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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Adrian Peterson

NFL veteran running backs: What do they have left?

Three of the more intriguing signings of the NFL offseason involve veteran running backs out to prove they still have something left in the tank. Here is a deeper look at each situation.

NFL veteran running backs in new places

Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints 

Even though it has been a few years, any guy who rushes for over 2,000 yards the season after blowing out his knee is worth taking a flyer on. Drew Brees is amazing and he is going to retire with a bunch of records to prove it.

However, the 38-year-old is not getting any younger and is in the final year of his contract. New Orleans has struggled in a big way to find the right scheme and personnel on defense for the last several years. The Saints lost three games in which they scored 30+ points during last year’s seven win campaign. That should never happen.

There is no reason to think that the defense will be anything other than slightly improved at best. Assuming that is the case, pairing a highly motivated Peterson with Mark Ingram is as good a way as any to try and ensure that Brees will not have to throw for 5000 yards in 2017 for the Saints to be even remotely competitive.

Jamaal Charles, Denver Broncos: One of the single biggest reasons Denver’s season started to go sideways last year was the season-ending injury to running back C.J. Anderson in late October.

NFL veteran running backs

Photo: milehighreport.com

The Broncos were a top-ten rushing team prior to the injury. Following the injury, running back became a revolving door for Denver. By the final quarter of the season, Trevor Siemian attempting 40+ passes a game became commonplace. Regardless of offensive line play or who the quarterback is in 2017, that is not a formula for success in Denver.

Adding Charles to a crowded Broncos backfield that features a now healthy Anderson and second year man Devontae Booker among others, means a 30-year-old who has played in just eight games in two years is not even a lock to make the roster.

However, Charles is among the all-time leaders in yards per carry. Two or three runs of ten yards or more in each game would make a world of difference for this team.

Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders: Even with Al Davis gone for several years now, the Raiders continue to operate unconventionally. Bringing this 31-year-old out of retirement who has not played a full season since 2014  is the latest example of this.

While Lynch returning to play for his hometown team is a nice story, this has never made much sense to me. Like the other two signings, the contract is very low risk-high reward. Even so, with Latavius Murray now in Minnesota, the running back situation is quite murky for the Raiders. Lynch is the only proven NFL ball carrier on the roster.

Unless someone separates themselves in training camp and the preseason, Lynch will likely be asked to preform feature back duties. For the reasons above, it is hard to see that turning out well.

NFL veteran running backs

Photo: arrowheadone.com

There is no substitute for live game action. That is something Lynch has not seen in a long time. Murray is a guy who dealt with a lot of nagging injuries, but still managed to be fairly productive. He rushed for a total of over 1,800 yards in his final two seasons in Oakland. It is baffling to me that the Raiders made virtually no effort to keep him while rolling out the red carpet for Lynch.

In theory, the running game is supposed to take pressure off of the quarterback. Even with a solid running game spearheaded by Murray last year, it often felt like Derek Carr was carrying this team. Look no further than what happened to this team in the final two games of last year after Carr’s late-season injury.

They were outscored 51-20 and sent home in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. While the Raiders stood very little chance with Connor Cook starting in his first career game, the Raiders barely broke 50 yards rushing in their defeat to Houston.

The running game did not step up then. With nothing more than a rusty Lynch and a bunch of talented but unproven commodities on the roster now, it is hard to imagine the upcoming season being much different in that regard. The Raiders had simply better hope and pray that Carr can stay healthy.

 

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NFL Fantasy Studs Sporting New Colors

2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 20-11

This list of running backs fall in the low end RB1 category and the solid RB2 category. These are some of the running backs that can make your season if they breakout and make their way into the top ten. Here you go, the 2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 20-11.

20. Ty Montgomery (Green Bay Packers): Montgomery switched from wide receiver to running back last season and found immediate success. Averaging 5.9 yards per carry, he also rushed for 457 yards. He is kind of like a Swiss army knife for the Packers because of how they still use him in the receiving game. Montgomery had 348 receiving yards last year while playing at both running back and receiver. Expect a bigger workload and continued success for Montgomery and the Packers this year.

19. Spencer Ware (Kansas City Chiefs): After the departure of Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware has the chance to lock up the number one running back position for the Kansas City Chiefs. Ware started last year after Charles went down with another knee injury, and he succeeded. He had at least 16 fantasy points in four games last season and had at least seven points in 11 games. Ware also averaged 2.9 yards after contact, which was good enough for seventh-best in the league last season. If he can fend off rookie Kareem Hunt, he’ll be a solid RB2.

