Who are the RB1s in 2016?

smitty fantasy football advice

Below are the Fantasy Football RB1s heading into the 2016 fantasy football season. These running backs are ranked based on redraft, but I have added some dynasty commentary to many of the names listed, so I have you dynasty folks covered, don’t worry. But, I wanted them ranked for 2016 initially. Enjoy.

The Elite Locks at RB1

1. Todd Gurley
1. Todd Gurley – There is no safer RB1 in 2016 and beyond. Le’veon Bell might be as capable talent-wise, however, his injury makes him a touch riskier, so Gurley stands above all rushers heading into 2016 (and beyond) — and, that makes him my 1.01 lock in all formats and upcoming drafts (even PPR).
2. LeVeon Bell
2. Le’veon Bell – As stated above, Bell has 1.01 talent, but his injury/recovery (MCL/PCL) keeps him ranked below Gurley in all formats. Still, Bell is an absolute lock inside the top 2-3RBs heading into 2016 and behind, and he maintains top 4-6 overall value in all formats. He’s below Gurley, but in the same tier, no question.
3. David Johnson
3. David Johnson – This is the guy everyone will be talking about come June, July and August. Sure, many are excited already, especially the well informed (like you all here at SleeperU); however, expect that excitement to grow even stronger in the coming months. His ADP is right around the 1.07 range in redraft, and likely a bit higher in dynasty… well, come June, July and August, I predict his ADP reaches 1.03-1.04, which may not seem like a huge climb, but that means he is as equal in value as the top wide receiver in fantasy. He already deserves that consideration in fantasy circles, sure, but it comes with some risk when the ADP actually catches up to the consideration. Once he reaches 1.04 ADP levels, we all have to factor in the risk of relying on Arizona to give him RB1 work. They should, but nothing is guaranteed, especially in Arizona at the running back position. I love the 1.07 draft/trade value, though, it’s well worth the risk (for now). Will I still buy/draft DJ at 1.03-1.04 value should he reach that range? Sure, but like with any somewhat high-risk/high-reward player, and he would qualify as such at 1.04, you shouldn’t hold the risk in every league just in case things go south on you.
4. Devonta Freeman
4. Devonta Freeman – I love this value. Freeman is currently looking at a 1.11 ADP in redraft, and that’s likely a little worse in dynasty given the direction doubt travels in keeper/dynasty worlds. I’m trading for him at this value in all formats. I will admit, there is quite a bit of risk here, and we’re talking the kind of risk that was present the year after DeAngelo Williams exploded out of nowhere and then busted the following year when everyone took him atop the first-round (following his breakout 20TD season). He was a one-year wonder… Freeman could be the next DeAngelo, but he could also be the next Jamaal Charles (little guy proving doubters wrong for the long-term). I can’t pretend I know what the Atlanta coaching staff is thinking here, nor can I guarantee that at the first sign of struggle or injury, that staff won’t launch a RBBC-type approach, even if 60/40 in distribution. What I can tell you, though, is that Freeman is special. I watched most all of his carries in 2016, and he wasn’t just hitting open rushing lanes and racking up easy yardage, he was making things happen after contact, and he was a beast in the receiving game. He was blowing every other fantasy football running back out of the water through the first seven weeks of the season, and he posted 10 total touchdowns through Week 6. Even if he gets less carries than expected in 2016, the guy makes plays and I see him as low-risk/high-reward (extreme) at 1.10-2.02 value, which is where he is currently getting valued. Buy-low in dynasty/redraft, but as said above… with risky players, upside or not, don’t hold them in every league you have in case things backfire or injury occurs.

Locks At RB1, But Beware?

