March Madness is getting most of us frustrated over broken brackets (including myself). There are endless "Sad Jordan" memes on Twitter following the Michigan State loss in the first round, which is simply amazing.
Even though it's only late March, I figured why not start sorting out some 2016 fantasy rankings. So here's a first look at my standard RB ranks for this season. Check back soon for PPR and other positions and make sure to read the analysis below. Props to FantasyPros.com for the convenient embeddable rankings tool (below).
1. Le'Veon Bell
Look, when it comes to Le’Veon Bell, there’s just no running back like him in the league. The 24-year-old running back can do everything and changes the Pittsburgh offense when he’s on the field. He’s such a consistent fantasy producer that if he can remain healthy for a full season he’s a threat for 2,000 yards from scrimmage and double-digit touchdowns. Yes, he’s coming off a torn MCL and so far, seems to be taking things slowly, but I have confidence that Bell will return to his dominating ways when he does make it back to the gridiron.
2. Carlos Hyde
Some casual fantasy owners might forget about Carlos Hyde or at least downgrade him following an early end to his 2015 campaign on account of a foot injury. But what you can’t forget is Hyde’s insane Week 1 performance against the Vikings, who boasted one of the best defenses in the NFL last season. In that game, Hyde went off with 182 total yards and two touchdowns on 28 touches. He averaged 18 touches per game in the seven that he played in last year and in a new offense under Chip Kelly, I expect him to have a huge year similar to that of LeSean Mccoy’s in 2013 (366 touches 2,146 total yards, 11 total TDs). Is No. 2 overall too high for Hyde? Maybe, but it’s only March.
3. Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley is arguably the most talented runner in the NFL. We’ll have to hope the rest of the Los Angeles Rams’ offense is prepared to help in making him great. And even if they’re not, have faith that Gurley will get the job done and then some. Plus, the kid knows his Jay-Z albums, which behooves him since he's represented by Roc Nation.
4. Devonta Freeman
As long as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are able to continue opening things up down field, Freeman has what it takes to continue being a top rated fantasy running back. He proved last season that he’s tough enough to be used heavily and quick enough to be an intimidating weapon that opposing defenses cannot ignore, especially in the passing game. Freeman hauled in 73 receptions on 92 targets a season ago and added three receiving touchdowns to his 11 total rushing scores.
5. Doug Martin
Okay so maybe I’m a little biased when it comes to Doug Martin since I got him as a bargain at the beginning of the 2015 fantasy season and he finished as a top five fantasy running back for the year. He just re-upped his deal with Tampa Bay and we know that the Bucs’ offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has grown to prefer Martin as the featured back. There’s absolutely no reason that Martin cannot repeat his 2015 production in Tampa Bay as the team just signed guard J.R. Sweezy to replace the recently retired Logan Mankins … Fantasy owners will also have to bank on an uptick in touchdowns for Martin who only punched it in seven times last year, three of which came in a single game.
6. David Johnson
Some might argue that the second-year phenom should be a top-three pick at his position in fantasy drafts this year, and they’re not wrong. I just like a few other guys over him. Why? Well, the Cardinals re-upped veteran Chris Johnson recently and his success last year before he got injured warrants more than just a backup-type role. Andre Ellington is still hanging around too, not that he’ll have much impact in fantasy but this still feels like a three-headed monster to me to a certain point. David Johnson is one of the best up-and-coming talents in the NFL and last year was just the tip of the iceberg as far as what this kid is capable of. But I think as long as Chris Johnson is still in the picture, David won’t see the touches he needs to be considered a top-three fantasy running back, in my opinion.
7. Adrian Peterson
Sometimes, experience trumps youth. This is one of those cases. There are some younger guys who might be a bit more spry than Peterson is but there’s no denying his transcendent talent. I actually feel kind of dumb having Peterson ranked at No. 7 and will probably move him up as training camp gets closer. I’ve sort of opted for potential over experience with my top guys, but Peterson still deserves to be considered among the best running backs in all of fantasy, even at this late stage of his career.
8. Jamaal Charles
It’s so unfortunate when elite talent like Charles (and many others last season) suffer injuries. The road to recovery is a long and difficult one, but we’ve seen him come back strong before and I have no doubt that he will again. According to recent reports, Charles should be far enough along in his ACL recovery to participate in training camp in July since his injury happened in October of 2015. He’s still a Their 1 running back but because age is starting to become a factor (he’s 29) I’ve slid Charles down to my No. 8 spot.
9. Lamar Miller
Oh boy, a shiny new toy for the Houston Texans! Miller signed with Houston in free agency in March to replace Arian Foster who was let go by the team. Miller showed us last year that when he’s given anywhere from 15-20 touches per game, he can be one of the most productive running backs in fantasy. Hopefully his presence in Houston will solve the mess that was a bottom-of-the-barrel backfield committee in 2015. There will probably be a ton of hype around Miller this summer and while he might not be a first-round talent, he’s still in my top 10 due to his three-down ability.
10. Thomas Rawls
Marshawn Lynch hung up his spikes, which leaves an opening in Seattle for someone to step into his role. Enter Thomas Rawls who had a great showing last season as one of the top waiver-wire pickups of the year. The biggest red flag here is Rawls’ recovery from a broken ankle which he suffered late last year (Week 14). But coach Pete Carroll recently told reporters that Rawls should be ready by the start of the season and “hopefully” by training camp. It’s something to keep a close eye on, but for now, Rawls rounds out my Top 10 running backs based on his potentially huge opportunity behind a great offensive line in Seattle.