

Note: Matt Jones replaced David Cobb at #45 due to Cobb going on short-term IR with a calf injury.

46. James White, NE

Over his last 24 games with the Patriots, Shane Vereen averaged 4.1 receptions per game for 36.4 yards while catching 6 TD passes over that span. White is the favorite to take the old Vereen role in the offense, which means his value will be more as a receiver than a runner. He is not as athletic as the departed Vereen, so the numbers mentioned earlier probably represent his absolute ceiling.

47. Denard Robinson, JAX

Surprisingly, Robinson had a three-game stretch from Week 7 to Week 9 last year in which he averaged 19 carries for 109.7 yards. He has proven he can be an effective RB in limited work, and should receive a handful of touches each game as the change of pace back to T.J. Yeldon. Robinson has also proven he can fill in admirably as a short-term lead back if the Jaguars need him to.

48. Chris Johnson, ARI

After spending all summer toiling in free agency, Johnson finally found a landing spot with the Cardinals. While his role in Arizona is largely undefined at this point, he wouldn’t have been brought on board if Bruce Arians was fully comfortable with his backfield. Andre Ellington showed last year he’s not a true “bell cow” RB, so there should be leftover snaps waiting for Johnson assuming he beats out David Johnson for #2 duties.

49. Cameron Artis-Payne, CAR

Despite a productive final year of college in the SEC, Artis-Payne doesn’t stand out as a top end athlete. He is not the most exciting prospect, but he is the favorite for the top backup spot behind Jonathan Stewart. Given Stewart’s propensity for getting nicked up, there is a decent chance Artis-Payne makes at least a start or two this year.

50. DeAngelo Williams, PIT

Williams cracks the top 50 simply because we know he will get two starts at the beginning of the year while Le’Veon Bell serves a suspension. At 32 years old and coming off of the worst season of his career, Williams will only have minimal value in deep leagues as a handcuff once Bell makes his season debut.

 

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