5 Running Backs You Have to Draft in 2019

5 Running Backs You Have to Draft in 2019

Running back is the most important position in fantasy football. Consistent, high scoring RB’s are the hardest things to find in your draft. You can give yourself a massive advantage over other owners in your league if you simply come into the draft with a handful of RB’s you can target throughout your draft. Here are our 5 favorite RB picks at their current ADP.

Todd Gurley

By far the best fantasy player in the league over the past two seasons. Gurley finished in top 10 at the RB position in 12 of 14 games, and top 3 in 9 of 14 games. Compare that to Zeke, Saquon, and Melvin Gordon who combined to reach the top 3 just 9 times last season.

His ADP has dropped from 5 to 16 over growing concerns regarding his knee. Combine that with the Rams drafting a RB that averaged 9 YPC in college, and you have the perfect recipe for a fantasy-overreaction.

Depth Chart

If he is healthy he is the best back in the league, so competition is really irrelevant. As high as we were on Darrell Henderson heading into the 2019 draft, he’s not even on the same planet as Gurley. Because of the overreaction to Gurley’s finish to 2019 and knee issues, you really can’t handcuff him with how high Henderson’s current ADP has climbed… he’s arguably the most overdrafted player in the league.

While the Rams lost Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan on the offensive line, they are loaded with young talent and Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen both looked more than capable of taking over as starters in this season.


The Rams were 8th in run play % last season, running the ball on over 43% of their plays, and were 6th in rushing attempts per game. Given the fact that McVay is a disciple of Jay Gruden, it should come as no surprise that he runs a run-first offense. Jay’s offenses have consistently been in the top 10 in the NFL in run % over his tenure in Washington.

The defense is going to be really, really good. This secondary with Peters, Talib, Robey-Coleman and now Weddle may be the best in the league, and they won’t have to cover for long with Aaron Donald, Fowler, Brockers, and now Clay Matthews. This means the offense won’t be off the field for long and should see plenty of possession every week.

The Knee

Let’s talk about the knee. Gurley was hurt down the stretch last season, but he and McVay have stated he will be their workhorse back in April, both said it again in May, again in June, then again last week. Part of what happened down the stretch was McVay overthinking issues the team had running the ball down the stretch in 2018.

The majority of this hysteria this offseason came from comments made by his trainer, Travelle Gaines. In the same paragraph Gaines states Gurley has an arthritic component to his knee, he says as do all surgeries… it was a throwaway line. In the same interview, he then goes on to say that there will be no timeshare and the Rams expect Darrell to handle 1-2 series per half. There’s your headline.

Let’s assume the Rams manage Gurley over the course of the season and lower his total touches even 25%. He is still a 20 PPG fantasy player on 18 touches per game which would be 75% of his workload over the last two seasons.

Derrick Henry

Henry closed out 2019 on a tear and was RB2 over the last four games of the regular season, behind only Christian McCaffrey. As the Titans move to a new system, one that revolves around Henry, is he finally ready to become a top 10 fantasy running back in 2019?

Depth Chart

The biggest change for Henry will be his snap count. We expect him to jump from a ridiculously low 40% snap count in 2018 to 65+% in 2019. Dion Lewis may hold onto a passing-down role, but the Titans have made it clear that they will use Henry more in the passing game this season. While his style doesn’t fit a traditional pass-catching back, if they are able to get him the ball in space he could be one of the better YAC guys in the league given his size and speed.

The Titans added the aforementioned Rodger Saffold from the Rams top-ranked offensive line this offseason, adding even more depth to what was PFF’s #9 rated run-blocking offensive line in 2019. Additionally, they will get Jack Conklin back and if he’s right, he’s one of the best run-blocking right tackles in the NFL. This line is deep, well-coached, and built for the run.


Offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, has a background as a tight end and offensive line coach and has spent time in the Norv Turner system, under Ken Whisenhunt, and of course last year he worked with Matt Lafleur in Tennessee. We haven’t seen him as a play-caller, but he’s a really smart guy and gets the benefit of practicing against a really smart defense every day. Arthur Smith may have a higher net worth than the team’s owners… his dad is the founder of FedEx.

This is another running back on a team with a really good defense, and while they were 22nd in time of possession last season, we expect to see that number change as the team shifts to a system that revolves around Henry.

Additional Notes

In addition to fighting through an extremely limited snap count over the first half of the season, Henry also had two 70+ yards rushing touchdowns called back in 2018. That’s nearly 2 fantasy PPG wiped out on two plays, I can’t recall that having happened before.

Here is Head Coach Mike Vrabel on Henry in 2019:

If Derrick can do what he did at the end of the year at the start this year, he’s certainly going to get a lot more opportunities. He caught it well when we threw it to him when he had opportunities to catch it on the move and gain some yards. So we know what his skill sets are and we just have to try to combine his efforts with what we are trying to do to get him the ball.

Tevin Coleman

We know Kyle Shanahan is going to play two running backs in 49ers, and we have no clue what the snap share will be, so why Coleman? Exactly. Why would the 49ers sign Coleman for 2 years, $10 million when they have McKinnon returning, along with Breida, Mostert, and Wilson. This is Kyle Shanahan’s guy, and he saw the opportunity to steal him in free agency and did so.

