2016 Rookie Running Back Rankings

smitty fantasy football advice

Below you will find my 2016 NFL Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings, but these rankings will NOT necessarily mirror a 2016 rookie-only fantasy draft. So, with that said, be certain to use rookie-only ADPs along with these rankings should you draft off them, as I’m making some bold statements, like with Kenneth Dixon and Wendell Smallwood.

1. Ezekiel Elliott RB, Ohio State

1. Ezekiel Elliott RB, Ohio State

This kid is complete. Just watch the game film below and you will see an elite skill set, elusive play, good hands, fast-enough speed, the ability to make a shifty cut and then hit a hole, and amazing vision. In the right offense, Elliott could easily become a top 5 fantasy football running back for years to come. The guy had back-to-back 1,800-yard rushing seasons in 2014 and 2015, with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2014 and 23 rushing touchdowns last year. Zeke Elliott is the clear 1.01 if you should be so lucky and hold that pick. If I had to come up with a worry at all, I’d say he needs to work on his speed. In the footage below, he is often gifted open rushing lanes, so it remains to be seen if he can get a touch quicker to account for the added speed at the NFL level.

Pro Comparison: DeMarco Murray / Edgerrin James

(Video Footage)

2. Kenneth Dixon RB, Louisiana Tech

2. Kenneth Dixon RB, Louisiana Tech

Most might be surprised that I have Kenneth Dixon ranked ahead of Derrick Henry, and that’s fine, as that’s how I roll. Sometimes I’m wrong, I will not sit here and pretend to have a crystal ball, and I have certainly had my share of misses, that’s the nature of bolder-type predicting. Sometimes players bust because of situation, or lack of support, but that needs to be built into the prediction, as sometimes coaches and teams don’t see the hidden talent some of us fantasy scouts so often see. I see elite in Kenneth Dixon, much like I saw elite in DeAndre Hopkins well, well before most other fantasy football sites out there had him even inside their top 2-3 for rookie WRs that season… People eventually caught up as coaches and teams started taking notice, and I think the same will occur here with Dixon. The runner has a compact toughness that no other runner in this class has, and that goes for Zeke Elliott as well. Zeke is tough, don’t get me wrong, but Dixon runs into defenders like a bowling ball that has no plans of stopping upon initial contact. He is quick and is one of the very best receiving backs in this draft class. In 2015, he had 1,070 rushing yards (5.4), 19 rushing TDs, 34 receptions for 467 yards and 7 more receiving TDs… and, the year prior, he pulled in 1299/22TDs and 30/385/6TDs… he was a big-time receiving weapon at Louisiana Tech, something that makes him PPR gold if in the right spot in 2016. Could a team draft him and misuse him? Absolutely, that’s the real risk here. Honestly, I feel like that’s the only risk. The dude can ball, and I think his fantasy football value isn’t even close to where it will be post-draft, as a solid landing spot will then have everyone and their mother on board. Again, coaches and teams screw usage up all the time, so know that there is risk with that, but I see elite and I sure hope this kid gets his shot to shine in the NFL. Dixon weighed in 5-10, 215 pounds, which is not too small for three-down duties.

Pro Comparison: Marshawn Lynch (baby Beaste Mode) / Ray Rice

(Video Footage)

3. Derrick Henry RB, Alabama

3. Derrick Henry RB, Alabama

I’m torn on this one. I was a big believer in Brandon Jacobs because he was a truck that no one could stop. But, as we witnessed, it’s tough to be 6-4 and 260 pounds (Jacobs) and have a long NFL career. That’s a lot of weight and size crashing into defensive lines, hitting the ground over and over. The best example might even be bust Curtis Enis, who was roughly 6-0, 240-250 pounds. Enis lasted under four seasons in the NFL. The reason I’m torn, though, is that Henry has off-the-chart measurables, which I do feel will have him abusing defenses for the early part of his career. Meaning, I don’t see him as an early bust (if used right). However, I don’t see him having a long dominate career. Watch the film below and I can almost guarantee that you will be impressed. He is fun to watch on film and he will surely be fun to watch in Week 1. I am just not sure I see longevity. I like Kenneth Dixon more.

(Video Footage)

4. Alex Collins RB, Arkansas

4. Alex Collins RB, Arkansas

I like Alex Collins a lot if in the right spot. However, scouts seem mixed on him coming out of the combine, and many sources have suggested that he isn’t considered to be special in NFL circles. That said, he runs a lot like an Eddie Lacy (early years) and Chris Ivory, which I think can often times be considered ‘not special’, yet effective type running. It’s down hill, it’s power running, it’s just not flashy. So, if in the right spot, I think Collins could easily reach high-end RB2-type fantasy numbers. It just boils down to landing spot. His 2015 stat line is ultra impressive: 271 rushes for 1,577 yards (5.8) and 20TDs. He only had 13 receptions for 95 yards in 2015, and even less the two seasons prior, but he did rush for over 1,000 yards in all three of his years at Arkansas, which is quite impressive.

