2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Breaking down all 32 NFL backfields

Note: Draft Season is upon us. For the best draft party, have your draft at B-Dubs! Players receive food and drink specials, plus a free draft kit. Sign up HERE today!

Some backfields are easy to figure out. Some are so messy that not even the coaches have a clear vision for what's going to happen. Fantasy fanatics know that running back depth is a key to success. Knowing the participants of each backfield helps strengthen Draft Day knowledge. So consider this your crash course into all 32 backfields — the ones that are obvious because of one stud back, the ones where multiple backs are worth drafting to the same squad, and the ones that don't offer much help to your championship dreams.

Lead RBs with 300-touch potential

No further explanation necessary.

Rams: Todd Gurley
Steelers: Le'Veon Bell
Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott
Cardinals: David Johnson
Chiefs: Kareem Hunt
Jaguars: Leonard Fournette
Giants: Saquon Barkley
Chargers: Melvin Gordon
Vikings: Dalvin Cook

Lead RBs with 250-touch potential

They might split reps but still figure to be the best bets on their teams on a per-week basis. Again, no explanation is really necessary.

Bears: Jordan Howard
Ravens: Alex Collins
Dolphins: Kenyan Drake
Bills: LeSean McCoy

Dangerous duos

Teams with two backs who will get a good amount of numbers but aren't necessarily good to pair on Fantasy teams.

Saints: Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram
Workload breakdown in games played together including playoffs:
2017 — Ingram 17.1 touches/game, Kamara 12.6 touches/game
Early August ADP: Kamara sixth overall, Ingram in Round 6
Better Draft Day value: Kamara in Round 1. More upside, plus you don't have to wait for him to play, whereas Ingram will be unavailable in Weeks 1 through 4.
Draft both? That comes down to whether you get Ingram at his current ADP or later. No one should make it a point to land both Saints backs, but if it works out, groovy.

Falcons: Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman
Workload breakdown in games played together including playoffs:
2016 — Freeman 17.6 touches/game, Coleman 11.6 touches/game
2017 — Freeman 16.9 touches/game, Coleman 10.7 touches/game
Early August ADP: Freeman in Round 2, Coleman in Round 5
Better Draft Day value: Freeman, especially if you can wiggle him onto your squad in Round 3
Draft both? Not worth it if it means two of your first five picks. If Coleman can be had in Round 6 or 7, it could be lucrative — he's carried a 100 percent success rate when playing without Freeman. It's a better duo to target in auctions.

Draftable duos

Here are some running back tandems Fantasy owners should consider targeting on Draft Day.

Titans: Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis
Previous workload breakdown in Titans games:
2017 — Henry averaged 10.5 touches/game with DeMarco Murray ... information that is totally useless since Murray is gone, Lewis has arrived and there's a whole new coaching staff in place.
Early August ADP: Henry in Round 4, Lewis in late Round 6/early Round 7
Better Draft Day value: Henry in Round 4 is mouth-watering. He's even fine in Round 3. There's far more potential for him as the big back in Tennessee's revamped offense.
Draft both? Henry has always done well when given a lot of work and we saw Lewis play great last season when he was the primary back for the Patriots. Insuring one with the other will cost you dearly, but it could be worth it. This is another backfield that's easier to acquire in auctions.

Bengals: Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard
Workload breakdown in games played together without Jeremy Hill:
2017 —  Mixon 15.1 touches/game, Bernard 11.1 touches/game
Early August ADP: Mixon in Round 3, Bernard in Round 12
Better Draft Day value: While Bernard has averaged 8.3 carries and 3.1 catches per game over his last three seasons and seems to have a safe Fantasy floor in PPR, he doesn't come close to matching Mixon's upside. Mixon is a good Round 3 target.
Draft both? Only because the price is right. After investing in Mixon, landing Bernard is a piece of cake in the double-digit rounds. His ADP is a laughable 138th overall. If you want to lock up this backfield, Bernard is an easy add in Round 10. Both seem to be better fits in the zone-blocking scheme the Bengals are going with in 2018.

