Week 1 of Preseason is over. Week 2 is quickly approaching. This means one very important thing. Your fantasy football draft is quickly approaching.
Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Back Edition
***If you have already partaken in a fantasy football draft then shame on you because everyone knows you can’t do your draft until after week 3 of the preseason to avoid any injuries that happen in these pointless exhibitions. However, if you were unfortunate enough to be suckered into drafting your team already, don’t fret. Thanks to Rotosurance you can protect your investments from injury. Make sure to enter the promo code AlDente and they will handle the rest. Your mistake of drafting too early can be resolved and you can rest easy knowing that if Jordy Nelson goes down again before the meaningful games start you are protected. But I digress…***
Every position in your fantasy lineup is important, but the running back position can be the anchor of your team if drafted correctly. It can be tricky considering that typically there are only 32-35 running backs that produce sufficient fantasy output, barring injury. Many of these backs are snatched up early in drafts so you have to make sure that you fill your roster out before you are taking Shane Vereen as one of your starting two.
Lucky for you Sports Al Dente is here to help. Five of our Fantasy Football Experts have put together in depth analysis of the top 32 fantasy football running backs that you should be targeting in your draft. Rather you stockpile your bench with these players or get on your knees and pray that three RBs will get you through the entire season, that is entirely up to you.
Treat this guide like the Bible that you have downloaded to your phone. Take it with you everywhere. Read it. Study it. Share it. Repeat. Follow these steps and come draft day, you will have the confidence to draft the running backs that will lead your team to the championship.
****For the purpose of this article, our Fantasy Football Rankings are based on 10-Team leagues using PPR scoring format***
2017 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
|Andrew Whisnant||Tad Desai||Talon Graff||Danny Rendon||Bob Movahed|
|1||David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals||Le’Veon Bell, RB Pittsburgh Steelers||David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals||David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals||David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals|
|In 2016, Johnson had over 100 total yards every week but week 17 and that consistency is what makes him the top fantasy back.||Ignore Bell’s current holdout. It’s the very definition of pointless as he’s locked into the franchise tag at this point so it’s nothing more than a statement. As long as he can avoid being suspended again, he is the best dual threat running back in a complete offense. A dynamic skillset that teams can’t focus solely on is a recipe for yet another elite season.||He can run, he can catch, and his coach said he’s getting 30 touches a game. Johnson will be the highest scorer in fantasy football this year.||Arguably the most complete back in the league.||David Johnson is the clear top fantasy back in the game. His performance last season was simply unreal and yielded one of the highest point totals from a back in the history of fantasy football. If you’re lucky enough to have a top two pick, draft Johnson!|
|2||Le’Veon Bell, RB Pittsburgh Steelers||David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals||Le’Veon Bell, RB Pittsburgh Steelers||Le’Veon Bell, RB Pittsburgh Steelers||Le’Veon Bell, RB Pittsburgh Steelers|
|There ’ s not much of a difference between Bell and David Johnson ’ s numbers on the field but Bell has injury issues and is holding out in training camp. For those fantasy headaches, he gets the second spot.||Johnson was arguably the biggest snub from the MVP vote last year. He wasn’t given an ounce of respect that he earned by outperforming the highly-touted Ezekiel Elliott despite the Cardinals’ constant struggles on both sides of the ball. The only thing holding Johnson from the top spot is his inconsistent line and Carson Palmer’s equally unreliable play.||The longer he holds out the more he will hurt his team and himself. Bell could arguably be the best running back in the game and if he had reported to camp already he may be sitting at the top spot. Pittsburgh has one of the top offenses in the NFL and Bell is a huge benefactor. ||An elusive runner that has the best vision in the game. Just hope his pointless hold-out doesn't hurt his already injury-prone body.||Bell is an incredibly dynamic back and has been for a few seasons now. When he’s on the field, it’s all but assured that he’ll be giving you at least 16 points a game. As long as he stays healthy, he’ll dominate fantasy once more.
|3||Melvin Gordon, RB Los Angeles Chargers||LeSean McCoy, RB Buffalo Bills||LeSean McCoy, RB Buffalo Bills||LeSean McCoy, RB Buffalo Bills||Melvin Gordon, RB Los Angeles Chargers|
|In 2017, Gordon gets a new coach that loves to run the ball with Anthony Lynn, and Danny Woodhead left for Baltimore in the offseason so Gordon is expected to see an increase in touches and the main receiving role out of the backfield.||Probably the hottest take on this whole list is ranking “Shady” over Ezekiel Elliott. Don’t get me wrong the two are about equal in terms of impacts on their team but fantasy impact is something different. LeSean McCoy has proved himself as a legitimate dual-threat after being traded to the Bills and with virtually no changes to the offense this offseason, it’s reasonable to expect the same output. ***Elliott is currently suspended first six games of season.||McCoy still has plenty of gas left in the tank and will carry the load for the Bills this year. Buffalo had the best rushing attack last year and will finish in the top five again this year due to McCoy and that solid offensive line. ||Duel threat back that may lead his team in receptions.||Gordon delivered the skill set and ability he was expected to possess upon entering the league. After an underwhelming rookie campaign, Gordon ran the ball with determination and power. If he recovers well from his injury, expect the budding star to pick up where he left off.
