2019 Running Back Fantasy Football Outlooks

2019 Running Back Fantasy Football Outlooks

As millions, maybe even trillions, of our fans know we have been releasing player outlook videos almost daily on the Hello Rookie YouTube channel. This article will break down our thoughts for all of the fantasy-relevant running backs that we have videos for.

The list will update daily with new player outlooks for the 2019 season. We are going to release these in order according to our latest RB Rankings. For reference, the ADP numbers given come from the latest Draft Best Ball data, and we update these every Monday.

1. Saquon Barkley – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 1 | RB ADP 1 | New York Giants

Barkley’s rookie season was a fantasy home run. He finished 2018 second in RB touches behind just Ezekiel Elliott and second in fantasy points behind Todd Gurley. While there is never a unanimous top overall player, a strong argument can be made for Barkley.

Not only is he a strong bet to lead the league in overall usage, but will be doing so behind arguably the best offensive line the Giants have had in a decade. The additions of Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers makes the right side of that offensive line lightyears better than it was last season.

Draft Stock Up

With OBJ leaving, Barkley could see the 352 touches he got in 2018 climb to the Le’Veon Bell 400 range we saw two years ago. The offensive line is much improved with the addition of Zeitler, and there is a chance the offense and QB play may benefit as a whole from being unchained to OBJ.

There really isn’t a back in the league in a better position in terms of pure volume. Barkley truly has zero competition for snaps in this backfield, and the group of pass-catchers around him is less than inspiring.

Draft Stock Down

The Giants’ schedule against the run is rough, 31st in the league to be exact. You could also make an argument that the offense is not any better than last season and his 15 TD’s in 2018 could be his ceiling this season. That being said, there really isn’t an argument against taking Barkley first overall. He will once again be the focal point of this offense and is going to have a monster 2019 campaign.

2. Ezekiel Elliott – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 2 | RB ADP 2 | Dallas Cowboys

According to the current odds at Bovada, Elliott is the favorite to lead the league in both rushing yards and touchdowns. He has led the league in rushing 2 out of the last three seasons, and an argument can be made that it would be 3 straight had he not missed 6 games in 2017 (he was 10th in the league in carries despite only playing 9 games).

The Cowboys offensive line was decimated by injury in 2018, none more important than Travis Frederick. Frederick missed all of 2018 with an incurable autoimmune disease. Early reports out of Cowboys camp say that not only is he back, but he looks even more dominant than before his injury. According to Pro Football Focus, this Cowboys offensive line was a top 4 group for 5 straight years prior to last season, so look for them to get back to that level in 2019.

Perhaps the biggest change to this offense this offseason came at the offensive coordinator position. Scott Linehan is gone, and Kellen Moore takes over as OC And play-caller. We know Kellen Moore has a high football IQ and past coaches have raved about his ‘brilliant offensive mind’, but we will need to see how that translates to his play-calling before judging this as a win or loss for the Cowboys.

Draft Stock Up

Kellen Moore understands that many of the Cowboys’ issues in 2019 came from being too predictable. He has already implemented changes that allow them to run the same plays in a wide variety of formations. This should make a massive difference for both Zeke and Dak in 2019, as their offense was one of the more predictable in the NFL last season… a knock Linehan has carried since his tenure with the Lions.

We think Zeke leads the league in rushing once again in 2019 and expect him to lead the league in rushing touchdowns as well. The question is if he can get more involved with the passing game. His 77 receptions in 2018 were double what he put up in 2017, but still not enough to keep pace with Gurley, McCaffrey, Barkley, and Kamara in terms of fantasy production. If the touchdowns return and he can build on the role he had in the Cowboys passing attack, he will likely be RB1 at the end of the season.

Draft Stock Down

While we love the volume Zeke will see on a weekly basis, there are still plenty of question marks around this Cowboys offense. Will the Kellen Moore experiment work out, or will his inexperience come back to bite the team? How will Travis Frederick hold up over the stretch of a full season? Will Zeke see 90+ targets again in 2019, or return to the 39/year he averaged over his first two seasons. The combination of these three issues is why we have Zeke slotted just slightly behind Barkley right now.

3. Christian McCaffrey – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 3 | RB ADP 3 | Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey had a breakout season in 2018, finishing with 1,965 total yards and 13 touchdowns. His 107 receptions was 8th in the NFL and he finished 3rd in non-QB fantasy scoring.

While there have been offseason rumors about keeping a closer eye on his snap count this season, McCaffrey’s 97% snap count in 2018 was nearly 8 percentage points higher than the next highest RB. Even if he misses a series or two more each game he will likely still lead the league in RB snaps.

We have little reason to believe the Panthers offense will look much different from what it did in 2018. Funchess moved to Indy this offseason, but we expect to see DJ Moore absorb the majority of his targets. Greg Olsen will likely be the third option in the passing game, behind Moore and McCaffrey. That being said, Olsen continues to be injury-plagued and Carolina hasn’t had a WR go over 1,000 yards since Steve Smith… this offense is still going to revolve around McCaffrey.

Draft Stock Up

McCaffrey’s consistency separates him from some of the other options at 3. He finished in the top 12 of running backs in 13 out of 16 weeks in 2019, and finished the season as the hottest RB in the league. He finished the second half of 2018 as RB1 and was a top 3 RB in 6 of his final 8 games. We expect him to be even better in 2019 and to hit that 1,000/1,000 number, making our outlook on McCaffrey is bullish for 2019.

Draft Stock Down

The downside for McCaffrey has to be the lack of production as a pure runner in Norv Turner’s system. While his carries nearly doubled in 2018, and we expect them to climb again in 2019, he will never get Zeke/Saquon type volume in this offense. That being said, I think fantasy owners will be happy to put up with it as long as he continues to get 8 targets per game. Assuming Barkley and Elliott go 1 and 2, I think CMac makes the safest pick at third overall.

