2017 NFC West division preview

2017 NFC West division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 NFC West division preview.

4: San Fransisco 49ers

Last season: 2-14

Strength of Schedule: 20

John Lynch made a statement in the NFL Draft. He knows what he is doing and plans on building a championship defense. The picks of Soloman Thomas and Rueben Foster are prime examples. The problem is that the 49ers need lots of talent to actually be competitive. San Fransisco ranked in the bottom of every defensive category and a few young players aren’t going to turn them into a top NFL defense right away.

2017 NFC West division preview

(Photo Credit: USA Today)

The defense is going to struggle against the run. After ranking 32nd last season, the only way to go is up but again, two rookies aren’t going to take them from 32nd to the top of the mountain.

As teams run all over the 49ers, the defense will get worn out and teams will be able to pass against them as well. With a bottom third defense, it will be difficult for San Fransisco to win games.

Offensively, the 49ers will struggle because of a bad offensive line. Pro Football Focus is predicting the 49ers to have the 27th ranked line in the NFL. This will mean tough sledding for running back Carlos Hyde. Brian Hoyer has been given the reigns at quarterback but is barely an average quarterback.

Hoyer also has no real threat to throw the ball to outside of Pierre Garcon. Teams can load the box to stop the run and will not have to worry about getting burned by the pass. The predictability of the offense will make it hard for them to win games. The 49ers are clearly heading in the right direction but will not show it with wins this season.

Prediction: 2-14 (0-6), miss the playoffs

3: Arizona Cardinals

Last season: 7-8-1

Strength of Schedule: 23

Carson Palmer showed signs of decline last season at age 37. He went from 35 touchdowns down to 26. Palmer also threw more interceptions as his total increased from 11 interceptions in 2015 to 14 last season. Father Time is undefeated and this season Palmer will feel the effects even more.

2017 NFC West division preview

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The rest of the offense is pretty solid. David Johnson is one of the top three running backs in the NFL and will be the workhorse. It won’t be far-fetched to say Johnson will have 1,000 yards both on the ground and through the air.

Larry Fitzgerald is back for his 14th season to lead the Cardinals’ receiving corp. Outside of Fitzgerald, there is a lot of inconsistency with the receivers.

Arizona has had a very good defense for the last couple of seasons but there are a few unknowns this year. Losing Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson really hurt.

There is still plenty of talent but the key pieces of Campbell and Jefferson may prove too big of losses. If they can’t replace these players the defense will regress. The Cardinals will also have a rookie linebacker, Haason Reddick, starting at inside linebacker.

Special teams were a weak link for the Cardinals last season. They must improve in all facets in order to win more games but there isn’t much to look at yet in the preseason to determine whether or not this has improved.

Facing Arizona is going to be a tough game for any opponent but for now, because of an old quarterback and restructured defense, the Cardinals are going to be a team that hovers around .500.

Prediction: 7-9 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2: Los Angeles Rams

Last season: 4-12

Strength of Schedule: 17

Adding Wade Phillips as a defensive coordinator is going to make all the difference for the Rams this season. The Rams’ defense was much better than some of their rankings due to an offense that was rather pedestrian. Los Angeles gave up the ninth fewest yards in the NFL last season at just 337 yards per game.

2017 NFL West division preview

(Photo Credit: https://px1sports.com)

Wade Phillips has had plenty of success as a defensive coordinator and most recently with the Denver Broncos. With players like Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Conner Barwin and Aarond Donald (still in the midst of a holdout), Phillips will be able to create massive amounts of pressure on the quarterback.

Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron are pretty solid linebackers who can fly around the field to make tackles.

Trumaine Johnson is one of the best corners in the league and safety Lamarcus Joyner is an up and coming star as well. The secondary has all the makings to round out this defense and turn it into a top five unit.

Now, everyone knows how talented this defense is but the Rams will only go as far as the offense can take them. Los Angeles ranked near the bottom of every offensive category last season. To upgrade the offense, the Rams signed Andrew Whitworth to replace Greg Robinson. This is a colossal improvement at left tackle, which will really help out Jared Goff and the running game.

Speaking of the running game, Todd Gurley is on a mission to prove that last season’s down year was just a fluke. The Rams will need to run the ball well in order to be successful because it takes pressure off of Goff.

