2016 Fantasy Football PPR Rankings: Running Backs (Preseason Week 3)

With Fantasy Draft Season full in swing, The Roto Street Journal has you covered. We’ll update our Cheat Sheets and Big Board throughout “dress rehearsal” weekend to reflect all the latest news and preseason action, providing you the most up-to-date rankings to dominate your draft.

UPDATED – August 28th to reflect Saturday’s preseason action and Tony Romo’s injury

? = guy I’m significantly higher on

? = guy I’m significantly lower on

↗️ = slight bump up

↘️ = slight bump down

⬆️ = major bump up

⬇️ = major bump down

? = health risk

? = 30+ concern

? = rookie

Tier 1 – Three down workhorses in explosive offenses … And then there was one

1. David Johnson (Arizona Cardinals)

Tier 2 – Lock RB1s

2. Todd Gurley (L.A. Rams)

3.↗️ Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys) – August 27th update – As Chris explored in his excellent Elliott breakdown, the rookie back’s fantasy stock actually improves with Dak Prescott starting. “Prescott’s dual-threat ability will only open up more lanes for Elliott. The Cowboys can run more plays out of the shotgun, which is what the tailback ran 100-percent of his plays out of at Ohio State and they can run the zone read with Dak and Zeke.”

August 26th update – On the field, Elliott erased any concerns in ripping off 48 yards on only seven carries. He found the right holes, showed speed to the edge, flashed his high-end protection skills, and most impressively, bulled over Kam Chancellor with his raw power. In short, Elliott did it all (here’s a breakdown of his night).

Unfortunately, he was also spotted at a marijuana dispensary before the game. While this will be a non issue, the off-field negative fodder is starting to pile up, which creates some added risk. Should he play all 16 behind this beastly offensive line, Elliott would have a great shot to be 2016’s top-scoring back.

4. ↗️Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers) – August 27th update – Making his 2016 debut, Bell immediately shook off any onfield concerns surrounding his knee by compiling 58 yards on only eight touches. He averaged a sturdy 7.0 YPC on his three totes, while remaining as heavily involved as ever in the passing game, hauling in all five of his targets for 31 yards. This offense is going to run through Antonio and Le’Veon now that Martavis is out, and with DeAngelo’s price tag falling into the ninth round, you should stay afloat in Bell’s three game absence for cheap. Upon his return, you’ll be rolling out a weekly top-three (often #1) RB, and Bell is a safe bet to lead the position in points from Weeks 4- 17 as long as health permits (no guarantee with Le’Veon, however). 

5. Lamar Miller (Houston Texans) – All this “season for the ages” talk has me so stiff.

6. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)

7. ↗️LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills)

Tier 3 – Round 2 RB1s

8. Devonta Freeman (Atlanta Falcons) – Devonta looked far better in Preseason Week 2, ripping off 42 yards, including a 19 yard TD, on only four carries. His vision and wiggle in the hole were far better, and Freeman was the back in for every red zone, third down, and short yardage carry. Moreover, Tevin Coleman looked pretty horrible, so this might not end up a committee no matter how badly the team would love that.

Unfortunately, his Week 3 preseason effort was pretty horrendous, as Freeman only gained eight yards on five totes. The whole offense sputtered big time, including Coleman, but there’s room for concern here. He could fall below some names on this list if they show better this weekend.

9. Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs)

10. ↗️Eddie Lacy (Green Bay Packers) – August 27th update – This marks the third week in a row Lacy receives an up arrow, making him one of the preseason’s biggest winners. He was rumbling again, and particularly impressive on a 21 yard scamper in which he outran the defense to the edge. Even with Starks involved, Lacy should see enough quality volume for an RB1 season with his regained explosion. His 20 carry, 114 yard, TD preseason seems consistent? with what his weekly stat lines should look like

Lacy rumbled for 9 carries, 45 yards, and a TD in preseason Week 2 after a strong Week 1 showing. The RB1 bounceback campaign is very real. Another strong effort in Week 3 would launch him to the top of this tier; he has more upside than any of these backs.

11. ↘️Mark Ingram (New Orleans Saints) – August 27th update – Nevermind that Ingram hasn’t looked overly effective in any preseason action, what has me most concerned is CJ Spiller’s newfound role in the first team offense. For two straight weeks now Spiller has rotated in extensively with the ones, and the consistent hype train has actually looked pretty good. Spiller has been particularly involved on passing downs, which puts a noteworthy damper on Ingram’s outlook; a major piece of Ingram’s PPR appeal was his every-down role and 50 receptions from 2015. Ceding this work would limit Ingram’s ultimate ceiling, although there’ll be enough TDs to keep him productive as long as his health is sustained.