4. Alvin Kamara – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 4 | RB ADP 4 | New Orleans Saints

The top four running backs in the 2019 fantasy draft are obvious and undeniable, Kamara has earned his spot in this group. Beyond just fantasy, I think he is the best offensive football player in the NFL. His versatility and explosiveness combined with Sean Payton and Drew Brees make him a nightmare for opposing defenses. The Saints will throw an out or flats route to Kamara time after time, just to set the linebacker up for this:
Kamara pass-catching projections
We saw Kamara make a ton of USC Reggie Bush type plays while at Tennessee, but that rarely translates at the next level. It takes an ultra rare combination of vision and explosiveness to make plays like this one in the NFL.
kamara big plays for 2019
However, peak Alvin Kamara for me happens in the subtle movements he makes to set up blocks, or simply the vision to find a hole that isn’t there for 90% of the running backs in the league.
kamara vision

Draft Stock Up

We described Christian McCaffrey as the safest option at 3, and given how much more consistent he was than Kamara in 2018, I don’t think you can debate that fact. That being said, you can easily make the argument that Kamara has the higher ceiling in 2019.

Kamara only trailed McCaffrey by .5 fantasy PPG in 2018 in PPR scoring and averaged nearly a full PPG more than CMac in standard scoring. That was despite a snap share % that was more than 30% lower than McCaffrey’s. If Kamara sees an additional 5% of snaps and the Panthers reduce McCaffrey’s snap count at all, you could easily see Kamara jump over CMac in 2019.

Draft Stock Down

Consistency was clearly an issue for Kamara in 2018, obviously at least partially tied to his snap share with Ingram, but still enough to give owners concern heading into 2019. Kamara finished as the number 1 overall RB in 4 of his first 8 weeks but finished better than 9th only once over the last 8 weeks of last season. You obviously love the high ceiling games, but the floor has to get higher, which will only come from a larger, more consistent, workload.

5. James Conner – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 11 | RB ADP 7 | Pittsburgh Steelers

James Conner is currently the most underrated player in the top 15 picks. There are two extremely important factors to keep in mind when you break down potential first-round running backs: volume and offensive line. The easiest way to avoid a first-round bust (outside of injury) is to find a guy that is going to get a ton of touches, behind an elite offensive line. Conner was 4th in the NFL in touches/game and the Steelers have PFF’s 3rd rated offensive line heading into 2019.

PFF-Offensive-Line-Rankings

Looking back on what could make Conner’s value dip over the offseason, and it appears the concern comes from his comments that he expects all of the RB’s on the roster to have a role. That simply will not be the case. The Steelers have always used one feature back, and while Samuels will have a role, it will come from a combination of spelling Conner, but primarily working as an H-back with Conner still on the field.

If Conner had played a full season in 2018 he would likely have finished as a top 5 fantasy RB. Not only will Conner benefit from last season’s experience, but like the rest of the Steelers skill players, he will likely see a larger workload from Brown and his 11+ targets/game leaving in the offseason.

Draft Stock Up

If you prefer an RB that is likely to see a volume of carries, but still have a role in the passing game, James Conner is in elite company. There were only 6 running backs that saw 200+ carries and 70 targets last season, and keep in mind Conner did this despite missing 3+ games. Conner finished as RB7 last season, and I think we see his role, particularly in the passing game, continue to grow in 2019.

Draft Stock Down

The Steelers were too quick to get away from the run in 2018. Perhaps AB moving to Oakland will change this mindset, but there were 3 games where Conner saw less than 10 carries and 7 where he saw 15 or less. He needs to hit that 15 carry mark to become a consistent top 5 running back in 2019.

6. Joe Mixon – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 13 | RB ADP 9 | Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon is in a similar situation to Bell in that he is an elite talent stuck behind a weak offensive line. That being said, we love the Zac Taylor hire and are more optimistic about the Bengals line than the Jets. While losing Jonah Williams hurts, the team did bring in John Miller this offseason, an upgrade at guard, and get a now more experienced, healthy, Billy Price back at center.

While Taylor is just 36 years old, he has been a QB coach or offensive coordinator for 7 years already and spent the last two years working with Sean McVay in LA. Taylor is expected to install the same system that moved the Rams offensive line from 29th in 2016 to 1st overall last season. A stretch that saw Todd Gurley go from a fantasy disappointment in 2016 to the best player in fantasy each of the last two seasons.

It is worth remembering that Mixon led the AFC in rushing last season, despite only playing in 14 games. He also averaged 4.9 YPC, was PFF’s 10th rated RB, and didn’t fumble all season long. What has us truly excited about Mixon’s 2019 potential is his increased role in the Bengals passing game. He was one of the more prolific pass-catching backs in college football, putting up 65/894/9 in just two seasons with the Sooners.

Draft Stock Up

While losing Jonah Williams hurts, Andre Smith should be fine in the run game and we think the offensive line will be improved overall with another year’s experience. While somewhat controversial, hiring Jeff Turner to coach the offensive line was a smart move by Taylor, one that will go a long way in helping to develop this group.

You can’t deny the system is arguably the most RB-friendly in the league. The Rams were top 10 in run %, rushing attempts, and total rushing offense last season. Gurley averaged just 3 targets per game over the first two seasons of his career, that number more than doubled under McVay and he jumped from RB9 to RB1 in one season. Guess who was RB9 last year?

Draft Stock Down

Mixon has just 20 starts in 2 seasons and still has to contend with Gio Bernard who absolutely deserves a role in this offense. As improved as the offensive line could be (can’t get much worse) it is still one ugly group on paper. They will have to drastically outperform what their current film looks like to even move out of the bottom 5 o-line groups in the league. That being said, Mixon averaged 4.9 YPC behind this group in 2018.

