By: Cam Farnham
In order to have a successful Fantasy Football team it all starts with a running back. From veterans to rookies, this is the Top 20.
1. Le'Veon Bell
Bell is one of the most versatile players in the league as he lines up at both Running Back and Wide Receiver. Coming off a year where he rushed for 1,286 yards and 7 touchdowns, that was not even the most impressive stat. As a Running Back, Bell secured 75 catches to go along with a pair of touchdowns In just 12 games. Sky is the limit for Bell and look for him to continue to be the most dominant fantasy player.
2. David Johnson
Right behind Bell comes Johnson. The top two picks in all formats should be one of these two. Johnson averaged 132 all purpose yards per game. If you are looking for someone to be the absolute focus point of the offense, DJ is your guy. Along with Bell, Johnson racked up the catches with 80 catches to go along with 4 receiving touchdowns. The Cardinals will heavily rely on the production of Johnson as he is there go to guy.
3. Ezekiel Elliott
Coming off a monstrous year for the Cowboys, Elliott proved his worth real quick as he led the league in Rushing yards (1631), Rush yards per game (108.73), and was top five in almost every running back offensive category. 2nd in Rush TDS with 15, 4th in yards per attempt with 5.07, and 2nd in all purpose yards with 132.93 among running backs. With hands down the best offensive line in Football to run behind, Elliott is a lock as a first round pick.
4. LeSean McCoy
When healthy, McCoy is the most electrifying runner in football. After playing in 15 games, McCoy ranked 6th in the league in Rushing yards per game (84.47). When the ball is in his hands, he is one of the best in the open field with his speed and juking ability. To go along with that, he is the primary back at the goal line, and for this reason he finished third in the league with 13 Rushing touchdowns. Look for McCoy to go in the middle to late part of the first round.
5. Jay Ayjai
If you are looking for a player to get definite goal line touches, then this is your guy. Ayjai came alive for fantasy owners last year with RB1 numbers week in and week out. His 84.8 yards per game ranked him 5th in the league while he scored a respectable 8 touchdowns. Although he has not been that effective in the passing game, the amount of times he will touch the ball should waiver that thought. Look for the Dolphins to have a balanced attack this year, which will help the young RB for the 2017 season.
6. Jordan Howard
Howard has the potential to be considered a top 3 running back, but until the Bears can show some consistency on offense he is here at number 6. Coming out of nowhere, Howard beat out Jeremy Langford with ease in the beginning portion of the season. Howard was so good down the stretch, that he finished 2nd in rushing yards (1313), behind fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott. If the Bears cannot get into a grove, look for Howard to show more flashes out of the backfield as a receiver where he will look to improve from his 29 catch, 238 yard with a touchdown production from last year.
7. Devonta Freeman
In one of the league’s best offenses, Freeman was a key part of that success. If you are looking for a balanced back who does it all, Freeman is the guy. Freeman averaged 67.44 yards per game on the ground, while accumulating almost 30 yards in the air from Matt Ryan (28.33). Although he is in a running back by committee role with versatile back Tevin Coleman, look for Freeman to continue to get 15+ touches a game in a high powered offensive attack.
8. Melvin Gordon
After a bust like season his rookie year where he failed to get into the end zone, Wisconsin product Melvin Gordon burst onto the scene with a RB1 like season and more. Not only did Gordon move the chains with his physical style of running, he got into the end zone 12 times (10 on the ground, 2 in the air). When it comes down to it touchdowns are what matters, and Gordon provided plenty of them. With the loss of speedy back Danny Woodhead to the Ravens, look for Gordon to keep pace with his 19 attempts a game from a season ago.
9. Todd Gurley
After a tremendous rookie year in which Gurley racked up 10 touchdowns and over 1,100 yards, came the sophomore slump. The fact that the Rams had the leagues worst offense can attribute to that. They were the leagues worst in Points Per game (14.0), and Yards per game (262.7). They finished 31st in Passing yards per game with 184.4. With the lack of offensive firepower and capability, teams were stacking the box against Gurley. With the addition of Jared Goff and the year he has under his belt, the Rams will stop being one dimensional, and more balanced. Don't sleep on the talent of Gurley who could make his way into the top 5 by the end of the year.
10. Leornard Fournette
Arguably the most hyped Running Back to come out of college since Adrian Peterson, Fournette is as gifted as a player coming into the league we have seen. From the moment he stepped onto the campus of LSU, the SEC was in for a treat. The Jaguars are coming off a disappointing year especially from the play of what it seemed to be the Franchise answer Blake Bortles. Fournette is the answer. Without much of a ground game, Fournette will provide a more balanced attack the Jaguars have needed since Maurice Jones Drew. Look for Fournette to put up top 10 RB numbers.
