Predicting the Top 10 RBs of 2016 (Fantasy Football)

by Stan Son | @Stan_Son | Featured Writer
Aug 5, 2016

Frank Gore

Can the ageless Frank Gore finish as a top 10 RB in 2016?

*Note: This is an in-depth analysis. Click here if you’d rather jump right to the Top 10 RB Predictions. We highly recommend circling back to the full analysis to learn why the predictions were made.

After writing the Predicting the Top 10 series last year, it was brought to my attention that a few others wrote similar articles in the past. To those that did, I pay homage to you.

This is an update to last year’s piece. I realize that ADP is fluid during the preseason, but unless an injury happens or someone completely balls out in the exhibition games, the top 10 seems to be pretty entrenched. This article is not deep and groundbreaking, but I enjoy taking nostalgic strolls along memory lane. In addition, there could be some nuggets of information that could be useful. It is often said that history repeats itself and we should learn from the past to prepare for the future.

If you want more analytical predictive tools, I highly recommend reading anything at numberFire, Rotoviz, and 4for4. Since I’m doing recommendations, I have to include the Footballguys, as everyone there is a brilliant fantasy football mind and a few took the time to give me feedback and help me out. With that said, here you go.

Before we get into 2016 predictions, take a look back at my 2015 predictions to see how things worked out last season.

Scientists believe that we may live in a world of 10 dimensions. For the sake of this article and for my sanity, I will stop at the fifth dimension.

The first three dimensions are pretty straightforward; length, height, and depth. Basically, the physical world that we can see with our eyes. Adrian Peterson is 6’1″, 220 lbs. He wears a purple Vikings’ uniform. The football field that he and hundreds play on is 360 feet in length and 160 feet wide.

The fourth dimension is time, which governs the properties of all known matter at any given point. “Knowing an object’s position in time is essential to plotting its position in the universe.” Derek Carr comes out from under center and performs a five-step drop, which say takes three seconds. Amari Cooper runs a 10-yard out and knows that the ball should be arriving right when he turns his head. Practice and chemistry. There’s a reason why Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison would practice the whole route tree before the game.

Here in lies the beauty and dichotomy of football in general. It is a barbaric sport that requires helmets and pads to play. The biggest, fastest, and strongest men are paid to punish and receive punishment. In order to win the game, though, there must be ballet-like choreography. All 11 men on each side of the ball must be in sync and do their jobs. That nose tackle doesn’t suck up those two blocks and allows the center to get to the linebacker behind him? Offense wins. Carson Palmer notices no safety help over the top on John Brown. He audibles for max protection and sends Brown deep. Prime opportunity, right? But the running back misses his assignment and doesn’t give Palmer enough time to throw it downfield. Defense wins.

The fifth dimension is where the notion of other worlds exist. Bizarro world anyone? The one where Jay Cutler doesn’t throw multiple interceptions in a game.

What does all this have to do with fantasy football?

Fantasy football is one huge puzzle, with many pieces, participants, and solutions. It is always shifting, morphing, and evolving. The most mundane action could cause a ripple effect that shifts the entire landscape.“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.”

Since 2005, there have only been two seasons in which preseason ADP matched more than 50% of the final top 10 fantasy running backs.

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
30% 50% 40% 40% 50% 40% 60% 40% 40% 60% 30%

To be fair, there have only been three seasons since 2005 in which ADP matched more than 50% of the final top 10 fantasy wide receivers.

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
30% 60% 60% 50% 50% 50% 50% 50% 50% 60% 50%

(Historical ADP data courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com. Historical fantasy points data courtesy of footballguys.com. Data is for standard scoring.)