The passing game already featured dangerous weapon Tavon Austin but there were a couple more moves made to give Goff plenty of firepower in the passing game. Los Angeles drafted Cooper Kupp, signed Robert Woods and most recently, traded for stud receiver Sammy Watkins. There is no excuse for Goff to play poorly with an improved offensive line, a workhorse running back and a receiving corp filled with speed and playmakers.

With the additions made on offense, a new defensive coordinator that can turn this defense into elite and a fairly easy schedule, the Rams will be in contention for a playoff spot this season.

Prediction: 9-7 (4-2), wildcard candidate

1: Seattle Seahawks

Last season: 10-5-1

Strength of Schedule: 25

The Seahawks have one of the easiest schedules heading into the season. They might need it with the worst rated line in the NFL. Despite having such a bad offensive line, the Seahawks made the playoffs. They were unable to progress deep into the playoffs though. The offense has to improve in order for the Seahawks to become Super Bowl contenders once again.

2017 NFC West division preview

(Photo Credit: https://wallpapersafari.com)

Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy are going to attempt to bring a great running game back to Seattle. Russell Wilson is good but the identity and key to success have been being able to run the ball. If the Seahawks do so successfully, they will be one of the most feared teams in the NFL.

Jimmy Graham is still an unstoppable red zone threat. The chemistry between Graham and Wilson has seemed to improve the more they have played together and it will lead to a big year for Graham.

The other receiving threats, Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson, provide different playmaking abilities that compliment each other well. Baldwin is a quick receiver who can make plays both vertically or by turning a short completion into a long gain. Richardson can make spectacular catches on the outside as a deep threat.

Russell Wilson is the engine to this offense and he doesn’t get enough credit. Without him, this team wouldn’t make the playoffs. He makes good decisions on when to run and rarely turns the ball over. As long as the Seahawks have a viable running game, Wilson will have another Pro-Bowl caliber season.

The heart and soul of this team is the Legion of Boom. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are back to lead this defense to a top three ranking. With these three men patrolling in the secondary, teams will earn everything they get through the air because nothing comes easy against them.

The linebackers are solid as well and are headlined by Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Up front, the Seahawks have head hunters. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were the only pair of defensive ends to make the Pro-Bowl. They get constant pressure on opposing offenses making it easier for the rest of the unit to play balls to the wall.

Due to the consistency of this defense over the past five seasons, it is safe to assume the Seahawks have a top three to five defense. Pair that with an offense that will have an improved running game and Pro-Bowl quarterback means the Seahawks will win the division and be one of the best teams in the NFL.

Prediction: 12-4 (4-2), divison champion

 

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2017 fantasy football notes: Cram session

One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling unprepared. You forgot to study for a quiz and have as much knowledge about the subject as Alex Smith has on not being average. You’ve got an important presentation at work but forgot your briefcase at home.

Worst of all, your fantasy draft is tonight, yet you’ve spent the last six months watching baseball and catching up on your favorite guilty pleasure on Netflix. Your pulse reaches an unhealthy level as your heart races trying to think about how to prepare a draft plan good enough to beat your friends, yet you rank Adrian Peterson as your No. 6 running back because you think he’s poised for a great year with the Vikings.

But Adrian Peterson doesn’t play for the Vikings, and you’re screwed.

Fear not, lazy fantasy football player, I’ve got just the article for you. Let’s talk about all the big news and notes you missed so you can have a fighting chance to compete in your league this season.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: QUARTERBACKS

Marcus Mariota is undervalued

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: titansonline.com

Marcus Mariota is among the top 25 most attractive players in the NFL, and it turns out he’s pretty good at football too. Mariota was good enough to earn spot starts last season, and finished as the No. 13 scoring quarterback. He’s especially suited for fantasy football thanks to his rushing ability, and he’s gotten some upgraded toys to play with for 2017.

No shade at Rishard Matthews or Tajae Sharpe, but Mariota didn’t have the greatest receivers to throw to last season. The Titans signed Eric Decker during the offseason and drafted top wide receiver prospect Corey Davis with their first pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. On top of that, Mariota plays with an elite offensive line and DeMarco Murray, who got back to his usual RB1 self last season.

Entering his third season, the myth of a sophomore slump cannot affect Mariota. Mariota was the top scoring quarterback from weeks five through week 12 of last season, which shows his upside is through the roof this season.

Mariota is being drafted as a fringe QB1 this season, which is way too low. Sit back and wait for Mariota as others grab overvalued quarterbacks, and then grab him once you’ve filled out your starting lineup and part of your bench.

