- With Washington’s release of Adrian Peterson, Antonio Gibson vaults to 24, and Bryce Love moves into the top 60. Peterson’s addition to Detroit knocks D’Andre Swift (32) and Kerryon Johnson (43) down a few notches.
- Josh Jacobs moves up to 10 with encouraging signs that the Raiders will, in fact, give him a bigger role in their passing game.
- Leonard Fournette gets about as soft a landing as he could have hoped for, after getting cut by Jacksonville only to sign with a much better offense in Tampa Bay. It may take a couple of weeks for him to get acclimated to the Bucs’ system, but Fournette should get chances on early and passing downs, as well as at the goal line, in a good offense, so he settles in at 25. Ronald Jones plunges to 35, despite Bucs Coach Bruce Arians’s proclamation that he’ll at least start the season atop the depth chart. Both Fournette and Jones got bumps upward Friday after Tampa Bay released Dare Ugunbowale.
- I’m keeping Alvin Kamara at 4 on the assumption that his contract situation will be worked out and he won’t be traded by the Saints, but I wouldn’t blame you for passing him up at that spot until we get more clarity. In a related development, Latavius Murray moves up to 37.
- The Chiefs’ Clyde Edwards-Helaire moves up to No. 5, on the strength of glowing reports that bolster confidence he’ll have a very large role.
- Fournette’s release by the Jaguars has Jacksonville’s Chris Thompson rising to 49 and teammate Ryquell Armstead to 52.
- The fantasy stock of Philadelphia’s Miles Sanders has taken a bit of a hit, as he reportedly has suffered some sort of lower-body injury, although it might not be serious.
- James Conner of the Steelers stays put at 15, but he has moved up in my overall rankings from a mid-third-round pick to deserving of late second-round consideration.
- The Colts’ Jonathan Taylor jumps up to 17, even though recent reports that he’s having trouble catching the ball don’t bode well for a large role in the passing game. However, the Colts project to have leads in many games, giving Taylor chances to show off his remarkable talent running the ball.
- Le’Veon Bell tumbles to 27, and I’m tempted to go even lower, although it’s not really his fault. The Jets just look like they’re on their way to a terrible season, and they also appear intent on giving Frank Gore a significant share of the backfield work.
- David Montgomery’s groin injury knocks the Bears player down to 32.
- The Chiefs’ Darrel Williams lands in the RB4 range with indications that he might have a bigger role than some expect.
Keep in mind that things can and will continue to change rapidly, particularly in the event of injuries, new developments with the novel coronavirus pandemic and/or personnel moves. Thus I’ve embedded my overall rankings at the bottom, which will update frequently between now and the start of the regular season.
Note that I am defaulting to half-PPR scoring, so feel free to adjust players up or down a bit for standard or full-PPR formats.
1. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers (bye week: 13)
History tells us McCaffrey is no lock to repeat as the top-scoring RB, but if you’re thinking of taking anyone else at No. 1, you’re overthinking it. He was the dominant player at the position in 2019, and with changes at quarterback, in the receiving corps and coaching staff, Carolina could have a better overall offense this year.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (10)
Dallas’s offense also appears set to take another step forward this season, which would give Elliott a great chance of equaling or bettering his career high of 16 touchdowns. He had 14 last year and although his receptions dropped from 77 to 54, there’s no doubting his central role in the Cowboys’ attack.
3. Saquon Barkley, Giants (11)
Potential growing pains for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and a young offensive line could be exacerbated by the NFL’s coronavirus-related virtual offseason. That’s really the only reason to have even a slight concern that the ultra-talented Barkley might not enjoy a monster campaign.
4. Alvin Kamara, Saints (6)
Lower-body injuries that chipped away at Kamara’s uncanny efficiency last season led to a somewhat disappointing campaign. While it’s exciting to think of what he again could do at full strength, it’s also worth considering that his tackle-shedding style could contribute to a slow decline in his skills that reminds us that RBs tend to have short stays at the top. For this year, though, there’s little reason to worry that Kamara will be anything but a major part of one of the league’s elite offenses.
5. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs (10)
When Damien Williams opted out, the reaction of the fantasy community proved that you can’t spell “hysterics” without C-E-H. Edwards-Helaire is a first-round pick with what suddenly appears to be a clear path to a full-time workload in a Patrick Mahomes-led attack,and even though he’s not a physical freak in the Barkley mode — or the Jonathan Taylor mode, for that matter — he should benefit from a steady stream of high-quality touches.
