2018 Fantasy Football RB Preview: Koerner, Raybon & Freedman

Aug 29, 2018 2:37 AM EDT
  • Below are profiles on each running back from NFL experts Sean Koerner, Matthew Freedman, and Chris Raybon.
  • Koerner has been the No. 1 in-season FantasyPros ranker for three straight seasons, Freedman was No. 6 last year, and Raybon has watched every NFL snap since 2010.
  • Links to more in-depth content appear below each profile.

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Jay Ajayi, Eagles

Averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 112 regular-season and playoff rushes with the Eagles and should inherit much of LeGarrette Blount’s 10.8 carries per game, including his top-10 volume inside the 5. – Raybon

Javorius Allen, Ravens

His 16.4 touches per game in Games 1-8 dipped to 8.5 in Games 9-16 as Alex Collins emerged.

Sith Lord with insidious receiving skills and evil three-down aspirations. – Freedman

C.J. Anderson, Panthers

Coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season and now on a team with dual-threat quarterback and slot receiver masquerading as starting halfback. – Freedman

Inherits the role of Cam Newton’s caddy on run downs, which netted Jonathan Stewart 13.2 carries a game last season. – Raybon 

Tavon Austin, Cowboys

He’s not good at football, but Jason Garrett & Co. aren’t good at coaching and will use him way more than they should. – Raybon

Peyton Barber, Buccaneers

Backs who excel at picking up what’s blocked but struggle in pass protection and special teams tend to be poor fantasy investments, but he’s still running ahead of Ronald Jones. – Raybon

Short-yardage thumper and Plan B to Jones. – Freedman

Saquon Barkley, Giants

No. 1 overall upside in his rookie year on a team with a familiar inside-zone scheme and revamped offensive line that suit him. Hamstring injuries have been shown to have a negligible effect on in-game running back performance. – Raybon

Best running back prospect of the last decade. – Freedman

Le’Veon Bell, Steelers

Leads the position handily with 312 receptions since entering the league in 2013. – Freedman

Top-four running back in PPR points per game for four seasons and counting. – Raybon

Giovani Bernard, Bengals

Came off an ACL tear to post career lows in carries (6.6), catches (2.7), and total yards (52.9) per game, but showed he can still carry the load with 17.0 touches for 86.5 yards in two games without Joe Mixon.– Raybon

Mixon handcuff and change-of-pace pass-catching savant with 47 receptions, 1,071.8 yards and 5.3 touchdowns per year in his four healthy seasons. – Freedman

LeGarrette Blount, Lions

Kerryon Johnson owners will hate Blount by Week 4, because one doesn’t sign Blount and not give him goal-line carries. – Raybon

Devontae Booker, Broncos

Receiving and change-of-pace option with starting potential in the event of a Royce Freeman injury or failure to launch. – Freedman

Has been talked up as the lead back ahead of Royce Freeman but will likely end up closer to the 9.7 touches per game he averaged over the second half of last season. – Raybon

Matt Breida, 49ers

Similar speed, quarterback situation, and touch projection as Tevin Coleman in an offense coordinated by the man responsible for Coleman’s Year 2 breakout. but a preseason shoulder injury isn’t ideal. – Raybon

Had four games with double-digit touches in Jimmy Garoppolo’s five starts last year and could steal snaps from starter Jerick McKinnon– Freedman

Rex Burkhead, Patriots

Quietly ranked 16th among running backs in PPR points per game last season (13.0, minimum four games) and should be active as a pass-catcher and in the red zone. – Raybon

Chris Carson, Seahawks

Solid all-around back who overcame Seattle’s junior varsity O-line as a rookie, earning him Pete Carroll’s trust and the first-team role over Rashaad Penny. – Raybon

Big-bodied runner who flashed in three 2017 starts and has unproven competition for touches. – Freedman

