McCaffrey is poised to have another huge season, especially in point-per-reception fantasy football formats. The Panthers star set the record for most catches by a running back last season, hauling in 107 receptions for 867 yards and six scores in 16 starts. He also had 1,098 yards and seven scores on the ground.
Behind McCaffrey, I have New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley. New Orleans Saints star Alvin Kamara and New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell rounding out the top five spots in my running back rankings.
I split my top targets into five tiers: Hall of Fame, All-Pro, Pro Bowl, Just Napping (early to mid-round targets) and Deep Sleepers (mid- to late-round sleepers).
Hall of Fame
1. Christian McCaffrey, 2. Saquon Barkley, 3. Alvin Kamara
Christian McCaffrey absolutely exploded in 2018. This year McCaffrey might not reach the 107-catch mark, but he should still provide elite fantasy football production due to his dynamic skill set. I have McCaffrey ranked as an elite RB1 in standard leagues, but he is an even more elite option in point per reception (PPR) formats.
Saquon Barkley will be the first player off of the board in many fantasy football drafts, and I see him on the same level as Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon. Barkley exploded for a league-best 2,028 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns in 16 starts during his rookie campaign in 2018. While I do expect Barkley to get a huge workload, I am also concerned about the Giants' lack of offensive firepower surrounding the young running back. I also expect the Giants to be trailing in many of their games this year, limiting Barkley's carries. Still, he deserves to be considered as a top pick in your fantasy football draft based on talent alone.
4. Le'Veon Bell, 5. Todd Gurley
Le'Veon Bell has a new team after sitting out for a full season. But the New York Jets running back is in uncharted territory as football fans have no idea what he will look like after taking his 2018 hiatus from the game. The last time Bell was on the field, he posted the second All-Pro campaign of his career, piling up 1,946 yards and 11 scores in 15 starts for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I can see Bell slipping in fantasy football drafts, but I believe he still has RB1 talent. I also think he will eventually garner a huge workload in the Jets backfield. His skillset is perfect for a young quarterback like the Jets' Sam Darnold. This could be a perfect storm in fantasy football if Bell is anything close to the player he was in 2017.
Todd Gurley was hampered by his arthritic knee last season, but still managed to be named an All-Pro for the second consecutive season. While it is important to monitor his health before you fantasy football draft, I think downgrading him too much at this point is a huge mistake. Gurley remains super talented and is the focal point of one of the best offenses in football. I expect the Los Angeles Rams to use Gurley more efficiently in 2019. His numbers should still be elite, making Gurley a top-level RB1 for the 2019 season. Gurley also has a somewhat favorable schedule in 2019, when it comes to fantasy football. The Rams have four matchups this season against defenses that ranked inside the top five for allowing the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2018.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is one of my favorite options at his position this season. Mixon finished No. 4 in rushing yards last season while piling up 237 carries in 14 games. The Bengals brought in an offensive-minded head coach this off-season in Zac Taylor and should lean on Mixon even more in 2019. I have him ranked as my No. 8 option in my fantasy football running back rankings. Mixon has just two matchups in 2019 against teams that ranked inside the top five for fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs in 2018. I'm expecting him to surpass 1,300 rushing yards and 10 scores if he stays healthy for 16 games.
10. Kerryon Johnson, 14. Aaron Jones, 17. Chris Carson, 22. Devonta Freeman
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones missed the first two weeks of last season due to a suspension. He still managed to score nine touchdowns in his 12 appearances. Jones is a high-end RB2 for me this season, unless you choose to draft wide receivers early. In that case, he could be a solid matchup-based RB1. I expect the Packers to incorporate Jones heavily in the offense from the get-go. Green Bay also has just two matchups in 2019 against defenses that ranked inside the top five for fewest points allowed to opposing running backs. Jones might not be an exciting pick, but he does appear to have a stranglehold on the starting job in Green Bay.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson won a lot of leagues for fantasy football team owners last season. Carson averaged 4.7 yards per carry and piled up 1,151 yards and nine scores on 247 totes in 14 starts for the Seahawks. He also provided RB1 value down the stretch, rushing for at least 90 yards and a touchdown in his last four games. Carson scored seven of his nine touchdowns in his final seven games last season. While I do expect some sort of backfield split between Carson and Rashaad Penny in 2019, I still rank Carson as an RB2 entering this fantasy football campaign. You should see another 1,000 yard season from Carson in 2019, with an outside shot of double digit touchdowns.