7. Le’Veon Bell – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 8 | RB ADP 6 | New York Giants

After holding out for a full season, Bell ended up in New York this offseason and finds himself in a much different situation than he was in Pittsburgh. Let’s start with the good: undeniably one of the most talented, versatile running backs in the league, with one of the better offensive minds in football as his HC. The bad: he trades a pro bowl, hall of fame QB for a 2nd year unproven QB, he trades the 3rd rated offensive line for the 28th rated offensive line, and that HC, Adam Gase, runs a less RB-friendly system than most.

If you look at Matt Forte’s numbers prior to Gase arriving in Chicago, his targets dropped from 120 to 58. Jay Ajayi rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 9 touchdowns in his first year with Gase, the next year the combination of Ajayi, Kenyan Drake, and Damien Williams only put up 5 touchdowns on the season.

That being said, I do think Gase will lean heavily on Bell and he will get over 300 touches in 2019 but will be nowhere near as effective as he was with those same touches running behind Pittsburgh’s line with AB and Juju on the outside. The workload alone, combined with the fact that we know he is a top 3 pass-catching RB in the NFL, makes him a lock as a top 8 fantasy RB in 2019 and we have him rated as our 6th RB and 6th overall player this season.

Draft Stock Up

Coming off from taking a season off, Bell is fresh, hungry, and in great shape. We know Gase did not necessarily want to sign Bell at the price he was demanding, but now that he is paid, you can bet the Jets will give him as much work as he can handle. Prior to holding out all of last season, Bell finished 1st in fantasy scoring per game in 2016, and second in 2017. If he can get back anywhere near the numbers he was putting up those two seasons he will be an absolute steal in the middle of round one.

Draft Stock Down

We still can’t get away from our issues with this offensive line and HC Adam Gase. Gase’s Dolphins were 25th in rushing attempts last season and 32nd the year before. The Jets were 29th in yards per rushing attempt last season and they brought back the same offensive line for 2019. If Bell is getting a limited workload behind a line that can’t block, it could result in a long, inconsistent fantasy season.

8. David Johnson – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 5 | RB ADP 5 | Arizona Cardinals

We wrote in our James Conner segment that the best way to avoid a bust with these top 10 picks is to grab the back with the best offensive line. The inside of this line is by far the worst I have ever seen an NFL team assemble. Mason Cole and Justin Pugh were two of the league’s worst run-blocking interior lineman last season, and guard Mike Iupati, who was the Cardinals best offensive lineman, is now in Seattle.

Don’t worry though, the Cardinals brought in ex-Seahawk guard J.R. Sweezy who ranked … 116th in run blocking … amongst all NFL guards. Seattle couldn’t wait to get this guy out of the building and he’s instantly a starter on this Arizona team. At tackle, they plan on playing DJ Humphries at LT and Marcus Gilbert at RT, a LT that can’t pass block and a RT that can’t run block.

Then there is the system. Texas Tech ranked dead last in the Big 12 in both rushing yards per game (132) and rushing yards per carry (3.6). As many points as the Red Raiders put up in the Big 12, they only had 20 rushing touchdowns on the season.

All of this added up results in Johnson being the lowest-rated RB in our top tier of backs, but he still has plenty of upside. He is arguably one of the more talented and versatile backs in the league and has zero competition for touches in an offense that is going to play as fast as anyone in the league. I think there is a legitimate chance he surpasses the 80/879/4 he put up as a pass-catcher in 2016, but he is not coming near the 1,239 and 16 as a runner. Clearly the sports world still sees Johnson as elite, he has taken the most bets at MyBookie to lead the league in total yardage (non-QB).

Draft Stock Up

While the Cardinals will not throw it deep in this offense, defenses will still have to deal with the read option and Kyler Murray’s athleticism, which should be enough to keep them honest. DJ still has plenty of big-play ability and in addition to his work as a receiver, I think you could see several home run carries out of him this season. If he can hit one big run each game, his workload and pass-catching should be enough to make him a mainstay as a top 10 back.

Draft Stock Down

We have already laid out our reasons for doubting this Cardinals running game. Even with the read-option in place, I don’t think this line will be able to move people inside, and Kingsbury has shown no commitment to the run over the course of his career. On the opposite side of the ball, this Cardinals defense is going to struggle to stop the run vs opposing teams, which could result in a lot of time on the sidelines and a lot of time playing from behind, not a great recipe for a running back.

9. Todd Gurley – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 15 | RB ADP 10 | LA Rams

Before we jump right into the knee, let’s talk about the Rams offseason. There are really three moves that effect Gurley’s value in 2019. The first two are on the offensive line, which was PFF’s number one rated run-blocking offensive line in 2018. Yes, Sullivan and Saffold are out, but I see Notebloom and Allen as an upgrade on the starting unit, particularly Allen at center. Sullivan was undeniably the weak link on the line in 2018. That being said, the biggest issue the Rams face in 2019 is depth, but as long as they stay healthy, this should be one of the top lines in football.

The other big change was the drafting of Darrell Henderson, who was our #2 rated RB in the 2019 draft, just slightly behind David Montgomery and ahead of Josh Jacobs. By now we all know Henderson averaged 9 YPC at Memphis last season, he’s a home run hitter that LA drafted to minimize the difference in skill sets between Gurley and his backup.

I watched every snap Henderson played for Memphis last season, and he is no Todd Gurley, but in all fairness nobody is. He has been the best non-QB player in the league each of the last two seasons and has led the league in fantasy PPG each of those years. It’s the combination of an exciting young back and of course, the knee, that has dropped Gurley to RB9 this preseason.

