You win by scoring more points than your opponent. It's not rocket science (although it seems to get closer year after year). And how do NFL running backs score fantasy points? It's all about the touches, my friends. The more touches he receives, the greater the point potential he'll possess.
In 2017, Le'Veon Bell led all running backs in touches with 406. LeSean McCoy (346) was second, Todd Gurley (343) was third, Melvin Gordon (342) was fourth and Kareem Hunt (325) was fifth. Not surprisingly, those five runners all finished seventh or better in PPR points accrued at the position. Four of them (Gurley, Bell, Hunt, Gordon) finished in the top five. Makes sense, right?
Depth charts have changed and opportunities have shifted after a rampant free-agency period and the conclusion of the NFL draft. So, which offenses have seen the biggest transformations, and who figures to benefit or suffer as a result? Well, this is your one-stop statistical shop for all of the answers you have for those exact questions. Pay attention, because it's been a pretty wild ride.
Below is a list of all 32 teams, ranked in order of the most available backfield touches (quarterback and running back based on 2017 rosters) down to the teams with the least. In parenthesis next to each player mentioned is the number of touches he had in 2017. Teams with a negative number now have more backfield touches than was accumulated last season. Keep these numbers in mind when you're drafting your 2018 fantasy football teams, because touches mean fantasy points!
1. Denver Broncos (369):C.J. Anderson and his 34.56 percent touch share are no longer in the mix, and Jamaal Charles (92) is off the roster as well. That leaves 365 available touches, most of which I would project to go to rookie Royce Freeman. A potential three-down running back at the next level, I can see the Oregon product being this season's Kareem Hunt. In the event that Freeman fails to meet expectations, Devontae Booker would be next in line.
2. Arizona Cardinals (356): The Cardinals have lost 48.87 percent of their 2017 touches with the likes of Adrian Peterson (138), Kerwynn Williams (130) and Chris Johnson (50) no longer on the roster. A large percentage of those opportunities will go to David Johnson, who will be a top-five overall pick in 2018 re-drafts. Look for him to be the offensive centerpiece for new coordinator Mike McCoy, meaning D.J. should see between 350-400 touches and produce a massive 2018 stat line.
3. Indianapolis Colts (297): The Colts are without almost 40 percent of their touches from a season ago. The biggest lost, Frank Gore, had a 39.5 percent touch share alone. Marlon Mack looks like the projected starter at this point, so a season with 200-250 touches is well within the cards. He'll be in the flex-starter conversation. The Colts also drafted Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, however, so Mack will need a strong camp to secure a prominent role. A committee should be expected.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (202): The loss of LeGarrette Blount (181) and his 24.6 percent touch share from a season ago leaves a major opportunity for Jay Ajayi to become the Eagles' early-down and goal-line back. He should earn between 225-275 touches and will be in the RB2 conversation in fantasy re-drafts. Corey Clement and Darren Sproles will back him up and should see work on passing downs, but neither is worth more than a late-round pick in PPR leagues.
5. New England Patriots (171): The loss of Dion Lewis (212) and his 25.2 percent touch share from last season was a major subtraction in the Pats backfield. Rookie Sony Michel figures to inherit plenty of work in Lewis' absence, but a knee issue during camp has caused him to lose some of his fantasy luster. In fact, Rex Burkhead is now the first Patriots runner to target in what will be a true committee situation. James White will also be in the mix and useful in PPR formats.
6. Minnesota Vikings (158): The absence of Jerick McKinnon opens up 202 touches, but most of those opportunities will fall to Dalvin Cook. Before he went down with an injured knee, he was on pace to have 340 touches as a rookie. Cook has the tools to become a top-10 PPR fantasy back in 2018. The backup role will be served by Latavius Murray, who looks like the preferred handcuff. He'll be worth a late-round look for fantasy footballers who land Cooks in the first or second round.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (147):Doug Martin and his 19.1 touch share from a season ago are now in Oakland, so the Buccaneers should turn over their backfield to rookie Ronald Jones II. He should be in the 225-250 touch range as the team's new lead runner, putting him in the RB2 conversation with the upside to be a major fantasy contributor. Peyton Barber and Charles Sims are the two top projected backups, but neither will be much worth more than a late flier in most fantasy drafts.
8. Seattle Seahawks (143): Seattle will have a different backfield look in 2018, as the team has parted ways with Eddie Lacy (75) and Thomas Rawls (67). The 'Hawks filled the void with the addition of Rashaad Penny, who was picked in the first round of the NFL draft and should have a big role in the offense. However, a committee situation with Chris Carson is possible and could limit the rookie's initial draft appeal. Penny will be picked before Carson, but both will be involved.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars (137): The loss of Chris Ivory opened up 133 of the 137 touches the Jaguars backfield has lost this offseason. Leonard Fournette (304) will end up grabbing some of those touches, so look for him to see 325-350 in his sophomore season. He'll be a top-15 overall selection in most leagues. T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant will compete to be Fournette's preferred handcuff, but neither will more than a late-round flier in 2018 fantasy re-drafts.
