6. Most Likely RB1 Newcomers
In 2018, we saw five running backs jump into the top 12 at the position that had never been there before. Four of those, James Conner (#6), James White (#7), Joe Mixon (#10), and Tarik Cohen (#11) were at least in their 2nd season. Saquon Barkley (#1) was the only rookie in the top 12.
In this article, I am going to give my predictions on which veteran running backs are the most likely to join the RB1 ranks for the first time in their careers.
2018 PPR RB1 Threshold: 230.3 Points
5. Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts
2018: 12 Games, 908 Rushing Yards, 17 Receptions, 103 yards, 10 Touchdowns, 212 total touches, 178.1 fantasy points.
I think people have underestimated just how good Marlon Mack was in 2018. In only 12 games, two of which he had 10 or less carries, he rushed for 908 yards (75.7 per game). He is a dynamic runner who had at least one 20 yard run in 7 of those games. To put that into perspective, Ezekiel Elliott (8) and Alvin Kamara (1) only had 9 games with a 20 yard rush in 30 games combined.
That obviously doesn’t mean that Mack is a better running back. Where this gets difficult is the Colts giving him more opportunity in the passing game. That will be tough with Nyheim Hines in play, but he doesn’t need to be as involved as players like Elliott & Kamara. Playing at least 15 games and getting between 30-40 receptions would go a long way towards pushing Mack into the top 12.
4. Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs
2018: 16 Games, 256 Rushing Yards, 23 Receptions, 160 Receiving Yards, 6 Touchdowns, 73 Total Touches, 98.6 Fantasy Points
I have been open about how I think Damien Williams will win people championships in 2019. Very few dynasty rosters are relying on him as a #1 RB and a good number that have him got him so cheap, that they have him as a #3 or #4 RB on their roster. So why isn’t he higher on my list? We haven’t seen a full year of play or production out of Williams yet. Can he keep it up?
Get this, he ended up as running back #48, but he didn’t even receive more than 2 touches in a game, until he had 7 in week 13. He only had more than 12 touches in weeks 15 & 16.
On his 73 touches, he averaged a whopping 1.35 fantasy points per touch, which ranked 3rd in the league out of all running backs with 70+ touches.
The Chiefs didn’t wait long to sign Williams to a 2-year extension on December 27, 2018 before they even played their season finale. In the offseason, they brought in Carlos Hyde, but with his massive decline in production, he doesn’t instill much fear as a threat to eat many touches.
At minimum, Damien Williams will be the pass catching threat out of the backfield. At best, he will be the guy and see 12-15 carries and 6+ targets per game.
With 13 extra weeks of potential production, he should produce near RB1 numbers even with a decline in efficiency.
3. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
2018: 11 Games, 615 Rushing Yards, 40 Receptions, 305 Receiving Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 173 Total Touches, 152 Fantasy Points
The only reason Dalvin Cook is not #1 on my list, is because we can’t be sure he will play enough games. The skill is not in question. In his first 258 touches, he has scored 217.4 fantasy points. That would’ve been good for RB14 in 2018.
Are the Vikings going to continue to play it safe, or are they going to give Cook more touches now that their #2 option, Latavius Murray, has moved on to New Orleans? I firmly believe that we are going to see an increase in rushing attempts from the Vikings and if Cook can stay healthy, he is almost a lock for 1,200+ total yards, an increase in touchdowns, and 15-20 more receptions.
If he can play 15 games, maintain his per game averages, with 45 receptions and 8 total touchdowns, he will score 228 fantasy points. Just 2 points shy of the 2018 RB1 threshold.
If he sees any significant increase in touches per game, and remains healthy enough to play 14-15 games, he should slide into the top 12 fairly easily.
2. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
2018: 12 Games, 728 Rushing Yards, 26 Receptions, 206 Receiving Yards, 9 Touchdowns, 159 Total Touches, 171.5 Fantasy Points
It is always bittersweet when I share my love for Aaron Jones. As a Bears fan, it pains me that I like this running back so much. He is dynamic, averaging exactly 5.5 yards per carry over his first two seasons on 214 rushing attempts.
The first hurdle is easy to overcome, as he won’t be starting the 2019 season on suspension like 2018 when he missed weeks 1-2. The second hurdle, touches, is yet to be determined. Aaron Rodgers has talked about how Jones should be more involved, but in 2018, Jones only saw more than 11 rushing attempts in 5 games.
A nice sign, was that in his last 4 healthy games, he saw 56 rushing attempts and 15 receptions. If he can average that for 14 games, that will equate to 196 rushing attempts, 1,078 yards, 53 receptions, 419 yards, and should put him around 12-13 touchdowns.
That equals 268.7 fantasy points, or RB#9 in 2018. If Aaron Rodgers stays healthy and the Green Bay offense improves, this is very doable for Aaron Jones.
1. Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins
2018: 16 Games, 535 Rushing Yards, 53 Receptions, 477 Receiving Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 173 Total Touches, 206.2 Fantasy Points
Drake may have been the most frustrating player in fantasy over the past two years. Most of that, almost all if we are being honest, had to do with his usage under Adam Gase. Luckily for us, Gase has moved on to the New York Jets and a new regime is under power in Miami.
For some reason, Drake only averaged 10.8 touches per game in 2018 and still managed to rank as RB14 overall. We have no idea why he hasn’t seen more touches, as he has shown absolutely no reason to think he would get injured with a heavier workload. He has been active for 48/48 potential games after all. Is size the concern? He is 6’1″ and 211 lbs, or roughly the same size as a workhorse like Melvin Gordon. I don’t think that is a legit argument.
Over the past two years, he has averaged 4.8 and 4.5 yards per carry on a team with an abysmal passing game. When looking at his overall fantasy production, he has averaged 1.03 fantasy points per touch. Only 4 players: Alvin Kamara (1.41), Christian McCaffery (1.17), Todd Gurley (1.15), and Saquon Barkley (1.10) had more touches AND a better fantasy point per touch average.
So, the question is, can Drake see an uptick in touches in 2019. With the new regime in charge, it is possible that we see 12+ carries per game and an uptick in receptions, if they want to get their best offensive player more involved. Not to mention, Frank Gore, who saw 156 carries, has departed the backfield. If KD sees around half of those carries come his way, this is what 2019 could look like.
16 Games, 192 Carries, 895 Yards, 65 Receptions, 548 Yards, 10 Touchdowns, 257 Touches, 259.3 Fantasy Points.
That is on 16 touches per game. Like I mentioned earlier, he is almost identical in size to Melvin Gordon who has averaged 21 touches per game over the past 3 years. If Kenyan even sniffs those amount of touches, he has a shot to not only jump into the top 12, but could end up a top 6 running back.