Is it all random? Should we just throw darts at a board? The hubris that we all possess scoffs at that notion. With that said, we all try to predict the future with fantasy football. Who’s going to breakout? Who’s a sleeper? With the above charts, it shows that picking the final 10 running backs or wide receivers is basically a coin flip. Even so, I will examine the past 11 years and see if there is any information that could help us accurately predict the running backs for 2016. In essence, catch those elusive butterflies. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

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PAST 11 YEARS

2005

The Studs

  • LaDainian Tomlinson
  • Shaun Alexander
  • Edgerrin James

The Disappointments

  • Priest Holmes – Missed nine games due to injury. Injured in 2004. Had three consecutive seasons with 313+ carries (2001-2003).
  • Willis McGahee – Finished as the #13 RB. After scoring 13 TDs in 2004, tallied five in 2005.
  • Deuce McAllister – Missed 11 games due to injury. 351 carries in 2003 after a 325- carry season in 2002.
  • Domanick Davis – Missed five games due to injury. Carried 302 times the previous year.
  • Jamal Lewis – Fell off after his 387 carry, 2,066 yard season in 2003. Lewis averaged 3.4 yards-per-carry and scored three touchdowns in 15 games during the 2005 campaign.
  • Julius Jones – Missed three games due to injury.
  • Corey Dillon – Missed four games due to injury. Carried 345 times the previous year.

The Replacements

  • Larry Johnson – The handcuff to Holmes.
  • Tiki Barber – ADP #14 RB. Had three successful seasons prior to 2005. There was the whole fumbling issue, as he had five or more in each of those three seasons.
  • Clinton Portis – ADP #11 RB. Traded from Denver to Washington in 2004. Had a successful season, but only scored five touchdowns. In 2005, Joe Gibbs implemented more outside runs for Portis which translated to a 352-carry, 11 touchdown season.
  • Rudi Johnson – ADP #15 RB. Carried the ball 361 times for 1,454 yards with 12 touchdowns in 2004. The Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy football.
  • LaMont Jordan– First year with the Raiders after middling on the Jets. The lead back in a Norv Turner offense, which enabled him to catch 70 balls in 2005.
  • Thomas Jones – The Bears drafted Cedric Benson in the 2004 draft, but a holdout prevented him from playing over Jones.
  • Mike Anderson – Tatum Bell was being drafted six spots ahead of Anderson in 2005 at ADP #22. They both had successful seasons but it was RBBC.

2006

The Studs

  • LaDainian Tomlinson
  • Larry Johnson
  • Steven Jackson
  • Rudi Johnson
  • Tiki Barber

The Disappointments

  • Shaun Alexander – Missed six games due to injury. Coming off three consecutive seasons with 325+ carries. Lost All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson. YPC plummeted to 3.6 from 5.1.
  • Edgerrin James – Went from the Colts to the Cardinals. Finished as the #20 RB.
  • Ronnie Brown– Missed three games due to injury. Sophomore slump. Ricky Williams was suspended for the 2006 season, so great things were expected.
  • Clinton Portis – Missed eight games due to injury. Coming off consecutive 340+ carry seasons.
  • Carnell Williams– Only missed two games, but injuries nagged him all year. Sophomore slump.

The Replacements

  • Frank Gore– Successful 2005 rookie campaign. Became the lead back in 2006 when the 49ers traded Kevan Barlow to the Jets.
  • Willie Parker– Became the starter in his second year after Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley missed time due to injury. Performed well in Super Bowl XL. Signed a contract extension before the start of the 2006 season and coach Bill Cowher said that Parker would be the bell cow running back.
  • Brian Westbrook – ADP #13 RB. While Westbrook was successful in 2004 and 2005, he was often injured and missed multiple games. He also held out in 2005, but did receive a contract extension.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew – Rookie year.
  • Ladell Betts – Portis handcuff.

2007

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Steven Jackson– Finished as the #14 RB. The 2007 Rams imploded due to a rash of injuries to the offensive line and quarterback Marc Bulger. Missed four games due to injury.
  • Larry Johnson – Missed eight games due to injury. Held out of training camp.
  • Shaun Alexander – Missed three games do to injuries.
  • Willie Parker– Carried 321 times for 1,316 yards but only scored two touchdowns.
  • Rudi Johnson – Missed five games due to injuries. Coming off three seasons of 330+ carries.
  • Reggie Bush – Missed four games due to injury.

