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Regular Season, Updated: 9/6/16

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 David Johnson, ARI (Bye: 9)
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 224   DOB: 1991-12-16   Age: 25
College: Northern Iowa   Draft: 2015 Round 3 (22) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2015ARI16125 581 8 36 457 4 175.8 11.0
2016 (Projected)ARI 236 1,086 10 66 545 3 241.1  

Outlook: One of fantasy football’s biggest breakout stars, David Johnson can be largely credited with winning a lot money for fantasy owners in his rookie season of 2015. Johnson started the behind both Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson in the Arizona backfield, thus making him a late-round option if he was even drafted at all, but he now heads into the 2016 season as a potential first round fantasy selection despite a mixture of coachspeak and varying opinions by beat reporters on the expected workload split from all three backs.

The most likely scenario involves Johnson shouldering the load in what should again be one of the league’s most high-powered offenses. He figures to have plenty of opportunities to put up big fantasy numbers once again. He quietly led the entire league in fantasy points per touch (among running backs who played 50% or more of their team’s snaps) and should be in line for somewhere between 250 to 300 touches in 2016. That kind of workload in this offense gives him the realistic possibility of finishing as the highest-scoring running back in all of football.

 Lamar Miller, HOU (Bye: 9)
Height: 5’10”   Weight: 212   DOB: 1991-04-25   Age: 26
College: Miami   Draft: 2012 Round 4 (2) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2013MIA16177 709 2 26 170 0 99.9 6.2
2014MIA16216 1,099 8 38 275 1 191.4 12.0
2015MIA16194 872 8 47 397 2 186.9 11.7
2016 (Projected)HOU 275 1,265 9 53 416 1 228.1  

Outlook: Lamar Miller has logged over 240 touches in each of the past two seasons while not missing a game in three years. That is the type of durable plow horse the Texans have desired since Arian Foster became the NFL’s most fragile starter a few years back. Despite carrying a 4.5 YPC in 2015, the Dolphins only allowed Miller 15 rushing attempts in a game five times all season. The Texans won’t be afraid to let their new Clydesdale run wild and that means all kinds of goodness is waiting for a fantasy owner who remains open to taking a running back in the first round. As a result, Miller is one of most hotly debated fantasy commodities coming into the 2016 season. The added production Miller can provide in the passing game and the efficiency he's displayed the last two years (.76 FPts/touch) sets him apart from his peers. His potential touchdown yield is where the most risk lies with drafting Miller in the first round. Houston knows Alfred Blue can do the grunt work and they may decide to let him do just that near the goal. Keep a watchful eye on Blue’s usage and effectiveness in short-yardage situations during the preseason and be ready to adjust your rankings accordingly.

 Adrian Peterson, MIN (Bye: 6)
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 217   DOB: 1985-03-21   Age: 32
College: Oklahoma   Draft: 2007 Round 1 (7) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2013MIN14279 1,266 10 29 171 1 209.7 15.0
2014MIN121 75 0 2 18 0 9.3 9.3
2015MIN16327 1,485 11 30 222 0 236.7 14.8
2016 (Projected)MIN 297 1,366 10 33 214 1 224.0  

Outlook: Alien from another galaxy, ancient Greek god, or just an ageless wonder on par with Betty White (or the Egyptian pyramids maybe), Peterson once again displayed his trademark bullish running style as he led the NFL in rushing in his return from season long exile. The year off left AP fresh and ready to run, and boy did he! His looked like his vintage self, even at the ripe old age of 31, as he put up one of the best statistical seasons of his career. The 1,485 yards were the 3rd best of his career, and the 11 touchdowns marked the eighth time he’s scored double digit touchdowns. Even more impressive is that he finished 2nd overall in running back scoring with only 30 catches and an uninspiring 222 yards receiving.