|4||LeSean McCoy, RB Buffalo Bills||Melvin Gordon, RB Los Angeles Chargers||Jordan Howard, RB Chicago Bears||Melvin Gordon, RB Los Angeles Chargers||Devonta Freeman, RB Atlanta Falcons|
|He lead one of the best rushing attacks in 2016 and not much is expected to change in 2017 as the new offensive coordinator looks to run the ball almost as much as last year.||Gordon’s extraordinarily mediocre rookie season will seemingly forever hang in the back of fantasy owners’ minds but last year proved it was likely a rarity than a commonality. While Forrest Lamp’s injury does put a bit of dent in his lines’ improvement, Gordon has proved he can succeed with a less than stellar one.||Chicago’s interior offensive line is one of the best in the game and with questions surrounding the quarterback position, the Bears will rely on Howard and the rushing attack to jumpstart the offense. ||Without the presence of Danny Woodhead, he will be a true 3 down back. Scoring machine on the ground with added work in the pass game||Even without Kyle Shanahan guiding the Falcons’ offensive unit, Freeman will continue his rise up the running back ladder. His running mate Tevin Coleman does eat into his carries, but Freeman is gifted enough as both a pass catcher and runner to ensure a critical role on an outstanding offense.
|5||Jordan Howard, RB Chicago Bears||Devonta Freeman, RB Atlanta Falcons||Melvin Gordon, RB Los Angeles Chargers||Devonta Freeman, RB Atlanta Falcons||LeSean McCoy, RB Buffalo Bills|
|Howard looks to take on a full starting role in his second year and be the engine for this offense as he looks to build on a tremendous rookie career.||Freeman’s fantasy status is in a weird flux given he is clearly the better option of the team’s dual threat but he is still splitting time with Tevin Coleman. There’s the added concern that his newly signed contract takes away any motivation and the absence of Kyle Shanahan. Given all those negatives, Freeman’s potential based off pure skill is still enough to earn the boom-or-bust pick in the early rounds.||Gordon lived up to his potential last year and would have surpassed 1,000 yards if he hadn’t gotten hurt. Expect at least that total in 2017 plus a whole lot more. The return of Keenan Allen will take some of the attention away from Gordon and the addition of Dan Feeney at guard should help the rushing attack. ||With 127 receptions over the last two seasons and a new contract inked, Freeman looks to be a PPR monster.||Since his arrival in Buffalo, McCoy has retained his status as a premier runner. He continues to be a crafty back with great lateral speed and sure hands. Additionally, the Bills’ offensive system is ideal for a runner of his caliber. Although he gets dinged up fairly often, he’ll easily finish as a top running back in fantasy scoring.
|6||Jay Ajayi, RB Miami Dolphins||DeMarco Murray, RB Tennessee Titans||Devonta Freeman, RB Atlanta Falcons||DeMarco Murray, RB Tennessee Titans||DeMarco Murray, RB Tennessee Titans|
|Even without Ryan Tannehill, Ajayi will have a full training camp as the proven starter and will be the focus of this offense. A second year under Adam Gase will allow the third-year runner to show his full potential.||Murray’s production is harmed a bit by Derrick Henry’s emergence as a legitimate goal-line back, but he has still proven that his career 2,000-yard year in Dallas wasn’t a fluke. Murray’s receiving skills makes him more valuable than Henry fantasy-wise and Marcus Mariota is looking like he’s poised to place himself in the top echelon of quarterbacks next year further valuing Murray’s abilities.||Freeman just signed a big extension with the Falcons that made him the highest paid running back in the league. Freeman gets lost in the shuffle but he is very productive on the ground and through the air. If it wasn’t for Coleman, Freeman would be higher on the list. ||A healthy Marriota and one of the best O-lines in the league. Murray is going to put up numbers. Derrick Henry is knocking on the door and may cut into his production a bit, however.||There was a lot of ambiguity surrounding Murray’s outlook when he was first sent over to the Titans. However, after just one season playing in Tennessee, Murray regained a spot amongst the elite runners of the league. He had an outstanding year filled with highlights of his signature power runs and goal line finishes. He might lose more carries to Derrick Henry, but it’s safe to say that his role as lead back is secure.
|7||Devonta Freeman, RB Atlanta Falcons||Jay Ajayi, RB Miami Dolphins||Todd Gurley, RB Los Angeles Rams||Jay Ajayi, RB Miami Dolphins||Jay Ajayi, RB Miami Dolphins|
|Losing Kyle Shanahan will hurt the Falcons but Freeman is still surrounded by the same group on offense and consistency will help keep his fantasy numbers in the top 10 for the 2017 season.||This has turned into perhaps the biggest boom-or-bust pick in the early rounds thanks to Ryan Tannehill’s injury. The real question of Ajayi’s value rests in the undependable hands of Jay Cutler. If Cutler can reignite his career-best (and granted overvalued) season with Adam Gase, it’ll take the pressure off Ajayi allowing him to repeat his performance from last year. If not, then Ajayi may end up being a middle-tier back under a one-dimensional offense.||Gurley should bounce back this year after a pretty disappointing 2016. The Rams improved their offensive line and Jared Goff being the clear QB1 will help. ||Jay Cutler makes this offense two dimensional and will open up the run lanes. He will improve on his 1,272 yards and 8 rushing TDs and his 27 receptions for 151 yards.||After a slow and murky start, Ajayi exploded onto the scene. The young back had multiple games over 200 yards and was one of the lone bright spots on the Dolphins’ offense. With Jay Cutler taking over for the injured Ryan Tannehill, I expect Ajayi will be getting plenty of opportunities to run the ball. As long as Cutler can help take a little pressure off of Ajayi, he’ll have another great fantasy year.
