The 2019 NFL seasons is almost upon us and that means fantasy football is nearly back as well. With drafts rapidly approaching, here’s a look at our preseason fantasy football running back rankings as the season approaches.
10. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
Melvin Gordon is a home-run hitter out of the backfield for the Chargers, but he may not be with the team when the season starts. Gordon rushed for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018, while adding 490 yards and four scores on 50 receptions. That all came in just 12 games and he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and 114.6 yards from scrimmage per game.
Gordon is a huge part of the Chargers’ offense and he’s currently holding out for a new deal and has demanded a trade. If Gordon shows up, he’s one of the top dual-threat backs in the NFL.
9. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
Like him or not (I don’t), there’s no doubting Joe Mixon was a breakout fantasy star in 2018. In 14 games, he rushed for 1,168 yards and eight touchdowns, while adding 296 yards and a touchdown on 43 receptions. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry and 104.6 yards from scrimmage per game. Mixon will likely become the focus of Cincinnati’s offense under new head coach Zac Taylor, so he could see an increase in touches from the 20 per game he averaged in 2018.
The Bengals’ offensive line is a bit of a mess, but with A.J. Green out for a few weeks, the volume of touches for Mixon will help him push through it. He’s a top 10 back, with top five upside this year.
8. Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets
Thanks to his year-long holdout in 2018, Le'Veon Bell was the biggest fantasy disappointment in a decade. His decision to sit out crushed the hopes of owners everywhere. That followed a 2017 season where Bell absolutely crushed it, rushing for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 655 yards and two touchdowns on 85 receptions. Expectations are high again as he’ll certainly be the focal point of his new team’s offense.
The Jets have a bad offensive line and a weak receiving corps, and will need Bell to step up and help quarterback Sam Darnold. Jets coach Adam Gase shuffled running backs a ton as the head coach in Miami, but he’ll have to stick with Bell after the Jets sunk so much money into him. That will work to his benefit in fantasy.
7. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
James Conner stepped in for Le’Veon Bell last year and immediately paid dividends. It was an amazing story for the cancer survivor and Pennsylvania native.
The 24-year-old racked up 973 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, and added 497 yards and one touchdown on 55 receptions. An ankle sprain hampered him late in the season, but through 13 weeks, he was a top-five back in all formats. He should still be a top-tier back this season.
With Antonio Brown gone, the Steelers’ passing game could take a step back. Last year Pittsburgh led the NFL in passing attempts as the team devalued the run. That can’t be the recipe for success for the Steelers in 2019. They’ll have to lean on Conner to be successful.
6. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Will the real Todd Gurley please stand up? Gurley’s production fell off a cliff late in 2018 and during the postseason, but he still put up excellent numbers. In 14 games, he rushed for 1,251 yards and a ridiculous 17 touchdowns, while adding 580 yards and four touchdowns on 59 receptions. He was the top scoring running back in standard leagues in both 2017 and 2018, but a balky knee could limit his yardage in 2019.
If Rams coach Sean McVay opts to keep going away from his stud running back in key situations, it could crush Gurley’s fantasy value. Still, there’s a solid chance Gurley could return to being a dominant fantasy player this season. The health of Gurley’s knee is of paramount importance to his value. Monitor it closely before your draft.
5. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
David Johnson is a big-time mystery this season due to the changing dynamics in Arizona. After sitting out most of 2017 thanks to a wrist injury, Johnson returned in 2018 and to rack up 940 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, while adding 446 yards and three touchdowns on 50 receptions. While those numbers were a bit disappointing for fantasy owners but things are looking up. Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is a perfect fit for Johnson’s versatile skillset, and he can even split wide as a receiver effectively.
The Cardinals have a terrible offensive line and a rookie quarterback, so there’s some risk in selecting Johnson. That said, there’s a lot to like about his situation in Kingsbury’s offense.
4. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
If Ezekiel Elliott actually plays this year, he’ll be a fantasy monster once again. But that looks like a big “if” right now.
In 2018, Elliott rushed for 1,434 yards and six touchdowns, while also catching 77 passes for 567 yards and three more scores. He led the NFL in touches with 381, and there’s almost no way he hits that mark again. But it wouldn’t be shocking if he led the NFL in that category again. Of course, there is the small matter of Elliott being a holdout, but that’ll get worked out, right?
With Dallas’ outstanding offensive line and an offense based fully around his production, Zeke should be in another monster year. Again, this is all dependent on him actually showing up.
3. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey broke out big time in 2018 after flashing a ton of potential as a rookie in 2017. He finished the 2018 season with 1,098 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, plus 867 yards and six touchdowns on 107 receptions. He’s a fantasy machine and the Panthers have just tapped into how to use him properly.
McCaffrey was on the field for 91 percent of Carolina’s snaps in 2018 and he’ll be on the field a ton again in 2019. In PPR, he’s a monster, while in standard formats he’s still outstanding.
2. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Alvin Kamara won’t have to compete for carries in 2019, which means he could turn in another monster campaign. He finished last season with 883 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. He added 709 yards and four touchdowns on 81 receptions. With Mark Ingram gone, Kamara is in line to see his touches increase. In 2018, when Ingram was out, Kamara dominated fantasy football. He was the highest-scoring non-quarterback during those four weeks.
You could make a case for Kamara to be the top pick in fantasy football this season no matter the format.
1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
It’s Saquon Barkley’s world, the rest of us are just paying rent. The second-year star is going to be off the board quickly and will almost certainly live up to that billing.
Barkley is basically going to be the entire Giants offense. As a rookie in 2018, he rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding 721 yards and four touchdowns on a ridiculous 91 receptions. Don’t be shocked if he tops those yardage totals this season.
In 2018, Barkley was the top scoring running back in PPR and wound up being second in standard leagues. He could be the top guy in both this season.