We did a full breakdown of why Gurley’s knee concern has been way overhyped this offseason in our 5 RB’s You Have to Draft in 2019 article. Essentially, Gurley wore down at the end of 2018, the knee wasn’t right, and the Rams decided to take a different approach to his offseason in 2019. Instead of allowing him to partake in team activities, they had him work with his personal trainer specifically to minimize the workload Gurley and his knee were under this offseason.

In an interview about this decision, his trainer made the comment that Gurley’s knee injury ‘had an arthritic component to it’ which grabbed headlines everywhere, and his fantasy stock dropped from RB5 to RB10 in less than two weeks. The rest of that sentence was, ‘as do all injuries’, it was a throwaway line. The interviewer went on to ask what the plan was for Gurley this season, to which the trainer responded he will be the workhorse back again, and Darrell will spell him for 1-2 drives per half.

At any rate, you are taking a slight gamble that the knee will hold up all season. Even if Gurley’s touches are down from 25 a game to 20, he is still going to be top 6 in the league in touches and likely top 3 in fantasy scoring.

Draft Stock Up

Gurley led the league in fantasy PPG by almost 4 ppg last season, and over 4 ppg the year before. He is the best fantasy RB in the league, and getting him anywhere 5 or later is a steal. Given his current ADP, we have been targeting him at 10, but if you are drafting on the turn in your league, you can likely grab him there. The Rams have a dominant offensive line, one of the best offensive minds at HC, and a cake RB schedule. Gurley is going to have a big 2019 season, even if his touches are down slightly.

Draft Stock Down

As good as his per-game averages were last season, the end of year decline is undeniable. He only got 23 carries in weeks 14 and 15 combined, didn’t play in weeks 16 and 17, and was hardly used in the playoffs. McVay insists he will still be the bell-cow here, and the end of year issues were as much on him and the team’s struggles to run the ball as they were on Gurley. Nonetheless, Gurley is a massive risk considering he won’t take reps all offseason, won’t play in the preseason, so we won’t have any idea what his usage will be until the regular season comes around. For the best player in fantasy, it’s a risk we are willing to take at the back end of the first round.

10. Melvin Gordon – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 14 | RB ADP 9 | LA Chargers

Prior to news of the holdout, Melvin Gordon was RB5 in our rankings. Who would have thought that coming out of Wisconsin with only 22 career receptions, he would turn into a back that doesn’t need a volume of carries to be fantasy relevant? Gordon was 2nd in RB fantasy PPG last season, despite averaging only 14.5 carries per game.

Not only was Gordon incredibly efficient in 2018, but he was one of the most consistent RB’s in fantasy football. In fact, prior to his week 12 injury, Gordon had only one game under 19 fantasy points and 5 over 27.

The holdout is a major concern. LA doesn’t want to sign him, he won’t play without a contract. So, either he caves and plays out his current contract, or LA caves and trades him. I don’t see any situation in which LA meets his contract demands given how effective Justin Jackson and Austin Ekeler were during his time out last season. The two are reportedly $2-$3 million apart right now.

Trading for Gordon would also be tricky. LA would likely demand a high draft choice, and then you still have to resign Gordon, a 26-year-old RB that has played a full season only once in his career.

In the end, I think Gordon misses however much of camp he wishes to, then bends and takes the Chargers best offer. Joe would want me to say something along the lines of ‘Gordon is a midwest kid and midwest kids are too unselfish to hold out into the regular season’. To which I would respond, Le’Veon Bell was from the Midwest. To which he would respond, Ohio isn’t the midwest, it’s the armpit of America.

Anyone that owned Le’Veon Bell can attest to the fact that you can’t win your league in the first round, but you can take a big step towards losing it. If the holdout lasts into the regular season, not only would Gordon be a waste of your most important pick, but a waste of a roster spot as you pray for the holdout to come to an end.

Draft Stock Up

If he plays, he’s a beast. His offensive line was terrible last season, and he was still RB2 in fantasy PPG. While he finished in the top three just twice last season, he had a high floor and finished outside of the top 12 just once prior to his injury. As we mentioned, he is RB5 the moment he reports, so getting him as a second-round pick (we have seen him drop to the 4th in Best Ball drafts) is a great value right now.

Draft Stock Down

Remember 2018 Le’Veon… holdouts can ruin fantasy seasons and destroy families. Until we hear the two sides are making ground, or even negotiating for that matter, a long-term holdout is simply too risky to spend a top 20 pick on. Combine that with the fact that his carries were down last season, and Austin Ekeler seems like he is going to get a 35% share of the snaps again in 2019 and I think you have to hold out until the back half of round 2 to pick Gordon right now.

11. Dalvin Cook – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 18 | RB ADP 11 | Minnesota Vikings

Many fantasy experts have pegged 2019 as a breakout year for Minnesota’s third year back, Dalvin Cook. The Vikings bringing in Norv Turner signifies the team’s intent to return to being a run-first offense, and with Latavius Murray moving to the Saints this offseason, it appears Cook may be in line to see a career-high workload.

Turner is installing a zone-blocking run game, similar to what we saw him run in Houston with Arian Foster. Given the fact that this offensive line was overhauled and looks much improved heading into 2019, there is plenty of room for optimism here. We loved the Garrett Bradbury draft choice, he was one of our favorite players in this draft class.

All that being said, workload and system have never been the main issue for Cook… durability has. Going back to Florida State, while he never missed time and put up ridiculous numbers, he seemed to always have nagging injuries. Once he reached the next level, those injuries turned into serious concerns including a torn ACL in 2017 and hamstring in 2018.

We are bullish on Cook in 2019 and think this is a case where his upside is worth the risk… particularly if he falls to the early second round, which is where we think you should be targeting him this draft season.

