2016 Starting Quality Running Backs

2016 Dynasty Running Backs to Consider

Today’s running back landscape is rife with danger.  Starting quality running backs in 2016 can come from anywhere and as last year showed, just because you choose a top running back doesn’t mean you get top production. If you’re in a dynasty league and want to win now, some of these guys are going to be buy low candidates worth a flier on if you can make a trade.  Based on 2015 ADP at myfantasyleague.com the top 10 RBs chosen were:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. Eddie Lacy
  3. Marshawn Lynch
  4. CJ Anderson
  5. DeMarco Murray
  6. Matt Forte
  7. Jeremy Hill
  8. Lesean McCoy
  9. Lamar Miller
  10. Frank Gore

A sum total of 3 of these RBs finished in the top 10 (AP, Miller, Forte) so right off the bat you’re shooting 30%.  If you count the top 20, meaning RB2 quality, it goes up to 70% but who wants an RB2 in the first round, that’s not conducive to dynasty success.  So, whom do we consider starter quality for 2016?  I’ll tell you my opinion, and it’s not necessarily who you may think.  With so much variability at the RB position you have to think a bit outside the box and I’m going to do that here.  It would be easy for me to just spit out what current ADP or some other opinion-maker is saying.  I’m not going to do that, so hold on to your hats, here is my top 20 starting quality running backs for 2016, ranked by potential to be in the top 20 at the end of the season (in other words, ranked by least to most risky):

