2016 Outlook: Considering that he missed nearly all of 2014, Peterson was polarizing in fantasy drafts last year. Would he be fresh or rusty after the year off? It turned out to be the former: Last season Peterson led the NFL in carries and rushing yards and tied for first in rushing TDs. He posted a league-high 12 top-20 weeks at RB, which included seven top-10 finishes. The one thing that continues to hold Peterson back is his lack of usage as a pass catcher: He had just 30 receptions for 222 yards in 2015. At 31, Peterson's days as a fantasy superstar are dwindling, but he's still the workhorse in Minnesota's run-first scheme.
2016 Outlook: Although the Rams took Gurley with the 10th pick in the 2015 draft, there were legitimate concerns that he wouldn't produce much as a rookie because of the torn ACL he suffered at Georgia. But Gurley was active by Week 3 and played a significant role in Week 4. From that point on, only Devonta Freeman scored more fantasy points among running backs. Gurley has already proved that he can be an early-down workhorse, and he has 10-plus-TD upside in the Rams' run-heavy attack. One concern: Rams QBs targeted Gurley only 27 times in 13 games; that lack of impact in the passing game limits his upside.
2016 Outlook: The fourth pick in April's draft, Elliott should step in immediately as the Cowboys' lead back. He is a terrific rusher, a solid pass catcher and a close-to-elite pass blocker. At 6 feet, 225 pounds, Elliott has plenty of size and runs with enough power that he's assured heavy work near the goal line. There aren't many pro backs who push for 20 touches every week, but Elliott figures to join that list, and he'll do it behind the Cowboys' outstanding offensive line. At just 21, Elliott has major fantasy upside, making him well worth consideration in the middle of the first round.
2016 Outlook: A 2015 third-round pick, Johnson began his career pushing Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington for snaps before taking a star turn in the fantasy playoffs. In Weeks 13 through 17, Johnson racked up 658 yards and five TDs on 107 touches, which easily made him fantasy's top-scoring RB during that stretch. He averaged a healthy 4.6 ypc, including 2.3 after contact (fifth best among RBs). He also has great value in PPR leagues--Johnson caught 15 passes in Arizona's two playoff games. Now the clear lead back in Arizona's high-scoring attack, he carries the high floor and high ceiling you want in a first-round pick.
2016 Outlook: Freeman might have been 2015's biggest surprise. He burst onto the scene during the first month and went on to lead all RBs in fantasy points. Although he did a significant chunk of his damage in Weeks 3 through 6, Freeman finished strong with three top-11 performances in Weeks 15 through 17. An every-down player, Freeman averaged a hefty 18.7 carries and 6.9 targets in 14 full games. His efficiency (4.0 ypc, 1.6 yac, 7.9 ypr, a position-high seven drops) wasn't quite as impressive, which figures to lead to an expanded role for Tevin Coleman. Still, Freeman will be busy enough as a rusher and receiver to remain in the RB1 mix.
2016 Outlook: Bell topped draft boards heading into last season but went on to appear in only six games due to a two-game suspension and a torn MCL and PCL in his right knee.'' This season, he is at risk of missing the first four weeks due to a suspension.'' That's the bad news.' The good news is that Bell is currently helathy and when that was the case last season, he was extremely productive. Bell posted a top-20 fantasy week in each of his five full games. That's after finishing as a top-22 back in all but one of his 2014 appearances. If not for the suspension and the injury concern that still linger, Bell's heavy workload as a runner and receiver in Pittsburgh's high-powered offense would make him fantasy's top RB.
2016 Outlook: After being underused in four seasons with the Dolphins, Miller should get all the work he can handle in Houston. He averaged just 196 carries during his final three years in Miami and saw just 12.1 carries and 3.5 targets per game last year. Still, he ranked among the top nine fantasy RBs for the second straight season. The situation couldn't be more different with the Texans, who led the NFL in snaps last season and emphasize the running game. Miller has to prove he can handle a 20-plus-touch workload and can make a major contribution as a receiver, but added usage should make Miller a legit RB1.
