Opportunity, volume and supporting casts are three underrated factors that sometimes get lost during the offseason buzz period, but in most cases they have a major impact on a running back’s success in fantasy football. We love to agonize over how good a running back is independent of his blocking, for example, but that’s for real-world evaluation, not fantasy. For fantasy, the blocking is what it is, and the running back is slave to his teammates and situation in that way.
Today, we’re looking at the group of players who pave the way for the backs. You won’t hear about a player’s breakaway ability or elusive rating, but you will get a breakdown of the five best RB situations based on the blocking in front of him, and we’ll also give a brief nod to offensive scheme and game script.
Blocking isn’t the ultimate predictor of running back success, but it is just another valuable factor you can add to your arsenal. In 2015, it helped explain how players like Darren McFadden could finish as the RB14 and Jeremy Langford with high-end RB1 numbers on a per-game basis despite terrible peripheral stats.
After reading this, you should have a baseline for the top running games boosted by strong blocking. You’ll also have 10 teams in mind as situations to target for fantasy production from the running back position. I’ll profile the top five and then give quick hits on the next five teams who stand out.
1. Dallas Cowboys
The NFL’s elite unit by reputation has lived up to the accolades in the eyes of our graders. The Cowboys have finished as the best run-blocking team in consecutive seasons. In 2016, they will return all five starters and one of the best reserve guards (Ronald Leary). The unit is led by two elite interior run-blockers in left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick. They finished as the best and second-best run-blockers at their positions, respectively, in 2015. Right guard Zack Martin is just a notch below as a run-blocker. One player to keep an eye on is tight end Jason Witten. After grading out as an elite run-blocker in every season since 2007, he finished below average in 2015.