Expect plenty of running backs to be taken in the first round of your fantasy football draft, especially in leagues that use a point-per-reception, or PPR, scoring system. The first five picks in aggregated 12-team PPR mock drafts have been running backs, as have 10 of the first 12 selections.

That’s nothing new. But who is the right call at No. 1?

It’s not very complicated. Eight players expected to be first-round picks were selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2,281 fantasy football mock drafts (12-team, PPR leagues) occurring in a three-day stretch of mid-August. Here are those players, ranked from least risky to most risky. Risk is determined by how likely the player is to end the season as the top player at his position, which is, of course, the best possible outcome for a No. 1 overall pick.

For example, the consensus rank for Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey is somewhere between the No. 1 and No. 3 best running back. However, 80 of 88 experts surveyed by Fantasy Pros project McCaffrey as the best fantasy running back of 2020. Not bad odds for the first selection in the draft.

Indeed, McCaffrey has never missed a game, is just 24 and is responsible for more than half of the Panthers’ rushes and catches since his rookie season in 2017. His risk is limited, and his upside is immense. We give him an overwhelming chance of being the top-scoring running back this season.

Our perfect draft will help you determine how to supplement your first-round pick in subsequent rounds. You should avoid the Zero RB strategy this year, even if you take a wide receiver in the first round. And don’t miss our comprehensive fantasy rankings, which take into account injury risk and strength of schedule.

1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

Chance of being the best player at his position: 82 percent

The third-year back had the second-best fantasy season in NFL history last year. McCaffrey earned 471.2 fantasy points thanks to a league-high 2,392 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns. He also became the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 or more rushing yards and 1,000 or more receiving yards in the same season.

2. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

Chance of being the best player at his position: 67 percent

Thomas is coming off a record-breaking year in which he set the all-time receptions mark for a single season with 149. His 2019 campaign produced the second-most PPR fantasy points for a receiver through 16 weeks (behind only Marvin Harrison in 2002). The gap between Thomas and the next most productive receiver, Chris Godwin, was the largest gap between the top two wideouts in PPR fantasy points since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, per Warren Sharp’s 2020 Football Preview. Thomas also led the league in target share, accounting for a third of his team’s passing attempts.

3. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

Chance of being the best player at his position: 17 percent

Adams caught 83 of 127 targets for 997 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games last season. However, quarterback Aaron Rodgers targeted him 91 times in eight games after Adams returned to the field in November following a bout with turf toe, which would project to 182 targets over a 16-game season. Think that’s unreachable? Rodgers doesn’t.

“I’d like to throw to Davante more,” Rodgers said in June. “He’s that open. We’ve got to keep finding ways to get him the ball.”

2019 season
Targets per game
PPR fantasy points per game
Weeks 1 to 4
9.0
15.7
Week 9 to 16
11.4
18.7

4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Chance of being the best player at his position: 6 percent

No running back got more carries in the red zone last year than Elliott, making him a solid contributor to any fantasy squad. Plus, the Cowboys are expected to have the third-best offensive line in the NFL this season, per the game charters at Pro Football Focus.

5. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

Chance of being the best player at his position: 3 percent

Barkley carried the ball 217 times for 1,003 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games last season. He added 52 catches (on 73 targets) for 438 yards and two touchdowns. A vertical offensive scheme under new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and a bolstered offensive line should allow Barkley to have a fantasy season that surpasses either of his first two campaigns.

6. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Chance of being the best player at his position: 3 percent

Over the past three seasons, Kamara has led the Saints in share of red-zone touches (33 percent), and he twice has been among the league leaders in fantasy points per carry.

7. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Chance of being the best player at his position: 2 percent

The rookie produced 1,414 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns for LSU in 2019 and also caught 55 passes for 453 yards. Edwards-Helaire’s stock rose even further after Chiefs veteran Damien Williams announced he would opt out of the season because of concerns about the novel coronavirus.

8. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Chance of being the best player at his position: 2 percent

No longer a threat to hold out, Cook is in a prime spot for 2020. The Pro Bowl running back produced 1,654 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns last season for a team that loves running the ball. Minnesota called a rushing play 49 percent of the time last year, the third-highest rate in the NFL.