Moving on to the workhorse position in the NFL the running backs, this position is more clearly defined than any of the others when it comes to their tier rankings. There is a clear handful of RB’s that set themselves ahead of the rest like Ezekiel Elliott, Saquan Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, and LeVeon Bell. Alvin Kamara also looks to place himself into that category of elite running backs with his first year as the full-on starter after the Saints moved on from Ingram. Melvin Gordon could also make a great case to be included in a list like this, but I have him as the first in the next tier of running backs that are not far from this elite status though have not quite reached that top level of production. This list won’t have any of those guys on it though one guy will come up with a potential breakout of his back up if anything keeps this particular running back off the field for an extended period of time. Now when you say breakout or bust I feel you need to define those terms so people don’t think your wacko and breakout to me is simple enough, ” a player that well exceeds his projections “. A bust, on the other hand, is not quite as black and white a bust could come in all forms like a guy projecting to be an RB1 and finishes outside the top 15 RB in fantasy scoring, or a rookie that’s suppose to come in and be an instant starter, but can’t beat out an average at best running back in front of him. Some of the players I will touch on in this article end up in my low tier 2 and tier 3 normally, but a couple of guys are in a perfect situation to finally make a leap in production with new teams or a new coach allowing for some fresh perspective. Every year people hope to find the darling no one saw, guys like Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, or even an aging AP in Washington. The reality of finding these guys anymore gets harder with all the extended coverage of the NFL and the rookies entering the league.
Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers
2018 Rushing Stats – 133 – 728 – 8TD 2018 Receiving Stats – 26 – 206 – 1TD
Aaron Jones is one of the first to mind this year with a new coach who could finally get the most out of Aaron Jones with a full offseason and all 16 games. Jones quietly scored 8 TD’s and had 723 rushing yards after missing the first 4 weeks of the season and also only ran the ball 4 times the last week against the bears being the season was basically over. Aaron Jones has huge upside showing flashes of his speed and quickness averaging a rediculous 5.5 yards per attempt with the limited attempts he did get in McCarthy’s offense, and having a QB like Aaron Rodgers at the helm pleading with coaches to get Jones the ball more he is well-positioned to have a huge year. Packers new head coach Matt LaFleur has already laid the groundwork for more of a run game making comments like, “run the ball then let Aaron Rodgers go play!” Lafleur also has seemed to make all involved happy when talking about the outside-zone running scheme he intends to deploy and the players seem to be very excited hoping this will also open up passing lanes as well. Wrapping up my prediction for Aaron Jones is simple I think he cracks the top 10 in fantasy scoring for RB’s in 2019.
“When you bring 33 back on the field like we did last week, you kind of forget the type of dynamic abilities he can bring to a game with his running style, Rodgers said. “He’s a different type of runner than we’ve had here in a while. You’ve gotta find ways to get him the ball.”Aaron Rodgers on what Aaron Jones ( 33 ) brings to the Green Bay Packers offense after his return.
Tevin Coleman – San Francisco 49ers
2018 Rushing Stats – 167 – 800 – 4TD 2018 Receiving Stats – 32 – 276 – 5TD
Tevin Coleman has mostly been stuck in an offense that wanted to use 2 different backs while in Atlanta and Coleman has always seemed to make the best of the opportunities he does get when called upon. This offseason he was signed by a familiar face as the 49ers signed Coleman to a 2 year deal worth $10 million re uniting Coleman with former coach Kyle Shanahan. Coleman was a huge part of the Falcons super Bowl run in 2016 amassing 11 TD’s as the Falcons came up just short of a title. Coleman has had a very good career in Atlanta posting better numbers year after year as he was given more touches, one thing to note Coleman averaged 4.4 yards a carry and just over 13 yards a reception during the 2 years Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. The only thing that gives me somewhat of a pause with Coleman would have to be all the RB depth in San Fran, McKinnon is coming back from an ACL injury and Brieda has seemed to never look back after getting the lead role at running back turning heads with his stellar play and amazing toughness. Coleman does not have the injury problems over the last couple years like these other 2 running backs which leads me to think he will get the bulk of the playing time. Coleman has to be the one guy I am really watching this year if he can take the lead position from the start he may very easily be a top 10 running back this year with the 49ers.
Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings
2018 Rushing Stats – 133 – 615 – 2TD 2018 Receiving Stats – 40 – 305 – 2TD
Dalvin Cook is a prime candidate for a breakout player especially in that nasty offense they have put together in Minnesota. Cook has been an average running back thus far in his 2 years in the NFL with 2018 only producing 613 yards on 133 carries, however in Cook’s defense one of those years was due to a bad injury and this year he looks to be the lead back with no one to take more than rest carries from his load. It still remains to be seen if Cook can take on the role of workhorse running back and remain healthy through the process, though he sure does look ready to take on that role. If Cook can manage to put together a consistent season of performances he has shown us in flashes thus far the sky is the limit on what he could produce with the added value of a good receiver out of the backfield. Last year Cook just didn’t seem to get things going in a lot of games and it wasn’t just him the Minnesota offense just looked average at times, which is insane considering the level of talent that is stacked all over that offense. When it comes to Dalvin Cook I just really want to see him have a monster year as much as I talked about him when the Vikings drafted him in the 2017 NFL draft ( mainly because I wanted the Bucs to take him earlier that round ). Dalvin Cook has all the tools and the perfect offense to be a top 5 RB in the NFL and I have a gut feeling 2019 may be the Dalvin Cook show taking Minnesota deep into the playoffs.
Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions
2018 Rushing Stats – 118 – 641- 3TD 2018 Receiving Stats – 32 – 213 – 1TD
Kerryon Johnson is another I Feel is poised to have a breakout year it just seems right he has all the tools to be a terrific running back in the NFL. The lions look to have a way better season than last year’s very weak performance and I would wager that Kerryon Johnson will be a huge factor in the Lions offensive scheme in 2019. Detroit did add some depth in veteran CJ Anderson, but I don’t believe he is anything more than that, talented depth when needed. Johnson played in only 10 games last year and still managed to put together an ok rookie year with 118 rushes for 641 yards and 3 TDs with a whopping 5.4 yards a carry average. Johnson also adds the ability to be a very good receiver out of the backfield hauling in 32 of 39 targets for 213 yards and a TD on what was mainly dump-offs rather than designed passes. So long as Johnson can stay healthy through the year he should be a solid fantasy option in what hopes to be a Detroit Lions offense much improved from last year. The Lions have very good receiver play from both Marvin Jones and fellow youngster Kenny Golladay which will only help open things up for Kerryon to showcase his speed and elusiveness.
Honorable Mention… Austin Ekeler (IF GORDON HOLDOUT SPILLS INTO SEASON)
Austin Ekeler is going to get a mention on here I believe he has the tools to be a very good starting running back in the NFL, and if this Gordon holdout spills into the season he could see a huge uptick in carries. Justin Jackson will no doubt end up with some carries as well, but the bulk load will go to Ekeler. In the limited touches while sharing a backfield with Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler has flashed his potential posting very good stats for a #2 running back. In his 2 years so far with the Chargers he has 153 carries 814 yards and 5 TDs with a 5.3 yards/carry average. Ekeler is also a very good receiver out of the backfield hauling in 66 receptions 683 yards and 6 TDs with an outstanding 10.4 yards/catch average over these last 2 years.