2018 Outlook: In a league leaning more and more toward committee attacks, Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell breaks the mold with absurdly large usage numbers. Starting with 2013 and including only the weeks he has been active during his five NFL seasons, Bell's carry shares are as follows: 77, 83, 83, 90 and 90 percent. He averaged 19.8 carries and 6.3 targets per game during those outings. Despite missing 18 regular-season games, Bell has ranked in the top 10 at the position in snaps in four different seasons. He missed one game last season but paced all running backs in snaps, touches, pass routes, carries and receptions. Only Todd Gurley II scored more fantasy points, and Bell has finished in the top three at the position three of the past four seasons. Bell should fall no further than second overall in 2018 drafts.
2018 Outlook: Gurley's roller-coaster career continued in 2017, as he exploded for a league-high 2,093 yards and 19 touchdowns from scrimmage en route to finishing as fantasy's top-scoring running back. One year after averaging a dreadful 3.2 YPC, Gurley exploded for 4.7 YPC. Gurley was already a heavily utilized rusher, but he saw his receiving workload increase dramatically in 2017. He hauled in 64 passes for 788 yards after totaling 64 catches for 515 yards during his first two seasons. Only five backs ran more routes. Now a full-on, every-down workhorse in a high-scoring offense, Gurley is an elite fantasy option. He turns 24 years old this summer.
2018 Outlook: Johnson is set to return after missing all but 43 snaps of the 2017 season due to a wrist injury. Johnson, of course, enjoyed a breakout 2016 campaign, in which he accrued 2,118 yards and 20 touchdowns on 373 touches. Johnson paced all backs in snaps, touches, scrimmage yards, targets, receiving yards and fantasy points. He carried the ball inside the opponent's 5-yard line 22 times (second most). Johnson's pedestrian rushing efficiency (4.2 YPC, 1.6 YAC) is far from ideal, but he more than made up for it with volume; Johnson registered a top-10 fantasy week in a position-best 69 percent of his outings. Johnson is in his prime at age 26 and positioned well to again see 21-23 touches every week.
2018 Outlook: Elliott was suspended for six games last season but was still his dominant self when active. Elliott was fantasy's No. 2 scoring back in 15 games as a rookie and was second during the 10 weeks he played in 2018. Despite sustaining that high-end fantasy production, Elliott's numbers did dip quite a bit. He averaged 5.1 YPC in 2016, but 4.1 YPC in 2017. He scored 16 touchdowns as a rookie but only nine last season. On the plus side, Elliott was still an absolute workhorse as a rusher (24.2 carries per game) and played a larger role as a receiver (3.5 targets per game was up from 2.5 in 2016). Elliott still doesn't see as much receiving work as other elite backs, but he handles enough overall volume to allow top-five numbers.
2018 Outlook: The Chiefs stole Hunt in the third round of last year's draft, and it didn't take long for the Toledo product to make a name for himself. He exploded for 246 yards and three touchdowns in his NFL debut and went on to rack up 1,782 yards and 11 scores on 325 touches. All ranked in the top five at the position. Hunt, who paced the position with 1,327 rushing yards, posted a 4.9 YPC (sixth best), including 2.3 yards after contact (seventh best). Hunt may not be able to keep up with the top backs in carries in the Chiefs' low-volume scheme (and will need more than six carries inside the 5-yard line), but coach Andy Reid said he plans to get Hunt more involved as a receiver. The talent/workload combination is enough to allow Hunt another strong RB1 season.
2018 Outlook: The NFL's reigning offensive rookie of the year, Kamara quickly went from third-round pick to fantasy superstar. The Tennessee product was on the field for only 44 percent of the Saints' regular-season snaps, but his outstanding playmaking ability allowed him 728 yards on 120 carries (6.1 YPC) and a league-high 826 yards on 81 receptions (10.2 YPR). He ranked 24th at the position in touches (201) but ranked sixth in yards (1,554) and second in touchdowns (13). Kamara's absurd efficiency is unsustainable, but his late-season surge in usage suggests he'll see the boost in volume he'll need to continue producing strong RB1 numbers.
2018 Outlook: Barkley was selected by New York with the second overall pick in the draft. The ex-Nittany Lion combines a big frame (6 feet, 233 pounds) with exceptional speed, vision, elusiveness and receiving ability. Similar to the likes of Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson and Todd Gurley II in recent seasons, Barkley is expected to be an every-down workhorse who immediately pushes for 350-plus touches and 10-plus touchdowns. Barkley sports elite upside and is immediately a fringe top-five fantasy running back. He is likely to be selected in the first round of most 2018 fantasy drafts and should be the top pick in all rookie drafts.
2018 Outlook: The Jaguars spent the fourth-overall pick on Fournette last season in order to lean heavily on their running back and elite defense. The plan worked. Fournette missed three games but still carried the ball 268 times (seventh most) for 1,040 yards (eighth) and nine touchdowns (third). Fournette finished seventh at the position in fantasy points per game. Fournette's weak YPC (3.9, including 3.3 during his final 200 carries) is a concern, though he did face an average of 7.1 in-box defenders (eighth highest). Fournette won't be quite as involved as a receiver as other top backs, but he's a top-end talent who has a shot to lead the NFL carries. That's enough to keep him in the RB1 mix.
