While many of the top fantasy running backs are still on the team they played for last season, there has certainly been plenty of movement that will affect the position in 2019. Le'Veon Bell is likely the biggest name that has changed teams after he sat the entire 2018 season. No longer in Pittsburgh, Bell looks to redeem himself to fantasy owners in his first season with the New York Jets. Questions remain about him and others as it relates to their new situations and how it impacts their fantasy value and outlook for the upcoming season.
Note: Players below listed in alphabetical order.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Jets
After being Pittsburgh's lead back for five seasons, the 27-year-old decided to hold out for the entire 2018 season in search of a better contract. The Steelers didn't deliver, and Bell is now with the Jets. While a year off from football can be helpful for the body (Bell has had a history of knee injuries), it is tough to get back into football shape.
Impact: Bell will immediately become an every-down back for the Jets. Elijah McGuire and Ty Montgomery are behind him on the depth chart, but the Jets didn’t sign Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million contract with $35 million guaranteed to have him on the sidelines. For fantasy purposes, he's an RB1. The bust potential is certainly there considering the long layoff, but the Jets are going to feed him the ball and see what he can do.
Tevin Coleman, RB, 49ers
In 2018, mostly as a result of Devonta Freeman’s injury, Coleman rushed for the most yards of his career with 800. He had only four rushing touchdowns, but he did have five receiving touchdowns. In the past two seasons in Atlanta, he’s averaged 30 receptions.
Impact: Coleman could be buried on the depth chart behind Matt Breida and Jerick McKinnon. While it is possible Coleman emerges as a top back, this backfield is going to be a mess to predict for fantasy purposes. He's a risky RB2 as he will factor into both the running game and the passing game, but he's not the only back who can do so.
Mike Davis, RB, Bears
Davis had a hard time carving out a role in a crowded backfield in Seattle. He had some opportunity in 2018 and managed 514 yards on 112 carries. He had one 100-yard rushing game and four touchdowns on the season.
Impact: Before the Bears drafted David Montgomery, it appeared that Davis would be a low RB2 with upside. However, now that Montgomery is in the picture, the rookie will likely be the lead back with Tarik Cohen coming in for passing downs. Davis will have some work, but he is more of a Montgomery handcuff than a fantasy starter.
Jordan Howard, RB, Eagles
In Chicago, Howard was supposed to be the lead back, but he failed to reach 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in three years in 2018. Tarik Cohen stepped up, primarily as a passing-down back, but was able to take enough work away from Howard that his fantasy value took a nose-dive. Howard did end up with nine touchdowns, the same as he had in 2017, but the expectations for him were significantly higher.
Impact: Howard's fantasy value was higher before the NFL draft. When the Eagles added Miles Sanders to their roster, it seemed that they were looking for a younger running back for the future. Sanders looked great in college, but he had only one year of tape (as he was Saquon Barkley’s backup). While Sanders gets up to NFL speed, Howard will likely be the lead back, although he doesn't fare well in the passing game. He’s a low RB2.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns
In 2018, Hunt rushed for 824 yards and seven touchdowns. He added 26 receptions for 378 yards and an additional seven receiving touchdowns. He played in 11 games (prior to being placed on the commissioner's exempt list) and scored a touchdown in all but two of them. He didn't play after that, however, as the Chiefs eventually released him.
Impact: Hunt was signed by the Browns but must serve an eight-game suspension to start the season. The Browns have a bye in Week 7, so Hunt will be eligible to return in Week 10. The Browns have Nick Chubb, who they claim will remain the starter once Hunt is able to play. However, it's going to be hard to keep such a dynamic player on the bench. Chubb is currently being drafted as a low RB1 and Hunt as a low RB3. Hunt has been dealing with a groin injury, but he should be healthy by Week 10.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Chiefs
Hyde will turn 29 in 2019 and is on his fourth team in three years. After a stint in both Cleveland and Jacksonville in 2018, he will join the Chiefs. In 2018, he had a disappointing combined 571 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The five touchdowns came during his time with Cleveland. He's never had a 1,000-yard season (and it likely won’t come in 2019, either).
Impact: With Kareem Hunt gone, the backfield in Kansas City belonged to Damien Williams. However, Hyde will jump in immediately to take some work away from Williams. Neither will likely be the lead back for the Chiefs. Hyde is an RB4 for fantasy purposes, although he certainly is a Williams handcuff.
Mark Ingram, RB, Ravens
Ingram and Alvin Kamara formed a dynamic duo for the past two years in New Orleans. Even with Kamara there, Ingram had his best season in 2017, with 1,124 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. His numbers declined in 2018, but he also had a four-game suspension to deal with. Ingram will turn 30 during the 2019 season.
Impact: The Ravens had Kenneth Dixon and Gus Edwards, so they clearly needed another running back. With Lamar Jackson at quarterback, however, it is tough to imagine a running back having a lot of success. Jackson cuts into any running back’s production.
Latavius Murray, RB, Saints
As Dalvin Cook's backup, Murray had opportunities to take a starting role and run with it. However, he consistently failed to do so. In Oakland, he had one good season (2015) — the only season he had over 1,000 rushing yards. He managed 12 touchdowns in 2016, salvaging his fantasy value, but he didn’t produce the yardage. He's just not the explosive player that fantasy owners thought he could be.
Impact: Murray is being drafted as an RB4, but he has upside. Alvin Kamara will be the lead back, but New Orleans likes to use two backs. Murray isn't as talented as Mark Ingram but will fill that role as best he can. Murray will likely take over some first down and between-the-tackles work from Kamara.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
(Top photo by Phil Hoffman, courtesy of www.baltimoreravens.com)