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Running Back Tiers - Footballguys

A look at the 2018 running back landscape through the lens of tiers

Running back is getting more top-heavy than ever with the increase in RBBC approaches and larger roles for role playing backs (especially backs who excel as receivers). This makes getting your cornerstone back pick in the first or second round even more important, and hitting on a later pick or two crucial to having a successful fantasy season. How do the tiers and order within tiers break down in this ever-changing landscape at running back?

UBERstud

Don’t overthink the #1 pick. Nothing has changed in Gurley’s situation and while his 2017 was monumental, projecting a large regression in his production is unfounded. The #2 pick is a different story. 2016 David Johnson was actually a more productive fantasy back than 2017 Todd Gurley (yes, look it up). Of course, the 2016 Cardinals offense is a lot better than even the most optimistic projection of the 2018 offense, but Johnson should remain central no matter the game script because of that. Elliott is fourth, but if Scott Linehan realizes that the back is actually one of the best answers to filling the huge vacuum in the passing game, Elliott could get target numbers closer to the other three backs in this tier, although his offense could take a step back if the passing game doesn’t come together. He’s the clear #4 in this group.

ELITE WITH LIMITED TRACK RECORD

There’s an argument for Kamara to be the fifth member of the elite tier in PPR leagues. Some have reservations because of how efficient he was last year, but remember that he was eased in for the first three games and also left a game early with a concussion. Even if the team doesn’t work him more with Mark Ingram II out for four games, Kamara can still equal his league-winning 2017 while absorbing a step back in efficiency. Don’t sweat regression, higher than average efficiency is the name of the game in the Saints offense for a long time running. Invest in the mid-first with confidence. The gap between Kamara and the uberstuds grows in .5 PPR and especially non-PPR leagues.

STRONG RB1

This the the group that will get snapped up in the second half of the first round of most drafts. Consider yourself lucky if any of these guys are there for you in the second. Gordon is first because he is set up for a huge touchdown season with Hunter Henry out, he proved himself as a very good receiver out of the backfield last year, and the offensive line should be improved. He also has the best chance to join the uberstud tier this year. The Vikings backfield was one of the most productive in the league without Cook for most of the year and their quarterback play should be improved. He’s an easy #2, with absolutely no hitches so far in his return from ACL surgery. Fournette’s injury worries keep him third, but still above the allure of the unknown in Barkley. Fournette will produce a ton as default as Jacksonville’s #1 back, and he’s dropped some weight, always a good sign. Still, the Jaguars have two quality backs for him to share with, something no other back in the top nine has to contend with. He certainly has a skillset and talent to fit in the uberback tier, but Jonathan Stewart looms to vulture a touchdown or three, and we can’t assume Mike Shula will able to realize the considerable potential in the Giants young skill player core with Eli Manning at the helm and mixed track record in Carolina. Barkley is often going first in this tier, which feels too optimistic, especially after he suffered a hamstring injury before the season. Cook is the value pick.

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