The reception total is about the only blemish on an otherwise remarkable year. Peterson’s value could skyrocket if he could become a true dual threat, but despite the press clippings about involving him in the passing game more, I’m afraid it might not happen. Peterson dropped only 1 of the 36 targets thrown his way in 2015, but he’s had tremendous problems holding onto the ball, as evidenced by a crippling fumble in the playoff loss to the Seahawks. Despite spitting into the face of father time, it is still in the Vikings best interest to limit his touches as much as possible to keep him fresh. The Vikings offense has relied on short, safe throws, and Peterson’s catches are mostly simple dump offs. Aside from occasional screens, the Vikings running backs in general aren’t called on often in the passing game. Keep this in mind in PPR leagues. In standard leagues I see no reason for a serious regression from AP. He looks as quick and strong as ever despite his punishing running style. He should, and will be one of the first backs off the board.

 Todd Gurley, LAR (Bye: 8)
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 222   DOB: 1994-08-03   Age: 22
College: Georgia   Draft: 2015 Round 1 (10) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2015STL13229 1,108 10 21 188 0 189.6 14.6
2016 (Projected)LAR 278 1,281 9 32 245 1 212.6  

Outlook: Perhaps the biggest breakout fantasy star of the 2015 season, Todd Gurley may already be the top running back in all of fantasy football as he heads into his second season as a pro. Gurley missed the first two games of his rookie season and played minimally in his third game as he was recovering from a knee injury that he sustained in college. In Week 4, the Rams unleashed the beast. Gurley ripped off four straight games of 128 or more rushing yards and would finish the season as the third-highest scoring running back in the league on a per-game basis.

We’ve seen Gurley’s all-world talent, but he’s in an offense that is among the very worst in the league. Question marks all around him including at the quarterback position where the Rams will start the season with a rookie or a veteran QB who has proven he just isn’t very good – either way, it’s never good to have the defense so focused on the running game. Then again, it won’t be much different from 2015.

Gurley is the only player in this offense who should be on your fantasy radar, but he’s well worth a first round selection and it wouldn’t be hard to justify him being a top five pick in any scoring format. The Rams ran the ball 14th-most in the league in 2015 and that should increase if the Rams can be competitive in more games.

 Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Bye: 7)
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 225   DOB: 1995-07-22   Age: 21
College: Ohio State   Draft: 2016 Round 1 (4) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2016 (Projected)DAL 260 1,145 9 37 271 1 201.6  

Outlook: The Cowboys used a high draft pick on a running back despite having holes all over the defense, which likely means they plan to use Ezekiel Elliott heavily this season. Elliot finished his career at OSU with 3,961 yards and 43 touchdowns also catching 58 balls and leading the Buckeyes to a national championship. At 225 pounds he possesses 4.47 speed with elite strength and balance. He’ll be running behind one of the best run blocking lines in the game, making him a viable early round pick despite being an “unknown”. The Cowboys have been a machine moving the ball on the ground, ranking 12th and 3rd in run/pass ratio the last two seasons and even excelled with Darren McFadden last year without the support of a legitimate passing game. Elliott is a complete back and arguably the best blocking and receiving back on the team so he should be used as a true workhorse. Fantasy owners are excited by his prospects and rightfully so as their hasn’t been a rookie runner that’s combined the levels of talent, situation and opportunity in quite a while, and it’s not unfathomable to see him leading the league in rushing and scoring double digit touchdowns. There will be many fantasy leagues where the rookie is selected in Round 1.

I would be remiss not to mention the recent police report filed against Elliot by his girlfriend alleging domestic abuse. While there is reportedly some evidence that will show the allegations are manufactured, at the present time we simply do not know the true story. Keep an eye out for the latest news on that subject and adjust accordingly.

 Le'Veon Bell, PIT (Bye: 8)
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 244   DOB: 1992-02-18   Age: 25
College: Michigan State   Draft: 2013 Round 2 (18) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2013PIT13244 860 8 45 408 0 174.8 13.4
2014PIT16290 1,361 8 83 854 3 287.5 18.0
2015PIT6113 556 3 24 136 0 87.2 14.5
2016 (Projected)PIT 198 910 7 51 375 3 188.5  

Outlook: A lost season bookended by a suspension and a devastating knee injury leave this former fantasy darling in an interesting place. While his talent and dual threat role in a high powered offense gave fantasy owners visions of Marshall Faulk, Bell could certainly be the latest poster child for the fragility of running backs in the NFL. Injuries, especially to knees, can turn all-pros into also-rans in short order. Bell’s game is predicated on patience and quick twitch speed and agility, and should he lose any measure of quickness or power he could quickly become a fantasy cast-off.

