Top Running Backs for Fantasy Football: Top-10 RBs Heading into 2019 NFL Season

Mike Esposito
New Orleans Saints v New York Giants
New Orleans Saints v New York Giants / Al Bello/Getty Images

With the 2019 NFL season kicking off in less than two weeks, The Duel will provide updated fantasy football rankings for the top players at each of the six core positions – QB, RB, WR, TE, K and DEF.

While Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing last year, he's still holding out, making him a tricky call in upcoming fantasy drafts. There are obviously factors other than rushing totals to consider when it comes to evaluating a running back's fantasy value, so let's see how the top running backs for fantasy football shake out.

* The staff of The Duel ranked the top 15 fantasy RBs for the 2019 NFL season. These top 10 are based off the average score of those rankings. These projections are based off six-point touchdowns and one point per 10 yards rushing. *

10. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers

Melvin Gordon remains in the top-10, despite his holdout potentially running into the regular season. He missed four games due to injury in 2018, but was a dominant fantasy running back when he was healthy, racking up 885 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games played. He still has top-10 upside, despite his draft stock plummeting more each and every day. If Gordon plays in 2019, a prolific fantasy season could be on the horizon, and he's coming at a massive discount right now. Just make sure you handcuff the Wisconsin product with Austin Ekeler, if you take him in your 2019 drafts.

9. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon quietly led the AFC in rushing yards last season, racking up 1,168 yards on the ground to go along with eight rushing touchdowns, despite playing in 14 games. The third-year back should see his fair share of passes as well, since Cincinnati is expected to behind a lot in 2019. As a potential three-down back for the Bengals, Mixon slides in at the end of end of the top-10 for the NFL's 100th season.

8. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers offense didn’t skip a beat with James Conner filling in for Le’Veon Bell in the Pittsburgh backfield in 2018. The 23-year-old proved to be an all-purpose running back, rushing for 973 yards with 55 receptions for another 497 yards receiving and 13 total touchdowns in just 12 starts. Conner’s fantasy outlook is even more promising now that Bell and Antonio Brown are no longer in Pittsburgh. As long as he stays healthy, finishing the year as a top-10 RB is well in the cards.

7. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

Todd Gurley had yet another All-Pro season in 2018, rushing for 1,251 yards with 59 receptions for 581 yards receiving and a league-leading 21 total touchdowns in 14 games. The three-time Pro Bowler might have been at the top of this list if it wasn't for concerns about an arthritic left knee, but he’s still an RB1 in an explosive Los Angeles Rams offense. Another season of at least 1,200 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns is reasonable to expect from Gurley in 2019, especially with all the goal-line work he gets – it's just a matter of if he can stay on the field.

6. Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets

He may have to shake off some rust, after sitting out the entire 2018 season, but Le’Veon is very much an RB1 heading into 2019. The two-time All-Pro running back has averaged 1,599 total yards, 62 receptions and eight total touchdowns per season in his career and should be the focal point of a Jets offense that features a second-year quarterback in Sam Darnold that could look to Bell on lots of checkdowns. If he can come anywhere close to his career averages, Le’Veon should be around the top-5 RBs come season's end.

5. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

David Johnson didn’t exactly have the comeback season that many expected him to have in 2018, but the do-it-all back is way too talented not to rebound this year. Johnson is more than capable of elite fantasy production, having racked up 2,118 scrimmage yards and 20 total touchdowns in 2016. New Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray’s presence could open things for the former All-Pro. Plus, he's likely to be very involved in the team's passing game as well. If Johnson can take advantage, reclaiming his RB1 fantasy status is all but guaranteed.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Another tricky one here since Ezekiel Elliott is holding out right now. However, he has been one of the league’s best running backs since entering the league in 2016, leading the NFL in rushing yards in two of the last three years. In addition to 1,434 rushing yards last season, the fourth-year back hauled in a career-high 77 passes for 567 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. As long as he suits up, the Cowboys offense will rely heavily on Elliott in 2019, giving him elite RB1 status. If you select Zeke with a top-5 pick, just be sure to handcuff Tony Pollard in the mid rounds.

3. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara averaged a whopping 29.65 FanDuel fantasy points per game over the first four weeks of the 2018 season, but his production took a slight hit once Mark Ingram returned from suspension in Week 5. Yet, the third-year back still finished the year with 883 rushing yards, 709 receiving yards on 81 receptions and 18 total touchdowns. Kamara might have to share snaps with Latavius Murray in 2019, but a 1,500-yard, 12-touchdown season should be his floor, based on his prior production. He's a top-three RB in fantasy football with No. 1 upside.

2. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey established himself as an every-down back in 2018, rushing for 1,098 yards to go along with 107 receptions, 867 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns in just his second year in the league. McCaffrey is the Panthers’ undisputed No. 1 back and looks primed to improve on his rushing total from last year in 2019. But it's his usage in the passing game that offers even more value in PPR leagues. He could be the No. 1 overall pick in PPR formats, but a top-three season looks like it could be in his future in 2019.

1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Saquon Barkley had a sensational rookie season, rushing for 1,307 yards along with 91 catches for another 721 receiving yards and 15 total touchdowns. With a much-improved offensive line blocking for him this year and no competition for snaps to worry about in the New York backfield, Barkley could be in for a similarly spectacular season in 2019. Hands down, he's the top running back in fantasy.

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Mike Esposito is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Esposito also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username espo6891. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.