Habecker’s Fantasy Big Board – Running Backs

29 July 2016 Fantasy Football

Earlier this week, I covered the all important position of QB on my big board. Today, let’s take a look at what the running back position has  to offer. It gets a little bit tricky as we move onto the backs because of the fact that pretty much every league requires a minimum of two starting running backs and then you have the potential to start a  third in the flex position. I’ll start off like I did with the honorable mentions, then work my way on to the top “RB 2’s” and then on to the “RB 1’s.” Factors that I considered were usage, rushes/ypc, threat as a pass catcher, and team depth chart. Lets get started!


Honorable Mention :  Jeremy Langford, Frank Gore, Giovani Bernard, Danny Woodhead, James Starks, Isaiah Crowell, Matt Jones, Arian Foster


Running Back “Two’s”

C.J. Anderson – In a normal situation Anderson would be a low end “RB1” or high end “RB2,” but he will be splitting time in Denver with Ronnie Hillman and rookie Devontae Booker. I wouldn’t target him too high in your draft. Grade –  Late 5th round

Matt Forte – Forte left the Windy City for the Big Apple and the New York Jets. While Forte is getting older and had some nagging injuries last year, he very well could bounce back and put in a healthy 15 or 16 games this year, which would put him in the “RB1” discussion. Grade –  Late 5th round

DeMarco Murray – While Murray was paid like a feature back by the Titans, expect some of his carries to be delegated to rookie Derrick Henry. A potential plus for Murray is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Grade – 5th round

Ravens running back Justin Forsett is hit by Browns safety Tashaun Gipson during play in 2015

Ravens running back Justin Forsett is hit by Browns safety Tashaun Gipson during play in 2015

Carlos Hyde – The 49ers are in transition, and that is why Hyde slipped a little bit lower than anticipated. It remains to be seen if Hyde’s talent will excel, level out, or decrease in the up-tempo system. He has the talent to be a high end “RB2.” Grade –  5th round

Ryan Mathews – With Murray gone to Tennessee, Mathews steps in as the feature back for the Eagles. Injuries are the biggest concern here, so if you  take him, I’d highly recommend taking Darren Sproles if available. If he’s healthy, he could cross the 1,000 yard mark and 10 touchdowns. Grade –  Early 5th round

Justin Forsett – Baltimore was decimated with injuries last year, so look for the whole offense to be improved this year. Back in 2014 Forsett put up great numbers, and I expect him to bounce back with a pretty solid 2016 campaign. Grade –  Late 4th round

Dion Lewis – With Tom Brady out, expect a lot of dink and dunk offense out of New England for the first 4 weeks, which could translate into a lot of points for the scat back Lewis. Lewis came out of nowhere last year and put up big numbers before getting injured. Expect him to come out lighting the world on fire. Grade –  4th round

David Johnson – Should be the lead back in the Arizona Cardinals rushing attack, but expect him to lose some touches to the veteran Chris Johnson and oft-injured Andre Ellington. He has the talent to be a big-time back, will he get the carries? Grade –  4th round

Chris Ivory – The aforementioned Forte filled the whole left by Ivory, who saw greener pastures in Jacksonville. Ivory will form a solid first punch with TJ Yeldon right behind him. Ivory showed last year that he can put up big numbers when he’s healthy. Grade –  3rd round

Jeremy Hill – Fumbling issues caused Hill to lose some time last year to Giovani Bernard. Hill burst onto the seen back in 2014 as a rookie and took control of the backfield, and I expect much of the same from him this year. It’s amazing what a fresh start can do for a players mental state. Grade –  Late 3rd round

Eddie Lacy – This may be a little high for Lacy, but early indications are that Lacy met his goal of slimming down quite a bit in order to add some explosiveness to his game. Lacy has the power to be a force, with a little extra speed, he could  be lethal. What scares me is that he could end up splitting a lot of time with James Starks. Grade –  3rd round

Lamar Miller – Injury riddled Arian Foster left a whole that Lamar Miller is hoping to fill. The new look Texans could rely heavily on the run game until new quarterback Brock Osweiler gets comfortable. While Miller was never able to fully piece it together in Miami, he looks primed to be a high quality “RB2,” for you. Grade –  Early 3rd round


Running Back “One’s”

Panthers back Jonathan Stewart runs against the Saints in 2014

Panthers back Jonathan Stewart runs against the Saints in 2014

Jonathan Stewart – The Panthers run a run first style of offense, and it is all centered around their QB, Cam Newton. However, the biggest benefactor to that type of offense is Stewart. Defenses never know whether to focus on Newton, Stewart, or the play action pass. Carolina also runs a couple of weird formations in the backfield which is another way to confuse defenses. I expect him to be right around a 1,000 yard rusher with 8-10 touchdowns. Grade –  Late2nd round

Mark Ingram – The Saints put a lot of work on Ingram’s plate, and he responded with one of his best seasons as a pro.  Had his season not been cut short, he most likely would have crossed over the 1,000 yard mark and would have been close to 10 touchdowns on the year. His 4.6 yards per carry make him a reliable workhorse type back who should be a solid starter for your team. Grade – 2nd round

