Summary: Tier-one running backs are the most valued commodities in fantasy football and will likely comprise six of the top-seven picks in most 2018 drafts, with Antonio Brown somewhere mixed in. Gurley’s every-down ability was unlocked in Sean McVay’s 2017 offense, leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,093) and TDs (19). Among running backs, only Kamara (826) logged more receiving yards than Gurley’s 788. Bell has been the NFL’s premier workhorse since entering the league. He’s averaged 27.5 touches per game over the past two years and set a career high with 85 receptions in 2017. Johnson has the “fresh legs” narrative after missing almost all of last season with a broken wrist. Elliott’s suspension is behind him, and he paced the NFL in rushing yards per game in each of the last two seasons. Kamara’s role will likely grow in year two. The Chiefs want to involve Hunt in the passing game more after pulling him on third downs and in two-minute situations for Charcandrick West last year.
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Summary: Tier-two backs are capable of scoring at or near the same levels as tier-one RBs but carry more risk. Held below 4.0 yards per carry in each of his first three seasons, Gordon has compensated for sub-par efficiency with less-bankable touchdown scoring and lost 2017 snaps to Austin Ekeler. There have been indications the Chargers could add a running back in the draft. McCoy turns 30 in July, and Buffalo’s 2018 offense looks anemic on paper. A David Johnson-level talent, Barkley’s outlook will be impacted by his landing spot. I would love to see him slip to the Bucs at No. 7. Fournette’s ankle problems have lingered for two seasons, costing him playing time and effectiveness.
Summary: These are theoretically role-secure backs with tier-one upside but circumstances that threaten their reliability. Freeman remains the Falcons’ clear lead back, but his usage dipped in Steve Sarkisian’s first year as OC, and it can’t help that Freeman spent almost the entire year banged up. Ingram’s touches will likely dwindle in favor of Alvin Kamara, but Ingram maintains lofty TD upside. Particularly in best-ball leagues, I’m more than willing to take Ingram in the third round. Same goes for McCaffrey, the clear-cut leader in a Carolina backfield that cut loose Jonathan Stewart. The Bengals sound committed to featuring Mixon over Giovani Bernard. Cook was outstanding in 2017 before tearing his ACL in Week 4. McKinnon landing as Kyle Shanahan’s probable lead back is a SPARQ enthusiast’s dream. All of these guys will end up as no worse than fifth-round picks in re-draft leagues.
Summary: Tier-four backs offer probable job security and upside to vault to RB1 levels if they get positive injury luck and beat out their competition. Howard is one of the NFL’s most underrated early-down rushers, but he can’t catch the ball. How many snaps per game Howard loses to Tarik Cohen will go a long way toward determining Howard’s value, but either way it’s at risk. Hyde offers TD upside behind a solid line with a dual-threat QB, but he will lose passing-game work to Duke Johnson. Drake averaged 118.8 yards from scrimmage per game from Weeks 13-17 last year, but the Dolphins seem intent on adding a back in the draft. On tape, Guice reminded me of Ezekiel Elliott without the passing-game polish. Guice has been going in the fifth and sixth rounds in early drafts. Lewis and Henry will share work, lowering their ceilings but maintaining their value as fifth- and sixth-round picks in best-ball leagues. The Eagles are expected to draft a back to push Ajayi. Burkhead scored eight TDs in ten games with the Pats last year. Coleman is locked into 9-12 touches per game and becomes a league winner if Devonta Freeman goes down.
Lamar Miller (RB26) > Marshawn Lynch (RB27) > Alex Collins (RB28) > Jamaal Williams (RB29) > Aaron Jones (RB30) > Bilal Powell (RB31) > Duke Johnson (RB32) > Isaiah Crowell (RB33) > C.J. Anderson (RB34) > Sony Michel (RB35) > Tarik Cohen (RB36) > Marlon Mack (RB37) > D’Onta Foreman (RB38) > Chris Thompson (RB39) > Devontae Booker (RB40) > Wayne Gallman (RB41) > Theo Riddick (RB42) > Giovani Bernard (RB43)
Summary: Tier-five running backs are good bets for 2018 playing time, but the extent of their snaps isn’t yet determined. Miller was on the verge of losing his starting job to Foreman before Foreman tore his Achilles’ in Week 11. Williams and Jones will battle for the Packers’ running back position. Jones was more explosive as a rookie, but Williams showed workhorse potential by averaging 20.4 touches over the Packers’ final eight games. Powell and Crowell will fight for playing time, and I prefer Powell as a mid- to late-round pick due to his superior versatility. The Raiders showed commitment to Lynch by paying him a $1 million roster bonus, but Doug Martin, DeAndre Washington, and Jalen Richard are on the roster. Collins will have to hold off Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon. Anderson and Booker will go at it, and Cohen will put pressure on Jordan Howard in a Bears offense that’s likely to incorporate spread concepts. Mack, Gallman, and Thompson offer pass-catching value and currently sit atop weak running back depth charts. Michel is a probable second-day pick. Riddick and Bernard are catch-first backs whose teams must find niche roles to incorporate their dynamic passing-down ability.
Nick Chubb (RB44) > Samaje Perine (RB45) > Chris Carson (RB46) > James White (RB47) > Rashaad Penny (RB48) > LeGarrette Blount (RB49) > Matt Breida (RB50) > Ty Montgomery (RB51) > Corey Clement (RB52) > Ronald Jones (RB53) > DeMarco Murray (RB54) > Royce Freeman (RB55) > Jonathan Stewart (RB56) > Austin Ekeler (RB57) > Latavius Murray (RB58) > DeAndre Washington (RB59) > Ameer Abdullah (RB60) > Frank Gore (RB61) > Buck Allen (RB62) > C.J. Prosise (RB63) > Darren Sproles (RB64) > Peyton Barber (RB65) > Doug Martin (RB66) > Adrian Peterson (RB67) > T.J. Yeldon (RB68) > Elijah McGuire (RB69) > James Conner (RB70) > J.D. McKissic (RB71) > Jalen Richard (RB72) > Kenneth Dixon (RB73) > Jacquizz Rodgers (RB74) > Rod Smith (RB75) > Corey Grant (RB76) > De’Angelo Henderson (RB77) > Joe Williams (RB78) > Robert Turbin (RB79) > Mike Gillislee (RB80) > Chris Ivory (RB81) > Spencer Ware (RB82) > Jeremy Hill (RB83)
Summary: This is a group of potential 2018 contributors whose roles are to be determined. Penny is one of my favorite rookie backs in the draft and could be a post-draft riser. He is a double-digit-round pick at present whose stock could rise into the earlier rounds. Perine has a real shot to win the Redskins’ feature back job, but he struggles in the passing game and got worse the more he played as a rookie. Any of these backs could vault a tier via injuries elsewhere on the depth chart. They are fringe draft picks we need to mention and monitor.
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