2015 College Fantasy Football RBs
2015 College Fantasy Football RBs:
Rankings, Profiles and Projections
The Gridiron Scholar
Summa Cum Laude
1. Nick Chubb, Georgia
While there is no questioning the talent of former Bulldog Todd Gurley, a rock-solid argument could be made that Nick Chubb performed better for coach Mark Richt last season. The newest Georgia star earned SEC Freshman of the Year and First Team All-SEC honors after rushing for 1,571 yards, averaging an astonishing 7.1 yards per carry and scoring 16 touchdowns. Chubb started seven games in place of Gurley and surpassed 100-yards rushing in eight contests, recording a career-high 266 against Louisville, the nation’s second-ranked run defense, in the Belk Bowl. A compact athlete at 5’10” and 220 pounds, the sophomore sensation has a non-stop motor with raw power and remarkable vision and is hard to tackle. Utilizing quick moves and owning breakaway speed, he can elude defenders with very good balance and great lateral cuts. An underrated pass catcher, Chubb corralled 18 receptions and averaged 11.8 yards per grab. Even the legendary Heisman running back Herschel Walker has been “amazed” with Chubb’s athletic abilities. During the offseason, the future first-round pick labored with heavy sleds while wearing weighted vests in anticipation of a much larger workload in 2015. Draft Chubb early and enjoy the weekly production throughout the upcoming CFF season.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,950 and 15
Receiving Yards and TDs: 350 and 3
Total Fantasy Points: 338
2. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech
Very quietly, Kenneth Dixon has put together an All-American career. As a freshman in 2012, he burst onto the scene with 28 touchdowns, which led the nation, and over 1,100 yards rushing. Last season, Dixon bounced back after a disappointing sophomore campaign. He became the only FBS player with a touchdown rushing and receiving over 80 yards while scoring 28 times. Heading into his fourth and final crusade, the Bulldog battering ram is the all-time leader in rushing yards (3,410) and touchdowns (61) at Louisiana Tech. An instinctual and determined runner, Dixon has uncanny balance and eludes defenders with shake-and-bake moves: He also delivers and absorbs blows with his head and shoulders. Dixon is effective in traffic and on the perimeter. A dual-threat back, he runs good routes with soft hands. During his tenure, Dixon has eclipsed the 100-yard barrier 17 times and three times surpassed 200. Coach Skip Holtz knows that the key to his club’s success is the ability to get the ball into the hands of his senior game breaker and fantasy owners concur.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,380 and 26
Receiving Yards and TDs: 400 and 4
Total Fantasy Points: 358
3. Devon Johnson, Marshall
Last summer, Devon Johnson made a transformation that is rarely attempted in football: He moved from tight end to running back. At 6’1” and 246 pounds, the hulking runner finished sixth in the FBS with 1,767 rushing yards and scored 17 touchdowns while averaging 8.6 yards per carry. He also set a school single-game rushing record with 272 against Florida Atlantic and eclipsed the century mark on the ground 10 times. Teammates affectionately call the All-Conference USA First Teamer “Rockhead” for his bashing style and blocking ability. Late in the season, a shoulder injury hindered Johnson’s production and required surgery during the offseason. While not being able to fully participate during spring drills, the senior has watched lots of film and worked on lowering his pads when confronting tacklers. And in order to limit upper-body hits, he wants to sink his hips upon contact. Can the senior bruiser improve on last year’s numbers? Looking at the Herd’s stress-free schedule, it appears that Johnson can easily bulldoze his way to nearly 2,000 yards.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,880 and 19
Receiving Yards and TDs: 250 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 339
4. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
