Finally, three years later the 2015 draft saw Todd Gurely and Melvin Gordon selected in the first round. As a whole this running back class is particularly deep, and could offer plenty of fantasy value to owners. Here are the top five rookie running backs for 2015.
1. Melvin Gordon
Gordon was drafted 16th overall by the Chargers, and is essentially guaranteed the starting running back job. Ryan Mathews is gone, and Branden Oliver performed well in his first three starts, but completely fell off the map afterwards.
Gordon was college football’s best running back in 2014 totaling 2,587 rushing yards to go along with 29 touchdowns. He went ballistic.
There’s obviously going to be a learning curve adjusting to the NFL, but Gordon has the best shot at being a great running back from day one. The Chargers also have a solid, somewhat underrated offensive line with D.J. Fluker, King Dunlap, and Orlando Franklin carrying the load.
Gordon is currently our 18th overall running back, and he could jump a spot or two depending on what happens leading up to the start of the NFL season. Gordon is going to be a great target for those that might not want to draft a running back with their first two picks.
2. Tevin Coleman
Like Gordon, Coleman lands in a spot that should make him the favorite to be the starter with the Falcons. Yes, the Falcons did draft Devonte Freeman in 2014, but he is more of a change-of-pace back.
Coleman had a 2,036 rushing yards in his final season to go with 15 rushing touchdowns. Coleman has nice size at 5’11, 206 pounds, but also runs in the low 4.4s.
Coleman’s season depends on how the team is going to split carries between he and Freeman. I don’t personally consider Freeman to be close to the talent of Coleman, but the NFL is a strange place, and crazier things have happened.
3. Todd Gurley
The worst thing to happen on draft day was the Rams taking Todd Gurley. I really like Tre Mason, and this really stunts his value. When you take a player in the top 10 it means you must really like that guy, especially if it’s a running back since it’s been three years since one was taken in the first round.
The question with Gurley is can he play right away. He supposedly is going to miss the first month of the season, but once he is ready for action I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs away with the job.
I initially had Tre Mason as a top 12 running back for 2015, but Gurley is leaps and bounds more talented. I compared this situation to when Chester Taylor was the running back for the Vikings, he was okay, but Adrian Peterson came in and just took over. I probably won’t draft Gurley until his diagnosis becomes clear, but like I said, the Rams drafted him in the top 10 for a reason.
The big question on Johnson is whether or not he is going to be handed the reigns right away. I think he will be. Arians wanted an upgrade at running back, and considering how horrible Ellington was in 2014, Johnson should get every shot at taking the job.
Considering the offensive line, and if Carson Palmer can stay healthy, Johnson could fine himself being drafted as a top 25 running back as fantasy drafts get closer. As long as he can fend off Ellington his outlook should be improving.
Keep an eye on Johnson as the offseason carries on, but be ready to pounce on him once your draft date arrives.
5. T.J. Yeldon
Lastly we have T.J. Yeldon, who may have been a tad overdrafted, but he lands in an excellent spot. The Jaguars running games was horrible in 2014, Denard Robinson had some nice games, but nothing you can hang your hat on.
Yeldon had three good years at Alabama, but his yards per carry dropped a full yard in his final season from 6.3 to 5.0. He also had 10 fumbles in his career, and if he wants to stay on the field he’s going to need to work on ball security.
Yeldon has a clear path to be the number one back, it just depends how big the leash will he be given. Will Denard Robinson still be a factor? Also, even though Yeldon has the size to be a goal line back, will Gus Bradley irk fantasy owners by giving goal line touches to Tobey Gerhart? Who knows, but he deserves heavy consideration as a backup running back.