11. Demarco Murray
After a dreadful year with the Eagles, Murray bounced back with an all star like season. It has been the tale of two stories for Murray, as in 2015 he finished the year with only 702 yards. The 2016 season was a complete different story. 1,287 yards and 9 touchdowns proved that Murray still has that flash he had in Dallas. As he almost eclipsed the 300 attempt mark (293), he was shown not to get the bulk of the goal line carries as Alabama workhorse Derrick Henry seemed to be the go to guy. Be cautious of the undervalued competition between Murray and Henry.
12. Lamar Miller
In a huge off-season acquisition, Miller was sent to the Texans after complying a great season with Miami the year before. The problem with Miller started off with not getting into the end zone. In 5 of his first 6 games, Miller was handed the ball of 20+ times. One touchdown was what came out of it. Miller finished with 7 total touchdowns, while finishing in the top 10 in yards per game (10th), attempts per game (4th), and yards per attempt (10th). Miller will still see the majority of the touches as he will look to help fantasy owners by finding the end zone.
13. Christian McCaffery
Although it is to early to tell, McCaffrey will find his way into the starting role with the Carolina Panthers. McCaffrey brings speed, elusiveness, hands, and vision to the Panthers. With Jonathan Stewart battling injuries and age, look for McCaffrey to step in and be the workhorse. McCaffrey has showed that he is an elite route runner with elite hands, making him a lock to see some time out of the slot. Cam Newton has been waiting for a play maker out of the backfield, and has got himself one.
14. Isaiah Crowell
While only getting 12 carries a game, Crowell made the best of the opportunities given to him. With 192 carries, Crowell was able to find the end zone 7 times with a 4.81 yard per carry mark. With the flashes Crowell has shown, more opportunities are going to be presented for him. On top of that Crowell has proved that he is a reliable pass catcher hauling in 40 catches to go along with 319 yards. Do not sleep on Crowell, as he is one of very few play makers on the Cleveland Browns.
15. Carlos Hyde
The San Francisco 49ers have been one of the least productive offensive teams the past couple years. With the new Hiring of GM John Lynch,,the 49ers have already gotten much better on paper. Hyde had a respectable 76 yards on the ground a game ranking him 11th in the NFL. Like most successful fantasy running backs, he also does damage in the passing game. Through 13 games Hyde caught 27 passes for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the ground he rushed for 988 yards and 6 touchdowns. Look for the 49ers to stick with their heavy run game, and trust Hyde even more.
16. Mark Ingram
The talk of the Saints backfield has consisted of Adrian Peterson. Not so fast! Mark Ingram down the stretch of last year was one of the most productive fantasy running backs in the entire NFL. In a complete platooned backfield between him and Tim Hightower, Ingram rushed for over 1000 yards and had 6 touchdowns. Not bad for someone who regularly split carries. In the heavy passing attack of Drew Brees and the Saints, Ingram collected 46 catches for 319 yards and 4 touchdowns. Ingram is one of the toughest runners out there, and if he keeps producing like he did last year, there will be little talk of Adrian Peterson.
17. Joe Mixon
If it weren’t for the serious off the field issues for Mixon, he would have been drafted much higher. Behind Fournette and McCaffrey, Mixon would be right there in terms of talent. The Bengals have seen glimpses of both Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard, but not what they would have liked. They need a consistent three down back, and with Mixon they are getting that.
18. Ty Montgomery
Although Montgomery has not even played at the RB position for a full season, he showed he has what it takes to be an every down back. We all know what he can do as a receiver as he has been one all his life, but not many people talk about what he did on the ground. In 77 attempts, he rushed for 457 yards and 3 touchdowns. To put that into perspective, that is almost 6 yards a carry (5.9). Although many drafters may be hesitant, trust the Packers, trust Rodgers, and start to trust Ty Montgomery.
19. C.J. Anderson
Although injuries plagued Anderson last season (7 games), he is a big back who runs downhill and finds the end zone. Prior to the 2016 season, Anderson was a reliable RB2 in any format. 437 yards and 4 touchdowns in 7 games is not ideal, but with the aerial attack they have with Thomas and Sanders, look for a healthy Anderson to find the creases and go.
20. Doug Martin
The most controversial ranking goes to Doug Martin. Inconsistency has been Martins biggest flaw as he has not shown that he is a reliable back each year. In Martins rookie year (2012) and 2015, Martin has rushed for over 1,000 yards and over 5 touchdowns. If the Bucs are positive when they say Martin is in great shape, look for Martin and the Bucs to finally get that playoff berth.