Never-Too-Early 2019 Running Back Rankings

Never-Too-Early 2019 Running Back Rankings

Below you'll find my third stab at 2019 rankings for the running back position.

The rankings are based on half-PPR scoring systems. Why half-PPR, you ask? It’s the scoring format that DRAFT uses for their best ball leagues. I also thought it would be a good compromise between full PPR and standard scoring so proponents of both systems could find the rankings useful, at least in a general sense. 4for4 will release its full projections after the 2019 NFL Draft, as usual.

I’ve included 2018 regular season points per game and two-year points per game (where applicable) through Week 16 of each season. I’ve also included the difference (DIFF) between my rank and the player’s current average draft position (ADP) of 12-team half-PPR best ball drafts at DRAFT. A positive number means that I'm relatively high on the player while a negative number means—you guessed it—that I'm relatively low on the player.


More Never-Too-Early Rankings: QB | WR | TE


Below the rankings you'll find some discussion about a few players that jump out as particularly good or poor values heading into the spring.

The position looks quite top-heavy heading into the 2019 season and, as usual, the RB2/RB3 rankings are a real puzzle.

Never-Too-Early Running Back Rankings (2019)
Rank Player Team 2018 PPG 2-YR PPG DIFF
1 Christian McCaffrey CAR 21.8 16.9 3
2 Saquon Barkley NYG 21.1 21.1 -1
3 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 19.2 19.3 -1
4 Alvin Kamara NO 20.5 18.6 -1
5 Melvin Gordon LAC 21.7 18.5 1
6 Todd Gurley LAR 24.0 23.7 -1
7 James Conner PIT 19.8 9.7 2
8 Joe Mixon CIN 16.2 12.6 2
9 Nick Chubb CLE 12.1 12.1 3
10 LeVeon Bell NYJ - 19.9 -3
11 David Johnson ARI 14.1 13.8 -3
12 Dalvin Cook MIN 12.4 13.1 -1
13 Damien Williams KC 6.2 5.4 2
14 Mark Ingram BAL 11.5 14.2 7
15 Marlon Mack IND 12.4 9.2 4
16 Aaron Jones GB 13.2 9.8 2
17 Phillip Lindsay DEN 13.7 13.7 6
18 Sony Michel NE 10.9 10.9 -5
19 Leonard Fournette JAX 13.7 15.3 -5
20 Tarik Cohen CHI 12.5 10.0 2
21 Derrick Henry TEN 12.2 9.8 -5
22 Kerryon Johnson DET 12.3 12.3 -2
23 Devonta Freeman ATL 5.8 11.5 -6
24 Chris Carson SEA 13.2 12.2 1
25 Jordan Howard PHI 9.7 11.1 4
26 Josh Jacobs ? - - 24
27 James White NE 14.5 11.2 -1
28 Latavius Murray NO 7.8 8.1 0
29 Kenyan Drake MIA 11.2 9.4 -2
30 Lamar Miller HOU 11.3 11.4 2
31 Mike Davis CHI 7.7 7.6 2
32 Tevin Coleman SF 11.0 10.9 -2
33 Derrius Guice WAS - - -9
34 LeSean McCoy BUF 7.6 11.7 5
35 Adrian Peterson WAS 11.9 10.1 12
36 Austin Ekeler LAC 10.6 8.2 5
37 Rashaad Penny SEA 5.4 5.4 -6
38 Royce Freeman DEN 6.2 6.2 -2
39 Jerick McKinnon SF - 9.7 -5
40 Chris Thompson WAS 7.4 10.4 18
41 Isaiah Crowell OAK 10.0 9.1 10
42 Nyheim Hines IND 8.3 8.3 1
43 Dion Lewis TEN 8.5 9.3 3
44 Damien Harris ? - - 20
45 Devin Singletary ? - - 23
46 Jalen Richard OAK 8.0 6.4 16
47 Carlos Hyde KC 7.0 9.8 -12
48 Rex Burkhead NE 4.7 8.7 0
49 Ito Smith ATL 6.5 6.5 -9
50 Giovani Bernard CIN 6.9 7.5 15
51 Jaylen Samuels PIT 6.9 6.9 -13
52 C.J. Anderson DET 4.2 7.8 -
53 Peyton Barber TB 8.9 6.5 0
54 Matt Breida SF 10.6 8.0 -12
55 Gus Edwards BAL 7.9 7.9 5
56 Ronald Jones TB 2.2 2.2 -12
57 Kareem Hunt CLE 19.7 18.3 -20
58 Kenneth Dixon BAL 7.8 7.8 11
59 Duke Johnson CLE 6.8 8.8 -5
60 Jamaal Williams GB 6.4 7.6 -8
61 Donta Foreman HOU 9.7 5.8 -16
62 Elijah McGuire NYJ 10.1 6.1 8
63 Jay Ajayi ? 9.7 9.0 0
64 Bilal Powell ? 7.8 8.7 27
65 Marshawn Lynch ? 11.9 10.6 22
  • Aaron Jones led the Packers’ backfield for a long stretch before spraining his MCL. Through his first two seasons, in the 12 games where he has garnered at least 10 carries, Jones has averaged 95 total yards and 1.0 touchdown on 16.5 touches per game (16.7 PPG). He was also getting more involved as a receiver as the 2018 season wore on, catching 18 passes in his final five (full) games. That’s a 58-catch full-season pace, and he showed major improvement in pass protection as well. He should be in the driver’s seat to be Green Bay’s RB1 in 2019, though new HC Matt LaFleur indicated that he plans to take a committee approach at the position.
  • When I watched all of Marlon Mack’s touches from the second half of his rookie season, I came away impressed and felt that he had the inside track to starter’s touches. He struggled with an injury in training camp, but once he got going, he really got going. He had five games where he ran for at least 119 yards and a touchdown and saw as least 10 carries in all but two games. He was not as involved in the passing game as I’d like (1.4 receptions per game), but he averaged a total of 87 yards and 0.79 touchdowns per game (14.0 PPG) in 14 games, including the postseason. Free agency was kind to Mack, as the Colts focused on other needs. 
  • Josh Jacobs appears to be the consensus top running back in the Draft, at least at this point. Here’s a list of all the first round running backs from the last four drafts: Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel. This group averaged 17.4 touches per game as rookies, resulting in a 13.6 PPG average. Only Gordon and Penny failed to average more than 10.0 PPG as rookies. Jacobs’ landing spot will be key, but if he goes in the first round, he’s a good bet to produce in 2019.

