2015 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings- Updated: Tuesday, July 7th
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).
More Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings:
- 2015 Fantasy Football PPR Running Back Rankings (Full PPR)
- 2015 Fantasy Football Half-PPR Running Back Rankings
While I generally prefer to draft at least two running backs within my first three picks, plenty of late(r)-round selections will pay huge dividends for fantasy owners. Of course, identifying them is a little more difficult.
That said, four of the top-12 fantasy running backs last season were drafted, on average, outside the top-30 fantasy running backs last year — Lamar Miller (No. 9, ADP: RB31), Jeremy Hill (No. 10, ADP: RB42), C.J. Anderson (No. 11, ADP: RB65) and Justin Forsett (No. 8, ADP: Undrafted).
With that said, here are my fantasy football running back rankings for 2015:
1. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Despite a somewhat disappointing season, Charles finished with the seventh-most fantasy points among running backs 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 his reduction in workload. After 320-plus touches in back-to-back seasons, Charles had just 246 touches -- 15 running backs had more -- in 2014. 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.
2. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
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. Named 2014 AP First-Team All-Pro Team, Bell racked up 1,361 rushing yards, 83 receptions for 854 yards and 11 total touchdowns in his second season. Over the course of last year, Bell averaged 17.97 fantasy points per game although his production spiked to 24.7/G with LeGarrette Blount out of the picture down the stretch.
Unfortunately for Bell (and his fantasy owners), he's suspended for the first three games of the season. If he maintained his full-season average of 17.97/G over 13 games this year, however, Bell would score 233.59 fantasy points, which would have ranked him sixth among running backs in 2014. In other words, a replacement-level back for the first three weeks combined with Bell, who I expect to lead the league in per-game production, for 13 games could certainly finish as a top-three back (or better) in 2015.
3. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Starting slowly while facing three elite rush defenses to start the season, only DeMarco Murray and Le'Veon Bell scored more fantasy points than Lacy did from Weeks 4 to 17. Over those final 13 games of the season, he averaged 18.92 touches for 108.85 YFS per game and scored a total of 13 touchdowns. The benefit of playing with Aaron Rodgers means that opposing defenses are less likely to stack the box to (try to) slow down Lacy. After averaging a relatively modest 4.15 yards per carry as a rookie, Lacy averaged 4.63 YPC last season (and 4.89 YPC over final 13 games).
4. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
One of the league's all-time best running backs, Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards back just a couple of seasons ago. After last year's lost season, it was unclear where he would play in 2015, but the draft has come and gone and Peterson reported to the team. Assuming that he plays all 16 games (or close to it), the 30-year-old Peterson should finish as a top-five (or better) back in 2015.
5. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
In his four full seasons in Seattle, Lynch has rushed for 1,200-plus yards and double-digit touchdowns in those seasons. During that four-year span, no player has more rushing yards (5,357), rushing touchdowns (48) and or total touchdowns (56). Beast Mode's production hasn't slowed at all, 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 (turned 29 in April) is at least somewhat concerning. 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.
6. Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Did you know that the Houston Texans led the NFL in rush attempts in 2014? When healthy, Foster is one of the league's few true workhorse backs. 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 scored double-digit touchdowns (13). Not only did Foster finish as a top-five fantasy running back last season, he also finished as a top-12 fantasy running back in 10 of 13 weeks last season.
7. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Over the final nine games of the season, Hill had 22-plus carries and 100-plus rushing yards five times including the final three games 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.) Going into the 2015 season, Hill is clearly the team's lead back with Giovani Bernard back as the change-of-pace option.
8. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Not only did Forte lead all running backs in receptions (102) last year, but only three players had more -- Antonio Brown (129), Demaryius Thomas (111) and Julio Jones (104) -- as he broke the single-season 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 in the neighborhood of 70 catches. And although 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 exceeded 1,400 yards from scrimmage 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 to limit Jay Cutler's turnovers.
9. C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
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 new coaching staff entering 2015, there is perhaps some uncertainty about how the workload will be allocated, but it appears that CJA is set for a featured-back role. In his mailbag column, Troy Renck of the Denver Post projects Anderson to average 18 carries per game as the team's "bellcow" and to "roll for 1,400 yards."
10. DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles
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 remains 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 close to 20 touches per game, when healthy. But will he hold up for another full season?
11. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
Barely finishing as a top-12 fantasy running back last season, McCoy finished third in the league in rushing (1,319 yards) and was one of only two 300-carry backs. Not only did he average nearly a yard per carry less in 2014 than 2013, however, McCoy also saw his receptions (52 in 2013) and touchdowns (11 in 2013) drop roughly in half to 28 and five, respectively. Despite running behind an inferior offensive line (compared to Philadelphia's), McCoy should see a healthy volume of work within Buffalo's ground-and-pound offense, like last year, but will his per-touch effectiveness bounce back in a less-efficient offense?
12. Justin Forsett, 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. Forsett, who re-signed with the Ravens this offseason, 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 is likely to set new career highs in receptions with Marc Trestman hired to coordinate the offense.
13. Frank Gore, 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. Coach Pagano has said that he still views Gore as an every-down back, which means he should get the opportunity to extend the streak. One of the league's better pass-catching backs earlier in his career, Gore should be much more involved as a receiver than he has been over the past four seasons (average of 18 catches per season) in San Francisco.
14. Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers
For re-draft purposes, I expect Gordon to be the most productive rookie running back in 2015. MG3 has drawn some comparisons to Jamaal Charles and he enters a favorable situation with the injury-prone Ryan Mathews no longer in San Diego. The Bolts should give Gordon the bulk of the early-down work as I have him projected for more than 275 touches as a rookie.
15. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Morris averaged a career-low 4.1 YPC last season, but he rushed 265 times for 1,074, respectable numbers but 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 used the fifth-overall pick on Brandon Scherff 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.
16. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Once again, Ingram missed multiple games and has now missed a total of 14 games over his four-year career. That said, Ingram set career highs -- 226 carries, 964 rushing yards, nine touchdowns and 29 receptions -- in the 13 games he did play in 2014. Re-signing with the Saints, Ingram should lead the team in carries. And given the team's offseason moves, a transition to more of a run-based offense appears to be in the offing.
17. Lamar Miller, 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. Although they didn't draft Jay Ajayi until the fifth round (due to long-term concerns about his knee), Ajayi profiles as a potential three-down back in this league and could cap Miller's upside in 2015.
18. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
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 DeAngelo Williams now in Pittsburgh, it appears that the team finally recognizes that The Daily Show gives their offense the best opportunity for success. Durability is a concern for Stewart, however, as he has played only 28 games over the past three seasons.
19. Carlos Hyde, 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 and drafted Mike Davis 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 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. On a positive note, Hyde has shed some weight and is now in the "mid 220-pound range," which should improve his elusiveness yet still allow him to flourish near the goal line. On a not-so-positive note, the 49ers have lost Anthony Davis (retirement) and Mike Iupati (free agency) along the offensive line.
20. Andre Ellington, 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. Given Ellington's size (5-9, 199), it wasn't a huge (no pun intended) surprise that Ellington didn't hold up for a full season and missed the final four regular-season games. With the substantial bump in workload, Ellington underwhelmed as his yards-per-carry average plummeted from 5.5 YPC as a rookie to 3.3 on 201 carries last season. That said, the foot injury he battled all of last season is now healed and the Cardinals improved their offensive line in free agency and the draft.
-> Continue to Fantasy RBs 21-40
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
- 2016 NFL Mock Draft
- 2015 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Simulator
- 2015 Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule
- 2015 Fantasy Football ADP (Movers)
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