2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 20-11

http://www.chiefs.com/assets/images/imported/KC/photos/clubimages/2016/02-February/tempSpencer_Ware_Gallery_011–nfl_mezz_1280_1024.JPG

18. Mark Ingram (New Orleans Saints): I had some trouble placing Mark Ingram on this list. He’s found success in a primarily passing offense, as the Saints passed on 63 percent of their plays last season. Now the Saints added former MVP Adrian Peterson and rookie running back Alvin Kamara.

Ingram will split running duties with Peterson and Kamara will get looks as well. The main reason Ingram is high on this list is because of he is used within the opposing 20-yard line. He scored five of his six touchdowns there and should continue to get the ball in the red zone.

17. Bilal Powell (New York Jets): Powell is in a prime position to be the lead back for the New York Jets this season. He will have to compete with Matt Forte in training camp and the starting spot isn’t guaranteed.

Last season, we saw Powell succeed as the number two running back in New York. He finished as the 23rd-best running back in standard leagues. In four of his last seven outings, he eclipsed 14 fantasy points.

What people don’t know is that he has quietly been the sixth-best running back in terms of receptions over the past two seasons. Powell is a great RB3 and a low end RB2 with tons of upside.

16. Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers): The Stanford product finds himself in a perfect position to succeed immediately in the NFL. Everyone knows he has the skill to be a great player, and he gets to play alongside former MVP Cam Newton.

McCaffrey was an absolute beast at Stanford last year. He had over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns. The Panthers are going to use him to “create mismatches” for opposing defenses, and that is entirely possible. McCaffrey will line up out of the backfield or the slot and will get a lot of touches this season making him a good RB2 and an even better flex.

2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 20-11

(Courtesy of stanforddaily.com)

15. Lamar Miller (Houston Texans): Lamar Miller was a fantasy disappointment last year, plain and simple. He didn’t handle his increased workload as well as everyone hoped he would. His yards per attempt decreased from 4.5 to 4.0 from 2015 to 2016.

His work as a receiver wasn’t anything to brag about either. He had 16 less receptions and almost 200 less yards than the previous season. With the addition of Deshaun Watson, those numbers should be better in 2017.

The key to Miller’s success will be his offensive line. Ranked 29th in the NFL last season, if that group steps up, then Miller could be a top ten running back.

14. Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville Jaguars): Former No. 1 recruit and All-American, Leonard Fournette is ready to make his mark on the NFL. Standing at 6-feet 240 pounds, Fournette is an absolute beast and his college film can back that up. Being this big, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t eclipse double digit touchdowns and get plenty of work in the red zone.

The Jaguars all but said they were going to commit to a power run scheme by drafting Fournette in the first and left tackle Cam Robinson in the second. Fournette would crack the top ten if it wasn’t for Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon being right behind him.

13. Carlos Hyde (San Francisco 49ers): Carlos Hyde has the ability to be a 1,000-yard rusher in the NFL. That’s if he can stay healthy. He hasn’t played a full season since he entered the league in 2014, but when he plays he is effective. He ranked seventh in the NFL with 414 yards after contact and averaged 31.8 yards after contact per game. Recent reports have told us that he is looking slow and indecisive, so if you draft him make sure you handcuff Tim Hightower.

2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 20-11

http://media.cleveland.com/browns_impact/photo/isaiah-crowell-a69df631dd19e806.jpg

12. Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns): Talk about a breakout year, Isaiah Crowell came into his own last season after rushing for 952 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Cleveland did a good job in the offseason of bolstering its offensive line, so expect those numbers to increase.

Two things that should be noted surrounding Crowell is the amount of garbage time running he gets and his goal line carries. Crowell had 591 of his yards when the Browns were trailing, which was most of the season. He is a good player when the Browns are losing but doesn’t get as many opportunities when they are ahead. Crowell is also wildly ineffective when in the redzone, averaging 1.6 yards per carry. Draft Crowell as a low RB1 and a good RB2.

11. Marshawn Lynch (Oakland Raiders): Beast Mode is back. Marshawn Lynch made the decision to come out of retirement this offseason and he is now a member of the Oakland Raiders and their high-powered offense. In 2014, Lynch had 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns and looked like he could play another ten years in the league. It wasn’t until the next season when Lynch hit the injury bug and people saw he was in fact human.