The Replacements

  • Adrian Peterson– Rookie season. Was the 26th RB selected in fantasy drafts.
  • Clinton Portis – ADP #19 RB, coming off injury-plagued 2006.
  • Jamal Lewis – Bounced back from his injury-riddled 2005 campaign. Actually had a good 2006, but finished #16 in fantasy that year. In 2007, he rushed for 170 more yards and caught two more touchdowns than in 2006 to finish #6.
  • Marion Barber – In RBBC with Julius Jones.
  • Willis McGahee – Traded to the Ravens in the offseason, after making disparaging remarks about the city of Buffalo. Was the 14th RB selected in fantasy drafts.
  • Edgerrin James – Almost identical stats to 2006 year. The difference was that 2006 was a bonkers year for the running back position. LaDainian Tomlinson scored 427.3 points, Larry Johnson scored 333.9, and Steven Jackson scored 329.4. In 2007, Tomlinson was the top scorer with 307.8 points.

2008

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Joseph Addai– Missed four games due to injury. Coming off a career high 261 carries the prior year.
  • Steven Jackson– Missed four games due to injury. Finished as the #13 RB. Missed four games in 2007.
  • Marion Barber – Much was expected as he was declared the unquestioned starter in Dallas. His ADP was the 6th RB off the board. He ended the season at #16. Barber’s ypc decreased to 3.7 after consecutive years with a 4.8 mark.
  • Frank Gore– Missed two games. Ended as the #14 RB.
  • Marshawn Lynch– Missed one game. Finished as the #15 RB.
  • Larry Johnson – Missed four games due to suspension.

The Replacements

  • DeAngelo Williams– Showed what he could do after DeShaun Foster went down with an injury in 2007. Williams averaged 5.0 yards-per-carry that year. Entering 2008, he was deemed the starter, with draft pick Jonathan Stewart serving a complementary role.
  • Michael Turner – After backing up Tomlinson in San Diego for four years, Turner took his talents to Atlanta and had a tremendous year.
  • Matt Forte– Rookie year.
  • Thomas Jones – Scored one touchdown in 2007 for a 4-12 Jets team. In 2008, Jones scored 13 rushing touchdowns and the Jets compiled a 9-7 record.
  • Steve Slaton– Rookie year.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew – ADP was the 11th RB off the board. Many drafters were expecting MJD to take over the duties from Fred Taylor.

2009

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Michael Turner – Missed five games due to injury. Carried 376 times the prior year.
  • Matt Forte– Received 58 less carries, had a bit of a fumbling issue (5 fumbles/3 lost), and scored eight fewer touchdowns than in 2008. YPC was 3.6, a career low.
  • DeAngelo Williams– Finished as the #14 RB. It was a disappointment because of the prolific 2008 he had. The total touchdown number decreased to seven from 20 the prior year.
  • LaDainian Tomlinson – Missed two games to injury. After dominating the fantasy landscape for eight years and logging 300+ carries each year, the great Tomlinson finally started to break down.
  • Steve Slaton– Sophomore slump. Bulked up after a successful rookie campaign. Lost short-yardage and goal line duties to Chris Brown. Fumbles were an issue, as he lost three, and injuries ended his season.

The Replacements

  • Ray Rice– Won the starting job before the start of the season after debuting successfully in 2008.
  • Thomas Jones – Drafters were not buying Thomas’ 2008, as he was the 22nd RB off the board in 2009.
  • Ricky Williams– Ronnie Brown suffered a season-ending injury, opening the door for Williams to set an NFL record of the longest time span between 1,000 yard seasons.
  • Ryan Grant– ADP #15 RB. He increased his touchdown total to 11 from five the prior year.
  • Joseph Addai– Bounced back after an injury-filled 2008. ADP #19 RB. A Peyton Manning running back always has value.

