Way-too-early 2019 fantasy RB preview: How will Le'Veon Bell's return affect landscape?

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Whether you’re basking in glory or wallowing in defeat, the 2018 fantasy season is officially in the books. Because owner minds never rest, the Yahoo Fantasy crew looks ahead to what the New Year may hold. Today’s position under the microscope: Running Backs.

Among running backs that finished inside the position’s top-24, who do you believe could experience a decline in 2019?

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Andy: Entering the offseason, MARLON MACK‘s range of possible outcomes is fantastically wide for 2019. Le’Veon Bell is reportedly eying a job in Indy, so he represents the greatest threat to Mack’s value. But even if Bell lands elsewhere, we have to continue to fret about Mack’s injury history and the threat posed by Nyheim Hines. Of course, if things break just right for Mack, he has a path to a top-12 positional finish. He’s a key swing player for fantasy purposes in the year ahead.

Brad: PHILLIP LINDSAY. From the deepest, darkest recesses to the Pro Bowl, the undrafted rookie was one of fantasy’s, and the NFL’s, feel-good stories of 2018. However, expected to miss 4-6 months post wrist surgery and with a coaching change on the horizon, much is in flux for the youngster. Visually, Lindsay was stunning, but he benefited greatly from light boxes (14.06 stack%).

[Early position previews for 2019: QBs | RBs | WRs]

His unappealing secondary analytics also don’t paint the rosiest picture (RB51 in YAC/att; RB42 in elusive rating). His outlook as a top-flight RB2 is foggy, for now.

Scott: JAMES WHITE is such an obvious answer, it’s not even worth discussion. He hit the high end of his range, and doesn’t have a skill set to command a heavy workload. But among players with more buzzy reputations, I’m concerned at what TARIK COHEN will offer us after a season in the Top 20. Matt Nagy doesn’t have much interest in prioritizing Cohen — heck, Cohen had just four touches in the Wild Card round — and this team’s usage tree is likely to be wide again in 2019. Cohen was able to score eight times on just 170 touches last year — a rate that could be difficult to match.

Conversely, what rusher outside the 2018 RB1/RB2 ranks do you think jumps in value next season?

Brad: KERRYON JOHNSON. Prematurely derailed by a knee injury in Week 11, Johnson was well on his way to a strong second half. As the Lions’ primary rusher from Weeks 3-11, he ranked RB16 and totaled 93.9 combined yards per game, four touchdowns and 3.41 yards after contact per attempt. He also forced a missed tackle 19.4 percent of the time. If Matt Patricia commits to him 15-20 times per game, he could easily crack the position’s top-12, especially in .5 or greater PPR formats.

Andy: Am I allowed to say LE’VEON BELL? Because the correct answer is pretty clearly Bell, regardless of his landing spot. I still can’t believe he did what he did in 2018, forgoing a salary that would have nearly doubled his career earnings. But whatever. It’s done. He enters his age-27 season healthy and poised to reclaim first-round fantasy value.

Where will Le’Veon Bell land? (Photos by Justin K. Aller/Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Where will Le’Veon Bell land? (Photos by Justin K. Aller/Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Scott: Get DALVIN COOK next year. Put a star next to his name. Drain the highlighter. He’ll be two years removed from his ACL blowout, and the price should be in a reasonable pocket after an overall tepid 2018 (perhaps you noticed the sneak preview over December’s five games, when Cook rang up 5.7 YPC and was the RB7).

Listomania. Scribble down your initial top-10 running back ranks for next season.

Scott: 1) Ezekiel Elliott, 2) Saquon Barley, 3) Todd Gurley, 4) Christian McCaffrey, 5) Melvin Gordon, 6) Alvin Kamara, 7) Nick Chubb, 8) Joe Mixon, 9) James Conner, 10) Le’Veon Bell

Andy: 1) Ezekiel Elliott, 2) Todd Gurley, 3) Saquon Barkley, 4) Christian McCaffrey, 5) Melvin Gordon, 6) Alvin Kamara, 7) James Conner, 8) Nick Chubb, 9) Le’Veon Bell, 10) Joe Mixon.

Brad: 1) Todd Gurley, 2) Saquon Barkley, 3) Ezekiel Elliott, 4) Christian McCaffrey, 5) Melvin Gordon, 6) James Conner, 7) Alvin Kamara, 8) Le’Veon Bell, 9) Nick Chubb, 10) David Johnson

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