2015 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings- Updated: Wednesday, March 25th
Scoring: These rankings are based on standard scoring (one point per 25 passing yards and per 10 rushing/receiving yards and four points per passing touchdown and six points per rushing/receiving touchdown) and are for the 2015 NFL season only.
These rankings are from Kevin Hanson (follow him on Twitter).
While the draft features two running backs at the top -- Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon -- that should be selected in the first round, the position group is one of the deepest we've seen in a while with Jay Ajayi, Ameer Abdullah, Tevin Coleman and more expected to go in the second round.
Although I have yet to include rookies in my 2015 fantasy football rankings, their landing spots will not only impact their outlooks and those of the running backs already on the rosters they join.
With that said, here are my post-free agency fantasy football running back rankings for 2015:
1. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell's production spiked across the board -- 1,361 rushing yards, 83 receptions for 854 yards and 11 total touchdowns -- in his second season as he was named to the 2014 AP First-Team All-Pro Team. Bell finished second to only DeMarco Murray in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage (2,215) and the two backs were tied for the most games with at least 100 YFS (13).
Whether the Steelers have the lead (and want to use the clock) or trail and need to throw, Bell's versatility makes him a true three-down back and his production won't vary much based on game flow. If there is one concern heading into 2015, however, it's the 15 months of probation Bell received from his August arrest for DUI and marijuana. There have been reports that Bell could face a league-imposed suspension of "up to four games."
Provided Bell is suspended for only two games or less, I'd keep him at the top spot. If he is suspended for four games, however, I'd bump him down a few spots. Stay tuned ...
2. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
While it was a relatively disappointing season for Charles, selected first or second in most leagues last season, he still finished as the seventh-highest scoring fantasy running back in 2014. The 28-year-old back rushed for 1,033 yards, his fifth 1,000-yard season, and added 40 catches for 291 yards while scoring a total of 14 touchdowns.
Despite a year-over-year decline in all of those numbers, the biggest concern was the reduction in his workload. After 320 touches in 2012, Charles had 329 touches in Andy Reid's first season as head coach in 2013. Last year, however, Charles had just 246 touches -- 15 running backs had more. Perhaps we won't see Charles get in the 320-range ever again, but it would be a surprise to see him as low as 246 again this season.
3. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Starting slowly and worrying those that did not heed the general advice of Aaron Rodgers ("R-E-L-A-X"), Lacy carries plenty of positive momentum into Year 3. Lacy faced three elite rush defenses (SEA, NYJ and DET) in the first three weeks of the season, but only Murray and Bell scored more fantasy points than he did from Weeks 4 to 17. Over the final 13 games of the season, Lacy averaged 18.92 touches for 108.85 YFS per game and scored a total of 13 touchdowns.
The benefit of playing with the league's best quarterback means that defenses are less likely to stack the box to slow down Lacy. After averaging 4.15 yards per carry as a rookie, Lacy averaged 4.63 YPC last season (4.89 YPC over final 13 games).
4. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Over the past 12 months, there was plenty of speculation about Lynch's status for the 2015 season, but the Seahawks and Lynch have agreed to a new deal. Playing four full seasons in Seattle, Lynch has rushed for 1,200-plus yards and double-digit touchdowns in all four seasons. During that four-year span, no running back has more rushing yards (5,357) or rushing touchdowns (48) and no player has more total touchdowns (56).
Beast Mode has shown no signs of slowing down, but his physical running style (granted, he seems to dish out more punishment than he receives), heavy workload (league-high 1,479 regular-season and playoff touches over that four-year span) and age (turns 29 in April) is at least somewhat concerning. In fact, Lynch has compressed cartilage in his back that at least was part of his consideration on a potential retirement. That said, Lynch seems to be a lock for another 1,200 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns in one of the league's most run-dominant offenses.
5. LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
The good news first -- McCoy rushed for 1,319 yards, third-most in the NFL behind Murray and Bell, and he was one of only two backs to get 300-plus carries. That said, McCoy barely finished as a top-12 fantasy running back as he scored only 0.5 fantasy points more than Washington's Alfred Morris (RB13). In addition, McCoy averaged nearly a yard per carry less in 2014 than 2013 while also seeing his receptions (52 in 2013) and touchdowns (11 in 2013) drop roughly in half to 28 and five, respectively.
When it comes to the offensive skill positions, the Bills have revamped themselves by trading for McCoy while also signing wide receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Charles Clay. The addition of Harvin and Clay to a group of pass-catchers that already includes second-year receiver Sammy Watkins should help keep opposing defenses from stacking the box, but Rex Ryan won't move away from his preferred ground-and-pound approach, especially given the limitations at quarterback.
6. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
Not only did Forte lead all running backs in receptions (102) last year, but only three players had more than him -- Antonio Brown (129), Demaryius Thomas (111) and Julio Jones (104) -- and he broke the record for receptions by a running back. With the coaching change, Forte isn't likely to see anywhere close to triple-digit receptions again, but he could certainly finish with around 70 catches. While Forte averaged less than four yards per carry for the first time since 2009, he has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in three consecutive seasons and has at least 929 rushing yards in all seven of his NFL seasons. Only the Raiders (337) and Bucs (353) ran the ball less than the Bears (355) last season and I'd expect the Bears to be more committed to the run in 2015.
7. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Quick question: What team led the NFL in rushing attempts? (Perhaps the placement of this question gave the answer away, but you'd be correct if you said the Houston Texans.)
With Foster, who turns 29 in August, it boils down to his health. Although Foster missed three games in 2014, he averaged 95.8 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry, both of which were four-year highs, and he scored double-digit touchdowns (13). Foster had at least 23 touches in 10 of his 13 games last season.
Finishing as a top-five fantasy scorer at running back last season, Foster finished as a top-12 fantasy running back in 10 of 13 weeks last season including a nine-game streak from Weeks 5 to 16 (he missed two games and Houston had their bye during that stretch, though).
8. DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Fortunately for Murray, he landed in a free-agent destination with one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. Some of the other potential landing spots, like Oakland and Jacksonville, would have really damaged his fantasy value. Not only would it be a more significant offensive line downgrade, but those are the two teams that ranked last in scoring offense last season. Opportunities in the red zone would have been dramatically reduced for Murray.
Murray has always been productive on a per-game, per-touch basis. Before last season's career year, Murray averaged 4.95 yards per carry in his first three seasons combined. The issue with Murray (before 2014) was durability as he missed multiple games in each of those three seasons. With a total of 497 touches including the playoffs last year, durability will be Murray's biggest concern in 2015 as well. Even though the team added another talented (and injury-prone) running back (Ryan Mathews) in free agency, I'd expect Murray to still get roughly 20 touches per game, when healthy.
9. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards back in 2012 and is one of the league's all-time best running backs. After last year's lost season, it's unclear where he will play in 2015. The Vikings have no intentions of releasing him, but it appears there is still a strong chance that he plays somewhere else with Arizona being one of the potential landing spots. This ranking may be a little low for someone with Peterson's talent, but he could settle higher in my rankings as the season approaches once we have more clarity on his 2015 status.
10. Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Over the final nine games of the season, Hill had 22-plus carries and 100-plus rushing yards in five games including the final three of the regular season. During that nine-game span, Hill had 172 carries for 929 yards and six touchdowns and no running back had more rushing yards than Hill during that stretch. (Lynch was second with 824 yards.)
For part of that stretch, Giovani Bernard was sidelined, but Bernard was healthy from Week 12 through the end of the season. Going into the 2015 season, Hill is clearly the team's lead back with Bernard as the change-of-pace option.
11. C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos
If Anderson were assured a massive workload as the featured back, I'd be all-in on him this year. From Week 10 to 17 last year, Anderson finished as a top-five fantasy running back in six of eight games. In the other two games, he was still very productive as the RB10 and RB16 for those given weeks.