49ers: Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida
Previous workload breakdown in 49ers games:
2017 — Breida was consistently in a backup role averaging 7.9 touches/game, though that improved to 11.0 touches/game in the 49ers final five games (with a 4.5 yard average), all started by Jimmy Garoppolo and all wins.
Early August ADP: McKinnon in Round 2 (!), Breida in late Round 9/early Round 10
Better Draft Day value: McKinnon might be the most hyped up non-rookie running back of draft season. Some might have trouble buying into him in Round 3. Breida, who could continue to pick up 10 touches per game, is a better value.
Draft both? If you're taking McKinnon before 35th overall, you better protect yourself. Whether it's because McKinnon gets hurt or just isn't as good as advertised, Breida would pick up a ton of snaps. You should want that.

Seahawks: Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson
Previous workload breakdown in Seahawks games: It varies wildly. Since Marshawn Lynch left, the run game has struggled. Seattle fielded a back with at least 15 carries in eight games in 2016 and just five in 2017. Pete Carroll will gravitate toward anyone who gives him anything in the run game.
Early August ADP: Penny in late Round 4/early Round 5, Carson in Round 10
Better Draft Day value: So long as Carson keeps running with the starters, he's the one —  even if his ADP pushes into Round 8. He's apparently just as fast as he was a year ago while putting on more muscle. He's even improved as a blocker, which buys more playing time.
Draft both? Investing in the Seahawks backfield is hard because it has been a nightmare. Carson and Penny could end up taking work away from each other each week with passing-downs maven C.J. Prosise thrown in for good measure. By virtue of his upside, Penny still figures to get taken first. If it's by Round 6, then filling up with Carson in Round 9 makes the draft investment minimal.

Texans: Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman
Workload breakdown in games played together:
2017 — Miller 18.8 touches/game, Foreman 8.4 touches/game
Early August ADP: Miller in Round 5, Foreman in Round 10
Better Draft Day value: Miller, obviously. He's a good No. 2 back to find around 50th overall.
Draft both? Normally it's not much fun to take a player who could miss the first six weeks of the season. Foreman could be that guy, which is why you will see his ADP slide from Round 10 to Round Whenever. If you have the bench space and/or an IR spot, Foreman is worth tagging to Miller.

Eagles: Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement
Workload breakdown in games played together:
2017 —  Ajayi 12.8 touches/game, Clement 6.8 touches/game ... but LeGarrette Blount had 10.7 touches/game in that same span.
Early August ADP: Ajayi in Round 4, Clement in Round 11
Better Draft Day value: Ajayi is the starter and the most likely Eagle to inherit Blount's workload, which might mean well north of 15 touches per week. That's hard to pass up in Round 4 and borderline impossible to resist after that.
Draft both? It seems like a good idea. Ajayi is easily Philly's most physical rusher and Clement should not only be a factor in passing situations but also as a backup to Ajayi. Carrying both isn't asking for much, especially if Clement can be had in the double-digit rounds.

Raiders: Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin
Previous workload breakdown in Raiders games:
2017 — Lynch 15.1 touches/game; 20.6 touches/game in his last six
Early August ADP: Lynch in Round 7, Martin in Round 12
Better Draft Day value: There's been a lot of talk about Martin handling more work than a typical backup running back, but it shouldn't completely put a cap on Lynch's work. Both of these vets have bust potential but Lynch is the one who didn't look washed up last year. He's the value as a capable starter at almost the draft's mid-point.
Draft both? Rostering Lynch and Martin looks about as good as raw green beans on butterscotch gelato. But Jon Gruden has created a 1,000-total-yard running back 10 times in 11 years as a playcaller, with seven of them scoring at least seven touchdowns. Now that's something a Fantasy owner would want. Getting both won't cost much draft capital nor would it commit you to starting one of them.

Tricky tandems

These two-man backfield combinations don't make as much sense to draft together.