2010

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Maurice Jones-Drew – Played the entire year with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Still finished as the #12 RB.
  • Ray Rice– Finished as the #11 RB.
  • Frank Gore– Missed five games due to injury.
  • Steven Jackson– Finished as the #14 RB. Only scored six touchdowns.
  • DeAngelo Williams– Missed 10 games due to injury.
  • Ryan Mathews– Drafted with the 12th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. The Chargers traded Tomlinson to the Jets. The opportunity was there and fantasy owners drafted him as the 10th running back off the board. Mathews missed four games and couldn’t crack 1,000 yards.

The Replacements

  • Arian Foster– The last two games of his 2009 rookie season: 19 carries for 97 yards with a touchdown against the Dolphins and 20 carries for 119 yards with two touchdowns against the Patriots. With Slaton in the doghouse, Foster was given an opportunity and ran with it, finishing as the #1 RB in 2010.
  • Peyton Hillis– Traded to the Browns prior to the season. Made the most of his opportunity, when Jerome Harrison and James Davis were injured, and ended as the #2 RB.
  • Jamaal Charles– He had a successful 2009 campaign, but owners were a little leery. He was drafted as the #14 RB.
  • Darren McFadden– Hue Jackson was hired as offensive coordinator and instituted a power running game, eschewing the zone scheme utilized previously. The oft-injured McFadden still missed three games, but was still able to finish as the #6 RB.
  • LeSean McCoy– McCoy was pressed into service his rookie year in 2009 when Westbrook injured his ankle. He proceeded to break the Eagles rookie rushing record. McCoy was the unquestioned starter coming into 2010 and was the #16 RB drafted in fantasy.
  • Matt Forte– Forte was the 21st running back off the board. His yardage was incrementally better than 2009, but he scored five more touchdowns.

2011

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Chris Johnson– Held out for a new contract and did not show up to camp.
  • Jamaal Charles– Missed 14 games due to injury.
  • Rashard Mendenhall– Only rushed 228 times compared to 324 the prior year. Scored nine touchdowns but that mark was below the 13 from 2010.
  • Darren McFadden– Missed nine games due to injury.

The Replacements

  • Marshawn Lynch– ADP #30 RB. New coach Pete Carroll made the wise decision to feature Lynch instead of employing a committee with Justin Forsett
  • Ryan Mathews– Although he missed two games, Mathews was able to total 1,1546 yards and score six touchdowns, which placed him as the #7 RB in fantasy.
  • Michael Bush– McFadden handcuff.
  • Darren Sproles– Signed with the New Orleans Saints in the offseason.

2012

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • LeSean McCoy– Missed four games due to injury.
  • Chris Johnson– Finished as the #12 RB.
  • Darren McFadden– Missed four games due to injury. The Raiders returned to a zone blocking scheme.
  • Matt Forte– Held out for a new contract. Skipped OTA’s. Missed one game. Finished with a career low 44 receptions. With all of that, still finished as the #13 RB in fantasy.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew – Held out for a new contract. Missed 10 games due to injury.
  • DeMarco Murray– Missed six games due to injury.

The Replacements

  • Doug Martin– Rookie year. Showed well in the preseason and was named the starting running back.
  • Alfred Morris– Rookie year. Showed well in preseason. Coach Mike Shanahan announced Morris as the starter before the first game. RG3’s rookie season. The read-option took the league by storm, with Morris being a prime beneficiary.
  • J. Spiller – Fred Jacksonmissed time due to injury.
  • Jamaal Charles– Returned from ACL surgery successfully. He was the 11th RB drafted in fantasy.
  • Trent Richardson– Rookie year. Was the 14th RB off the board, even though he underwent arthroscopic surgery in August of 2012.
  • Stevan Ridley– Showed well in his rookie year with a 5.1 ypc on 87 attempts. In his second year, was handed the reigns.

