If you are wondering what goes into our running back fantasy rankings, a lot of it has to do with volume. While, of course, we will look at production, volume correlates with fantasy points. It is no surprise to see some of the higher finishing fantasy producers come year-end also have some of the higher touches per game. Dual-purpose backs have had an edge over recent years, especially as PPR leagues have become more popular. But running backs that also have opportunities in the receiving game have higher fantasy production.
Consistently low volume backs are going to have a higher variance in rankings and how they produce. That is because the efficiency matters so much for them, and if it isn’t there, then the fantasy production won’t be either. A running back on 150 touches in two seasons has a wider range of outcomes in comparison to a running back who sees 250 touches in each of the two seasons.
RB Fantasy Draft Strategy
You are going to find a wide variety of strategies as far as drafting running backs go, especially the zero running back strategy which we will get to down below. A fairly universal strategy is to just simply understand your league scoring and see if roster construction is going to change the way you build your team. With most leagues having FLEX spots, this could give you a need to add an extra back or two.
Draft position can dictate how you go about your strategy. Now if you are drafting within the first four-five picks, those elite running backs are going to fall to you. This gives your team a great starting point. You build yourself with a solid base, adding names like Ezekiel Elliott or Saquon Barkley. Even in down years, the floor is still so high. Now if you are picking after the first few picks, things can change because those elite wide receiver names start to rival production of those running backs. This is where it is important to understand your scoring format because a top tier wide receiver might score more than those next few running backs and also have a higher upside.
Drafting towards the end of a snake draft is always a popular place to be, because you get the turn around of still very good running backs and also can grab a top tier wide receiver as well. Splitting the positions is a good way to go, where you balance it out a bit. A RB-RB start at the turn is also a potential way to go, where you solidify the position and then can turn a focus to the rest of your lineup. There is no league winning and league losing strategy when it comes to selecting wide receivers. Generally, you want someone with a chance at RB1 type scoring, and then pass a few rounds to find your RB2. This tends to be the way people go in average home leagues.
Now if you are in a PPR league, this opens the door for more running backs in the player pool. Names like James White and Austin Ekeler have much more fantasy value. Highlighting a few receiving backs is smart to help sure up a potential FLEX spot late, or to simply just add some depth to your fantasy teams. Having some options on the bench and adding handcuffs late is important. If a starting running back goes down, having their backup that will step into 15-20 touches is going to be a big win for your lineups.
Running Back (RB) fantasy football Rankings Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Zero RB Strategy?
Zero RB is a strategy that has become talked about more in the last few years. It is about skipping out on running backs, and drafting wide receivers and tight ends in the first four-five-six rounds. This does give you a contrarian lineup build as you have a chance to have the truly elite set of wide receivers in your first two spots, as well as a top tier tight end. While everyone else is gobbling up running backs, you are taking the best options at other positions.
So what do you do when you need to start drafting running backs? Because this is always an injury-filled position, you are going to be hoping for some chaos at the position throughout the season. There usually is too. When you are ready to draft running backs, you are going to be targeting upside names, and there will be still a few guys to grab that have some decent volume. Look at the ADP of running backs in the fifth and sixth rounds to where you will look as your RB1. Every draft is going to be different, there could be more out there than you expect, but be prepared to start taking some names where you need some help for their production to go up. Find running backs with receiving upside as well.
In the later rounds you will be still looking to draft running backs, and you actually should end up with quite a bit of running backs on your roster. Look for handcuffs, who will step into volume with an injury. Keep an eye on committees and coaches that like to go with the hot hand. We have seen a lot of guys emerge in the second half of the season that started as the second name on the depth chart. The waiver wire will also be an important place to be, as you can reach for those names that emerge throughout the year. It will always be about taking advantage of opportunity and banking on changes and injuries throughout the year.
Who Are The Best Fantasy Running Backs?
Over the past few seasons there has been a consistent few options up top. Christian McCaffrey has certainly set the bar high with a 1,000/1,000 season, posting one of the best fantasy seasons of all-time. Guys with consistent touches and production have generally been the top finishers. Names like Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley have showed that type of consistency, but also have the efficiency to match. Names like Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry are also in the mix as true bell cow backs. Alvin Kamara has not had nearly the same touches as these names, but has been one of the most efficient running backs over the last few years.
Who Is The Number One Fantasy Running Back?
Christian McCaffrey is the best fantasy running back in the game right now, and that has been established after just two years in the league. We can look to his receiving numbers, where he has produced big years, but he has also been very good on the ground. Carolina is also feeding him the rock at a very high rate, which gives him such an edge over other running backs in producing fantasy points. It is hard to see him giving up the thrown over the next few seasons if these touches continue.
As mentioned above, draft order is going to have some influence on what you can do. If you are within the first few spots, drafting a running back first is an ideal way to go. There are always a few elite names that outrank most of the player pool, therefor I would start that way. Now if you are sitting in the middle of the draft or the back end, you don’t necessarily need to draft a running back first. You can always grab an elite wide receiver, and then go a running back on the turnaround, or go with the zero running back strategy mentioned above.
How Many Running Back Should I Have On My Roster?
League size and roster format will play a part in this, but looking at standard leagues, I would always like to have at least four running backs, and room for more is encouraged as well. Because it can be a volatile position with injuries and committee changes, having options throughout the year is a plus. So I would put the minimum at four, and look to have five or six depending on bench spots to have options or handcuffs that could turn into league winning backs late in the year.
What Should I Look For In Drafting Fantasy Running Backs?
Volume is the biggest thing in early rounds to target. It gives you potential safety because any back who is getting 20+ touches is going to give you a fairly safe floor. They also are less matchup dependent from someone who is getting just ten touches per game. This is where you should turn first, and generally volume is going to correlate with the top backs anyway. There are not a lot of backs getting ten-twelve touches per game going early in drafts.
If you are in PPR leagues, you want backs that play a part in the passing game as well. If they can get you a few catches a game as a floor, then you are looking at a strong back. Later in drafts, you can also find value for backs who produce in the passing game much more than they do on the ground.
There are some other things like strength of schedule and how an offensive line is as well. Some backs won’t rely on this too much, but some can be negatively and positively affected. Teams that are always trailing won’t have a good game script to get the ball to their running backs, but that could work more in advantage to receiving backs too. Offensive schemes is also something to dive into. A run-heavy Minnesota Vikings team will look to hand the ball off more than a pass-happy team.
Efficiency is still something to look at, but this matters even more with names that are not getting as many touches. If a back can rush for five yards per carry on ten touches per game, then he will have more fantasy value, especially if he can add a few catches into the mix.
How Do Different Scoring Formats Effect Running Backs?
Player A’s Scoring
PPR - RB7
Half-PPR - RB9
Standard - RB13
Player B’s Scoring
PPR - RB23
Half-PPR - RB20
Standard - RB17
With the three most common scoring factors being PPR, Half-PPR, and Standard, they will make a difference in how a player scores come at the end of the year. For example, Player A didn’t have many touchdowns, but a fair amount of receptions and receiving production. As the scoring format changed, they dropped as receptions, and passing game work became less valuable. This can work the other way as well, with a running back not producing as much in the passing game, but is producing more on the ground. Moving up into the top 20 in standard formats was because the scoring was rushing yard and touchdown-dependent.