Which NFL RB’s Will Lead Their Peers in 2019?

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys - NFL Logo

Is your fantasy team ready?

I know it’s probably ready to go for the regular season opening week.

I mean, is it ready to win the entire season?

Hey, if you’re not feeling 100% confident, that’s okay.

Despite what he might they might tell you, I’m fairly confident both Gruden brothers, at least somewhere in the back of their hard heads, know they don’t have Super Bowl-winning teams on their hands.

If you’re one of those folks that don’t feel super confident about your fantasy team or even if you do, we have some fun betting odds and predictions on running back yards and touchdowns for you today.

Please Note:

Last season, the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in total rushing yards with 1434!

That total is not at all out of the question if he stays healthy. Zeke is only entering his fourth NFL season, has remained fairly healthy throughout, and as of yesterday, has just become the highest-paid running back in the league ending his holdout and signing a contract extension with the ‘Boys!

Running backs do peak early so Jerry Jones reaching deep into his wallet could come back to burn him but at the same time, it’s difficult to argue that Zeke hasn’t earned this.

The former Ohio State Buckeye has put his team on his youthful albeit wide shoulders and ran, ran, and ran some more.

This was when Dez Bryant had topped his hill and was on the way down but still criticized those around him.

He did have a gripe, though, as quarterback Dak Prescott has yet to show he belongs in the conversation of top ten in the NFL.

Finishing second in the yards race was Elliott’s fellow NFC East running mate Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants.

The former Penn State Nittany Lion had a full 5.0 yards per carry, 0.3 higher than the Cowboy.

The Giants like to throw the ball to their backs a bit more than the Cowboys did and that led Saquon to first place in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with an astounding 2028.

He had 91 receptions last year!

There were betting odds available for the regular-season leader in yards from scrimmage but they have since been taken down.

Shame, because I am all over Saquon for that one to repeat!

We do have odds and predictions for the most regular-season rushing touchdowns, though, which is a much more complicated stat.

The LA Rams Todd Gurley led the NFL with 17 last season. This was rather impressive especially considering you only started 14 games and had 50 fewer attempts than Elliot.

It’s going to be hard to justify a running back on a team with a weak offense reaching the end zone at least once per game.

Let’s go ahead and hammer down the NFL betting odds and predictions on running back yards and touchdowns.

The betting odds in question are available at the best NFL betting sites.

I’m also using some odds from BetOnline as reference points.

NFL Regular Season Leader in Rushing Yard

Ezekiel Elliott: +260

It’s hard to argue for the value here as you will see in a minute that many of his peers have much higher-paying odds to lead the NFL in rushing yards.

As a bettor, though, sometimes you have to ask yourself this question: Do I want value or do I want to win?

That’s the million-dollar question on all of our minds each week and the answer is floating each way continuously.

This will be the Dallas Cowboys first full year with wide receiver Amari Cooper on the roster.

What does that mean for Zeke, though?

Time will tell. One thing we can almost say for certain is that they won’t be re-shaping their offense completely.

Please Note:

I don’t expect them to become a pass-first team all of a sudden. No NFL head coach truly wants to go that route unless it’s Andy Reid in Kansas City but they are the exception to the rule.

Wideout Amari Cooper has recently come and said, publicly, that he has a goal of 2000 yards receiving in 2019.

C’mon man!

No receiver has ever done that and Cooper’s career season-high for yardage sits around 1,200.

While this has many members of the media reactive and jumping all over the former Oakland Raider for saying such outlandish things, I think he’s just blowing smoke.

He knows where he’s playing and his team’s style of offense as well as anybody, and we are all aware for that matter that the Dallas Cowboys offense is “run” through Ezekiel Elliott.

Amari Cooper could have the best year of his career in 2019 but I would still cap his yardage total at 1,450 tops.

The play-action pass is going to be there but can Prescott hit him in stride?

Enough about Cooper.

Is Zeke going to lead the league in yardage or what?

This one is tough. I believe the overall offense will be more successful particularly that play-action passing game.

Those are precious yards lost on each drive. I see the Cowboys having the lead for longer in more games than in the past few seasons, though, which would lead to Zeke getting those attempts back.

Let’s look at the betting odds on a couple of other running backs and then make our decision.

Saquon Barkley: +330

Sophomore slump or cementing season?

He will be carrying quite the load again this year. I don’t think that’s in question.

The man was everything for the Giants last season. He finished second in rushing attempts to the aforementioned Elliott and had those 91 receptions we mentioned.

My biggest worry:

Is the New York offensive line and their projected losing record. The NFC is expected to be better than maybe ever this season and the Giants will likely be playing catch up more often than not.

The offensive line rebuild is looking promising and good for Saquon’s numbers as well as potentially giving Eli Manning more than 0.3 seconds in the pocket before the inevitable pressure ensues.

What makes me want to pull away from a bet on Barkley here is the absence of Odell Beckham Jr.

He can stretch the football field unlike many of his peers and defenses will undoubtedly be creeping up and zeroing in on Saquon.

