News & Analysis

Ranking the fantasy RBs by tier

By Jeff Ratcliffe
Aug 15, 2017

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GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 04: Running back David Johnson #31 of the Arizona Cardinals runs for a first down as Su'a Cravens #36 of the Washington Redskins attempts to make a tackle during the second quarter of a game at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Putting together tiers is one of the most important exercises to go through when building your fantasy football draft board. It allows you to see exactly how each player at a position stacks up against each other and gives you a more dynamic list than traditional static rankings.

We’ve already covered the quarterback tiers, now let’s check out the running backs. Please note that these tiers are for standard leagues. Players with a value upgrade in PPR formats are indicated.

▲ = PPR Upgrade

Tier 1 – Round 1

Le’Veon Bell
David Johnson
LeSean McCoy
Melvin Gordon
Devonta Freeman

Either Johnson or Bell will likely go first overall in most fantasy drafts this year. Both players are true three-down backs who have heavy involvement in the passing game. Bell tops the list, but only by a razor-thin margin. He’s the preferred option, though, after averaging 28.0 touches per game last year. Johnson was no slouch in this department with an average of 23.3, but be careful to not overvalue his 20 combined scores. That number is likely to regress this year. Either way, Bell and Johnson are the cream of the fantasy crop this year.

After the Big 2, McCoy and Gordon are likely to go next in your draft. McCoy enters his age-29 season, but he’s coming off a strong 2016 campaign, and figures to continue to see high volume in the passing game. Part of McCoy’s success last year can be attributed to Anthony Lynn, who is now the head coach of the Chargers. That means good things for Gordon, who broke out last year and proved he can be both a feature back and an elite fantasy option. Freeman slides into the back end of the first round on the heels of his second straight RB1 season. Yes, Tevin Coleman does eat into some of his work, but Freeman still has a high fantasy ceiling in the potent Falcons offense.

Tier 2 – Round 2

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