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It’s fantasy football draft month, and you know what that means: countless ranking sheets to add to your arsenal as you decide which players to pick during your draft, and when. There’s enough relevant fantasy football news and stats out there to fill over ten ginormous analytics websites, and it does. Matthew Berry wouldn’t be hawking RotoPass if that wasn’t the case.

My rankings act a little bit differently. You have your basic rankings list of who I would draft in what order, but I’ll also highlight certain players based on value, good or bad, and potential.

We continue our rankings with arguably the biggest playmaker in fantasy games: running back.

Captain Obvious: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

How often do you go into a fantasy football draft knowing that a player is going to be out for two games plus the bye week and still draft him as the #1 pick? Very rarely, but this season is one of those rare occurrences. With DeMarco Murray blowing his touch-load last season, Adrian Peterson trying to rebound after a forced year off, and Jamaal Charles sharing the load because, unlike LeBron James, he doesn’t have to do everything, the back at the top of the pile is Le’Veon Bell.

Bell is starting the season suspended for the first two games, but his talent and situation can’t be ignored. Bell is on a team with a depleted offense and a QB-receiver connection that cannot be ignored on the field. A bowling ball could run through the line, and Bell has the ability to catch as well. 1,361 yards and eight touchdowns rushing; 83 catches for 854 yards and three touchdowns receiving. That’s 87 less touches than DeMarco Murray and only ten points less in standard scoring. Someone give this back a cookie!

Duped: Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys

Someone has to carry the rock in Dallas behind that offensive line, right? Surely whoever is in the backfield deserves top 10 consideration in the running back ranks, right?

Not quite, especially in the case of Joseph Randle. If Randle were the replacement answer in Dallas for DeMarco Murray, then much of what we have seen with the team wouldn’t be happening. Darren McFadden wouldn’t have been brought on board during the offseason. The Cowboys wouldn’t have just traded with the Seahawks for Christine Michael, who was set to replace Marshawn Lynch if his legs fell off. It’s as if the Cowboys are screaming, “Anyone but him!” in regards to Joseph Randle.

Yet, Randle still has an ADP of 60 on some fantasy sites, overtaking 3-down workhorses like Jacksonville’s T.J. Yeldon and New York Jets’ Chris Ivory. It’s not like Randle’s sample-size is that big. He’s been a change-of-pace back for two seasons. Instead of blocking, he’ll run. That’s it. Defenses are ready for him, and whoever else Dallas lines up in the backfield, this season.

Fantasy Ground-Zero: Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns

Every year, there’s some sort of of hype that comes out of Cleveland that makes you think, “Hey, maybe having a player from the Browns isn’t such a bad idea.” Maybe you thought that Jordan Cameron was going to get healthy, or that Josh Gordon’s suspension was going to be reduced and he was going to come out of the gate catching touchdowns, or that Johnny Manziel could take on an NFL defense in his rookie year. I’ve been there. Maybe not any of those except Cameron, but I’ve been there.

This year, I’m there again, pulling the whistle on the Duke Johnson hype train. Cleveland didn’t have much fantasy football success with running backs last year because it was a week-to-week dice roll between Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West. With West shipped off to Tennessee, Johnson is poised to take on starting duties.

It’s not just talent, or lack of excitement surrounding Crowell. Duke Johnson is a pass-catching back that a quarterback like Josh McCown has been known to rely on. His best year was in Chicago with Matt Forte behind him. Johnson could be the Cleveland version of Forte.

Have questions about running back rankings? Or just want to tell me how ridiculous my rankings are? Go ahead and comment, or yell at me on Twitter @Patrick_AE

Fantasy Football Pre-Rankings 2015
Running Backs
Updated 9-07-2015
Player Team Rank Bye Week
Jamaal Charles KC RB1 9
LeVeon Bell PIT RB2 11
Eddie Lacy GB RB3 7
Adrian Peterson MIN RB4 5
Matt Forte CHI RB5 7
C.J. Anderson DEN RB6 7
Marshawn Lynch SEA RB7 9
Jeremy Hill CIN RB8 7
LeSean McCoy BUF RB9 8
Lamar Miller MIA RB10 5
DeMarco Murray PHI RB11 8
Melvin Gordon SD RB12 10
Carlos Hyde SF RB13 10
Justin Forsett BAL RB14 9
Frank Gore IND RB15 10
Latavius Murray OAK RB16 6
Alfred Morris WAS RB17 8
Mark Ingram NO RB18 11
Joique Bell DET RB19 9
Andre Ellington ARI RB20 9
Joseph Randle DAL RB21 6
Todd Gurley STL RB22 6
Chris Ivory NYJ RB23 5
Jonathan Stewart CAR RB24 5
T.J. Yeldon JAC RB25 8
Giovani Bernard CIN RB26 7
Ameer Abdullah DET RB27 9
Rashad Jennings NYG RB28 11
Doug Martin TB RB29 6
Ryan Mathews PHI RB30 8
Isaiah Crowell CLE RB31 11
C.J. Spiller NO RB32 11
Darren McFadden DAL RB33 6
Tevin Coleman ATL RB34 10
Tre Mason STL RB35 6
Shane Vereen NYG RB36 11
Devonta Freeman ATL RB37 10
Arian Foster HOU RB38 9
Alfred Blue HOU RB39 9
LeGarrette Blount NE RB40 4
Duke Johnson CLE RB41 11
Charles Sims TB RB42 6
Bishop Sankey TEN RB43 4
Lorenzo Taliaferro ATL RB44 10
Terrance West TEN RB45 4
David Johnson ARI RB46 9
Danny Woodhead SD RB47 10
Fred Jackson BUF RB48 8
Reggie Bush SF RB49 10
Darren Sproles PHI RB50 8
Knile Davis KC RB51 9
Ronnie Hillman DEN RB52 7
DeAngelo Williams PIT RB53 11
Montee Ball DEN RB54 7
Matt Jones WAS RB55 8
Andre Williams NYG RB56 11
Theo Riddick DET RB57 9
Branden Oliver SD RB58 10
Denard Robinson JAC RB59 8
Roy Helu OAK RB60 6
Antone Smith ATL RB61 10
Jerick McKinnon MIN RB62 5
Jay Ajayi MIA RB63 5
Travaris Cadet NE RB64 4
Damien Williams MIA RB65 5
Dri Archer PIT RB66 11
James Starks GB RB67 7
Lance Dunbar DAL RB68 6
James White NE RB69 4
Christine Michael SEA RB70 9
Jeremy Langford CHI RB71 7
Cameron Artis-Payne CAR RB72 5
Buck Allen BAL RB73 9
Mike Tolbert CAR RB74 5
Stevan Ridley NYJ RB75 5


About Author

Pat Emmel is better at talking about sports than actually playing them.