Thomas Rawls – Expect big things from “Beast Mode’s” replacement. Rawls excelled when playing for the injured Marshawn Lynch. He runs with power in between the tackles and is adequate at catching the ball out of the backfield. The Seahawks run the ball to set up a good amount of play action passes, so expect Rawls to get a lot of the work, especially with a couple of rookies behind him on the depth chart. Grade – Late 2nd round

Doug Martin – Martin, otherwise known as “Muscle Hampster,” had a bounce back 2015 season that not too many saw coming. While he did run for just over 1,400 yards, he only tallied 6 rushing scores, which seems to be a little low over the course of 16 games. He would be higher on this list if he was more consistent. His inconsistencies are obvious when you look at his game by game stats, where Martin only had over 100 yards in 4 games, and only 3 more games he tallied over 90. That means in 9 games he had less  than 90 yards rushing to go along with a lackluster touchdown ratio.  If he struggles early, he could see himself splitting reps. Grade – 2nd round

Ezekiel Elliott – This may be a little high for a rookie, but the stars are aligning for Elliott to enter the league and be a force right out of the gate. The Cowboys offensive line is the best in the league and Elliott can do everything he will ever be asked, from running both inside and out, catching the ball, and blocking on third and longs. As much as I hate to say it, Elliott should be very good, for a very long time. Grade – Early 2nd round

Latavius Murray – Murray put it all together in his second year. In ’14 he was banged up but still had a very good 5.2 yards per carry. That number dipped a bit in ’15, but he still managed to get over the 1,000 yard mark and tallied 6 touchdowns. Murray is a decent  threat to catch the ball out of the backfield and has a knack for punching the ball in from all over the field. I expect him to get better in his third year, going for over 1,200 yards and at least 8 touchdowns. Grade – Late 1st to early 2nd round

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 15: Todd Gurley #30 of the St. Louis Rams carries the ball in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome on November 15, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS, MO – NOVEMBER 15: Todd Gurley #30 of the St. Louis Rams carries the ball in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome on November 15, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

LeSean McCoy – McCoy had a couple of nagging injuries in his first year in Orchard Park. We know this, Rex Ryan likes to run the ball and play a smash-mouth type of game. Second year back Karlos Williams is suspended for the first 4 games so expect heavy doses of McCoy in the first couple weeks. If he excels in those first weeks, expect him to be the head guy, but if he is just average, he could lose 5-8 touches a game to Williams, especially inside the 5 yard line. Grade- Late 1st round

Todd Gurley – Gurley, along with Elliott, is one of the most pro ready backs to come out of college in the last 5 years. While he may not do a ton in the passing game, he has everything you look for in a runner. Power, speed, anticipation to hit holes and explode through them, all of these traits were on display in his rookie year. The one thing that scares me about Gurley, he plays the Seahawks, Cardinals, and 49ers each twice. That’s not an easy task. Grade- Mid to late 1st round

LeVeon Bell – One of the “Killer B’s,” Bell would challenge for the top pick if it weren’t for his pending suspension (supposed to challenge it in August). Bell is the cream of the crop at running back and is in a contract year. He can run between the tackles, outside, catch the ball, all while displaying both power and elusiveness. His year was cut way short due to an ACL injury, so that first 4 games he could miss, may be a blessing in disguise. If you take him, you have to make sure you also get D’Angelo Williams for the first 4 weeks. Grade – Mid to late 1st round

Devonta Freeman – Freeman burst onto the scene in his second year and was a challenger for the rushing title right up until he had some injury issues late in the year. From November 22nd to December 13th, he had just 130 yards due to his limited availability. While his 4.0 yards per carry are a bit alarming, he did show the ability to be a “bell cow” back for the Falcons, and in the games that he was healthy, he averaged 18.2 rushes a game, as well as being involved in the passing game. Look for a year around 1,300 yards and 10-15 touchdowns. Grade – Early to Mid 1st round

Jamaal Charles – Charles went down with a torn ACL in mid October last year. Before his injury however, he was averaging 5.1 yards per carry and was almost averaging a touchdown per game. Normally I wouldn’t have him quite this high, but the pending suspension to Bell and the tough division that Gurley plays in, is why you see Charles as the second back on here. The threat he provides in the pass game is also very real, which really helps pad his stats even when the Chiefs are struggling to run the ball. Grade – Top 5 of 1st round

Adrian Peterson – Its hard to argue with the numbers that Peterson put up last year. I have a feeling that the year off that he had to take was a big boost to his legs. Peterson once again showed throughout the 2015 season that he is up to the  task of carrying a young Vikings offense that has both an up and coming quarterback and young receivers who are still learning the game. Look for a year  that includes around 350 touches, 1,500 yards rushing and 10 to 13 touchdowns. Grade – Top 3 of 1st round


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