6. Dalvin Cook, Vikings (7)
Cook is not holding out of training camp, much to the relief of everyone who is considering drafting him. But until he signs a contract extension there remains the possibility that he might stage some sort of work-related action to protect his long-term interests. Combined with his injury history, that’s just enough to ever so slightly ding an excellent all-around back on a run-first team who might otherwise push for top-two consideration.
7. Derrick Henry, Titans (7)
If it’s pretty neat that Kamara has caught exactly 81 passes in each of his three seasons, it’s fairly unnerving — at least from a PPR-league perspective — that Henry has caught just 57 total in four seasons. The 2019 rushing leader’s receptions have increased each of the past three years, for what it’s worth, and he’ll be playing for the first time without a veteran complement such as DeMarco Murray or Dion Lewis as the obvious choice on passing downs.
8. Joe Mixon, Bengals (9)
Let’s try this again, shall we? A popular pick to move into the upper tier among RBs last season, Mixon instead got off to a horrific start, averaging a microscopic 3.17 yards per carry and limping to RB32 status through his first eight games. The second half of the season (unfortunately including a Week 17 eruption that came waaaaay too late for most of owners) was a vastly different story, and it’s a reasonable bet that the guy who was the RB5 from Week 9 on more closely resembles the Mixon we’ll get this year.
9. Kenyan Drake, Cardinals (8)
Liberated from a Dolphins organization that never seemed to believe he could be an alpha back, Drake took that role and literally ran with it after a midseason trade to Arizona. He remains in that position, give or take some touch siphoning by Chase Edmonds and rookie Eno Benjamin, while the Cards should be more dangerous this season with the addition of WR DeAndre Hopkins and continued growth from QB Kyler Murray. Recent reports that Drake has been in a walking boot re definitely concerning, but beat writers for the team seem confident that he’ll play in Week 1.
10. Josh Jacobs, Raiders (6)
The only RB taken in the first round of last year’s draft, Jacobs showed it wasn’t a wasted pick by the team formerly based in Oakland. To make the leap into the upper echelon of fantasy RBs, he will have to greatly increase his pass-catching role (20 receptions as a rookie). It didn’t bode well that the Raiders gave an extension to third-down back Jalen Richard and used a third-round draft pick on a versatile athlete, Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden, but the latter was recently traded away to Miami.
11. Miles Sanders, Eagles (9)
An injury to Jordan Howard was just what Philadelphia’s second-round pick last year needed to show what he could do, resulting in an RB4 showing for Weeks 11-16. Howard is in Miami these days and wasn’t really replaced in Philly, leaving Sanders ample opportunity to show off his three-down skill set.
12. Nick Chubb, Browns (9)
One of the league’s best ball-carriers, Chubb would be ranked much higher were it not for the pesky presence of Kareem Hunt, himself a highly talented back who ate into Chubb’s touches last year once he was activated from an eight-game suspension. There should be enough work to go around this season on a team that likely will try to play a ball-control style under new coach Kevin Stefanski.
13. Aaron Jones, Packers (5)
So how much playing time, exactly, does Green Bay plan on giving second-round pick A.J. Dillon? The bet here is that he’s more of a threat to displace Jamaal Williams as the Packers’ No. 2 back. Although Dillon could contribute to a big drop for Jones from the 19 touchdowns he scored last year, Jones will remain the team’s clear top back in 2020.
14. Austin Ekeler, Chargers (10)
No one is overlooking this undrafted Western State (Colo.) product anymore, and after he torched defenses while Melvin Gordon was holding out last season, the Chargers let Gordon go in free agency. The team also waved bye-bye to dump-off pass aficionado Philip Rivers and its offense could look a lot different (not to mention worse, quite possibly) with Tyrod Taylor or, at some point, first-round pick Justin Herbert at QB.
15. James Conner, Steelers (8)
It was just two years ago that Conner finished as the RB6, and after a disastrous 2019 for Pittsburgh’s offense, Ben Roethlisberger and his surgically repaired elbow are back to right the ship. It’s not hard to envision Conner returning to a workhorse role, but it seems equally likely that the Steelers will use their depth at RB to see if he can get through a full season for the first time in his career.
16. Chris Carson, Seahawks (6)
Even with the signing of Carlos Hyde and the drafting of another RB, DeeJay Dallas, in the fourth round, Carson is “the guy,” as Hyde put it, in Seattle. Rashaad Penny is lurking, but he likely won’t be able to contribute until midseason as he recovers from major knee surgery, while Carson looks to expand his role in the receiving game (37 catches in 2019).