|8||Todd Gurley, RB Los Angeles Rams||Jordan Howard, RB Chicago Bears||Leonard Fournette, RB Jacksonville Jaguars||Jordan Howard, RB Chicago Bears||Todd Gurley, RB Los Angeles Rams|
|After a terrible fantasy season, Gurley will have an offense this year that’s improved across the board, especially the offensive line with Andrew Whitworth at left tackle. An offensive minded head coach in Sean McVay will have the Rams improve and keep up a consistent running game.||Howard is much like Ajayi in that you are investing a high-risk, high-reward pick on him. Despite not doing much in the first three weeks of the season, Howard was still able to surpass 1,000 yards and score seven touchdowns. The two main knocks on Howard is he isn’t much of a receiving threat and the Bears didn’t do much to bolster his offensive line.||Fournette gives Jacksonville a dimension to their offense they haven’t had since Blake Bortles has been there. Fournette may not be as effective as Elliott was in his rookie campaign but Fournette should be the top scoring fantasy rookie. ||Best offensive weapon on a bad team. If the Bears score, it’s probably because of Howard.||Obviously, Gurley had a rather disappointing season last year. There are a lot of variables to consider when examining this young back’s first two years. Honestly, I don’t know if the changes the Rams made to their coaching staff, schemes, and offensive line will be enough. But, those shifts, along with Gurley’s likely 15-plus touches per game give me some hope.|
|9||DeMarco Murray, RB Tennessee Titans||Lamar Miller, RB Houston Texans||Marshawn Lynch, RB Oakland Raiders||Leonard Fournette, RB Jacksonville Jaguars||Jordan Howard, RB Chicago Bears|
|Murray probably will not be able to hold off Derrick Henry as much this season but he should still be a productive fantasy pick. He has a coach in Mike Mularkey that loves his rushing attack and will continue to feature Murray as the top back.||Despite Alfred Blue’s and D’Onta Foreman’s impressive performances in the Texans’ first preseason game, it is unlikely that Miller will lose significant carries to either one. In fact, it might be what helps his value more. One of the main knocks on Miller was he couldn’t handle the heavy workload he never got in Miami and these two will help that. It also helps that the Texans don’t have a traditional goal-line back that would steal touchdowns away from Miller.||The Oakland offense paved the way for Latavius Murray to score 12 touchdowns last year so imagine what Beast Mode will do. ||A grown man with a passing a game that will keep the safety out of the box. Expect big things from the rookie.||It’s difficult to say if the waiver wire Cinderella of last season can match his outstanding performance. However, I do think there’s some value in his situation. Namely, Howard is locked-in as the offensive leader of a team lacking in options. At the very least, Howard will have plenty of chances to rack up garbage points, which is great if you have him on your fantasy team, but not so much if you’re a Bears’ fan.|
|10||Isaiah Crowell, RB Cleveland Browns||Todd Gurley, RB Los Angeles Rams||Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys||Christian McCaffrey, RB Carolina Panthers||Leonard Fournette, RB Jacksonville Jaguars|
|The Browns look to have their first thousand-yard rusher since Peyton Hillis in 2010. Crowell’s touches have increased every year and his receiving role jumped from 19 receptions in 2015 to 40 receptions in 2016. Expect big things from Crowell this year.||There are few players in the NFL I feel worse for than Gurley. His horrid 2016 season was hardly the product of poor play from him and rather the fact he’s the only viable weapon on L.A.’s offense. The additions of Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan on the offensive line along with the hiring of new coach and former Redskins’ offensive coordinator Sean McVay are promising but buyer beware with Gurley.||Elliott still has one of the best lines in football and will benefit from a healthy Dez Bryant and more polished Dak Prescott. However, if his six game suspension holds up, you cannot take him inside the top 10. ||A true Swiss Army knife. Ability to catch as good as anyone in the league with the athletic ability to make something happen out of nothing.||There’s always a risk factor when valuing a rookie, especially if that rookie plays behind the quarterback most likely to end an offensive drive with an interception (true statement about Blake Bortles since he’s joined the league). That being said, I can’t imagine the Jaguars selecting a back that high in the draft and not playing him. Fournette will have the opportunities; hopefully, his talent will make them count.|
|11||Christian McCaffrey, RB Carolina Panthers||Leonard Fournette, RB Jacksonville Jaguars||DeMarco Murray, RB Tennessee Titans||Todd Gurley, RB Los Angeles Rams||Carlos Hyde, RB San Francisco 49ers|
|McCaffrey has risen up my draft board steadily over the course of the offseason. The Panther’s seem to love him in camp and he could potentially steal the job from Johnathan Stewart by mid-season.||Ranking a rookie this high is unusual but Fournette was a workhorse in college and will likely be taking on the same role in Jacksonville. Tom Coughlin said his expectations for Fournette will be mainly putting the ball in the end zone. Fournette may have trouble racking up the yards but he will probably make up for it in touchdowns.||Murray runs behind one of the best lines in football but he will lose carries to Derrick Henry who will play a larger role this year. Tennessee also improved the receiving corps through the draft and free agency so Mariota will throw more than last year.||Rams look to be on the upswing and Gurley is a big part of that. With 43 receptions in 2016, he is in line for a heavy work load.||Hyde has been in a tough spot for some time. I don’t foresee the Niners flipping their season simply because Shanahan took over, but I do believe the new leadership bodes well for Hyde. Under the helm of an offense genius, Hyde is likely to be utilized to the best of his potential. Hopefully, he stays healthy enough to reap the benefits of his new system.|
|12||Leonard Fournette, RB Jacksonville Jaguars||Isaiah Crowell, RB Cleveland Browns||Jay Ajayi, RB Miami Dolphins||Lamar Miller, RB Houston Texans||Lamar Miller, RB Houston Texans|