The Philadelphia Eagles added some serious weapons to their offensive arsenal this off-season, trading for Jordan Howard, drafting Miles Sanders and signing DeSean Jackson, among other moves. Sanders and Howard are poised to battle for the starting job in training camp, but I give the early edge to Howard, who has more experience and has been on the field more this off-season as Sanders has dealt with a hamstring issue. Being the Eagles' leader in carries should provide a lot of value in 2019. I expect Carson Wentz to have a stellar season as he attempts to stay healthy for 16 games. Jackson should improve the deep passing game and Howard should have plenty of room to make plays underneath. Howard is a solid matchup-based RB2 target in fantasy football drafts.
Top 75 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings for 2019
1. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers, Bye Week 7
2. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants, Bye Week 11
3. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints, Bye Week 9
4. Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets, Bye Week 4
5. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams, Bye Week 9
6. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers, Bye Week 7
7. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals, Bye Week 9
8. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns, Bye Week 7
10. Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions, Bye Week 5
13. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers, Bye Week 12
14. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers, Bye Week 11
15. Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos, Bye Week 11
16. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys, Bye Week 8
17. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks, Bye Week 11
18. Sony Michel, New England Patriots, Bye Week 10
20. Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts, Bye Week 6
21. Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders, Bye Week 6
22. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons, Bye Week 9
24. Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs, Bye Week 12
25. Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins, Bye Week 5
27. James White, New England Patriots, Bye Week 10
29. Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles, Bye Week 10
31. Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bye Week 7
32. Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears, Bye Week 6
33. Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks, Bye Week 11
34. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers, Bye Week 12
35. Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints, Bye Week 9
37. LeSean McCoy, Kansas City Chiefs, Bye Week 12
38. Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers, Bye Week 12
39. Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams, Bye Week 9
40. Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins, Bye Week 5
41. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles, Bye Week 10
42. Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos, Bye Week 10
43. Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans, Bye Week 11
44. Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs, Bye Week 12
45. Jaylen Samuels, Pittsburgh Steelers, Bye Week 7
47. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys, Bye Week 8
48. Justice Hill, Baltimore, Ravens, Bye Week 8
49. Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings, Bye Week 12
50. Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins, Bye Week 10
51. C.J. Anderson, Detroit Lions, Bye Week 5
52. Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills, Bye Week 6
53. Matt Breida, San Francisco 49ers, Bye Week 4
54. Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts, Bye Week 6
55. Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers, Bye Week 4
56. Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins, Bye Week 10
57. Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns, Bye Week 7
58. Peyton Barber, Kansas City Chiefs, Bye Week 7
59. Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers, Bye Week 11
60. Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders, Bye Week 6
61. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals, Bye Week 9
62. Frank Gore, Buffalo Bills, Bye Week 6
63. Duke Johnson, Houston Texans, Bye Week 10
64. Damien Harris, New England Patriots, Bye Week 10
65. Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons, Bye Week 9
66. Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens, Bye Week 8
67. Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Chargers, Bye Week 9
68. Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots, Bye Week 10
69. Ty Montgomery, New York Jets, Bye Week 4
70. Dare Ogunbowale, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bye Week 7
71. Mike Davis, Chicago Bears, Bye Week 6
72. Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals, Bye Week 12
73. Benny Snell Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers, Bye Week 7
74. Dontrell Hilliard, Cleveland Browns, Bye Week 7
75. Theo Riddick, Denver Broncos, Bye Week 10