Rookie Ranking Fluctuations: Runnings Backs

I’ll spare you the preamble, but if you’re interested in my process when determining my positional rankings, you can find that and my QB rankings here. After sharing my Quarterback rankings, it’s time to move on to one of the glamour positions, the running backs.

Surprise! Saquon Barkley is the RB1 in this class. It wasn’t a slam dunk for me though. I’m a big-time believer in Nick Chubb’s talent. If Chubb fell in what I believed to be a better landing spot than Barkley, I’d have had no problem moving Chubb into the #1 spot. As it played out, Barkley going to New York was as good as an opportunity as anywhere for him, and he should be a fantasy producer years to come despite a questionable offensive line.

Chubb will probably be virtually worthless in 2018, at least in the early going. After next season, the Browns have an out built into Carlos Hyde’s contract. Even though Duke Johnson signed a new 3-year contract Chubb should still monopolize early-down and goal-line work. Not trying to be contrarian at all, but Chubb was very close to taking over the top spot in my rankings. I think the talent is there and don’t forget before his knee injury he was being projected as a possible generational talent.

My infatuation with Nick Chubb bumps most people’s #2, Derrius Guice into the #3 spot for me. This ranking is no by no means a knock on Guice. I merely like Barkley and Chubb more. Guice is a stud in a plus landing spot, with a chip on his shoulder after falling in the draft. I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up as the most productive back from this class looking back in 10 years.

Sony Michel is a little lower for me than most, and he fell due to my concerns over his landing spot with The Patriots. There’s nothing I can write here that would sum it up better than my tweet from draft day.

Lumped together, I have Rashaad Penny and Royce Freeman. They both climbed steadily throughout the process moving from 6th and 8th in my ranking to 4th & 5th, respectively. Although, their climb was due in no small part to other backs I initially liked more falling. They’re both talented and landed in decent enough landing spots that they have potential to be fantasy relevant from day 1.

The next tier is where I felt things started to get messy. You can start picking the names out of a hat here until we start seeing what the next group of players are doing in NFL camps. I’m higher on Kalen Ballage than most, and it comes down to his athleticism and ability as a receiver. At worst, he’ll always have a role in a passing game somewhere.

In contrast to Ballage, I’m significantly lower on Ronald Jones and Kerryon Johnson than many others. I haven’t seen anything from Jones that tells me he’s as talented as everyone else thinks he is. The same goes for Johnson. I would have liked to put them lower if I could, but they both fell into two of my favorite landing spots in this draft, and I regrettably had to bump them both up in my rankings based entirely on opportunity. But I believe both fizzle in the NFL and are potential busts for fantasy.

The remaining players are role players with a bit of upside in PPR settings, but two players that I want to mention are Jaylen Samuels and Ito Smith.

Samuels was an all-purpose back who tested with the tight ends at the combine, was drafted as a fullback and where he was going to play in the NFL was kind of up in the air. When I compiled my rankings post-draft, he was rumored to be a tight end, so he was removed from my running back rankings. Now with him back as an all-purpose back, I’d have him 7th just behind Michel. I love Samuels and his versatility and believe he is the future of the NFL. He’s a nightmare for opposing defenses presenting a matchup problem who can line up everywhere on the field and not be a liability. Few players can play fullback, running back, tight end, slot receiver and perform effectively in each role. Sprinkle in the uncertainty of Le’Veon Bell’s future, and I think he can be a star.

Ito Smith fell into a decent spot as the Falcon’s are not expected to resign Tevin Coleman after this year. Smith can slide into Coleman’s role as soon as it’s vacant. Given Devonta Freeman’s durability concerns, Smith’s skill set can be plug-n-play if Freeman misses any time as well.


Chicagoan living in Las Vegas. Fantasy Football writer & Director of In-Season Analysis for Dynasty Football Factory, blogger for USFantasy and contributor to TheFakeHockey. Member FSWA.

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