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Fantasy Football: Pre-Draft Running-Back Rankings

2019 NFL Season

Cover The Spread 365 Fantasy Football: Pre-Draft Running-Back Rankings

Despite the many ways that the game of football has evolved, one aspect has remained constant in fantasy football: Running back is the most important position.  Another definite is that there is an abundance of talented running backs in the NFL this season. Le’Veon Bell is returning to the field for the first time in over a year, Alvin Kamara looks to add to his already elite resume and Saquon Barkley is an ascending superstar.  In this article, I attempt to rank the best potential running backs to select in the first round of your 2019 fantasy draft.

1 – Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Credit: Bleacher Report

Saquon Barkley is quite possibly the most talented running back to enter the league in the past 10 years, and he should be the first pick in all fantasy football leagues for 2019.  The sensational 22-year-old out of Penn State collected more than 2,028 yards from scrimmage in 2018, good for first in the NFL.  With that being said, Barkley plays behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and he could become an easy target for opposing defenses now that the threat of Odell Beckham Jr. has been traded to Cleveland.  However, even as a part of a struggling offense, Barkley was able to dominate and confuse his opponents in his rookie season. Draft him if he is available.

2 – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Credit: Dallas Sports News

When considering the best running backs in the NFL, it is impossible to ignore the production Ezekiel Elliott.  Zeke touched the football more than any other running back in the league in 2018 and he is expected to do more of the same this year.  It is virtually impossible to go wrong with one of the top 4-5 running backs, the crop of talent is too great. That being said, Elliott might be the safest choice given his toughness and situation behind the Cowboys’ incredibly talented front line.  Over the course of his 3 seasons in the NFL, the 2-time Pro Bowler has averaged 4.7 yards per carry, 8.9 yards per reception and 11.3 touchdowns per 13.3 games. If Elliott can keep his energy directed towards on-field affairs, he should have many opportunities to post big numbers in 2019. 

3 – Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Credit: Clutch Points

After a relatively quiet rookie season, Christian McCaffrey exploded onto the scene in 2018, leading many experts to list him as a top-four fantasy selection this year.  McCaffrey is an extremely dynamic football player who prides himself on his ability to do whatever his coaches ask of him. In just his second season in the NFL, the 23-year-old out of Stanford led all running backs in receptions with 107, catching the 8th most passes in the entire league.  Despite reports that the Panthers might limit his workload this season, McCaffrey remains one of the most versatile players in football and is poised to put together another stellar campaign in 2019.

4 – Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Credit: Sporting News

In just two seasons, Alvin Kamara has undoubtedly become one of the most valuable players in the NFL.  What makes him so great is his unique ability to produce elite fantasy numbers without dominating the football.  The former Tennessee Volunteer has finished as a top 5 fantasy running back in 2017 and 2018 despite playing in a pass heavy Saints offense and splitting time with backfield running mate, Mark Ingram. Now that Ingram and the Saints have parted ways, there is a possibility that Kamara could dominate fantasy football in 2019, mimicking Todd Gurley’s fantasy explosion from last season.  However, Kamara will not be backed up by 5-year veteran, Latavius Murray, who might take away from Kamara’s red zone touches.

5 – Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers

Credit: ESPN

Melvin Gordon has finished as a top 7 fantasy running back in each of the last 3 seasons, but he has only played 1 full season during that span.  While he is not a superstar talent like Barkley or Elliott, Gordon is simply one of the safest bets there is in terms of consistent production.  Since the 2016 season, the 26-year-old has rushed for 4.3 yards per carry and 9.3 touchdowns in 13.6 games per year. His situation in San Diego will provide him with a healthy offensive workload and he finds his way into the end zone as well as any player in the NFL. 

6 – Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets

Credit: Bleacher Report

Le’Veon Bell is FINALLY returning to the football field after possibly the most widely publicized hiatus in modern day sports.  Although, Bell and Jets fans alike could be in for a rude awakening once teams take the field in September. “We’re not in (Pittsburgh) anymore” (for all the Wizard of Oz fans).  The 3-time Pro Bowler will be playing in a much worse offense, that features an inexperienced quarterback, less talented receivers and a much weaker offensive line. In any case, just like the 5 other running backs on this list, Bell will definitely get his fair share of touches in 2019.  While it is easy to see Le’Veon’s talent and poise in the backfield, it is difficult to determine just how productive he will be as the centerpiece of a low-scoring offense.