Running back is arguably the most important position in fantasy football as they can contribute points in rushing, receiving and even special teams. I believe my rankings need to be backed up by words because this position is crucial to your team’s success. Next to each ranked player will be how many games they are playing in outdoor stadiums.
Whether a game is being played indoors or outdoors can have a large impact on fantasy output. Playing in the comfort of a dome in December can open up the passing game, while a snowy night in Foxborough will require the heavy lifting to be done by the running back. This can help or hurt your team in a large way and is why we have decided to break down some rankings using this variable.
Outdoor Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
1. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers – 15 Games
This might seem like a no-brainer, but I believe Bell is the sure-fire number one running back in my outdoor rankings. Not only does he have 15 games outdoors, but he is the best running back in the league. As the workhorse running back in a high-octane offense, Bell is a lock to finish as a top-5 running back this year. Bell’s contributions in the passing game separate him from the other running backs as he is essentially a wide receiver when split out wide. Bell is the easy number one overall for my outdoor RB rankings.
Projection: 1,451 Rush Yds, 9.3 Rush TDs, 84 Rec, 712 Rec Yds
2. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams – 13 Games
Yes, Gurley does have three games indoors but, in my eyes, it doesn’t hurt his value in my position rankings. Gurley is a beast and shut all the haters up after a major sophomore slump. Again, another workhorse in a potent offense is music to my ears. Gurley also proved himself in the receiving department as he contributed 700 yards. Totaling over 2,000 yards last year with a second-year offensive minded coach should have Gurley in the top 5 running backs at the end of the year.
Projection: 1,312 Rush Yds, 12.2 Rush TDs, 65 Rec, 683 Rec Yds
3. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs – 16 Games
This seems like another no-brainer for me in my outdoor rankings. I can’t stress enough that these rankings are outdoors, because honestly, Hunt would not be in my top-5 running backs otherwise. This isn’t to say that Hunt doesn’t have the potential to finish as a top 5 running back overall. In an RB friendly offense with a young QB taking over, Hunt will be getting his touches and is a solid RB1.
Projection: 1,243 Rush Yds, 10.1 Rush TDs, 53 Recs, 510 Rec Yds
4. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers – 16 Games
Another RB with a 16-game outdoor schedule. Gordon is not the most talented running back, but based on sheer volume, he will have the opportunity to produce big numbers in this Chargers offense. With zero competition for touches in that backfield, Gordon is a top-5 RB in my outdoor rankings.
Projection: 1,124 Rush Yds, 8.5 Rush TDs, 56 Rec, 479 Rec Yds
5. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars – 13 Games
Fournette is a workhorse running back who doesn’t necessarily contribute much in the passing game, but he is a beast running the football. Building off a great rookie season with the best defense in the league, Fournette is going to have a big year.
Projection: 1,265 Rush Yds, 11.2 TDs, 33 Rec, 379 Rec Yds
6. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants – 13 Games
Volume and opportunity are what I am looking for, and Barkley certainly has it. He will be fed the ball constantly in this offense in desperate need of a game-breaking running back. Uber talented and 13 games outdoors, Barkley slots in at 6 based on his potential to be one of the best players in the league by the end of the season.
7. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills – 13 Games
In an offense with major quarterback and receiver questions, McCoy (if available) will be a guy getting close to 300 carries. 13 games outdoors is fine for a running back with no competition in his backfield.
8. Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers – 14 Games
I really have always been fascinated with Mckinnon and now he has all the opportunity in a revamped offense. McKinnon has the physical skill set to be a game breaking RB and plays most of his games outdoors. He has a good chance to have his best year by far, in terms of output and production.
9. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers – 13 Games
The Panthers have talked up McCaffery this offseason and through the early parts of training camp saying they are going to get him 30 touches a game. Clearly that’s not going to happen, but the point of this coach speak is, McCaffery is going to get the ball. Whether it is on the ground or through the air, McCaffery will have a major opportunity, to go along with 13 outdoor games.
10. Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears – 13 Games
Jordan Howard is an interesting running back in a new offensive scheme with head coach Matt Nagy. Howard rarely contributes in the passing game, but he is a beast in between the tackles and the goal line work is left all to him.
11. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals – 14 Games
Mixon had an underwhelming rookie year, but faces essentially zero backfield competition and has 14 outdoor games. This offense does worry me in terms of not being able to score points, but Mixon will be the workhorse and get his touches.
12. Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles – 14 Games
Ajayi should be in line for a quality season as the two-down thumper for the dynamic Eagles offense. Ajayi was traded to the Eagles in the middle of the season last year, and has a full year in Doug Pederson’s system under his belt. Look for the Eagles to ride him as Carson Wentz returns from an ACL injury. He is a solid RB2.
13. Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins – 13 Games
Kenyan Drake is an interesting running back in a questionable offense, but touches are there for the taking. I liked how he played toward the end of the regular season as he finished as the RB8 from weeks 13-17. Drake projects as an RB2 with Frank Gore in the mix, but Drake has the talent to easily pull away in that competition.
14. Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens – 15 Games
Putting Collins this high makes me cringe, but I have to in these rankings. I won’t lie, Collins did show ability last year in a putrid passing offense and actually played amazing down the stretch and mirrored Kenyan Drake’s solid end of season run. The Ravens re-signed Collins for a reason and it looks like they are ready to make him their workhorse running back.
15. Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks – 14 Games (New injury is an issue which makes the Chris Carson ranking even more important)
Temper your expectations when it comes to Rashaad Penny but he slots in as my RB15 in my outdoor rankings. A beyond suspect offensive line is blocking for Penny, but touches, talent, and opportunity are there for him. The Seahawks selected him in the first round for a reason, he will be used.
16. Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos – 15 Games
Yeah, this offense will probably employ a committee at running back, but Freeman is clearly at the top of the totem pole. Freeman doesn’t wow you in one specific area, but he is extremely solid in all areas. He follows his blocks, and has decent hands. In an offense that is expected to take a step forward, don’t be surprised if Freeman has a good rookie season.
17. Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans – 13 Games
Dion Lewis could be a steal in your fantasy draft as many people expect Derrick Henry to take his touches away. The Titans didn’t throw $20 million to a running back for no reason. Lewis is a good runner, and is an underrated receiver. Like I said, Lewis could be a steal at his current ADP.
18. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans – 13 Games
Henry seemed to have this backfield all to himself when the Titans released Demarco Murray, but then they snagged Dion Lewis. It seems as though the Titans don’t see Henry as a true workhorse and just a guy who can give you a power boost and goal line work. This is an interesting situation to monitor which is why I put both running backs back to back. Be careful when drafting Henry as his current ADP is a little steep at the end of the third round.
19. Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 13 Games
Selected early in the second round of the draft, the Buccaneers have plans on turning this offense around. Jones struggles in the passing game, but excels between the tackles, and has breakaway speed. Currently a little overvalued, Jones has potential to be a high-upside RB2.
20. Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots – 15 Games
It was tough for me to gauge where Burkhead was going to land in my rankings, but I believe he could be in line for a solid year. Yes, the Patriots did invest a first-round pick in Sony Michel, who will definitely be playing. I believe he is going to have to earn the Patriots trust, which won’t be easy. Burkhead has been entrenched in this offense for over a year and is clearly trusted by head coach Bill Belichick and can convert on the goal line. He is a solid flex play in the beginning of the year but the situation needs to be monitored.
21. Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders – 15 Games
The signing of Doug Martin doesn’t affect my evaluation of Lynch’s projection as Martin has shown next to nothing recently. Coach Jon Gruden is going to run the ball and if there is a running back who is ranked low and has extreme upside potential, its Marshawn Lynch. A ferocious runner with touchdown upside, Lynch could turn into a high upside RB2.
22. Duke Johnson Jr., Cleveland Browns – 14 Games
A running back who offers an extremely high floor with his pass catching, Johnson slots in as my number 22 back on my outdoor rankings. Johnson also offers sneaky elusiveness in the running game, but he will be a factor in PPR leagues.
23. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers – 12 Games
Keep in mind Jones is suspended for 2 games to begin the season. A running back in a high-powered offense who should be without question the starting running back, I see Jones taking this job and running with it as soon as he is back. Jones has a high ceiling as an RB3, look for him to climb the rankings as soon as he is back.
24. Sony Michel, New England Patriots – 15 Games
Like I said with Burkhead, Michel wasn’t drafted in the first round for no reason. A small knee procedure kept Michel out of training camp for about two weeks. He has a lot of potential but, I stress, he needs to not fumble the ball. It was one of his major downsides coming out of college. The Patriots WILL, I repeat WILL, bench him if fumbles become a problem. That being said, Michel has the ability to take over this backfield as a true three-down back.
25. Bilal Powell, New York Jets – 15 Games
This by no means is a sexy pick, but Powell looks to have the opportunity to at least put up some points for the Jets. Not viewed as an RB1 by the organization, Powell will be playing for his pride this year. His pass catching upside makes him a good look in PPR leagues.
26. Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears – 13 Games
Cohen was able to finish as the RB30 last year despite playing in a vanilla offense. Now he gets the colorful Matt Nagy who will be using Cohen all over the field. Another high upside player in terms of his receiving, Cohen has potential as the change of pace receiving RB.
27. C.J. Anderson, Carolina Panthers – 13 Games
He is touchdown dependent but has the opportunity to score as McCaffery doesn’t wow you at the goal line. He is a TD dependent RB3.
28. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks – 14 Games
Talked about by Seattle beat writers, Carson is a pick that costs much less then Penny and could actually contribute as an upside RB3. With the recent news of Penny’s injury during camp, Carson could potentially climb these rankings as the season draws near.
These rankings leave out many notable running backs (i.e. David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, etc.) because they play their home games indoors. This takes away from their fantasy appeal outdoors because at least 8 games are taken away from their contributions.
We will be releasing our full running back rankings, and rankings based defensive schemes in the next few weeks so keep it with Sports Al Dente for all of your fantasy needs.