Evan Silva

Best Ball Strategy

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Updated Best-Ball RB Tiers

Sunday, May 27, 2018


I’ve been playing in best-ball leagues for years, and began posting tiers specific to best-ball strategy this offseason. These tiers are adjusted for DRAFT’s 0.5 PPR scoring system. Different from season long, your best-ball responsibilities are finished as soon as each draft ends. No trades, no waiver wire, no lineup setting to worry about. You draft deep rosters to compensate for injuries and byes, and your best scores are auto-picked each week. You can sign up at DRAFT here and start playing in some Best Ball Leagues of your own.

 

Tier One

Todd Gurley (RB1) > Le’Veon Bell (RB2) > David Johnson (RB3) > Alvin Kamara (RB4) > Ezekiel Elliott (RB5) > Saquon Barkley (RB6) > Kareem Hunt (RB7)


Summary: Tier-one running backs are fantasy football’s most valued commodities and will likely comprise seven of the top-eight picks in most 2018 drafts, with Antonio Brown mixed in. Gurley’s passing-game skills were unlocked in Sean McVay’s offense, leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,093) and all-purpose TDs (19). Among running backs, only Kamara (826) logged more receiving yards than Gurley’s 788. Bell has been the NFL’s premier workhorse since entering the league. He’s averaged 27.5 touches per game the past two years and set a career high with 85 receptions in 2017. Johnson has "fresh legs” and contract-year narratives after missing almost all of last season with a broken wrist. Kamara saw an absurd 100 targets as a rookie, overtook Mark Ingram as the Saints’ lead back down the stretch, and now looks poised for full-time feature back duties with Ingram serving a four-game suspension and potentially on the outs in New Orleans. Elliott’s suspension is behind him, and he paced the NFL in rushing yards per game in each of the last two seasons. Barkley enters an Eli Manning-quarterbacked offense with poor line play and Jonathan Stewart threatening goal-line work. Nevertheless, Barkley profiles as one of the NFL’s highest-workload backs from the jump. Hunt's workload projection isn't quite as high, but he led the league in rushing as a rookie, and the Chiefs want to use him in the passing game more after pulling Hunt on third downs and in two-minute situations for Charcandrick West.

 



Tier Two

Melvin Gordon (RB8) > Leonard Fournette (RB9) > LeSean McCoy (RB10)

Summary: Tier-two backs are capable of scoring similarly to tier-one RBs but carry more risk. Held below 4.0 yards per carry in each of his first three seasons, Gordon has masked sub-par efficiency with volatile touchdown scoring and lost 2017 snaps to Austin Ekeler. The Chargers did not draft a running back until the seventh round (Justin Jackson), however, affirming Gordon’s feature-back role remains secure in a plus offense. Gordon is theoretically one of the highest-floor backs on the board. Fournette’s ankle problems have lingered for two seasons, costing him playing time and effectiveness. He is a spiked-week workhorse when healthy. McCoy remains the centerpiece of Buffalo’s offense, but that offense looks anemic on paper, and McCoy turns 30 in July. I've wound up with a ton of McCoy in early drafts because no one wants him. And I don't blame them, but I find his projected volume difficult to pass up near the second-/third-round turn.

Tier Three

Devonta Freeman (RB11) > Dalvin Cook (RB12) > Jerick McKinnon (RB13) > Jordan Howard (RB14) > Christian McCaffrey (RB15) > Joe Mixon (RB16) > Alex Collins (RB17) > Kenyan Drake (RB18) 


Summary: These are role-secure backs with tier-one upside but circumstances that threaten their reliability and/or ceiling. Freeman remains the Falcons’ clear lead back, but his usage dipped in Steve Sarkisian’s first season as OC, and it can’t help that Freeman spent most of the year banged up. Cook looked headed for a monster rookie year before tearing his ACL in Week 4. All indications are his recovery is going smoothly, if not "ahead of schedule." McKinnon advantageously landed as Kyle Shanahan’s handpicked lead back, and the 49ers bypassed running backs in the draft. Howard is one of the NFL’s premier early-down rushers but can’t catch the ball. He will lose playing time to Tarik Cohen but can compensate with touchdown upside. PFF rated Mixon with the NFL's softest 2018 Running Back Schedule. McCaffrey briefly vaulted into tier two after the draft, then was bumped from RB9 to RB15 when Carolina signed C.J. Anderson.  Collins gets back stud RG Marshal Yanda after averaging 19.2 touches per game from Week 8 on. Drake averaged 119 total yards per game last Weeks 13-17. His competition consists of 35-year-old Frank Gore and fourth-rounder Kalen Ballage


Tier Four

Rashaad Penny (RB19) > Derrius Guice (RB20) > Sony Michel (RB21) > Lamar Miller (RB22) > Jay Ajayi (RB23) > Derrick Henry (RB24) > Dion Lewis (RB25) >  Marshawn Lynch (RB26) > Tevin Coleman (RB27) > Ronald Jones (RB28) > Royce Freeman (RB29) > Rex Burkhead (RB30)


