(CBS Local/CBS New York)- Training camps have begun for some NFL teams, while the rest kick theirs off over the course of the next week. As the players stretch and warm up for the coming season, fantasy owners begin their prep for their upcoming league drafts. After a several-month layoff with no football, it’s understandable if your knowledge isn’t what it should be. So, we’re here to help you get back up to speed as you lay your plans for taking home that fantasy championship belt this season.
We covered which signal callers are expected to be this season’s top performers, now it’s time for the position that will likely make or break your fantasy season: running backs. Though the workhorse running backs of the past are gone, the position is still a hugely valuable one in fantasy as having a pair of elite guys can lead to massive success while having more middle of the pack players forces you to play the waiver game a bit more. This year, a pair of NFC East backs lead the way. Once again, these rankings are based on CBSSports.com’s projection system. For the running backs we’ll include their expected PPR points per game number in parentheses and their average draft position (ADP) to give you a feel for where they’re falling in drafts so far.
1) Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Projected 2019 Stats-1,232 rush yards, 697 receiving yards, 14 total touchdowns 15.9 FPPG (21.6 PPR)
The Giants second year back is fresh off a Rookie of the Year award after a season in which he totaled over 2,000 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. He tied with Christian McCaffrey last season for average fantasy points per game at 24.1 second only to Rams back Todd Gurley. This season, the projection system is expecting more of the same and fans are too considering Barkley checks in at the top of CBS Sports ADP board currently.
2) Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Projected 2019 Stats-1,497 rush yards, 571 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns 15.6 FPPG (20.1 PPR)
Elliott’s workhorse ways continued last season for the Cowboys as he piled up 1,434 rushing yards on 304 carries. He added more of a pass catching element to his game as well hauling in 77 passes for 567 yards both by far the highest totals of his career in those categories. With that added dimension he becomes a factor in PPR leagues as well as reflected by his projected average there.
3) Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Projected 2019 Stats-966 rushing yards, 784 receiving yards, 13 total touchdowns 14.5 FPPG (20.3 PPR)
Kamara now is likely to get more looks after Mark Ingram decamped for Baltimore in free agency. The shifty target was a Brees favorite last year catching 81 passes and four touchdowns out of the backfield to go with his 14 on the ground. After averaging 23.5 points per contest last year in fantasy, owners are once again tabbing him as one of the top picks in the draft. All four of these top backs look to be extremely close value wise.
4) Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Projected 2019 Stats-1,045 rushing yards, 782 receiving yards, 10 total touchdowns 13.8 FPPG (19.9 PPR)
McCaffrey, like the three guys above him, showed plenty of versatility last year in becoming one of the league’s breakout fantasy studs. He picked up 107 receptions on 124 targets with a combined 2,000-plus yards and 13 touchdowns. With Cam Newton back beside him in the backfield this year, McCaffrey looks to continue those types of numbers as he has quickly become a favorite target of Newton’s.
5) Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
Projected 2019 Stats- 813 rushing yards, 466 receiving yards, 13 total touchdowns 11.8 FPPG (14.6 PPR)
Gordon has issued an ultimatum to the Chargers that he wants to be paid like the top back that he is or traded. Keep an eye on how that contract situation plays out as we have already seen one back (Le’Veon Bell) willing to sit out a full season in trying to get his payday. Whether or not Gordon feels as strongly remains to be seen but it’s worth watching. On the field, Gordon is a strong option for fantasy players, racking up a combined 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
The Rest Of The Top 25
Most leagues hold two slots available for running backs, so here is a rundown of the rest of the Top 25 at the position by CBS’ projections. One note, this is based on standard league projections though we have included the PPR number in parentheses. Guys like Patriots RB James White and Bears RB Tarik Cohen won’t be found here but in a PPR league obviously their value is quite a bit higher.
6) Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets
Projected 2019 Stats- 923 rushing yards, 468 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns, 11.4 FPPG (15.3 PPR)
7) James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
Projected 2019 Stats- 924 rushing yards, 457 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns, 11.3 FPPG (14.6 PPR)
8) David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
Projected 2019 Stats- 776 rushing yards, 520 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns, 10.8 FPPG (14.3 PPR)
9) Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
Projected 2019 Stats- 1,119 rushing yards, 284 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns, 10.8 FPPG (13.7 PPR)
10) Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Projected 2019 Stats- 1,129 rushing yards, 119 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns, 10.7 FPPG (11.6 PPR)
11) Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Projected 2019 Stats- 964 rushing yards, 453 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns, 10.5 FPPG (14.2 PPR)
12) Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
Projected 2019 Stats- 1,182 rushing yards, 111 receiving yards, 10 total touchdowns, 10.5 FPPG (11.4 PPR)
13) Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
Projected 2019 Stats- 922 rushing, 254 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns, 10.2 FPPG (12.3 PPR)
14) Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
Projected 2019 Stats- 855 rushing yards, 378 receiving yards, 10 total touchdowns, 10.1 FPPG (12.9 PPR)
15) Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Projected 2019 Stats- 768 rushing yards, 340 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns, 9.9 FPPG (12.1 PPR)
16) Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
Projected 2019 Stats- 907 rushing yards, 370 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns, 9.7 FPPG (13.0 PPR)
17) Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts
Projected 2019 Stats- 969 rushing yards, 173 receiving yards, 10 total touchdowns, 9.6 FPPG (11.2 PPR)
18) Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos
Projected 2019 Stats- 981 rushing yards, 253 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns, 9.5 FPPG (11.8 PPR)
19) Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
Projected 2019 Stats- 895 rushing yards, 322 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns, 9.4 FPPG (12.1 PPR)
20) Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
Projected 2019 Stats- 771 rushing yards, 454 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns, 9.4 FPPG (12.1 PPR)
21) Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
Projected 2019 Stats- 1,055 rushing yards, 161 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns, 9.3 FPPG (10.8 PPR)
22) Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs
Projected 2019 Stats- 612 rushing yards, 315 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns, 9.0 FPPG (11.4 PPR)
23) Sony Michel, New England Patriots
Projected 2019 Stats- 1,087 rushing yards, 8 total touchdowns, 9.0 FPPG (9.6 PPR)
24) Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
Projected 2019 Stats- 927 rushing yards, 277 receiving yards, 7 total touchdowns, 8.8 FPPG (11.1 PPR)
25) David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
Projected 2019 Stats- 778 rushing yards, 320 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns, 8.5 FPPG (10.6 PPR)