|There’s been recent talk that Fournette may not have a bell cow work load by week one but everyone in the organization already loves the kid. He was drafted fourth overall to be the main piece of the offense.||Crowell is likely a product of one of the few bright spots for Cleveland: their offensive line. After guard Joel Bitonio went down, Crowell’s production which was fantastic dropped off. The Browns signing of Kevin Zeitler from their division rival Cincinnati is a good omen for Crowell along with the fact that he will likely continue to be Cleveland’s goal-line back. Crowell will be a great mid-round steal for you.||Ajayi broke out last year and had three games where he rushed over 200 yards. The third year back looks to keep it up his momentum going into 2017. The Fins will rely on Ajayi early as they bring Jay Cutler up to speed. ||If Deshaun Watson wins the starting job; it will make the offense more dynamic. Spying the QB may be a reality when playing the Texans freeing up more room for Miller.||There was a lot of talk of Miller ascending his game once given a workhorse type of role. Unfortunately for those that drafted him high last season, that didn’t quite pan out. But, Miller still remains a solid option at the running back position, and is likely to average over 15 touches a game. Ideally, more of those looks will lead to touchdowns this upcoming season now that Brock Osweiler won’t be pouching his goal line work.|
|13||Lamar Miller, RB Houston Texans||Marshawn Lynch, RB Oakland Raiders||Isaiah Crowell, RB Cleveland Browns||Ty Montgomery, RB Green Bay Packers||Ty Montgomery, RB Green Bay Packers|
|Miller gets to have a second year in Houston as the starter and his touches alone should make him a good fantasy back. I’m a little worried about this backfield becoming a committee through the year, so that’s why he’s here at 13.||If Crowell is a steal in the mid-rounds, Lynch is one of the few who could end up busting very badly. It all depends on how the Raiders use him. He struggled in 2015 and second-year man Jalen Richard showed a lot of promise behind Latavius Murray. Lynch’s bright spot, and it’s a good one, is the fact he will be Oakland’s goal-line back and in a high-powered offense, that’s huge.||Cleveland vastly improved their offensive line and Crowell should benefit quite a bit. Crowell is an underrated back and his lack of production hasn’t necessarily been his fault. He is a solid option out of the back field in the passing game too. I wouldn’t be surprised if Crowell breaks the 1,000 yard mark this year. ||A wide receiver turned running back, what more could you ask for? With Aaron Rogers throwing the ball and Jordy Nelson stretching the field, the underneath routes may be prime real estate.||Montgomery isn’t receiving the praise he deserves. The receiver turned running back was the bright spot of the Packers’ running game. Although the Packers are a pass dominant team, I can’t imagine Montgomery doesn’t once again reap the benefits of being on a superb offense.|
|14||Carlos Hyde, RB San Francisco 49ers||Christian McCaffrey, RB Carolina Panthers||Lamar Miller, RB Houston Texans||Carlos Hyde, RB San Francisco 49ers||Isaiah Crowell, RB Cleveland Browns|
|Going into his fourth season, Hyde will see more competition in this backfield but having Kyle Shanahan as a coach should help the whole offense, increasing Hyde’s value. He should be a decent RB2.||If goal-line backs can up their value despite bad yard numbers, so can receiving backs and that is exactly what McCaffrey is. Not to say that McCaffrey’s rushing numbers won’t be good, just not what carries his value. Splitting carries with Johnathan Stewart is a real possibility but McCaffrey’s receiving skills were unmatched by any other running backs in the draft and a big reason he went top-10. His dynamic play ability makes him a strong candidate for high yard totals and at least one touchdown for most weeks.||Miller was a solid back last year for a Texan’s offense that was underwhelming at best. Miller was a bright spot and he should still spearhead a rushing attack that will still be the bread and butter of the offense. ||Surrounded by a team that needs Hyde to be active. With a QB that is better than people give credit to, and an offensive minded coach, Hyde could prove to be an asset in the PPR format.||Crowell is a tough sell for me, mainly because he plays for the Browns. No disrespect to the Browns, but it’s hard to have faith in any of their offensive players. However, Crowell did string together a few decent games last season. If Crowell manages the bulk of Browns’ running game, he’s likely to put up decent numbers based on volume alone.|
|15||Ty Montgomery, RB Green Bay Packers||Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys||Carlos Hyde, RB San Francisco 49ers||Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys||Joe Mixon, RB Cincinnati Bengals|
|While he has some pressure from fourth rounder Jamaal Williams, Montgomery will have a role in this offense and having one of the greats as his quarterback gives Montgomery a solid value as a RB2.||Call it Doug Free’s departure, or his multiple offseason distractions that have led to the NFL investigating him and Zeke being suspended six games force me to not have a good feeling about Elliott this year. That’s not to say that he will be a disappointment, just not on the same level as his breakout rookie year. The bottom line is the Cowboys still have one of the best O-lines in the league and Elliott remains the team’s only viable number one so he’s well worth the risk but he’s a risk nonetheless.||There have been mixed reviews on Hyde coming out of camp but the fact is that the kid can play football. The problem is he can’t seem to stay on the field. He has battled injuries too much so far but hopefully he can stay healthy this year. You just need to look at the running back tandem in Atlanta to foresee how new head coach Kyle Shanahan will use Hyde this year. ||Top Notch O-line with a QB that can keep defenses honest. Six game suspension knocks him way back.||I’m big on Mixon as the rookie to draft. He’s a very versatile back going to a dream situation. The Bengals have a capable offense and have struggled with their effectiveness on the ground. Either Mixon takes over the starting position, or at the very least, becomes their consistent passing down back. He’ll likely surpass his projected fantasy output.|
|16||Bilal Powell, RB New York Jets||Ty Montgomery, RB Green Bay Packers||Tevin Coleman, RB Atlanta Falcons||Isaiah Crowell, RB Cleveland Browns||Marshawn Lynch, RB Oakland Raiders|
