Here it is, the final list of my running back rankings. This list mainly consists of first round and early second round picks that will be the backbone of your fantasy football team this year. Here it is, 2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 10-1.
10. Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams): Todd Gurley is the perfect example of a sophomore slump. The touches are still there for Gurley, as he averaged 17.4 attempts per game last year. He ranked fifth in carries and 12th in targets but the Rams offense just fell apart. He rushed for 885 yards on a terrible 3.2 yards per attempt.
The main reason for Gurley’s disappointing season is the poor play at quarterback for the Rams. If Jared Goff can be more successful and have a much better second year, he can take the pressure off of Gurley. The Rams did bolster their offensive line by adding tackle Andrew Whitworth. If Goff plays better and the offensive line holds up this season, we can expect a bounce back season for Gurley.
9. Jay Ajayi (Miami Dolphins): Jay Ajayi broke out in a big way in 2016. Ajayi became the fourth running back in NFL history to rush for 200 yards in three games in a season. Ajayi found himself to be one of the most efficient backs last season, ranking third in yards after contact with 484 yards and sixth in yards after contact per touch with 1.7.
With the addition of Julius Thomas, the Dolphins could be in line for more of a passing offense in 2017, especially with Thomas’ poor blocking ability. But along with the addition of Thomas, the Dolphins added a high end blocker in Anthony Fasano. The Dolphins offense is in its prime right now and Ajayi is a prime piece in the offense, expect another good season from him.
8. Devonta Freeman (Atlanta Falcons): The other half of the two-headed monster in Atlanta has made his appearance on this list. Devonta Freeman has been very consistent over the past two years with 11 rushing touchdowns and at least 1,000 yards.
We did see Freeman’s rushing touches decrease last year, with 40 less attempts and 20 less receptions than he had in 2015. Freeman still had 462 receiving yards and two touchdowns last year. He is also a top ten running back in terms of efficiency, as he ranked eighth in yards after contact.
The only concern with Freeman is how the Falcons use Tevin Coleman. Coleman is the most important backup running back in football and he can put up flex/RB2 numbers any week. Draft Freeman and expect a nice season, just handcuff Coleman if you do.
7. Demarco Murray (Tennessee Titans): Murray returned to RB1 status in 2016. In his first year in Tennessee, he rushed for 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns. The Titans elite offensive line helped him out as the smashmouth approach worked well for the Titans last season.
Murray found little competition from Derrick Henry last season, as he ranked third in snap share and sixth in the league for total team running back touches. Draft Murray as a late first or early second round pick this year.
6. Jordan Howard (Chicago Bears): People don’t realize that last season, Jordan Howard was the second-best rusher in the NFL. He rushed for 1,313 yards, only second to Ezekiel Elliot last season. He is the focal point of the Bears offense now that Alshon Jeffery is gone.
The only problem with Howard is his lack of touchdowns. Chicago ranked 23rd in the NFL in red zone scoring (touchdowns only) by scoring touchdowns on 51% of their opportunities last season. Howard may see an increase in his receiving yards this season in his first full season as the lead back, but definitely expect another great rushing season for him in Chicago.
5. Melvin Gordon (Los Angeles Chargers): Melvin Gordon found success in his second season in the NFL. He was three yards away from 1,000 yards while only playing in 13 games. He hasn’t played a full season in the NFL yet, missing three games last season and two the year before, but that shouldn’t stop you from drafting him.
With the departure of Danny Woodhead, Gordon should see an increase in his role as a passing back and he can develop into a full-time three down back this year. The thing that is very intriguing about Gordon is his touchdowns. Last season he had ten touchdowns in 13 games and that number should increase if he plays a full season.
4. LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills): McCoy had a bounce back year with the Bills last season, finishing the season as the No. 3 ranked running back. He rushed for 1,267 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. The Bills rushing attack falls on McCoy’s back now that they didn’t match the offer sheet for Mike Gillislee and he should have an ample amount of carries this upcoming season.
The problem with McCoy is that the Bills spent their offseason acquiring Mike Tolbert and Patrick DiMarco. They have the ability to take many goalline touches from McCoy. McCoy should be a first round pick this season, with the rushing yards continuing to be there but a decrease in touchdowns.
3. Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys): The rookie phenomenon proved he was the real deal in 2016. Elliott had 1,631 yards (first in the NFL) and 15 touchdowns last season. Elliott tore up opposing defenses last year and he should do the same this upcoming season.
Not only was he the No. 1 running back in terms of rushing yards and carries, he was also one of the most efficient backs. He ranked second in breakaway runs and third in evaded tackles, while finishing the season as the fourth-best running back in terms of yards after contact. Zeke shouldn’t fall past the third pick in any draft this year.
2. David Johnson (Arizona Cardinals): If you had David Johnson on your fantasy team last year, congratulations. DJ was insanely effective in the passing game and as a runner, rushing for 1,239 yards and twelve touchdowns and 879 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He is the definition of a dual-threat back.
He was the most productive back in the receiving game, as he was ranked first in receptions, receiving yards and total touchdowns among running backs. David Johnson is the center of the Cardinals offense and should enjoy another amazing season as the first or second pick in fantasy this year.
1. Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers)- Bell’s running style of cuts and hesitation running has found immediate success in the NFL. Last season, he had 1,268 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He is key on the Steelers high-powered offense and should continue to see 20+ touches a game. He missed four games last season and still finished as the number four fantasy running back.
Not only is he used as a rusher, but he is used immensely in the passing game for Big Ben. He had 75 receptions for 616 yards and two touchdowns last season and there’s no indication that those numbers should decrease.
The problem with Bell is his injuries and off the field antics. Last season he was kept out of the first three games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and he’s gone through multiple major knee injuries in his career. If he can stay on the field, and not have any problems off of it, he can be the No. 1 ranked running back in fantasy next year, and that’s exactly where he should be drafted.
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