2018 Fantasy Football Offseason: Running backs dominate early mock draft

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Our first mock draft following the NFL Draft definitely produced some interesting results. And it wasn't just because we're finally getting a realistic gauge of where the rookies will be selected in Fantasy drafts this season.

This 12-team standard mock draft also occurred following some recent running back news with Mark Ingram and C.J. Anderson, and we got to see what some Fantasy owners now think of the backfields in New Orleans and Carolina. As you would expect, things have changed for Alvin Kamara, Ingram, Christian McCaffrey and Anderson.  

Start with the Saints, who are now dealing with Ingram's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Ingram, who was a second-round pick in most leagues before the suspension, fell to Round 5 here, which is a realistic landing spot for him. He still has the chance to produce at a high level even with the four-game absence.

In looking at Ingram's production from 2017 when he finished as the No. 6 Fantasy running back in standard leagues, he had eight games with double digits in Fantasy points in his final 12 outings, which coincided with New Orleans trading Adrian Peterson to Arizona. His stats in those final 12 games were 188 carries for 954 yards and 12 touchdowns and 43 catches for 291 yards, so he can still be dominant once he gets back on the field in Week 5.

Kamara, who was already being selected toward the end of Round 1 or beginning of Round 2 before the Ingram news, went at No. 9 overall here. I'm actually surprised he didn't go sooner, and I would anticipate him being drafted as high as No. 6 overall in all formats.

Kamara finished his rookie season in 2017 as the No. 4 Fantasy running back in standard leagues, and he had no games with 20-plus touches. His workload will increase now that Ingram is out to start the season, and if Kamara can handle the additional touches without breaking down, he should have the chance to be a top-five Fantasy running back again in his sophomore campaign.

In Carolina, the Panthers made a smart addition by signing Anderson, who was released by Denver earlier this offseason in a cost-cutting move. He will now replace Jonathan Stewart and form what could be a formidable tandem with McCaffrey.

Anderson should have the chance for the majority of touches vacated by Stewart, who had 198 carries for 680 yards and six touchdowns and eight catches for 52 yards and a touchdown in 2017. Anderson was just the No. 16 Fantasy running back in standard leagues with the Broncos last year -- one spot behind McCaffrey -- and he's averaged 4.4-yards per carry in his career.

If Anderson can maintain that level of production at about 200 carries, then he's looking at more than 800 rushing yards, and Stewart has scored at least seven total touchdowns in each of the past three years for the Panthers. Don't discount Anderson as a flex option this season, and he was drafted in Round 7 here, which is a good spot for him.

Prior to Anderson's signing, McCaffrey was a popular Round 2 selection with the expectation he would take on more work with Stewart gone. He's still going to get more carries than the 117 he had as a rookie in 2017 to go with his 80 catches, but he was never going to be a 250-carry guy.

McCaffrey fell to Round 3 in this draft as the No. 14 running back off the board, and that's the right spot for him. McCaffrey can still be a breakout candidate even with the addition of Anderson.

While McCaffrey and Kamara were two of the best rookies last season, this year's group of incoming running backs comes into the NFL with high expectations. There were eight of them selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft -- Saquon Barkley (Giants), Rashaad Penny (Seahawks), Sony Michel (Patriots), Nick Chubb (Browns), Ronald Jones (Buccaneers), Kerryon Johnson (Lions), Derrius Guice (Redskins) and Royce Freeman (Broncos) -- and all of them have the chance to be Fantasy relevant in a significant way this season.

In this mock draft, Barkley was the first rookie selected at No. 11 overall in the first round, and I can see him being drafted as high as No. 6 overall. He has the chance to be an elite talent right away and is worth the first-round selection.

Round 4 kicked off the run on rookie rushers, as Jones, Penny and Guice went in that round, with Michel and Freeman going in Round 5. Johnson was drafted in Round 6, and Chubb went in Round 7.

I'm excited about all of these running backs and their long-term outlooks, which bodes well for dynasty leagues, but my rank list for this group in seasonal formats is Barkley, Penny, Jones, Freeman, Guice, Johnson, Michel and Chubb. After Barkley, you should consider Penny, Jones, Freeman and Guice as No. 2 running backs. I consider Johnson and Michel as flex options, and Chubb is just a reserve. 

Michel and Chubb make me slightly nervous with their Fantasy value this season because they are going to crowded backfields. Still, especially with Michel, I'm hopeful they can excel in their rookie year.

Some other rookie running backs who were drafted in this mock include Jordan Wilkins (Round 10), Nyheim Hines (Round 12) and Kalen Ballage (Round 13). Of these guys, keep an eye on Wilkins, who could emerge as a significant contributor for the Colts and should be considered a sleeper in all leagues.

The rookie receivers, as expected, weren't highly coveted in this mock draft. There were six selected -- D.J. Moore (Round 8), Anthony Miller (Round 10), Calvin Ridley (Round 11), Michael Gallup (Round 14), Christian Kirk (Round 14) and Courtland Sutton (Round 15) -- and I would expect this to reflect most seasonal drafts with none of them coming off the board until about No. 90 overall. Only Kirk and Sutton, as of now, aren't guaranteed to be taken in most re-draft leagues.

Moore, Miller, Ridley and Gallup all project as No. 3 or 4 Fantasy receivers to open the season, and I have them ranked in this order for 2018: Moore, Gallup, Miller and Ridley. I expect Moore and Gallup to be the best receivers in Carolina and Dallas, respectively, and Miller and Ridley will be strong role players. Gallup, in Round 14 here, was a steal.

I drafted three rookies on my team with Barkley, Freeman and Ballage, and I love my running back corps when you add in Kenyan Drake and Marlon Mack. Drake was exceptional last season after the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to the Eagles, and Mack should be the best running back for the Colts. That said, I was disappointed I missed out on handcuffing him with Wilkins.

My receiving corps has one stud (Michael Thomas), one player with huge upside (Josh Gordon) and two other receivers with promise (Cooper Kupp and Will Fuller). If Kupp plays as well as he did last season as a rookie, he's a solid No. 3 receiver, and I expect Fuller to have a breakout third-year campaign with a full season of quarterback Deshaun Watson. I was also able to get Kenny Stills in Round 12, and he should be the Dolphins' best receiver now that Jarvis Landry was traded to the Browns.

One thing that could make this team dominant was being able to wait on quarterback and tight end and still get standout Fantasy options with Cam Newton in Round 9 and Kyle Rudolph in Round 10. Newton is a top-five quarterback coming into the season, especially with the additions of Moore and Torrey Smith to his receiving corps. And Rudolph has been a top-six Fantasy tight end in standard leagues in each of the past two years.

In this league, all touchdowns are worth six points, and we award one point for every 10 yards rushing and receiving and one point for every 25 yards passing. We feature a starting lineup of QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, K, DST and a FLEX (RB/WR/TE). There will also be six reserve spots for a 15-round draft.

Our draft order is as follows:

  1. Will Brinson, NFL Writer
  2. Robert Arciero, CBS Sports HQ Producer
  3. Heath Cummings, Senior Fantasy Writer
  4. Andrew Baumhor, CBS Sports HQ Producer
  5. George Maselli, Fantasy Editor
  6. Chris Towers, Senior Editor, Fantasy
  7. Adam Aizer, Podcast Host
  8. Dave Richard, Senior Fantasy Writer
  9. R.J. White, NFL Editor
  10. Matthew Coca, CBS Sports HQ Producer
  11. Jamey Eisenberg, Senior Fantasy Writer
  12. J. Darin Darst, Production Manager
Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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