|This might seem a little high especially since he’s on the Jets, but don’t let a bad offense scare you away from this guy. Expect Powell’s touches to increase drastically this season as well as his fantasy value.||Montgomery is essentially a poor-man’s McCaffrey in terms of fantasy. His experience at receiver proved to translate well to running back after the Packers’ slew of injuries so he can be depended on for multiple screen passes. He proved his running ability as well rushing for 500 yards on 77 attempts. The Packers brought in a pair of rookie running backs via the draft that could take some carries away from Montgomery so their progression is something to keep an eye on.||Coleman is the second guy on the depth chart for the Falcons but he is a great receiving option and is a scoring threat. He totaled 11 touchdowns last year and will be around the same number this year. ||More run-pass options in Hue Jackson’s offense means defenses have to gamble with defending the run or the pass. If DeShone Kizer wins the job, Crowell’s value will move up a bit.||I've been a Lynch fan for a long time. He was one of the most brilliant running backs from recent memory. However, Lynch is older now and is returning from an entire year off. He'll likely still be productive given the Raiders' offensive firepower, but I don't except him to be even half the player he once was. Also, let's remember that the Raiders like to rotate their running backs.|
|17||Marshawn Lynch, RB Oakland Raiders||Spencer Ware, RB Kansas City Chiefs||Mark Ingram, RB New Orleans Saints||Joe Mixon, RB Cincinnati Bengals||C.J. Anderson, RB Denver Broncos|
|Beast Mode gets to play with his hometown team and some of the best young players in the league. He should be able to get double digit touchdowns behind this offense line but don’t expect much out of him from a receiving role.||This is a pick that could end up being slightly too high if rookie Kareem Hunt is as good as some at Chiefs training camp say. However, Ware proved himself as a viable starter for Kansas City running for just under 1,000 yards in 14 games. The only problem is that he only scored five total touchdowns for the Chiefs. The one saving grace is even if Ware was to lose the starting job to Hunt, Ware is bulkier than him so he could still come out as their goal-line guy.||Ingram is in a loaded backfield and will lose touches to Adrian Peterson in the run game and to rookie Alvin Kamara in the passing game. He is a worth a look in mid rounds but beware before you click DRAFT.||A big back with off-the-chart athletic ability in the pass game. If he breaks away from Hill and Bernard, he moves into RB2 consideration, maybe RB1.||Anderson is a perplexing runner. Either he'll play really well, or he'll just stumble forward for a yard or two. I do believe that Trevor Siemen and the Broncos' offense will improve, but the future for Anderson is still difficult to assess. Nonetheless, it's likely that he'll get enough opportunities to finish with a respectable point total.|
|18||Danny Woodhead, RB Baltimore Ravens||C.J. Anderson, RB Denver Broncos||Christian McCaffrey, RB Carolina Panthers||Bilal Powell, RB New York Jets||Spencer Ware, RB Kansas City Chiefs|
|Going to the Ravens should prove to be less crowded than the Chargers offense. He’s already been called the best receiving back for the Ravens since Ray Rice was on the team and is expected to have a very active role.||Anderson is in a very odd position in that he has served the Broncos well but his injury history has been so bad it forced the team to bring in competition. Now bringing in an equally injury-prone Jamaal Charles for competition was an interesting move but that’s a discussion for another time. Anderson could prove to be a worthy flex option if he can stay healthy and isn’t completely eclipsed by Charles.||This kid is going to be good. The more rapport he builds with Cam Newton the more he will be used in the offense. He may get off to a slower start than some others but don’t be surprised if this guy ends up being a steal in most drafts. ||Top 5 in receptions a year ago. The Jets may be playing from behind a lot, leading to even more opportunities. The loss of Quincy Enunwa for the season may mean more dump offs to the running back.||Ware is a fairly safe bet solely because of the Chiefs' scheme. Andy Reid strives for a run first, short yardage offense, so the touches and targets will be there for Ware. However, the arrival of Kareem Hunt and Ware's ineffectiveness by the goal line do deter his overall value.|
|19||Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys||Mark Ingram, RB New Orleans Saints||Ty Montgomery, RB Green Bay Packers||Dalvin Cook, RB Minnesota Vikings||Christian McCaffrey, RB Carolina Panthers|
|In his rookie year Elliott but up monster numbers that might be hard to replicate in 2017 but he has the top offense line and a second year in this offense. However, if his six-game suspension stands, that is an eternity in fantasy time.||Despite losing a fair amount playing time to Tim Hightower due to fumbling issues, Ingram was able to rush for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He also scored six touchdowns for the second year in a row. This would have Ingram much higher on the list if the Saints hadn’t signed Adrian Peterson. Peterson has dropped off from his prime undoubtedly but he still has enough in the tank to take a significant amount of touches away from Ingram to impact his fantasy value.||Montgomery enters 2017 with a full offseason and training camp as a full time running back. He has good size for a back and is an obvious threat in the passing game. There are plenty of weapons in Green Bay this year and Montgomery will never be the focal point.||An average pass catcher in an offense that can’t run the ball. Volume will be his savior, if he can stay healthy.||McCaffrey has garnered a lot of buzz around the league. The rookie back is really dazzling in camp and has joined the Panthers at an opportune moment. The coaching staff is looking to protect Cam Newton more by running the ball with their running backs (with Cam that needs to be qualified) and focusing on short-mid range passes. Both of these elements, along with Jonathan Stewart's shortcomings, give McCaffrey an ideal chance to steal the starting job.|
|20||Dalvin Cook, RB Minnesota Vikings||Joe Mixon, RB Cincinnati Bengals||C.J. Anderson, RB Denver Broncos||Spencer Ware, RB Kansas City Chiefs||Dalvin Cook, RB Minnesota Vikings|