2018 Outlook: Gordon was busy last season, setting career-best marks in carries, rushing yards, targets, receiving yards and fantasy points. The 2015 first-round pick has seen his touches increase each season of his career, and the hefty volume has allowed him back-to-back top-seven fantasy campaigns. Gordon's efficiency remains a red flag ' he has averaged 3.9 YPC each of the past two season after posting a 3.5 mark as a rookie ' but it has been offset by the third-most touches at the position during the past two campaigns. Gordon is still early in his prime at age 25 and figures to again rank near the top of the league in touches this season. He's a fringe RB1.
2018 Outlook: Cook appeared well on his way to a massive rookie season prior to suffering a torn ACL in Week 4. The second-round pick put up 354 yards (4.8 YPC) and a pair of touchdowns on 74 carries and caught 11 of 15 targets for 90 yards prior to the injury. Cook was on the field for only 64 percent of the Vikings' offensive snaps but sat ninth among backs in fantasy points through Week 4. Though Cook had the look of a legit star on tape and on the stat sheet, the opportunity was also terrific, as shown by the fact that replacements Jerick McKinnon (10th) and Latavius Murray (15th) were both top-15 fantasy backs from Week 5 on. Cook is Minnesota's clear workhorse back and is an RB1 with elite upside.
2018 Outlook: McCoy posted his third top-seven fantasy campaign in five years in 2017 despite it being one of his least-efficient seasons. McCoy ran out of the shotgun 17 percent of the time, averaged 4.0 YPC and managed a league-worst 1.3 YAC. All three were career-low marks. McCoy scored eight touchdowns, which was down significantly from the 14 he managed the season before. McCoy was targeted 77 times -- his highest total since 2010 ' but averaged an underwhelming 5.8 yards per target. McCoy is still a terrific player and positioned for workhorse duties in a run-first offense, but he is also set to turn 30 and is dealing with a very shaky supporting cast. He's a back-end RB1.
2018 Outlook: Carolina spent the eighth-overall pick on McCaffrey last season and immediately handed him a significant offensive role. The Stanford product registered only 117 carries but did most of his damage as a receiver. He ranked first among backs in targets (110), third in receptions (80), fifth in yards (651) and second in touchdowns (five). McCaffrey's efficiency (3.7 YPC, 1.4 YAC, 5.9 YPT) was pedestrian, but the massive passing-game workload allowed him to rack up the 10th-most fantasy points. McCaffrey could be in for a slightly larger share of the carries in 2018, but it won't be much with C.J. Anderson in for Jonathan Stewart. McCaffrey is a fringe RB1 but should be downgraded in non-PPR.
2018 Outlook: Freeman enters his fifth NFL season after posting stellar numbers during each of the past three campaigns. The 2014 fourth-round pick paced the position in fantasy points in 2015, finished sixth in 2016 and ranked ninth during the 13 weeks he was active and healthy last season. Freeman's efficiency has been good, but where he really stands out is volume near the goal line. Freeman has rushed for 29 touchdowns during the past three seasons, thanks to 41 carries inside the opponent's 5-yard line (second most). He finished in the top five in that category all three season and also has six touchdown receptions during that span. Though he'll again defer touches to Tevin Coleman, Freeman's talent and volume combination will allow him fringe-RB1 numbers.
2018 Outlook: Ingram has improved his fantasy point total each of the past four seasons but likely has reached his ceiling with a sixth-place finish in 2017. Perpetually underrated, Ingram averaged 4.9 YPC (2.3 YAC) and now ranks first in YPC (4.74) and fourth in YAC (2.06) among all backs with 700-plus carries over the past five seasons. He also set a career-high 58 receptions and 416 receiving yards last season. Despite the impressive production, backfield-mate Alvin Kamara took on (and thrived in) a larger role in the playoffs. Ingram will still be a major factor in a high-scoring offense, but it's rare for one team to provide two top-10 fantasy backs, as New Orleans did last year. Ingram figures to settle in as a good RB2 once he returns from a four-game suspension to begin the season.
2018 Outlook: McKinnon is heading west and will replace Carlos Hyde as San Francisco's feature back. Though the 5-foot-9, 212-pound McKinnon is a bit smaller than Hyde ' and not quite as effective a runner ' he's an elite athlete and a better receiver. McKinnon never exceeded 159 carries in a season with Minnesota, and he has averaged 3.59 YPC (worst), including 1.50 after contact (second worst), on 309 carries during the past two seasons. McKinnon's receiving volume has been terrific, but his efficiency has been similarly weak (7.2 YPR). Those numbers are alarming, but McKinnon is now one of the highest-paid backs in the league and is expected to be a workhorse back in Kyle Shanahan's offense. That role should easily allow RB2 production.