“Optimus” Perine might be the best nickname in college football. The fanciful freshman broke the FBS single-game rushing record with a devastating performance against Kansas, rambling for 427 yards and scoring five times. Amazingly, the 5’11” and 237-pound bowling ball wasn’t even the top-rated runner enrolled at Oklahoma in 2014. Most college fans anxiously awaited the arrival of five-star prospect Joe Mixon on campus. After totaling over 1,700 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, Perine is slated atop the depth chart and will likely keep Mixon in a relief role for the Sooners. The Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year surpassed 200 yards three times, scored over two touchdowns in five contests and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. A four-star recruit, Perine posses a rare combination of speed, size and vision: The sizzling sophomore also has a low-center of gravity and runs with power and balance. While Sooner fans dream of a fourth Heisman ball carrier in the school’s storied history, CFF diehards will be more than satisfied with similar production to last season.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,850 and 18
Receiving Yards and TDs: 200 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 319
5. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
During the postseason last year, the Ohio State star enjoyed a three-game stretch for the ages: Ezekiel Elliott rambled for 696 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while leading the Buckeyes to the National Championship. The accolades continued throughout the offseason. He was selected to the Academic All-Big Ten and named AAU Sullivan Award as the country’s most outstanding amateur athlete. At 6’0” and 225 pounds, Elliott presents enormous headaches for defensive coordinators in coach Urban Meyer’s explosive attack. The Buckeye runner is difficult to tackle in one-on-one situations and deadly once a seam opens, exploding into the secondary. His hard-charging running style is complimented with excellent vision, speed and quickness. A tough competitor, the junior played the 2014 campaign with a fractured left wrist and had surgery in February. Four offensive linemen return this fall, including two First Team All-Big Ten selections, and the offensive skill positions are loaded with home run hitters. The Buckeyes ride Elliott all the way to consecutive CFP appearances, as should CFF owners.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,900 and 20
Receiving Yards and TDs: 250 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 341
6. James Connor, Pittsburgh
Former coach Paul Chryst loved to pound the pigskin and wear defenses down, and James Connor exceled in the Pittsburgh ground game last season. How dominant was the Panthers’ brawler? He earned ACC Player of the Year honors over Jameis Winston, who was the first overall pick in the draft. Connor was also named as a First Team All-American last year. He eclipsed the 200-yard mark in three contests and scored three or more touchdowns in six games. At 6’2” and 250 pounds, Connor punished opponents, gaining 1,765 rushing yards and scoring an ACC-record 26 touchdowns. He established new Pitt single-season records for total TDs and points (156), breaking Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett’s 38-year old marks. An upright runner, Connor excels between the tackles and welcomes contact. A patient ball carrier, the bruising Panther follows his blocks well and explodes into the open field. Possibly, the junior tailback is the most imposing runner in college football. Connor can undoubtedly anchor any CFF coach’s backfield this season.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,600 and 20
Receiving Yards and TDs: 80 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 294
7. Kareem Hunt, Toledo
Only CFF diehards know how good of a game breaker Kareem Hunt was last season. The All-MAC selection produced over 100 yards rushing in all ten games that he played and averaged 8.0 yards per carry. In the GoDaddy Bowl victory, Hunt torched Arkansas State for 271 yards and five touchdowns to close an incredible campaign in which he totaled 1,639 rushing yards with 16 touchdowns. However, looking over the 2015 team roster, astute owners will be apprehensive: The entire offensive line must be replaced and the quarterback position is still in flux without a clear-cut starter. In the offseason, the 5’11” and 220-pounder was clocked in the forty at 4.49 and squatted 500 pounds. It would be hyperbole to compare Hunt with his boyhood idol Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. Nonetheless, there are similarities. Hunt easily bounces off tacklers and dips and spins to keep the run alive. Also, he does not go down without a struggle. The Rocket runner is worthy of a first-round selection in CFF drafts this summer.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,750 and 15
Receiving Yards and TDs: 100 and 0
Total Fantasy Points: 285
8. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