|I feel good about the rookie running backs this year. The more training camp goes on, the more it looks like the starting job is for Dalvin Cook. The offense line has struggled but the Vikings love to run the ball and Cook has potential to be a star.||Hate him or love him but you can’t deny his talent. Mixon was rumored to be sneaking into the first round (where he was going to go pre-beating scandal) that’s how good he was. While the risk of Mixon splitting carries with Giovani Bernard in the receiving game and touchdowns to the trucker Jeremy Hill, the former is recovering from a torn ACL and the latter is hugely inconsistent. Mixon could easily end up being the primary ball carrier either to start the season or at some other point in the season.||Anderson is a good running back who runs the ball well and can hurt you catching the ball out of the backfield too. The only problem is that Denver’s offensive line still has its issues. Anderson may lose some targets to Jamaal Charles as well. ||6 th among running backs in receiving in 2016. Plays in a system that favors the short pass. If he can convert at the goal line, he will be a steal in late rounds.||Cook is in a similar scenario to that of McCaffrey. Cook is a young talent joining a team that prefers a slow methodical pace. However, draft him cautiously because it remains unclear what the ball distribution will look like between him and Latavius Murray. Cook currently has an edge given Murray’s recent surgery.|
|21||Spencer Ware, RB Kansas City Chiefs||Bilal Powell, RB New York Jets||Spencer Ware, RB Kansas City Chiefs||Theo Riddick, RB Detroit Lions||Mike Gillislee, RB New England Patriots|
|Ware has a lot of competition this season for touches but he’s a trusted player in the offense. His value in PPR goes down because of the better receivers in the backfield but should still have value as a RB2.||Oh the Jets. The poor poor Jets. It’s hugely likely that New York ends up with the top pick in the draft but Powell will be on the bottom of the blame list for that. Powell outperformed the aging Matt Forte especially when he stepped up as the starter towards the end of the season. Despite starting just four games, Powell rushed for 722 yards and caught 58 passes. If the offense around him was better, Powell being in the top-15 would be understandable.||Ware is a thumper who has flown under the radar the past couple of seasons. Ware had nearly 500 receiving yards last year and running backs are thrown to a lot in Kansas City’s offense.||Pass catching machine. So much so that he should be classified as a WR. He caught 53 balls in 10 games in 2016. Injuries are his biggest issue.||As all fantasy writers will mention, it's difficult to assess how Belichick intends on divvying up the backfield this upcoming season. However, Gillislee is the sole power back in New England's crowded running back corps. So, it's safe to assume that he'll be assigned at least the goal like work, which is significant when playing on a team that scores at will.|
|22||Frank Gore, RB Indianapolis Colts||Mike Gillislee, RB New England Patriots||Ameer Abdullah, RB Detroit Lions||Danny Woodhead, RB Baltimore Ravens||Mark Ingram, RB New Orleans Saints|
|At 34 years of age, Gore will remain a work horse for the Colts. He’s about as consistent as a runner can get. Gore is not the name you’d expect to see but he should be on your team if available late.||This is a great pick in the mid to later rounds if you’re lacking a good RB3 or flex. Sure the Patriots have should-have-been Super Bowl MVP James White but he will fill the role of the receiving back. If the Pats need a back to handle the short-yardage situations a.k.a. score the touchdowns, Gillislee is likely their guy. He has been dealing with an injury recently giving Rex Burkhead reps as their goal-line back so keep an eye on how this develops but for now Gillislee will still be the main man behind Brady in scoring situations.||Abdullah is someone to target in later rounds and will probably end up in your starting lineup at some point. Abdullah is a versatile guy who is a weapon in the running game and passing game. He just needs to stay healthy. ||With Dixon out for the season, Woodhead is in line for an increased workload. 6 receptions and 50 yards is not out the question.||Ingram continues to be a frustrating player to draft. Some days he'll be dynamite, while others he'll just fizzle out. That being said, I think he's still worth a consideration given the Saints potent offense and there being less pressure on him with the addition of Adrian Peterson.
|23||Tevin Coleman, RB Atlanta Falcons||Frank Gore, RB Indianapolis Colts||Adrian Peterson, RB New Orleans Saints||Marshawn Lynch, RB Oakland Raiders||Bilal Powell, RB New York Giants|
|A partner to Devonta Freeman, Coleman might not reach last season’s numbers but still has the ability to be a good back on your team. Especially in PPR format where he’s the main receiver out of the backfield.||While Gore’s season didn’t succeed in being an impactful back in terms of team success, finishing second to last in elusiveness, he was pretty successful fantasy-wise. He was the first running back since 1984 to rush for over 1,000 yards at the age of 33 and scored eight total touchdowns. But is this sustainable? Probably not. He likely won’t drop off entirely but his age is a factor and rookie Marlon Mack is apparently impressing coaches at training camp which could hurt Gore’s touches.||Peterson will see the field this year for the Saints but how effective he will be in the passing game is yet to be seen. Peterson will either have a huge year or he will be a bust, he is a high risk/high reward player heading into 2017. Don’t reach too much but if he is sitting there in the 4 th round or later, snatch him up.||No real PPR value, but at this spot, TD’s are key. Lynch should score enough to negate his lack of receptions in PPR formats.||Powell is in a tough spot. Namely, the Jets prospects look grim at best. But, Powell will still rack up fantasy points. For one, he'll take the lead role from Matt Forte, an aged and injury prone back. And more importantly, Powell is a great receiver out of the backfield, ideal when you're on a team that is likely to struggle throwing the ball deep.|
|24||C.J. Anderson, RB Denver Broncos||Joe Williams, RB San Francisco 49ers||Kareem Hunt, RB Kansas City Chiefs||Mark Ingram, RB New Orleans Saints||Ameer Abdullah, RB Detroit Lions|
