News & Analysis

2019 draft class rookie running back fantasy rankings

Nov 10, 2018; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Josh Jacobs (8) carries the ball against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL draft just over two weeks away, dynasty fantasy football rookie drafts are just around the corner. To get you prepped for the draft, we’re digging deep and providing fantasy scouting for all the draft-eligible skill position players in this year’s class. Below you’ll find the pre-draft dynasty rookie running back rankings for 2019.

Remember, ranking players is a process that continuously changes as we get new pieces of information. The biggest piece won’t come until late April when the player is either drafted, signed as an undrafted free agent, or passed over by the 32 NFL teams. For now, all the incoming players exist in a vacuum without a team and can be compared on even ground. Better yet, the information below will enable us to set better rankings after the draft concludes.

1. Josh Jacobs, Alabama — Jacobs may not have seen a massive workload at Alabama, but he's ready-made for fantasy production. He's strong after contact with 4.07 yards after first contact per attempt. Last season, Jacobs notched a first down on 41% of his rushing attempts, which led all running backs in college football. But it's his versatility as a receiver out of the backfield is what will make him a strong fantasy asset. He averaged 12.4 yards per catch and forced 21 missed tackles on 48 career receptions. Jacobs' three-down pedigree and explosive ability bode well for immediate fantasy success at the next level.

2. Miles Sanders, Penn State — Saquon Barkley's understudy emerged in 2018 with nine scores and an average of 5.8 yards per carry on 220 rushing attempts. Showed the ability to make defenders miss with sudden jump cuts and spin moves. These moves propelled him to rank eighth in the nation in yards after contact per attempt (3.68). Fumbles were an issue last season with five on 220 carries. Sanders ranked fifth among FBS backs with at least 150 carries in fumble percentage (2.3%). He showed especially well at the combine with a 4.49 in the 40 to go along with a 36-inch vertical, 10'4″ in the broad. Sanders posted the fastest 3-cone among running backs at 6.89 and finished third in the short shuttle (4.19). Isn't as explosive as Barkley, but has NFL size and three-down potential. Sanders is a good bet for future fantasy success.

3. David Montgomery, Iowa State — A prototype back who checks in at 5-10, 222. Only averaged 4.8 yards per carry last year, but was extremely elusive with a nation-leading 99 forced missed tackles. And he had to do a lot on his own because Iowa State graded out as the No. 97 run blocking unit in the FBS (130 teams). Showed the ability to carry a full workload in college with 20-plus carries in 7-of-12 games last season. Not a burner (4.63), so don't expect many big plays. Additionally, his 28.5-inch vertical jump was the worst number posted by running backs at the combine. Comps similarly to Kareem Hunt, which means Montgomery enters the NFL with a relatively high long-term fantasy ceiling.

4. Darrell Henderson, Memphis — Henderson is an extremely elusive back with a nation-leading 6.17 yards after contact per attempt. He also ranked second in rushing yards with 1,909 at a jaw-dropping 8.9 yards per carry (he also averaged 8.9 yards per carry in 2017). Racked up a massive 43 carries of 15-plus yards last season. Adds fantasy value as a receiver. He notched 63 catches at a clip of 12 yards per in his three years at Memphis. Henderson is slightly undersized (5-9, 200), but his home-run-hitting ability screams fantasy upside.

5. Damien Harris, Alabama — A bruising back who is coming off a productive college career, Harris topped 1,000 rushing yards in his sophomore and junior years despite being in a loaded Alabama backfield. His yards per carry dipped somewhat last year, but was still a respectable 5.8. He was especially effective as a runner in the red zone, which contributed to his 20 rushing scores over the last two seasons. While his 4.57 40-yard dash time at the combine doesn't jump off the page, Harris did show explosion with a 37-inch vertical jump. For fantasy purposes, the biggest knock on Harris is his lack of top-end speed, which could limit his big play upside.

