Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 16: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants warms up prior to a preseason game against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium on August 16, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

For the last two months, I have been working through NFL data from 2002-2018 with the goal of coming up with a fantasy football equivalent for “Wins Above Replacement”. I, unfortunately, was not able to come up with that in time for this season, but I was able to come up with an expected “Points Above Replacement” (PAR) statistic. This statistic is exactly as sounds, the number is the expected number of points, per week, that a player is expected to score over a replacement-level player. From the PAR statistic, I have created my fantasy football running back rankings heading into this season.

Running backs are widely considered to be the most shallow of position groups for fantasy football. Based on the data for the past seventeen seasons, a replacement-level running back is expected to score 8.78 points per week. All PAR values are based on this replacement value.

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Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Rank Player PAR
1 Saquon Barkley 8.98
2 Christian McCaffrey 7.76
3 David Johnson 7.33
4 Alvin Kamara 7.21
5 Ezekiel Elliott 6.90
6 Le’Veon Bell 6.34
7 Joe Mixon 5.94
8 Nick Chubb 5.89
9 James Conner 5.50
10 Todd Gurley 5.31
11 Dalvin Cook 5.03
12 Kerryon Johnson 4.48
13 Aaron Jones 4.16
14 Josh Jacobs 3.73
15 Melvin Gordon 3.51
16 Chris Carson 3.33
17 Damien Williams 2.84
18 Leonard Fournette 2.69
19 Sony Michel 2.59
20 James White 2.36
21 Devonta Freeman 2.28
22 Derrick Henry 2.01
23 Lamar Miller 1.73
24 Tevin Coleman 1.58
25 Marlon Mack 1.26
26 Mark Ingram 1.04
27 Derrius Guice 0.91
28 David Montgomery 0.62
29 Phillip Lindsay 0.42
30 Miles Sanders 0.00
31 Austin Ekeler -0.42
32 Kalen Ballage -0.76
33 Royce Freeman -1.14
34 Jordan Howard -1.55
35 Tarik Cohen -1.83
36 Latavius Murray -2.30
37 LeSean McCoy -2.40
38 Nyheim Hines -2.73
39 Duke Johnson Jr. -3.02
40 Jaylen Samuels -3.18
41 Kenyan Drake -3.55
42 Adrian Peterson -3.83
43 Malcolm Brown -3.99
44 Chris Thompson -4.35
45 Mike Davis -4.59
46 Ito Smith -4.86
47 Kareem Hunt -5.02
48 Justin Jackson -5.42
49 Justice Hill -5.64
50 Jamaal Williams -5.80

Key Findings

The difference between the top tier running backs and replacement level running backs is astronomical. So much so that Saquon Barkley is projected to score over twice as much as a replacement-level running back next season. From there, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and David Johnson are next in line looking to put up tremendous seasons.

Potential hold-outs are starting to become a concern. There are still two and a half weeks before the season, but Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon are both players to keep an eye on as they push for new contracts. There have reportedly been no substantial contract discussions between Melvin Gordon and the Los Angeles Chargers. Elliott, however, seems to be a little closer to a deal with the Dallas Cowboys. That was until owner Jerry Jones made the comment “Zeke who?” when asked about the contract situation. Both of these hold outs have dropped them in the rankings.

The current running back situations to avoid appears to be the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, and Miami Dolphins. None of these teams have a clear cut lead back at this point. For Philadelphia, both Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard are expected to be fantasy relevant as they are part of one of the best offenses in the league. Miami and Buffalo don’t have the same expectations.

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