12. DeVonta Freeman – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 31 | RB ADP 17 | Atlanta Falcons

Freeman was RB1 just 3 seasons ago, and with Tevin Coleman now in San Francisco, we think he can push his way back into the top 10 again this season. The Falcons solidified their offensive line this offseason, and we know this offense is going to put up a ton of points again this year.

As we laid out in our 5 RB’s to avoid in 2019 article, we don’t see Ito Smith playing too much of a role this season, and think Freeman will get to 300+ total touches if he can hold up for the entire season.

13. Marlon Mack – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 27 | RB ADP 15 | Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have said all offseason that Mack is going to be a 3-down workhorse back this season. We are skeptical that this is true, given Hines’ success his rookie year, and are also not sold Mack can hold up to that sort of workload. Nonetheless, he will be the feature back in an Andrew Luck offense, running behind one of the best offensive lines in football.

As tends to be the theme with several running backs that look like potential every-down feature backs at the moment, avoiding injury is going to be key for Marlon Mack this season. If he can play 14+ games, I think he is a top 12 RB at the end of the season, but if he misses extended time, or is constantly popping up on the injury report, it could be a long year for owners counting on him as their RB2.

The Colts play a rough RB schedule (27th) and Nyheim Hines will certainly have some sort of role in the passing game, as will the litany of receivers and tight ends they have, so upside as a pass-catcher is limited. Nonetheless, this offense and the offensive line is too good for him not to find a way to solid RB2 numbers ever week.

14. Damien Williams

ADP 19 | RB ADP 12 | Kansas City Chiefs

Like it or not, it appears Damien Williams is going to be the guy in Kansas City this year. As an RB that doesn’t run the ball well to begin with, he has an extremely low ceiling as a runner in Andy Reid’s offense. That being said, given how active Chiefs RB’s are in their passing game, Williams will undoubtedly be an RB1 more often than not. The risk is, as we have seen with Kareem Hunt in the past, without a baseline of carries Williams’ floor will likely be much lower than most round 2 running backs.

15. Derrick Henry

ADP 33 | RB ADP 18 | Tennessee Titans

After finishing RB17 despite receiving only 40% of his team’s snaps and having 2 70+ yard touchdowns called back, the Titans have stated all offseason that Henry will be the focal point of their offense in 2019. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has also said many times that the team intends on throwing the ball to Henry more in 2019, which could be a huge for fantasy owners.

Henry’s game-breaking speed makes him a constant threat to break a long run, and if the Titans are able to create opportunities for him to catch the ball in space it could be a nightmare for opposing secondaries. In his career, Henry has only 39 receptions for 372 yards and 1 touchdown. He did average nearly 17 YPC while at Alabama, putting up 285 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 receptions.

Throwing the ball to Henry not only creates an opportunity for him to play and score fantasy points on passing downs, but it will make the Titans less predictable and give Henry more favorable boxes to run against. His combination of size and speed, running behind this mean offensive line could reak havoc in 2019 and has up excited about his fantasy upside. We are targeting Henry early in the third round as our favorite RB2 option this season.

16. Nick Chubb – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 21 | RB ADP 13 | Cleveland Browns

2019 will be the tale of two seasons for Nick Chubb. We think he will be a top 10 back for the first half of the season, but once the unstoppable force that is Kareem Hunt returns for game number 9, Chubb will be an elusive, frustrating player to own.

We can get into the numbers explaining just how dynamic Kareem Hunt is, but let’s just say he’s going to be impossible to keep off the field once he is back. Check out PFF’s grades for Hunt last season, also worth a look is Mahomes before and after the Hunt suspension.

17. Leonard Fournette – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 31 | RB ADP 16 | Jacksonville Jaguars

We have seen a lot of frustrating fantasy seasons over the years, but Fournette’s 2018 campaign may have been the most miserable display ever. Not only was he a total bust of a first round pick, but he was a massive headache for fantasy owners. Questionable to inactive on gameday, doubtful to active on gameday, active but completely ineffective… and repeat.

Drafted as a top 10 pick, Henry finished as a top 10 RB just three weeks last season, and never managed to crack the top 6. He was an afterthought in the passing game and ran for an egregious 3.3 YP on the season.

That being said, there is hope in Jacksonville. The line, which was decimated by injury last season, is finally healthy and undoubtedly will be improved in 2019. The offensive scheme gets a makeover with John DeFillipo coming in, and Nick Foles giving the team a legitimate threat at QB.

While a non-inept passing game should give Fournette more favorable boxes and running room in 2019, we are not holding our breath. DeFillipo has never improved a team’s run game as offensive coordinator, and last season he managed to drop the Vikings 8th ranked rushing attack down to 30th before he was fired. I would make the argument that he will be all-too-quick to give up on Mr. 3.3 YPC, Leonard Fournette, and would much rather lean on Nick Foles and an underrated group of receivers than a failing running game.

Given his constant injury concerns, and lack of proven role in the passing game, I think Fournette holds much more risk than guys like Derrick Henry, Damien Williams, Devonta Freeman, and Nick Chubb… for that reason, we have him much lower in our overall rankings than his current ADP.

18. Aaron Jones – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 24 | RB ADP 14 | Green Bay Packers

Jones is yet another RB that looks worthy of the bell-cow label heading into 2019. After an up and down 2018 campaign, the Packers brought in a new head coach, Matt Lafleur, who is installing his version of Sean McVay’s offense, and was quick to label Jones as his every-down back.

While we were somewhat disappointed in the way last season played out in Tennessee, particularly the way he used Derrick Henry, we still see LaFleur’s offense as an RB-friendly system. In fact, Tennessee ran the ball on the second-highest percentage of plays in the NFL last season at over 48%.

