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Fantasy Football Roundtable: Running Backs

The Sporting News

The days of workhorse running backs carrying your fantasy team to a championship are over.

Between their situational dependence and blocking dependence, drafting running backs can be tricky. The average running back sees more touches than the average wide receiver. But running backs are much more injury prone.

The prevalence of running back committees makes the few top bell-cow running backs arguably more valuable than any other position.  However, the committees also make the difference between the average eighth and 25th best running back much smaller than the same difference in regular season scoring for wide receivers. The best advice when considering running backs is to let the draft board come to you.

Most overvalued:

Thomas Rawls - Had a nice stretch last season once the OL got their act together, but more upheaval on the OL and a completely unproven player make his draft slot way too rich for me, despite a coach that loves to run. - Yitzi Weiss

Devonta Freeman - ESPN ranks Freeman fifth among all running backs. That is a little crazy. Freeman had an unbelievable few games at the beginning of the season but tailed off dramatically afterward. - Matt Cohen

Thomas Rawls - Rawls is ranked as the tenth-best RB by ESPN. That's ahead of Lacy, Charles, and McCoy. I'll certainly pass on the rookie phenom who has a lingering ankle injury. - Nathan Beaucage

C.J. Anderson - Borderline RB1 in most rankings is touchdown dependent. He did not rush for more than 15 carries in any game last season behind one of the worst OL in the league. - Vasilis Lericos

Lamar Miller - Nice player, but is currently ranked above several higher quality players by ESPN. The Texans offensive line lost some players this offseason, so I'd stay away in the early rounds. - Jacob Louque

Most undervalued:

Latavius Murray - Ranked too low for my taste, after less proven players like Jeremy Langford and Matt Jones. After a 1000-yard season, the team bolstered their OL which is now among the top units in the league. - Yitzi Weiss

Latavius Murray - Murray has never put up crazy fantasy numbers in his career, but being ranked 20th by ESPN is way too low. The Raiders finally now look like a competitive team. - Matt Cohen

Latavius Murray - Murray quietly posted a 1,000-yard campaign last season. He's not an appealing or even very talented selection. But he has no competition and is on an offense that will give him the rock. - Nathan Beaucage

Jamaal Charles - Averaged 18 touches for better than 100 all-purpose yards per in five games before his injury last year. Regression risk is worth the 20 points per game reward earlier than the 3rd round. - Vasilis Lericos

Matt Forte - Chan Gailey got a lot out of Chris Ivory last season, and Forte is a better player. Even though he's getting a bit older, I think he is still a good for bet for over 1,000 yards and a ton of catches out of the backfield. - Jacob Louque

Safest pick:

Jonathan Stewart - You are buying him at the floor of his value and his ceiling is much higher if he can stay healthy. - Yitzi Weiss

David Johnson - Despite it only being his second season, Johnson is the safest pick of all the running backs. The Cardinals have been able to get average running backs to look like stars. Behind that O-Line, with Bruce Arians in charge, success for Johnson is all but guaranteed. - Matt Cohen

LeSean McCoy - At a position filled with uncertainty, McCoy stands as a bastion of solidity at the RB slot. A talented back in a run-heavy offense, Injury concerns are way overblown, as he has missed only eight games over the past five seasons. - Nathan Beaucage

David Johnson - Guaranteed to get touches in an efficient, high-scoring offense. - Vasilis Lericos

Adrian Peterson - Don't mess with the best. Peterson is getting a bit older, but with Teddy Bridgewater's continued development, he'll again be relied upon to carry the load. I expect him to again live up to expectations in 2016. - Jacob Louque

Biggest bust potential:

Adrian Peterson - Getting up there in age, and while he is not your typical back and may stay productive longer than is typical, at some point he will hit that age wall. I think that could be this season. - Yitzi Weiss

Devonta Freeman - Freeman will likely be drafted in the first round due to the incredible run he had last year. But his fall off is scary, and we don’t know who the real Devonta Freeman is yet. With Tevin Coleman nipping at Freeman’s heals, this isn’t a situation you can trust. - Matt Cohen

Ezekiel Elliott - This is just a risky proposition all the way around. I just can't trust a rookie running back as my first round pick. You absolutely can't have any doubts about your first pick, and Elliott is surrounded by red flags. I'm staying far away. - Nathan Beaucage

Todd Gurley - His production tapered off after an incredible start. My biggest issue is the Rams one-dimensional offense that will place a heavy workload on his body. - Vasilis Lericos

Top rookie:

Ezekiel Elliott - Will have a great season, but that doesn't change the fact that he is being drafted a bit too high for me. I buy the hype personally, but that still doesn't give him a 1st round value IMO. - Yitzi Weiss

Ezekiel Elliott - This guy was a star in college, and now gets to run behind the Dallas O-Line. He should be the first pick in a dynasty league, and a first round pick in standard leagues. He is undoubtedly a RB1. - Matt Cohen

Ezekiel Elliott - Obviously a no-brainer here. He's definitely the most talented rookie back who will the most volume of any first-year rusher. - Nathan Beaucage

Ezekiel Elliott - He is going to catch a lot of balls and post some impressive single-game yardage outputs. - Vasilis Lericos

Ezekiel Elliott - I'm buying into the hype on Elliott being worth a first round pick this season. Tony Romo is coming off injury, which gives the Cowboys all the more reason to lean on their young runner and road grading offensive line. - Jacob Louque

Biggest sleeper:

Darren Sproles - Ranked way too low. Last year he was almost fantasy relevant despite both Ryan Matthews and Demarco Murray ahead of him. Now with Murray gone, I think Sproles leaps up the chart. With a ranking of 70th RB from ESPN, you can grab him with a late round pick. - Yitzi Weiss

Devontae Booker - Booker doesn’t come with the same rookie hype as Elliott, but he goes into a Denver running back situation that is unclear. He was the best back on the roster the minute he was drafted. Take him in the late rounds, as he could work his way up to a starting role. - Matt Cohen

Carlos Hyde - Last season was a mess for Hyde, disguising his true potential. Riddled by injuries from Week 2 onward, Hyde never got a chance to showcase himself as a starter after his 168 yard, two touchdown opening week performance. Having Chip Kelly on board, with his track record of running the ball, is of course, the biggest thing Hyde has going for him. - Nathan Beaucage

Giovani Bernard - He put up 4.7 yards per carry last season with more than 30 red zone runs. Expect a shorter leash on Jeremy Hill this season and Gio to assume some of Sanu’s slot snaps. - Vasilis Lericos

Matt Jones - I like this Redskins offense, and I think Jones is ready to take another step forward in 2016, especially with Alfred Morris now out of the picture. - Jacob Louque