2016 Outlook: After a resurgent 2015 campaign, Martin re-signed with Tampa Bay and will return as the team's lead back. He gained 1,673 yards from scrimmage and scored seven TDs last season to finish third among RBs in fantasy points, which was a major rebound from two down years. After picking up 1,926 yards and scoring 12 TDs as a rookie in 2012, Martin missed 15 games in 2013 and '14 and totaled just 1,080 yards and three TDs. So last year's turnaround was a welcome sight in Tampa. Martin is a solid producer, but durability remains a concern, so consider him a back-end RB1 option.
2016 Outlook: During his first 50 NFL games, Ingram totaled 64 targets. In 12 games last season, he racked up 60. He was already heavily involved on early downs and near the goal line (he averaged 15.7 carries per game over the past two years), so the boost in passing-down work pushed Ingram into the fantasy elite. Incredibly, Ingram never finished a week worse than 29th among RBs in fantasy points. Durability remains a concern: He has missed at least three games in four of his five seasons. But at age 26, Ingram is in his prime and locked in as New Orleans' every-down workhorse, making him a high-floor RB1.
2016 Outlook: After going first overall in plenty of fantasy drafts, Lacy was a massive disappointment last season. He was out of shape and ended up playing only 40 percent of the team's offensive snaps, sharing time with James Starks. After averaging 17.1 carries and 3.1 targets per game during his previous 31 games, Lacy averaged just 12.5 and 1.9 in 2015. Now 26, Lacy has vowed to be in shape for 2016, which makes sense, as it's a contract year. His massive ceiling keeps him in the RB1 mix, but obviously he's a risky investment.
2016 Outlook: Charles was well on his way to another huge season when he tore his ACL in Week 5. Before the injury, he had accrued 541 yards and five TDs in less than five games; only Devonta Freeman scored more fantasy points among running backs during that span. Charles has finished as a top-11 fantasy back in five of the past seven seasons, with the only exceptions being injury-shortened campaigns in 2011 and 2015. Yes, Charles is 29 and coming off his second ACL injury, but he showed no signs of slowing down last season and should be ready for Week 1. He is a borderline RB1.
2016 Outlook: Despite missing a quarter of the 2015 season, McCoy finished 17th among RBs in fantasy points during his first year in Buffalo. McCoy's consistency was impressive: He ranked no worse than 26th in a given week before hurting his knee in Week 15. It helped that the Bills' offense was better than expected, averaging 2.6 offensive TDs per game, eighth in the league. McCoy, who will be 28 as the season starts, will need to fend off impressive second-year back Karlos Williams, but the veteran is in a great position as the starter in Buffalo's run-heavy, high-scoring offense. He's a strong RB2 with upside.
2016 Outlook: DeAngelo Williams' departure finally gave Stewart full ownership of the Carolina backfield last season, and he responded well. Despite missing three games, he ranked among the top 11 RBs in carries, rushing yards and rushing TDs. He powered his way to five top-10 weeks and finished no week ranked worse than 28th after Carolina's Week 5 bye. On the other hand, Stewart is 29 and has missed 23 games because of injury over the past four seasons. Owners need to weigh his lack of durability and passing-down involvement against his feature role in a dynamic offense, which leaves him as an RB2.
2016 Outlook: Hyde is a prime example of a terrific player who can't seem to stay on the field. He has already missed 11 games in two years, including nine last season. When active, he has averaged 4.1 ypc, 2.5 of which came after contact (second in the NFL). He might get a boost from Chip Kelly's arrival too. Hyde faced a defense with fewer than five DBs on 88 percent of his carries last year, but Kelly's Eagles RBs ran against a base D just 41 percent of the time. Hyde's durability and limited work on passing downs are concerns, but his efficiency cannot be ignored. He's a solid RB2 with breakout upside.
2016 Outlook: A popular first-round pick in 2015 fantasy drafts, Anderson disappointed, but a slow start and personnel mismanagement were the primary culprits. During the first six weeks of the season, Anderson managed only 180 yards on 67 carries and failed to score a touchdown. Fifty-seven running backs had more fantasy points. During the final 11 weeks of the regular season, though, Anderson averaged 6.4 ypc, which included 2.8 after contact. Both were tops at the position. Denver matched Miami's expensive offer sheet to retain Anderson, which suggests he's in line for a big workload and a breakout season.