Coleman was second to only Saquon Barkley in breakaway % in 2018, and nearly 10% of his runs went for over 15 yards. In Shanahan’s last year in Atlanta, Coleman put up 940+ yards and 11 touchdowns on just 149 touches. That is 6.4 yards/touch and a touchdown coming on nearly 7.5% of his touches… crazy numbers for a running back.

Depth Chart

The numbers don’t add up at running back. They will keep 4 active, which includes Wilson for special teams and Juszczyk at fullback. Mostert (7.7 YPC in 2018) is likely on the roster bubble, and one of McKinnon or Breida will likely be inactive on game days. We expect Coleman to be the primary back, as has been reported, with either Breida or McKinnon spelling him on 1-2 drives per half.

The team was able to resign RG Mike Person this offseason, which means the offensive line (PFF’s 4th rated run blocking unit) is back this season. This is a deep line, with two really good tackles, and plenty of experienced depth.


Not much to say here… Kyle Shanahan is the best offensive mind in football. The Falcons were the highest-scoring team in football his last season there, and despite primarily playing with Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard at QB, Shanahan had the 49ers as the 9th highest-scoring offense in the NFL down the stretch last season.

The 49ers only had 9 total RB touchdowns last season, but as we mentioned earlier, Coleman had 11 as a backup in Shanahan’s system in 2016. He will dramatically improve that number this season.

Coleman’s Current ADP

This is the kicker for Coleman making this list. Take a look at his current ADP (59 Overall, RB 28). He is one of the last picks in the 5th round, other RB’s going in that range: Derrius Guice, Rashaad Penny, Lamar Miller, Darrell Henderson. Coleman has a significant advantage in either system or role over any one of those guys, and you can make the argument that he is the last back on the board with top 15 upside at this stage of the draft.

Alexander Mattison

Mattison made our RB sleeper and deep sleeper articles and is a guy we are targeting heavily in DRAFT best ball drafts this year. He is taking over a role that saw Latavius Murray thrive in as a top 20 fantasy back over the last two seasons.

Depth Chart

Clearly, this is where we should start with Mattison. We have him as our top-rated handcuff, just slightly higher than Henderson in LA. Obviously, most have Henderson higher, but Gurley has led the NFL in snaps/game at RB over the past two seasons and is a generational player with the highest contract in the history of the position.

Mattison, on the other hand, is playing behind a guy that has missed 17 of his last 32 games, and parts of three other games. It is also extremely likely that Mattison is the goal line back here. Cook had 7 carries inside of the 10 last season, they went for 5 yards and 0 touchdowns. Mattison was extremely efficient in the red zone and in short-yardage situations for Boise


Minnesota and Zimmer have already stated they plan on being one of the more run-heavy offenses in the league, and they brought in Gary Kubiak this offseason to install the zone running offense he is famous for. Kubiak will serve as the run game coordinator, while Stefanski will keep the OC role and play-caller. The team is expected to move Cousins back under center this season. 60% of snaps came out of the shotgun in 2018, while just 14% of the runs came out of the shotgun, meaning they were extremely predictable with the run.

We know from past Kubiak systems, he will want 500+ rushing attempts or roughly 32 attempts/game. Cook averaged less than 12 attempts per game when healthy last season, so even if he is active there is clearly plenty of work available here for Mattison.

Alexander Mattison Draft Strategy

While Mattison’s draft stock has been on the rise over the past month, he is still way undervalued, going in the late 12th and early 13th rounds depending on the scoring format. Unlike other handcuffs going in this range (Ito Smith, Ryquell Armstead, Mike Davis, Justice Hill) Mattison does not have competition for his backup role.

Even if one of the starter goes down for many of those backs, their role is not guaranteed as there are other backs on the depth chart. Abdullah, Boone, and Thomas were all on this roster last season and combined for 24 carries despite Cook’s injury problems.

We are targeting Mattison a full round earlier than his current ADP, generally, right after Austin Ekeler comes off the board. Look for him in the mid-to-late 11th or early in the 12th.

Duke Johnson

For the love of God, can we get Duke out of Cleveland? Duke has had to play on some awful Browns teams, and for some awful coaches, but the current staff has completely disrespected him. Not only that, but his QB, the great leader that guy has been historically, publicly ripped him in June.

In four years with Cleveland Duke has never missed a game, and put up 235/2,170/8 as a pass-catcher with an 80% catch rate, playing with some atrocious quarterbacks. His reward? The team wants to throw the ball to Nick Chubb and keep Chubb on the field for third down. Nick Chubb had 4 receptions as a senior at Georgia, 31 over the course of his four-year career, and had 20 receptions on 29 targets (68% catch rate) playing with Mayfield last season. Get Duke out of Cleveland.

Here is everyone’s go-to-stat with Chubb: he averaged 4.47 yards after contact last season, that’s a record. Duke Johnson averaged 4.16, he also averaged 5.0 YPC, is one of the more dynamic pass-catching backs in the NFL, and is still only 25 years old. Get him out of Cleveland.

Possible Destinations

If Johnson gets his wish and gets traded from Cleveland, his current ADP (175) is going to skyrocket. We know several teams are kicking the tires on Johnson, who likely will not report, but are not sure who those teams are. Some possible destinations include Houston, Tampa, Indy, Jacksonville, and Green Bay.

We have seen players get traded before the start of a season and have a fantasy impact, and Duke Johnson could potentially have a major fantasy impact if he could just get. out. of. Cleveland.

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