Who's the 1.01 in 2019?
Todd Gurley in 2018, David Johnson in 2017. LeVeon Bell had a case for both of those years to be the 1.01 in fantasy drafts. This season it’s a three-way debate, and there isn’t a clear-cut number 1. Today I’m going to break down the case for each of the running backs in consideration for the number 1 overall pick.
1. Christian McCaffery – In any form of PPR, he is in the discussion. If you still live under a rock and play STD for some reason just skip this part. Norv Turner took over as the OC for the Panthers in 2018 and made CMC a true workhorse. From week 8 against Baltimore to week 16 against Atlanta he only had one game below 20 fantasy points, and only 4 games below 20 on the season, his lowest targets in a game was two and that only happened once. He saw a minimum of 5 targets every game and had the 13th most goal line carries in the NFL. Of running backs in the NFL McCaffery saw the #1 snap share at 94.5%. He’s good at football, and he can handle a workload. The Panthers organization said they would bring in a guy to take some of the workload off his shoulders, all they did was draft Jordan Scarlett in the fifth round, and undrafted free agent Elijah Holyfield. They’re not taking any of that work form him, and CMC will continue to dominate as he did last year.
2. Saquon Barkley – The rookie of the year took the world by storm with the 21st ranked offensive line in NFL. Without Odell there, he’s going to see more stacked boxes. He saw the 16 highest amount of average defenders in the box last season, and averaged 3.9 yards per carry against it. That’s still good, but we should see the number of defenders go up, especially with Eli still behind center. Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Golden Tate (while all talented), and enough of a threat to not stack the box on Saquon. The offensive line still remains in question, but Barkley didn’t seem worried about last season. He had the 3rd most targets for a running back in the NFL and I don’t expect a dip in those numbers. Barkley is still going to be great and should be in consideration for the 1.01.
3. Ezekiel Elliot – Amari Cooper arrived, and Zeke saw a resurgence in his production. The biggest red flag for Zeke? A new offensive coordinator is in town. Kellan Moore took over this offseason and has no experience as an OC. He’s been the Quarterbacks Coach for, all last season after being a back up on the roster for a few years. David Johnson taught us this season that the play calling does matter for a running back. I’d imagine after being with the Cowboys when Zeke joined the team, the new OC knows what’s best for him and will make him. Zeke had the 5th most red zone touches, but the 18th most goal line carries. The previous season with a six game suspension he had the 7th most red zone touches and the 12th most goal line carries. There is going to be positive regression. Amari Cooper will take defenders out of the box, and Zeke should surge in his 2019 campaign.
If I had to pick a 1.01 this season? I’d draft Zeke. He has the best situation, from competent quarterback play, a star wide receiver to take attention from him. He has the safest floor and the highest ceiling amongst the top 3. I think Saquon has the most talent, but I find him in the worst situation of the top 3. Christian McCaffery in a full PPR league is going to get the workload and he is a pass catching machine and I can’t disagree with anyone for taking him 1.01 there. This year you still have the luxury of choice and I do not think any of these three running backs are a bad pick at all, and can easily be built around for you this season.