With a healthy backfield and a new coaching staff heading into 2015, how will Gary Kubiak allocate the workload between Anderson, Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball? The upside is enormous but so is the uncertainty.
12. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins coaching staff seemed reluctant to give Miller as much work as his fantasy owners would have liked, but Miller was highly productive on a per-touch basis (5.09 YPC, 7.24 Y/R). With more than 15 carries in only four games last season, Miller still managed to post his first-ever 1,000-yard season (1,099 rushing yards). In addition, Miller was very consistent throughout the season as he finished as a top-21 fantasy running back in 12 of 16 weeks. Assuming they don't add major competition at the position in the draft, Miller could once again finish as a top-10 running back in 2015.
13. Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Arguably the biggest surprise in fantasy football last season, Forsett scored more fantasy points than all but seven other running backs in 2014. While it's a positive that Forsett re-signed with the Ravens, Lorenzo Taliaferro should see a larger share of the workload and an early pick on a running back in the 2015 NFL Draft could be in the cards.
That said, Forsett rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards last season and averaged an RB-high 5.4 YPC while adding 44 receptions for 263 yards. With Marc Trestman hired as the team's new offensive coordinator, Forsett should finish another career high in receptions, at least, and Forte set the position record last season under Trestman.
14. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Morris averaged a career-low 4.1 YPC last season, but he rushed 265 times for 1,074, also career lows, and eight touchdowns. Despite the shaky quarterback situation, Alf should benefit on a per-carry basis if RG3 is back as the starter with his athleticism putting additional strain on run defenses. Washington's offensive line struggled last year, but the team should add some reinforcements via the draft and the addition of Bill Callahan to the coaching staff is certainly a positive for the team's offensive line play and rushing attack overall.
15. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers
With Frank Gore signing a free-agent deal with the Colts, Hyde projects atop the 49ers depth chart at running back although they signed Reggie Bush in free agency as well. With Gore ahead of him last year on the depth chart, Hyde had just 83 carries for 333 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. Not only will the volume of his workload expand significantly, but I expect his effectiveness on a per-carry basis to increase from last year's 4.0 yards-per-carry average. And as a 235-pound back, Hyde has the potential to approach double-digit touchdowns as the team's primary early-down back.
16. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers
The long wait from Stewart's fantasy owners for him to be the featured guy is finally here. Over the final five games of the season, Stewart, who recently turned 28, rushed for 486 yards on 91 carries (5.34 YPC) and only DeMarco Murray (491) had more rushing yards during that span. With the Panthers releasing DeAngelo Williams this offseason, it appears that the team finally recognizes that The Daily Show gives their offense the best opportunity for success.
17. Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams
One year after Zac Stacy got a huge workload down the stretch, Mason, the team's third-round pick in 2014, emerged as the team's lead back over the second half of the season. Mason didn't get his first carry until Week 6, but he averaged 18.11 touches per game from Week 9 on. His average of 67.56 rushing yards per game over that stretch would extrapolate to a full-season output of 1,081 rushing yards. Mason will enter the 2015 season as the team's lead back.
18. Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
Once again, Ingram missed multiple games and he has now missed a total of 14 games over his four-year career. That said, Ingram set career highs in the 13 games he did play in 2014 -- 226 carries, 964 rushing yards, nine touchdowns and 29 receptions. Ingram has re-signed with the Saints and should lead the team's three-headed rushing attack in carries. Given the team's offseason moves, a transition to more of a run-based offense appears to be likely.
19. Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions
Undergoing a couple of offseason surgeries, Bell expects to be available for the team's OTAs even if it's at less than 100 percent. Scoring the 14th-most fantasy points among running backs in 2014, Bell finished with 223 carries for 860 yards, both of which were career highs, as well as 34 receptions for 322 yards and eight total touchdowns. While Theo Riddick will be more involved with the offense following Reggie Bush's release, Bell should once again lead the team's backfield in touches and production in 2015.
20. Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
The good news is that Ellington averaged more than 20 touches per game last season. The bad news is that Ellington averaged more than 20 touches per game last season. Based on comments from Bruce Arians before the season began, the expectations were for Ellington to get a sizable workload in 2014. And he did -- when healthy. Given Ellington's size (5-9, 199), it's not a huge (no pun intended) surprise that Ellington was unable to hold up for a full season and he missed the final four regular-season games of the year.
With the substantial bump in workload in his second season, Ellington underwhelmed as his yards-per-carry average plummeted from 5.5 YPC as a rookie to 3.3 on 201 carries last season. Instead of feeding Ellington 20 to 25 touches per game, he would be better suited for a change-of-pace role with 12 to 15 touches per game. If the Cardinals cut back some on his volume, it would help him hold up for a full season and be more effective on a per-touch basis.
21. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
More suited for a change-of-pace role, Bernard lost his role as the team's featured back to Jeremy Hill, but he should still have the opportunity to be productive as an RB2 in fantasy leagues. As an example, Hill carried the ball 22-plus times for 100-plus yards in the team's final three regular-season games. In those same games, Bernard finished as the weekly RB11, RB17 and RB13, respectively, in standard-scoring formats. As beat writer Paul Dehner Jr. noted earlier this offseason, "... once settling into a complementary role the final three weeks, [Bernard] returned to the explosive, multi-dimensional player the Bengals team envisioned."
22. Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders
Loaded with potential and upside, Murray is a physical freak that runs a sub-4.4 forty at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. Murray finally got a chance to showcase what he could do down the stretch last season and he gained 478 yards from scrimmage over his final five games on a total of 83 touches (72 carries and 11 receptions). With Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew out and Trent Richardson and Roy Helu in, Murray should be given every opportunity to be the team's lead back in 2015.
23. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Cleveland Browns
On a positive note, the coaching staff wants to lean on the rushing attack and the Browns have one of the better run-blocking offensive lines when center Alex Mack is healthy. On a less positive note, the coaching staff's allocation of carries was unpredictable on a weekly basis as the guy with the "best practice" during the week got the most carries. Ultimately, I expect Crowell to be the most productive Browns running back in 2015, but the team's coaching staff will keep us guessing on a week-to-week basis.
24. Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts
With the exception of an 11-game season in 2010, Gore has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in eight of his past nine seasons with at least 1,100 rushing yards in four consecutive seasons. I'm not sure if that streak will continue, I'd guess no, but I expect that the Colts will give Gore 200-plus carries in 2015. One of the league's better pass-catching backs earlier in his career, I'd also expect to see Gore, who's outstanding in pass protection, to be more involved as a receiver than he has been over the past four seasons (average of 18 catches per season) in San Francisco.
25. Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets
With the ref="http://eatdrinkandsleepfootball.com/blog-mt/2015/02/14/the_jets_decline_option_on_rb_chris_johnson.html">Jets declining the option on Chris Johnson, I expected the Jets to aggressively pursue C.J. Spiller in free agency. They didn't as Spiller signed with the Saints. This may seem too high for Ivory, but he finished as a top-20 fantasy running back last season. Although he averaged a career-low 4.1 YPC, Ivory once again rushed for more than 800 yards and he set a career high with six touchdowns. Depending on what the Jets do in the [real] draft, Ivory has plenty of upside as a guy that will likely fly under the radar on [fantasy] draft day.
-> Continue to Fantasy RBs 26-65
Check out more of our 2015 fantasy rankings:
- 2015 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings
- 2015 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
- 2015 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings
- 2015 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings
- 2015 NFL Mock Draft
- 2015 NFL Draft Big Board - Top 100 NFL Draft Prospects
- 2015 NBA Mock Draft
- 2015 Fantasy Baseball Rankings
- 2015 Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft Simulator
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