2013

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Doug Martin– Missed 10 games due to injury. Sophomore slump.
  • Arian Foster– Missed eight games due to injury.
  • Ray Rice– Only missed one game due to injury, but was revealed recently that he played with a significant hip flexor injury.
  • J. Spiller – RBBC with Fred Jackson. Only scored two touchdowns.
  • Trent Richardson– We all fell for the bananna in the tailpipe. He was traded from the Browns to the Colts so there was definitely optimism running in a Andrew Luck-led offense.
  • Alred Morris – Finished as the #14 RB. Actually had a good year, but RG3 fell off and the league adjusted to the read-option.

The Replacements

  • Matt Forte– ADP #11 RB so was right on the fringe to begin with.
  • Knowshon Moreno– Was sharing carries with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, but he was gaining the trust of Manning and the coaching staff with every game played. By week 5, he was the man.
  • Eddie Lacy– Rookie year. Selected with the 61st overall pick in the NFL draft.
  • DeMarco Murray– Cowboys selected Travis Frederick with their first round pick. Looking back at it, that was an early indication of how the Cowboys wanted to play and portended the huge 2014 season.
  • Chris Johnson– ADP #12 RB.
  • Reggie Bush– Signed with the Detroit Lions.

2014

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • LeSean McCoy– Finished as the #11 RB. Had a decent season, but YPC went down a full yard and the reception total and yardage went down the tubes.
  • Adrian Peterson– Switching. Were the fantasy gods getting bored up in the heavens? Let’s try this and see what happens. Mwa ha ha.
  • Montee Ball– Missed 11 games due to injury.
  • Giovani Bernard– Missed three games due to injury. Sophomore slump. The Bengals drafted Jeremy Hill in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft.

The Replacements

  • Le’Veon Bell– Fully healthy after injuries in his rookie campaign. Was a stud at Michigan State. Showed more agility during the preseason games in 2014.
  • Justin Forsett– Ray Rice He was injured in 2013, but he couldn’t get consistent playing time in Seattle and Houston because of two guys named Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster
  • Lamar Miller– Given opportunity due to Moreno injury.
  • Jeremy Hill– Given more opportunity when Bernard went down. Made most of it and continued to get fed. Hue Jackson likes to run the ball. Hill more suited for between the tackles, but can take it to the house.

2015

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Eddie Lacy – Got fat. Finished as the #24 RB. Had the same number of 100-yard rushing games as touchdowns scored on the season (3). Eclipsed the 20-carry threshold twice. The prevailing thought at the time of the Jordy Nelson injury was that it would be beneficial for Lacy and his fantasy prospects. As we found out, the Nelson injury was the Packers’ Black Swan that discombobulated the entire offense.
  • Marshawn Lynch – Missed nine games due to sports hernia surgery. Coming off four consecutive seasons with 280+ carries.
  • C.J. Anderson – Sophomore slump. Played 15 games but only started five. Multiple injuries affected playing time.
  • DeMarco Murray – Took his talents to Philly and got Chip Kelly’d. Round peg square hole. Coming off an insane 2014 season in which he rushed 392 times.
  • Jeremy Hill – Sophomore slump. YPC dropped from 5.1 to 3.6. Yardage went from 1,124 to 794. He did score 11 touchdowns, though.
  • LeSean McCoy – Missed four games due to injury. Coming off two seasons with 300+ carries.
  • Frank GoreMatt Hasselbeck started eight games for the Colts and Charlie Whitehurst appeared in four. With that said, he still ended up as the #11 RB in standard scoring.

The Replacements

  • Devonta Freeman – Took advantage of the injury to Tevin Coleman.
  • Chris Ivory – The Jets cut Chris Johnson, who took his talents to Arizona. As a result, a career-high in rushing attempts, catches, targets, rushing yards, touchdowns, blah, blah, blah. A career year. It’s funny that a team named the J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS has been a ground and pound team for some years now.
  • Doug Martin – Healthy after two injury-plagued seasons. Contract year.
  • DeAngelo Williams – The Le’Veon Bell situation.
  • David Johnson – Rookie that scored 13 combined touchdowns and took over as the season wore on.
  • Todd Gurley – Rookie that scored 10 touchdowns despite missing three games and playing for Jeff Fisher.
  • Latavius Murray – Basically didn’t get fat or miss time due to injury.