Nick Chubb, Browns

Second-rounder nicknamed “Old School” by Duke Johnson for his no-nonsense style and has enough burst to unseat Carlos Hyde … but is still part of a three-way committee for the Browns– Raybon

Has the size and talent to be the lead back by season’s end. – Freedman

Corey Clement, Eagles

Philadelphia’s version of Bilal Powell gets his value maximized by a top-flight offensive line, a sharp coaching staff, and a role behind one back with (supposedly) chronic knee issues and another who’s 35 years old. – Raybon

Super Bowl hero with change-of-pace value and latent upside as the beneficiary of any Jay Ajayi and/or Darren Sproles injuries and/or issues. – Freedman

Tarik Cohen, Bears

Pint-sized runner/receiver finished as the RB33 in PPR on only 140 touches, and all indications are that Matt Nagy plans to expand his role (and knows how to use him better than John Fox). – Raybon

Tevin Coleman, Falcons

Coleman is a great mid-round pick given his low-risk, high-reward outlook as a change-of-pace back, and he would become a RB1 if/when Devonta Freeman misses time. – Koerner

Good back whose 9.0 carries and 2.0 catches per game with Devonta Freeman active in Year 1 under Steve Sarkisian put him in fantasy purgatory and creates downside risk if the touchdowns dry up. – Raybon

Alex Collins, Ravens

Handled 16.7 carries per game over the last nine games of 2017 for a team whose lead back has averaged 11-15 PPR points per game in four consecutive post-Ray Rice seasons. – Raybon

Dalvin Cook, Vikings

Flashed top-five upside as a rookie, but the average running back tends to see a drop in production following an ACL tear; better to draft him as an RB2 and be pleasantly surprised than as an RB1 and be disappointed. – Raybon

Talented three-down player with four NFL games and one torn ACL on his professional résumé. – Freedman

Isaiah Crowell, Jets

Accustomed to playing in a subpar offense thanks to his time in Cleveland but still averaged 1,064.7 yards and 4.7 touchdowns from scrimmage per year in his three lead-back seasons. – Freedman

Big-play and game-script dependent early-down grinder on a team with PFF’s 31st-ranked offensive line and a bottom-five win total. – Raybon

Kenneth Dixon, Ravens

It’s not 2016 anymore. – Raybon

Jay Ajayi of an alternate universe. – Freedman

Could potentially be a league-winner if Alex Collins were to ever miss an extended period of time. – Koerner

Kenyan Drake, Dolphins

Impressive runner and receiver with an early-career profile of a poor man’s Jamaal Charles.  – Raybon

Chase Edmonds, Cardinals

Agile, small-school fourth-rounder who can run, catch, and is on track to back up David Johnson. – Raybon

Austin Ekeler, Chargers

Philip Rivers‘ new Danny Woodhead ripped off 7.9 yards per touch in Year 1. – Raybon

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

Only back to average at least 100 yards rushing per game over the past two seasons. – Freedman

NFL leader in rushing yards per game in each of his first two seasons and may set a career high in receptions given the Cowboys’ barren receiving corps. – Raybon

D’Onta Foreman, Texans

Fringe Day 2 talent with a 6-foot, 230-pound frame struggling to make it back from an injury many never do. – Raybon

Returning from a torn Achilles but could ascend to the lead-back role if Lamar Miller falters. – Freedman

Leonard Fournette, Jaguars

The Jags landed the top free-agent offensive lineman in left guard Andrew Norwell to bolster their line and pave the way for what should be another massive workload for Fournette this season. – Koerner

East-coast MG3 with more size and less receiving ability. – Freedman

Include his three playoff games and he has 16-game totals of 338-1,282-13 rushing and 43-346-1 receiving, which would’ve equated to an RB5 finish last season. – Raybon

Devonta Freeman, Falcons

Remove Week 10 last season where he left after two carries and his touches per game actually increased slightly from 2016 (17.6) to 2017 (17.7) despite worries about offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and backfield mate Tevin Coleman. – Raybon

