Top 10 Fantasy Football RBs for 2017
Brandon Murchison of RotoExperts.com presents his early Top 10 Running Backs for 2017 Fantasy Football with a look at how each can contribute.
Looking Ahead to the Top 10 Running Backs for 2017
Just as soon as the 2016 Fantasy season ends, it’s just soon enough to look forward to 2017 drafts. The popular strategy leading up to 2016 was the “Zero-RB” theory, in which you forego the running back position in the early rounds to load up at wide receiver. Well, as the season progressed it became evident that if you were not strong at running back, you found yourself behind the eight ball in weekly matchups. Now, as we enter the early stages of the offseason, it’s never too soon to contemplate the top players at a position. Entering 2017, you will see the usual cast of characters atop the running back rankings, so why not get an early sneak peek?
- David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals- If you were one of the owners lucky enough to pull the trigger on David Johnson in the middle of the first round, you landed yourself the top RB for 2016, as Johnson finished with over 400 points in PPR formats. He was a monster on the field with 1,239 yards rushing, 80 receptions and 20 total TDs. The streak of 15 games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage during the regular season made him the most consistent option on the board on a weekly basis. Heading into 2017, Johnson will again be the focal point of the Cardinals’ offense that may also be losing future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. Look for Arizona to be even more of a run-based attack in 2017, as Carson Palmer gets another year older. As long as he stays healthy, Johnson should be able to finish the season as one of the top running backs, making him a very safe choice.
- Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers- If not for the three-game suspension to begin the season, Bell would have been the top back overall in 2016. Even with fewer games, Bell matched Johnson’s totals with 1,268 yards rushing and 75 receptions. The separation here occurred with the trips to the end zone, as Bell only scored nine total TDs. Something that improved for him in 2016 was availability. Notorious for missing time with injuries, Bell finished the campaign unscathed. The injury history is the reason I give Johnson the edge in 2017. At a moment’s notice, Bell could get dinged up with his running style, which would put him on the shelf and leave you searching for a replacement. Aside from that, he has become the focal point of this offense, as the Steelers run-pass ratio skews in his favor. Bell should be off the board in most 2017 drafts among the first three picks.
- Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys- Did the rookie come through in 2016 or what?! Many experts were on the fence heading into the 2016 draft season about where to select Elliott and whether he would be worth the price tag. Well, all he did was lead the league in rushing on his way to finishing as the number two RB at season’s end. He is the perfect blend of speed and power behind the vaunted Cowboys offensive line. Entering 2017, Elliott will once again see his name called early in Fantasy drafts. If you are worried about a sophomore slump, don’t be that guy (case in point, David Johnson). With more seasoning as a passer, Dak Prescott will keep defenses honest and away from loading up to stop the run. Elliott will be the last of the top tier running backs as we get into drafting season.
- LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills- McCoy paid off big time for owners who took a chance on him in their drafts, finishing with 1,267 rushing yards and 51 receptions, on the way to being the number four RB. He was one of the more consistent backs in the game, all while fighting off injuries all season. As the tread continues to wear on McCoy, the question becomes about whether he can stay on the field and produce? That is the chance that you will have to take in 2017 with McCoy. He is always one play away from missing time, but when he is on the field, McCoy is a top five back. He will be the first back on your draft board who has questions, but given the chance to select McCoy or a mid-tier WR, McCoy should be the pick without question.
- Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears- I was very high on Howard heading into the 2016 season. He had all the tools to be very successful in a John Fox offense. And boy, did he prove me right once he was given the reins to this back field. Howard finished with 1,313 yards on the ground and added 29 receptions while finishing just inside the Top 10 at the position. The only setback was that the coaching staff was unwilling to give the rookie the ball in goal-to-go situations. This is something that will surely change in 2017, as the Bears could be starting over at the QB position, putting the offense squarely on the shoulders of Howard. Repeating 2016’s performance should be very easy, especially if finds himself in the end-zone a few more times. Howard will be an early second round pick in many 2017 drafts.
- Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins- Take away the 200-yard games, and Ajayi was somewhat pedestrian. Can he sustain success across 16 games? Adam Gase should be leaning on Ajayi in 2017.
- Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers- Melvin Gordon’s 2016 was a tale of two halves. He must improve his YPC, as the TDs are there. But can he do that with a healthy Danny Woodhead? Time will tell.
- Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers- Hyde was very productive in a BAD 49ers offense in 2016. If Kyle Shanahan becomes the head coach, look for a huge uptick in overall numbers for Hyde. He will easily end up within the Top 10 for 2017.
- DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans- It was a resurgent year for Murray in 2016, as he fit the Titans’ scheme well. But going into 2017, how much time on the field will he lose to the beast that is Derrick Henry?
- Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons- Freeman had a very productive 2016 in the high-powered Falcons offense. As we enter 2017, is it Freeman or Tevin Coleman that will be the RB1? Or are we staring at a dreaded RBBC?
Image via Getty
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