Golden Tate came in as a solid replacement for Odell but he will be serving a 4-game suspension to start the 2019 season. This may be just enough to hold Saquon back from eclipsing Zeke or some other back’s rushing yards in 2019.

‘Zeke or ‘Quon?

I’m going to have to go with Ezekiel Elliott here. His team has shown that they love to feed him and with his new contract signing this week, his kids, kid’s kids, and their kids will be eating well for quite some time.

Zeke also has the opportunity to play in 16 games. That’s huge because he easily led the league in attempts and yardage in just 15 games last season.

He will also have help stretching the field as the Cowboys will have Amari Cooper for a full season, hopefully.

Quon is without Odell. Defenses will have adjusted to his style, he’s on a likely losing team, and the focus, whether the coaches like it or not, is on the quarterback situation.

The Bet
EZEKIEL ELLIOT
+260

Value Pick

Derrick Henry

This man is primed to do it!

He had a 99-yard touchdown in 2018! Another one of those sure wouldn’t hurt his chances.

Henry also rushed for a season-high 238 yards against the aforementioned Giants!

Oh, and he did this one just 17 carries!

What?

The Tennessee Titans also have a history of producing rushing leaders in the past. Chris Johnson put up 2,000+ a decade ago.

Derrick Henry stands 6’3” tall and weighs in at 245 pounds. He is what the kids like to call an “absolute unit.”

I particularly like how he ended the season last year.

In just the last four games of the season, he rushed for nearly 600 yards averaging nearly 7 yards/carry.

His season total wasn’t much but he was only the starter for 10 games and carried the ball 12 times or less in 10 of his 16 games played.

In a straight pick, I would probably go 60/40 between him and Elliott but with a payout 5x higher, we can’t ignore Derrick Henry in this situation.

The Bet
DERRICK HENRY
+1000

NFL Regular Season Leader in Rushing Touchdowns

Alvin Kamara: +750

I’m staying away from Todd Gurley right now. Yes, he’s the favorite but there is just too much talk about his knee right now.

The Rams have also shown that they don’t mind resting him if they needed to.

Alvin Kamara will be playing without running mate Mark Ingram for the first time in his brief career.

The Saints have reloaded with Latavius Murray but Kamara has shown that there is a direct correlation between the number of times he touches the ball and the Saints winning the ball game.

Quarterback Drew Brees will have a cabinet stocked full of weapons this year which initially scares me away from this bet but that could open up the middle for quite a few dives from Alvin.

Murray just isn’t the goal line running back that Alvin has been.

Last season, albeit on different teams, Murray ranked 46th in goal-line carries per game while Kamara was 9th in the league.

I think Kamara’s yards may take a hit this year but I see him securing a career-high in touchdowns.

There are other candidates for this wager, though, one guy in particular who has already been mentioned.

Derrick Henry: +1500

Huge payout, again!

Are the sportsbooks trying to bait us?

I’m obviously buying the hype coming out of the Music City. The former member of Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide is an absolute bruiser who has the speed to break them long as well.

It doesn’t get much better than a 99-yard touchdown.

This man has shown that it really doesn’t matter if you game plan against him or not.

He’s going to get his.

No other back faced more stacked defensive fronts in 2018.

Henry went up against an average of 7.4 defenders in the box.

Maybe, that’s when he was stopped, though, and that 99-yard rip helped his average.

Nope. He also ranked first in the NFL in yards per carry (4.6) against a stacked box.

Now for the kicker; (no pun intended), Henry ranked 2nd in the NFL in total goal-line carries.

That’s even with the 10 games we mentioned earlier where he only rushed the ball a dozen times or less.

Veterans of the Titans organization along with fans, media members, and former players are all calling for the Titans to feed the beast this year if they want to give themselves the opportunity to win more ball games.

It’s a long year and plenty of things can happen, namely injuries. Therefore, it’s even more important we go with value here.

(+1500) is excellent for a running back with momentum, ability, and past statistics on his side.

The Bet
DERRICK HENRY
+1500

In Conclusion

So, is it the Derrick Henry show or bust?

No. These are big enough to where we can afford to have a nice betting spread.

Ezekiel Elliott is likely to lead the league in rushing, in my opinion. I would cap him at (-110). That may seem outlandish but the Dallas Cowboys have committed to Zeke on the field in the past few years more than any team has done with any one running back.

With his recent re-signing, they have done the same off the field as well.

Something tells me Jerry Jones, as well as head coach Jason Garrett, is not completely sold on Dak Prescott.

They will pay him the big money if he gets them to a Super Bowl but as Stephen A. Smith recently pointed out, throwing the cash at Zeke gives them a reason not to do so with Dak.

You have to give this Zeke yardage total leader wager a few bucks.

That doesn’t mean you should leave out Derrick Henry, though.

His value at (+1000) is just too good.

The Titans showed a stronger commitment to his carry total in the final four games of the season but that’s minuscule compared to the years of commitment Dallas has given Zeke.

Zeke is my pick for yardage leader but leave a few bucks to throw on the 10 to 1 for Henry.

Derrick is definitely my touchdown leader pick, though.

Enjoy the games and your year-long wagers, team!

Mike Pruitt / author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.