6. Devin Singletary, FAU — “Motor” Singletary posted off-the-charts productivity in Conference USA with an eye-popping 66 touchdowns and 4,287 rushing yards over the last three years. He also ranked second in the nation last year in forced missed tackles as a runner with 96. Despite what the numbers say, his 4.66 40-yard dash time calls into question Singletary's upside at the next level. Though he's undersized (5-7, 203), Singletary enters the NFL with a three-down skill set. That plus his ability to make plays gives Singletary a good shot at surfacing on the fantasy radar.

7. Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma — Anderson was injury-plagued at Oklahoma, with a broken leg in 2015, fractured vertebra in 2016, and a knee injury in 2018. Anderson played just 17 games over the past four years. That said, he was extremely effective when he was on the field with 6.4 yards per attempt on his 200 college carries. Despite the limited work, he scored a combined 21 times on 217 touches. He only participated in the bench press at the combine but did post the fourth-most reps (25) among running backs. Anderson has NFL size (6-0, 224), and the potential to make an instant impact at the pro level. Of course, he'll need to stay healthy to do so.

8. Justice Hill, Oklahoma State — Hill is an undersized but explosive back who scored 30 rushing touchdowns over the last three years. His numbers dipped somewhat in 2018, but he was still efficient on a per-carry basis with 5.9 yards per carry. Hill flashed major athleticism at the combine, leading running backs in the 40-yard dash (4.40), vertical jump (40 inches), and broad jump (10'10”). While Hill's size doesn't profile for three-down work at the pro level, his big play upside is tough to ignore for fantasy purposes. In the right landing spot, Hill could make an immediate impact.

9. Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M — Williams is an undersized (5-8, 206) back who showed true three-down ability at Texas A&M in 2018. He's coming off a massive 2018 campaign where he put up 2,038 scrimmage yards (1,760 rushing) and 19 combined touchdowns on just under 300 touches. He showed well at the combine with a 4.51 40-yard dash time, but also posted the second slowest 3-cone (7.44) and short shuttle (4.44). While Williams' size is a knock on his long-term fantasy outlook, his three-down ability is appealing in the right landing spot.

10. Bryce Love, Stanford — A year ago, Love would have been one of the top fantasy prospects on the board. But a massive dip in efficiency from 8.1 yards per carry in 2017 to 4.5 in 2018 has caused his fantasy stock to dip. Despite the decline in productivity, Love was still elusive with 0.26 forced missed tackles per attempt. That tied for fifth in the nation, and he tied for 13th in yards after contact per attempt (3.5). Of course, Love is also coming off a torn ACL that he suffered in Stanford's finale. His lackluster senior season and the injury means Love will likely come at a discount in rookie drafts, but Love's upside makes him well worth consideration as one of the top-10 fantasy running backs in this class.

11. James Williams, Washington State — “Boobie” Williams lacks prototype NFL size (5-9, 197), but he's a strong pass-catcher with a massive 202 receptions over the last three seasons. He displayed explosive ability at the combine with a 36.5-inch vertical jump and also ranked fourth among running backs in the 3-cone (7.01) and in the short shuttle (4.25). Despite his size, Williams' athleticism and playmaking ability makes him one of this year's sneaky bets to surface on the PPR radar at some point in the future.

12. Mike Weber, Ohio State — A heavily recruited back out of high school, Weber topped 1,000 yards in his redshirt freshman season, but failed to reach that mark in each of the last two years. While his career yards per carry of 5.9 is solid, Weber's inefficient 3.2 yards after contact per attempt don't necessarily jump off the page. That said, he did tie for the third-fastest 40-yard dash time among running backs at the combine. His pedigree, speed, and solid productivity over his three years at Ohio State give Weber dynasty appeal in the right landing spot.

13. Elijah Holyfield, Georgia — Former heavyweight champ Evander's son, Holyfield was buried on the Georgia depth chart in his first two seasons with the team. But with Sony Michel and Nick Chubb out of the way, he averaged 6.4 yards per carry and an impressive 4.1 yards after contact per attempt in 2018. Holyfield had a disappointing performance at the combine with a 4.78 time in the 40-yard dash, which was the slowest among halfbacks. That said, he did rank third among running backs with 26 reps on the bench. He isn't a home-run hitter, but has the size to be a volume fantasy option as an early-down back.

