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2016 CFB Running Backs
2016 College Fantasy Football RBs:
Rankings, Profiles and Projections
Summa Cum Laude
1. Dalvin Cook, Florida State
In the storied history of Seminole football, Dalvin Cook recorded the greatest back-to-back campaigns by a ball carrier: He totaled 3,146 yards from scrimmage, scored 28 times, averaged 6.8 yards per carry and grabbed 46 passes for 447 yards. The junior All-American also set single-season school-records with 1,691 rushing and 1,935 all-purpose yards last year. A preseason Heisman favorite, the Florida State star's accomplishments occurred after pulling a hamstring on October 3, 2015. During a spring practice drill, Cook suffered a right shoulder injury and had surgery to repair the labrum tear afterwards: Reports indicate he should return to the field in time for training camp. A punishing runner with big-play speed, Cook disperses shoulder-spawned blows and employs ankle-breaking ability. The multi-talented tailback exploded for 27 runs over 20 yards last season. Coach Jimbo Fisher won a National Title on the arm of Jameis Winston in 2013 and hankers to ascend to the summit of the college football universe on the strength of his rampaging runner in 2016.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,800 and 21
Receiving Yards and TDs: 250 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 343
Leonard Fournette, LSU
2. Leonard Fournette, LSU
The Consensus All-American runner has reached the lofty expectations that Tiger fans bestowed upon one of the most highly touted high school prospects in years. As a freshman, Fournette exploded onto the college scene with a freshman school-record 1,034 rushing yards, and in the 2014 Music City Bowl against Notre Dame, he scored three touchdowns, including a spectacular 100-yard kickoff return. Last year, Fournette dominated the SEC and the nation with 1,953 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. The LSU star utilizes inordinate instincts and superior vision to find a crease and cut back on a dime. Sculpted at 6’1 and 230 pounds, he owns a terrorizing combination of size and speed and the bludgeoning back lowers shoulders pads, employs spin-and-dip moves and jumps over defenders. Fournette is a mature man: He survived Hurricane Katrina as a child and is a father. He received the 2015-16 SEC Sportsmanship Award for auctioning his jersey to raise money for South Carolina flooding victims, raising over $100,000. In Baton Rough, the faithful yearn for another Heisman Trophy in the hallowed halls of the University, and CFB addicts are confident in Fournette’s ability to construct another stupendous season.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 2,000 and 18
Receiving Yards and TDs: 200 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 340
3. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
West Coast college football fanatics always complain about East Coast bias. While the squabble may never be resolved, it is possible that many fans in the East never saw Christian McCaffrey perform last season. In Heisman balloting, Alabama’s Derrick Henry received the most votes in five of six regions across the country while the do-it all Cardinal only topped one: the West Coast. When the season concluded, McCaffrey’s season ranked among the top performances in the history of college football. He set a NCAA single-season all-purpose yards record (3,864), surpassing 300 yards six times. Any player mentioned in the same breath as Heisman winner Barry Sanders deserves countless accolades: He was a consensus All-American, the Associated Press Player of the Year and the Paul Hornung Award winner. The electric playmaker—and son of former Denver Broncos wideout Ed McCaffrey—has the physical traits to succeed in the NFL. A well-molded frame at 6’0” and 202 pounds, he runs with agility, patience, vision and velocity. A multi-purpose threat, McCaffrey is a classic three-down back and will certainly remain on the gridiron at all times for the Cardinal in 2016. Regardless of where a college diehard resides, McCaffrey is much-watch television this season.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,900 and 10
Receiving Yards and TDs: 550 and 5
Total Fantasy Points: 335
4. Jeremy McNichols, Boise State
Jump on board the Boise State train this season—15 Broncos were named preseason All-Mountain West by Athlon Sports—and draft running back Jeremy McNichols in CFB leagues. The Broncos bruiser crossed the goal line 26 times and trailed only Heisman winner Derrick Henry in the FBS with 20 rushing and six receiving touchdowns. He set a Mountain West mark with a rushing touchdown in twelve consecutive games and totaled seven games with over 100-yards rushing. At the end of the campaign, McNichols accumulated 1,337 rushing yards and snatched 51 passes for 460 yards. A compact tailback at 5’9” and 205 pounds, McNichols is the sparkplug of coach Bryan Harsin’s offense and sturdy enough to handle well over 300 touches. He is a savvy runner with enough speed to gain separation in the open field. McNichols rumbles with balance, wiggle and power, and is a very good catcher. Enjoy the games in the northwest on the blue grass throughout the fall and select the Broncos bruiser early on draft day.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,250 and 18
