Running backs have become the whipping boys of the fantasy community over the last few seasons. Once the center of the fantasy football universe, running backs have become increasingly fungible with each passing year. For every Adrian Peterson, a perennial first-round pick who delivers on demand, there are too many 2015 Eddie Lacys or 2014 Montee Balls or 2013 C.J. Spillers to count.
The position has experienced a value shift at the other end of the spectrum as well. Of last year’s top-five backs—Devonta Freeman, Peterson, Doug Martin, DeAngelo Williams and Todd Gurley—only Peterson and Martin had ADPs (average draft positions) in the first three rounds, with Peterson the only one inside the top 35. Freeman and Williams were both still on the board after 98 picks had been made in the typical draft. Now more than ever, early-round backs go bust, while middle- and late-round backs find themselves in the RB1 mix.
Still, there’s nothing quite like having one of the best running backs in the league on your roster. Last season was unprecedented in terms of running back versus wide receiver scoring, and Freeman, the No. 1 back, still outscored every receiver in the league in standard-scoring fantasy leagues. Owning the best back in the league gives you a leg up over your rival owners. Here are the 10 we see as having the best chance to be that best.