14. Travis Homer, Miami — An undersized back (5-10, 201), Homer burst onto the scene as Mark Walton's replacement in 2017. For his college career, Homer averaged a solid 6.0 yards per carry and showed chops as a receiver with 37 grabs. Despite his size, Homer is capable of generating yards after contact with an average of 4.1 in 2018.At the combine, he ranked fifth among running backs in the 40-yard dash (4.48), second in the vertical jump (39.5 inches), and tied for first in the broad jump (10'10”). Those numbers bode well for Homer at the next level. He's an intriguing name outside the top 10 running backs to keep tabs on in the draft.

15. Myles Gaskin, Washington — A productive back who topped 1,000 rushing yards in all four seasons at Washington with 57 rushing touchdowns. He's a bit undersized at (5'9″, 205), but he has the potential to add fantasy value with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield (65 catches in college). Gaskin posted the fifth-best short shuttle time among running backs at the combine at 4.27. He was a high school champ in the 100 meters, but ran a modest 4.58 40 time at the combine. Gaskins' college production is appealing, but his size could limit his fantasy upside.

16. Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky — A 1,000-yard rusher in all three seasons at Kentucky, Snell has the size (5'10”, 224) to be an early-down option at the pro level. He comes from a football family with his father being drafted by the Ravens in 1998. Snell tied for the second-worst vertical jump at the combine (29.5). That lack of explosion is concerning for his long-term fantasy outlook, but his size and college resume are enough to keep him in dynasty consideration.

17. Dexter Williams, Notre Dame — Williams is an unproven back with intriguing potential. His background clouds things from an evaluation standpoint. He faced off-field issues in 2016 when he was arrested for marijuana possession and had a charged dropped for possessing a handgun without a license. He was also suspended for the first month of the 2018 season for undisclosed reasons. Still, he managed 995 rushing yards and 12 scores in nine games. Williams also showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield last year with 16 catches. He tied for the top mark among running backs in the combine broad jump (10'10”), ranked third in the 3-cone (7.00), and second in the short shuttle (4.16). Despite his off-field issues and limited college resume, Williams has the size (5-11, 212) and profile to be a sneaky deeper name to know in dynasty rookie drafts.

18. Ryquell Armstead, Temple — A powerful back who checks in at 5-11, 220 pounds. He battled injuries throughout his college career, but was productive when on the field. Armstead topped 1,000 yards on the ground in 2018 with 13 rushing scores. Showed impressive speed at the combine with a 4.45 40-yard dash time, which was the second fastest among running backs, along with ranking fifth in the 3-cone (7.02). That said, he also tied for last in the broad jump (9'6″). Armstead is far from a lock to emerge as a future fantasy option, but his size and ability are intriguing enough to warrant dynasty consideration in the right landing spot.

19. Darwin Thompson, Utah State — Undersized but explosive runner who racked up 14 touchdowns on 153 rushing attempts at a clip of 6.8 per last season. Averaged a massive 5.1 yards after contact per attempt with 48 forced missed tackles. His 0.32 forced missed tackles per attempt ranked third in the nation. Ran a solid 4.50 40-yard dash with impressive performances in the vert (39″) and broad jump (10'6″) at his pro day. Thompson’s athleticism and ability make players position him as one of the deeper fantasy names to know at running back this year.

20. Alex Barnes, Kansas State — An extremely productive back who racked up 1,355 yards and 12 scores on 256 carries in 2018. Barnes also showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield with 20 receptions last season. He flashed major athleticism at the combine, leading all running backs with 34 reps on the bench and a 4.10 short shuttle time. Barnes also finished third in the vertical jump (38.5), fifth in the broad jump (10'6″), and second in the 3-cone (6.95). Barnes' testing numbers and production in 2018 are enough to warrant dynasty consideration if he lands on the right depth chart.

21. Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska — A bruising one-year wonder who checks in at 5-11, 222 pounds. Ozigbo did little over his first three years at Nebraska — including 2017 when he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry on 129 attempts — but he came into his own in 2018 with 1,082 yards and 12 scores on 12 carries. Thats an average of 7.0 yards per carry. Didn't participate at the combine, but posted solid numbers in the vert (37″) and broad jump (10'4″) at his pro day. Though he lacks a thick resume, Ozigbo's NFL size and explosive ability place him on the fringes of dynasty consideration.