12.↗️ C.J. Anderson (Denver Broncos) – Denver RBs, I just can’t quit you. Anderson looked to be in fantastic shape on Saturday, which is crucial given his historic slow starts and past conditioning concerns. Now that he appears truly ready to be a bellcow, there’s a real chance we get a classic Kubiak workhorse type of season, which has yielded high-end RB1 numbers to lesser talents. Devontae Booker’s impressive preseason is the only minor pause I have with Anderson now.

Tier 4 – Elite RB2s 

13. Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – While I don’t hate Martin quite as voraciously as DirtyKarma, he makes a strong case and I cannot consider him an acceptable RB1 any longer. Dirk Koetter still crafts a tremendous run-game, but Martin’s inconsistency drops him down a tier.

14. ?Latavius Murray (Oakland Raiders) – He hasn’t looked great this preseason, but this line is still beastly. Murray will have a huge 2016.

15. ⬆️ ?Jeremy Langford (Chicago Bears) – Operating as the clear lead back, Langford ripped off 55 yards on his five carries, including a nice cutback TD run in Week 2. He has run exclusively as the #1 guy and stayed in during passing downs, making me believe he could be a true three-down monster amongst a dying breed. Langford shed a mysterious walking boot this week too, which should allow him to continue upwards in your rankings.

16. ⬆️?Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals) – After seeing the lack of perimeter options in Cincy, I feel like the Bengals are going to try real hard to establish the run behind their beastly offensive line and  what is truly looking like a recharged Hill. He looked like he had some juice in his 3 carries for 16 yards, including a powerful 9 yard TD. Beat writers have also been noting his improved explosion and high motivation for a bounce back, with the Enquirer’s Paul Dehner predicting “a huge season.” Yes, there’s serious bust potential here after a horrid 2015, but if he’s in rookie-year form for a full 16 game slate, the ceiling is limitless. Falling to Round 5 and beyond, Hill is well worth a look.

17. ⬆️?DeMarco Murray (Tennessee Titans)

August 27th update – Exotic Smashmouth, 2016. Murray’s looked fantastic this preseason, and churned out 40 yards and a TD during dress rehearsal week; he’s a high-upside RB2 for however long he holds up. Of course, Henry is a must draft, but this backfield is a great investment.

18. ??Matt Forte (New York Jets) – August 27th update – Forte looked spry, even if the final numbers weren’t overly impressive, and his creative / frequent usage was encouraging. He could go off in Gailey’s system which milks the most out of versatile backs, and Forte’s fit appears glove-like. Only his age makes me uncomfortable.

Tier 5 – Intriguing RB2s 

19. ?↘️Thomas Rawls (Seattle Seahawks) – Rawls is falling fast as Christine Michael continues to climb. There’s still so much juicy upside with his talent, but a three-headed committee might keep it completely capped. After rookie CJ Prosise saw the field on numerous third down opportunities on Thursday night, we’ll continue to search for signs of backfield clarity, but Rawls is getting tougher to trust.

20.???? Ryan Mathews (Philadelphia Eagles)

21. ?Carlos Hyde (San Francisco 49ers) – He’s looked decent on some runs this preseason, but the offense as a whole has looked like dog mess, which is why I’m down on Hyde in the first place.

22. ⬆️Melvin Gordon (San Diego Chargers) – He showed more explosion & power on his 44-yard TD reception than we saw all of 2015. This has me jumping on the post-hype bounceback train immediately. Ken Whisenhunt has consistently emphasized how he wants to get the ground game going and Gordon appears to have the juice to do just that. He could continue flying up these rankings with more strong showings and instantly become one of my favorite targets at his low 7th, early 8th price tag.

His Week 2 line was fairly pedestrian and more in line with his disappointing rookie season, so I’d like to see a strong dress rehearsal effort before I shove my chips all in. He could fall with another weak effort.

Tier 6 – Less apealing, but startable, RB2s

23.  ? Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans) – OK, so I lead with the least startable guy of this entire tier, at least to begin 2016. Yet, at this stage of a draft I almost always have my RB2, and I want the guy who I think can change a season at some point. Henry’s ceiling truly rivals that of David Johnson and 2014 Jeremy Hill as a late-season RB1.

24.⬆️ ?Rashad Jennings (New York Giants)

25. ↘️Duke Johnson (Cleveland Browns) – August 27th update – While I’m a firm believer in Johnson’s talent, especially as a reciever, Crowell remains heavily involved on all the early downs and has looked pretty impressive himself. A full-blown committee caps the upside of either back, but both would vault into the high-end RB2 conversation if the other were to miss time. 

26. ↘️Danny Woodhead (San Diego Chargers) – Gordon’s newfound emergence, particularly as a red zone threat, limits Woodhead’s appeal.

