Fantasy Football: Top 10 Running Back Rankings for the 2016 Off-Season

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Today, I’ll be continuing my series on the top fantasy players in football. We’ll be focusing on the running back position, which is extremely interesting heading into 2016. There’s plenty of familiar names on the list; what’s most interesting is how owners will draft. Will they be skittish after the RB position was completely destroyed by injury in 2015? Will they still try to lock up a stud back and cross their fingers? Owners will have to be ready to adjust their strategy draft day.

1, Le’Veon Bell Pittsburgh Steelers- Bell gets the nod over all other RBs for two big reasons- he is in the highest functioning offense and his receiving skills. With QB Ben Roethlisberger, WRs Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, Bell is a rare  work horse back that isn’t the singular focal point of the offense. His route running out of the backfield is without equal. Provided he hits training camp ready to go from his latest knee injury, he is worth the risk as the number one back.

2. Todd Gurley Los Angeles Rams- Todd Gurley was everything owners hoped he would be in 2015. Even though Gurley was a rookie and returning from a torn ACL, he finished third in rushing yards. This included missing five full games. He was also one of five RBs who had double digit touchdowns. The Rams do have major questions at the QB spot, and lack reliable weapons otherwise. It speaks to the talent Gurley is as a player to have him this high. If he adds receptions to his skill set, he may be the run away best RB in fantasy.

3. Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings- Peterson led the league in rushing, but also led the league in rushing attempts by a whopping 39 attempts with 327. That’s a lot to ask for a 30 year old. The Vikings will certainly look to improve the receiving corps around Stefon Diggs, as QB Teddy Bridgewater has little to work with right now. Peterson was a bit more feast or famine than most people realize. He had seven games where he finished with under 70 yards rushing. Even with the downside, Peterson is still locked in as a top five RB.

4. David Johnson Arizona Cardinals-  Johnson emerged late in the 2015 season after injuries to his fellow RBs Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson. He proved that he was by far the superior back out of the three. In the five games he was started, he also added 17 receptions. He recorded over 90 yards rushing every time he logged 15 attempts or more. Fumbles were an issue, but the coaching staff saw the potential that Johnson possessed. Although the track record is very short, Johnson could be a fantasy monster in 2016 with QB Carson Palmer and WR’s Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd.

5. Doug Martin Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Martin returned to being a top tier back in 2015, starting all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season. Critics may point to the fact he eclipsed 100 yards four times. However, he was playing with a rookie QB in Jameis Winston. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and WR Vincent Jackson both missed significant time, allowing defenses to key in on Martin and WR Mike Evans. As of this writing, Martin is primed to be a free agent and may not be back in Tampa. Wherever he ends up, he will be a key building block to fantasy teams.

6. Thomas Rawls Seattle Seahawks- With the retirement of mainstay Marshawn Lynch, Rawls will have a featured role in a high end offense. QB Russell Wilson and WR Doug Baldwin found another gear in the second half, and WR Tyler Lockett will only continue to get better. Rawls will be coming back from a significant ankle injury, which could give potential owners pause on draft day. Rawls exceeded 75 yards in every game he started and finished except for one. Rawls didn’t show much as a receiver as of yet, but even if he can be 80 per cent of Lynch, Rawls is easily a top 10 RB.

7. Jamaal Charles Kansas City Chiefs- While Charles did tear an ACL for a second time in his career, his floor when healthy is just too good to pass up. His rehab will be something to watch throughout the offseason. There is also concern with how playing time would be split between Charles, Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. This could be the lowest drafted Charles has been in years. It is also the highest risk Charles has had in around three seasons. Charles should still be able to return to his all world form unless he suffers a setback over the summer.

8. Devonta Freeman Atlanta Falcons- Freeman was the surprise of the fantasy world early in the season, exploding onto the scene with nine TDs in his first four games started. He also racked up a ridiculous 695 total yards. In his other  nine games started and finished, he scored five TDs and 939 total yards. Working alongside of WR Julio Jones and QB Matt Ryan should keep Freeman among the top 10-15 RBs in 2016. Owners drafting him expecting his insane production will be disappointed. The smart owners will understand where Freeman should be drafted.

9. Mark Ingram New Orleans Saints- New Orleans used Ingram as their main back in 2015, and he was on pace for nearly 1,600 combined yards before a shoulder injury ended his season. Many expected fellow back C.J. Spiller to take away many of the pass catching opportunities. Ingram responded by shattering his career high in receptions by 21, totaling 50 in just 12 total games. Returning Head Coach Sean Payton, QB Drew Brees and emerging wideout Brandin Cooks will help Ingram continue to be a top 10 RB in 2016.

10. Eddie Lacy Green Bay Packers- The Green Bay offense was average to flat out bad through 2015, and Lacy was the face of those struggles. Lacy went from reliable top five RB to fantasy heartbreaker in short order. Not only did he suffer the worst season of his career, he was put on blast after the season by Head Coach Mike McCarthy for being very overweight. Why is he ranked, you ask? The Packers get WR Jordy Nelson back, Lacy should be embarrassed by the organization, and is in a contract year. Lacy has all the motivation in the world to come into training camp in great shape. He has to understand his career is in the balance this season, and that is a recipe for success in 2016.

 

The running back position as a whole is evolving for fantasy purposes as more and more teams go running back by committee. True workhorse backs are hard to come by. Owners will have to decide if they’re still worth the risk with high picks in 2016.

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