2018 Outlook: Mixon missed significant time with injuries, shared touches with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, and struggled with rushing efficiency, but he still ended up 22nd at the position in touches as a rookie. The second-round pick was limited to 3.5 YPC and 1.7 YAC, both of which ranked in the lower quarter of the league. Mixon's pass-catching efficiency, on the other hand, was outstanding. He caught all but four of his 34 targets and averaged 8.4 yards per target (fourth highest). Mixon is still only 21 years old and is expected to enter 2018 as Cincinnati's workhorse back. Though he's safest as your second back, Mixon is a strong breakout candidate.
2018 Outlook: Since entering the league via the fifth round of the 2016 draft, Howard ranks fifth in the NFL in carries (528), third in rushing yards (2,435), eighth in YPC (4.61), ninth in YAC (2.04) and ninth in fantasy points. In other words, he's already one of the game's best rushers. The 23-year-old has struggled badly with receiving efficiency (66 percent catch rate, 5.3 yards per target), which figures to continue to limit his fantasy production, especially with Tarik Cohen in the mix. New coach Matt Nagy figures to inject some life into Chicago's offense, but he's also expected to move away from the team's recent run-heavy scheme. Howard is a fringe RB2 who has more value in non-PPR.
2018 Outlook: Drake burst into fantasy relevance when Miami surprisingly shipped Jay Ajayi to Miami just prior to last season's trade deadline. From Week 9 on, the 2016 third-round pick averaged 5.0 YPC (2.50 YAC) on 123 rushes and caught 29 passes en route to posting the seventh-most fantasy points among backs. In two seasons, Drake is averaging 5.0 YPC (fourth best at the position) and 2.30 YAC (fifth best) on 166 carries. Drake's efficiency has obviously been terrific, and he's the favorite to lead the Miami backfield in 2018. Though he'll certainly defer snaps and touches to veteran Frank Gore, Drake shouldn't struggle to push for 250 touches, which would allow RB2 numbers.
2018 Outlook: The Eagles acquired Ajayi prior to the 2017 trade deadline and it appears they landed a steal. The former Dolphin entered the league via the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Since that point, he has averaged 4.51 YPC and 2.37 YAC, the latter of which is best among 76 backs with 500-plus carries during that span. Pretty good. Ajayi's workload progressively increased last season and with Corey Clement and Darren Sproles positioned for situational roles, he has a clear path to a significant workload in the Eagles' high-scoring offense. Ajayi is entering a contract year at age 25 and, though he may not do much as a receiver, his rushing workload and goal-line opportunities are enough to allow RB2 numbers.
2018 Outlook: After spending the first two seasons of his career as DeMarco Murray's caddy, the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry is poised for a promotion in 2018. The former second-round pick is expected to be the thunder to Dion Lewis' lightning, which will allow the big man a significant workload on early downs and at the goal line. Henry has yet to eclipse 187 touches in a season, but his efficiency has been terrific. Despite facing an average of 7.1 in-box defenders (third highest) on 286 career carries, Henry sports a 4.31 YPC and 2.25 YAC. The latter is fifth best in the league during that span, and his 2.53 mark in 2017 ranked third. Henry is unlikely to do much as a receiver, so he's more valuable in non-PPR, but his role should allow him fringe RB2 numbers.
2018 Outlook: Guice was considered by many to be a first-round talent, but he fell into the Redskins' laps in the second round of April's draft. The LSU product has the size and ability to operate as a three-down back at the NFL level. He may never be an exceptional receiver, but he is a powerful, elusive runner who will do plenty of damage after initial contact. Guice showed his wheels with a 4.49-second 40-yard dash at the 2018 combine. He figures to immediately handle most of the team's early-down and goal-line work, with Chris Thompson managing passing downs. The limited role puts a cap on Guice's rookie-season appeal a bit, but his talent/workload combination is enough to put him in the RB2 mix.
2018 Outlook: One of 2017's more surprising breakout performers, Collins joined Baltimore after being waived by Seattle just prior to the start of the season. The 2016 fifth-round pick quickly took control in the Ravens' backfield and went on to finish as fantasy's No. 21 running back despite playing only 35 percent of Baltimore's snaps. Collins averaged 4.7 YPC, including 2.1 after contact, both of which ranked in the top 13 at the position. The 23-year-old is the favorite to lead Baltimore's backfield in 2018, though he'll face completition from Kenneth Dixon and Javorius Allen. Collins' limited receiving work means he's more valuable in non-PPR, but he's capable of top-20 numbers in all formats.
