2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings 1-20

Running backs have certainly taken a serious step back in the past couple of years. Once the most important position in fantasy football, a stud running back has now become much more of a rare commodity. More and more teams are going to a running back by committee and more are so injury prone it is hard to trust them. Below are the top 20 running backs this fantasy season and their 2015 statistics.

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1. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
229 carries, 1,106 yards, 10 touchdowns; 21 catches, 188 yards (13 games)

I could not have been more wrong on Gurley last season, as I thought his recovery from the torn ACL would really have an impact on his rookie year. I expected him to miss more than the first three weeks, and even though he did get into the third game a little, his breakout party came after that. He ran for at least 128 yards in each of his next four, and even though he slowed some down the stretch, Gurley definitely put the NFL on notice that he is the next big star. I’d like to see him be a little more involved in the passing game, but that would just be gravy. With a full offseason of health, the Rams will let Gurley lead them, and I expect a huge season from the second year stud.

2. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
125 carries, 581 yards, 8 touchdowns; 36 catches, 457 yards, 4 touchdowns

I was a big Johnson fan (hey wait, that sounds wrong!) leading into the 2015 season, but the Cardinals decided that he was best used in the passing game, and only sprinkled in the offense here and there. Eventually injuries gave Johnson his chance and he showed the greatness he was capable of. He faded a bit down the stretch but clearly is the most talented guy on the team. That being said, Arizona is still a pass first team, and Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington are still on the roster. I’m not saying they will take his job, but they will get some carries. Johnson is a dynamic playmaker, capable of taking it to the house any time he touches the ball. He has a few things working against him, but still has the potential to be one of the best in the fantasy game.

3. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
113 carries, 556 yards, 3 touchdowns; 24 catches, 136 yards (6 games)

If there weren’t concerns about past injuries and a drug arrest, I think Le’Veon Bell would be an easy top player on this list. After playing Puff, Puff, Pass with LeGarrette Blount, Bell missed the first four games of 2015. Six games later a major knee injury ended his season but he should be ready to go in 2016.  Bell is a patient runner who then hits the hole like a Mack Truck once he sees it. He doesn’t often go down on first contact either. The part that makes him so special is his involvement in the passing game. Bell has averaged over four catches per game throughout his career, and could be more involved this season. This new possible looming suspension has him falling down draft boards but I still like him as one of the best especially in PPR formats.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
289 carries, 1,821 yards, 23 touchdowns; 27 catches, 206 yards (13 games at Ohio State)

What do you get when you combine the best running back prospect to come out of college in a decade with by far the best offensive line in the NFL? Well, you get a freakish fantasy stud! I have no doubt that Elliott is going to step in on Day 1 and be a fantasy force. This is the same offensive line that made Darren McFadden look like a viable fantasy running back again. Elliott has all of the tools to be successful on any team in the league, but he found himself a dream spot in the NFL Draft, and if he finished as a top two fantasy football running back, I wouldn’t be surprised.

5. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
327 carries, 1,485 yards, 11 touchdowns; 30 catches, 222 yards

Adrian Peterson is a lot of things. Father of the Year wouldn’t be one of them, but there are no points in fantasy football for all-star parenting. Peterson is durable as he has never missed more than four games in a season in his career.  He is consistent, as he has had over 1,000 yards in every season of his career outside of the “switch year” and the one year he missed four games. He also has had double digit touchdowns in every season of his career. The only thing he isn’t elite at is catching the ball out of the backfield and he improved in that last season. I see no reason why AD won’t be a top three back again, and the offense will continue to revolve around him.

6. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
288 carries, 1,402 yards, 6 touchdowns; 33 catches, 271 yards, 1 touchdown

I don’t think anyone had a bigger bounceback season in 2015 than Martin. After totaling just 494 yards in 2014, who saw this outburst coming as he gained nearly 1,000 more yards? He has had injury and fumbling problems in recent years, so he is far from a sure thing. However, in this NFL world of injuries and running back by committee, guys who have the clear path to 90% of their team’s carries are getting fewer and farther between. You’d like to see Martin become more of a hound for the goal line, but he has a quarterback who likes to do that. He is mildly involved in the passing game, and Martin is going to be an RB1 in the upcoming season. I’m not totally sold on him, but in this current NFL landscape he is a great bet to lead your fantasy backfield.

7. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
265 carries, 1,056 yards, 11 touchdowns; 73 catches, 578 yards, 3 touchdowns

I was a huge Tevin Coleman fan in the 2015 preseason and he even won the job from Freeman before the season started. After a strong first game, Coleman was hurt and then Freeman went BANANAS! From Week 3 to Week 6 he scored nine touchdowns and the rest is history! Freeman has a great nose for the goal line, and is a very active pass receiver out of the backfield. Coleman will still get some carries each week in an attempt to keep Freeman fresh. I still don’t think that the Falcons passing game will be great, so look for Freeman to dominate again. He is sure to have a regression from his boom of a 2015 season but still is an RB1 for this upcoming year.

8. Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks
147 carries, 830 yards, 4 touchdowns; 9 catches, 76 yards, 1 touchdown (13 games)

When Marshawn Lynch went down last season, many wondered how their running game would function. However, Thomas Rawls came in and performed admirably, perhaps better than Lynch. He was young, energetic, and he had no problem with contact. On a run first team, Rawls has a chance to be among the league leaders in yards and touchdowns. However, he doesn’t come without concerns. The first is this major ankle injury that ended his 2015 season. Right now he looks on track to start Week 1 after being activated from the PUP list, but setbacks still could happen. Second, the Seahawks did pick three running backs in this year’s draft, so that could be an indication that Rawls won’t get 90-95% of the carries. I still think he will easily be the bell cow back and should have a very impressive 2016 season.


9. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
187 carries, 758 yards, 3 touchdowns; 20 catches, 188 yards, 2 touchdowns

Lacy’s big, fat ass was one of the bigger disappointments in a long line of disappointing running backs in 2015. The reports have been promising thus far that Lacy has slimmed down and did a lot to get back in better shape. He still will have to compete with James Starks for carries, but if he does come to camp not looking like he swallowed an adult human, I still think he will get the lion’s share of the work. You’d like to see him be a little more involved in the passing game, but I don’t think it would be crazy if you saw Lacy run for 1,100 yards and eight to ten touchdowns.

10. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
194 carries, 872 yards, 8 touchdowns; 47 catches, 397 yards, 2 touchdowns

I’m very torn on what I expect from Miller. I have never really been a fan of his, but I think some of that was because the Dolphins just didn’t use him correctly. I think he does go down on first contact too much, but overall he has the ability to be a very reliable fantasy scorer. The Texans are going to be very reliant on Miller both on the ground and in the air with an unproven, young quarterback. I believe that Miller will easily surpass his career high in carries of 216, and he could have more than 250. Given the Texans’ offensive system he could also have 50 catches as well, so if he can find his way to the end zone seven or eight times, Miller could be an RB1.

11. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
166 carries, 769 yards, 6 touchdowns; 50 catches, 405 yards (12 games)

Let me start out by saying that I am not a fan of Mark Ingram, and I never thought that he would turn into a viable fantasy running back. He still is yet to top 1,000 yards, and he is yet to score double digit touchdowns. However, he was much more involved in the passing game last season, and that brought him a good deal of fantasy relevance. The Saints did nothing to roster anyone who would take a significant number of carries from him, so I expect a similar 2016 for him. Tim Hightower is decent, and C.J. Spiller is a disappointment at best, so if Ingram can stay healthy I wouldn’t be surprised if he got over 200 carries. He’s not my favorite by a long shot, but the state of fantasy running backs is so bad that Ingram could be a top ten guy.

12. Matt Forte, New York Jets
218 carries, 898 yards, 4 touchdowns; 44 catches, 389 yards, 3 touchdowns (13 games)

An injury and the emergence of a young buck paved the way for Forte’s exit from Chicago after spending his entire career there. I know he has crossed that dreadful 30 year old plateau as a running back, but I think Forte found himself a great landing spot. The Jets have a solid offensive line even with the retirement of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and a fairly conservative offense. Forte has great ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield too for those of you in PPR leagues. He will have to build a little rapport with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, but Forte is a professional.  I still think Forte has plenty in the tank and will have something to prove after being rushed out of town by the Bears.

13. Jeremy Langford, Chicago Bears
148 carries, 537 yards, 6 touchdowns; 22 catches, 279 yards, 1 touchdown

When Matt Forte was injured it was Jeremy Langford who came through in a big way. At one point he scored in four straight games, and was mildly involved in the passing game. He was pretty strong at not going down at first contact, but Forte only missed a few weeks. He will be joined in the backfield by Ka’Deem Carey and fifth round pick Jordan Howard. Many feel that his competitors will take touches from Langford, but I think he will still get the majorities of the carries. Howard could be a short yardage option and perhaps vulture some touchdowns, but I’m not worried at all about Carey. His ADP seems to continue to drop, and he looks like a great value. Langford will likely be at the high end of RB2s.