Receiving Yards and TDs: 500 and 7
Total Fantasy Points: 325
Royce Freeman, Oregon
5. Royce Freeman, Oregon
During any preseason in the past decade, Royce Freeman would likely top every First Team All-American list. However, the dynamic Duck paddles with one of the finest flock of runners in history. Freeman shattered Oregon’s single-season rushing mark (1,836) and was the only player in the FBS to total over 100 yards from scrimmage in every game last year. With 3,201 rushing yards, he is the leading rusher in the Power 5 conferences during the past two crusades. At 5’11” and 230 pounds, Freeman is a big physical back and ranks among the top running back prospects in the nation. With the speed and elusiveness of a smaller runner, the Oregon playmaker makes tacklers whiff in the open field and routinely powers through defenders, lowering shoulders and delivering a blow. Tough to bring down, Freeman exhibits excellent patience, vision and quickness as a competitor. Despite a dip in roster talent since coach Chip Kelly departed Eugene, the junior tailback remains productive and the top offensive weapon. Fantasy owners will assuredly reap the rewards of weekly production.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,700 and 18
Receiving Yards and TDs: 300 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 320
Magna Cum Laude
6. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
The Mountain West showcases some of the best runners in the nation, and senior Donnel Pumphrey aspires to end his career atop the San Diego State record book. A shifty and speedy runner, he set a single-season school record with 1,867 rushing yards in 2014 and amassed 1,653 yards on the ground last year. The reigning league Offensive Player of the Year is both effective between the tackles and on the edges. 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. Once he sees daylight, Pumphrey quickly accelerates and makes defenders miss. He is also a very good route runner and pass catcher with 72 receptions for over 800 yards and five touchdowns during his college tenure. One of Pumphrey’s goals this season is to break Marshall Falk’s records. The Aztec game breaker is only 318 yards and 13 touchdowns away from surpassing the NFL Hall of Famer’s school records. He can also pass Faulk in all-purpose yards and 100-yard rushing games by the end of the season. The Aztecs are favored to win the West Division of the Conference and will ride Pumphrey to prominence in 2016.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,760 and 25
Receiving Yards and TDs: 300 and 2
Total Fantasy Points: 368
Larry Rose, III, New Mexico State
7. Larry Rose, III New Mexico State
Seeking an undervalued ball carrier in CFB drafts this summer? Look no further than the 2015 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year. Larry Rose, III might be the Invisible Man in college football. He recorded a league-best 1,647 rushing and 1,934 all-purpose yards. The junior finished seventh in the country in rushing yards per game (137.6), averaged 6.7 ypc and scored 14 times. He also grabbed 30 passes, exceeded 200 rushing yards in three contests and surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in back-to-back campaigns. A dynamic athlete, Rose constantly faced eight-men in the box and unique defensive schemes to stop him. He plays bigger and stronger than his size and frame—5’11” and 185 pounds—indicates. The junior ball carrier runs into and through traffic and in the open field, is difficult to bring down. Across the offensive line, New Mexico State averages nearly 300 pounds per man, and the big bodies propelled the offense to 28.6 points per game average last year. New Mexico State has not received a bowl invite in 56 years, and hope to ride Rose to a post-season berth.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,700 and 16
Receiving Yards and TDs: 250 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 297
8. Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
In 2015, it was a tale of two seasons for Samaje Perine in Norman, Oklahoma. New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley struggled to incorporate the sensational sophomore into the “Air Raid” game plan. In the first six games, the tailback carried 93 times and gained only 420 rushing yards. During the second half of the year, Riley unleashed “Optimus” and he steamrolled opponents: Perine lugged the pigskin 118 times, totaled 871 yards and scored 12 times. During two seasons on campus, Perine has averaged 6.3 ypc and scored 38 touchdowns. In 2014, the fantastic freshman broke the FBS single-game rushing record with a devastating performance against Kansas, rambling for 427 yards and scoring five times. He posses a rare combination of speed, size and vision. At 5’11 and 234 pounds, the bruising runner has a low-center of gravity and runs with power and balance. A two-time 1,000-yard rusher, he employs exceptional patience and quickly bursts up field. While Sooner fans dream of a fourth Heisman runner in the school’s history, CFB diehards will be satisfied with a third-consecutive industrious campaign.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,820 and 15
Receiving Yards and TDs: 100 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 288
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