I started playing fantasy football probably 20 or maybe even 25 years ago. Until the last season or two no matter if you where in a large league or even the smallest of leagues the one thing you needed to draft in the 1st round was a workhorse running back. You needed t find that guy who was going to give you those 20 to 25 carries and get you close to or over 100 yards every game. Now with the changes to the NFL's offenses and the focus really turning to the passing game that one big stud running back has become less and less important. As I get ready for my upcoming drafts I'll look around and see who has who ranked where and this is the first time since I've been playing fantasy football that I haven't seen a set of ranking with a running back at #1. As it is now there's really not an offense that uses the same running back in all of their sets; even though some of them could stay on the field. So who's going to be the guy in your league to step up and take that 1st round running back. I've yet to see a mock draft with a running back going in the Top 3. Even if you are going to be the guy to take that first running back off the draft board; who will it be? Let's take a look at guys who might be their teams workhorse. 

I still think that Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is the guy to have. Peterson carried the football 327 times last season. Peterson is 31 and when a running back gets into his 30's he seems to start to go downhill. I don;t think that Peterson is that guy and he's still my top running back. 

Many have called Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams the next Adrian Peterson. That's high praise, but Gurley had a good rookie season racking up 1106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games. With a rookie quarterback under center Gurley should be the focus of the Rams offense. The question may be; can he stay healthy. 

Doug Martin of the Tampa bay Buccaneers had a bounce back season in 2015. He carried the ball 288 times for 1402 yards, but only managed 6 rushing touchdowns. The Buccaneers made a change at head coach to try and it looks like they're going to rely more on Jameis Winston's arm than Martin's legs. 

Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons found the end zone 11 times last season. Freeman seems t be a good fit for the Atlanta offense that focuses on Julio Jones. I'm not sure if Freeman will get close to his 11 touchdown total of last season, but don't forget that you're also looking at a running back who's involved in the passing game. Freeman caught 73 passes last season.

If Jeremy Hill is the #1 guy for the Cincinnati Bengals he could be a big fantasy football factor. Hill racked up 11 touchdowns last season on just 223 carries. Could his carries push to that 250 mark or more? It's going to depend on how much time Giovanni Bernard takes away from him in the backfield. Hill is still the main rusher and should get the touchdowns on the ground. 

If we're calling those the Top 5 I'd be alright with that, but there are some other interesting running backs out there to look at. LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills played in just 12 games last season. If he's healthy everyone knows Rex Ryan likes to run the football. Matt Forte is getting a fresh start with the New York Jets this season. He should get the bulk of the carries and be a factor in the passing game. These two veterans should still get numbers for you.

Now there are quite a few questions as well. Who will Latavius Murray be? He rushed for 1066 yards last season for the Oakland Raiders, but it seemed as though everyone thought he could do more. I was a big fan of Chris Ivory's last season. Now that he's moved on to the Jacksonville Jaquars I'm not as sold on him. Injuries and a healthy Marshawn Lynch limited Thomas Rawls to 147 carries last season. He put up good numbers for the Seattle Seahawks when he was the #1 back, but will he stay healthy. What about Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs? He's the definition of home run hitter as a running back, but he was limited to 5 games last season and has started out this season on the Physical Unable to Perform list.     

Then of course there are the guys that you just don't know about. David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals is getting a lot of fantasy love and I've seen him ranked by some as the #1 running back. I'm not sure what Johnson did in the off season t jump the board like that, but it's high praise for a player that's on a pass first team. Dallas Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliot could be an interesting choice. Dallas has the best offensive line in the NFL and Elliot should benefit greatly from that. Healthy will be the question here as he is already sidelined with a hamstring injury. With the move to the Houston Texans Lamar Miller has drawn some interest. Houston has a history of succeeding with running backs. Miller was a fantasy bust with the Miami Dolphins, but maybe a fresh start helps him. The New Orleans Saints are a pass first team; so you just don;t know what kind of numbers Mark Ingram will put up. Do you trust Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers? He came to training camp in shape, but no one knows how the Packers themselves feel about him. Could C.J. Anderson be the guy in Denver. The Broncos quarterback situation is up in the air; so maybe they rely on Anderson to carry the load.

The guy I saved for last and I really don;t know what we're going to see or get out of him is DeMarco Murray. In 2014 behind that Dallas offensive line Murray was a world beater. 1845 yards and 13 touchdowns on 392 carries. Murray signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, but never found a spot in that Chip Kelly offense.  Murray was traded to the Tennessee Titans in the off season and should be there #1 running back. Murray did break off a 71-yard run in Tennessee;s 1st pre-season game, but don't forget the Titans spent a 2nd round draft pick on Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. While Murray should be the #1 guy you have to wonder how many carries Henry takes away from him. 

Now since my daft is a little less than a month away I'm sure my feelings on all of these guys will changes.    

Published by John Burke