Blake Bortles sucks at throwing footballs, but don’t overlook his volume

Sure, you may’ve spit up in your mouth a little due to reading the name Blake Bortles, and that’s fine. Bortles ruined Allen Robinson last season and made some of the worst throws of the season in 2016. However, while Bortles gets roasted by Twitter everyday, he could make for a good backup for your team.

Before you click the “x” in the upper right corner of your device, hear me out.

Bortles had the fourth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks in 2015, and followed that with the tenth-most points among quarterbacks last season. Even with all the hate Bortles gets, he’s still been a QB1 in each of the past two seasons.

I’m not saying you need to draft him as your QB1 this season, but you should at least consider the volume he’ll see. Leonard Fournette will suck in Jacksonville’s system unless they plan on taking less snaps out of the shotgun this season. Jacksonville started plays out of the gun more than every single team in the NFL except one last season, so don’t expect Fournette to be successful in his current system.

This paves way for Bortles to continue to see a bunch of pass attempts, and at some point they have to turn into touchdowns and 250-yard games. Bortles will most likely embarrass himself this season, and you’ll get heckled for taking him, but if quarterbacks are thin, take him as your QB2.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: RUNNING BACKS

Don’t be that guy who drafts Adrian Peterson

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: Associated Press

You thought I was kidding about Adrian Peterson no longer being a Viking, didn’t you? Well, I’m no Photoshop wizard, so the picture to your left with Peterson doning New Orleans Saints getup proves Peterson is a Saint this season.

I have no clue why the Saints signed Peterson this offseason. Mark Ingram was productive enough last season to be the eighth-best fantasy running back in PPR leagues. Drew Brees is still under center, so expect the Saints to continue to air it out this season, especially with Michael Thomas playing on the outside.

Ingram will most likely be the starter come Week 1, and even though Peterson will see touches this season, it won’t be enough to sustain any kind of success. Peterson managed just three games last season, and averaged just 1.9 yards per carry. He’s also topped 40 catches in a season just once in his career, compared to Ingram doing that in each of his past two seasons.

Peterson will be dropped halfway through the season by all active owners, so save yourself the trouble and keep Peterson off your team. You can score Terrance West, Robert Kelly, Tevin Coleman or even Danny Woodhead at Peterson’s price, and all of which offer much more upside and volume potential.

Eddie Lacy isn’t as fat as he used to be, but that doesn’t mean you should draft him

Eddie Lacy literally got paid this offseason to not be so chunky. Lacy’s always been overrated to me, but that hasn’t stopped others from clogging their arteries by drafting him. In case you missed it, Lacy is now a Seattle Seahawk, and he’ll be fighting off Thomas Rawls to get fed this season.

While the two were splitting time with the first team to open camp, it appears Thomas Rawls has taken over the bulk of the first team work, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times said on Aug. 9. For the near future, Rawls looks to be the starter.

Fantasy owners will draft Lacy for the same reason as Peterson, and that’s for name value alone. Rawls doesn’t have the name recognition, but he does have the advantage in terms his skillset. Rawls has much better lateral quickness and has forced more missed tackles over the course of his career. That ability is a necessity in a Seattle offense that has a terrible offensive line.

Marshawn Lynch is playing football again

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: raiders.com

At the end of the 2015-16 season, Marshawn Lynch called it quits even though it seemed he had more left in the tank. Well, Lynch okie-doked us all by coming out of retirement to join the Oakland Raiders.

With Latavius Murray now in Minnesota, Lynch will own the backfield for the Raiders. Oakland’s offense already owns one of the top one-two punches at wide receiver with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL in Derek Carr. The talent is no longer shifted to benefit only the passing game with the addition of Lynch.

Lynch is the No. 15 running back according to the consensus Fantasy Pros rankings for 2017. Expect Lynch to end up as a low RB1 by season’s end. He’s ranked lower than Leonard Fournette, Isaiah Crowell and Carlos Hyde in the rankings, which is odd to say the least. Lynch is in a better offense and will receive the same if not more volume as the aforementioned players.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: PASS CATCHERS

Brandin Cooks now plays for the Patriots, and that’s not fair

Tom Brady has made his money by throwing to a bunch of late round draft picks and one large tight end that seems to party more than he plays. That changes this season with the addition of Brandin Cooks. The Patriots traded for Cooks during the offseason, and with that addition and other moves, there’s been pundits saying New England could go undefeated this season.