DECIPHERING THE DATA

What does this all mean? The one obvious observation is the injuries, but the league has taken notice and adjusted. Since 2005, there have been 56 running backs that received 300+ carries in a season. Below is the number of running backs who received 300+ carries in each season:

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
10 9 6 5 7 7 2 5 2 2 1

There are so many variables that could skew our endeavor to predict the final top 10 fantasy running backs, yet we try. That one nugget of information could be floating around in the air like the elusive butterfly. If we can find it, could it contort the odds to our favor?

I will try. Although frustrating at times, this is much more fun than throwing darts at a board. Plus, when certain scenarios do play out as I “forecasted,” I can feel a sense of pride. A false sense of pride, but pride nonetheless. What fun is patting the back of the dart board?

Here are some general things that I’ve observed from this endeavor:

 RED FLAGS  POSSIBLE BREAKOUT
 Prior injury  Show glimpses in prior year
 High carry load  Handcuff situation/RBBC
 Loss of offensive lineman  New team/scheme
 Coach/scheme change  Rookie year
 Sophomore slump  Bounce back from injury
 YPC decrease  Improved offensive line
 Hold out for new contract
 Bulk up but lose short-yardage work


The one and only true thing that I learned from this excercise was that LaDainian Tomlinson was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

Below is my attempt to predict the top 10 running backs for 2016 from delving into the past.

PREDICTING THE TOP 10 RBS IN 2016

2016 ADP (As of 7/29/16)

  1. Todd Gurley
  2. Ezekiel Elliott
  3. Le’Veon Bell
  4. David Johnson
  5. Adrian Peterson
  6. Lamar Miller
  7. Devonta Freeman
  8. Jamaal Charles
  9. Mark Ingram
  10. Doug Martin

Since ADP usually only predicts 50% of the final list, I’ve put in bold those five that I feel will finish in the top 10. The five that I think will be most likely to fall out of the top 10 are:

PRIOR INJURY: Bell has missed 13 games so far in his three-year career. He’s slated to miss the first four games of 2016. SCHEME CHANGE: There’s been chatter that both Bell and Williams will be in the backfield at the same time. In addition, Williams proved more than capable filling in for Bell last year. Will the volume be there for Bell? MISC: There’s no question about the talent, but there are definitely issues regarding maturity. I’m all for the ganja, but in order to play the game, he’s got to play the game. The first suspension wasn’t enough to change his ways. I know how hard it is to quit, so the risk of another suspension is real. If you don’t believe me, just look what happened to his teammate, Martavis Bryant.

SOPHOMORE SLUMP: Technically, this will be Freeman’s third year, but he only received 65 carries his rookie year. Freeman was amazing last year, rushing for 11 touchdowns and catching 73 passes. Those are lofty numbers that will be hard to replicate. SCHEME CHANGE: Freeman received his opportunity mainly due to the Tevin Coleman injury. Coleman is healthy and all signs point to him being more involved. As with Bell above, will the volume be there for Freeman to maintain top 10 status?

PRIOR INJURY: Two ACL surgeries and multiple ankle injuries. Has missed 28 games in his eight-year career. Charles turns 30 at the end of this year. After ACL surgery in 2011, Charles had a great 2012 year: 285 rushes, 1,509 yards, five rushing touchdowns, and 35 receptions. 2013 season was even better: 259 rushes, 1,287 yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, and 70 receptions on 104 targets. With that said, that was three years ago and before he tore his ACL a second time. I love Charles and hope the best for him, but I’d be very worried about his health and production.

PRIOR INJURY: Ingram has played 16 games once in his five-year career. In all, he’s missed 18 games. He’s eclipsed the 200-carry threshold once and has never rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season. It’s a shame because the Saints’ offense provides so many opportunities to score.