Panthers: Christian McCaffrey and C.J. Anderson
Previous workload breakdown in Panthers games:
2017 — McCaffrey 12.3 touches/game, other back (usually Jonathan Stewart) 13.1 touches/game
Early August ADP: McCaffrey in late Round 2, Anderson in Round 9
Better Draft Day value: Is there one? McCaffrey is a value if he slides to Round 3 and Anderson isn't a back to get too excited about wherever you draft him. Let's just say McCaffrey is a good value in PPR leagues given his current ADP.
Draft both? Are we sure McCaffrey will suddenly see 20 touches per week if Anderson misses time? Are we sure Anderson will get 20 touches per week if McCaffrey misses time? You might be more confident to start one when the other is sidelined, but it seems like both are locked into their roles and won't necessarily see much more work if one is out. Drafting both isn't necessary.

Patriots: Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead
Previous workload breakdown in Patriots games:
2017 — Burkhead 8.3 touches/game, other back (usually either Mike Gillislee or Dion Lewis) 14.3 touches/game
Early August ADP: Michel in Round 5, Burkhead in Round 7
Better Draft Day value: Michel underwent a knee procedure in early August and might miss the entire preseason. Burkhead's ADP is expected to rise to Round 6, which is a good place to get the Patriots back who is the healthiest (for now) and have a shot at 15 touches per week. 
Draft both? If both were healthy, then maybe. But Burkhead won't get every touch in the Pats backfield and Michel won't either when he gets up to speed. Sadly, yet predictably, this is a backfield to avoid drafting in bunches.

Buccaneers: Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber
Previous workload breakdown in Buccaneers games:
The lead back for the Buccaneers had at least 15 carries in just eight games last season. Only twice did multiple backs have at least 10 carries in the same game, suggesting the team preferred to lean on one guy.
Early August ADP: Jones in late Round 5/early Round 6, Barber in Round 15
Better Draft Day value: Jones has potential to be a sensation for the Buccaneers. He's impossible to not love at his current Draft Average.
Draft both? Meh. Barber is a decent handcuff and not many people are looking for him late on Draft Day.

Jets: Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell
Previous workload breakdown in Jets games:
2017 — Powell 12.4 touches/game in weeks with Matt Forte; 15.4 touches/game without Forte
Early August ADP: Crowell in Round 9, Powell in Round 13
Better Draft Day value: Crowell figures to be first in line to start and actually has a nice schedule to begin the year. You could do worse in Round 9.
Draft both? It seems unlikely that the Jets will become a running haven in 2018, especially with their iffy O-line. Seems like too much of an investment of roster spots.

Tedious trios

Because two running backs aren't enough for a team to consider for regular playing time!

Packers: Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery
Previous workload breakdown in Packers games:
There was one 2017 game when multiple running backs had 10 or more carries. There were 10 games when one back had at least 15 carries — seven by Williams. It's more evidence that the Packers prefer to lean on one running back for most of the work.
Early August ADP: Williams in Round 7, Jones and Montgomery in Round 10
Better Draft Day value: It comes down to what you're looking for. If you need an early season starter with potential to shoulder the majority of touches all season, Williams is tremendous. If you're patient and want to take a chance on a talented back, Jones is the focus.
Draft two of the three? Montgomery has missed at least one game in each of three seasons, including eight last year. He seems destined for a passing downs role that might be good for 40 or 50 grabs over the season. Williams and Jones figure to work much more in traditional rushing situations and handle any work that Montgomery might miss with an injury. Picking up those two second-year backs for the Pack and hoping one develops into a No. 2 Fantasy running back makes a lot of sense.

