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  • We know the top four running backs this fantasy season, but here are 11 different tiers for all the running backs you need to know about.
By Dr. Roto
August 27, 2019

Yesterday, I broke down my quarterback tiers, but the heart and soul of most fantasy squads is at the running back position. The days of clear-cut first picks such as Ladanian Tomlinson and Priest Holmes may be over, but there are many players who can still lead your team to a fantasy title. Plus, you need to know about the rest of the players at the position, so you can construct a winning roster. Here’s a look at the RB landscape heading into 2019.

Tier 1

The Superstars

These are the guys who will carry the load for their real-life teams and your fantasy football teams. There aren’t many of them, sadly, but if you are drafting in the first four picks you should take them for sure. 

Note: For the purposes of this article, I am assuming Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott’s contract situation gets resolved shortly.

• Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
• Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
• Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
• Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Tier 2

The next best 

One of the advantages of picking early is to draft a bellcow running back, which will help solidify your roster construction. These next few players are capable of being stud top running backs, but they are just not in the same league as the first four. 

• David Johnson, Arizonz Cardinals
• Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets
• Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
• James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
• Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
• Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
• Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
• Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs
• Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers (assuming he signs before the season)

Tier 3

One step away

These players are so close to being Tier 2 players, but they scare me due to poor offensive scheme, bad quarterback play, horrible coaching, crowded backfields or general injury risk.

• Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
• Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
• Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
• Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
• Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
• Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
• Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
• Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts
• Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens

Tier 4

PPR beasts

If you play in a PPR format, you will certainly want to have some shares of these guys. They might not rush for more than 20 yards per week, but they could easily have 10-15 points per week receiving, which is very hard to find in leagues.

• James White, New England Patriots
• Duke Johnson, Houston Texans
• Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
• Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
• Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins (when healthy)
• Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

Tier 5

Hype train guys

This tier is filled with guys who are getting hyped up in the preseason. The problem here is that there is no guarantee that these players live up to the hype, and fantasy owners need to have a backup plan just in case this picks turn sour.

• Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
• David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
• Tevin Coleman, San Francisco 49ers
• Sony Michel, New England Patriots
• Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints
• Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams
• Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks
• Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins
• Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins
• Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos

Tier 6

Wait and see guys

These players could be stars, but it will depend on whether the players in front of them on the depth charts sign contracts. 

Note: As of this time, I would most likely draft Pollard in Round 8 or 9 and Jackson in Round 10 or 11.

• Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
• Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers

Tier 7

Lesser PPR studs

Tier 4 has the PPR beasts who you can usually rely on each week. Tier 7 is filled with guys who will be slightly inconsistent throughout the season, and should be used on a game-to game basis only.

• Gio Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
• Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts
• Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs
• Matt Breida, San Francisco 49ers
• Jaylen Samuels, Pittsburgh Steelers
• Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons
• Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns
• Ty Montgomery, New York Jets
• Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders
• Justice Hill, Baltimore Ravens
• Dontrell Hilliard, Cleveland Browns (until Kareem Hunt returns)
• Dare Ogunbowale, Tampa Bay Bucs
• Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins
• Ty Johnson, Detroit Lions

Tier 8

Veterans who often get overdrafted

These are the players who many fantasy owners draft, hoping for stats from years ago. 

Note: I will always take a younger player with upside over an aging veteran on the downside of his career.

• Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins
• LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
• Frank Gore, Buffalo Bills
• Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans
• Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles
• Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Bucs

Tier 9

Handcuffs I want to make sure I get

These guys might not be the starters yet, but I love their ability and I want to try to stash as many of these players late in drafts as I can. I will make a special effort to draft the specific handcuff for the player I draft in the early rounds if possible.

• Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
• Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals
• Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
• Ryquell Armstead, Jacksonville Jaguars
• Jordan Scarlett, Carolina Panthers (only if I draft McCaffrey)
• Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (only if I draft Barkley)
• Damien Harris, New England Patriots
• Damarea Crockett, Houston Texans

Tier 10

No clear pathway backs

This tier is filled with guys who have some talent, but they have at least two or three other players standing in their way of getting enough playing time to be fantasy relevant.

• Mike Davis, Chicago Bears
• Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers
• Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots
• Malcom Brown, Los Angeles Rams
• Qadree Ollison, Atlanta Falcons
• Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers

Tier 11

Just say no

No matter what happens, I can assure you that these players will not be on any of my rosters. 

• Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Bucs
• C.J. Anderson, Detroit Lions
• Carlos Hyde, Kansas City Chiefs

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