The running backs position ain’t what it used to be! As you look at our 2016 Fantasy running back rankings, think back to how things have changed from just one year ago.
Sure, some things look the same – Le’Veon Bell and Adrian Peterson are still near the top, although, with more question marks than last year.
But suddenly, we’re seeing young running backs like Devonta Freeman, Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Thomas Rawls replace big names near the top like Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy and Alfred Morris.
No other position has seen as much turnover as running backs , and that includes the Fantasy quarterback rankings, which includes the retirement of Peyton Manning and the sudden ascent of Carson Palmer, Cam Newton and Blake Bortles.
The average career of an NFL player is about 3.5 years, but it’s even less for running backs.
Keep that in mind when you go to load up on young running backs in keeper leagues, as the young ones that stay on top come few and far between. Remember Montee Ball, Giovani Bernard, Zac Stacy and Andre Ellington? They were all top-16 running backs just two years ago in the 2014 Fantasy rankings.
Now, in the 2016 Fantasy running back rankings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any of those guys in the top 30 on any site.
That brings us to wonder what can we expect in the coming years from the young guns currently in our top 30? We mentioned four that we think have staying power through this season, but there are some others, like T.J. Yeldon, Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah that could go either way.
Some post-hype running backs are looking real good, too, like Miami’s Jay Ajayi and San Diego’s Melvin Gordon III, who I’ve deemed one of this seasons’ breakout candidates in the video below.
But one of the biggest question marks for this year turns out to be a HUGE question – is Ezekiel Elliott worth a second-round draft pick? That would make him one of the best rookie running backs in a long time.
I’ll be writing a separate article at some point about this – but my short answer to that question is no – he’s not. Dating back to 2000, there have been just three rookies to start the season as the highest-drafted rookie and end the season as the highest-scoring rookie. It’s too difficult to gauge rookies coming into the league – just as all of the NFL teams that have swung and missed in recent years.
There’s a reason teams have begun to wait on running backs, and that’s why I’m worried about taking a rookie tailback in Round 2. I’d rather run risks later in the draft than in the early going.
2016 Fantasy Running Back Rankings
These rankings are based on standard non-PPR leagues, but you will soon be able to click the PPR tab to see how the rankings change for those leagues.
You can bet that many of the top players in our 2016 Fantasy running back rankings will end up in the middle or bottom end of the 2017 rankings, but as of now, this is how they shake out before the NFL season starts.
Jamaal Charles Photo Credit: LI Phil
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.