27. ⬆️ James White New England Patriots) – White shoots up the Big Board in light of Dion Lewis’ second knee surgery. He’ll spend the majority of 2016 as the team’s primary third down back, which has always played a role (albeit unpredictable at times) in the Patriots offense. White’s looked strong in the preseason, and he scored double digit PPR points in five of eight games without Lewis, including three above 18 points. He’ll be a useful RB2 most weeks.

28. ↗️?Isiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns)- I’m a buyer in the Browns offensive revival in 2016 and I think Crowell is a real threat for double-digit TDs with more red zone chances.

29. ?DeAngelo Williams (Pittsburgh Steelers) – He’ll be an RB1 for Weeks 1-3, giving you some flexibility to find a serviceable RB2 via trade or the waiver if you’ve waited hard on the position. A must own for Le’Veon Bell investors, and a high upside stash for everyone else.

30. ?Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts) – His rise has more to do with others around him falling, but he has reportedly been crushing camp and I was high on his TD upside last year. Why should I not be this year?


Tier 6.5 – Last acceptable starters

31. ↘️Matt Jones (Washington Redskins) – For a guy who will be dependent on volume, this AC Joint injury is highly discouraging to see. Jones still has upside with heavy volume in an explosive offense, but none of that matters if he can’t sustain the load. I’m very intrigued to figure out how work will be distributed in his absence.

32. ?Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers) – Nothing excites me about Stewart, other than the ability to get a fair floor for cheap. Cam’s goal line abilities really cap his ceiling.

33. ?Chris Ivory (Jacksonville Jaguars) – I love his TD upside in Jacksonville but I don’t love how he started behind TJ Yeldon, or that Yeldon looked pretty solid with his carries.

34. ⬇️? Giovanni Bernard (Cincinnati Bengals) – Although I once thought Gio might be a sneaky bet to lead RBs in receptions, the latest reports suggest his role should remain unchanged. He’ll outperform the RB34 spot for sure, but I see minimal ceiling here. With Jeremy Hill‘s resurgence.

35. ↗️??Arian Foster (Miami Dolphins) – August 26th Update – After a huge tumble in Week 2, Foster regained some ground with a decent Week 3 showing. Similar to his brief 2015 appearance, Foster looked great in the passing game, catching two balls for 20 yards, including an impressive catch-and-run in space where he delivered a powerful stiff arm. Nonetheless, he continued struggling in the run game, averaging a meager 2.0 YPC on his five carries. He did have a nice cutback on his TD score, and his vision has always made him one of the most dangerous red zone assets. Foster still rotated behind Jay Ajayi, which keeps him lower than I’d like, but the veteran back showed enough in Week 3 (nifty TD run) that he could rise even further with a depth chart ascension.

36. ⬆️LeGarrette Blount (New England Patriots) – He seemed to have run away with the big back role in preseason Week 2, posting 69 yards on 11 carries (6.3 YPC). More importantly, after both Brandon Bolden and Tyler Gaffney failed to convert multiple goal line attempts, Blount pounded in his first chance in emphatic fashion. If he indeed has a stranglehold on the “goal line back” role, Blount will be a fair bet for a weekly TD. With Lewis coming along slowly, Legarette has more upside than he’s currently given credit for.

Tier 7 – Top Bench Options

37. ⬆️? Darren Sproles (Philadelpia Eagles) – Sproles has really grown on me as a late round fantasy lottery ticket, especially in PPR formats. As explored in our Daily Stock Report, OC Frank Reich wants to feature him extensively, and the team has been scripting up numerous plays for him. Recall, Reich last coordinated in San Diego, where Danny Woodhead was a PPR force. While Doug Pederson falls from Andy Reid’s coaching tree; we all know how Brian Westbrook and Jamaal Charles fared under him. As such, Sproles offers plenty of standalone value, and is also one of the highest upside handcuffs behind Ryan “Mr. Glass” Mathews. He’s a late round PPR investment that could be a league-winner.

38. ⬆️ ?Christine Michael (Seattle Seahawks)- August 26th Update -Michael’s tremendous preseason continued, as the talented back racked up 58 arms on only seven carries. Granted, most of these yards came against the backups on some highly impressive runs, but Michael’s supreme ability is finally translating onto the field. He finishes with 157 yards on 24 preseason carries, good for a 6.5 YPC. He’s forced his way into a committee, and offers an RB1 ceiling if Rawls gets hurt again.

39.↗️ T.J Yeldon (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Yeldon is growing on me as a late round investment. He seems firmly entrenched as the starter, even though he’ll cede most of the six point chances to Ivory. He’ll have room to roam underneath with this aerial attack looking very solid. I was admittedly too low on Yeldon and underrated his ceiling, but still don’t see a ton of upside.

