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Saquon Barkley headlines 2018's top RBs in YAC

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Running backs are back at the top of the mountain in the world of fantasy football. In fact, I'd argue that we're in an era that's going to be remembered in part for its high number of stat-sheet stuffers at the position. The most successful backs, of course, are going to be ranked highly in one one of the most important categories in fantasy football ... yards after contact (YAC).

Yards after contact is pretty easy to define. It means the yards a runner produces after he's made contact with a defender whether it's via strength, elusiveness or a combination of both. Obviously, this skill makes a back even more valuable because extra yards create even more fantasy points.

With that being said, he's a look at the top 20 running backs when it came to scrimmage yards after contact this past season and what we might expect from them looking ahead to 2019.

1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (931): This should come as a surprise to no one as the stud rookie rumbled for more yards after contact than any other back in the league. He was first in rushing yards after contact (736) and second in receiving yards after contact (195) at the position, and 56.3 percent of his rushing yards came after contact. Barkley is my top fantasy player for 2019.

2. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (730): Gurley missed two games due to a bum knee, but he was very productive when on the gridiron. He ranked third in rushing yards after contact (617) and 12th in receiving yards after contact (113), and nearly 50 percent of his rushing yards came after contact. Reports that the Rams will scale back Gurley's workload in 2019 are a huge concern, however.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (718): The NFL's leader in rushing yards, Zeke was a beast in the yards after contact categories. He was tied for fifth in rushing yards after contact (595) and tied for 10th in receiving yards after contact (123), and 58.5 percent of his rushing yards came after contact. Elliott also ranked tied for 11th in broken tackles (22) among backs.

4. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (692): Henry was a league winner in the second half of the fantasy season, and it had much to do with his bruising running style. In fact, he was second in rushing yards after contact (656). That accounted for 61.9 percent of his total rushing yards. Henry was also second behind Barkley is terms of broken tackles (37). He'll be a low-RB2 in 2019 drafts.

5. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (688): McCaffrey proved to be more than just a pass catcher last season as he ranked 12th in rushing yards after contact (465). He was a monster in terms of receiving yards after contact as well, posting a league-high 223 last season. CMC was also an effective tackle breaker, ranking in a tie for 11th at the position in that specific category.

6. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers (669): Gordon saw more than half (54.4 percent) of his rushing yards come after contact last season. The Wisconsin product also recorded a very strong 2.97 scrimmage yards after contact per touch, further proving his skills as a playmaker. A locked in as a first-rounder in 2019 drafts, Gordon also ranked third among running backs in broken tackles (31).

7. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks (635): One of the best draft bargains in fantasy drafts, Carson recorded 51.7 percent of his rushing yards after contact. He also finished in the top seven at the position in broken tackles (25). Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has suggested he hopes to see Carson and Rashaad Penny form a "one-two punch" in 2019, but the former is still the better option.

8. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns (629): Chubb was a statistical monster as the Browns top back a season ago, as he rumbled for the fourth-most rushing yards after contact (598). What's more impressive is that he saw just 16 carries in his first six games! Unfortunately, Chubb's value is now in question after the Browns signed the troubled but talented Kareem Hunt this offseason.

9. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (613): One of the top young running backs in the league, Mixon was a rushing-yards-after-contact machine during what was a breakout 2018 campaign. In fact, 45.7 percent of is yards on the ground came after contact. While he was far less than stellar in breaking tackles (8), Mixon is still a locked and loaded second-rounder in 2019 fantasy drafts.

10. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (596): Kamara produced 47.5 percent of his rushing yards after contact, and only McCaffrey, Barkley and Gordon had more receiving yards after contact (177) among running backs. The versatile runner is a surefire first-rounder in 2019 drafts, and he could push into the top three if Mark Ingram leaves the Saints as a free agent this offseason.

11. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (583): Conner made the most of his first season as the top back in Pittsburgh, finishing 13th in rushing yards after contact (451) and seventh in receiving yards after contact (132). He also ranked seventh among runners in broken tackles (25).

12. Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins (581): Who says all running backs falter in their 30s? Peterson ranked 11th at the position in rushing yards after contact (470) and fifth in broken tackles (27) at the age of 33. However, the return of Derrius Guice raises concerns about A.D.'s value in 2019.

13. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs (575): The story with Hunt was his release from the Chiefs due to off-field issues, but he's been signed by the Browns and is now awaiting the terms of his expected suspension. Hunt was on pace to finish third in rushing yards after contact (636).

14. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans (543): Miller failed to finish in the top 20 among PPR backs last season, but he did rank in the top 15 in yards created after contact. Most of those yards were as a rusher (92.2 percent), however. He'll remain on the flex-starter radar in 2019 drafts.

15. Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears (533): Howard, who has reportedly been put on the trade block, recorded 92.3 percent of his yards after contact as a runner. He wasn't much of a tackle breaker, as the veteran finished with just nine. That ranked him tied for 42nd among running backs.

16. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (482): Johnson did finish ninth in fantasy points in PPR leagues, but he was a disappointment overall. He did produce 409 rushing yards after contact, which ranked 19th among backs, but D.J. ranked in a tie for 24th in broken tackles with just 14.

17. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers (476): Ekeler recorded the fewest touches (145) among backs who finished in the top 20 in yards created after contact. He also broke 16 tackles in his limited touches, which was good for an 11 percent clip. Ekeler will be a top handcuff in 2019.

18. Isaiah Crowell, New York Jets (462): Crowell ranked just 33rd in PPR points among backs last season, but he did have some success in creating yards after contact. Of course, he has had runs of 77, 62, 54 and 36 yards during the course of the season which skew his 2019 totals.

19. Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (455): Barber didn't do much as a pass catcher in this category, as 98 percent of his yards after contact came as a runner. The Buccaneers are likely to upgrade their backfield this offseason, so Barber could be looking for a new team this offseason.

20. Sony Michel, New England Patriots (445): Michel wasn't an impressive tackle breaker (11), but he did rank 16th among running backs in yards created after contact on the ground. In all, the Georgia product averaged 2.06 scrimmage yards after contact during his initial NFL campaign.


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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