Cooks’ most notable trait is his speed. His catch rate on deep passes last season was 45.8 percent, good for fourth in the NFL. He also had 544 deep receiving yards which was second in the NFL. Patriots beat writers have raved about Cooks to start camp, which further proves he has a great chance to one of the best receivers Brady’s ever had.

I’ve yet to take Cooks in any drafts at his ADP, as his ADP is a little too high for my taste. However, taking Cooks as your WR2 could pay huge dividends for your team. He resides in a pass-heavy offense with one of the best quarterbacks of all time. I’m not quite comfortable with Cooks as my WR1, but if you have him as a WR2, your receiving corps will be solid.

Terrelle Pryor used to be a bad quarterback but now is a good wide receiver

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: redskins.com

Terrelle Pryor made a cool one-handed catch in training camp, and for one day fantasy football Twitter anointed him as the next coming of Randy Moss. But that’s what happens during the start of training camp, as our football-thirsty brains need something to sip on. Even so, Pryor is in line to become the No. 1 option in a pass-heavy offense this season.

Kirk Cousins may be his generation’s Alex Smith, as he’s as average as Philadelphia fans are angry. However, the Redskins’ poor defense and questionable running attack could give Pryor the chance to see a lot of targets.

Pryor had 1,007 receiving yards last season with the Cleveland Browns, and that’s as impressive as ESPN ignoring the impulse to tweet about Tim Tebow smacking a double in a low-level minor league game. Pryor was a low end WR2 last season, and his situation this season should allow him to be a solid WR2 again this season.

Martellus Bennett will clown around in Green Bay’s offense

Martellus Bennett signed with the Packers this season, making him the first player to sign with Green Bay during free agency since Bart Starr (that’s called sarcasm, folks). Bennett had a better season last year as a backup in New England than half of the starting tight ends in the NFL. Moving to a pass-heavy offense and playing with a future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers gives Bennett the chance to be a TE1 this season.

Bennett was fifth among tight ends in yards per route run last season at 1.96. This shows he took advantage of his time on the field better than nearly all tight ends. Bennett also dropped just two of his 57 catchable targets last season, which will please Aaron Rodgers (that’s a slight against Davante Adams, folks).

Bennett won’t have to battle anyone on the roster for snaps at tight end, so he has the upside to be a top tight end this season. He’s been drafted as a low end TE1 right now, but if you can get greedy and take him as a TE2, you’ll have a good problem on your hands midseason.

 

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2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 30-21

Here’s a continuation of my fantasy football rankings, this list consists of running back rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season: 30-21.

30. Danny Woodhead (Baltimore Ravens)– Standing at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, Woodhead has put together a nice career with the Jets, Patriots and Chargers. Woodhead has been a reliable receiving option out of the backfield for quarterbacks such as Philip Rivers and Tom Brady, and now he travels to Baltimore to play with Joe Flacco. The thing it comes down to with Woodhead is health. Two years ago, playing 16 games, Woodhead rushed for 336 yards, caught for 755 yards and had a total of nine touchdowns. The production is there if the health is so it is a risky pick, but it could pay off big time.

29. Paul Perkins (New York Giants)- Paul Perkins enjoyed a nice rookie season rushing for 456 yards on 112 attempts behind Rashad Jennings. Now that Jennings is gone, and the Giants didn’t make a move in the offseason acquiring another running back, Perkins is the lead back for New York.

The Giants, however, ran the ball on 61 percent of their plays last season and added Brandon Marshall to their wide receiver corps this offseason, so they will mainly throw the ball. But because of the situation of the Giants backfield, I expect him to get more touchdowns and enjoy a better sophomore season.

2017 Fantasy Football running back rankings

https://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/paulperkins.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1200

28. Theo Riddick (Detroit Lions)- The other half of the Lions backfield is Theo Riddick. Again, Riddick is primarily a receiving back, but he found success when Ameer Abdullah went down early in the season.

He rushed for 357 and had 371 receiving yards with a combined six touchdowns in only 10 games. Currently being drafted as the 36th running back, Riddick can be a huge steal for your team if he stays healthy,

27. Mike Gillislee (New England Patriots)- Gillislee is an interesting fantasy candidate this year. He is unproven as a starter, (only started one game last season) but found success backing up Lesean McCoy in Buffalo last year.

He rushed for 577 yards and eight touchdowns, gaining 116.7 fantasy points. Now Gillislee has an opportunity to be the lead back for the Patriots who turned 30-year-old LeGarette Blount into a fantasy monster. Draft Gillislee as an RB3 and don’t be surprised if he’s your number one by the end of the season.

