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Saquon Barkley
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Best Ball Strategy

Updated Best-Ball RB Tiers

by John Daigle

Tier One

 

Saquon Barkley (RB1) -- 352 touches even with Odell Beckham on the field last year. 400-plus a real possibility behind vastly improved o-line in '19.

 

Christian McCaffrey (RB2) -- Coach Ron Rivera openly admitted team's desire to lighten McCaffrey's load but only added replacement pieces in fifth-round plodder Jordan Scarlett and UDFA Elijah Holyfield. Emphasis on conditioning this offseason arguably preps Run CMC to handle back-to-back every-down campaigns.

 

Ezekiel Elliott (RB3) -- Unleashed for career-highs in targets (6.3) and routes run (27.3) per game last year, Elliott's usage out of the backfield presumably rivals any of Best-Ball's elite options.

 

Alvin Kamara (RB4) -- Inconsistent production once Mark Ingram returned from suspension in Week 5, but week-winning ceiling still a no-brainer top-four lock despite offseason addition Latavius Murray inevitably playing Ingram's role in '19.

 

Tier Two

 

David Johnson (RB5) -- With ex-coach Steve Wilks' ancient up-the-gut approach now an afterthought, DJ should return to fantasy dominance in Arizona's uptempo "90 - 95 plays per game" assault. Kliff Kingsbury's offenses averaged 26.1 running back carries per game in his final two seasons at Texas Tech (not to mention a Division 1-high 82 plays per game in KK's six years in Lubbock).

 

Melvin Gordon III (RB6) -- Averaged a bellcow-like 15.9 carries and 6.4 targets through the Chargers' first nine games before an MCL sprain Thanos'd his season into dust.

 

Joe Mixon (RB7) -- Fantasy's RB10 showcased on 69.7% of Cincy's offensive snaps in bounce-back sophomore campaign.

 

Le'Veon Bell (RB8) -- Now that all the smoke has cleared, 2018's holdout quietly a positive for Bell's season-long outlook following an absurd 406 touches from the year prior.

 

James Conner (RB9) -- Called upon to be an every-down back and responded across the board with 16.5 carries and 5.5 targets per game in 13 starts last season.

 

Todd Gurley (RB10) -- Whether it's degenerative arthritis, No. 70 overall pick Darrell Henderson's presence, or the Rams' curious decision to match Detroit for the rights to Malcolm Brown, all signs point to Gurley plunging to the third round by August.

 

Nick Chubb (RB11) -- Potential positional trump card in Cleveland's first eight games sans Kareem Hunt.

 

Leonard Fournette (RB12) -- Sneakiest three-down back in all of football when healthy last year. Hamstring strain that held him out remains completely unrelated (and thus indifferent) to past complications with foot and ankle.

 

Derrick Henry (RB13) -- Fantasy's RB1 over the final five weeks averaged an ungodly 19.4/125/1.6 in December.

 

Dalvin Cook (RB14) -- If opportunity were a crown, Cook is arguably the offseason's king following Latavius Murray's departure. The fact he's played six fewer games than Fournette since the two came into the league together remains worrisome.

 

Devonta Freeman (RB15) -- Expected to soak up a 70/30 role ahead of Ito Smith. Falcons quietly have 170 carries (48.4%) unaccounted for from last season's production due in part to Tevin Coleman's departure.

 

Marlon Mack (RB16) -- 17.3 carries per game as Indy's lead horse from Week 7 on. Primary beneficiary of coach Frank Reich's insistent undertaking to become a more efficient running team this upcoming year.

 

Damien Williams (RB17) -- Five-week wonder rocketed to fantasy stardom with 26.2 points per outing from Week 15 on (playoffs included).

 

Aaron Jones (RB18) -- 20.2 fantasy points per game in seven post-bye week starts, but standout second-half short was cut short in Week 15 due to a sprained MCL. Will still start the year completely entrusted over incumbent backup Jamaal Williams simply due to Jones' natural ability as an outside zone runner in OC Nathaniel Hackett's one-cut scheme.

 

 

Tier Three

 

Josh Jacobs (RB19) -- Earmarked for early downs given team's first-round expenditure. Ceiling pending on whether or not he seizes Jalen Richard's third-down reps.

 

Kerryon Johnson (RB20) -- Talent alone will propel Johnson to RB2-status, but his between-the-20's role remains discouraging (and overvalued) at his current fourth-round ADP.