|This is becoming a crowded backfield but Anderson is the only proven one among them. He should be a good flex play and has a ceiling of a solid RB2.||If there is one piece of advice I can give you that is in the minority it’s this: do not draft Carlos Hyde until the last few rounds. Since the second Kyle Shanahan was hired, Hyde’s future in San Francisco has been doomed. He just doesn’t fit the offense. Williams does. He is a dual-threat back who isn’t exclusively an elusive or trucker runner. Shanahan reportedly asked John Lynch to select Williams in the fourth round which is a huge signal that Shanahan will do everything he can to get him in. Williams can rack up a lot of yards on both fronts and will likely take over as the starter at some point in the season.||Hunt is a very intriguing rookie this year. He is not being talked about but some of the plays he has made in camp show just how impressive he can be as a receiver. He will work his way onto the field and could be the Chiefs’ starter at some point. He is definitely worth a look in deeper leagues. ||Lead back in a pass first offense. May lose work to AP, but with 46 receptions for 319 yards for 4 TDs, he should get his in PPR formats.||Abdullah is a bit of a gamble, but only because it's always tough to judge how a player bounces back from injury. However, he's immensely talented and the Lions are desperate to develop some kind of a ground game. If he stays healthy, Abdullah will probably see double-digit opportunities on a quality offense.|
|25||Mark Ingram, RB New Orleans Saints||Robert Kelley, Washington Redskins||LeGarrette Blount, RB Philadelphia Eagles||Tevin Coleman, RB Atlanta Falcons||LeGarrette Blount, RB Philadelphia Eagles|
|Coming off his best year, Ingram will have a drop-in production due to Alvin Kamara taking over the receiving role and Adrian Peterson competing for carries. Be careful picking from the Saints’ backfield but if you do, Ingram is the guy.||The Washington Post recently reported that Kelley has been handling a majority of the Redskins’ first team reps so if Samaje Perine is going to take over as the starter, he’s got ways to go. Kelley is the very definition of a solid back. He won’t blow you away with the stats but you can depend on him for a solid to slightly down performance week in and week out.||Blount is a great ground and pound guy and will get early down touches for the Eagles but with Darren Sproles in the mix, he will be a nonfactor in the passing game. ||Expect his role in the passing game to increase. 31 receptions for 421 yards and 3 TDs is great this low in the rankings, but more is better. That may be the case for Colman.||No one, including myself, expects Blount to repeat his New England stats. But don't write him off just yet, especially with the release of Ryan Mathews. Blount offers the young Eagles a heavy-duty downhill back that avoids injuries and can reduce the pressure off of Carson Wentz. Additionally, Blount is a goal line God; touchdowns are everything in fantasy!
|26||Ameer Abdullah, RB Detroit Lions||Tevin Coleman, RB Atlanta Falcons||Eddie Lacy, RB Seattle Seahawks||Eddie Lacy, RB Seattle Seahawks||Frank Gore, RB Indianapolis Colts|
|The Lions have said that Abdullah will be the starter for the team and if he can dodge injuries, his numbers should give him the value of a flex role.||It’s hard to predict how effective Coleman will be now that Kyle Shanahan is gone. However, if the Falcons attempt to keep his offense in place without him, Coleman is a safe bet for a flex. Coleman’s stats are slightly padded due to Freeman’s injury but he’s still a scoring threat the way that offense runs.||Lacy is in a crowded backfield and is going to run behind one of the worst lines in the league. If you are desperate for a running back late Lacy will be worth a shot. ||Now a part of a dangerous offense, and a few pound lighter, Lacy should be close to his old form. Before his decline in play he caught 42 balls for 427 yards and 4 TDs to go along with 1139 rushing yards and 9 TDs on the ground. Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise are the reasons for his low rank. Uncertainty.||I think Gore's nickname should be Ole' Reliable because this veteran still grinds! It's unrealistic to suspect that Gore will muster up substantial fantasy point totals. But, Gore is likely to score enough to be a strong flex or alright RB2.|
|27||Mike Gillislee, RB New England Patriots||Dalvin Cook, RB Minnesota Vikings||Paul Perkins, RB New York Giants||Alvin Kamara, RB New Orleans Saints||Tevin Coleman, RB Atlanta Falcons|
|This is one of the riskiest picks in fantasy. But if Gillislee is in line to get the goal line carries, he could prove to be valuable in fantasy.||Latavius Murray is first off, overrated, and second off, injured. He has yet to participate in training camp due to an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Cook has been drawing high praise from his coaching staff and his dual-threat style promises a lot of touches and a variety of scoring opportunities. Cook will more than likely take over as the Vikings’ starter sometime in the season.||Perkins is the lead guy for the Giants in terms of the running game and he will be a threat through the air but he has to compete with OBJ, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram for targets as well as fellow running back Shane Vereen.||A young, natural, pass catcher in a pass heavy offense. Has been compared by some coaches as a “Faulk” type back. High praise for an unproven rookie.||Coleman may be a backup, but he still possesses fantasy value. He's a dynamic runner and an excellent receiving back. Despite playing behind Freeman, he gets a lot of playing time. But the most critical factor contributing to Coleman's worth is simply how outstanding the Falcons offense is; there are plenty of points to go around.|
|28||Duke Johnson, RB Cleveland Browns||Ameer Abdullah, RB Detroit Lions||Dalvin Cook, RB Minnesota Vikings||Duke Johnson, RB Cleveland Browns||Eddie Lacy, RB Seattle Seahawks|
|Although he’s not the starter, Johnson will have a role in the Browns offense and in PPR he should have good scoring.||Despite offensive tackle Taylor Decker’s torn labrum which will force him to miss the next few months, Abdullah’s stock rise in this year’s ranking rests solely on the Lions’ clear investment in the offensive line this season. Guard T.J. Lang and tackle Rick Wagner are two huge additions that will help keep Stafford healthy and running lanes open for Abdullah. You can’t look at his stats considering he only played two games last year but being the primary ball carrier for Detroit promises that Abdullah has some upside.||This rookie will be dynamic for sure and he will probably have a solid career. He isn’t very high on my list though because at some point he will lose carries to Latavius Murray and the Vikings’ offense has quite a few holes.||Natural pass catcher in a Hue Jackson offense. Playing from behind may be the norm in Cleveland, which leads to garbage time points.||Lacy has been a player to avoid for a couple of seasons now. Truthfully, it’s hard to trust him after his lackluster performances. But if Lacy were to have a bounce back season, this would be it. Seattle is a rush first team that prefers a workhorse runner. Also, the Seahawks have established a weight lost bonus incentive for Lacy, which hopefully will help his speed and stamina.|
