Upcoming Match-ups

2018 NFL Fantasy Football RB Rankings: Is Saquon a Top 5 Back?

Saquon Barkley holding his Giants jersey at the 2018 NFL Draft
After being selected 2nd-overall by the New York Giants in the 2018 NFL Draft, big things are expected of Saquon Barkley in his first season. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)
  • Is Saquon Barkley a better fantasy option than recent top 10 backs Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott
  • Does David Johnson regain his top 5 status after crushing hopes and dreams in 2017
  • Eight rookie rushers enter the top 50; where does your favorite rank?

With OTAs making way to mandatory minicamps, it’s time we took our first swing at ranking NFL running backs for the 2018 fantasy football season. Is it early? Sure. But as someone who has fantasy on the brain 12 months of the year, it’s never too early.

With so many different league formats and scoring systems out there we will keep it simple with a standard scoring format:

  • 1 pt for every 10 rushing yards
  • 1 pt for every 10 receiving yards
  • 6 pts for a rushing/receiving touchdown
  • -2 pts for a lost fumble

Without further ado, here are my top 50 RBs for the 2018 NFL season.

Rank Player/Team 2017 Points Comments
1. Le’Veon Bell (PIT) 256.6 All things considered, he is the safest bet to return top 3 value. Even if he does hold out until September for the second consecutive season.
2. Todd Gurley (LAR) 319.3 Under the creative offensive mind of Sean McVay, Gurley will continue to wow in open space.
3. Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) 177.2 A threat to score every week behind a stout offensive line. See his 25 career touchdowns in 25 career games.
4. David Johnson (ARI) 7.1 After breaking hearts last year, his lofty goal of a 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in one season remains. So do his chances of reaching it.
5. Saquon Barkley (NYG) Rookie The only question is how huge Saquon will be in his first year. The sky is the limit with the rookie already being considered NYG’s workhorse.
6. Melvin Gordon (LAC) 230.1 Gordon has developed a nose for the end zone with 24 combined touchdowns over the last two seasons – zero as a rookie.
7. Alvin Kamara (NO) 233.4 With Mark Ingram suspended for the first four games, Kamara will get off to a hot start.
8. Kareem Hunt (KC) 242.2 Last years rushing leader will take a step back with the rest of the Chiefs offense led by Patrick Mahomes.
9. Dalvin Cook (MIN) 54.4 A torn ACL ended a promising start to his rookie campaign. With the very capable Latavius Murray backing him up, Cook will likely be eased back into his full-time role.
10. Leonard Fournette (JAX) 194.2 An impressively physical runner, with a possible chronic foot problem.  Love his talent and his style, but his injury issues are very concerning.

Rank Player/Team 2017 Points Comments
11. LeSean McCoy (BUF) 204.6 Father Time will catch up one of these days. But for now, expect Shady to continue being Shady.
12. Devonta Freeman (ATL) 164.2 Had a three year low of 1,182 yards and 8 TDs in an injury plagued 2017, in which he missed two full games. Sign me up if that’s his floor.
13. Jordan Howard (CHI) 176.5 A change in offensive philosophies may get teammate Tarik Cohen more involved, but Howard has proved his worth.
14. Derrius Guice (WAS) Rookie Great landing spot after falling in the draft. Big upgrade in talent over previous starters Samaje Perine and Robert Kelley, and it will show in fantasy value.
15. Joe Mixon (CIN) 111.3 Marvin Lewis cannot hold Mixon back with Jeremy Hill (now a Patriot) any longer, and Cincinnati improved their o-line. Mixon has the talent of a top 10 back and this year we see more of it.
16. Christian McCaffery (CAR) 148.6 Will never be a featured runner, but his quick feet and soft hands will keep him in the 200-touch area for a long time.
17. Rashaad Penny (SEA) Rookie This rank is more about the opportunity and the price the Seahawks paid to land him.
18. Alex Collins (BAL) 148 Collins found a home with the Ravens and became the focal point of their offense last year. While trying to break in their new receivers, Collins will get the ball early and often.
19. Marshawn Lynch (OAK) 144.3 Lynch’s biggest competition is Doug Martin, who averaged 2.9 YPC in 2017. Ten TDs isn’t out of the question.
20. Kenyan Drake (MIA) 110.3 Drake flashed his upside at the end of the year and finished with 165 touches. Including his four years in college, that is the most he has touched the ball.
21. Jerick McKinnon (SF) 127.1 Great opportunity in a Kyle Shanahan orchestrated offense. I’m not a believer in McKinnon, largely due to his size, but the opportunity is undeniable.
22. Derrick Henry (TEN) 124 The signing of Dion Lewis is enough to worry me. Combine that with the change in offensive scheme, and I’m raising the red flag here.
23. Jay Ajayi (PHI) 111.1 Had a nice playoff run, but he is entering a contract year, has a chronic knee, and a talented second-year back in Corey Clement waiting in the wings.
24. Mark Ingram (NO) 220 The thunder in the Saints backfield combination will regain his role after he serves his four games for cheating.
25. Tevin Coleman (ATL) 140.9 A solid week-to-week flex play, with RB1 upside if running mate Devonta Freeman goes down. Entering a contract year, take that for what you will.