10. New York Giants (126): The biggest departures the Giants have had this offseason include Paul Perkins (49), Orleans Darkwa (190) and Shane Vereen (89), but it's of little significance after the team added the best player in the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley. He should see in excess of 300 touches as a rookie, so look for him to be a first-round pick in all fantasy drafts. Stewart will be his preferred handcuff (for those who prefer that), but the veteran has no more than late-round appeal.
11. San Francisco 49ers (106): The Niners lost 316 touches from last season's roster, but 97 percent of them came from Carlos Hyde. Those opportunities will now fall to McKinnon, who is going to be one of the top fantasy breakout candidates in 2018. He's on the RB2 radar in PPR leagues and should see more than the 202 touches he had last season. Matt Breida and Joe Williams project to be second and third on the team's depth chart in camp, but only Brieda is worth a draft pick.
12. Baltimore Ravens (98): The Ravens ground game lost Danny Woodhead (47) and Terrance West (41) during the offseason, but the team didn't add a back via free agency or the draft. That leaves Alex Collins as the starter with a projected workload of 225-275 touches. He could be a draft steal in the middle rounds. Kenneth Dixon and Javorius Allen will also be in the backfield mix, but neither will be worth more than a late-round re-draft selection in most leagues.
13. Los Angeles Rams (84): The Rams backfield lost 84 touches in the offseason, most of them from Tavon Austin (72), so it'll be much of the same from this offense in 2018. Todd Gurley (343) will once again be the lead runner, and he'll warrant a top-three selection in re-drafts. His handcuff looks to be either Malcolm Brown or rookie John Kelly, but neither will put a major dent into Gurley's touches. The eventual winner will have little value, as Gurley will be a true bell cow.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (43): The Bengals parted ways with Jeremy Hill, who accounted for just 41 touches a season ago. That leaves Joe Mixon to remain the starter with a chance to see much more than the 208 touches he received as a rookie. He's on the RB2 radar. Giovani Bernard, who saw 148 touches, will remain his main handcuff in fantasy land and be worth a late-round selection. Rookie Mark Walton projects to be the third back on the roster but has little to no re-draft value.
15. Los Angeles Chargers (42): The Bolts backfield will be similar to last season's squad, as Melvin Gordon will once again be in the mix for 300-plus touches. He'll be a top-15 overall pick in re-drafts and a potential first-round selection. Austin Ekeler will be his preferred handcuff at some point in the late rounds, but he won't put a big dent into Gordon's workload. The Chargers also added Justin Jackson in the NFL draft, but he has little fantasy value outside of dynasty formats.
16. Dallas Cowboys (41): The Cowboys offense will run the football a ton in 2018, so look for Ezekiel Elliott to see 350-plus touches. He'll be a top-five overall selection in re-drafts. Rod Smith is projected to be his preferred handcuff, but he has little re-draft value outisde of the later rounds as a potential handcuff. The Cowboys have listed Tavon Austin as a running back, but he too has very limited appeal. Rookie Bo Scarbrough rounds out the team's projected depth chart heading into camps.
17. Buffalo Bills (39): The Bills will have a much different look after the trade of Tyrod Taylor (84), who was second in backfield touches behind LeSean McCoy (346) a season ago. McCoy is entering his age-30 season and has some off-the-field concerns, so he's dropped ino the third round of drafts. Buyer beware. Chris Ivory should take over as his preferred handcuff for Mike Tolbert (80) and will have some late-round value for those owners who land McCoy in drafts.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (5): The Steelers have retained mostly the same backfield as a season ago. However, there's a chance Le'Veon Bell (406) could hold out of training camp once again if the two sides can't come to a contract ahead of the July 16 deadline. As it stands, he'll be a cinch to record 350-plus touches and be no worse than a top-three selection in most PPR drafts. James Conner looks like his preferred handcuff and has some late-round value.
19. Atlanta Falcons (4): The Falcons lost just four backfield touches (Derrick Coleman) and only added rookie Ito Smith into the mix. That means another large workload for Devonta Freeman (232) and Tevin Coleman (183). Freeman, who averaged 16.6 touches a game last season, has seen that total decline in each of his last three seasons. He should be in the 250-touch range in 2018, making him a top-25 pick. Coleman will have middle-round appeal as a potential flex starter.
20. Chicago Bears (1): The Bears haven't lost any of their main running backs, so look for Jordan Howard (299) and Tarik Cohen (140) to lead this backfield once again. With the team's mass of additions to the passing game, however, I could see a scenario where Howard's touches decline into the 225-275 range. He's on the RB2 radar regardless. Cohen projects to see 50-60 catches for coach Matt Nagy, so he'll have middle-round PPR value across the board.