14. C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
152 carries, 720 yards, 5 touchdowns; 25 catches, 183 yards

Trying to figure out the Denver backfield last season was kind of like trying to figure out the female orgasm. However, the one thing that was obvious is that the Broncos have transitioned to a run first offense. In the offseason they already signed two offensive lineman and drafted a fullback. They also gave Anderson a four year extension, and reviews out of OTAs were amazingly positive for him. Anderson will have to deal with Ronnie Hillman and/or rookie Devontae Booker, but I believe Anderson will get the majority of the carries and he should easily top his career high of 179 rushes. With a heavy run-first approach, I think he could easily have his best season to date.

15. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
203 carries, 895 yards, 3 touchdowns; 32 catches, 292 yards, 2 touchdowns (12 games)

It has been an interesting offseason for McCoy as he was fighting a criminal investigation that he finally beat this Summer. That is the negative part. The positive part for McCoy is that his backup, Karlos Williams came into camp extremely overweight which will take some of the heat off of McCoy. The team did draft Jonathan Williams in the fifth round, but McCoy will certainly carry the load. He certainly has had some problems with injury in his career, but if all goes well McCoy can be a solid RB2. The Bills are a run first team, but they don’t score enough points for McCoy to become an elite back again.

16. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
71 carries, 364 yards, 4 touchdowns; 21 catches, 177 yards, 1 touchdown

For the second time in five years, Jamaal Charles missed the majority of the season to a major knee injury. Unfortunately for Charles, the Chiefs found out that they had two very capable backups in Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware who both did well in Charles’ absence. Charles is a boom or bust player who has only scored double digit touchdowns once in his career. Now fantasy players have a new found concern in that he may have to share carries, not only to try to keep him healthy, but also because his backups are good. He gains a lot of value by being a strong pass catching running back, but the injury concern is very real, and Charles is no longer a shoe in top ten running back.

17. Matt Jones, Washington Redskins
144 carries, 490 yards, 3 touchdowns; 19 catches, 304 yards, 1 touchdown (13 games)

Jones came into his rookie season with a lot of fanfare, but was stuck behind Alfred Morris for most of the year.  It also didn’t help that Jones ran into the injury bug. Morris is gone to Dallas, and Jones is perfectly healthy and will be the man in the backfield this season. He had a major trouble with ball security as he lost four fumbles, but his upside is huge. Jones carries a little bit of a risk factor, but he is a very exciting player. By not briningHe isn’t a guy you want leading your fantasy backfield, but he is a solid choice as your number two.


18. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
115 carries, 470 yards, 3 touchdowns; 11 catches, 53 yards (7 games)

I’m torn on Carlos Hyde. He will now be under Chip Kelly’s system which has been good to running backs both on the ground and through the air. However, Hyde has had a hard time staying healthy in his first two seasons, and the 49ers offensive line pretty much sucks. He is a high risk/high reward type of player. His upside could be a low end RB1, but he also could miss half the season or be bottled up every week because the passing game is so bad that defenses can key on Hyde. Clearly by this ranking I am figuring that he will be somewhere in the middle. Look for Hyde to have a respectable third season, but I don’t expect this to be a breakout party for him.

19. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
193 carries, 702 yards, 6 touchdowns; 44 catches, 322 yards, 1 touchdown

After a DISASTER season in Philadelphia where he was eventually benched, Murray gets a much needed restart in Tennessee. The Titans offensive line isn’t anything like the fortress he ran behind in Dallas, but it is a very respectable line. Murray had as much trouble with the coaching staff as he did with trying to get through holes last year, and I’m sure he’s thankful to be out of there. He will have rookie Derrick Henry in the backfield as well, but I don’t see him as a threat to Murray getting the lion’s share of carries. Murray was a big part of the passing game in his other two teams, so I can see Marcus Mariota checking down to him a good deal. Can Murray get back to his elite fantasy ways in the Music City? I wouldn’t go that far, but I can see him being a very reliable RB2.

20. Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders
266 carries, 1,066 yards, 6 touchdowns; 41 catches, 232 yards

I was a struggling Murray owner last season that saw his yards per carry be a borderline embarrassment some weeks, and watched him sit out the majority of multiple fourth quarters. The saving grace was there were a number of weeks where he was quite involved in the passing game. The Raiders drafted DeAndre Washington in the fifth round to push Murray, but if he emerges as the starter, Murray looks to improve as his offensive line did, but he certainly has some company in the backfield.

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