All reports of his recovery have been positive, as earlier this spring he tweeted a video of himself dunking a basketball in explosive fashion. And while dunking a basketball is a far cry from outracing linebackers, or pushing a 600 pound pile of grown men, Bell’s rehab seems to be right on track. Bell employed some high tech medical therapy (blood flow restriction therapy) in order to enhance the rehab of his knee injury. A therapy originally used to treat injured war veterans, Bell seems to be enjoying a successful return from his torn MCL. He participated in individual drills during OTAs, and coaches and teammates continue to expect Bell to be as good as new come Week 1.

With the dearth of difference making dual threat running backs in the NFL, Bell is certainly worth the risk in the 1st round of fantasy drafts. DeAngelo Williams is sure to siphon some work away from Bell in an effort to keep him fresh, but I haven’t seen anything that tells me it will be enough to drop Bell from the top 5 at his position.

 Devonta Freeman, ATL (Bye: 11)
Height: 5’8”   Weight: 206   DOB: 1992-03-15   Age: 25
College: Florida State   Draft: 2014 Round 4 (3) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014ATL1665 248 1 30 225 1 59.3 3.7
2015ATL15264 1,061 11 73 578 3 247.9 16.5
2016 (Projected)ATL 206 887 8 59 445 2 193.2  

Outlook: In 2015, the Falcons reminded the fantasy community just how valuable a running back can be if given the opportunity to shoulder the majority of carries. Devonta Freeman outpaced all other fantasy horses despite barely reaching the 1000 rushing yard plateau. Tacking on an additional 73 receptions, three touchdowns and over 500 receiving yards pushed him ahead of the pack in only his second season. Unfortunately, Freeman’s terrific results are not enough to keep NFL coaches from using more than one running back in today’s offenses. This sentiment rings truer when the team employs another talented and capable running back. Tevin Coleman seems to have carved out a role as the team enters 2016. How expansive that role is remains to be seen.

Freeman’s status atop the depth chart won’t change due to Coleman, but his usage could take a hit now that the Falcons know what they have in the backfield. Additionally, the running game should get a boost if Alex Mack can solidify the offensive line. Mack is a Pro-Bowl caliber road grader when healthy. Combined with Jake Mathews and Andy Levitre, the left side of the line should provide the running game with ample room to maneuver. Considering the success Freeman experienced with last season’s o-line, he has a good chance of posting another stellar fantasy season even with a decline in overall touches.

As is always the case with the top fantasy players from the season prior, Freeman is amongst the first players taken in early 2016 drafts. The real question as to whether he is a top five fantasy running back or simply a lower tier RB1 will depend on how the team chooses to divide the carries while keeping Julio Jones active in the passing game. Even with reduced touches, his opportunity and production in the red zone (most carries inside the 20 by a RB last season) keeps him in true RB1 territory.

 Mark Ingram, NO (Bye: 5)
Height: 5’9”   Weight: 215   DOB: 1989-12-21   Age: 27
College: Alabama   Draft: 2011 Round 1 (28) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2013NO1178 386 1 7 68 0 51.4 4.7
2014NO13226 964 9 29 145 0 164.9 12.7
2015NO12165 767 6 50 405 0 153.2 12.8
2016 (Projected)NO 188 848 8 52 366 2 181.4  

Outlook: For a player who has notched YPC of 4.9, 4.3 and 4.6 over the past three years, Mark Ingram has yet to be the fantasy beast he resembles. The Saints tried to limit the pounding he took last season by giving him more than 15 carries only five times (out of twelve games played). To offset those touches, Sean Payton utilized his top runner more in the passing game to a resounding success. Ingram’s prowess as a pass catcher saw his reception total hit 50 without playing a full season. The talent and opportunity to produce RB1 numbers is undeniable, however his health woes cannot be overlooked. He’s missed at least three games in all but one of his five years as a pro and went over the 100-yard rushing threshold only once in 2015. Nonetheless, even risk-averse owners may want to take a chance on the enormous upside. Ingram is now entering his prime and rates as a top ten fantasy running back when healthy in all formats. He has virtually no competition to take over his starting job and plays in an offense that loves to rush the ball inside the red zone. His injury history will push him down draft boards and smart Ingram investors will add roster protection through the use of a handcuff or complementary depth at the position.

