2019 Fantasy Football: Rookie running back breakdown with Josh Jacobs leading the pack

Rookie Breakdowns: RB | WR | TE | QB

What's the best way to describe the 2019 draft class? Hmm, that's a tough one. It's a deep group, but there appear to be more contributors and role players than superstars. 

Take the running backs for example. You'll learn everything there is to know about Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery and Miles Sanders, but beyond those three are plenty of backs with lots of potential to help a run game, not lead it. Maybe that changes in time in the cases of Darrell Henderson, Damien Harris and Devin Singletary, but even they're not cinches to be good. 

The receiver class is equally challenging to handicap. All three of CBS Sports' analysts have different receivers atop their dynasty positional rankings -- none of them being the first receiver taken in the actual NFL Draft! The good news is that several receivers landed in places where they can make a modest impact right away. 

If there's a position where there's a consensus on long-term optimism, it's tight end. T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant both have appeal as difference-making tight ends, even if it's not happening in 2019. Same goes for Jace Sternberger and Irv Smith, Jr. This fab four could make appearances in Fantasy drafts for the next five years.

But the most polarizing rookie is the one taken at the top of the NFL Draft -- Kyler Murray. While the rest of the rookie quarterbacks figure to struggle in limited playing time this season, Murray found a comfortable spot where he'll start in Week 1. If his game is anything like it was in college, Fantasy managers will be excited to draft him now and into the future.

Whether you're drafting in dynasty leagues, or just window-shopping for some sleepers, our rookie class preview is designed to give you an idea of what to expect in 2019 and beyond.

Here are the top running backs:

*age as of Week 1 of 2019 season


5-10, 220, 21 years old

Jacobs doesn't carry the sure-fire Fantasy stud label that Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott carried into league, but he's pretty close to being one. A prototypical three-down running back who should thrive in Jon Gruden's offense, Jacobs enters the NFL with minimal experience, only having three games with 15-plus carries. He left Alabama with just under 300 career touches, but it was enough to prove he played with good speed and lateral agility along with a knack for falling forward to pick up extra yards. He also displayed natural receiving skills and is a solid blocker to boot. In 12 years of playcalling, Gruden has developed a running back to over 1,000 total yards 10 times and at least seven touchdowns seven times. He also pushed one of the Raiders' less-than-stellar rushers to 15-plus touches in 10 of 16 games last season. Jacobs is as good as it gets from this rookie class. 

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Between 30th and 40th overall in every league. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.


5-10 1/8, 222, 21 years old

Montgomery has a complete skill set — strong athleticism, nimble feet, good hands, good blocking skills — but he doesn't flash a ton of speed. That means he needs volume in order to be effective for Fantasy, and it's volume he'll get in Chicago. If he replaces Jordan Howard's workload from 2018, Montgomery is in line for 15.6 carries per game with at least a few weekly targets. In an offense with a solid line and a penchant for creativity, especially near the goal line, that's a valuable role. Tarik Cohen typically gets around 10 touches per week and new Bears runner Mike Davis could also fill in, but Montgomery's legit strength and youthful legs should put him atop the depth chart. Over the past two years at Iowa State, he turned in back-to-back 1,400-total-yard campaigns with at least 11 touchdowns in each.

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Within 10 spots of when Jacobs is picked, most likely between 40th and 50th overall in every league.

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Should be a top-3 pick across the board.


5-10 1/2, 211, 22 years old

The guy behind Saquon Barkley for two years at Penn State, Sanders figures to spend the early part of his rookie year as a part-timer before evolving into a three-down back for Philadelphia's hulked-up offense. What Sanders lacks in terms of power he makes up for with lateral agility that helps him stop on a dime to change direction and burst past defenders. It all came into play last season when he rocked defenses for 5.8 yards per carry and nine touchdowns. There's potential for him to grow as a pass-catcher (24 catches last season) and he is a work-in-progress in pass protection, but once those areas bloom, he'll be great. Expect a slow start and a big finish from Sanders in 2019.

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Between 65th and 75th overall in every league. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Deserving of a top-five choice.


5-8 3/8, 208, 22 years old

Henderson's landing spot will open him up to some creative usage thanks to Sean McVay. He also has a chance to benefit from the Rams' easing of Todd Gurley's touches. Among the fastest breakaway running backs in the 2019 crop, Henderson crushed defenses for 25 total touchdowns and 2,204 total yards in 13 games with Memphis. Nice numbers, but Henderson's best work came in open space, not between the tackles. While he has room to improve in his physicality and pass blocking, he does have the potential to be a 10-touch per week running back with ridiculous upside if Gurley were to miss any playing time.

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Round 7 if you draft Gurley … or even if you don't! 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Top 12 for sure, top 10 by running-back needy managers.


5-10 1/8, 216, 22 years old

The replacement for Derrick Henry at Alabama, Harris started for the last three seasons and would have had amazing rushing numbers if not for limited carries (150 or fewer per year). A two-down bulldozer with good speed and acceleration, Harris has the hands and pass blocking prototype to eventually become a three-down feature guy. He might need a good O-line in front of him to truly unlock his potential (he didn't create yards in 2018 as well as he did in 2017) and his pass blocking technique needs work, but he's a mature, coachable, physical running back with good speed. If Sony Michel falters, this is the Patriots' back of the future. 

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Soon after 100th overall.

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Not a lock for the top 12, but certainly for the top 20. 


5-10 5/8, 221, 21 years old

Coming off back-to-back 1,000-rush-yard, 12-score seasons at Boise State, Mattison finds himself in position to backup Dalvin Cook, a gig that has kept players busy over the past two seasons. His best attributes are his size, his lateral quickness, his patience and his hands. If only his speed was an asset — he ran close to a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash and will get caught behind by defenders regularly. Mattison could find some meaningful reps this season if Cook misses playing time. That's enough to make him worth a draft pick — and a must-own for those who choose Cook with a top-20 pick.

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Round 10 or later.



5-7 1/2, 203, 22 years old

With LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon all expected to make the Bills roster in 2019, the odds are stacked against Singletary getting a large workload. Singletary is undersized, doesn't have rocket speed, isn't an accomplished blocker and is an unproven receiver, but man, can he juke people out of their cleats! His uncanny ability to create yards on his own by using a perfect combination of patience, balance and lateral agility helped him notch back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and score 66 times in 38 games for Florida Atlantic. It also helps that he's powerful enough to pick up chunks of yardage after contact. If you draft Singletary in long-term formats, enjoy the ride but be patient this year. 

2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Someone will grab him in Round 12 or later.

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: A cinch for the top 15, he's a heck of a wait-and-see choice to spend a late first-rounder on.

So which Fantasy Football breakouts should you be all over? And which rookie running back is set to explode? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that has simulated the season 10,000 times, and find out.

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

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