While the numbers don’t support it, we believe Jones is an underrated pass catcher and think he will thrive in Matt Lafleur’s offense, a scheme that saw Gurley become the best fantasy RB in the league in just one year. Jones put up 26/206/1 in 12 games last season and put up 71/646/7 in 35 career games at UTEP. We expect Jones to get 240 carries and 50-60 receptions if he is able to play a full season… and we do mean if. Three knee injuries in two years in the league have us cautious with just how high we rank Jones right now.

19. Kerryon Johnson – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 34 | RB ADP 19 | Detroit Lions

Kerryon Johnson is in a very similar position to Aaron Jones heading into the 2019 season. Given projected workload in both the running and passing games, both backs have legitimate top 10 upside if they are able to stay healthy for a full (or close to a full) season.

The Lions’ offensive line is one of the more underrated groups in the league. They are elite at tackle with Decker and Wagner, and Ragnow, Glasgow, Wiggins, and Dahl are all plus-graded interior run blockers. Given the new system, they will be running under Darrell Bevell, I think the Lions running game may shock people this season. It’s worth noting that Johnson averaged 5.4 YPC behind a beat-up version of this line, and in Jim Bob Cooter’s all-too-predictable pass-first system.

He will have to prove that his body can hold up to a 16 game NFL season, but we are willing to bet it can. Keep in mind this guy never missed a game in three years in the SEC, and in his last season at Auburn he went over 300 touches, putting up 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns.

20. Mark Ingram – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 42 | RB ADP 22 | Baltimore Ravens

Mark Ingram rounds out our top 20, but this is a spot that we have been back-and-forth between Jacobs and Ingram. I think we will get a better feel for just how big Ingram’s workload will be in Baltimore during the preseason, but if he is a three-down back for the Ravens then he probably has more upside than Jacobs in 2019. We know Richard is going to catch a ton of passes for Oakland, but if Ingram is able to hold off Dixon and Hill for the passing down work in Baltimore he could end up amongst the league leaders in touches.

Ingram will benefit from a number of things that Jacobs won’t in 2019. For one, his offensive line is considerably better. According to PFF, the Raiders have the NFL’s 26th rated offensive line, while the Ravens came in at 11th. In addition to a solid offensive line, the Ravens will run more 12 and even 13 personnel than anyone in the league giving them a numbers advantage in the box.

While we expect the Ravens offense to be the most run-heavy in the league once again this season, I don’t think they will be overly predictable. For one, Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown give them deep threats that will force both safeties to respect the deep pass. Secondly, the Ravens will use read options and RPO’s with Lamar Jackson to create even more space for Ingram.

Again, this is a loaded backfield so snap count is going to be the biggest issue for Ingram in 2019. The team used a draft pick on a talented speed back in Justice Hill, and we think Kenneth Dixon is one of the most underrated players in the league. He will have to hold off both guys for passing-down work to be a high-end RB2 option in 2019.

21. Josh Jacobs – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 37 | RB ADP 20 | Oakland Raiders

While Jacobs was only our third rated RB in last year’s draft class (behind Montgomery and Henderson) he was a ton of fun to watch at Alabama and you can see why the Raiders would fall in love with his toughness and versatility. When you share a college backfield with Damien Harris and Najee Harris you are bound to be underutilized, and that was the case for Jacobs who, aside from touchdowns, really played third fiddle to the other two backs.

Jacobs has no competition for early-down work on this roster, and that is a role we think he will dominate in from day one. He runs with a ton of power and is one of the better one-cut downhill runners we have seen in the last decade. Even behind that horrendous Raiders line, I think he will run for 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns this season.

There are still a few issues here, however. First, he is not, and will never be a home run hitter. This means he needs a volume of carries to reach value each week, and given how bad this secondary looks again this season, that may be hard to consistently get.

Second, Jalen Richard is going to be the third-down back here, there is absolutely no debating that fact. Jacobs can catch the ball extremely well for a bruising early-down back, but he is by no means on the same planet as Jalen Richard as a route runner and pass-catching back.

Third, he’s never received more than 120 carries in a season and received only 46 carries in 11 games in 2017. Given how aggressive his running style is, it would be surprising if he holds up to a full season of abuse at this level… I mean just look at how he throws his body around.

Fun to watch, but it makes you pause when you consider the size and speed of NFL defenses. Those one cut get downfield moves are truly something unique, and it’s a skill set that will directly translate at the next level.

josh jacobs fantasy outlook 2019

22. Phillip Lindsay – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 45 | RB ADP 23 | Denver Broncos

We are currently putting the line of RB2’s right in between Jacobs and Lindsay. We want at least two guys from the group of RB’s 1-21, because from here out there are questions surrounding each guy on this list.

Lindsay’s 2018 campaign was a stunner. He finished RB13 in fantasy PPG and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie that started the season in a timeshare with Royce Freeman. Lindsay averaged nearly 5.5 YPC and frequently broke big runs with his game-changing speed.

That being said, he clearly wore down at the end of the year and didn’t top 46 yards over the last four games of the season. He also missed the entire offseason program, allowing Royce Freeman to get the majority of the work with the ones and get a head start in Rich Scangarello’s system.

Speaking of Freeman, it seems that at the very least he will get all of the short-yardage and goalline work, and actually graded out considerably better than Lindsay in pass protection, which has always been a massive concern for the undersized RB.

While Lindsay was rarely used in the Broncos passing game last season, he is certainly capable of catching the ball (53 receptions his Junior year at Colorado). There is no denying what he put on film last season, the question is if there is room for growth. We know from Scangarello’s time with San Fran that he will use multiple backs in his system, but we have no clue what each of the three backs on this roster’s role is.

23. Kenyan Drake – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 53 | RB ADP 26 | Miami Dolphins

Here we were, thinking Drake was finally out of Gase’s doghouse, and of course, Ballage is reportedly taking the first team reps for the Dolphins. There is a lot to unwrap here, but we will do our best to keep it short and sweet.