Lacking an adequate passing attack, the Aztecs relied on Donnel Pumphrey to move the chains, and he responded with a stupendous season in 2014. The sophomore star sprinted for a school-record 1,867 yards and scored 20 touchdowns while averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He eclipsed the 100-yard barrier in all but two games and even surpassed 200 yards twice. After two terms on the gridiron, the North Las Vegas native has become one of the elite ball carriers in college football. Standing at 5’9” with a 170-pound frame, Pumphrey is a squat-and-shifty, speed back who runs well inside or outside. He relies on good vision, balance and lateral ability in order to elude tacklers and hit a home run. He needs another 381 yards to become only the fourth Aztec (Marshall Faulk, Larry Ned and Ronnie Hillman) to exceed 3,000 career-rushing yards. The slippery and elusive junior tailback is likely to repeat as the Mountain West Conference’s top rusher, and CFF fans would be ecstatic with another strong performance.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,750 and 18
Receiving Yards and TDs: 250 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 320
9. Corey Clement, Wisconsin
In the 1970s, Penn State became known as linebacker U., and Miami earned the quarterback-factory label with Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde the following decade. Currently, Wisconsin is the running back penthouse. In five of the last six seasons, the Badgers have produced a 1,500-yard ball carrier, and 2004 was the last campaign in which Wisconsin did not roster a 1,000-yard runner. After playing second fiddle to All-American Melvin Gordon last year, Corey Clement now steps onto the stage as the lead actor. In 2014, he nearly rambled for 1,000 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on only 161 touches. With quick feet and shifty moves, the junior weaves through tight windows, bursting free in traffic. A determined competitor, the New Jersey native employs stiff arms to ward off tacklers and possesses above-average hands as a pass catcher. New coach Paul Chryst’s offensive philosophy begins with a dominant run game and a dependable workhorse advancing the pigskin. At Pittsburgh last year, Chryst made a star of RB James Connor, and Clement is next in line. With three new starters on the offensive line and an unstable situation at quarterback, there are concerns. Nevertheless, CFF followers should not waiver when drafting the next feature back in Madison: Expect another breathtaking season in 2015.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,580 and 20
Receiving Yards and TDs: 200 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 310
10. Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Last year’s freshmen runners are arguably the deepest group in college football history: Nick Chubb, Samaje Perine, Royce Freeman, Jarvion Franklin, Leonard Fournette, Justin Jackson and Dalvin Cook. Five sophomores rank among the top 16 tailbacks available in CFF drafts this summer and will significantly impact fantasy rosters. Franklin’s incredible first-year campaign propels him among the top ten in 2015. He became the first player in MAC history to win both Rookie of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year honors in the same season. His 1,551 rushing yards ranked second in the nation among freshmen and he set a school-record with 24 rushing touchdowns. In seven of his first nine collegiate contests, he totaled over 149 yards and a touchdown, including six games with three touchdowns. At 6’0” and 220 pounds, Franklin wants to avoid the sophomore slump and worked on becoming stronger both physically and mentally in the offseason. To open the upcoming campaign, Western Michigan hosts Michigan State and travels to Ohio State, which do not bode well for huge ground totals. However, when the Broncos begin conference play, Franklin’s statistics will mirror last year’s numbers.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,450 and 17
Receiving Yards and TDs: 200 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 279
Magna Cum Laude
11. Devontae Booker, Utah