26. Tevin Coleman (Atlanta Falcons)- The two-headed monster of Coleman and Devonta Freeman is a big reason for the success of the Atlanta Falcons offense. In 2016, Coleman rushed for 520 yards and eight touchdowns while he had 421 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

He isn’t the main back on the Falcons roster, but he is the best second running back in the NFL today. He is a must own, if you plan on taking Devonta Freeman, but if you don’t own Devonta, take Coleman anyway for trade bait or just enjoy him as a flex play.

2017 Fantasy Football running back rankings

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25. Eddie Lacy (Seattle Seahawks)- Feastmode has found a new home. When the Seahawks signed Lacy, it just made things more complicated to read in Seattle’s backfield. It is starting to look like Lacy will be the lead back in Seattle, but he’ll probably be on a short leash with C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls behind him.

Lacy found success early in his career with back-to-back 1,000-plus yard seasons, but he hasn’t eclipsed 800 yards since. Lacy is a high-risk, high-reward pick, so take him only if the price is right.

24. C.J. Anderson (Denver Broncos)- C.J. Anderson got bit by the injury bug last season, only playing in seven games. In the games he played in, however he found some success.

He rushed for 437 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. Jamaal Charles is in the mix now in Denver, but expect Anderson to still have lead back duties. If he stays healthy, he’ll have a nice season. He probably won’t be a number one because of the other running backs in the mix, but draft him as a low RB2 to a good RB3.

23. Joe Mixon (Cincinnati Bengals)- Joe Mixon has all the tools to be a complete and successful back in the NFL. That’s if, and only if, he stays out of trouble off the field. Mixon has been caught in a serious domestic violence incident in the past. However, he was once the number one running back recruit and has the opportunity in Cincinnati and the ability to be a great pro runner.

2017 Fantasy Football running back rankings

Joe Mixon (Photo by: cincinnati.com)

22. Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts)- If anyone can beat father time, it’s Frank Gore. After finishing as the 12th-best fantasy running back in 2016, Gore is still looking fresh. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and four touchdowns, and also had four receiving touchdowns. Gore, however, is 34 years old and it could be his time for a down year. Draft Gore with caution.

21. Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings)- The Vikings found their replacement for Adrian Peterson. Arguably the most talented running back coming out of the NFL Draft, Cook found himself in a position to succeed immediately.

After bulking up their offensive line by adding Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff, Dalvin Cook has almost nothing in his way, except for the fact that Minnesota gave Latavius Murray an offseason deal and he’ll be splitting carries. My one word of advice is to not jump too early on Dalvin Cook, but draft him for the right price.

 

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“From our Haus to Yours”

2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

2016 Quarterback Rankings: Where does Tom Brady fall?

All rankings are PPR rankings. Although some of my colleagues here at The Game Haus disagree, PPR is the way to go. I believe it, and you, the fans, believe it too (according to a Twitter poll). Here’s your 2016 fantasy football running back rankings.

1. Adrian Peterson

From Surefire Running Backs: “Adrian Peterson is about as steady as running backs come. Peterson’s worst finish among running backs is eighth, which occurred in 2011. Obviously this doesn’t include 2014, when he played just one game. Other than two eighth place finishes, Peterson has never finished worse than third in fantasy points in his career. A complete breakdown can be seen below:

2007 3rd
2008 3rd
2008 2nd
2009 3rd
2010 8th
2012 1st
2013 8th
2015 2nd
2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

AP will consistently put up great numbers. (Photo: Sporting News)

We all wondered how Peterson would respond to a year off at the start of last season. He finished with 231 points, and was the second-best rusher last season. All Day isn’t a PPR stud, but in standard scoring, he’s been incredibly dependable.

There’s nothing to worry about when it comes to the Oklahoma product losing touches. The Vikings did spend their first pick of the draft on wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, but the Vikings are still a run-first offense.

Teddy Bridgewater threw just 14 touchdowns last season, and 9 of which came in the redzone. There’s no running back that will vulcher away redzone touches from Peterson. With just a 41 percent completion percentage in the redzone, Bridgewater wasn’t a valuable asset when it counted most.

This all paves way for Peterson to dominate redzone touches this season.

Entering his age 31 season, Peterson isn’t a guy to take early in a dynasty league. However, if you’re in a re-draft league, drafting him will be an all-too-easy pick for your RB1 this season.”

