Le’Veon Bell Ezekiel Elliott David Johnson hurdle
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With the NFL Draft behind us it is time to start thinking about next year’s fantasy football landscape. Here is an early look at running backs.
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The Elite (Interchangeable)
1. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
3. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
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The Rest
4. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
5. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
6. Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
7. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
8. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
9. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
10. Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
11. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
12. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
13. Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs
14. Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers
15. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 40ers
16. Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders
17. Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks
18. Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
19. C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
20. Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins
21. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
22. Bilal Powell, New York Jets
23. Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints
24. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
25. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
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Also check out:

Lamar Miller Houston
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A lot of the talk out of the Houston Texans’ camp has been the possibility of a monster season for running back Lamar Miller. The Houston Chronicle suggests that he will have a versatile role with the club in 2016, solidifying Miller as a major three-down back. Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman is saying that Miller is poised for a “season for the ages”.
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Miller ran for 872 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015 with 47 catches for 397 yards and two touchdowns. In 2014 he ran for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns with 38 catches for 275 yards and a score.
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Miami ranked dead last in rushing attempts last year with 344 while Houston ranked fifth with 472.  In 2014 Miami ranked 22nd with 399 carries while Houston led the league with 551.
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Miller will certainly get his opportunity. Houston trusted Alfred Blue to 183 carries, Chris Polk to 99 more and Jonathan Grimes to 56 of his own. Don’t look for Blue or Grimes to steal much of Miller’s work. His ability to pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield will help with the touches and add to his fantasy appeal.
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In Houston’s first preseason game he ran for 30 yards on four carries. Don’t expect a heavy workload as we gear up towards the season, but once it’s go time, he will be on full display.
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Miller’s career high in carries is 216. He has averaged 195.7 carries the past three seasons and sports a career yards per carry average of 4.6. If he can get 250 or more carries for the Texans to go along with 30-40 receptions, he should be in line for a massive season.
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Personally, I have Miller just outside the top five, but I do have him slotted as a legit RB1 with major upside.

Here are some Running Backs that have played well in the preseason.  Let’s evaluate them to see if they can translate their preseason production into fantasy worth when the season begins.

Glen Coffee, San Francisco 49ers – Coffee had 34 yards on 8 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and 3 catches for 27 yards in San Francisco’s win over Dallas.  Coffee leads all RBs with 230 yards on 38 carries (6.1 ypc).  He also has five receptions for 35 yards.  He’s not good enough to use as a flex player or bye week replacement in typical leagues, but he should be on fantasy rosters as a Frank Gore handcuff.

James Davis, Cleveland Browns – Davis has been impressive during the preseason with 149 yards on 19 carries (7.8 ypc) with a TD.  He has added 7 receptions for 44 yards.  He had 28 yards on 5 carries (5.6 ypc) and 4 catches for 27 yards in a Win over Tennessee.  He may not open the season as the starter, but if Jamal Lewis struggles, it will be hard to keep Davis off the field.  Do not let him go undrafted. 

Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants – Bradshaw had another solid game against the Jets with 8 carries for 47 yards (5.9 ypc) and 2 catches for 5 yards.  In the preseason he has 136 yards on 19 carries (7.2 ypc) with 1 TD and 6 catches for 21 yards.  He is a decent flex option and a excellent handcuff to Brandon Jacobs.

Kory Sheets, San Francisco 49ers - Sheets is tied for the lead with 3 preseason TDs.  He has also ran for 144 yards on 33 carries (4.4 ypc).  He punched two in against Dallas while running for 42 yards on 11 carries (3.8 ypc).  He’s battling for a roster spot, but doesn’t have much fantasy value.

P.J. Hill/Lynell Hamilton, New Orleans Saints - Lynell and P.J. are battling for roster spots.  Lynell has 143 yards on 31 carries (4.6 ypc) with 4 catches for 16 yards.  He had 95 yards on 16 carries (5.9 ypc)  in the win over Oakland.  P.J. is tied for the lead with 3 TDs.  He also has 113 yards on 22 carries (5.1 ypc) with 1 catch for 2 yards.  He had 83 yards on 12 carries (6.9 ypc) with 2 TDs against Oakland.  With Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, and Mike Bell ahead of them on the depth chart neither have much fantasy value.

Leon Washington, New York Jets - Leon has 119 yards on 19 carries (6.3) with 6 catches for 40 yards in the preseason.  In their recent win over the Giants he had 62 yards on 9 carries (6.9 ypc) and 3 catches for 7 yards.  Thomas Jones has just 61 yards on 29 carries (2.1 ypc) with 2 TDs.  If his struggles continue, Leon can work his way into a larger role in the Jets offense.  He’s a good flex option with a ton of upside.

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Here are some Running Backs putting up serious preseason numbers.  Let’s take a look and see if they have a chance to translate some of that preseason production into fantasy worth in regular season play.

Glen Coffee, San Francisco 49ers – Coffee leads all RBs with 196 preseason rushing yards.  He is averaging 6.5  yards per carry (ypc).  He also has two receptions for 8 yard, but has failed to score a TD.  The Rookie out of Alabama is doing all the right things to serve as Frank Gore’s primary backup.  If Gore goes down, Coffee’s value skyrockets.  He is a great late round value as a Gore handcuff or trade bait.

Tyrell Sutton, Green Bay Packers – Sutton has 140 yards on 27 carries (5.2 ypc) with a TD.  It’s could earn him a gig on a practice squad somewhere or the UFL. 

Michael Turner running
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
- The preseason means little, but it’s nice to know the Burner is picking up where he left off with 128 yards on 13 carries (9.8 ypc) with a pair of TDs.  He is clearly a top four pick, with a bump in non-PPR leagues.

James Davis, Cleveland Browns - James has been shooting up fantasy draft boards with an amazing preseason.  He has looked great in practices and showed a glimpse of his big play potential with a 81 yard TD run against the lowly Detroit Lions en route to a 12 carry, 116 yard game.  Through two preseasons games the Clemson Rookie has 121 yards on 14 carries (8.6 ypc) and 3 receptions.  He has plenty of competition in Jamal Lewis and Jerome Harrison, but let’s face it.  The Browns are bad.  They are going to be bad.  It’s only a matter of time before they start planning for the future, and Jamal Lewis isn’t the future.  Harrison is better suited for the change of pace role, meaning Davis could get the bulk of the carries.

Kory Sheets, San Francisco 49ers - Sheets has 102 yards on 22 carries (4.6 ypc), but only has a shot of making the team because of Thomas Clayton’s knee injury.  He has no fantasy value.

Mike Bell, New Orleans Saints - Bell is an interesting option.  I obviously wouldn’t carry him on my roster as long as Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas were healthy, but he could be productive if one of them went down with an injury.  He has 100 yards on 10 carries (10.0 ypc) this preseason with a 46 yard TD.

760 Packers v Buccaneers
Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers
- Again, I know it’s only the preseason, but it’s nice to see Ryan Grant find the end zone.  He has scored twice while running for 71 yards on 16 carries (4.4 ypc).  He has added a couple of receptions.  If he can score more than the 4 TDs he had last year, he’ll be one of the best RB2s.

Ahmad Bradshaw
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants - Bradshaw appears poised to pick up Derrick Ward’s slack with 89 preseason yards on 11 carries (8.1 ypc) with 4 catches for 16 yards.  He has the burst to break one, and the soft hands to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Images courtesy of Icon SMI

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