22. Jordan Scarlett, Florida — A prototype NFL back from a size/speed standpoint, Scarlett enters the draft with a somewhat thin resume. He had off-field issues that caused him to miss the bowl game in his freshman year due to an arrest for marijuana possession, and was suspended for all of 2017 due to credit card fraud that also involved other teammates. However, he proved effect on the field with a career average of 5.4 yards per carry. His 4.47 40-yard dash time was tied for the third-fastest among running backs at the combine, but he also ran the slowest short shuttle at 4.63. He also struggles in the passing game. Still, Scarlett's athletic profile is enough to warrant deep dynasty consideration.

23. L.J. Scott, Michigan State — Scott has an NFL build (6-0, 227), but he enters the draft with a somewhat unimpressive statistical resume. His best rushing season came in 2016 when he posted 994 rushing yards on 184 carries. For his career, Scott averaged just 4.7 yards per carry. He's also coming off an injury-plagued 2018 season. Though he did score 11 times as a freshman, Scott managed just 14 rushing touchdowns over the last three years (464 carries). There are some things to like about his game, but Scott's chances of being fantasy relevant are on the thin side.

24. Karan Higdon, Michigan — A somewhat undersized back (5-9, 206) who blazed a 4.49 40-yard dash at the combine. Higdon has shown the ability to find the end zone with a combined 21 rushing scores over the last two seasons. His lack of involvement in the passing game (just 16 catches in four years at Michigan) hurts his overall fantasy outlook. That said, he has an outside chance of surfacing on the fantasy radar if he lands on the right team.

25. Alexander Mattison, Boise State — A big-bodied back who has the ability to make defenders miss with 68 forced missed tackles last season. Mattison showed explosive ability with the fourth-best broad jump among running backs at the combine (10'7′). He has similarities to former Boise State running back, Jay Ajayi, and which means his fantasy ceiling could be somewhat limited.

26. Nick Brossette, LSU — Buried behind Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice, Brossette finally got his shot to lead the LSU backfield in 2018.While he scored 14 rushing touchdowns, his 4.3 yards per carry fails to jump off the page. Likewise, he ran a lackluster 4.72 40-yard dash at the combine. While he lacks speed, Brossette has good size (5-11, 209) and ability in early-down situations. He has an outside chance of being a fantasy option if he lands in the right spot.

27. Tony Pollard, Memphis — A special teams dynamo, Pollard racked up an FBS record-tying seven kickoff return scores. In 2017, he averaged an eye-popping 40 yards per kickoff return. However, Pollard was somewhat lightly used as a runner with just 139 carries the last three seasons. That said, he also racked up 104 catches at a clip of 12.4 yards per. His versatility on special teams and as a receiver are enough to give him at least some consideration if he lands in the right spot.

28. Matt Colburn II, Wake Forest — A four-year player at Wake Forest, Coburn finished his career with 15 rushing scores on 542 attempts at a clip of 4.7 yards per attempt. He's a compact back who checked in at 5-10, 200 pounds at Wake. His productivity is worth a look, but Colburn isn't a good bet to be a fantasy asset.

29. Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State — A four-year player for the Bison, Anderson averaged 7.5 yards per carry in 2018.He comes from a track and field background and possesses good long speed, though his pro day 40-yard dash time came in at 4.58. Anderson has a solid resume at the FCS level, but he'll have a somewhat uphill battle to surface on the fantasy radar.

30. Jalin Moore, Appalachian State — Very strong, Moore ranked second among running backs in bench reps at the combine with 27. But he's coming off a fractured and dislocated ankle and did not participate in any of the other events. Moore was able to top 1,000 rushing yards in 2016 and 2017, and averaged a rock-solid 6.1 yards per carry in college. He also found the end zone 33 times as a runner. Didn't do much as a receiver with just 23 catches over four years. Moore lacks the overall profile for future fantasy success.