 

Derrius Guice (RB21) -- Direct path to lead duties if fully recovered from last season's torn ACL.

 

Chris Carson (RB22) -- Only Ezekiel Elliott averaged more carries (20.9) per game than Carson (19.5) from Week 3 on.

 

Kenyan Drake (RB23) -- Most recently shunned and secluded behind Frank Gore due to pass-pro (or lack thereof), Miami's new regime would be insane not to develop Drake's play-making elusiveness.

 

Phillip Lindsay (RB24) -- RB9 from Weeks 7 - 15 before ligament damage cut his season short. Remains questionable for training camp. Offseason reports of timeshare with Royce Freeman are concerning for Lindsay's floor.

 

James White (RB25) -- A non-factor to close the year but passing-game usage still lends a high weekly ceiling that's perfect for Best-Ball formats.

 

Mark Ingram II (RB26) -- $6.5 million guaranteed slides Ingram atop this depth chart, but potential four-man committee remains a looming question mark for his usage. A safe floor-bet given Baltimore's league-high 64 percent run play rate once Lamar Jackson went under center.

 

Latavius Murray (RB27) -- Shoe-in for the same role that gifted Mark Ingram 13.3 touches per game behind Kamara just last year.

 

Sony Michel (RB28) -- Red-flag knee scope this offseason follows a lengthy injury history including a high-school ACL tear, Grade 1 Knee Sprain in the 2017 SEC Championship, fluid drainage from his knee last August, and a left knee injury back in October.

 

Tevin Coleman (RB29) -- Proven fit as an explosive committee-back should allow Coleman to transition seamlessly into San Francisco's backfield. Arguably ahead of the pack entering training camp given Matt Breida's (pec) and Jerick McKinnon's (ACL, "lightly running") current injury situations.

 

David Montgomery (RB30) -- Long-shot to lead Chicago's trio of backs in both carries and targets, but has received glowing reports of his route running in minicamp.

 

Darrell Henderson (RB31) -- Arguably the most explosive back among this year's class, Henderson has a leg up on Brown for the C.J. Anderson-role no matter what the coaching staff claims.

 

Tarik Cohen (RB32) -- Spiked four top-six finishes at his position in '18 despite part-time role.

 

Lamar Miller (RB33) -- You know what you're getting, for better or worse.

 

Miles Sanders (RB34) -- Hand-picked by analytically-driven front office to inevitably lead this backfield in carries in his rookie year.

 

Tier Four

 

Rashaad Penny (RB35) -- Seattle's No. 27 overall pick splashed surprising explosiveness on limited touches in his rookie year. Supposed "one-two punch" with Carson to open the 2019 season after working out with Marshall Faulk in the offseason and reporting to minicamp at a trimmed 228.

 

Royce Freeman (RB36) -- GM John Elway recently noted the Broncos "feel like they have a good 1-2 punch" in Lindsay and Freeman. Offseason speculation suggests Denver's 2018 third-rounder out-carries Lindsay this upcoming year. Quietly received numerous reps in the passing-game at minicamp.

 

Ronald Jones (RB37) -- Specifically mentioned by coach Bruce Arians and QB Jameis Winston, Jones currently has a leg up on Peyton Barber heading into training camp.

 

Matt Breida (RB38) -- The Bay Area's real-life Ironman remains the early favorite to lead this backfield in carries despite his lagging ADP (143.8).

 

Jordan Howard (RB39) -- Eagles RB coach Duce Staley, OC Mike Groh, and coach Doug Pederson all complimented Howard’s pass-catching ability as he was “targeted frequently” at OTAs.

 

Jerick McKinnon (RB40) -- Best-case scenario at this point may be McKinnon finding a home elsewhere. All guaranteed cash from his four-year, $30 million deal has already been doled out.

 

Mike Davis (RB41) -- Early beat speculation projects Davis with 120 carries.

 

Kareem Hunt (RB42) -- Proven talent with field-flipping athleticism but likely won't make an impact until final quarter of season.

 

Damien Harris (RB43) -- Versatile prospect with a limited-ceiling being given the benefit of the doubt since he landed under Bill Belichick's tutelage. Speculation he'll open the year with Michel's early-down role given the latter's knee injury.

John Daigle

You can follow John Daigle on Twitter @notJDaigle.