3/10/19 Updates

  • Damien Williams took over for Kareem Hunt in mid-December and definitely looked the part. He averaged 19.4 touches for 114 yards and 1.6 touchdowns in five games (23.4 PPG in half-PPR formats), including the postseason. He averaged 5.60 YPC in that span and showed dual-threat ability, playing well enough to earn a two-year extension from the Chiefs. The team signed Carlos Hyde, but given his 3.66 YPC with three teams since 2017, I think he'll serve as the backup with Williams getting 15-17 touches per game as the lead back.

3/25/19 Updates

  • Mark Ingram should flirt with RB1 value now that he's landed in Baltimore playing for noted running game enthusiast Greg Roman. The Ravens are going to run the ball a ton, so even if Ingram is the lead back in a committee, he should be a good bet for 15-18 touches per game.
  • Washington's decision to re-sign Adrian Peterson doesn't bode particularly well for Derrius Guice's 2019 outlook. 
  • I think LeVeon Bell will hold low-end RB1 value now that he's landed with the Jets, who have a brutal offensive line. New York traded for G Kelechi Osemele, who was a two-time Pro Bowler before a very mediocre performance last season. If the Jets invest in the offensive line in the draft, Bell's outlook will improve.
  • Latavius Murray gets a bump now that he has replaced Ingram in New Orleans. Ingram averaged 13.3 touches per game last season and 18.0 touches per game the year before, so the role he’s vacating is sizable. Alvin Kamara will be the clear leader in backfield touches, but if Murray sees Ingram’s 2018 rushing workload (11.5 per game) at his career 4.1 YPC, he’s looking at around 48 yards per game just as a runner. Throw in a half touchdown per game and half of Ingram’s receiving production and Murray could post a low-end fantasy RB2 season, and he’d have RB1 upside if anything were to happen to Kamara.
  • Tevin Coleman's arrival in San Francisco is bad news for Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, and isn't terribly good news for Coleman either. The three players have similar skill sets, so this is shaping to be a murky RBBC in 2019.

4/11/19 Updates

  • I moved Kerryon Johnson down due to the Lions' decision to sign C.J. Anderson. Johnson should still post RB2 numbers in Detroit's run-heavy attack, but his upside is capped due to the Anderson signing.
  • Alvin Kamara dropped from the No. 1 spot due to the Murray signing. I think they'll shoot for the same sort of split with Murray getting 13-14 touches per game.
  • Isaiah Crowell got a bump after landing with the Raiders. He's in the driver's seat for lead back touches with Jalen Richard serving as the third-down back. Crowell could see 13-17 touches per game if things break his way.

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