21. Houston Texans (-4): Houston's backfield looks to be much of the same in 2018, as the team didn't add a single running back in free agency or the draft. Lamar Miller (274) figures to lead the team in backfield touches once again, but a potential decline looms depending on the return of D'Onta Foreman from an Achilles ailment. Barring setbacks, the Texas product could push for 150-plus touches and create a potential backfield committee. Keep tabs on his status in camp.
22. Washington Redskins (-9): The biggest loss the Redskins backfield suffered this offseason is Kirk Cousins (49), but the addition of Alex Smith (60) fills that void. At running back, the team figures to feed rookie Derrius Guice 225-250 touches as the new lead runner. He'll have middle-round appeal in re-drafts. Chris Thompson won't see a ton of carries, but he still has value as a PPR flex option ... barring a setback from an injured leg that still isn't 100 percent entering camp.
23. Tennessee Titans (-10): The biggest change in the Titans offseason came at the running back position, as DeMarco Murray (223) was released and Dion Lewis was added to the mix. Lewis will enter a committee situation with Derrick Henry, who I would project to see 225-250 touches next season. The move hurts both of their ceilings from a fantasy perspective, however, making Henry a No. 2 runner and Lewis a potential flex starter in PPR formats.
24. Miami Dolphins (-63): The Dolphins traded Ajayi last season and lost Damien Williams to the Chiefs, so Kenyan Drake figures to see a slight uptick in the 15.8 touches he averaged in his final 10 games of 2017. He's on the RB2 radar in re-drafts. Frank Gore, who will be 35 next season, will also be in the mix. However, he'll see a huge decline in the 290 touches he saw during his final run with the Colts. Kalen Ballage has dynasty value alone.
25. Cleveland Browns (-67): The Browns have added Tyrod Taylor, Hyde and Nick Chubb to their backfield, and the presence of Duke Johnson (156) makes this a crowded backfield mess. I'd expect Chubb and Hyde to battle for early-down work, while Johnson sees work on passing downs. Both Hyde and Johnson are almost guaranteed to see dips in their 2017 touch totals, though the latter will be the better PPR option. Hyde's PPR value could tank altogether.
26. Carolina Panthers (-74): Carolina's backfield will have a slightly different feel, as the team released Jonathan Stewart (206) and replaced him with C.J. Anderson. It's hard to see a scenario where he reaches the 273-touch mark he achieved a season ago in Denver, however, as Christian McCaffrey is still the favorite to lead this backfield. CMC should hit 250-plus touches and be a top-20 PPR pick, while Anderson could fall down into the low 200s and is now a late rounder.
27. Green Bay Packers (-76): The Packers total is deceiving, because the team added DeShone Kizer (76 touches). Obviously, he won't see close to that number in 2018. There hasn't been a single loss to the Packers backfield, so Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones will all share the workload. Good luck figuring that situation out. If I had to project the trio, Williams would be the first Packers back I drafted since Jones will be suspended for the first two games.
28. New Orleans Saints (-3): The Saints backfield will remain a lethal fantasy duo with Mark Ingram (288) and Alvin Kamara (202) in all formats. Ingram will of course see a decline in touches as a result of his four-game suspension, making Kamara even more valuable (if that's possible). He's a top-five pick, while Ingram will fall into the fifth or sixth round as a flex starter upon his return. Terrance West and Shane Vereen were added in the offseason, but neither has value in re-draft leagues.
29. New York Jets (-117): The retirement of Matt Forte opened up 141 touches for 2018, most of which will be taken by new addition Isaiah Crowell (234). However, the presence of Bilal Powell (201) and Elijah McGuire (105) to go along with the addition of Rawls will hurt his chances of seeing more than 225 touches. Crowell is just an RB4. Powell is also draftable, but his stock has dropped to that of a late-round choice in PPR formats. McGuire (foot) could miss the start of the season.
T-30. Detroit Lions (-137): The Lions find themselves in the upside world of touches based on adding Blount, who saw 181 chances last season. He has almost no chance to equal that total with the Lions, who added Kerryon Johnson in the NFL draft. This does have the look of a committee with Johnson, Blount and Theo Riddick, however, so don't expect a true featured back to emerge. Ameer Abdullah, a fantasy bust thus far, could be out of the mix altogether next season.
T-30. Oakland Raiders (-137): The Raiders ground game lost just 15 touches (Jamize Olawale) from last season's roster but added 147 in the form of Doug Martin, so this backfield now has four viable options including Marshawn Lynch (227), Jalen Richard (83) and DeAndre Washington (91). Looks like a committee mess to me. Lynch will remain the favorite in fantasy land, but it's tough to project him as more than a potential fantasy flex starter due to questions about his touch share.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (-138): The Chiefs backfield added a bunch of touches in the form of Kerwynn Williams (130) and Damien Williams (66), but it means little to the value of Kareem Hunt. He paced the team with 325 touches last season, and he'll be in that territory in 2018. The Williamses are simply depth and insurance in case Spencer Ware (knee) is unable to return from his injury in time for Week 1. Regardless, Hunt will be a first-round lock in all leagues.