2018 Outlook: The Seahawks appear committed to reverting back to a run-first offense, and selecting Penny with a first-round pick during April's draft further confirmed that game plan. The San Diego State product has good size at 5-foot-11, 220 pounds and is a downhill, elusive back with solid receiving skills. He's not the fastest guy (4.46-second 40-yard dash), but that didn't stop him from averaging 7.8 YPC while managing 10-plus yards on 20 percent of his attempts last season. Penny's 74 forced missed tackles and 110.2 elusive rating were tops in this season's class, according to Pro Football Focus. Penny is expected to be a workhorse as a rookie and can also help out with returns. He is a solid RB2 target.
2018 Outlook: Freeman was selected by Denver in the third round of the draft after posting an FBS record 5,621 rushing yards during his time at Oregon. Freeman averaged 5.9 YPC (2.3 YAC) during his four seasons with the Ducks. He is a big back at 5-foot-11, 229 pounds and has pretty good speed (4.54-second 40-yard dash) for his frame. Freeman is unlikely to be heavily involved as a receiver in the NFL but did catch 79 passes during 51 games at Oregon. It's fair to wonder if 947 carries have worn Freeman down a bit, but the 22-year-old figures to immediately step into a large role in Denver, with Devontae Booker as his top competition. Freeman is a back-end RB2.
2018 Outlook: A dominant presence after contact, Lynch paces all backs who have at least 600 carries with a 2.26 YAC during the past five years. Despite sitting out the entire 2016 season, Lynch also ranks fourth in rushing touchdowns during that span. Lynch showed no signs of rust in his first season with Oakland, posting the league's fifth-best YAC (2.47) and ranking 15th at the position with 891 rushing yards. Lynch is now 32 years old and doesn't offer much as a receiver (20 receptions last season), but he shouldn't have much trouble fending off Doug Martin for most of the carries in what will seemingly be a run-heavy offense under new HC Jon Gruden. Lynch is a fringe RB2 who should be upgraded in non-PPR.
2018 Outlook: The Buccaneers filled their glaring running back void by selecting Jones in the second round of the draft. Although there's a path to a massive workload in this offense, it can't be overlooked that Jones is undersized at a lean 5-foot-11, 205 pounds. That figures to limit his early-down and goal-line opportunities a bit, but he is an explosive playmaker and good receiver who compares favorably to Jamaal Charles. Jones, who doesn't turn 21 until the preseason, may have a lower ceiling than some of his counterparts, but he should see enough work to allow fringe RB2 numbers as a rookie.
2018 Outlook: Lewis -- a fifth-round pick in 2011 -- bounced around the league before bursting onto the NFL scene with New England in 2015. He took his game to a new level last season, finishing as fantasy's No. 13 RB, while setting career highs in carries (180), scrimmage yards (1,110) and offensive touchdowns (nine). Over the past three seasons, Lewis has posted a 4.82 YPC and 2.33 YAC (both are fourth best). Lewis' durability is a major concern, as he has appeared in only 54 of a possible 112 regular-season games during his seven-year career. In Tennessee, the 5-foot-8, 195-pound Lewis will be the lightning to 6-foot-3, 247-pound Derrick Henry's thunder. Both backs figure to play significant roles, with Lewis handling change-of-pace carries and primary passing-game duties. It's enough to allow flex numbers.
2018 Outlook: Michel has the size and skill set to emerge as a featured back, but he is likely headed for committee duties after New England selected him in the first round of April's draft. The Georgia product is well-built at 5-foot-11, 214 pounds and is a physical, downhill runner with pretty good quickness. Michel averaged 7.9 YPC, including 2.7 after initial contact last year. Michel is a capable receiver and blocker, which supplies him with big upside down the road, but expect him to share snaps with James White and Rex Burkhead in 2018. Of course, even if limited to 200-230 touches, Michel could score 10 touchdowns in the Patriots' high-scoring offense. He is a flex target.
2018 Outlook: Johnson is a prime example of why you don't always need to play much of an early-down role in order to post strong fantasy numbers. Johnson ranked 52nd among backs with 82 carries last season yet finished in the top five in targets (94), receptions (74) and receiving yards (693), while scoring seven touchdowns from scrimmage. That resulted in the 11th-most fantasy points at the position. Johnson's role doesn't figure to change significantly in 2018, but he's in jeopardy of losing targets with Jarvis Landry in the mix, Josh Gordon fully back and David Njoku entering his second season. Add in some touchdown regression to the mean (3.7 OTD last year) and the draft selection of Nick Chubb, and Johnson is best viewed as a flex. Downgrade him in non-PPR.
2018 Outlook: Mack spent his rookie season working behind Frank Gore. The fourth-round pick touched the ball 114 times and certainly showed some playmaking ability. He was limited to 3.8 YPC on 93 rushing attempts, but 2.25 came after initial contact (ninth-best). He averaged an impressive 10.7 YPR (fourth) but dropped four balls (third-most). Gore is gone, but the Colts added Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins during April's draft. At least early on, Mack is the favorite to lead the backfield, but this has the making of a committee. Mack is no more than a mid-round sleeper.