Making the Case for Dynasty Number One: Running Back (Not named Saquon Barkley)

One of the great aspects of dynasty fantasy football is how the format lends itself to debate. When ranking players, you can choose to base it on short-term vs. long-term windows, on their ability or based on their situation. Free agency is over, and the NFL Draft just around the corner and now is a great time to take stock of our top-ranked dynasty players at each position. Today we’ll continue or series with running backs. If you missed the quarterbacks you can go here.

Caleb Peirson (@DFF_Pierson) – Todd Gurley

At this time last year, or even around week eight of 2018, this section would have been called “Running Backs (not named Todd Gurley)”. After a down year in 2016, Todd Gurley exploded in 2017, finishing as the highest scoring running back and jumping to the top spot in all dynasty rankings. He ended the 2017 fantasy playoffs with three massive performances, carrying his fantasy teams to championships everywhere. He started off 2018 no differently, and was the highest scoring running back on the year following his week 15 performance.

This is where things have gone down hill for Gurley. Gurley would go on to miss weeks 16 and 17 of the season and owners began to panic. Things began to look normal again as he rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown in the Rams first playoff game of the year. After this he would all but disappear, and now with the rumors swirling that he has arthritis in his knee, the dynasty community seems to be forgetting about Todd Gurley.

Not me however! Until i see definitive news concerning him, I am buying low on Gurley wherever I can! Gurley is on one of the league’s most explosive offenses that also features one of the league’s best coaches. In the past two years Gurley has combined for 40 touchdowns and over 3,900 yards from scrimmage. The leagues leader in fantasy points per game for all running backs the last two years, Gurley is still the back to own. He is in a much safer offense than Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliott, has a proven track record, and is just 24 years old. It is to early to panic on the dynasty RB1!

Shane (@DFF_Shane) – Christian McCaffrey

After McCaffrey turned in an RB12 season with 14.3 per game in 2017 perhaps you thought it was a good time to sell high. Maybe you convinced yourself that he’s still too small to carry the full-time workload in the NFL. Or maybe you convinced yourself there was no way he could ever duplicate what he did in his rookie season. If so divert your eyes now.

McCaffrey improved on his rookie season and finished as the RB2 (tied) on a per game basis scoring 24.1 points per game in 2018. In every statistical metric imaginable McCaffery took huge leaps from 2017 to 2018.

The most glaring jump was his increased snap share from 72.4% to 94.5%, but a close second would be the increase in rushing attempts from within the five-yard line. In 2017 McCaffrey saw two rushing attempts inside the five and in 2018 that spiked to twelve attempts (scoring six touchdowns). Touchdowns can be fluky but going through Pro Football Reference, you’ll notice that the names of the players receiving that type of usage are pretty sticky year to year.

Another sticky stat is targets. McCaffrey was targeted times his rookie year and his 124 led all running backs in the 2018 season. This last stat is just for fun. Did you know that McCaffrey had more 20+ fantasy scoring weeks last year than not? He had 11 weeks with more than 20 points including three 30+ weeks and a 40 point week to boot. The only week he failed to score at least 13.6 points was Week 17 when the Panthers having been eliminated from the playoffs only gave him the ball four times.

Robert Wilson (@TheFFGator) Alvin Kamara

I may be completely crazy for saying this, but I would legitimately consider taking Kamara at the top spot….ahead of Saquon Barkley. Before you jump all over that consider this: no team in the NFL has produced more fantasy points at the running back position than the Saints over the last three seasons. We saw a glimpse into what Kamara could do as the top dog when Mark Ingram was suspended last year, and what a beautiful glimpse it was. Anyone who thinks Latavius Murray is a threat to his workload must’ve been ignoring Latavius Murray play football the last few seasons.

Kamara is only 23 years old, he makes his living in the passing game and plays for a head coach who has historically produced fantasy studs time and time again. Kamara is by far the most talented player Payton has ever had in his backfield and with Ingram’s departure, there’s a good chance we see his true ceiling in that offense. He’s explosive, a great receiver out of the backfield and most importantly – plays for a dynamic offense. He’s one of the only players on this list that we can make that claim for (with Gurley as the exception). We’ve seen poor offensive schemes limit the upside of talented players, and sadly that looks to be the case for Barkley in New York. Kamara has an incredibly high floor in PPR formats and his ceiling is exceptional because of the touchdown opportunities he will see in Payton’s offense.

Zeke has a lot more tread on his tires, McCaffery will never be able to withstand a full workload for multiple seasons, and we all know the health risk that comes with Gurley. Kamara is the safest player by a mile and we will never have to doubt game script or scheme issues like we will with Barkley. If you play in a dynasty league and you own Saquon Barkley, I would strongly consider getting Kamara plus other assets in exchange. If you have a top-five pick in a startup draft, you should be excited beyond words if Alvin falls in your lap.

 

2Drink (@FL2drinkMinimum) – Ezekiel Elijah Elliott

Make the case for the crop-top wearing, crazy cereal eating, America’s team running back? Too easy. Last year he totalled two thousand one yards from scrimmage in 15 games (did not play week 17 at the Giants) with a 4.7 yards per rush on 304 rushing attempts. Six touchdowns on the ground last year is less than you wanted, sure, but he did contribute 3 touchdowns in the receiving game. Speaking of catching the ball, 95 targets went his way last year, and he pulled in 77 of them which more than exceeded his first two years in the league (58). Fifty-two of those receptions for 392 yards came after the Amari Cooper trade. Were you just thinking, ”Yeah but Dak Prescott didn’t have anyone to throw to before Cooper got there?” False! Only 4 games last year he totalled fewer than 109 total scrimmage yards and all those came before Cooper landed in Dallas. Pre-Cooper average of 113.4 total scrimmage yards and Post-Cooper at 168.7 total scrimmage yards per game.

All this ended with a finish of RB2 in most scoring formats on the year and happened without the all-pro center Travis Frederick. There’s now the possibility of him returning to the field which could only help the Cowboys offense in general. I think I failed to mention that he will only be 24 years old this season. Little crazy to project his Post-Cooper numbers out, but for only 15 games again that would total 2530 total scrimmage yards, whoa! Pretty sure I just won this case.

Sam Terry (@DFF_sbt1030) – Joe Mixon

Once again yoked with the last pick, I get the one player I nailed last season: Joe Mixon. His breakout was relatively easy to see coming. He had talent galore, but a coach that notoriously hated rookies. In his rookie season, even with veterans ahead of him and the aforementioned coach, Mixon had 208 touches for 913 yards and 4 touchdowns. The following year they cut him loose with 280 total touches for 1,464 yards and 9 TDs. That’s right, with only 72 more touches, he amassed 551 more yards and over double the touchdowns. His efficiency has been great and it only looks to get better.

Is anyone sold on Andy Dalton as the franchise quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals? There have even been conjectures that the Bengals will draft a quarterback in the first two days of the draft if the right one were to fall. Given all that, there’s a real possibility that Cincinnati leans on the running game this year. If they are behind, MIxon will still be on the field; he had 43 receptions on 55 targets last year for a 78% catch rate (per pro-football-reference.com). He is a do-it-all back who will see increased usage for a team that may not favor their QB. I called the breakout last year, I’m calling the domination this season.

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