2. Devonta Freeman

After winning the starting running back job in Atlanta by a hair, Devonta Freeman took the fantasy football world by storm by scoring 146.5 points in weeks 3-6 last season. Freeman had just three games last season in which he scored less than 15 points. He also enjoyed 30+ point games four times last season.

Freeman is a PPR stud with the fourth-best offensive line in football according to Pro Football Focus. He is the perfect fit to the zone-run scheme, and there’s no signs of slowing for the 24 year-old. Freeman will be an elite running back once again in 2016.

3. Todd Gurley

From Surefire Running Backs: “In his rookie season, Todd Gurley scored 189 fantasy points, good for fifth among running backs. Gurley also did this after missing the first two games of the season. Questions arose about whether Gurley would be as explosive as he was prior to his ACL injury, but Gurley swiftly hushed the nay-sayers.

2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Todd Gurley could be the best second-year back in the NFL this season. (Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Gurley could be the next superstar in the NFL, but the only concern is his durability. Gurley missed the final game of the 2015 season due to a foot injury. He played in 13 games, which isn’t bad, and his injury history isn’t exactly extensive. However, an ACL injury is the most scary of them all. Even so, Gurley averaged 18 carries per game, and topped out at 30 last season.

If you’re looking for big time games, this is your guy. Five times last season Gurley rushed for 100 yards or more. He scored ten rushing touchdowns last season, which is about 0.8 scores per game. Gurley also had double-digit point totals ten times last season.

Gurley, like Peterson, is not a huge PPR get. He caught just 21 balls last season, good for 29th among running backs. He also had zero touchdown catches.

Nevertheless, Gurley could be the best running back in the league this season. His injury risk should be in the back of all fantasy owners’ minds. Other than that, drafting Gurley with your first pick should keep you giddy all season.”

4. Ezekiel Elliott

Running behind the best offensive line in the NFL, Ezekiel Elliott is poised to become an elite rusher in this year’s NFL. Owners passed on Todd Gurley last season, simply because he was a rookie. Don’t make that mistake this season. People who don’t believe in Elliott as a pass-catcher are flat wrong.  Of all rookie running backs this season, Elliott averaged the most targets per route in college, earning a target in 65% of routes ran in college (per rotoworld.com). Elliott is a great pass protector, which means he won’t lose snaps on passing situations. He allowed just one pressure on 17 chances at Ohio State.

All this adds up to a great all-around running back, playing with the best offensive line in football. Elliott will be a star in Dallas, there’s no question. My boldest prediction I’ve ever documented comes in this paragraph: Ezekiel Elliott is the next Emmitt Smith.

So draft Elliott as your RB1, take him at his ADP, or let him fall to your lap in the second round if possible.

5. David Johnson

2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Fantasy owners hope David Johnson’s second season is just as good as his first. (Photo: Getty Images)

From Surefire Running Backs: “I’m all in on David Johnson for 2016. In just five games started last season, Johnson accounted for 658 yards. He’s also managed to find paydirt five times during that stretch. Catching 17 passes in that time also proved Johnson has potential to become a great pass catcher.

What’s more is that Johnson will run behind one of the best offensive lines in football. Pro Football Focus ranks Arizona as having the ninth-best o-line in 2015. That ranking will improve with the addition of All-Pro guard Evan Mathis. Mathis had the best run blocking grade last season according to PFF. With Mike Iupati anchoring the line, Johnson should have plenty of room in the trenches this season.

The UNI product looks reliable as a middling RB1 this season. Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington will battle for backup carries, but don’t be afraid of them luring away touches from Johnson. Head coach Bruce Arians gave just about the highest praise you can give a second-year running back, saying he’s on track to be “one of the all-time best” at running back. That should be plenty reason to take Johnson as your first running back this season.”

6. Le’Veon Bell

From Surefire Running Backs: “Believe it or not, 2016 will be Le’Veon Bell’s fourth season in the league. He’s seems older than that to me, and that’s probably because of how quickly he became a prominent player in fantasy football.

Bell played in just six games last season thanks to another injury against the bitter rival Cincinnati Bengals. In those six games, however, Bell ran for 4.9 yards per carry (career best) and 3 rushing scores. He also caught 24 passes for 136 yards.

Barring injuries, Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in football. He’s a spectacular runner and possesses great hands and route running abilities for a running back. Bell was the second-highest scoring running back in fantasy in 2014. Had DeMarco Murray not blown up behind the strong Dallas o-line, Bell would’ve finished in first place by 23 points in standard leagues.