The Raiders had the sixth-best rushing attack last offseason and have the offensive line to help Lynch succeed this season. Their offensive line is currently ranked fourth in the NFL. With Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington also in the mix, Lynch should have ample rest opportunities and should be fresh the whole season. It wouldn’t be a stretch to expect another 1,000-yard season and ten touchdowns for Marshawn Lynch.

 

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“From our Haus to Yours”

 

2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 30-21

Football Stars on New Teams

NFL Fantasy Studs Sporting New Colors

In 2017, many NFL players will be moving on to new teams. I have composed a list of five NFL fantasy studs sporting new colors this season. These five players will have a major impact on not only their new teams success, but on your fantasy teams success should you be fortunate enough to draft them.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

 

NFL Fantasy Studs Sporting New Colors

Marshawn Lynch (Photo by: silverandblackpride.com)

A lot of people are excited to see Marshawn Lynch back in the NFL. After being retired in 2016, Lynch finds himself in his hometown team’s silver and black. Lynch is a big powered back that lives up to his name “Beast Mode”. He will be the go to guy with the Oakland Raiders after they lost Latavius Murray to Minnesota in free agency. The Raiders ranked within the top-10 in most rushing categories and Lynch should only improve on those statistics in 2017. The Raiders did find themselves in the top-10 in fumbles lost in 2016 and adding Lynch will improve that number as he had zero in 2015 and one in 2014. Lynch will be a high-end RB2 and maybe even a low-end RB1 in most fantasy leagues depending on how committed to the run the Raiders are in 2017.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Baltimore Ravens

 

Changing to the wide receiver position, another player to focus on is new Baltimore Ravens receiver Jeremy Maclin. Cut by the Kansas City Chiefs on June 2, he found a new home in Baltimore just 11 days later on a two-year deal. Maclin should fit in right away as Joe Flacco’s number one target. Maclin’s numbers should increase as he is in a better passing offense with the Ravens. The Ravens ranked 12th in passing yards while the Chiefs ranked 19th and Baltimore attempted 679 passes, which led the league, to Kansas City’s 546.  Maclin at worst is a valuable flex option and has the potential to be a high-end WR2.

Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

 

NFL Fantasy Studs Sporting New Colors

Alshon Jeffrey (Photo by: nj.com)

Another receiver looking to rebound is Alshon Jeffrey of the Philadelphia Eagles. Jeffrey is a big target with good hands and solid route running skills. Like most Chicago Bear offensive players, Jeffrey struggled last year as he only managed 95 catches for 821 yards and two touchdowns. He was also suspended for four games by the NFL for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. This year Jeffrey should bounce back being paired with Carson Wentz and having a good core of receivers in Torrey Smith, Jordan Mathews and tight end Zach Ertz around him. The Eagles last year ranked 24th in receiving yards and 29th in yards-per-reception and Jeffrey should only help improve those numbers. Jeffrey will be a high-end WR2 but will be a drafted too early as a WR1.

Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots

 

One player that could see a new role is receiver Brandin Cooks. After trade on March 10 to the New England Patriots, Cooks finds himself in a plethora of receivers that he will pair with. Tom Brady will be happy to have him. As a fantasy owner I wouldn’t worry about how many catches he will get. The Patriot offense is all about spreading the ball around. Cooks was part of that with the New Orleans Saints but he was also the number one target for them. In New England he’s another weapon and the primary deep threat for Brady. He will lose some value but he will remain a solid WR2 option in leagues this season.

Adrian Peterson, RB, New Orleans Saints

 

One of the more intriguing players we will be watching is running back Adrian Peterson of the New Orleans Saints. Peterson shouldn’t be expected to be the player he was with the Minnesota Vikings but more of an option the Saints have at running back along with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. There is no guarantee he will be the starter come week one but the Saints signed him to get some carries and take a good portion of the workload. The Saints have proven to have a consistent running game as they rank in the top-15 in most rushing categories and adding Peterson can only strengthen those numbers. He has struggled with injuries but he is Adrian Peterson and we have seen him bounce back from injuries before. He is someone to take a gamble on late in the draft as he will get touchdowns and carries.

These five players were major components for their old teams and you should expect them to be contributors to their new teams in 2017. The roles the fill will be changing and their fantasy output should be researched thoroughly before making them a key contributed for your team.

Featured Image from https://nflspinzone.com/

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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.