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Five bold running back predictions for 2019

Give me all the James Conner shares

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers-Training Camp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley II will NOT finish this season in the top three in rushing yards

Justification: In the last five years, only once has a player repeated in the top three year over year (Todd Gurley 2017 and 2018). 2014 (DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy) 2015 (Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Todd Gurley II) 2016 (Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard, DeMarco Murray) 2017 (Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley II, Le’Veon Bell) 2018 (Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Todd Gurley II). I could see Christian McCaffrey, Phillip Lindsay, Nick Chubb, James Conner, even David Johnson being up there.

James Conner is a top three fantasy player this year

Justification: Last year he stepped up in a fantastic form for Le’Veon Bell, he would have 973 yards (11th in NFL), nine 20+ rushes (7th in the league), 12 rushing Touchdowns (3rd in NFL), 55 receptions (12th in NFL), 497 receiving yards (9th in NFL) and finally one of my favorites, all of this with just 215 rushing attempts (11th in NFL) and 71 targets in receiving (14th in NFL). I highlight the last two as you could argue the team could use him more and he wasn’t pushed too far last year. For years the curse of 370 carries could haunt RB’s the next season, this was something that was done 29 times, most recently by DeMarco Murray in 2014. Finally, have you seen that Pittsburgh offensive line, they are among the best in the NFL.

Marlon Mack is a top 10 fantasy RB this season

Justification: Widely placed in the 15-17 range, Marlon is now entering his third season in the NFL, the 23 year old player out of South Florida had a respectable 2018 season finishing with 908 rushing yards (16th in NFL), nine rushing touchdowns (7th in NFL) and seven 20+ rushes (14th in NFL) on just 195 attempts (15th in NFL). He is being held back on the receptions side where he was targeted 26 times for 103 yards and one touchdown while teammates Spencer Ware had 23 targets for 224 yards and Nyheim Hines had 81 targets for 425 yards. This is a double edged sword, other RBs are getting passes but this also shows Luck is not afraid to really get his RB involved in the passing game as well (128 receptions is among the top teams in the league with New Orleans, New England and Oakland). Marlon had hamstring issues to start last year which held him back four games, in addition to that concussions and shoulder injuries should be of note. I think if he can stay healthy, the rejuvenated Colts offensive line can give him gaps to really exploit.

Derrick Henry does not finish inside the top 30 RB this season after being in the top 10 last year

Justification: To start with, Dion Lewis might overtake the spot by year end, the team has been impressed with his showing thus far. Focusing on Derrick, he is hurt with a calf injury in training camp that will take him out for two weeks. If this team wants to utilize him heavily like they did the final five games of last season, injuries like this could limit that possibility. second, he had that amazing 99 yard run but I’m not convinced that is a repeatable feat. When you remove that, his yards per average falls from 12th to 31st and his total yards falls from 7th to 13th. The previous two seasons he had five touchdowns and it jumped up to 12 last season, I’m inclined to think it regresses back down to single digits. On the receiving side he was under 100 yards with no touchdowns.

For the first time since 1990, no RB has more than 300 rushing attempts

Justification: In the last four years, exactly one RB has achieved this each season: 2015 (Adrian Peterson 327); 2016 (Ezekiel Elliott 322); 2017 (Le’Veon Bell 321); Ezekiel Elliott (304). Last year we barely crossed that threshold and I’m struggling to see who is going to pass the marker season? The most likely candidates: Ezekiel Elliott might hold out (not to mention Dak Prescott will want to sling the ball out in a contract year), Saquon Barkley seems to be as involved in the passing game as rushing game (121 targets last year, 3rd most in NFL), Le’Veon Bell is now 27 years old and of the 33 players who did this in the last 10 years, nine (27%) were 27 or older and none of this factors in potential injuries.

Poll

Which bold prediction will come true?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Elliott, Barkley & Gurley won’t be top 3 in rushing yards
    (17 votes)
  • 36%
    Conner is a top 3 fantasy player
    (97 votes)
  • 30%
    Mack is a top 10 fantasy back
    (81 votes)
  • 15%
    Henry finishes outside RB30
    (40 votes)
  • 10%
    No RB has more than 300 rushing attempts
    (28 votes)
263 votes total Vote Now