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Most consistent fantasy running backs of 2018

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Running backs continued to rule the fantasy football roost in 2018.

Five runners (Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott) finished with 325-plus PPR fantasy points this season. This has happened just one other time since 2000, when Priest Holmes, LaDainian Tomlinson, Ricky Williams, Charlie Garner and Shaun Alexander all reached that mark during the 2002 campaign.

The elite running backs in 2018 fantasy drafts also made good on their high projections. Six of the top seven backs drafted based on NFL.com ADP data finished in the top nine in fantasy points in PPR scoring. The lone exception was Le'Veon Bell, who held out the entire season.

So, who were the best players when it came to putting up solid totals on a regular basis, and who was more name than numbers? Here's a look at the running backs who finished in the top 20 most often last season (minimum eight games), along with some interesting notes on players to watch in 2019.

1. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (93.3 percent): No running back was more consistent than Elliott, who failed to reach the top 20 backs in just two of his 16 games. He also ranked sixth in terms of top-10 finishes (53.3 percent), so more than half of his top-20 finishes were also top-10 finishes. The lone back with 300-plus carries in 2018, Zeke will be considered a top-three overall selection in 2019.

2. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (92.9 percent): The fantasy MVP for most of the season among backs, Gurley opened with eight straight performances of 23-plus points. That included five games with over 30 points, which helped him lead all runners in top-10 finishes (78.6 percent). Gurley did deal with a knee injury and lost carries late in the season, but he's still a surefire top-three pick in 2019.

3. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers (91.7 percent): One of the more underappreciated backs in fantasy land, Gordon had another solid season. He actually ranked second at the position in top-10 finishes (66.7 percent), and was a top-20 runner more than 91 percent of the time. Gordon has now put up a combined 38 total touchdowns over the last three seasons. Only Gurley has scored more in that time.

T-4. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (87.5 percent): Barkley's rookie campaign was historic, as he scored more PPR points than any other first-year player at the position. The Penn State product was also the first rookie with 200-plus carries and 100-plus targets, which helped him finish as a top-10 back in 62.5 percent of his games. Barkley was also second in top-five finishes (56.3 percent).

T-4. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (87.5 percent): McCaffrey proved that he could be an NFL workhorse, ranking third in touches among runners behind only Elliott and Barkley. Not only did he finish in the top four in top-20 finishes, but he has ranked fourth in top-10s and was a top-five back in 43.8 percent of his games. The Stanford product will be a top-five PPR pick in 2019 drafts.

6. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (86.7 percent): One of the top young running backs in the league, Kamara backed up his solid rookie campaign with a top-four finish at the position. The versatile back has caught 162 passes in his first two seasons, which ranks second all-time behind McCaffrey, and his skill set helped him finish sixth in top-10 finishes and fourth in top-five ranks among runners.

7. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs (81.8 percent): Hunt missed five games after being cut by the Chiefs due to an off-field incident, but he was a reliable option when he was on the gridiron. In fact, he ranked eighth in top-10 finishes and produced five 20-plus point performances in PPR leagues. Now with the Cleveland Browns, Hunt's value is very much up in the air ahead of 2019 fantasy drafts.

8. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (69.2 percent): One of the best draft bargains in fantasy football, Conner took over for Le'Veon Bell and didn't miss a beat. He finished sixth among backs in PPR leagues despite missing three games, and Conner also finished as a top-10 back seven times. Assuming he is once again the lead back in Pittsburgh next season, Conner looks like a cinch top-15 pick in drafts.

9. James White, New England Patriots (62.5 percent): White was also a tremendous draft bargain, as he finished just behind Conner in PPR leagues and was a top-10 fantasy back in 43.8 percent of his games. White did see his numbers tail off hard at the end of the season, however, as Sony Michel worked into a greater role in the offense. Looking ahead, White figures to be drafted as a No. 2 PPR back.

10. Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos (60 percent): The Broncos did feature a breakout running back in 2018, but it wasn't Royce Freeman. Instead, Lindsay took and ran with the role. He finished 13th in points at the position and was relatively consistent in the stat sheets. He was rarely and "elite" option though, as Lindsay was a top-10 fantasy runner in just 13.3 percent of his 2018 games.

11. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (58.3 percent): It took longer than expected, but Jones did emerge as the top back in Green Bay for a seven-week stretch before a knee ailment knocked him out of action. I like his statistical breakout to continue next season under new head coach Matt LaFleur.

T-12. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (57.1 percent): Mixon is coming off a breakout season, posting career numbers across the board en route to a top-10 finish in PPR formats. He put up six games with 20-plus PPR points and was a top-10 back five times. Mixon will be a second rounder in 2019.

T-12. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks (57.1 percent): Carson didn't put up monster totals, but he was consistently in the 12-15 point range in the second half before posting two 23-plus point games in the last two weeks of the fantasy playoffs. The question now is ... can he hold of Rashaad Penny?

14. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (56.3 percent): Johnson finished in the top 10 in PPR leagues, but he was not all that consistent or explosive. While he did have nine top-20 performances, D.J. was a top-10 back just twice and was a top-five running back in just one of his 16 contests.

T-15. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars (50 percent): Fournette labored through a year filled with injuries and controversies, which all limited him to eight games. His 2019 draft value will be a huge point of contention, as his talent and potential his huge ... but he's not been very durable.

T-15. Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders (50 percent): Lynch posted 12-plus PPR points in each of his first four games, but his numbers sank in his final two games before an injured groin cost him the rest of the season. Lynch will turn 33 in April and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

17. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings (45.5 percent): Cook missed five games due to injuries, but he was fairly reliable down the stretch. In fact, he posted 16-plus PPR points in four of his last five games. There's some risk involved, but Cook figures to be a second- or third-round selection in 2019.

T-18. Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears (43.8 percent): Cohen was a steal in fantasy drafts, as he finished 11th in points among PPR runners. He wasn't super explosive, however, posting just four top-10 finishes at the position. The versatile back will be in the No. 2 back/flex starter mix next season.

T-18. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns (43.8 percent): Chubb was more reliable than his rank, as he posted at least 16 PPR points in six of his final eight games during his time as the featured back in Cleveland. He should keep that role to start next season, but the addition of Hunt will hurt his appeal.

T-18. Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins (43.8 percent): Drake's lack of consistent production was problematic, as his stats were all or nothing for most of 2018. While he was a top-10 runner in 31.3 percent of his games, Drake also fell out of the top 30 in six of his 16 regular-season contests.

T-21. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans (42.9 percent): Miller did have a nice late-season stretch of statistical success, but he was a top-10 PPR runner just once and finished outside of the top 20.

T-21. TJ Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars (42.9 percent): Yeldon was useful as a flex starter in the absence of Fournette. Between the two, Jaguars runners had eight top-10 finishes last season.

23. Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts (41.7 percent): Mack put up some monster numbers as the top back in Indianapolis, but he also scored fewer than 12 PPR points in half of his 14 games.

T-24. Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (40 percent): Johnson wasn't super consistent overall, but he did score 15-plus PPR points in four of his last five games before he suffered an injured knee.

T-24. Mike Davis, Seattle Seahawks (40 percent): Davis didn't see a ton of action with Carson in the mix, but he did have six top-20 performances. Carson and Davis combined for 14 top 20s.

Notes: Sony Michel finished his rookie season on a high note, but he produced fewer than nine PPR points in three of his last five regular-season contests and didn't have a single top-5 finish. ... Derrick Henry was a top-20 fantasy back in just 37.5 percent of his games, but he finished strong with 16-plus PPR points in five of his last seven games. That included a two-game stretch where he put up a combined 78.04 points. ... Damien Williams finished as a top-20 back just 20 percent of the time, but he was a top-10 back in each of his final three games and was a top-four back twice. If the Chiefs decide to keep him in a prominent role, Williams' stock will soar in 2019 drafts. .... Between Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, the Packers had nine top-20 running back performances. That includes three top-fives. ... Did the age of 30 bite another running back? LeSean McCoy, a former fantasy star, finished in the top 20 in just 28.6 percent of his games and had zero games in the top 10. Compare that to last season, when McCoy tied for seventh among PPR backs in top-20 finishes, and it's evident that McCoy's fall was swift and significant. ... Pittsburgh continues to be a running back nirvana for fantasy owners. Between James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, the Steelers had a combined 12 top-20 PPR runners last season.


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for the latest fantasy football news and analysis!

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