31. Darrin Hall, Pittsburgh — A power back (5-11, 225) who is coming off 1,144 rushing yards on 153 carries last season. Hall had a nose for the end zone as a runner over the last two seasons with 19 rushing scores. He's a capable receiver with 31 catches over the last two years. While the attention has been on Qadree Ollison, Hall is possibly the more appealing Pitt back. He ran a solid 4.42 40 time at his pro day. Keep an eye on where he lands in the draft.

32. Ty Johnson, Maryland — A speedy back who blazed a 4.41 40-yard dash at his pro day. Johnson got off to a strong start to his college career with 1,004 rushing yards in his sophomore season at a clip of 9.1 yards per carry. His numbers dipped from there, though he still managed a career average of 7.7. That said, he also took somewhat of a backseat to Anthony McFarland last season. While Johnson's speed is appealing, his thin college resume suggests he's a bit of a longshot to become a fantasy option in the NFL.

33. Qadree Ollison, Pittsburgh — A bigger back who checks in at 6-1, 228 pounds, Ollison was James Conner's understudy at Pitt. He filled in for Connor during his cancer diagnosis and performed well with 1,121 yards and 11 scores on 212 carries. He then regressed in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Ollison got back on track last season, again topping 1,000 yards and scoring 11 times. That said, he struggled at the combine and was one of just four running backs to not top 30 inches in the vertical jump. He also tied for last in the broad jump (9'6″), and posted the slowest 3-cone (7.53). Ollison isn't likely to be a fantasy option.

34. Wes Hills, Slippery Rock — A small-school back with NFL size (6-2, 218). Hills started his college career out at Delaware, but missed time due to injury and academic issues. He transferred to Slippery Rock for the 2018 season and compiled an impressive 1,714 yards on 246 carries to go along with 28 catches for 193 yards. But those numbers did come against Division-II competition. Additionally, he'll be 24 years old this season. There's some appeal to Hills, but he's unlikely to ever be a fantasy option.

35. Jordan Ellis, Virginia — A powerful and big back at 5-9, 224.A bit of a plodder who averaged just 4.3 yards per carry in his four years at Virginia. That said, he did show he could handle volume and notched 215 carries in each of the last two years. In 2018, he posted 1,026 yards and 10 scores. Despite the production, Ellis is a longshot for fantasy success.

36. Aeris Williams, Mississippi State — Williams has an NFL body at 6-0, 215 pounds, but his resume is somewhat thin. He topped 1,000 yards in 2017, but took a back seat to Kylin Hill in the Mississippi State backfield last season. Despite minimal work last season, Williams did manage 100 receiving yards on just nine catches. That said, he has the makings of a future practice squad option who isn't likely to ever make a fantasy impact.

37. Tony Brooks-James, Oregon — Speedy, but undersized (5-9, 175), Brooks-James saw his workload at Oregon decrease from a high of 118 touches in 2016 to just 60 touches last season. While his 4.45 pro day 40-yard dash is impressive, Brooks-James doesn't have the size profile and college resume to be a meaningful fantasy producer at the NFL level.

38. Marquis Young, UMass — A four-year player at UMass, Young never posted a 1,000-yard rushing season (though he did come close in 2015 and 2017). Still, he was heavily used in the passing game with 97 catches for 666 yards in his college career. Young also flashed athleticism at his pro day with a 4.49 in the 40, 37.5 inches in the vert, and a 124-inch broad jump. There's enough appeal to his numbers that we should keep an eye Young. He'll be a sneaky deep name if he manages to catch on with an NFL team.

39. Damarea Crockett, Missouri — A big-bodied back (5-11, 226) who got off to a hot start with 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground as a true freshman at Missouri. His production declined from there, and Crockett managed just 4.8 yards per carry last season. That being said, he did run a fast 4.40 40-yard dash and post a 37-inch vert at his pro day. Those testing numbers give Crockett some dark horse appeal.

40. Craig Reynolds, Kutztown — Small-schooler with NFL size (5-10, 212) who scored 46 touchdowns in his college career. Also a capable receiver, with 40 catches for 472 yards last season. He'll have to prove he can perform against much better competition, but Reynolds has deep dynasty sleeper appeal.

