Running Back Shuffle Up: Christian McCaffrey, still unfair

Scott Pianowski
·7 min read

Shuffle Up season is here, my friends. Here’s the idea: How would we rank fantasy players if the season were starting right now?

A few caveats upfront. The salaries are unscientific in nature, merely used as a way to compare players within their position. I do not compare salaries outside of position — the salary of a running back is only meant to be considered within his positional class. I am generally far less expectant with injury-returning players, so don’t be surprised when I like them less than you do.

Every Shuffle Up is done from scratch. I think it’s counterproductive to justify an old, dated list.

Last week we shuffled the quarterbacks. This week, the running backs. The wideouts and tight ends will follow in subsequent weeks.

Players with the same salary are considered even. Assume a half-point PPR scoring system, and away we go.

The elite class

$50 Christian McCaffrey

$45 Saquon Barkley

$45 Ezekiel Elliott

$41 Alvin Kamara

$41 Dalvin Cook

$39 Derrick Henry

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 15: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers before their game against the Seattle Seahawks at Bank of America Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Christian McCaffrey remains the most unfair player in fantasy football. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

If I could pre-select my draft slot, give me No. 1 and McCaffrey. His pass-catching chops make him situation-proof, and it also helps that he doesn’t have to take on the interior of the defense on all of his touches. Carolina looks like a messy team on paper, but I can’t see how it’s any worse than last year . . . Elliott might have more floor than Barkley, but mileage points to the NYG back. I don’t see an obvious way to break the tie. But if I can’t get that first pick, I’d rather shift down the first round . . . Kamara was touchdown lucky in 2018, touchdown unlucky last year. But he also had two major injuries in 2019; note he scored four touchdowns in his final two games. New Orleans is an offense built on continuity . . . I expect Cook and the Vikings to sort things out, and we know Mike Zimmer likes to play 1977 football. Gary Kubiak also remains, and he’s a brilliant run designer . . . I always felt Henry could catch more passes if the Titans wanted to open their minds, but it doesn’t matter if that never spikes. He’s the odds-on favorite to lead the league in attempts, rushing yards, or both. And the Titans still have a quality offensive line.

Guys you’re excited to get

$35 Kenyan Drake

$35 Nick Chubb

$35 Joe Mixon

$32 Austin Ekeler

$32 Clyde Edwards-Helaire

$32 Miles Sanders

Although Arizona’s offense is called Air Raid, it’s also a juicy setup for rushing production. The Cardinals were second in YPC last year, and Drake graded as the RB4 in PPR scoring over the last two months. One key note on Drake: I’m also eager to select Chase Edmonds, and that’s irrespective of whether or not I also land Drake. This is a running game to invest in . . . The Browns couldn’t run at the goal last year, and Chubb also loses some catches to Kareem Hunt, an elite pass catcher. But with Hue Jackson and Freddie Kitchens mercifully out of Cleveland, maybe the Browns could find an offensive spike . . . Mixon has survived some terrible offensive lines in Cincinnati, and I think it’s reasonable that QB Joe Burrow might be pro-ready. The Bengals are unlikely to contend, but I think they can be competitive . . . CEH went from juicy upside pick to expectant buzzy pick the moment Damien Williams opted out. Everyone can see how delicious the setup is, but it makes me nervous to jump in at the height of his range . . . Are the Eagles finally ready to embrace a true bell cow? Doug Pederson has been reluctant with that approach, but Sanders is the most talented back he’s had.

