Fantasy football position rankings: Running backs

There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting soon. Through Saturday I’ll share my rankings for each position. I started with quarterbacks Tuesday and running backs are next. Wide receivers, tight ends and defenses will follow. This year I’ve added tiers to better help you prepare for your draft.

RELATED: Fantasy football rankings: Top 250.

Running backs

Tier 1

It doesn’t matter much to me if you swap the two ball carriers in this tier, they’ll both score big this season. I just think Bell is the bigger workhorse. He rushed the ball 321 times last year. That’s 34 more attempts than LeSean McCoy who had the second most carries. Some RB1s don’t even get as many touches in a season as Bell had rushes last year. He had more than 400 touches, when you add in his 85 receptions, last season and there’s no reason for that to change.

1. Le’Veon Bell, PIT
2. Todd Gurley, LAR

Tier 2 

If David Johnson finishes the season as the top fantasy-scoring running back I wouldn’t be surprised. He was very close to a 1,000-1,000 season in 2016 and he’s fully recovered from injury. The Cardinals won’t be that good this year so they’ll lean on their best asset. Sam Bradford doesn’t scare anyone, but he’s accurate on short passes and a lot of them could go Johnson’s way. The same could be said for Ezekiel Elliott, who should play all 16 games this year if healthy. In just ten games last season Elliott still had 242 rushing attempts. With a suspect passing game, he may get more targets on short routes to help Dak Prescott out.

3. David Johnson, ARI
4. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL

Tier 3

I nearly had Melvin Gordon in the second tier with Johnson and Elliott based on his workhorse status. He touched the ball nearly 350 times in 2017. Instead I have him topping this group. There are a lot of options here, and I don’t see a lot of drop-off from Gordon to Devonta Freeman and RB12. You’ll notice Alvin Kamara behind Gordon. The Saint was topping rankings earlier in the summer, but I don’t think that’s realistic. He was hyper efficient last season because New Orleans used him perfectly in tandem with Mark Ingram. Also in this group is rookie Saquon Barkley, who could become the third straight rookie to lead the league in rushing if things fall his way.

5. Melvin Gordon, LAC
6. Alvin Kamara, NO
7. Leonard Fournette, JAC
8. Saquon Barkley, NYG
9. Christian McCaffrey, CAR
10. Kareem Hunt, KC
11. Dalvin Cook, MIN
12. Devonta Freeman, ATL

Tier 4

This tier is where things get a little bit complicated. McCoy is coming off of a second straight season of over 1,000 yards rushing while making at least 50 receptions. He’s currently nursing a groin, but it should be noted that he hasn’t been much of an injury risk over the years. He’s missed five games in the last five years. Not bad. Also in this tier is Alex Collins, who could very well end up being the best of the group. He’s expected to be the feature rusher for Baltimore and he nearly topped 1,000 yards rushing on just 212 carries at 4.6 yards per rush last season. Joe Mixon, Jerick McKinnon and Jordan Howard all have similar situations in which they’ll be featured rushers.

13. LeSean McCoy, BUF
14. Joe Mixon, CIN
15. Jerick McKinnon, SF
16. Jordan Howard, CHI
17. Alex Collins, BAL

Tier 5

I think Dion Lewis will be a great value and I see him as finishing with more fantasy points than teammate Derrick Henry. Lewis is getting drafted in the fifth round while Henry is getting taken in the third. I think it’s a bit risky to spend that kind of draft capital on Henry, who merely flashed a few times last season. Henry didn’t average more than 3.1 yards per rush in each of his final four games last year. I’d even rather take a shot on rookie Royce Freeman, who should lead the backfield in Denver. Another solid option in this group is Kenyan Drake, who has a lot of talent that should finally be showcased in Miami.

18. Dion Lewis, TEN
19. Royce Freeman, DEN
20. Jay Ajayi, PHI
21. Kenyan Drake, MIA
22. Lamar Miller, HOU
23. Marshawn Lynch, OAK
24. Rex Burkhead, NE
25. Derrick Henry, TEN

Tier 6

Chris Carson is flying up my best-value list of players. He’s getting drafted in the seventh round, due to expectations that Rashaad Penny will take over the Seahawks’ backfield. That may not be true, however. Carson has played well this preseason and Penny is dealing with a broken finger which will affect his practice time leading up to the season opener. Add to that Penny’s struggles with pass protection and Carson could be the main man for Seattle. Another player I’m high on in this tier is Kerryon Johnson. The rookie can be a big factor in the passing game and has already showed flashes in the preseason.

26. Chris Carson, SEA
27. Tevin Coleman, ATL
28. Mark Ingram, NO
29. Sony Michel, NE
30. Isaiah Crowell, NYJ
31. Kerryon Johnson, DET
32. Robert Kelley, WAS

Tier 7

Here’s where we start to get a mixed bag of rushers who you’ll have to make a call on as it gets closer to your draft. An interesting option in this tier is Carlos Hyde, who should get the most touches in the Cleveland backfield. While Duke Johnson could still be a pass-catching factor, Hyde also has a good pair of hands. It should also be noted that Jarvis Landry, an expert in the short passing game could negate some of the usefulness of Johnson.

33. Rashaad Penny, SEA
34. Tarik Cohen, CHI
35. Carlos Hyde, CLE
36. Duke Johnson, CLE
37. Bilal Powell, NYJ
38. Ty Montgomery, GB
39. Marlon Mack, IND
40. Jamaal Williams, GB
41. Peyton Barber, TB
42. Ronald Jones II, TB

Tier 8

Leading off this eighth tier is one of the most efficient weapons from last season. Chris Thompson only rushed for 294 yards but at 4.6 yards per carry. His value is in his receiving ability. He caught 39 passes for 510 yards and four touchdowns in ten games. That’s 51 yards receiving per game from the running back position, more than Alshon Jeffery, Chris Hogan and Amari Cooper last year. Another value pick in this group could be Latavius Murray. Dalvin Cook played in four games last season, and though he was outstanding, that’s a very small sample size. Murray could still have a major role in the backfield, including possibly the goal-line back.

43. Chris Thompson, WAS
44. Latavius Murray, MIN
45. LeGarrette Blount, DET
46. Corey Clement, PHI
47. James White, NE
48. Frank Gore, MIA
49. C.J. Anderson, CAR
50. Devontae Booker, DEN
51. Giovani Bernard, CIN
52. Spencer Ware, KC
53. Matt Breida, SF

Tier 9

You can hedge your bets with some of these rushers, or look for flex options. I like Jordan Wilkins, but he recently fumbled on the goal line in his second preseason game. That said, he has the look of a feature back and the Colts are in need of someone who can fill Frank Gore’s shoes. Nyheim Hines is good on pass-catching downs, but I like the idea of taking a flier on Wilkins instead.

54. T.J. Yeldon, JAC
55. Nick Chubb, CLE
56. Jordan Wilkins, IND
57. Theo Riddick, DET
58. Nyheim Hines, IND
59. Darren Sproles, PHI
60. Doug Martin, OAK
61. Kenneth Dixon, BAL
62. Aaron Jones, GB
63. Chris Ivory, BUF
64. Jonathan Stewart, NYG
65. C.J. Prosise, SEA
66. D’Onta Foreman, HOU

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.