41. Squally Canada, BYU — Canada is a somewhat lightly used back who touched the ball 296 times in his four years at BYU. He managed a solid 5.9 yards per carry in his junior year, but that number regressed to 4.5 last season. He doesn't have the resume of a future fantasy option.

42. Patrick Laird, Cal — Productive over the last two seasons, Laird notched 2,088 rushing yards and 13 scores on 414 carries. He also showed well as a receiver with a combined 96 catches over that span. He's a bit undersized (5-11, 205) and didn't necessarily pop in any of his pro day testing events. Laird put up solid numbers in college, but isn't a good bet for fantasy success.

43. Travon McMillian, Colorado — McMillan transferred to Colorado last season after spending his first three years in college at Virginia Tech. In 2018, he managed 1,009 rushing yards on 201 carries and found the end zone seven time as a runner. McMillan also displayed ability as a receiver with 49 catches over his career. Those are solid numbers, but there just isn't enough juice here to get behind McMillan as a future dynasty option.

44. D'Andre Ferby, Western Kentucky — Ferby is a big-bodied back who measured in at 6-1, 229 pounds at his pro day. He kicked his college career with 164 carries in 2015, but never got close to that number in his remaining three years — one of which was almost entirely missed due to injury. Ferby posted a lackluster 3.8 yards per carry at Western Michigan, and recorded a slow 4.81 40-yard dash at his pro day. Don't expect him to surface on the fantasy radar.

45. Alec Ingold, Wisconsin — A fullback who averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in his four years at Wisconsin. That said, he did go for 5.5 per clip last season and scored 21 combined touchdowns over his career. Ingold isn't a good bet for fantasy production, but he's one of the better fullback options in this year's class.

46. Jacques Patrick, Florida State — Prolific at the high school level, Patrick rushed for 7,900 yards and 103 touchdowns. But that success didn't translate to college, as his best statistical season as runner came in 2017 when he posted 748 yards and seven scores on 134 carries. Patrick is a big boy (6-2, 234), but lacks the necessary prerequisites to be considered a dynasty fantasy option.

47. Taiwan Deal, Wisconsin — A former 4-star recruit who battled injuries throughout his college career. Has NFL size at 6-0, 226 pounds. However, he never emerged as anything more than a committee back at the college level and has a very slim chance of ever being a fantasy option.

48. Kerrith Whyte Jr., FAU — Overshadowed by Devin Singletary, Whyte saw limited work in his time at FAU. However, his role did expand somewhat in 2018 with 134 carries. Whyte averaged a healthy 6.5 yards per carry and scored eight times last season. Whyte flashed major athleticism at his pro day with a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash along with massive numbers in the vert (42″) and the broad jump (11'0″). His explosive ability is appealing, but Whyte projects as more of a complementary back at the pro level with minimal fantasy potential.

49. Joshuwa Holloman, Eastern Michigan — Holloman is a interesting case, as he actually never played a down while at EMU or Cincinnati where he started his college career. Despite coming from a track background, Holloman ran just 4.68 in his pro day 40.Giving his inexperience and lackluster workout numbers, the deck is stacked against Holloman.

50. George Aston, Pittsburgh — Pitt's fullback over the last four years, Aston did very little as a runner with just 28 carries. But he did contribute in the passing game with 45 catches. Still, he isn't going to be a fantasy option at the pro level.

51. Chandler Cox, Auburn — A fullback who touched the ball just 37 times in four years at Auburn. In a best-case scenario, he'll end up as a touchdown vulture in the NFL, which isn't actually a good thing for fantasy purposes.

52. Winston Dimel, UTEP — Dimel played his first three seasons at Kansas State before transferring to UTEP last year. He averaged just 2.9 yards per carry over his college career, but did score 22 times as a runner. If he makes it to the next level it'll be as a fullback where his ability to produce fantasy numbers will be extremely limited.

53. Chris Nelson, Morehead State — Nelson started his career at Central Michigan, and didn't do much at Morehead state. He's one of the biggest running back longshots for fantasy value on the board.

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