 Eddie Lacy, GB (Bye: 4)
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 220   DOB: 1991-01-01   Age: 26
College: Alabama   Draft: 2013 Round 2 (31) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2013GB15284 1,178 11 35 257 0 209.5 14.0
2014GB16246 1,139 9 42 427 4 234.6 14.7
2015GB15187 758 3 20 188 2 124.6 8.3
2016 (Projected)GB 250 1,098 7 31 248 1 182.6  

Outlook: Listen, the wheels came off this Green Bay offense in all phases of the game in 2015. Anyone who invested heavily in Green Bay players last year probably didn’t fare very well, and that certainly applies to Lacy owners. Lacy, whose first two years in the league put him on an impressive trajectory, completely and utterly stunk in his third season. The Alabama back packed on weight, looked slow, was benched for stretches of the season, and finished as a meek RB2 despite finishing in the top-10 his first two years in the league. He lost nearly all of the passing game work, catching only half as many (20) than Starks (43). The combination of being a dual threat, and a goal line back previously gave Lacy such a high floor. Scoring only three touchdowns on the ground, and catching only 20 more passes than me wasn’t a recipe for success. But can Lacy rebound and not only help this Green Bay offense, but his fantasy owners as well?

The answer is a resounding “maybe”. Running backs, more than any other position in football, crash and burn with alarming frequency. Injuries take their toll, and a guy who runs with a punishing style like Lacy needs to stay in top physical form. All indications are Lacy is significantly trimmed up, but how long with that last? I also think it’s telling the normally financially stingy Packers resigned Starks for a few million a year, a number that tells me he’s more than a caddy for Lacy. I honestly think the Packers lost some faith in their young runner, and he’s going to have to work hard to get it back. There is some risk here for a guy coming off a very poor season, but he’s got top-5 talent, and if this offense gets back on track, Lacy could return some tremendous value. Don’t reach for him, but if falls in your lap, take the chance, as most of the top running backs come with serious question marks anyway.

 C.J. Anderson, DEN (Bye: 11)
Height: 5’8”   Weight: 224   DOB: 1991-02-10   Age: 26
College: California   Draft:
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2013DEN27 38 0 0 0 0 3.8 1.9
2014DEN14179 849 8 34 324 2 177.3 12.7
2015DEN15152 720 5 25 183 0 120.3 8.0
2016 (Projected)DEN 225 1,014 7 37 285 1 177.9  

Outlook: With the deterioration of Peyton Manning’s health on full display toward the end of the 2014 season, most believed that the Broncos would lean heavily on their running game in 2015, which would make their starter – C.J. Anderson – a hot commodity in fantasy circles. Anderson’s price peaked right about in the middle of the fantasy draft season this past year, which meant that he was being taken as early as a top 5 overall draft pick in some leagues. Most of us knew the risk was there, that Anderson was perhaps not the player that we saw near the end of 2014 when he was one of the most efficient backs in the league, but few of us could have projected the misery that Anderson would cause his fantasy owners throughout the season, when he finished the year with just 720 yards and five touchdowns.

The positive for Anderson is that while he was one of the most horrendous and impactful fantasy disappointments of the 2015 season, he did produce acceptable numbers toward the end of the season, including the playoffs. While that information is hardly a consolation prize for those who were burned by Anderson on draft day, it does give us some insight as to how the Broncos view their backfield heading into 2016.

It appears that the job is primarily going to be Anderson’s, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that he is going to be getting 300 touches. Ronnie Hillman and perhaps other players in this backfield will see some playing time, if for no other reason than to keep Anderson healthy for the long run, and that could limit his upside particularly early in the season. He won’t cost nearly as much as he did a season ago, but Anderson presents about the same upside that he did in 2015 when he was a first round fantasy pick. The return on investment has a much better chance of being there in 2016.