  1. David Johnson (Current ADP: 4) – A big-time athlete in a big-time offense who showed off his big-time skill last year.  There is very little competition on the roster for sustained touches and very little risk of injury.  DJ is a full go this year and I would take him anywhere I am in the first round.
  2. Todd Gurley (Current ADP: 1) – Two seasons off of his big injury and the Gurley express is ready to roll.  Gurley will have the backfield pretty much all to himself, so he is a heavy touch candidate.  It’s really only him and Tavon Austin in this offense until Jared Goff can prove he can spread the ball more. That won’t happen this year.
  3. Adrian Peterson (Current ADP: 7) – Yes, he’s 31.  Yes, he has to slow down sooner or later.  Yes, Minnesota will throw the ball more in 2016.  No, that won’t stop AP from finishing in the top 20 for the 9th time in 10 years.
  4. Devonta Freeman (Current ADP: 5) – The former FSU back proved he’s an elite talent IN THIS OFFENSE last year.  Coleman will grow and take some snaps but in no way will slow down Freeman.  Will Freeman lead the league in fantasy points in 2016?  Little chance, but save for injury, which is a minor concern here, Freeman will finish in the top 20.
  5. Lamar Miller (Current ADP: 6) – Miller never was used properly in Miami.  He also never proved he could be a heavy load back, so can he be?  We’re about to find out.  The risk here is not another RB, but rather will he reach his potential in Bill O’Brian’s offense.  Funny thing is, even in Miami, he finished in the top 20 last year, so barring injury he’s going to do it in Houston.
  6. Le’Veon Bell (Current ADP: 2) – Is Bell an elite RB?  Yes, but he’s coming off of an injury that may see him start the year kind of slow.  It’s even possible he’ll miss a game or two at that start.  That pulls him down the list a bit here, but by the end of the year I believe he’ll be rolling and will at least provide top 20 value to you.
  7. Doug Martin (Current ADP: 9) – Martin came out of the dog house last year and tore up the field.  He does have some other RBs to contend with in this offense but Dirk Koetter like to use a power back and Martin is that guy in TB.  Solid but unspectacular, Martin will bore his way into the top 20 this year with surprising consistency on the field with Winston and a developing passing game making it easier for him.
  8. Ezekiel Elliott (Current ADP: 3) – He’s rated much higher than 8th in current ADP (3rd RB off the board) and he certainly will get on the field a bunch this year.  Buuut, you know not many RBs go from college to pro without some problems, whether they be wear and tear of an NFL season, poor blocking, major injury.  Those are real considerations here with 2 very good veterans waiting in the wings with Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden.  While I am a believer in Elliott too, rookie seasons can be tricky things…
  9. Mark Ingram (Current ADP: 10) – The forgotten man in New Orlean’s offense, Ingram is oft injured and that’s why he’s not higher on the list, but he really has no other contenders for carries this year.  CJ Spiller is 3rd down back at best at this point and the Saints let Khiry Robinson go, leaving them with Tim Hightower and Daniel Lasco behind Spiller.  This sets up perfectly for Ingram.
  10. Carlos Hyde (Current ADP: 12) – When on the field Hyde has proven to be a game-changer and he moves into an offense that will highlight him in a big way.  The nagging injuries knock him down the list her a bit but he’s certainly on the radar as a breakout top 20 candidate in Chip Kelly’s offense this year.
  11. Matt Jones (Current ADP: 20) – He’s been given the reigns in the Washington offense and while the fumbling issues and 2nd half slow-down where a bit scary for fantasy owners last year, if Washington follows through with their thought on giving him the top job, the potential is certainly there to finish in the top 20.  The potential is also there to fail miserably, so, you have that going for you!
  12. Jay Ajayi (Current ADP: 29) – Just like Matt Jones, Ajayi flashed some potential last year but not enough to make us positive he’s worth the risk this year.  That said, like Jones he only has a rookie behind him for playing time and even if a veteran is brought in late, Ajayi has the talent to hold him off.  Chronic knee issue or not, there is a strong chance Ajayi succeeds this year in Miami.
  13. Dion Lewis (Current ADP: 19) – What?  Are you serious Ken?  Why, yes I am.  Lewis proved himself last year as the kind of difference maker that Belichik loves.  He’ll be healthy at the start of the season and while there are many backs in this backfield, none are as elusive as Lewis and the Patriots know it.  He will have a Darren Sproles at his best type of year in 2016.
  14.  Jonathan Stewart (Current ADP: 32) – JStew is getting up there in age and he’s always dinged up for a game or two a season but there is nobody in this backfield that is ready to compete with him for touches and he is consistent in an offense that will get better with Kelvin Benjamin coming back.
  15. Duke Johnson (Current ADP: 25) – Here’s my second-year breakout from nowhere special.  Johnson’s elite athleticism is not in doubt and the new sheriff in town, Hue Jackson, brings an element of surprise to this backfield because there really is no telling how Isaiah Crowell and Johnson will be used.  You heard it hear first though, Johnson will be used enough to break into the top 20 this season.
  16. Jamaal Charles (Current ADP: 13) – He’s getting older, coming off of an injury and has two very capable young backups, what could go wrong?  Truth is that Charles is an elite talent and though his backfield mates will take some carries, Charles will be the focal point of this offense once again this season and should not have trouble providing starter quality stats on Sundays.
  17. Ryan Matthews (Current ADP: 33) – DeMarco Murray is gone, Sproles is a third-down specialist at this point and Wendall Smallwood is a rookie.  Who else is going to carry the load?  Matthews is not sexy but he’s good enough and with Peterson focusing more on the run in 2016, Matthews has a chance to really surprise some people here.
  18. Frank Gore (Current ADP: 47) – OMG, are you kidding me.  Isn’t Gore like…38?  Seems like it doesn’t it.  Here’s the thing though.  Indy just doesn’t have anybody else.  And while I doubt he’ll get much higher than 15th in the top 20 I’m building here, his floor is really pretty high too.  He won’t win many games for you next year, but he’s not going to lose them either.
  19. CJ Anderson (Current ADP: 15) – Denver did not quite give him a vote of confidence this off season when they refused to give him a second round tag and almost lost him to the Dolphins.  That said, it will be water under the bridge when the season starts.  Injury is still a concern but if that doesn’t slow him down, he’s a lock for the top 20 with a shaky QB situation.
  20. Thomas Rawls (Current ADP: 11) – The shakiest of situation here as he’s still recovering from a bad ankle sprain and Seattle drafted 35 running backs behind him.  That said, I believe the talent he displayed last year will win the day and though injury is a major concern, if he stays healthy that offense is a RB’s dream.

Just missed the cut:

Eddie Lacy, TJ Yeldon, Melvin Gordon, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Langford, Latavius Murray, Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray

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