17. Jonathan Taylor, Colts (7)
I’m mostly assuming that rookies will take longer than usual this year to get up to speed, and Taylor has an incumbent starter in Marlon Mack with whom to contend, as well as a passing-downs specialist in Nyheim Hines. But, man, Taylor looks like a special prospect. He also gets to run behind a top-notch offensive line, and based on Vegas win totals for 2020 (via Warren Sharp), the Colts have by far the easiest schedule this year.
18. Melvin Gordon, Broncos (8)
In giving Gordon a two-year, $16 million contract with $13.5 million fully guaranteed, Denver is clearly expecting to get the player who was a top-10 fantasy back from 2016 through 2018. Gordon can be expected to slot in as the Broncos’ lead back, with Phillip Lindsay more likely to spell him on early downs than in passing situations.
19. Todd Gurley, Falcons (10)
To those with enough nerve to pass up a RB in the first couple of rounds, Gurley may look like an extremely tempting roll of the dice. With Gurley coming off a 14-touchdown season with the Rams and seemingly without significant competition in his first year in Atlanta, it could just be a matter of how well his iffy knees hold up.
20. David Johnson, Texans (8)
No one apart from Bill O’Brien thought the trade that sent Hopkins packing and brought in a possibly washed-up Johnson was a good idea, but the opinion of the Houston coach/GM is really the only one that matters. As such, Johnson figures to get touches to spare, both on the ground and through the air.
21. Mark Ingram II, Ravens (8)
Baltimore spent a second-round pick on J.K. Dobbins to eventually replace the 30-year-old Ingram, but it probably won’t happen this year (rookies, virtual offseason, rinse, repeat). Ingram may be in his 10th season, but after not being heavily used early in his career he showed no decline in 2019, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 9.5 yards per reception. He’s as good a bet to score double-digit touchdowns as anyone left at this point in drafts.
22. Raheem Mostert, 49ers (11)
The 49ers reacted to Mostert’s trade demand in July by sweetening his existing contract. While Coach Kyle Shanahan prefers a spread-the-wealth backfield, Mostert is set to cement his status as first among equals. The team doesn’t have quite as many mouths to feed after the offseason trade of Matt Breida, although Mostert and Tevin Coleman could cede passing-downs work to Jerick McKinnon.
23. Kareem Hunt, Browns (9)
After serving an eight-game suspension to start his career in Cleveland, Hunt was immediately worked into the offense, getting double-digit touches in his first six games. He ended up as the RB19 over that span, and for the cost of a mid-round pick this year, Hunt offers a tantalizing combination of a reasonably safe floor and a massive ceiling if Chubb gets hurt.
24. Antonio Gibson, Washington (8)
When Ron Rivera and Washington drafted Gibson with a third-round pick in April, the coach compared him to Christian McCaffrey, who flourished under Rivera in Carolina. In fact, McCaffrey rode a heavy, immediate role in the passing game to an RB11 finish as a rookie in 2017, so it’s hard not to get excited about what Gibson might do. The major difference is that McCaffrey was far more accomplished as a runner and as a football player overall, but this ranking for Gibson may well look too conservative in about a month’s time.
25. Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers (13)
26. Cam Akers, Rams (9)
27. Le’Veon Bell, Jets (11)
28. James White, Patriots (6)
29. J.K. Dobbins, Ravens (8)
30. Phillip Lindsay, Broncos (8)
31. David Montgomery, Bears (11)
32. D’Andre Swift, Lions (5)
33. Devin Singletary, Bills (11)
34. Zack Moss, Bills (11)
35. Ronald Jones II, Buccaneers (13)
36. Jordan Howard, Dolphins (11)
37. Latavius Murray, Saints (6)
38. Tevin Coleman, 49ers (11)
39. Tarik Cohen, Bears (11)
40. Matt Breida, Dolphins (11)
41. Boston Scott, Eagles (9)
42. Chase Edmonds, Cardinals (8)
43. Kerryon Johnson, Lions (5)
44. Alexander Mattison, Vikings (7)
45. Darrel Williams, Chiefs (53)
46. Tony Pollard, Cowboys (10)
47. Marlon Mack, Colts (7)
48. Duke Johnson, Texans (8)
49. Chris Thompson, Jaguars (7)
50. Nyheim Hines, Colts (7)
51. Darrell Henderson, Rams (9)
52. Sony Michel, Patriots (6)
53. A.J. Dillon, Packers (5)
54. Darrynton Evans, Titans (7)
55. Joshua Kelley, Chargers (10)
56. Devine Ozigbo, Jaguars (7)
57. Malcolm Brown, Rams (9)
58. Damien Harris, Patriots (6)
59. Bryce Love, Washington (8)
60. Benny Snell Jr., Steelers (8)