The Running Back landscape looks much different than it did 3 weeks ago. Bell and Foster are out for the season, Forte is out for at least a game or two, and preseason studs like Lacy and Hill continue to struggle. Production from the RB spot has been extremely difficult to find for many owners, so if you are fortunate enough to own one of the elite, hold on tight!
How to Use this Column
Players will be ranked along with a quick comment regarding their most recent news. Rankings will reflect rest of season value, not just the current week. The players’ track record, most recent production and overall health will all be factored in to the ranking.
In theory, players ranked side by side should be relatively equal in value. Owners can use this list when trying to figure out whether to drop an underperforming player for a hot waiver add or use it as a tool to evaluate a potential trade.
Lastly, this column assumes standard scoring (4 point pass TD, 1 point for 25 passing yards, 1 point for 10 pass/receiving yards, no PPR). If your league uses another scoring type, you may need to adjust for differences.
Super Elite Tier: The super elite are the focal point of their team’s offense. They offer an extremely high floor due to team commitment to the run game and involvement on all 3 downs.
1. Devonta Freeman – Freeman struggled running the ball with 12 carries for 12 yards against the 49ers. He still managed 13 fantasy points thanks to 8 catches for 67 yards and a TD.
2. Todd Gurley – Gurley might be the best RB in the league. On a down week against the Vikings, he racked up 109 total yards and a touchdown.
3. Adrian Peterson – Peterson won the duel with Gurley in week 9. He amassed 143 yards and a TD on 31 total touches.
4. DeAngelo Williams – Think this is too high for Le’Veon Bell’s replacement? It might actually be too low. Williams has averaged 24 fantasy points per game over his three starts and has been the top scoring running back in the league during that span. As long as Roethlisberger only misses one game, the good times will keep rolling.
High End RB1 Tier: The players listed here are every week starters, but they lack either the high-end upside or the high floor of those listed in the tier above.
5. Lamar Miller – Miller had a monster game against the Bills with 141 total yards and 2 touchdowns. Since Dan Campbell took over, he has posted three massive lines in four tries.
6. Mark Ingram – Ingram did not have a bad game in week 8, but 96 scoreless yards were not exactly what his owners were hoping for. With Khiry Robinson out of the picture though, Ingram really only has to compete with Brees for touchdowns.
Low End RB1 Tier: Players listed here are all strong options, but they are a cut beneath the high-end running backs for one reason or another.
7. Chris Ivory – Only Freeman and Gurley have more fantasy points per game than Ivory. His owners are nervous, however, because he has failed to gain more than 53 yards from scrimmage in three straight weeks. 2 goal line plunges anchored his week 9 box score.
8. Marshawn Lynch – Lynch should be primed for a nice stretch run now that he is finally healthy. After notching 50 touches in his last two games, fantasy owners may finally see their draft day investment pay off.
9. LeSean McCoy – McCoy had a nice game against the Dolphins, but he is dinged again and Karlos Williams continues to impress. Don’t be shocked if the Bills hold him out Thursday night.
10. Darren McFadden – DMC has been one of the few bright spots for the Cowboys during their losing streak. He has averaged over 28 touches per game the last three weeks and is locked into monster workloads for as long as he can stay healthy.
11. DeMarco Murray – Murray had a monster game in week 9 with 161 yards and a touchdown. If Bradford can get the offense rolling in the second half, Murray offers elite upside for his owners.
12. Doug Martin – Martin’s epic dud against the defensively challenged Giants did not leave his owners with a good feeling. He will look to get things going again when he faces the Cowboys week 10.
High End RB2 Tier: These players all have significant questions marks, but make for nice weekly starting options.
13. Charcandrick West – West has looked impressive since flopping in his first game without Jamaal Charles.
14. Justin Forsett – Forsett has been a mild disappointment since his explosion against the Browns. Since then, he has averaged just over 70 yards from scrimmage with no touchdowns.
15. Matt Forte – The Bears claim that Forte could be back at any time and will immediately rejoin the high-end RB1 group when he does. Owners should not be counting on him any time soon, however.
16. Latavius Murray – Murray has looked fantastic lately for the up and coming Raiders. He left week 9 with what looked like a concussion, so owners may be without the bruising back for a week or two.
17. Chris Johnson – Johnson has posted back to back 100 yards games and has complete control of the Cardinals backfield. Two lost fumbles in his last game could make owners a little nervous, but they were Johnson’s first two fumbles of the season.
18. Frank Gore – Gore and the Colts showed signs of life against the Broncos. 102 total yards and a touchdown against one of the league’s premier defenses has Gore’s arrow pointing up.