 LeSean McCoy, BUF (Bye: 10)
Height: 5’11”   Weight: 208   DOB: 1988-07-12   Age: 28
College: Pittsburgh   Draft: 2009 Round 2 (21) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2013PHI16314 1,607 9 52 540 2 280.7 17.5
2014PHI16314 1,319 5 30 155 0 177.4 11.1
2015BUF12203 895 3 32 292 2 148.7 12.4
2016 (Projected)BUF 245 1,077 6 42 312 1 180.9  

Outlook: The Bills made a big splash last off-season trading for Philadelphia’s starting running back and immediately offered him a big contract extension. McCoy showed some flashes of his 2013 form, but just like his last season with the Eagles he was a mild disappointment in Buffalo. At times he looked inferior to his rookie backup Karlos Williams. When it was all said and done, McCoy missed four games and finished the season with only 895 rushing yards and 32 receptions for an additional 292 yards with 5 total touchdowns. Despite a down season, McCoy still managed to finish as a solid RB2.

This off-season McCoy was involved in a bar room brawl that sent two off-duty police officers to the hospital, but after a thorough investigation he will not face charges, and is unlikely to see any league discipline. McCoy just turned 28, and while he’s on the right side of 30, he looks like he may have peaked in 2013 under Chip Kelly. He sat out the final two weeks of the 2015 season with a torn MCL, but that shouldn’t present any issues for 2016. The Bills’ offense will surely present a heavy workload for McCoy, even with Karlos Williams coming on as a rookie and the team drafting another talented back in Jonathan Williams out of Arkansas. The Bills finished second in rushing attempts last season and could very well lead this league this year. McCoy hasn’t been much of a touchdown threat (5 total last year) and that shouldn’t won’t change anytime soon. Karlos Williams excelled last year in the redzone and QB Tyrod Taylor (19) had almost as many runs inside the 20 as McCoy (20) did. If he stays healthy and the Bills offense improves in its second season with Greg Roman, it’s not out of the question that McCoy could squeeze into RB1 status if he finds the endzone a few more times, but more than likely his ceiling is capped as an RB2.

 Jamaal Charles, KC (Bye: 5)
Height: 5’11”   Weight: 199   DOB: 1986-12-27   Age: 30
College: Texas   Draft: 2008 Round 3 (10) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2013KC15259 1,287 12 70 693 7 312.0 20.8
2014KC15205 1,039 9 40 291 5 217.0 14.5
2015KC571 364 4 21 177 1 84.1 16.8
2016 (Projected)KC 189 905 7 38 289 2 173.4  

Outlook: Always a fantasy juggernaut, Jamaal Charles was off to a great start once again in 2015 as he had already accumulated 541 total yards and five total touchdowns by the end of Week 5. Unfortunately, it was in Week 5 when Charles once again broke the hearts of Chiefs fans and fantasy owners everywhere when he tore his ACL for the second time in his career. There aren’t many NFL running backs who’ve come back from torn ACL’s and picked up right where they left off by dominating the league, but Charles is definitely a player who did just that. He missed nearly the entire 2011 season before coming back in 2012 and setting a career high in rushing yardage with 1,509 yards. Now 29 years old, however, Charles is at a substantially higher risk for not being able to return to peak condition.

The concerns with Jamaal Charles are two-fold in that, he might not be fully recovered and thus may not be the dominant force that we once remembered him being. But in addition to that, there is a growing worry that the Chiefs might give into the current NFL trends and turn their backfield into a much more split by-committee approach. Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware are not the physical beasts that Charles is, but they showed in 2015 that they are capable of producing serviceable numbers as a duo. Even if Charles remains healthy, they might cut into what has typically been one of the highest workloads of any back in the league. Still, Charles presents the kind of upside that is rare to find in Round 2 and would be the ideal complement to an elite WR should fantasy owners opt to go in that direction in Round 1. Even if he doesn’t get back to producing high-end RB1 numbers, his usage should at least allow him to finish in the range of an RB1.