Leads NFL with 35 touchdowns over the past three years. – Freedman

Royce Freeman, Broncos

Third-round rookie with 229-pound size and only Devontae Booker standing between him and the 245 carries C.J. Anderson left behind. – Raybon

Melvin Gordon, Chargers

Averages 103.3 scrimmage yards and 0.83 total touchdowns over the past two seasons, and has upside for a monster year if he can improve on the 3.9 yards per carry he’s posted in back-to-back years. – Raybon

Inefficient producer blessed with copious carries, targets, and goal-line opportunities.  – Freedman

Frank Gore, Dolphins

Aging legend who hasn’t had a 25-yard run in over 500 carries will spell Kenyan Drake when Adam Gase wants to get culture on the field at the expense of explosiveness. – Raybon

Corey Grant, Jaguars

Averages a silly 12.6 yards per touch on 117 career touches and was the only back to earn a better PFF grade than Alvin Kamara last season. – Raybon

Jags paid $2.9 million to retain him, and it seems they’ve realized they need him on the field; dude’s nasty. – Raybon

Todd Gurley, Rams

Likely to regress from last season in total touchdowns (19) and yards per reception (12.3) but has margin for error after outscoring all other running backs by 2.8 PPR points per game. – Raybon

Led the NFL with 2,093 yards and 19 touchdowns from scrimmage last year and still just 24 years old. – Freedman

Derrick Henry, Titans

Overdrafted in PPR considering he averages 0.8 receptions per game in his career and is arguably the second-best running back on his own team, but could be Jordan Howard arbitrage in standard formats. – Raybon

Averaged 12.4 PPR points per game last year in eight games with double-digit carries and now in line for majority of backfield goal-line opportunities. – Freedman

Nyheim Hines, Colts

Athletic pass-patching rookie with top-tier return skills and under-appreciated rushing upside. – Freedman

Supersonic movable chess piece with a head coach who’s effectively featured the likes of Danny Woodhead and Darren Sproles; Tarik Cohen arbitrage. – Raybon 

Jordan Howard, Bears

Finished as the RB14 despite piling up the sixth-most rushing yards (1,120) and third-most rushing touchdowns (9); could be used in the passing game more than initially thought. – Raybon

Trails only Le’Veon BellEzekiel ElliottMelvin Gordon and Todd Gurley with his 528 carries and 52 receptions over the past two years. – Freedman

Kareem Hunt, Chiefs

Had a high-usage first-year campaign with 272-carry and 53-reception totals surpassed only by LaDainian Tomlinson, Matt Forte and Edgerrin James as rookies. – Freedman

Only Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell had more scrimmage yards than Hunt’s 1,742 in a rookie campaign that saw him lead the NFL in rushing (1,327) and finish with the eighth-most receiving yards among running backs (455). – Raybon

Carlos Hyde, Browns

Two-down back with questionable durability and shaky job security but looked good in preseason. – Raybon

Yet to have a 1,000-yard rushing campaign; on an offense that could struggle and slated for replacement by the younger, more athletic Nick Chubb– Freedman

Mark Ingram, Saints

Lost volume — including all-important goal-line work — to Alvin Kamara down the stretch and will come off a four-game suspension with questions regarding his workload (and post-PED effectiveness?). – Raybon

Suspended for first four game but has averaged 16.2 PPR points per game over the past four years and is at worst a high-end RB2 when active. – Freedman

Chris Ivory, Bills

The privilege of slamming into 11-man boxes is his if LeSean McCoy‘s legal issues land him on the sideline. – Raybon

David Johnson, Cardinals

Shakiest offensive line and quarterback situation of any back with a top-five ADP, but his quest for 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards is realizable and gives him No. 1 overall upside. – Raybon

Most dynamic back in the league, evidenced by his 33 all-purpose touchdowns in 33 career games. – Freedman

