Dynasty: Bang for Your Buck: 2018 Running Back Tiers

By Alex McCarthy
Alex McCarthy A simple rankings list can be helpful when trying to get an idea of where a player generally rates among his position, but often the difference between Player 1 and Player 2 is a lot bigger than the difference between Player 2 and Player 3. This is where tiered rankings come into play. Tiers are groups of players who are considered to be of similar value (in this case in my personal opinion), and the breaks between tiers represent a significant drop in value. For running backs I’ve separated the top thirty-five players into six tiers (my full rankings are also available under my profile), within which I’ve also identified the most over- and undervalued players according to ADP (Average Draft Position, per DynastyLeagueFootball.com), ECR (Expert Consensus Rank, per FantasyPros.com), and my own anecdotal experience.

Tier 1

Todd Gurley
Ezekiel Elliott

Best Value: If forced to choose here I take the player who costs less, but if the price is identical I go with Gurley and the explosive Rams offense by a nose.

Worst Value: There is no bad value to be had here, but if splitting hairs between the top two RB assets it’s worth mentioning that Zeke has had some disciplinary issues off the field.

Tier 2

Le'Veon Bell
David Johnson
Alvin Kamara

Best Value: While Kamara has an ADP and ECR of RB5, his overall ADP and ECR (as in, when all positions are included) fall roughly five places below his tiermates here. This makes him relatively cheaper and, considering his similar production, the best value pick among this tier.

Worst Value: There is no player in this tier who is significantly overpriced relative to his peers, but LeVeon Bell is likely to be the priciest option with the most associated risk. It’s unlikely you’ll find yourself in a situation where you have to decide which of the three to trade for, but were that situation to arise I would advise avoiding Bell.

Tier 3

Saquon Barkley
Leonard Fournette
Kareem Hunt
Dalvin Cook
Jordan Howard
Christian McCaffrey
DeVonta Freeman
Melvin Gordon

Best Value: Jordan Howard had a spectacular 2016 rookie season overshadowed by the phenomenon that was Zeke Elliott, and the emergence of Tarik Cohen and a generally weak Bears offense led to only an RB15 finish last year. Howard still has the vision and pure running talent that led to his explosion two years ago, however, and last season is probably his floor. In addition, his RB13 ECR and RB16 ADP make him infinitely more affordable than the rest of this tier and far and away the best value pick.

Worst Value: Melvin Gordon is the opposite of Jordan Howard- a runner who has trouble seeing open holes and takes only what you give him, and nothing more. Eventually his abysmal career YPC of 3.8 will catch up with him when the Chargers offense starts spreading around the TDs, and if you bought him now you’ll find yourself having paid RB9 prices for a JAG talent.

Tier 4

Derrius Guice
Nick Chubb
Joe Mixon
Carlos Hyde
Derrick Henry
Lamar Miller

Best Value: While I have some qualms about recommending an RB with injury issues and no definitive starting job at the moment, for those reasons now may be the exact right time to buy in on Carlos Hyde. He put up excellent numbers when healthy despite little support, and if he stays in San Francisco he could become the focal point of a far more potent offense than he has ever run behind. Even if he leaves he should be at least a low-end RB1 in a decent offense, which makes his RB17 ECR and RB18 ADP reasonable for owners of a gambling persuasion.

Worst Value: Derrick Henry has been the heir apparent to the Tennessee RB1 gig for awhile now, but the apparent wariness of the Titans to fully hand over the reigns (plus the inability of Henry to competently catch passes in a league increasingly dependent on versatile RBs) has me unsure he’ll ever be more than a committee back. I’m not paying the prices associated with his RB14 ECR and RB15 ADP, and neither should you.

Tier 5

Sony Michel
Ronald Jones, Jr.
LeSean McCoy
Aaron Jones
Jay Ajayi
Tevin Coleman
Mark Ingram
Alex Collins
Duke Johnson
C.J. Anderson
Kenyan Drake

Best Value: Jay Ajayi could be this year’s post-hype sleeper after he failed to live up to expectations in 2017. He wouldn’t be the first player who needed time to gel with a new team, and the offense to which he is tied should be a high-scoring one with Wentz under center. When LeGarrette Blount leaves, whether for free agency or retirement, Ajayi as RB1 for the Eagles could be a piece many regret not getting now while he’s relatively cheap.

Worst Value: Mark Ingram is part of a two-headed monster running game in New Orleans and could be a free agent headed into 2019, but he has always been the beneficiary of an offense that could take the pressure off him and provide high-quality opportunity (first as the second thought to a generational Saints pass offense, and now as the sidekick to an uber-talented fellow RB). He should have one more (admittedly valuable) season of playing 1B to Kamara’s 1A, and then I expect a major drop-off wherever he signs next (it is also worth noting that he turns twenty-nine this year). He could be a great RB2/3 for a contender right now, but with an ECR of RB15 and an ADP of RB20, I’m not buying.

Tier 6

Chris Thompson
Dion Lewis
Ty Montgomery
Isaiah Crowell
Tarik Cohen

Best Value: This tier is largely made up of players whose value stems from their pass-catching ability, and Ty Montgomery plays for the best passing offense of the bunch. As with DaVante Adams, a connection to Aaron Rodgers and the potency of the Green Bay offense should provide solid opportunity moving forward (even if he becomes mostly a receiving back). With a very reasonable ECR of RB31 and ADP of RB39, he is a worthwhile investment in a Packers offense that should put up flex-worthy points for as long as Rodgers is around.

Worst Value: Isaiah Crowell will generally cost you more than most of the guys in this tier, as he has spent time in the NFL as a team’s top back. However, he was unable to flourish or even outshine Duke Johnson last year in a Cleveland offense that had an excellent offensive line. Now a free agent of relatively middling talent in a year where the draft class is deep with RBs, Crowell hardly seems worth the investment.