Running Backs Expected to See More Touches (2019 Fantasy Football)
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This year’s group of RBs offers some big names at the top, followed by a sharp drop-off after the elite players. That’s why it’s especially important to recognize the backs who could see increased production in 2019. Every year, some rushers become more valuable with a higher snap count or more targets from the previous season. Let’s take a look at eight RBs who fit the bill and could be in store for an expected workload increase.
Rashaad Penny (SEA)
Seattle’s first-round rookie underwhelmed in 2018 while teammate Chris Carson tallied a career-high 1,151 rushing yards and nine TDs. Even though he was out-touched nearly 3-1 by Carson, Penny’s 85/419/2 line showed signs of encouragement with 4.9 yards per carry. Penny’s health and conditioning were called into question last season, but reports indicate he’ll be ready for an expanded role in 2019. With pass-catching specialist Mike Davis gone, Penny should see more work as a receiver, where he is superior to Carson. Expect a bump in both snaps and targets for Penny this season.
Tevin Coleman (SF)
Coleman headed to San Francisco after spending four productive years in Atlanta. Last season, he put together a career-high 1,076 scrimmage yards to finish as an RB2. Coleman has accumulated at least 900 scrimmage yards and eight total TDs over the last three seasons, averaging 30 receptions in that same span. Locked into a timeshare with Devonta Freeman, he made the most of his opportunities with a 5.4 yards-per-touch average.
Unfortunately, Coleman will face a timeshare once again, splitting touches with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida. McKinnon is recovering from a torn ACL and Breida dealt with a laundry list of injuries last season, leaving Coleman to handle a lot of the first-team reps this summer. Although McKinnon and Coleman will likely split work fairly evenly in 2019, Coleman seems to have the inside track at the lead job. Regardless of another possible timeshare, Coleman will receive an increase in snaps and targets from a season ago, and his workload could expand even further if McKinnon misses any time.
Kerryon Johnson (DET)
Johnson was one of the most efficient rookie backs last season, averaging 5.7 yards per touch on just 150 touches. His 854 yards were impressive considering his limited involvement, but Johnson’s workload is ready to expand in 2019. He split touches with LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick last season, and Detroit released both. Riddick, the team’s top pass-catching back, averaged 62 receptions over the last four years. Johnson should absorb most of that work, as backups C.J. Anderson and Zach Zenner are not renowned receivers out of the backfield. Anderson may be in line for some cleanup duty, but Johnson will be the feature back this season and could push for 20 touches a game.
David Johnson (ARI)
Johnson finished as the RB10 in half-PPR scoring leagues last season despite being sorely underutilized by the Cardinals’ coaching staff. He’s just three years removed from an MVP-caliber campaign in which he went for 2,118 scrimmage yards and 20 TDs on 373 touches. Last season he totaled 308 touches, but only caught 50 passes and finished with 1,386 scrimmage yards. In first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury’s air-raid offense, expect Johnson to be employed properly as a pass-catching back and push for a top-five RB finish. His snap count may go up, but his target count is sure to rise in this offense, particularly when rookie Kyler Murray looks for a check-down option.
Kalen Ballage (MIA)
Miami is in the first year of the post-Adam Gase regime, and the new coaching staff may want to see what it’s got with some of the young talents on the roster. Miami won’t compete for a championship, let alone a playoff spot this season, and Kenyan Drake is in the final year of his contract. It’s a perfect storm for Ballage to get a major boost in snaps. Last year, he saw only 45 total touches as a rookie, but he flashed upside with a 12/123/1 rushing line in Week 15 against the Vikings. He could be a sneaky late-round pick if Miami deploys a timeshare again, but Ballage would be a huge value if Drake were to miss any time.
Ronald Jones (TB)
After a disappointing 2018 rookie season that had many calling him a bust, Jones has made significant strides in the offseason. He’s earned the praise of new head coach Bruce Arians, who will look to install a new offensive scheme in his first year with the Buccaneers. Similar to Ballage, Jones is in a situation with a new coach who should be incentivized to test his young back, especially with Peyton Barber on just a one-year deal. Arians has coached some highly successful fantasy backs in his career, most recently David Johnson in 2016. Jones can be productive if he makes the most of his opportunities. He only received 30 touches last season, so there’s nowhere to go but up for the USC product.
Mark Ingram (BAL)
Ingram played in a timeshare with Alvin Kamara last season. While New Orleans’ offense supported two high-end RBs in 2017, it was a different story in 2018. Ingram served a four-game suspension to start the season. In the ensuing 12 games, he only averaged 13.2 touches — his fewest per game since 2013.
He signed a three-year, $15 million contract to join Baltimore’s run-heavy offense and will be a welcomed upgrade over the tandem of Alex Collins and Gus Edwards trotted out by the Ravens last season. Though Baltimore drafted Justice Hill, Ingram figures to see a featured role, and he’s proven that he can be a three-down back. Even if Hill and QB Lamar Jackson steal some carries from Ingram, Baltimore led the league in rushes per game with 33.5 in 2018. There’s plenty of work to go around. Ingram can be safely penciled in for at least 15 touches per contest.
Damien Williams (KC)
Probably the most obvious name on this list, Williams should be in for a massive increase in snaps as he assumes a starting role. The former Dolphins’ third-down back will open the season as Kansas City’s starter and potentially take on a workhorse job. He figures to build on a fantastic finish to last season in which he totaled 572 scrimmage yards and eight TDs over the final five games, including two dominant playoff performances.
Williams has never recorded more than 73 touches in a single season, but that is sure to change in 2019 as he vies for an RB1 finish (for a more in-depth look at Williams’ outlook, click here). From Kareem Hunt to Jamaal Charles to LeSean McCoy, Andy Reid has a history of producing high-end fantasy RBs. Williams should set a new career-high in single-season touches within the first month.