5. Lamar Miller
While you can’t draft him as a first-round fantasy player in 2016, he could play like one. He is only high-upside at second-round value, though, and preferably near the middle of the second-round, if not later. His ADP is climbing fast, so it’s tough to even peg at this moment. At middle second-round value, he has a lot of ceiling.
6. Doug Martin
Very capable of top 4-10RB numbers in 2016 and behind, however, he goes from “safe” to “risky” if he climbs a handful of spots in value. Draft him at this range. Trade for him at this range. Sell him above this range if that’s an option.
7. Lesean Mccoy
Concussions will always be a concern for me, as well as other injuries. I like McCoy if the price is right (in all formats), but this is the range that I buy/draft him, no higher. Any higher and the risk starts outweighing the appeal. Solid value here, though!
8. Demarco Murray
I am very intrigued by Murray anywhere near low-end RB1 value. He just has so much ceiling. His ADP is in the third-round, though, so do NOT buy him higher than you have to, which would mean that drafting him in the second-round would be taking him too high. That ADP could change, and I still think he might be worth low second-round value, but do NOT buy him near there, as you don’t have to. And, as said above 2-3 times already, you cannot own a player like this in too many leagues, or you could watch all your leagues crash and burn at the same time.
9. Cj Anderson
I’m not a fan of valuing this guy any higher than I have to, only because I am not sure he is the long-term answer. Denver is paying him top dollar, though, so I think it’s safe to assume the workload will be there for him in 2016, unless he gets hurt, of course… Given all the first-round worthy receivers that there are in 2016, CJ should be slotted at late second-round to early third-round value. Any higher and you’re taking on way too much risk if you ask me, and you are making a huge mistake drafting a player higher than you need to, as ADPs should drive where you draft players. He has a late second- to early third-round ADP — for now.
10. Adrian Peterson
Even if you told me right now that Peterson would fall off the face of the earth in 2017, I draft/value him right here in both redraft and dynasty… he is that good and can win you a league in 2016. Not every player on your team has to be build to last 4-6 years.
11. Jamaal Charles
Same thing I just said about AP above I say here… he might not have 3-4 years left, but he could have a strong 1-2 at that RB1-type value.
12. Thomas Rawls
This is the riskiest RB1 on the list. If he escapes the NFL Draft with his workload locked in, his low-end RB1-type value should be locked in as well, and the risk will be minimized a touch. Still, I rank him no higher than 10-12 for RBs in any format, we need to see more to rank him higher. I like Rawls a lot, and he cracked the 2016 Bold Predictions (aka, Upside Board) months ago (before his value climbed and before Lynch indicated he was stepping away from the game). So, we had him ranked high way, way before his value climbed.

7 Comments

  1. Smitty on April 10, 2016 at 7:25 am

    Thoughts?

    • Chuck Fox on April 10, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks Smitty,

      Looks like I am dialed in for 2016 with 3 of the first 4 and 3 of the next 8.

      I traded Martin for Rawls straight up last year, at the beginning of week 4, Martin started to produce. But, in all honesty, I’d rather have Rawls and think that, all things considered, he was actually better than Martin last year.

      • Smitty on April 11, 2016 at 4:48 am

        Nice work, Chuck Fox! Rawls is a Sleeper, and he was one of the first Bold Prediction additions months ago before his rise in value. He is hard to get cheap now, and you are right to like him!

  2. rabidbucfan on April 10, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Good list Smitty. Is Coleman going to eat into Freeman’s carrys? I can see AP being in that elite list one more time. Do you think E.Elliott at Philly would be right below Rawls?

    • Smitty on April 11, 2016 at 4:50 am

      Elliott will be a sneaky RB1 this year I think. Once drafted, and once in a landing spot, I’ll write more on him and where he fits into this kinda value.

      As for Coleman, it’s possible, but no more possible than any other backup, like Karlos Williams to Freeman. Freeman was a beast last year. I love the doubt, it allows me to buy at low risk levels.

  3. Whos_Ur_Doggie on April 11, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Excellent list Smitty. I could argue that D. Murray belongs up in the elite lock category based on everything coming out of TEN.

    • Smitty on April 11, 2016 at 11:48 am

      You might be right. I hope you’re right. I have been buying low all off-season, he has a real strong chance of being his old self given TEN went after him. I think moving teams, coming off a bust year, there are reasons to have him in the second tier, but I totally think it can be argued like you said, no question.

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