|29||Terrance West, RB Baltimore Ravens||Paul Perkins, RB New York Giants||Jonathan Stewart, RB Carolina Panthers||LeGarrette Blount, RB Philadelphia Eagles||Danny Woodhead, RB Baltimore Ravens|
|He’s the second Raven on this list. While Danny Woodhead will handle receiving, West will get the carries for the Ravens but that’s not a lot as the Ravens have, as a team, been at the bottom of the league in rushing attempts the last few years.||Perkins was a late breakout star for the Giants starting at week nine and culminating in his first 100-yard game in the last regular season game. The Giants signed tackle D.J. Fluker which shows they understand the importance of helping Perkins and he has no real competition behind him for the starting role. Don’t expect Perkins to be a solid starter for you but he’s the perfect backup.||Age and a new rookie are two things that will hurt Stewart this year. He has had a great career with the Panthers but he is battling time now and will really only be a threat in the red zone. Don’t expect much from him this year but he may churn out one or two game changing performances. ||Early down and goal line work will provide enough production to make up for the lack of pass catching. But this low on a PPR list, he’s the best available.||I’m an avid Woodhead supporter, especially given his new team situation. The Ravens have been woefully bad at the running back position for a while now. Woodhead isn’t going to suddenly save their backfield, but his fantasy output will reap the rewards of its deficiencies. He’ll likely be the Ravens change-of-pace and passing back, which is ideal for Woodhead’s chances to score given Joe Flacco’s affinity for throwing the ball.|
|30||Paul Perkins, RB New York Giants||Adrian Peterson, RB New Orleans Saints||Bilal Powell, RB New York Jets||Adrian Peterson, RB New Orleans Saints||Paul Perkins, RB New York Giants|
|Perkins struggled in his rookie year but he’s earned a starting role on the Giants and can become a sneaky flex option, depending on the matchup.||Peterson has apparently been phenomenal in Saints training camp which means that best case scenario, he’ll be splitting running reps with Mark Ingram 50-50. Peterson just isn’t much better than Ingram in the receiving game to make that his niche so he’ll be a solid backup back and maybe a flex option but not much more.||The Jets are a complete mess and Powell is going to suffer from it. Forte is still in the mix and will be a part of the offense in some, way, shape, or form. ||Pass first offense. Had best year in terms of receptions playing with Brett Favre. May be in line for the same production with Drew Brees, if he can stay on the field.||The Giants ground game is the worst in the NFL and is unlikely to change that much even if Perkins takes over as the starting running back. However, fantasy fans can speculate that the Giants offense might improve with the addition of Brandon Marshall. If the Giants offense manages to increase its time of possession, at the very least Perkins will have more looks to pepper his fantasy point totals.|
|31||Eddie Lacy, RB Seattle Seahawks||Derrick Henry, RB Tennessee Titans||Mike Gillislee, RB New England Patriots||Paul Perkins, RB New York Giants||Doug Martin, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|This is a scary pick. Thomas Rawls is still in the backfield and C.J. Prosise is expected to have a larger role in the offense. But Lacy has end zone up side and could be a flex play if he keeps the starting role throughout the season.||Henry proved his worth in his rookie season by scoring five touchdowns behind Murray’s phenomenal season. Henry’s role will hardly change, if at all, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Anytime the Titans find themselves in the red zone it will more than likely be Henry as the one getting the ball. So Henry is definitely worth a bye week replacement as his scoring potential is still relatively high compared to most backups.||The Patriots are hoping Gillislee will fill the void left by LeGarrette Blount. He might do just that but I don’t see nearly as many touchdowns for Gillislee and the backfield is just too cluttered for him to be considered anything more than an emergency bench player. ||The Giants are geared up to throw the ball. With Beckham and Marshall stretching the field, the underneath routes will be a valuable part of Perkins’ game.||What happened to the days of the muscle hamster? There’s no one answer, nor time, to address that question. But Martin is still more or less the starter back on the Buccaneers. This gives him some fantasy worth, namely he’ll get a reasonable amount of touches on a young and improving offense.|
|32||Jonathan Stewart, RB Carolina Panthers||Doug Martin, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Frank Gore, RB Indianapolis Colts||James White, RB New England Patriots||Samaje Perine, RB Washington Redskins|
|The handicap if McCaffrey does not work out. Stewart is expected to maintain a solid work load even with the rookie expected to be a heavy part of the offense.D||Martin would be much higher on this list if it wasn’t for his three-game suspension due to his PED violation. The Bucs released an unofficial depth chart on August 8 that had Martin still listed as the number one tailback. Even if that is the case, Martin’s status will be in jeopardy if backups Jacquizz Rodgers and/or Charles Sims prove they’re more valuable. If that happens and even if it doesn’t, Martin’s workload is likely to be chewed into to the point where he will be a RB2 at the absolute best and flex option at worst.||He is the starting running back for an NFL team, that is about as much upside that Gore brings to the table. He rushed for over 1,000 yards last year but the wheels have to fall off at some point, don’t they? I think this is the year it happens. He plays very tough defenses within the AFC South six total times and rookie Marlon Mack will eventually earn a bigger role.||Playing in a Tom Brady offense with the ability to catch a football makes you worth a look in a PPR format. Dependent on the big game (i.e. Super Bowl), he can be hit or miss. Nothing is worse in fantasy than a hit or miss back. And with Dion Lewis on the roster, he may lose third down work.||Given Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension, Perine managed to sneak his way onto this list. I like the gamble on Perine’s fantasy debut for the sole reason of Washington’s backfield woes. Rob Kelley and Matt Jones have been mediocre at best, so the window to steal a lead back role is wide open for Perine. A rookie eager to prove himself, I think he’s worth a consideration.|