Running Back Shuffle Up: Get ready for Kerryon Johnson

We’re into August and we’re stepping into the teeth of fantasy football draft season. It’s time to get to some ranks and some prices, and we’ll continue with running backs — the big one.

Assume a half-point PPR scoring format. Perhaps it’s not the industry standard yet, but I think we’re going there.

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Please don’t get hung up on the exact prices, anyway. What matters most here is how the players relate to one another, where the talent clusters and where the talent drops off. Players at the same price are considered even.

The Premier Class

$53 Christian McCaffrey

$52 Saquon Barkley

$51 Ezekiel Elliott

$50 Alvin Kamara

$43 David Johnson

You can talk up or talk down anyone in this class, but obviously, each is a lottery pick everywhere. McCaffrey doesn’t have the ideal build, but his durability wasn’t an issue last year. That reception floor is the nectar of the gods. Barkley has to deal with the stench of the NYG quarterbacks. Elliott is currently a holdout, and Dak Prescott steals some of the cheap rushing touchdowns. Kamara has a very distinct touch upside, though he can do an awful lot with a little. Johnson is coming off a mediocre (for him) season, and he was hurt in 2017, though I put little blame on DJ for last year’s Arizona dumpster file.

I think everyone can talk up those five backs rather easily. Choose your bell cow.

Names to consider in Round 2 (or early Round 3)

$40 James Conner

$39 Le’Veon Bell

$39 Nick Chubb

$37 Joe Mixon

$36 Dalvin Cook

$32 Damien Williams

$32 Kerryon Johnson

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCtOBER 21: Kerryon Johnson #33 of the Detroit Lions runs with the ball against the Miami Dolphins during an NFL game on October 21, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Lions defeated the Dolphins 32-21. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
A breakout year for Kerryon Johnson is coming into focus (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

$31 Derrick Henry

$31 Devonta Freeman

$30 *Melvin Gordon

$29 Todd Gurley

Why do I love early drafts? Because you can make a killing off early market inefficiencies that disappear later. Johnson is one of those players, a giveaway in the spring and early summer, but the price is starting to correct now.

Johnson was an efficiency monster last year, and now Theo Riddick is gone, leaving some cheap receptions on the table. Johnson figures to be game-flow agnostic this year; he’ll always be on the field. He’s obviously the focal point of this offense now.

Is that a low ranking on Gurley? Sure. Does it mean you probably won’t get him if you put credence in this list? It sure does. The Rams didn’t trust Gurley with the money on the line late last year, and although he just turned 25, he’s one of the oldest 25 year olds in the league, body-wise. What does it tell you when the Rams ride C.J. Anderson (off the couch) in the playoffs, then trade up for a rookie running back in the third round of the fresh draft? And we know the Rams are not in the information-giveaway business. I want some floor in the early rounds, and I can’t view Gurley as a proactive pick.

I think the threat to Conner’s workload is being overblown. Let’s see how the Steelers play it when they’re down 14-3 and one of their younger backs misses an assignment. They’ll probably go back to what they know . . . I have contrasting ideas on Freeman because he’s at the point in a career when I usually look for reasons to fade. But Atlanta’s offense is loaded; the offensive line, in particular, was upgraded, and I don’t see a major talent challenging Freeman (I’m not buying this Ito Smith business).

If you’re faced with a Mixon vs. Cook debate, good news, we’ve had the same tussle at Yahoo.

Useful, but not as your primary back

$27 Leonard Fournette

$27 Chris Carson

$25 Marlon Mack

$23 Aaron Jones

$23 Josh Jacobs

$20 Phillip Lindsay

Fournette has the extensive injury history, but he’s not a zero in the passing game and Jacksonville’s depth after him is paper-thin. Where you slot him depends on how many games you’re willing to pay for. And the move from Blake Bortles to Nick Foles is a definite upgrade . . . Carson has been underrated all spring, on a run-first team that lost Mike Davis. Even if Rashaad Penny has a breakthrough year, Carson can still meet (or exceed) his draft cost . . . I’m lukewarm on Jacobs, but because the Raiders like him so much, I feel I can’t go any lower than this.

A plausible upside, a looming downside

$17 Tarik Cohen

$17 Mark Ingram

$16 James White

$16 Sony Michel

$15 Rashaad Penny

$14 Kenyan Drake

$14 Matt Breida

$14 Latavius Murray

$13 Tevin Coleman

$12 Austin Ekeler

$11 Lamar Miller

$11 Miles Sanders

$10 Derrius Guice

I’ve reached “Believe it when I see it” mode with Drake, who hasn’t been a featured back since high school . . . Michel’s medical file worries me, but the New England “backfield gridlock” is generally an overrated thing. It’s common for Patriots backs to emerge and establish projectable volume. LeGarrette Blount had a very consistent 18-touchdown season here. White had a superb year last season (and he offers a tidy floor now) . . . I’m open to pushing Sanders higher as the summer goes along. The Eagles generally like a wide usage tree, but perhaps Sanders will be talented enough to shove others out of the way . . . If you missed my Breida propaganda, it’s here for your consumption (along with several other logical RB sleepers).

Get Lucky

$9 Peyton Barber

$8 Jordan Howard

$8 Adrian Peterson

$8 Royce Freeman

$8 Kalen Ballage

$8 Darrell Henderson

$7 Chris Thompson

$7 David Montgomery

$6 Jaylen Samuels

$6 Nyheim Hines

$6 Ronald Jones

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$6 Damien Harris

$6 Devin Singletary

$5 Kareem Hunt

$5 C.J. Anderson

$5 LeSean McCoy

$5 Alexander Mattison

$4 Dion Lewis

$4 Gus Edwards

$4 Malcolm Brown

$3 Duke Johnson

$3 Carlos Hyde

$3 Justin Jackson

I suspect Mattison will be on a lot of my teams, trusting the Minnesota setup (hey, Kubiak) and not positive Cook will stay in one piece, though I’d love to see it . . . Hunt can obviously play, but I think it’s very likely Chubb will be so good through two months, there will be zero controversy when Hunt joins the club.

Everybody Else

$2 Jalen Richard

$2 Ito Smith

$2 Chase Edmonds

$2 Doug Martin

$2 Jamaal Williams

$1 Giovani Bernard

$1 Jerick McKinnon

$1 Kenneth Dixon

$1 T.J. Yeldon

$1 Brian Hill

$1 Rex Burkhead

$1 Mike Davis

$1 Dexter Williams

$1 Wayne Gallman

$1 Ty Montgomery

$1 Justice Hill

$1 Benny Snell

$0 Theo Riddick

$0 Jordan Wilkins

$0 Kyle Juszczyk

$0 Alfred Blue

$0 Frank Gore

$0 Corey Clement

$0 Wendell Smallwood

$0 Travis Homer

$0 Ryquell Armstead

$0 Mike Boone

$0 Cameron Artis-Payne

$0 Elijah McGuire

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