We say this far too often with running backs, but as long as Bell can stay healthy, he’ll be a fantastic player in fantasy. The Michigan State product can put up 20 points in any given week. In 2014 PPR leagues, he scored at least 20 points seven times. He also eclipsed 20 points in three of his six games last season.

Bell is an explosion on your fantasy waiting to happen. Week in and week out, expect him to be a top-five running back. Draft Bell on your team, and handcuff him with DeAngelo Williams. If Bell doesn’t start one week, roll with Williams, who will produce just as much as Bell.”

Even with Bell being suspended four games, I still trust him to be one of the best running backs in football after week four. Drafting DeAngelo Williams is a must for all fantasy owners, and especially if you draft Bell. Williams was spectacular replacing Bell last season, and there’s nothing indicating that will change this season.

7. Jamaal Charles

Coming off his second ACL surgery since entering the NFL, Jamaal Charles isn’t a favorite running back for fantasy owners. In the four full games he played last season, Charles’ lowest finish was 18.7 points. He also scored 31.2 points against Green Bay in week 3.

I understand the fear of another Jamaal Charles injury, as he hasn’t been the most durable running back since entering the NFL. However, he’s been a great fantasy asset since becoming a starter in 2008. He’s finished in the top-12 among running backs in every season in which he’s played in 15 games, other than his rookie year. He’s also got two first-place finishes under his belt. Take Charles as an RB1, and pending good health, he’ll be a top running back.

8. Mark Ingram

Mark Ingram has had a lot of hype for all of his seasons in the NFL, but he finally lived up to it in 2014. Ingram has finished as the RB15 in each of the past two seasons. To add to that, Ingram caught 50 passes last season, nearly doubling his totals from 2014.

When it comes to red zone opportunities, Ingram’s numbers are deceiving. He rushed the ball inside the red zone on 33% of all Saints opportunities, which doesn’t look good. However, take just the games Ingram played in, and his red zone carries skyrocket to 71% of carries. When the Alabama product is healthy, he’ll hog all the carries when they matter.

Ingram doesn’t have superstar upside, but he also doesn’t carry a lot of risk. He just missed out on getting the Surefire Stamp of Approval, so draft Ingram as an RB1, and that’s what he’ll be.

9. Matt Forte

From Surefire Running Backs: “Matt Forte is the only player to join a new team for 2016 on this list. Although I’m usually leery of jumping on players who are on new teams, I’m excited for Forte this season.

Forte has never finished worse than an RB2 in his career. He’s also finished as an RB1 five times in his eight year career. Now with the Jets, Forte will be relied on heavily due to the quarterback situation in the Big Apple. Although the quarterback may be a walking question mark, Forte will hold down the fort as a consistent running back and pass catcher. Each of Forte’s finishes among running backs is listed below:

2008 4th
2009 18th
2010 9th
2011 15th
2012 12th
2013 3rd
2014 4th
2015 8th

Now with the New York Jets, Forte will play under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Gailey has coached Emmitt Smith, Jerome Bettis, Lamar Smith (in his best career season), Larry Johnson, and C.J. Spiller (also in his best season). Although Smith and Spiller are nothing close to big names in the NFL, they even had their best seasons while under Gailey.

Chan Gailey seems to be a running back whisperer, and Forte will be the number one source of offence for the Jets. Entering his age 31 season, Forte, like Peterson, is not a huge dynasty pick, but he will produce for at least a couple more seasons. Draft Forte as an RB1, especially in PPR leagues.”

10. Lamar Miller

Finishing ninth and sixth among running backs in 2014 and 2015 respectively, Lamar Miller’s career is on the upswing. He’s rushed for eight touchdowns and accounted for 1,000 yards or more in each of the past two seasons. Now a Texan, Miller hopes to pick up where Arian Foster left off. Once Foster went down for the year, the vulnerability of Houston’s o-line was showcased. Miller has enough talent to produce even behind a subpar line. Expect Lamar Miller to be a great addition in Houston, and a borderline RB1.

11. Doug Martin

Doug Martin is a muscle hamster, and that’s the best combination of two words in the history of speech. Since bursting onto the scene in his rookie season in 2012, Martin has only been able to replicate his success once. He totaled 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012, helping him to be the second best running back in fantasy football.