Mostly upside, but some downside

$29 Aaron Jones

$27 Josh Jacobs

$25 Melvin Gordon

$25 James Conner

$23 Mark Ingram

$23 Raheem Mostert

$22 Chris Carson

$20 Devin Singletary

The Regression Police will ignore Jones, but he can still score 7-9 touchdowns with a reasonable year. I just wish I had more faith in the Green Bay personnel decisions . . . Jacobs is talking about a spike in receptions, but it sounds like one of those misleading, unfounded summer puff pieces. A BS detector is critical for fantasy success . . . Pittsburgh’s offense has a wide range of outcomes, but Conner was still strong on a per-start basis last year, and the offensive line should be above average. Ultimately, it comes down to the health of Conner and Ben Roethlisberger . . . Ingram’s receiving touchdowns are hard to take at face value, but he strikes me as a Frank Gore type, someone who will probably maintain a high level of play into their 30s. It’s not a common career path, but finding outliers is key for success in our game.

Somewhat boring, but they’ll play a lot

$18 David Johnson

$18 David Montgomery

$18 Leonard Fournette

$17 Le'Veon Bell

$17 Jonathan Taylor

$16 Todd Gurley

The only thing I like about DJ is the idea that the Texans pretty much have to play him. He looked cooked at the end of last year . . . The Jags tried to move Fournette and found no takers. I have plenty of interest in Gardner Minshew, D.J. Chark and a possible Jacksonville carnival, but Fournette I don’t trust; he’s sure to lose catches from last year, and the team won’t have many positive game scripts . . . Gurley is the oldest 26-year-old back in the league, and Atlanta’s blocking and rushing game was a mess last year. Matt Ryan will need to throw 40-plus times most weeks.

Start flipping some coins

$14 Cam Akers

$12 Ronald Jones

$12 D'Andre Swift

$11 Kareem Hunt

$11 Phillip Lindsay

$10 James White

$9 Marlon Mack

$9 Jordan Howard

$8 Tarik Cohen

White has no rushing upside and the Cam fit might not be ideal for him, but he’s still the safest bet in the New England backfield. Just know he’s more boring-floor player than intriguing upside pick . . . Howard is a two-down grinder, but don’t ignore how competitive Miami was in the second half of 2019 . . . Cohen’s always been a little overrated as a pass-catcher, at least in the metrics, but so long as the Bears value him in that part of the game, he can get us numbers we need.

Up all night to get lucky

$7 Kerryon Johnson

$6 Nyheim Hines

$6 Adrian Peterson

$6 Chase Edmonds

$5 Alexander Mattison

$5 Latavius Murray

$5 J.K. Dobbins

$5 Tevin Coleman

$5 Zack Moss

$5 Duke Johnson

$4 Darrell Henderson

$4 Boston Scott

$4 Antonio Gibson

$4 Matt Breida

Peterson might have another year around 1,000 total yards in him, more out of necessity than anything else . . . Coachspeak often has to be filtered out, but when Frank Reich talks up Hines as a pass catcher, I suspect he really believes what he says . . . Edmonds is one of my favorite understudy targets, and again, it doesn’t matter if you have Drake or not . . . Moss could get more rushing touchdowns than Singletary, but unfortunately, Josh Allen is still the de-facto goal-line back here.

Bargain Bin

$3 DeAndre Washington

$3 Sony Michel

$3 Tony Pollard

$3 A.J. Dillon

$3 Damien Harris

$2 Jamaal Williams

$2 Carlos Hyde

$2 Justin Jackson

$2 Chris Thompson

$2 Jalen Richard

$2 Darrel Williams

$1 LeSean McCoy

$1 Benny Snell

$1 Malcolm Brown

$1 Gus Edwards

$1 KeShawn Vaughn

$1 Ito Smith

$0 Devonta Freeman

$0 Jaylen Samuels

$0 Giovani Bernard

$0 Darrynton Evans

$0 Kyle Juszczyk

$0 Rex Burkhead

$0 Joshua Kelley

$0 Lynn Bowden

$0 J.D. McKissic

$0 Patrick Laird

$0 Jeff Wilson

$0 Ryquell Armstead

$0 Reggie Bonnafon

$0 Dare Ogunbowale

$0 Frank Gore

$0 Dion Lewis

Have disagreements to discuss? Catch me on Twitter: @scott_pianowski

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