First off, yes, Ballage is an elite talent at RB, but not as elite as Drake, who happens to be one of the best athletes in the league. Ballage was one of my favorite CFB players during his run at Arizona State. He would make some of the most remarkable runs you would see, but would then make some of the worst runs you will ever see… a lot of really, really dumb runs. There is a reason he averaged less than 4.5 YPC in the Pac 12 on a team that saw Demario Richard dominate carries and average well over 5 YPC.

That being said, offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea was brought in to run McDaniels’ offensive system from New England, and likely feels the need to have a clear early-down back and passing-down back. As we know from last season, the passing down back tends to hold more fantasy value, in fact, James White was a top 10 fantasy RB in 2019.

We have Drake projected for a 60% snap share, even after hearing Ballage was taking reps with the 1, and think his role in the passing game will grow tremendously given the scheme change. Gase has never featured RB’s in the passing game, in fact, the last RB that was heavily used was Forte with the Bears in 2015 and his targets were more than cut in half. Drake’s skill set as a receiver may be wildly underrated right now, and it’s worth noting that this team will be playing from behind every week.

24. David Montgomery – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 14 | RB ADP 21 | Chicago Bears

Montgomery was our number one rated RB in this year’s draft class, and he landed in the perfect spot with Matt Nagy and Chicago. The Bears desperately want to make their offense as unpredictable as possible, but over the past two seasons, their RB was a give away for the play call (Howard = run, Cohen = pass).

While they originally signed Mike Davis as a versatile early-down back, I don’t think there is any way they can keep Montgomery off the field this season. In fact, I think Montogomery could steal a share Cohen’s snaps, or at the very least force him to spend additional time working out of the slot.

While he only put up 71/695 as a pass-catcher at Iowa State, that is in part due to how anemic the offense was prior to the arrival of Brock Purdy last season. Montgomery’s coach at Iowa State called him the best route runner on the team, and while the Bears knew he was an underrated receiver, they have reportedly been blown away by him this offseason.

Despite Jordan Howard’s struggles (less than 4 YPC over the last two seasons), the Bears’ offensive line is underrated. The group features 3 pro bowlers, a young but talented center, and I think Massie could end up making a pro bowl over the next few years at right tackle. Maybe the problem wasn’t the line and getting an injection of talent at the RB position will turn this running game around in 2019.

25. Tevin Coleman – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 67 | RB ADP 30 | San Francisco 49ers

Coleman is one of our favorite picks in the draft right now. He is a huge value pick at his current ADP, 67 overall, and is truly the last of the potential RB2’s off the board in the mid-to-late 6th round.

While McKinnon is still the highest-paid running back on the roster, and Breida flashed at times last season, we think it’s Coleman that will see more than 50% of snaps in 2019. As we noted in our 5 RB’s You Have to Draft in 2019 article, either McKinnon or Breida will be inactive most weeks. The 49ers won’t have 5 active RB’s and that includes Juszczyk and special teams ace Jeff Wilson. So while there may be three guys fighting for touches, it will only be two come game day.

While McKinnon and Breida continue to rehab from injury, Coleman has been at every offseason workout, taking every rep with the starters. He’s building a rapport with Garoppolo, and clearly already has one with Shanahan. Coleman’s best season was Shanahan’s last in Atlanta and his big-play ability (10%+ of carries went over 15 yards last season) is something Shanahan knows how to make the most of.

The 49ers only had 9 total RB touchdowns last season, but Coleman had 11 as a backup in Shanahan’s system in 2016. They brought him in for a reason, and we think he will end up being the focal point of this run game this season.

26. James White – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 56 | RB ADP 27 | New England Patriots

With all the hype surrounding rookie Harris and second year player Michel, you could certainly make the argument that both are irrelevant fantasy players. Not because they are going to split snaps, but because White is the primary back in this offense.

White finished 2018, his first season without Dion Lewis on the roster, as RB7 in PPR leagues. It is also worth noting that White’s snap share was 60% for the year and his usage was off the charts in the red zone, leading to 12 total touchdowns. While White ran for 5 touchdowns, he was deadly as a receiver in the red zone, putting up 16/117/7, and that number could climb even higher with no Gronk on the field in 2019.

28. Chris Carson – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 46 | RB ADP 24 | Seattle Seahawks

Carson was a fantasy beast in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense in 2018. He was a solid fantasy start in 10 out 14 games, and finished the season as RB11 in standard scoring leagues. He benefited from a run-heavy offense, little competition in the backfield, and a much-improved Seattle offensive line.

While the offense will likely be a top 5 run % team again in 2019 and we think the offensive line will improve even more, Carson may have competition for carries in Rashad Penny. While Penny broke a handful of long runs and had 2 decent fantasy weeks, he was mostly an afterthought in his rookie season and was never a fantasy option.

All reports out of Seahawks camp have this as a likely 50/50 timeshare, which severely limits both backs’ upside. While we still lean Carson, because he was so solid last season, the value may end up being in whichever guy plays more on 3rd down.

The unfortunate reality for both Carson and Penny owners is that for as long as CJ Prosise is healthy, which won’t be long, he will own that third-down role. I maintain the opinion that if he were ever able to stay healthy, Prosise could become a PPR monster.

28. Sony Michel – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 47 | RB ADP 25 | New England Patriots

Michel really finished his rookie season as RB18 in fantasy PPG considering he missed almost the entire game against the Bears in week 7. While you would assume the Pats would trust him even more in year 2, the backfield, which was already crowded with White and Burkhead, added another capable body in Damien Harris this offseason.