After two seasons filled with injuries and no production, Martin came back into his 2012 form last season. His 1,402 rushing yards was second most in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson, and nearly 300 more yards than the next best rusher. Martin was the third highest scoring running back last season, and he’ll be just as good this season. Expect him to be a high RB2, but closer to a middling RB1 this season, pending he plays 14 games or more.

2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Turns out P90X actually works. (Photo: Tony Horton Twitter)

12. Eddie Lacy

Eddie Lacy used to be chunky. Eddie Lacy is now not chunky. When the Alabama product is in NFL running back condition, he is good. In his each of his first two seasons in the NFL, Lacy finished as the RB6 in fantasy football. Last season, Lacy finished with the 25th most points in fantasy football. Lacy is in great shape, and that’s what held him back last season. Expect another 1,100 yard, 9 touchdown campaign from the Alabama product.Displaying IMG_1645.jpg

13. LeSean McCoy

LeSean McCoy has been all over the place in terms of fantasy football production. He’s finished in the top seven of running backs three times (two second place finishes), while finishing 12th and 17th in the past two seasons. Running behind Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked offensive line while be solid, and Karlos Williams being suspended helps McCoy’s case even more. Yes, the Bills did sign Reggie Bush, but he’s no threat to take McCoy’s production. The Pitt product will be a RB2 throughout the season, with bursts of RB1 showcases.

14. Carlos Hyde

Contrary to popular belief, Chip Kelly operates on a run-first basis. Although he did call plays at a record-breaking pace last season, he prefers to establish the run first. With Kelly controlling the Eagles last season, he saw his team attempt 442 rushes, 11th in the NFL. Kelly brings that scheme to San Francisco, and it will benefit Carlos Hyde. The Ohio State product was on pace to rush for 1,072 yards last season, so as long as he stays healthy, Hyde is in good position to have a solid season for fantasy owners.

15. Dion Lewis

The grim reaper of running backs afflicted many stars last season, and Dion Lewis was one of them. Through seven games, Lewis ran for just 234 yards, but added 388 receiving yards on 36 catches. Lewis will be a PPR magnet for both Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady, and should enjoy the featured back role in New England. However, Bill Belichick and his shenanigans are always in full swing. I refuse to trust any running back in New England as long as the Belitricks affect rushers, so be cautious but optimistic with Lewis this season.

16. Latavius Murray

After rushing for 1,066 yards and six touchdowns last season, Latavius Murray is on the fantasy radar for all owners. With 41 catches for 232 yards, Murray also proved to be more than a one-dimensional back. Murray plays in one of the most talented offenses for its age, and will at worst make up for an average rushing game with a few catches. Murray will most likely finish as a hard RB2, and I’m more than okay with him as my second running back this season.

17. C.J. Anderson

C.J. Anderson is yet to put together a full season of consistent production. Anderson had just two games of 100 yards rushing or more last season. He also totaled nine games in which he didn’t even record 70 all-purpose yards. Add that to just five total touchdowns and only 25 receptions, and you have a consistently average running back. On the upside, Anderson ran for 4.7 yards per carry, and could be leaned on heavily due to the passing game in Denver being in question. I still don’t understand all the hype for Anderson, and see him as nothing more than a RB2 who only produces good games on occasion.

18. Thomas Rawls

After barely making the roster after training camp, Thomas Rawls was just happy to be on the team when the season started. After Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch went down with injuries, Rawls quickly had to step up to the starting gig. Rawls hit the ground running, rushing for 100 yards four times, including a 209 yard performance. The risk with Rawls is his running behind a terrible offensive line, and the questions about whether or not he’ll be able to replicate his high clip in 2016. I’m more comfortable with Rawls as my flex player, but a low RB2 to start isn’t too bad of expectations for him.

19. Ryan Mathews

It seems like there was more running backs getting playing time in Philly last season than there was Browns starting quarterbacks since they moved to Cleveland. Mathews was the only consistent runner last season for the Eagles, and with DeMarco Murray gone, it’s going to be all Ryan Mathews this season. As the featured back, I like Mathews as a low RB2 with upside to be a high RB2.

20. Jonathan Stewart

The Carolina Panthers have the second-best offensive line in football (PFF). That said, Jonathan Stewart has never been, and will never be, an elite running back. He is a good running back, but reigning MVP Cam Newton will get his touches, and so will Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin. Stewart was 11 yards away from his second 1,000 yard rushing season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get there this season. Stewart will be good enough to be an RB2, but his lack of touches hurts his ceiling.