40. Charles Sims (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

41. Bilal Powell (New York Jets)
42.? Ameer Abdullah (Detroit Lions)

43. ↘️Justin Forsett (Baltimore Ravens) – A four-headed committee? Yuck. OC Marc Trestman’s offense carries so much upside, but not when the work is divided four ways. Trestman left the possibility a lead-guy emerges, and this role would carry RB1 upside. Until we know more, I have a hard time spending anything than a late round stab on a Ravens runner.

44. Theo Riddick (Detroit Lions) – Riddick could carry some real upside in this no-huddle attack if he remains the primary passing down back.

45.↘️Jay Ajayi (Miami Dolphins) – Though he remained #1 on the depth chart, Foster received equal work and looked better (which isn’t saying much). A fruitful opportunity in Gase’s strong offense seems to be going to waste.

46. ?⬆️Devontae Booker (Denver Broncos) – He’s essentially taken Ronnie Hillman‘s job, meaning he only has CJ Anderson (a historically slow starter) in between him and Kubiak’s wildly successful zone scheme.


Tier 8 – Remaining depth, top handcuffs + fliers

47. ↘️ Tevin Coleman (Atlanta Falcons) – He simply hasn’t looked good in the least in his preseason action, and Freeman has a stranglehold on all the touches. He still carries tons of upside as a handcuff, but standalone value seems like a pipe dream at this point.

48. ⬇️ Dion Lewis (New England Patriots) – We have our first true preseason casualty, with Lewis expected to miss at least eight to ten weeks after needing a second knee clean up. Lewis still belongs on fantasy rosters as a potential difference maker for your stretch run, and at this stage of the draft RBs are likely stashes anyways. Nonetheless, this is a terrible blow for the Patriots and anyone who’s already drafted. He could become undraftable if his recovery timeline changes again.

49. ↗️?DeAndre Washington (Oakland Raiders)

50.  ⬆️ Robert Kelley (Washington ington Redskins) – August 27th update – Filling in for an injured Matt Jones, Kelley was highly serviceable en route to 12 carries for 51 yards. He also flashed well in blitz pickup, creating true three-down upside in the ideal scenario. Amidst such a lackluster collection of backs, Kelley has a real shot at a meaningful 2016 role in an explosive offense. Throw him on the late round sleeper list.

51.⬆️ James Starks (Green Bay Packers) – August 27th update –Indeed Lacy has been highly impressive, but Starks has remained involved with the first team regardless. The split has been about 60 / 40 thus far in the preseason, and anyone receiving 40% of the work in a Rodgers-led offense is worth a look. Plus, he remains one of the highest upside handcuffs in the Rotosphere. He beloongs on most benches.

52.? Kenneth Dixon (Baltimore Ravens) – My favorite to emerge as “the guy” in Baltimore at some point in 2016, it might just take a little while.

53. ⬆️Terrance West (Baltimore Ravens) -One of 2016’s preseason darlings, West didn’t disappoint in his Week 1 debut. He scored two TDs, and if this backfield wasn’t so congested, he’d be far higher. This is a backfield I will continue to pay very close attention to.

54. Shaughn Draughn (San Francisco 49ers)

55. Shane Vereen (New York Giants)

56. ⬆️CJ Spiller – August 27th update – Spiller has caught three balls and rotated in extensively with the first team unit over the last two weeks. While I highly doubt Spiller will suddenly be worth something, there’s enough upside for a stash-and-see in deep leagues. 

57. ⬆️ Alfred Morris (Dallas Cowboys) – The Dallas line can clearly make anyone look solid, and Morris was hitting the gaping holes hard. If the former Redskin secures the #2 gig, he’d offer high-end RB2, perhaps even low-end RB1 value if Elliott were to miss time. You can do worse with a late round stab.

58. Chris Johnson (Arizona Cardinals)

59. ↗️Spencer Ware (Kanas City Chiefs) – He’s been the go-to backup throughout the 2016 preseason, and has been scoring on a weekly basis.

60.?⬇️ C.J. Prosise (Seattle Seahawks) – His continued absence and Christine Michael’s rapid ascension, have Prosise falling down my rankings. He did see time with the first-team on Friday night, as their primary third-down back.

Other names to consider

61. ↘️Wendell Smallwood (Philadelphia Eagles) – He remains in prime position as a potential handcuff, behind a glass starter in a desirable spot… but he can’t achieve handcuff status without touching the field

62. Javorious Allen (Baltimore Ravens)

63. Tim Hightower (New Orleans Saints)

64. ↘️Josh Ferguson (Indianapolis Colts)

65. Mike Gillislee (Buffalo Bills)

66. Paul Perkins (New York Giants)

67. Darren McFadden (Dallas Cowboys)

68. Charcandrick West (Kansas City Chiefs)

69. Jordan Howard (Chicago Bears)
68. Jerick McKinnon (Minnesota Vikings)


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