Michel gives you absolutely nothing in the passing game, so if he isn’t the clear cut early down back for New England then he won’t ever be a guy you want to start. Particularly if you are in any sort of PPR league. Even last season was rough, as he failed to score 6 or more fantasy points in 7 out of 13 starts, and was ultimately one of the most TD-dependent backs in fantasy.

29. Rashaad Penny – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 70 | RB ADP 31 | Seattle Seahawks

By now everyone in the fantasy community is aware that Seattle wants to give Penny a large share of the RB snaps in 2019, and this really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Aside from last season, where Carson was the man, the Seahawks have been a committee backfield since Lynch left.

Penny put up over 4,000 yards at SDSU, with another 2,200+ as a return man, but only 400 of that came from receiving yards. That did not bode well last season, as he graded out 45/100 as a pass-catcher according to PFF and dropped 2 out of his 10 targets on the season.

According to NFL.com Penny is starting to play faster and has looked improved throughout camp. Unless Penny is drastically improved in the passing game, he will likely need to earn the lion’s share of early-down work to hold any real fantasy value without a Carson injury this season.

30. Tarik Cohen – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 60 | RB ADP 28 | Chicago Bears

Obviously, our ranking for Cohen is lower than both his ADP and RB ADP, but we just are not sure what to expect from Tarik Cohen in 2019. As a receiver, he may be the best in the league. As a runner, you could make the argument that he is the worst. According to Pro Football Focus, only 8 backs graded out lower than Cohen as a runner in 2018, his yards after contact were 4th to last, and it’s worth noting that he fumbled 7 times.

That being said, he finished RB17 because he put up 71/725/5 as a receiver, and graded out 5th among all RB’s as a pass-catcher in 2018. The problem is that when he is in the backfield the defense can essentially assume pass, but when David Montgomery is in the backfield the defense is left guessing, and Montgomery can do many of the same things as a pass-catcher.

While the Bears signed Mike Davis and drafted David Montgomery because they thought their offense was too predictable with Jordan Howard on the field, that goes the opposite way with Cohen. We think Montgomery or Davis will eat into Cohen’s snaps in 2019, but we don’t know how much. It’s also worth noting that the team would like to get Burton, Robinson, and Miller the ball more in the passing game, which could also eat into Cohen’s opportunities.

31. Lamar Miller – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 64 | RB ADP 29 | Houston Texans

Lanar Miller was a relatively unsexy fantasy football pick when he was the go-to workhorse back in Houston. Now that we have added the D’Ontae Foreman wrinkle to the mix, he may not even be a draftable fantasy RB.

One thing to keep in mind whether we are talking about Lamar Miller or D’ontae Foreman is that their upside is severely limited in this Texans offense. Despite the fact that he runs the ball on the 8th highest percentage of plays, Bill O’Brien may run the least RB-friendly system in the NFL.

First of all, he will play Foreman a bunch, but probably not enough to be fantasy relevant. Alred Blue got 150 carries (to Lamar Miller’s 150) for the Texans in 2018, and a healthy Foreman is an upgrade over Blue.

Secondly, he rarely throws to running backs in this offense. Miller, Blue, Ervin, and Foreman combined for less than 50 receptions last season. Having a running back in a timeshare is one thing, having a running back in a timeshare with no role in the passing game makes it all but impossible for them to be a consistent fantasy option.

Unfortunately, that is the spot we find Miller in for 2019. That being said, there is little depth behind Foreman, so if he goes down again this season, then Miller is suddenly a 3-down back again and certainly becomes a viable weekly flex option.

32. Miles Sanders – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 81 | RB ADP 35 | Philadelphia Eagles

We have been higher on Sanders than most other fantasy websites out there throughout the offseason, simply because we believe that talent and draft picks don’t lie. The Eagles sent a 6th rounder for Jordan Howard, a guy that averaged less than 4.0 YPC over the last two years, and then spent a 2nd round pick on Miles Sanders.

While this will be a competition, and it is likely Howard and perhaps even one more 3rd down back will have a role, we think Sanders will get the bulk of the work as a runner in 2019. Beyond just being a guy the Eagles invested a second-round pick in this offseason, Sanders appears to be the most talented back on the roster and as a one-cut, downhill back, he fits perfectly with what Pederson is looking for. Early reports out of camp appear to validate this fact.

33. Derrius Guice – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 73 | RB ADP 32 | Washington Redskins

34. Peyton Barber – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 120 | RB ADP 47 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers

35. Austin Ekeler – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 88 | RB ADP 37 | LA Chargers

36. Royce Freeman – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 90 | RB ADP 38 | Denver Broncos

37. LeSean McCoy – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 14 | RB ADP 45 | Buffalo Bills

38. Latavius Murray – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 80 | RB ADP 34 | New Orleans Saints

39. Jerrick McKinnon – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 115 | RB ADP 46 | San Francisco 49ers

40. Kareem Hunt – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 93 | RB ADP 39 | Cleveland Browns

41. D’Onta Foreman – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 106 | RB ADP 43 | Houston Texans

42. Alexander Mattison – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 128 | RB ADP 49 | Minnesota Vikings

43. Darrell Henderson – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 76 | RB ADP 33 | LA Rams

44. Carlos Hyde – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 127 | RB ADP 48 | Kansas City Chiefs

45. Jordan Howard – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 87 | RB ADP 36 | Philadelphia Eagles

46. Giovani Bernard – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 201 | RB ADP 63 | Cincinatti Bengals

47. Adrian Peterson – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 102 | RB ADP 41 | Washington Redskins

48. Jaylen Samuels – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 103 | RB ADP 42 | Pittsburgh Steelers

49. Nyheim Hines – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 162 | RB ADP 57 | Indianapolis Colts

50. Damien Harris – 2019 Fantasy Outlook

ADP 107 | RB ADP 44 | New England Patriots

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