A junior college transfer, Devontae Booker made an immediate impact on the Utah offense last season. A tough inside runner with underestimated speed, he was named to the First Team All PAC-12 after rushing for 1,512 yards and scoring 12 times. Booker also caught 43 passes and seven times posted over 100 yards on the ground. Against PAC-12 competition, he completely subjugated antagonists: Oregon State (229), Washington State (178), Colorado State (162), UCLA (156), Arizona State (146), Arizona (142) and USC (102). Booker considered moving onto the NFL but decided to return to Utah after the NFL’s advisory board recommended that he go “back to school” and CFF owners are elated. Coach Kyle Whittingham believes that his senior tailback will flirt with 2,000 yards and become a nationally recognized name. Watching Booker ramble, comparisons to Marshawn Lynch are not unwarranted: He makes tacklers whiff in the open field and runs over defenders. With soft hands, Booker is the whole package as a player and runs well inside and outside. With eight returning starters on offense, the Utes stellar runner has plenty of partners to open holes for the ground game in 2015.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,750 and 11
Receiving Yards and TDs: 430 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 296
12. Royce Freeman, Oregon
Royce Freeman, one of the fantastic freshmen runners last season, exploded on the CFF scene with 1,365 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. The Dynamic Duck eclipsed 100-yards rushing in six games, averaged 5.4 yards per carry and corralled 16 passes. Coach Mark Helfrich has asked Freeman, a quiet competitor, to become a more vocal leader in practices during the spring. Offensive coordinator Scott Frost wants to incorporate Freeman in the aerial assault more often; the versatile game breaker garnered more repetitions as a slot receiver throughout the spring. At 5’11” and 230 pounds, Freeman is a powerful runner with stupendous vision. He is a mess for defenders to deal with between the tackles and a nightmare in one-on-one opportunities on the perimeter. Oregon lost Heisman winner Marcus Mariota behind center, three All-Americans and three members of the offensive line; therefore, CFF owners must be apprehensive in regard to Freeman’s upside. And an abundance of talent at the skill positions limits the number of touches for Freeman. Astute diehards will select the Ducks’ top playmaker as a second tailback on their roster with confidence that the Heisman hopeful reaches national prominence.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,300 and 17
Receiving Yards and TDs: 450 and 3
Total Fantasy Points: 295
13. Leon Allen, Western Kentucky
Coach Jeff Brohm orchestrated one of the most relentless offensive attacks in college football last year: The Hilltoppers set or tied 50 offensive team and individual marks. The dynamic duo of quarterback Brandon Doughty and running back Leon Allen frustrated defensive coordinators all season. Allen took over the starting tailback position last year and rambled for 1,542 yards and 13 touchdowns. The senior bulldozer surpassed the 100-yard mark only six times. Upon closer inspection of the numbers, over a third of his rushing total came in two games against Army and Marshall, gaining 345 and 237 yards respectfully. Unfortunately, off-the-field challenges bring warning clouds over the senior’s outlook on the gridiron. During the spring, the police twice arrested Allen for alcohol intoxication in a public place, and he was Tased once while jailed. He did not participate in spring practices, and neither Western Kentucky officials nor the coaching staff has handed down potential penalties yet. The talent and ability indicate a stellar season ahead; however, CFF fanatics must monitor news updates closely throughout the summer.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,420 and 12
Receiving Yards and TDs: 400 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 266
14. Leonard Fournette, LSU
At Baton Rouge, the LSU faithful have waited over 50 years for a Tiger competitor to capture the Heisman Trophy. In 2015, sophomore Leonard Fournette has the best chance to bring the hardware back to campus in years. Ranked as a top-rated recruit among high school runners in 2013, the explosive game breaker displaced senior Terrence Magee last year and proceeded to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier with 10 touchdowns as a true freshman. Fournette flashed his incredible potential in the Music City Bowl when he scored three times, including a spectacular 100-yard kickoff return. During the offseason, he lost five pounds and is now sculpted at 6’1” and 225. A terrorizing size-and-speed combo, Fournette has been timed at 4.30 in the forty and the bludgeoning back lowers shoulder pads, employs spin-and-dip moves, and jumps over opponents. A father, Fournette is a mature 20-year old, and the coaching staff believes that he can handle the Heisman hype. The greatest obstacle to receive an invite to New York might be coach Les Miles, who has not emphasized a single ball carrier in the past. The risk-to-reward quotient warrants a second running back roster spot for CFF managers.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,450 and 14