Pro Comparison: Eddie Lacy / Chris Ivory

(Video Footage)

5. Devontae Booker RB, Utah (U-Sleeper)

5. Devontae Booker RB, Utah (U-Sleeper)

I really, really like Devontae Booker. I think in the right spot, Booker explodes at the next level. The issue will be getting a team to draft him to start, or at least draft him so that he can honestly compete for a starting role. Booker dropped 1,261 rushing yards for 11TDs in 2015 (adding 37/318/0TDs in the receiving department)… and, the year prior, he totaled an impressive 1512/10TDs, 43/306/2TDs. At 5-11, 212, he is not too small to be an every-down back. He reminds me a lot of Arian Foster; in the right place, he could be near as good!

Pro Comparison: Arian Foster

(Video Footage)

6. Wendell Smallwood RB, West Virginia (U-Sleeper)

6. Wendell Smallwood RB, West Virginia (U-Sleeper)

I’m not sure we will see a team invest in Wendell Smallwood as a clear starter, which would be a shame, because I think we have a hidden gem in this running back. Watch where he lands. If he lands in a starting role, his stock will explode and everyone will be talking about him. If he gets drafted into a cloudy situation, something that is more likely, grab him and stash him. He had 1,519 rushing yards and 9TDs in 2015, adding 26 receptions for 160 yards. He can ball, and he runs tough. Watch the footage below and you will see power, quickness, toughness, great hands, and more. He would thrive if starting at the next level, I truly believe this. Still grab and stash if he is overlooked on draft day!!!

Pro Comparison: Marshawn Lynch (smaller version)

(Video Footage)

7. CJ Procise RB, Notre Dame

7. CJ Procise RB, Notre Dame

A solid runner that needs a good landing spot to excel. His resume is small, as he has only rushed for 1,032 yards and then 126 yards the season before, so it’s hard to consider him any kind of sure bet at the next level (unless his landing spot is ideal).

Pro Comparison: Doug Martin

(Video Footage)

8. Deandre Washington RB, Texas Tech

8. Deandre Washington RB, Texas Tech

I’m not one to write-off a runner based on size, as I was a huge believer in Devonta Freeman (and many others), but at 5-8, 200 pounds, I have doubts that many teams will draft him to start. But, as with everyone on this list, landing spot will determine any change in thinking there. In 2015, Washington rushed for 1,492 yards and 14TDs, and pulled in 41 receptions for 385 yards and 2TDs. We shall see where he lands.

(Video Footage)

9. Josh Ferguson RB, Illinois

9. Josh Ferguson RB, Illinois

Josh Ferguson can change directions better than most pros, so I won’t lie, it’s exciting to think about him getting a shot. That said, he has never rushed for over 800 yards at the college level, and he had three seasons with a heavy workload. He did pull in 37, 50 and 50 receptions in those three seasons, so he has huge PPR appeal. Let’s see where he goes. If he lands in a great situation, watch out for this sleeper. My guess, as of now, is that he will find himself in a cloudy situation.

(Video Footage)

10. Keith Marshall RB, Georgia (U-Sleeper)

10. Keith Marshall, RB Georgia (U-Sleeper)

Ok, here is where we get crazy up in here. Marshall has a short resume, and I mean tiny. He ran for just 350 yards and 3TDs in 2015, and his reception totals were not impressive in four seasons (4, 1, 8 and 11). Also, he never rushed over 800 yards, and his best TD season was 9 total scores during his freshman year back in 2012. So, what is to like? Well, it’s tough to get playing time behind first Todd Gurley, and then Nick Chubb, two of the best college rushers of their time. Chubb remains at Georgia for another year, but Marshall, the quickest running back in this draft class (4.31 forty time), is set to enter the NFL. He’s 5-foot-11, 219 pounds, which is very solid size-wise, and again, he earned this year’s top Speed Score at running back in this draft class. Marshall also repped 225 pounds a huge 25 times. I guess what I’m trying to say here is I see EXTREME talent and speed, with good size, trapped in a player that unfortunately couldn’t get carries behind two of the best rushers in college football (Gurley and Chubb). He wasn’t used enough. Even when Chubb went down in October, Marshall received 10+ carries just twice and never rushed over 100 yards. So, in a nutshell, this analysis is all based on gut instinct and watching this kid on film… he has tremendous ability and could be a hidden gem, but a team most likely will not invest in him as a starter, but anything is possible. And, regardless, I recommend grabbing and stashing this guy wherever he goes because talent could win out in a year or two. He is quick. He is exciting.

(Video Footage)

The Rest of the RBs

Paul Perkins RB, UCLA (Video Footage) –

Aaron Green, RB TCU (Video Footage) –

Jonathan Williams, RB Arkansas (Video Footage) –

Kenyan Drake, RB Alabama (Video Footage) –

Tyler Ervin, RB San Jose State (Video Footage) –

Brandon Wilds, RB South Carolina (Video Footage) –

Jordan Howard, RB Indiana (Video Footage) –

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