Running back is the Holy Grail position of fantasy football. Experienced managers know this, thus, you might run into redraft leagues where RBs are the first 20 players off the board.
But is that really necessary this season? With so much high-quality depth at the position, can’t we just sit around, wait, and ultimately pick our spots? Let’s dig deeper and dive in to answer the real question at hand here: Is this the greatest group of running backs in the history of fantasy football?
Tier 1: PPR Cash Registers – We’re Printing Money, Here
Pretty much everybody plays PPR now, so I have to go with Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey up top. These are consistently the most prolific pass-catchers at their position, and they play in high-octane offenses with enough balance to take the pressure off them. For now, Ekeler and “CMC” are in ideal spots in Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. As safe as they come, fantasy-wise.
Tier 2: It’s Anybody’s Guess, but These Guys Are All Freakin’ Great
Rookie Bijan Robinson brings the beloved ‘unknown’ factor – without knowing exactly how dominant he can be, that only gives him even more theoretical upside – so I’m not gonna question anyone who tries him as the No. 3 RB off the board.
There are obvious, safe plays, though – Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb are innocent until proven guilty (they always deliver with consistency), while Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor and Josh Jacobs are all excellent options.
Some are expecting serious regression from Jacobs, but I think Josh McDaniels unlocked something in his rushing attack. I think it’s just about force-feeding Jacobs and giving him the confidence to do what he does best: Dominate the opposition with relentless downhill rushing.
Tier 3: Upside as High as Brad Pitt in True Romance
Brad Pitt was the Stoner on the Couch in Quentin Tarantino’s brainchild, True Romance, though our ‘high’ is just a bit different here. My Tier 3 is where the action’s really at: How do we differentiate between Rhamondre Stevenson, Tony Pollard, Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker III, Aaron Jones and Najee Harris?
Well, we don’t really; it’s sort of a pick your poison kinda thing. Out of that intriguing group of six, I happen to be highest on Stevenson and Walker. Stevenson has the all-around potential to be one of the best offensive performers in the entire NFL, while Walker is similar to Jacobs in his explosive downhill ability. I’ll have plenty of shares of both, I’m sure.
If you wanted to, you could knock Hall coming off a major injury or Pollard carrying a full load for the first time in his promising NFL career.
Tier 4: Etienne, Brute?
Yes, that’s a Shakespeare reference in a fantasy football article, so let’s just go right ahead and move on. Travis Etienne was teetering between Tiers 2 and 3 for me for a bit of time, but this insane Tank Bigsby hype has me a liiiiiittle bit worried. I’ll just start with Etienne at the very top of Tier 4 while I take my guys like Stevenson and Walker before him.
With various questions surrounding both Cook and Mixon, I’m probably ending up with the most shares of Gibbs and Dobbins here. I’ve never really been a ‘Dobbins guy’ because of the inconsistency of health, but this season I have to try because the Baltimore Ravens have finally provided offensive balance for the great Lamar Jackson. The balance of John Harbaugh’s new offense could really open things up for Dobbins when the Ravens get near paydirt.
Tier 5: Okay, Now It Gets Much Easier for Me to Knock These Guys
After my Tier 4, ‘The Dropoff’ finally occurs. I like Rachaad White in a vacuum, but the Bucs’ overall offense looks like a dumpster fire to me. When it comes to Cam Akers, all I have to write is… where’s the consistency?
Javonte Williams is a very talented young back off a major injury, but I’d also keep an eye on my sleeper Samaje Perine in Denver. If you follow MLB, this reminds me of the Tampa Bay Rays’ insta-pickup of Zach Eflin during the offseason. Sean Payton had Perine on the brain from the get-go. I think he has some tricks up his sleeve when it comes to Samaje.
People seem to like James Cook, but I’m just not there yet. Damien Harris, Latavius Murray and Nyheim Hines are all still on the Buffalo Bills roster at last check, and none of them are truly that bad. Do the Bills have to ‘ride’ Cook in any sort of way? Not really, in my estimation.
In the end, there are plenty more names I can drop, but the verdict is already clear:
This is the best and deepest running back group we’ve seen to date.
John Frascella is a published sports author who has been covering the NFL for 19 years. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy football, baseball and basketball throughout the year.