Duke Johnson, Browns

Talented playmaker who has been between 9-11 touches and 54-65 yards per game in all three pro seasons and can play slot receiver if the backfield gets too crowded. – Raybon

Leads all backs with 188 receptions since entering the league three years ago. – Freedman

Kerryon Johnson, Lions

SEC Offensive Player of the Year with lead-back opportunity as a 21-year-old rookie. – Freedman

Second-rounder with burst who will have to earn his way out of the purgatory of ceding goal-line carries to LeGarrette Blount and passing-down snaps to Theo Riddick. – Raybon 

Aaron Jones, Packers

Was Green Bay’s best runner last season but has to overcome pass-blocking issues and a two-game PED ban to rise from third on the depth chart. – Raybon

Averaged 14.8 PPR points per game in four starts last year. – Freedman

Ronald Jones II, Buccaneers

PFF’s highest-graded college running back in 2017 will get every chance to earn Doug Martin’s old role, but will open the season firmly behind Peyton Barber– Raybon

Alvin Kamara, Saints

No. 4 in PPR points per game in a rookie season that put him in Hall of Fame company; a decrease in efficiency and no increase in usage would still give him the floor of 2017 Christian McCaffrey. – Raybon

One phenomenally efficient rookie campaign does not a lead back make (although it might). – Freedman

Dion Lewis, Titans

Was New England’s best skill-position player at times in 2017 but missed 57 of a possible 80 games prior to last season and is now divorced from the Patriots offense. – Raybon

Marshawn Lynch, Raiders

West-coast version of Indianapolis Frank Gore is 32 but averaged 18.9 touches for 92.3 yards and 0.63 touchdowns over his last eight games. – Raybon

Averaged 14.2 PPR points per game last year in his seven games after the Week 10 bye. – Freedman

Marlon Mack, Colts

The favorite to lead the Colts backfield in touches gets an improved O-line and relief from the torn labrum he played through all of last season, though a preseason hamstring issue is cause for concern. – Raybon

Doug Martin, Raiders

Outlier successes may (not?) be due to use of PEDs. – Raybon

Christian McCaffrey, Panthers

Comped to Reggie Bush as a prospect and now is second all-time to Bush with his 113 first-year targets as a running back. – Freedman

Hybrid role (7.3 targets, 7.1 carries per game) resulted in double-digit PPR points in 12 of 16 games last year; is now slated to be a three-down workhorse. – Raybon

LeSean McCoy, Bills

Elite talent with concerns about age (30), supporting cast, and potentially career-ending criminal allegations. – Raybon

Borderline Hall-of-Famer with 50-reception ability in an offense with no other options. – Freedman

Jerick McKinnon, 49ers

Elite athlete with receiving skills now in an offense that distributed 166 targets to running backs and fullbacks last year. – Freedman

Finished as the PPR RB17 on 202 touches in 2017 and was handpicked by Kyle Shanahan, whose lead back has finished between RB1 and RB8 in each of the past three seasons. – Raybon

Sony Michel, Patriots

A good runner and pass-blocker who the Pats took in the first round to provide big-play ability in the old Dion Lewis role, though falling behind in camp due to a knee injury isn’t good for his early-season playing-time outlook. – Raybon

Lamar Miller, Texans

Averaged 14.9 PPR points per game with Deshaun Watson and 9.9 without, which is a fair ceiling/floor projection given that D’Onta Foreman is unlikely to be ready to push him for work coming off an Achilles tear. – Raybon

Will benefit from defenses trying to contain Watson, just as he did last year when he put up borderline-RB1 numbers in Watson’s six starts. – Koerner

Joe Mixon, Bengals

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor showed the willingness to give Mixon 18+ carries in 3-of-5 games to close out the season, but Mixon topped three targets in a game only twice and may struggle to do so again as long as Giovani Bernard remains on the roster. – Raybon

Arbitrage version of Saquon Barkley– Freedman

Ty Montgomery, Packers

Sometimes-runner, sometimes-receiver who is working as the third-down back in camp; Theo Riddick arbitrage.