19. LeGarrette Blount – Blount is a monster. He is every bit as good as Chris Ivory, but will still have games where Belichick chooses not to use his talents. Dion Lewis’ injury will not really affect Blount all that much.
Low End RB2 Tier
20. T.J. Yeldon – Yeldon has amassed over 100 scrimmage yards in three of his last four games. He has a high weekly floor because of his three down role.
21. Jonathan Stewart – Stewart’s efficiency numbers have been somewhat lacking and he does not always get the red zone carries. Still, he is the workhorse back for a very good team. The weekly ceiling for Stewart may not be very high, but the floor is.
22. Jeremy Hill – Hill has out-touched Bernard in three consecutive weeks, but he was extremely disappointing against the hapless Browns. Bernard looked more decisive and got the red zone carries.
23. Danny Woodhead – Woodhead will have a dud game from time to time, but
make no mistake, he is the running back that Rivers trusts. With all the injuries to skill players in San Diego, Woodhead should see a healthy share of touches.
24. Ryan Mathews – Mathews has been extremely productive when he has received decent touch totals. He has averaged over 10 touches per game over his last four games and has totaled 48 fantasy points over that stretch.
RB3 Tier: The players listed here are either high-end backups or low-end starters. All of them can make quality FLEX options.
25. Giovani Bernard – Gio was the Bengals best back in week 9 against the Browns. Still, his usage has been unpredictable lately.
26. Jeremy Langford – Langford is a high-end RB2 for as long as Forte is out. He looked really sharp against the Chargers on Monday night.
27. Karlos Williams – Karlos Williams is a monster. He totaled 23 fantasy points on 9 touches in week 9. If McCoy misses any more time, Williams will vault up this list again.
28. Melvin Gordon – Gordon continues to be heavily involved in the Chargers’ offense. Woodhead just seems to get all the money plays in the red zone.
29. Antonio Andrews – Andrews’ workload has increased for 3 straight weeks and he appears to be the feature back in Tennessee, at least for now.
30. James Starks – I don’t think Starks is better than Lacy, but if you had to start one, who would you pick?
31. Eddie Lacy – Lacy reached new lows in week 9 with 10 yards and a lost fumble. I am not giving up on Lacy yet, but I am not starting him either.
32. Duke Johnson – Johnson has been relatively productive due to his passing game usage. He is still the back to own in Cleveland, but he combines a low ceiling with a fairly low floor.
33. C.J. Anderson – Anderson has now outplayed Hillman for two consecutive weeks since losing his starting job. He may once again be the back to own in Denver.
34. Ronnie Hillman – Hillman managed just 1 yard on 7 carries in week 9. C.J. Anderson got 34 yards on the same number of carries. Ouch.
35. Alfred Blue – Blue is the best bet for running back production in Houston.
Quality Non-starter Tier: These backs could produce a usable total despite limited weekly touch totals.
36. Shane Vereen – It is hard to predict when Vereen will be used, but he offers plenty of upside when he is.
37. Shaun Draughn – The 49ers backfield could devolve into a messy committee, but Draughn is the man, at least for now.
38. Charles Sims – Sims gets about 10 touches per game, and there is value to be found in that.
39. Joique Bell – I am not sure who the starter is in Detroit, but Bell got most of the touches last week and actually played pretty well.
40. Matt Jones – At this point, I am not sure any Redskin is worth starting, but Jones offers the highest weekly upside as the back of the future in Washington.
41. Theo Riddick – Riddick has a low ceiling, but remains the best bet for weekly production in the messy Lions’ backfield.
42.Rashad Jennings – I don’t want any part of the Giants backfield, but Jennings is the most likely to receive useful touch totals.
43. Isaiah Crowell – Crowell actually looked good in the first half against the Bengals.
44. Chris Thompson – Thompson is the pass catching back on a very bad football team. Need I say more?
High End Handcuff Tier: These players could be top waiver claims if the starter ahead of them were to go down.
45. C.J. Spiller – Spiller was barely used in week 9, but would be the last man standing if Ingram were to go down.
46. David Johnson – Johnson has been extremely productive, but he still likely needs an injury to Chris Johnson for him to find any consistent fantasy value.
47. Tevin Coleman – Coleman has explosive upside, but almost no value for as long as Freeman is healthy.
48. Jordan Todman – Next man up in an explosive offense?
49. Carlos Hyde – Hyde has been up and down this season and is currently out with a stress fracture in his foot. Given the 49ers overall struggles, it is possible we have seen the last of Hyde in 2015.
50. Thomas Rawls – Rawls will be a solid RB2 if Lynch goes down again.
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