PRIOR INJURY: Missed 10 games in 2013 and five games in 2014. NEW CONTRACT: Was rewarded with a five-year, $35.75 million contract in the offseason. Jonathan Bales wrote a little something something on the topic back in 2014.

Now for the replacements:

NEW SCHEME: Chip Kelly brings his offense to the Bay. Here are the rushing attempts for each year Kelly has been in the NFL: 500 (3rd), 474 (7th), and 443 (11th). Granted, those numbers are trending in the wrong direction, but I’m not too concerned. For one, we all know that Kelly wants to run as many plays as possible, so there is a volume floor there. Two, this will be the first year that Kelly will have a running back that is comfortable in his scheme. LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray did not fit, but Hyde ran a similar scheme while at Ohio State. Three, Blaine Gabbert is the presumptive starter at quarterback. Even if the 49ers fall behind, they are not going to ask Gabbert to shoulder the load. At least I hope they don’t, unless I’m streaming the opposing defense. BOUNCE BACK FROM INJURY: Hyde missed nine games last year due to injury. This may be depressing his stock some. If y’all forgot how good Hyde is, here you go.

IMPROVED OFFENSIVE LINE: PFF’s Nathan Jahnke wrote the Raiders could own the best offensive line in 2016. Donald Penn and Austin Howard manning the tackles, Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson beasting at the guard positions, and Rodney Hudson holding it all together at center makes for beautiful music in Raiders Nation. SHOWED GLIMPSES LAST YEAR: While Murray wasn’t a stud, he did flash his size/speed potential. Remember, 2015 was his first full season carrying the load, and we thought Devonta Freeman was a bum after his rookie year. JJ Zachariason wrote, Murray might not be good, but it also might not matter. DeAndre Washington should have a role, especially in the passing game, but as long as Murray stays healthy, the situation is ripe for success.

NEW SCHEME: Having a healthy Andrew Luck provides a new scheme for Gore to play in. Last season was the first time in Gore’s 11-year career that he rushed for under 4.0 YPC. I think Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst had a lot to do with that. There’s been chatter of rookie Josh Ferguson taking over. I’m not buying it. As long as Gore is healthy, he’s going to be on the field, especially since he is such a good pass blocker. IMPROVED OFFENSIVE LINE: Ryan Kelly was selected with the 18th pick in the NFL Draft from Alabama and is slated to start at center immediately. Joe Philbin was hired to lead the offensive line. Philbin is much-maligned for his tenure as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, but he had success as the offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers from 2007-2011.

BULK UP BUT LOSE GOAL LINE CARRIES: Jeremy Langford is atop the Bears depth chart currently. He was bad last year. Mike Clay broke it down perfectly here. Langford has stated that he added around eight pounds of muscle in the offseason. The Bears drafted Howard, and he is expected to compete for goal line carries. Steve Slaton was the last running back that added weight and lost goal line carries. That didn’t end well. I’m not saying that is going to happen to Langford, but bulking up usually doesn’t work out and losing goal line carries is lost opportunities. ROOKIE: We all know that running back is the easiest position for a rookie to make an impact. Many had Howard as one of the top running backs in the 2016 class. Since 2007, a Fox-coached team has been in the Top 10 for rushing attempts six times. The other three years the team placed 15th, 11th, and 12th. Point is, the Bears are going to run the ball. IMPROVED OFFENSIVE LINE: Bobby Massie was acquired in free agency and he will man the right tackle position. This allows Kyle Long to return to the guard spot. The Bears drafted guard Cody Whitehair and he is primed to start from the get go.

BOUNCE BACK FROM INJURY: McCoy missed four games due to injury last season. Prior to that, he had missed six games in six seasons. RBBC: Or possibly lack of. Karlos Williams is now on the roster bubble, rookie Jonathan Williams was arrested for DWI earlier this month, and Mike Gillislee looks to be the primary backup. The Bills ran the ball 509 times last season, second only to the Carolina Panthers. If McCoy can stay healthy, the opportunity is there for a big year.