Receiving Yards and TDs: 220 and 0
Total Fantasy Points: 251
15. Paul Perkins, UCLA
Despite leading the PAC-12 in rushing last season, Paul Perkins has been overlooked by most fans across the nation. The redshirt junior rambled for 1,575 yards, the second-highest total in school history, and scored nine touchdowns. An underrated catcher, he has procured 50 passes for 497 yards during the past two seasons. Against conference-rival Cal in October, Perkins scored twice on key receptions, helping secure a two-point victory. In the Valero Alamo Bowl, Perkins steamrolled Kansas State for 194 yards on only 20 carries and scored two touchdowns. The Bruins lost three-year starter Brett Hundley behind center; however, the offense is still stout. Four starting linemen, who should open holes for Perkins and the ground game, return up front. A modest athlete, the 5’11”, 198-pounder has been requested to fill the leadership role on the offense and take his game to the next level as a runner. Perkins begins the season as a long shot (20-1 odds) for the Heisman; nonetheless, CFF diehards just yearn for a modest increase in rushing statistics.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,750 and 11
Receiving Yards and TDs: 300 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 283
16. Elijah McGuire, ULL
In four consecutive seasons under coach Mark Hudspeth, the Cajuns have won nine games and accepted an invite to the New Orleans Bowl. Elijah McGuire, the 2014 Sun Belt Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, will lead the UL Lafayette offense. A three-down back, he rushed for over 1,200 yards and logged 45 receptions for 468 yards last year. In the final nine games of the regular season, McGuire reached the end zone in each contest and posted five 100-yard outings. He also ranked 19th nationally in all-purpose yards, averaging 141.2 per outing. The 5’11” and 198-pound junior no longer has to share carries with RB Alonzo Harris and dual-threat QB Terrance Broadway. McGuire is tough between the tackles and reaches the edge on sweeps, exploding and escaping from defenders in the open field. The best player in the conference should provide wonderful dividends in 2015.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,300 and 11
Receiving Yards and TDs: 500 and 3
Total Fantasy Points: 264
17. Derrick Henry, Alabama
18. Nick Wilson, Arizona
19. Justin Jackson, Northwestern (Sleeper)
20. Marcus Cox, Appalachian State
21. Kenneth Farrow, Houston
22. Matt Breida, Georgia Southern
23. Shock Linwood, Baylor
24. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
25. Aaron Green, TCU (Sleeper)
26. Daniel Lasco, California
27. Jalen Hurd, Tennessee (Sleeper)
28. Jordan Howard, Indiana (Sleeper)
29. Marteze Waller, Fresno State
30. Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
32. Michael Gordon, Arkansas State
33. Aaron Jones, UTEP
34. Anthone Taylor, Buffalo
35. John Hillman, Boston College
36. Larry Rose III, New Mexico State
37. Travis Greene, Bowling Green
39. Demario Richard, Arizona State
40. Storm Barrs-Woods, Oregon State
41. Justin Davis, USC
42. Marlon Mack, South Florida (Sleeper)
43. Robert Lowe, Texas State
44. Jovon Robinson, Auburn
45. Tarean Folston, Notre Dame
46. Rushel Shell, West Virginia (Sleeper)
47. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
48. Josh Ferguson, Illinois
49. Kalif Phillips, Charlotte
50. Boom Williams, Kentucky
51. Akeel Lynch, Penn State
52. Jeremy McNichols, Boise State
53. Ty Isaac, Michigan
54. Madre London, Michigan State
55. Jamal Williams, BYU
56. Zack Langer, Tulsa
57. Mike Boone, Cincinnati
58. Shaun Wick, Wyoming
59. Paul James, Rutgers
60. Kelvin Taylor, Florida
61. Joseph Yearby, Miami
62. Imani Cross, Nebraska
63. Wayne Gallman, Clemson
64. Jonathan Gray, Texas
65. Derrick Green, Michigan
66. A.J. Ouellette, Ohio
67. Dalvin Cook, Florida State
Rushing & Receiving Yards = 1 point for every 10 yards
Touchdowns = 6 points
Projections are based on the assumption that the prospect stays healthy all season.
With his Masters in history and professional experience as an educator, John Laub is uniquely qualified to research, analyze and discover new insights and trends in college and professional fantasy football. He truly is The Gridiron Scholar.
Twitter: @GridironSchol91 or e-mail: Audibles@aol.com