Rank Player/Team 2017 Points Comments
26. Lamar Miller (HOU) 157.5 We could see a shift in roles for Miller in the offense this year if talented second-year back D’Onta Foreman recovers quickly from a season-ending Achilles injury.
27. Dion Lewis (TEN) 165 Injuries are always a concern for Lewis, but his role in Tennessee won’t be. New Titans HC Mike Vrabel brought Lewis in to be a dynamic part of the offense. As long as he’s healthy, he will be just that.
28. CJ Anderson (CAR) 147.1 Anderson is set to take over the Jonathan Stewart role in Carolina, which would net him around 200 carries. Over drafted the past two years, he screams RB3/flex this year.
29. Isaiah Crowell (NYJ) 115.5 2018 sees Isaiah Crowell on a new team, but in a situation that feels eerily similar. Some are just doomed for mediocrity.
30. Ronald Jones (TB) Rookie My least favorite talent of all the top 50 rookie rushers landed in one of the best situations. With minimal talent to challenge him, Jones will get plenty of opportunities in Tampa Bay.
31. Kerryon Johnson (DET) Rookie Kerryon Johnson is one of my favorite rookie backs, but lands on a team that has been as bad at running the ball the last two years as the Cleveland Browns have been at winning.
32. Sony Michel (NE) Rookie I don’t care where Bill Belichick selected him. I’m not ready to trust a Patriot running back, especially one who is known to fumble.
33. Aaron Jones (GB) 71 Jones is only this high because I believe he is the most talented player in the Packers backfield. Off field issues and teammate Jamaal Williams are huge concerns.
34. Marlon Mack (IND) 82.3 Mack is in a prime position to become a relevant fantasy player. I question if the Colts believe in him, though, as they double dipped at his position in the 2018 NFL Draft.
35. Rex Burkhead (NE) 99.8 Burkhead will look to build off a moderately successful first year with the Pats that saw him gain over 500 yards, and find the endzone eight times in only 10 games.

Rank Player/Team 2017 Points Comments
36. Carlos Hyde (CLE) 175 Cleveland boasts one of the NFL’s best third-down backs, and drafted a talented young rookie in the second-round. Touches may be tough to come by for the physical Hyde.
37. Chris Thompson (WAS) 112.4 With 800 total yards and 6 TDs in 10 games, Thompson finally showed the type of playmaker he can be in the NFL. If he is fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered last year, a productive third-down role awaits.
38. Duke Johnson (CLE) 142.1 After finishing as the RB21 in 2017, on only 82 carries, Duke proved his value on third-down and in passing situations. Johnson will play a role in a crowded Cleveland backfield.
39. Bilal Powell (NYJ) 122.2 Isaiah Crowell was brought in to take over the featured role, but if he is as average with the Jets as he was with the Browns, Powell will get lots of looks.
40. Gio Bernard (CIN) 108.7 Proved he can still handle a featured role over the last five games of 2017. With Jeremy Hill gone to greener pastures, Bernard will spell Joe Mixon and should get the bulk of the third-down work.
41. Royce Freeman (DEN) Rookie A big grinder with quick feet and a lot of wear on his treads. But he only needs to beat out an unimpressive Devontae Booker for carries in a thin Bronco backfield.
42. D’Onta Foreman (HOU) 51 After showing play-making ability during his first 10 games as a rookie, he went down with a torn achilles. If he heals quickly, he could have a shot at the starting role.
43. Nick Chubb (CLE) Rookie Three years removed from a devastating knee injury, Chubb crushed the combine and was picked at the top of the second-round at the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s the type of player I want on my team. Determined.
44. Jamaal Williams (GB) 117.8 Jamaal carried the load when the Packers needed him the most and earned a shot at the starting gig. He should backup more talented teammate Aaron Jones, though.
45. LeGarrette Blount (DET) 99.6 Entering 2018 at 31 years old, Blount will only have enough left in the tank for the goal line roll in the Motor City. And the fantasy success there will be minimal.
46. Latavius Murray (MIN) 142.4 Big and fast! Murray did a solid job filling in when rookie back Dalvin Cook went down. The problem is Dalvin will need to go down again for Murray to have a real impact in 2018.
47. Spencer Ware (KC) Injured Ware found himself injured before the 2017 season started, and had to watch as his role was Wally Pipped by Kareem Hunt. Ware won’t have to worry about starting, only about getting on the field.
48. Corey Clement (PHI) 82.4 The undrafted free agent showed some play-making ability throughout his rookie campaign, but will be hard pressed to cut into starter Jay Ajayi’s workload.
49. Tarik Cohen (CHI) 91.6 He played 16 games as a rookie and touched the ball 140 times on offense. At 5’6″ and 185 pounds he is not built for a larger role.
50. Theo Riddick (DET) 101 The primary pass-catching back in the muddled Lions backfield pulled in 53 balls each of the last two years.

 

As you see, I fully expect rookie running backs to again have a huge impact on the 2018 fantasy football season. Saquon Barkley has a shot at being this year’s top back, while a handful of others will work their way into RB2 roles. Just beware of the many incredibly deep backfields that exist in the NFL this season.


For more fantasy football, check out our 2018 Fantasy Football QB Rankings.

Author Image

Nick Ferris is a seasoned fantasy football vet of over 20 years. He's an expert in everything from best ball to daily fantasy sports. Although arm chair quarterback is as close he ever got to the field - or are we counting 7v7 touch? - he has been fortunate enough to coach some youth football. With the rest of his "free time" being devoted to fishing with the family, he wishes to assure you that his lake does have cellular service.