Broncos: Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker ... and others??
Previous workload breakdown in Broncos games:
2017 — 16-game starter C.J. Anderson 17.1 touches/game, other running backs combined: 13.1 touches/game. This doesn't mean anything as Anderson is no longer with the team.
Early August ADP: Freeman in Round 5, Booker in Round 10
Better Draft Day value: Booker might look like a good value, but when's the last time anyone fully trusted him in Fantasy lineups? By default, it's the rookie, Freeman.
Draft both ... or more than two?! In the early days of training camp the Broncos gave first-team running back reps to five different players. Freeman has earned early praise, but undrafted running back Phillip Lindsay has also impressed as a passing-downs option. There's a lot to settle in Denver — once that happens then getting a second back with Freeman might not be a bad idea. But Freeman figures to be in the mix, if not the top guy and the best bet to match Anderson's workload from a year ago.

Colts: Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael?!
Previous workload breakdown in Lions games:
Doesn't matter — new coaching staff is uprooting everything from 2017.
Early August ADP: Mack in late Round 7/early Round 8, Hines in Round 12, Wilkins in Round 13
Better Draft Day value: The Colts figure to use a bunch of backs to make up the run attack, meaning that it's unlikely for one guy to truly break out. In cases like this, going with the one drafted last might wind up being the best. Wilkins has earned some first-team reps in the early days of camp and could factor into the Indy run game as much as anyone.
Draft two or three? With Hines looking more like someone in a specific passing role (think Darren Sproles), one could double-up on Mack and Wilkins with the hope one outplays the other and maximizes their numbers behind what's become a great offensive line and a great quarterback in Indianapolis.

Browns: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb
Previous workload breakdown in Browns games:
2017 — Johnson 9.8 touches/game, Isaiah Crowell 14.6 touches/game
Early August ADP: Hyde in Round 8, Chubb in Round 9, Johnson in Round 10
Better Draft Day value: For now, it's Johnson. No one buys into him scoring seven touchdowns again but he's the one with a locked-in role in the Browns offense, and he can be had the latest of the three.
Draft two of the three? Johnson has his role in passing situations and is a stand-alone Fantasy figure. Hyde and Chubb figure to divvy up what's left for early running downs and goal-line work. We could see Hyde begin the year as the lead back and then give way to Chubb, who has impressed with his physical style of rushing. It might not be a bad plan to select Chubb after taking Hyde, but you might just prefer to pass on both of them.

Lions: Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick
Previous workload breakdown in Lions games:
2017 — Riddick 8.6 touches/game, everyone else 16.9 touches/game
Early August ADP: Johnson in Round 7, Riddick in Round 13, Blount in Round 14
Better Draft Day value: You might think it's nuts, but Blount at the end of a draft isn't so bad. He's a goal-line maven who might even find 10 touches a week in the right matchups.
Draft two of the three? The Lions aren't changing their offense despite hiring a new head coach. The new head coach (Matt Patricia) comes from a team that used multiple running backs frequently (New England). You're going to need to draft some aspirin if you take multiple Lions runners.

Redskins: Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson
Previous workload breakdown in Redskins games:
2017 — As the passing-downs back, Thompson averaged 6.4 carries and 3.9 catches through 10 games before getting hurt. Only once did he have more than 10 carries and only twice did he achieve more than 12 touches. Other players picked up the rest, sometimes to the tune of 20-plus carries.
Early August ADP: Thompson in Round 7, Kelley and Perine in the final rounds 
Better Draft Day value: Thompson, but it's not like he'll be reliable, especially in non-PPR leagues. Washington learned its lesson by overusing Thompson and won't purposely do it again. Losing explosive rookie Derrius Guice really hurts the potential of this offense and certainly its effectiveness in the run game. Kelley and Perine aren't exciting choices. 
Draft more than one? Don't do it, not unless you're certain one of Kelley or Perine is going to be the lead back and have a chance at over 225 touches. Both averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry in 2017.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories
  • NFL: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

    Week 12 Trade Values Chart

    Fantasy Football trade deadlines are around the corner. What will it cost you to make one last...

  • NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals

    Week 12 Waiver Wire

    Unlike some weeks, there are plenty of potential stars available on the waiver wire this week....

  • NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Week 12 streamers

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback position has produced a lot of Fantasy points. Heath Cummings...