Has averaged 17 PPR points per game over the past two years when he’s gotten 8+ carries in an Aaron Rodgers start. – Freedman

Alfred Morris, 49ers

Likely to open the year as the No. 3 back but would come into value should Jerick McKinnon or Matt Breida miss time. – Raybon

Latavius Murray, Vikings

Averaged 16.8 carries per game with eight touchdowns over his past 12 games and would have RB1 upside should anything happen to Dalvin Cook again. – Raybon

Rashaad Penny, Seahawks

Going No. 27 overall suggested a featured role was immediately in the cards for the talented small-school producer, but a strong camp from Chris Carson  and mysterious weight gain require tempered expectations. – Raybon 

Adrian Peterson, Redskins

Washed relic with a couple of overhyped preseason carries masquerading as a starter for Jay Gruden. – Raybon

Bilal Powell, Jets

Jack of all trades but master of none entering his age-30 season will operate in a committee with Isaiah Crowell. – Raybon 

Could lose work to Elijah McGuire but has averaged 40.5 receptions, 1,026 yards and five touchdowns per year over the past two seasons. – Freedman

Theo Riddick, Lions

Locked in for 50+ receptions, 700-ish yards and 3-6 touchdowns. – Freedman

His receiving line went from 5.1-41.0 in 2015-2016 to 3.3-27.0 last season while his red-zone targets got cut in half. – Raybon

Darren Sproles, Eagles

Averaged 63.2 receptions, 889 scrimmage yards and 6.7 all-purpose touchdowns for six straight seasons before an injury-shortened 2017 campaign. – Freedman

Chris Thompson, Redskins

Electric-but-fragile 187-pounder didn’t start running until mid-June after a broken fibula and will be hard-pressed to equal last season’s 13.1 yards per reception or six touchdowns on 103 touches, but Derrius Guice‘s ACL injury will make it harder to take him off the field. – Raybon

James White, Patriots

High-floor, low-ceiling PPR specialist who’s been good for 4.0 catches, 44.9 total yards, and 0.44 touchdowns per game over his last 36 regular-season and playoff games. – Raybon

Has averaged 10.0 PPR points per game over the past three years in a committee backfield. – Freedman

Jamaal Williams, Packers

Potential starter who averaged 15.7 PPR points per game over the second half of 2017 rookie campaign. – Freedman

Favorite to be Green Bay’s lead back after handling 18.2 touches per game in five starts with Aaron Jones active and holding his own in pass pro with PFF’s No. 13 grade of 60 qualifiers. – Raybon

Jonathan Williams, Saints

Likely to open the season in the Mark Ingram role. – Raybon

T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars

Settled in as a 7-12 touch complimentary piece in one of the league’s most active backfields, but Corey Grant is good enough to eat into his workload. – Raybon

Leonard Fournette’s backup and a change-of-pace contributor with three straight seasons of 30+ receptions. – Freedman

Credit:

Tim Fuller – USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: David Johnson

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SCHEDULE
OPEN
CURR
# BETS
ATL
NYG
-4.5
54
-4
54
WAS
DAL
-1
42
PK
41.5
CHI
NE
+2.5
50
+3
48.5
TB
CLE
-3
49.5
-3.5
52.5
JAC
HOU
-3.5
44
-4
41
NYJ
MIN
+3
47
+3.5
46
SF
LA
+10.5
53
+9.5
52
IND
BUF
-7
42.5
-7
43
LAC
TEN
-7
45.5
-6.5
45
ARI
DEN
+1
41
+1
42
MIA
DET
+2.5
47
+3
46.5
KC
CIN
-6
58.5
-6
58.5
PHI
CAR
-4.5
45
-5
44.5
BAL
NO
-2.5
51
-3
49.5