Summary: These are RB2 types with probable job security and upside to vault to RB1 levels if they get positive injury luck and hold off their competition. Albeit surprisingly, the Seahawks invested the 27th overall pick into Penny and intend to shoehorn him into a workhorse role. Still, Penny must show better passing-game chops than he did at San Diego State. Guice will lose passing-down snaps to Chris Thompson but should dominate carries, especially in scoring position. On LSU tape, Guice reminded me of Ezekiel Elliott. Michel will inherit Dion Lewis’ duties in New England’s high-scoring offense. He will share time with Burkhead and James White but should lead the team in carries. Miller, Ajayi, and Lynch escaped the draft without their teams making significant running back additions. Lewis and Henry figure to split work nearly evenly; Henry offers more touchdown upside, and Lewis superior passing-game skills. I think Lewis will end up playing more snaps, but Henry the better best-ball pick. Jones and Freeman must win camp battles, but both project as their teams’ carry leaders. Despite the Michel pick, Burkhead isn’t going away after the Pats re-signed him to a three-year, $10 million deal. Burkhead scored eight TDs in ten games last season and is a better receiver than Michel, who only caught nine passes as a senior at Georgia. 


Tier Five

Jamaal Williams (RB31) > Aaron Jones (RB32) > Mark Ingram (RB33) > Tarik Cohen (RB34) > C.J. Anderson (RB35) > Carlos Hyde (RB36) > Marlon Mack (RB37) > Isaiah Crowell (RB38) > D’Onta Foreman (RB39) > Kerryon Johnson (RB40) > Chris Thompson (RB41) >  Devontae Booker (RB42) > Nick Chubb (RB43) > Peyton Barber (RB44) > Giovani Bernard (RB45) > Theo Riddick (RB46) > James White (RB47) > Duke Johnson (RB48) > Matt Breida (RB49) > Austin Ekeler (RB50)


Summary: Tier-five backs are good bets for 2018 playing time, but the extent of their snaps isn’t yet determined. Williams and Jones will battle for the Packers’ running back position. Jones was more explosive as a rookie, but Williams showed workhorse capability by averaging 20.4 touches over the final eight games. In the middle rounds, I'm willing to draft both on the same best-ball teams. Ingram was near the top of tier three before his four-game suspension and alleged falling out with the Saints. He's a low-floor fantasy pick I now plan to avoid. The Lions traded up to draft Johnson, but he will almost certainly lose passing-down work to Riddick and goal-line duties to LeGarrette Blount. Anderson landed with the Panthers, who are missing the NFL's eighth-most carries (202) from last year's roster. Anderson's upside is limited in a committee with Christian McCaffrey, but he should lead Carolina in rushing attempts, especially in scoring position. Cohen will put pressure on Jordan Howard in a Bears offense that will incorporate spread concepts, conceivably suiting Cohen more than Howard. Hyde’s stock took a massive hit when the Browns drafted Chubb 35th overall, setting up a three-way RBBC of Hyde-Chubb-Johnson. (I scratch my head every time I see Johnson drafted in the middle rounds, but it happens consistently.) Barber has a shot at inside-running/goal-line work behind smallish rookie Ronald Jones. Crowell is the Jets' projected carry leader but must compete with Bilal Powell, Thomas Rawls, and Elijah McGuire. Mack, Thompson, and Foreman offer late-round intrigue but are recovering from serious injuries. Booker, Riddick, and White offer situational passing-down value. Booker does have upside for more if Royce Freeman isn't ready. I've ended up with more Booker best-ball exposure than I intended based on his underrated opportunity and cheap price. Bernard and Ekeler are low-volume change-of-pace backs. With Jerick McKinnon in the 49ers’ “Devonta Freeman Role,” Breida is the early favorite for the “Tevin Coleman Role” over Joe Williams and Jeremy McNichols


Tier Six

Jordan Wilkins (RB51) > Bilal Powell (RB52) > Ty Montgomery (RB53) > Kenneth Dixon (RB54) > Frank Gore (RB55) > Spencer Ware (RB56) > Tavon Austin (RB57) > Jonathan Stewart (RB58) > LeGarrette Blount (RB59) > Latavius Murray (RB60) > Darren Sproles (RB61) > Chris Carson (RB62) >  > Samaje Perine (RB63) > Wayne Gallman (RB64) > Corey Clement (RB65) > DeAndre Washington (RB66) > DeMarco Murray (RB67) > Buck Allen (RB68) > C.J. Prosise (RB69) > James Conner (RB70) > Ameer Abdullah (RB71) > Doug Martin (RB72) > T.J. Yeldon (RB73) > Rod Smith (RB74) > Corey Grant (RB75) > Nyheim Hines (RB76) > Alfred Blue (RB77) > De’Angelo Henderson (RB78) >  Charles Sims (RB79) > Justin Jackson (RB80) > Joe Williams (RB81) >  Robert Turbin (RB82)


Summary: A mishmash of running backs presently slated for low-volume 2018 roles but still worth monitoring.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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