The landscape of fantasy football is always changing, with new information, new strategies, and new players entering the fray. The “Upside-down” and “Zero RB” strategies probably arose when someone noticed that running backs get injured…a lot. As a result, locking up the elite wide receivers and mining upside running backs became a very viable and “safe” strategy. What if you could gain an edge in predicting the top 10 running backs? It would provide so much flexibility in draft strategy and would usher in a new host of drafting paradigms. Whether it’s possible or not, we must continue to explore the edges of our fantasy football universe. Maybe future generations will discover the information from the fifth dimensions and beyond.

Stan Son is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Stan, check out his archive and follow him @Stan_Son.


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14David Johnson (ARI)RB
15Michael Thomas (NO)WR
16Travis Kelce (KC)TE
17Nick Chubb (CLE)RB
18Dalvin Cook (MIN)RB
19JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT)WR
20Antonio Brown (OAK)WR
21George Kittle (SF)TE
22Mike Evans (TB)WR
23Zach Ertz (PHI)TE
24Tyreek Hill (KC)WR
25A.J. Green (CIN)WR
26T.Y. Hilton (IND)WR
27Patrick Mahomes (KC)QB
28Leonard Fournette (JAC)RB
29Aaron Jones (GB)RB
30Keenan Allen (LAC)WR
1Mike Trout (LAA)CF,DH
2Mookie Betts (BOS)CF,RF
3Christian Yelich (MIL)LF,CF
4Nolan Arenado (COL)3B
5Max Scherzer (WSH)SP
6J.D. Martinez (BOS)LF,RF
7Jose Ramirez (CLE)2B,3B
8Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL)LF,CF
9Alex Bregman (HOU)3B,SS
10Jose Altuve (HOU)2B
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11Bryce Harper (PHI)CF,RF
12Manny Machado (SD)3B,SS
13Trevor Story (COL)SS
14Jacob deGrom (NYM)SP
15Justin Verlander (HOU)SP
16Paul Goldschmidt (STL)1B
17Javier Baez (CHC)2B,3B
18Freddie Freeman (ATL)1B
19Francisco Lindor (CLE)SS
20Charlie Blackmon (COL)CF
21Cody Bellinger (LAD)1B,CF
22Aaron Judge (NYY)RF,DH
23Gerrit Cole (HOU)SP
24Trevor Bauer (CLE)SP
25Blake Snell (TB)SP
26Anthony Rendon (WSH)3B
27Andrew Benintendi (BOS)LF,CF
28Chris Sale (BOS)SP
29Whit Merrifield (KC)1B,2B
30Corey Kluber (CLE)SP
1Anthony Davis (NOR)PF,C
2James Harden (HOU)PG,SG
3Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)SF,PF
4Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)C
5Kevin Durant (GSW)SF,PF
6LeBron James (LAL)SF,PF
7Stephen Curry (GSW)PG,SG
8Nikola Jokic (DEN)PF,C
9Damian Lillard (POR)PG
10Russell Westbrook (OKC)PG
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11Victor Oladipo (IND)PG,SG
12Paul George (OKC)SG,SF
13Joel Embiid (PHI)PF,C
14Kawhi Leonard (TOR)SG,SF
15Chris Paul (HOU)PG
16Jimmy Butler (PHI)SG,SF
17Kemba Walker (CHA)PG
18Kyrie Irving (BOS)PG,SG
19Ben Simmons (PHI)PG,SF
20Jrue Holiday (NOR)PG,SG
21Rudy Gobert (UTH)C
22Andre Drummond (DET)PF,C
23John Wall (WAS)PG
24Kyle Lowry (TOR)PG
25Khris Middleton (MIL)SG,SF
26Donovan Mitchell (UTH)PG,SG
27Bradley Beal (WAS)SG
28Kevin Love (CLE)PF,C
29Draymond Green (GSW)PF,C
30LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS)PF,C
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