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Rookies are so darn hard to figure out.
You would think, the higher they were selected in the NFL Draft, the better they’ll be, right? Usually, but certainly not always the case. Trent Richardson, anyone?
Especially at a position like running back, where an undrafted free agent can make a serious impact. Arian Foster, anyone?
So who are the rookie runners expected to contribute right away? I can identify nearly 2 handfuls that should see their fair share of carries. Enough to warrant fantasy draft consideration, though? A few. Others probably need an injury or their respective team to fall out of contention in order to be fantasy-relevant. But you never know.
Bookmark our fantasy football rankings 2015 page to keep up-to-date on the latest projections and rankings heading into the season.
Keep reading to find out who the top rookie running backs for 2015 are:
1. Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers
I mean, Melvin Gordon has to be No. 1. He is the clear-cut starter and the Chargers plan on feeding him the ball a lot. Unless he totally drops the ball — literally and figuratively — Gordon won’t have to worry about Branden Oliver or Donald Brown. Danny Woodhead will assume his 3rd down role and cut into some carries, but Gordon will be the early-down back. And as the biggest back (6-1, 215 lbs) likely on the gameday roster, Gordon should see some goal line opportunities.
2. T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars
I’m not overly-excited about Yeldon, but as of now, he’s on the top of the depth chart. But it is a crowded backfield, which also includes Denard Robinson, Toby Gerhart and Bernard Pierce. Robinson is somewhat exciting, but the Jags didn’t use the 36th overall pick on Yeldon to let him stand around. At 6-1 and 226 pounds, Yeldon has the size, but does he have the speed and power to excel? We’ll see. But for now, he’s the starter so he’s at No. 2.
3. Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
With Joique Bell currently PUP’d, Ameer Abdullah has gotten his chance to show what he’s got. And so far, we’ve seen some moves reminiscent of another former Detroit running back. No, Abdullah is not Barry Sanders. He’s a rookie who has never played a regular season game, so he’s not even Barry Sanders Jr. He’s more like Barry Sanders IV right now. But back to the point, Abdullah has been shifty, elusive and explosive, averaging over 8 yards per carry in the preseason. He’s not built like an every down back at 5-9 and 203 pounds and he probably won’t be getting 20 carries per game. But Abdullah will be effective and productive with whatever touches he gets.
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4. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons want Tevin Coleman to take the ball and run with it oh-so-badly. So far, he’s not. In fact, he hasn’t run at all. A hamstring injury has kept him out of the first 2 preseason games. Thing is, Coleman’s main competition, Devonta Freeman, has also been hamstrung. Both are hoping to make their debuts in Game 3 of the meaningless season. The 3rd round pick is explosive and productive, piling up over 2,000 yards in his final season at Indiana. If he’s in space, he’s gone. Fantasy owners can expect a couple of those home runs from Coleman this season.
5. Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams
Gurley is going to be eased into action considering he’s coming of a torn ACL. In fact, he was cleared to practice Monday. And, does he ever have the goods. So electric with the ball in his hands. Is he coming back 100 percent, though? Don’t know. Is he going to play in Week 1? Again, don’t know. But what we do know is the Rams have the very capable Tre Mason, so Gurley is not going to be force fed the ball early on. Probably not at all the entire season. Still, though, Gurley has the ability to put up numbers with 12-15 carries per game. Definitely a dynasty league target.
6. Matt Jones, Washington Redskins
Jones, a 3rd-rounder out of Florida, is massive at 6-2 and 230 pounds. Unfortunately for Jones, he’s the second-stringer behind the durable and productive Alfred Morris. But in each of the past 3 seasons, the Redskins have lightened Morris’ load. Jones will get those extra carries and with that size, could find himself getting goal line touches as well. Jones is a definite handcuff for Morris and worth a draft selection either way in the later rounds.
7. David Cobb, Tennessee Titans
Cobb is listed as the No. 4 running back on the Titans’ depth chart behind presumed starter Bishop Sankey, Dexter McCluster and Antonio Andrews. First off, McCluster is not part of this competition — he weighs 170 pounds. He might total 25 carries on the season. Andrews is depth. Sankey is what’s in front of Cobb. And his rookie season wasn’t exactly inspiring — Sankey mostly ran into the pile and fell down after 3 yards. The Titans aren’t giving up on Sankey just yet. And while Cobb was “only” a 5th-round pick, he could prove to be the steal of the 2015 draft class.
8. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
Johnson was taken in the 3rd round, but is buried on the depth chart. Starter Andre Ellington has shown he can’t be a workhorse back and veteran Chris Johnson has clearly lost a step or 4. David Johnson is averaging an NFL-best 66 yards per game in the preseason. I know that means next to nothing, but he’s showing coaches he knows what to do with the ball when he gets it as he’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Ellington and CJ2K aren’t exactly the most reliable duo, so don’t be surprised to see the rookie from Northern Iowa take on an expanded role as the season progresses.
9. Buck Allen, Baltimore Ravens
Nobody is really completely sold on Justin Forsett, are they? I mean, his breakout season came in his 8th year. Regardless, he’s the starter for now and Lorenzo Taliaferro is listed as the backup. Javorius “Buck” Allen, a 4th-rounder out of USC, was a Doak Walker finalist and is probably the future workhorse in Baltimore. Allen’s probably a longshot to make a major impact in 2015, but it’s not like he has an impenetrable wall blocking him from fantasy relevance.
10. Josh Robinson, Indianapolis Colts
There’s no guarantee Robinson even makes the roster as a 6th-round pick. Veterans Frank Gore, Dan Herron and Vick Ballard are ahead of him on the depth chart. Robinson only started 1 season at Mississippi State, but he made plays. And that’s what he’s done so far in the preseason. He’s averaging 50 yards per game and is a reliable receiver, a valuable asset. Robinson is buried in the Colts’ stable now, but he’s a name you need to know.
Is It Time To Board the ‘Hayne Train’?
As you can see above, I don’t have 49ers preseason wrecking ball Jarryd Hayne on this list. The massive 27-year-old rookie has been abusing the opposition with bruising runs and impressive punt returns. Remember, though, Hayne is a former Australian Rugby player who has never played an organized game of American football. It’s not quite at Tebow Mania level yet, but San Fran head coach Jim Tomsula has been trying to calm Hayne’s hype. But if he does make the final 53-man roster, I’m all aboard the “Hayne Train.”
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